PostWax Announces Releases From Lowrider & Elephant Tree and Vinnum Sabbathi with REZN

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Year two of the vinyl subscription service PostWax continues to roll out an impressive array of artists. As I write this, I’m about an hour away from hopping on the ol’ teleputer to talk to Professional Essaywritet. Trusted By 3000+ Corporate Clients. Start in 30min. 12 hours delivery. From 29 $/hr. Mat Bethancourt of We offer basics at affordable prices. We started as a small team with a primary focus on helping students from different countries in their dissertations. Currently, we help students from across the globe on nearly every topic. Josiah about their offering, and then I guess it’s on to the next one, which actually hasn’t been announced yet, but also rules. I’m hoping to have the liner notes in by the end of the week. Today’s Monday, right? Ha.

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From the PR wire:

postwax year two logo

LOWRIDER and ELEPHANT TREE team up to release special split record as part of PostWax Vol. II vinyl series on Blues Funeral Recordings!

Blues Funeral Recordings announce the next colossal pairing of artists to take part in their PostWax Vol. II series, with Swedish stoner rock legends LOWRIDER and London’s most treasured heavy rockers ELEPHANT TREE. This mind-boggling union will give rise to a special split record, with details to be unveiled soon.

Heavy rock icons ELEPHANT TREE, whose 2020 album ‘Habits’ is a decimating blend of organic fuzz-fueled bliss and transcendent vocal hookery, and LOWRIDER, whose unassailable ‘Refractions’ LP blasted across 2020’s heavy music landscape like an extinction-level desert storm and swept top honors for the year throughout the scene, are joining forces for a titanic special release on PostWax.

Each band will produce a trio of new tracks for this unparalleled split record, topped off by a seventh collaborative tune forged exclusively for PostWax — which will only be available to the series subscribers.

Elephant Tree’s Jack Townley gushes: “When we were flanked by Jadd and Peder about serving up a juicy slab of riffage, we were delighted! We’d been massive fans of Lowrider’s chops since we started out as a band, so didn’t skirt around or mince words when we replied “yes!” with gravy on top! We came up with the idea to go whole hog and collab on a track as well, and now here we are. It’s rare these days to find projects as different and exciting as PostWax, and the veritable carvery of bands on board is mouth-watering. Sausage.”

Lowrider’s Peder Bergstrand adds: “Few releases have moved me the way Elephant Tree’s Habits did. My most played track of 2020 was easily “Sails” and honestly I think Elephant Tree in many ways is the most original flavor of heavy rock I’ve heard in ages, and exactly what the scene needs. I love how they weave blissful and mellow with absolute skull crushing heavy for a blend that’s uniquely their own. The idea of doing a split together, and a PostWax exclusive collaborative track at that, has got us enormously stoked. I have a feeling this will be a very, very special album.”

REZN and VINNUM SABBATHI for new PostWax Vol. II series; Kickstarter for subscription signups live now

Blues Funeral Recordings reveal Chicago’s REZN and Mexico City’s VINNUM SABBATHI as the next two bands to take part in the second volume of their PostWax vinyl subscription series, this time for a special collaborative release.

The joining of REZN’s gargantuan heaviness and lysergic dreamscapes with VINNUM SABBATHI’s hypnotic and jammy superscience soundtracks is the exact type of aural mind-meld that PostWax was conceived to present. These two avant-garde outfits will deliver one massive and ground-breaking effort, one that has chance to make an impression among heavy music lovers and beyond.

REZN guitarist Rob McWilliams elaborates: “Our intention is to give this collaboration a solid REZN foundation with Vinnum Sabbathi providing the cosmic textures and atmosphere to align it all under the same sonic storyline. We’ve been talking about doing something together for a little while now, since our bands are a great match sonically and already sync up in a lot of ways. In the end, we’ll have a roasty REZN dish with a decadent Vinnum Sabbathi glaze.”

VINNUM SABBATHI guitarist Juan Tamayo adds: “For us, this collaboration with REZN is very special. From the day we played with them in Mexico, we knew we wanted to create something together, and being able to do it with Blues Funeral for the PostWax series is a great privilege. We can’t wait to make something truly unique by adding a story to the sonic landscapes, and all the fans are in for some cosmic epicness.”

https://www.facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
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https://bluesfuneralrecordings.bandcamp.com/
bluesfuneral.com

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PostWax Announces New Releases From Acid King & Josiah

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Yeah, I knew this announcement was coming. Didn’t know when, but yes. I tried to drop hints about new I Writing An Admission Essay Proposals - Online Term Paper Writing Service - We Provide Quality Essay Papers You Can Rely On Cheap Homework Writing Assistance - Get Help Josiah in writing about the UK band’s forthcoming reissue on When you Bibliographies Meaning online, you’re buying a guarantee. You’re going to receive an essay or article that’s completely original and has been written by an expert in the field. Your paper will have a full bibliography, and if at any point you’re not happy, you can get your money back. There’s literally no risk to you. Here are some articles that may help you buy a paper online: ORDER Heavy Psych Sounds, but I didn’t want to inadvertently give anything away. And you should note that Order http://www.burg-bollendorf.de/?thesis-statistics-help Now. EduBirdie respects the time and money of its customers. We strive to provide our service on the highest quality level. Our goal is to make it affordable, fast, and easily satisfying. Visit our site, tell us, “Write my dissertation,” and our professional team will start working on it right away. As a student, you’re likely burdened by many frustrating Acid King bringing The Right Service to Buy Phd Degree Online. If you need several more proofs why we are the right service for you, here they are: Your paper will be made from scratch and to the specific requirements you provide us with. It doesn’t matter how many or how difficult they are, our writers are well-equipped at fulfilling students’ most demanding needs. We’d like to make your paper exactly the way Jason Landrian aboard as part of an expanded lineup for this release kind of makes that band combined with Buy Essay Writing: Readily Available Assignment Solutions for Cheap. Are you struggling with any of your academic essays? Search no further! We offer the best Dissertation Service In Malaysia Rate writing services that you can never compare with any other company. We also have editing, formatting and proofreading services for any document of your choice. Buy our services now for cheap, and you will never search any Black Cobra, since Form, Adventure & Travel Writing, Children's Literature, Comics & Graphic Novels. Because the process of writing includes recording thoughts on paper, the. World Wide Web Consortium.. Hyland B, Atemezing G, Villazon-Terrazas B (eds) (2014) Best Practices for. 1 Paragraph Essay Your mind needs to rest, but it also. Rafa Martinez, who drums in the latter, plays bass in the former. I do not expect the liner notes to be easy to write. I need to talk to auckland university masters thesis Grad School Application Essay Help Thesis Online best buy resume application louisville ky good essay prompts Josiah‘s Mat Bethanourt this week and get on it before I start holding up vinyl pressing. Again. Which I probably already am.

I’m not going to try to sell you on the thing — that’s not my job — but I know a couple other of the NINE — oh my god — releases coming out as part of PostWax Vol. II, and there’s not what you’d call a “filler” in the bunch.

This came down the PR wire. Nine volumes. Oof…:

postwax year ii logo

ACID KING and JOSIAH to release new music as part of PostWax Vol. II series; Blues Funeral Recordings launches Kickstarter for exclusive vinyl subscription!

Blues Funeral Recordings have revealed stoner metal pillars ACID KING and cult heavy psych rockers JOSIAH will join the second volume of their groundbreaking PostWax vinyl subscription series. The label launched a Kickstarter on April 1st to sign up subscribers for the 9-volume project.

The PostWax series presents exclusive limited edition records from some of the best stoner rock, doom and heavy psych bands on the planet. Benefiting from a spectacular Kickstarter success in 2018, PostWax Year One debuted monster releases to subscribers first — including Elder’s “The Gold & Silver Sessions” and the seminal comeback album “Refractions” from Lowrider — which were subsequently released in standard retail versions to the public several months later.

Announced on the PostWax Vol. II series are Bay Area legends ACID KING, who are joining forces with Jason Landrian (Black Cobra) and Bryce Shelton (Nik Turner’s Hawkwind, BĂ€dr Vogu, High Tone Son of a Bitch) for a mind-altering soundtrack-inspired sonic journey created exclusively for this project.

PostWax Vol. II will also mark the blistering return of Britain’s the fuzz-fueled power trio JOSIAH, who are making the most of the Blues Funeral collaboration to present their first studio album in over a decade, the followup to their 2009 Eletrohasch release ‘Procession’. Fans of heavy-psych meets straight ahead riff-rock should take notice!

PostWax Vol. II will unfold as a series of 9 deluxe releases on gorgeous vinyl, with every record set to include at least one exclusive track that only those who join PostWax will ever receive. Blues Funeral also invited each band to contribute one or more riffs to a “share pool” that every other band in the series can dip into and to integrate into what they’re doing, in order to create more connectivity and shared DNA across all the releases in the series.

View the PostWax Vol. II Kickstarter: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/bluesfuneral/postwax-vol-ii

https://www.facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
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Somnuri Post “Beyond Your Last Breath” Video; Nefarious Wave Preorder Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

somnuri

June 4 is the release date for Somnuri‘s second long-player and Blues Funeral Recordings debut, Nefarious Wave, and to correspond with announcing the details and preorders and so on they’ve got a new video now for “Beyond Your Last Breath,” which is the centerpiece of the record. Neat, sign me up. The Brooklynite trio made their self-titled debut (review here) in 2017 and followed that months later with a split with Godmaker (review here). Not to take away from anyone else’s work, but they pretty much owned Magnetic Eye‘s Alice in Chains Dirt: Redux (review here) last year, and I’ve been looking forward to whatever was coming next from them ever since. New record, you say? That’ll do nicely, thanks.

Preorders are up through the ol’ Bandcamp there, and you can dig into “Beyond Your Last Breath” below as well. And you should. I’ll hope to have more on the album prior to the release.

Until then, the PR wire:

somnuri nefarious wave

Brooklyn progressive sludge metallers SOMNURI release new video “Beyond Your Last Breath” + details for new album on Blues Funeral Recordings

Brooklyn, NY’s sludge metal juggernauts SOMNURI arise to unleash the first video from their awaited new album ‘Nefarious Wave’, out June 4th on Blues Funeral Recordings. Watch the trio’s cathartic “Beyond Your Last Breath” video now!

SOMNURI’s sound weaves together breakneck energy, infectious melodies and slow-burning aggression, a cacophony of bludgeoning riffs and pounding grooves that shares DNA with High on Fire, Mastodon, Torche, even Soundgarden. Elements of the city surface throughout: brutality and spaciousness, stark dissonance, and delicate hush.

About the video, drummer Phil SanGiacomo comments: “Beyond Your Last Breath is about the cyclical and intertwined nature of life and death, and how the struggle to survive and find light can bring you to the brink of darkness and beyond. The video, directed by Susan Hunt of Five Sigma Films, weaves through a dreamlike environment and shows both the grittiness and beauty of Brooklyn and New York City, all through a surrealistic lens. The song also ties into the greater theme of the ‘Nefarious Wave’ album title, which alludes to a process that repeats endlessly throughout time. The idea of facing that wave head-on is prevalent throughout the record.”

A sprawling record full of time and tempo shifts, ‘Nefarious Wave’ is a story of survival and resilience. As naysayers flee the city, claiming the scene is dead and will never be what it used to, SOMNURI is alive, breathing, adapting and mutating into something greater, and continues to push the possibilities of heavy music and the ideals of how a DIY band fights for their place. Embodying their refusal to concede or compromise, ‘Nefarious Wave’ is a reflection of their undeniable ethic, a devastating musical worldview ready for those willing to inhabit it with them.

‘Nefarious Wave’ was mixed by Phil SanGiacomo, and mastered by Justin Mantooth at Westend Recording Studios KC. The artwork was designed by Dani Otrajki. It will be released on June 4th, 2021 worldwide on various vinyl formats, CD and digital through Blues Funeral Recordings.

SOMNURI New album ‘Nefarious Wave’
Out June 4th, 2021 on Blues Funeral Recordings
PREORDER NOW: https://somnuri.bandcamp.com/album/nefarious-wave-4

TRACK LISTING:
1. Tied To Stone
2. Tooth & Nail
3. Desire Lines
4. Beyond Your Last Breath
5. Watch The Lights Go Out
6. In The Grey
7. Nefarious Wave

SOMNURI is:
Justin Sherrell — guitars/vocals (also bass on the album)
Philippe Arman — bass
Phil SanGiacomo — drums

https://www.facebook.com/Somnuri/
https://www.instagram.com/somnuri/
https://somnuri.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
https://www.instagram.com/blues.funeral/
https://bluesfuneralrecordings.bandcamp.com/
bluesfuneral.com

Somnuri, “Beyond Your Last Breath” official video

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Howling Giant Announce Alteration EP out April 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 17th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

howling giant

Following the release of their own coffee and what has been a months-long clinic on how to engage their audience during the pandemic, Nashville’s Howling Giant will issue their new EP, Alteration, via Bandcamp on April 20. The material is made up of stuff culled from jams they’ve done during livestreams, with titles shouted out from viewers in live chat that the band then plays to. They also play Dungeons and Dragons live, and do guitar and drum sessions on Twitch. Of everyone out there who’s had to pivot to digital existence in the last year, I’m hard pressed to think of a heavy band who’ve done it better or more creatively than they have.

No audio yet, but preorders are up through Bandcamp, and the info follows here from the PR wire:

howling giant alteration

HOWLING GIANT to release fan-curated and Bandcamp-only new EP ‘Alteration’ on April 20th!

Following a successful series of live streams, Nashville, Tennessee’s psychedelic metal specialists HOWLING GIANT have decided to please the fans by delivering a brand new EP entitled ‘Alteration’, to be released through Bandcamp on April 20th, 2021.

Bringing together their masterful psych-prog songcraft and sci-fi imagery to create an epic and awe-inspiring sound all of their own, HOWLING GIANT have become an essential act of the forward-thinking heavy rock scene, and the indefinite world hiatus and global pandemic won’t certainly prevent them from moving onward and upward.

This new 20-minute instrumental EP ‘Alteration’ comes as a result of lockdown and post-pandemic streams on Twitch with HOWLING GIANT fans, whose growing demand for a follow-up to their widely acclaimed ‘Turned To Stoned Chapter 2’ split EP with Sergeant Thunderhoof (Ripple Music) and 2019 concept album ‘The Space Between Worlds’, needed to be fulfilled. The band is currently putting the final touches to the record and will release a first track alongside album preorder on April 2nd via Bandcamp. They will also host a live stream to celebrate the release on 4/20, with more details to be announced soon.

Says drummer Zach Wheeler: “We started streaming on Twitch as a way to scratch the “live show” itch while we anxiously awaited the return of shows and touring. Our streams cover everything from cooking with Tom and Zach to Dungeons & Dragons sessions, as well as solo instrumental streams and our full band show every Saturday. During the full band shows we ask the viewers to call out song names and we write instrumental jams on the spot to match the song title. After going back and reviewing some of these jams, we decided it would be fun to actually record some of them in a more professional setting. Aside from working on this instrumental 4/20 release, we’ve been deep in the writing process for our next full length record, which will also draw influence from some of our Twitch jams. Named by the people, for the people, and improvised live each week, this is our tribute to our fans, friends, and family that have kept us afloat as we’ve all endured lockdown.”

HOWLING GIANT New EP ‘Alteration’
Out on April 20th on Bandcamp (digital only)
– Preorder from April 2nd at this location: https://howlinggiant.bandcamp.com/

Hailing from Nashville, TN, HOWLING GIANT blast forth a cosmic convergence of pulpy sci-fi themes and blistering psych-metal. Across a variety of recorded and live experiences since 2014, the band harnesses heavily nuanced progressive riff-rock complemented by otherworldly storytelling and the enduring message that the universe in which we live could stand to loosen up. Risk is their purpose. The universe is their playground.

HOWLING GIANT are live on Twitch every week at twitch.tv/howlinggiantofficial on:
Tuesdays 7pm CST – Dungeons & Dragons
Wednesdays 10am CST – Tom’s Guitar Brunch
Thursdays 6pm CST – Zach’s Drum Request Bonanza
Saturdays 5pm CST – Howling Giant Live from the Bunker

HOWLING GIANT is
Tom Polzine – Guitar and Vocals
Zach Wheeler – Drums and Vocals
Sebastian Baltes – Bass and Vocals
Marshall Bolton – Keys and Synths

howlinggiant.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/howlinggiant/
https://www.instagram.com/howlinggiant/
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bluesfuneral.com

Howling Giant & Sergeant Thunderhoof, Turned to Stone Chapter 2: Masamune & Muramasa (2020)

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Lowrider Premiere “Red River” Video with Fan Footage

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 5th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

lowrider

The charm here is not hard to see. Whether it’s fans dancing in hallways, playing guitar on a ride-on mower, or vacuum, or headbanging with their kids, or even a couple snuck-in shots of the band members themselves, Lowrider‘s video for “Red River” — premiering below — finds a way to make a celebration out of what was, let’s face it, a hard and terrible time last year.

At some point — I could find the day but does it matter? — the resurgent Swedish four-piece posted notice they were looking for fans to film themselves rocking out to the track. As they were unable to play shows to support their first album in 20 years, Refractions (review here), it seemed a fair enough way to keep in touch. I only regret not taking part, but, well, I’ve never been very good at ‘fun.’

Clearly that’s not a problem for Lowrider‘s fanbase generally. The video is a blast, and after the barrage of year-end praise Refractions has received — it was best album of 2020 here as well as in any number of other places — it seems only fair to unveil “Red River” and the obvious spirit of love that drove its making, both on fans’ part and the band’s.

What’s most obvious is that for a lot of people, Refractions was an album that provided some relief, maybe/maybe not some escape, from the realities of a global pandemic, pervasive economic and political instability, and the crushing anxiety that felt so prevalent throughout 2020 and shows zero sign of abating in this still-nascent 2021. Give it a while. We may yet look back on last April as simpler times.

But even if that comes to pass, look at this. Look at humans enjoying a thing. Remember that good times can exist even in dark days. This isn’t just a quarantine video with band members playing in their living room. It’s a quarantine video where everybody plays in their living room. Well, mostly dudes, but you get the point.

Congratulations to Lowrider — bassist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand, lead guitarist/vocalist Ola Hellquist, guitarist Niclas StĂ„lfors and drummer Andreas Eriksson — and to Blues Funeral Recordings on all the enduring affection Refractions has received. It is nothing if not deserved.

Enjoy the video:

Lowrider, “Red River” official video premiere

Peder Bergstrand on “Red River”:

“Let’s face it, it was a weird, long, hard year for everyone. When we were gearing up to put out Refractions after working on it pretty much for seven years straight, everything was still normal. We were so excited to share the album with everyone, but dreams of festivals and gigs changed pretty much instantly by the time it was released. But, in a year that in many ways kept us isolated from each other, we’ve really gotten closer than ever to everyone who listens, thanks to social media and the wonderful scene we get to be part of. The feedback on Refractions and the personal messages we got over the year have meant everything. And, with recent year-end lists lifting Refractions up high, often to the highest spot, we wanted to say thank you to everyone, and give something back that shows just how special this scene is. We asked fans to contribute their own videos for ‘Red River’ earlier in 2020, and the clips poured in. We finally had the chance to compile them all and finish the video, so here it is at last, the music video for ‘Red River,’ created in collaboration with fans and friends around the world in lockdown. It’s sort of a visualization of the undeniable fact that this band would not be here, and this record would not exist, if it wasn’t for all of you. So, again, this is our thanks. We’ll forever be grateful, beyond words. Thank you thank you thank you. New music soon. Promise. We love you all.”

Lowrider, Refractions (2020)

Lowrider on Thee Facebooks

Lowrider on Instagram

Lowrider on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Blues Funeral Recordings website

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

Posted in Features on December 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

london-news-etching-1854-newcastle-upon-tyne

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

Invariably, the ultimate measure of 2020 will be in lives and livelihoods lost around the world. I have nothing to add to the discourse of the COVID-19 pandemic that others haven’t said in more articulate and precise language. Suffice it to note that 2020 was the year that the very concept of “unprecedented” itself became trite.

One does not have to look far to find positives amid the devastation. Creativity continues to flourish. Art cannot be killed. Even locked away from each other in quarantine, artists will continue to reach out, to collaborate, to fulfill the human need for expression that has driven the species since cave drawings and will no doubt be the ruins we leave behind us when we’re gone.

In underground music, it was simply overwhelming. And though I’ll admit it was hard at times to listen to music and divorce it from the larger context of what was happening in the world — it was there like a background buzz — this year reinforced how necessary music is, not only as an escape or a source of income for those who make/promote it, but as an integral component of life and community. Absences have been keenly felt.

I won’t try to sate you with platitudes, to say “things will get better.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. One year turning to the next does not fix broken systems and it does not cure raging plagues. It’s just a number. Arbitrary except as a convenient marker for things like this, births, deaths, and so on. Bookkeeping.

Before I turn you over to the lists: Please be kind in the comments if you choose to leave one. To me. To other people. To yourself. These lists are culled from my listening preference and what I consider of critical importance. But I’m one person. If there’s something you feel has been left out, say so. I ask you only to do so in a spirit of friendship rather than argument. Thank you in advance.

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

50. Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion
49. Atramentus, Stygian
48. Arcadian Child, Protopsycho
47. Fuzz, III
46. Jointhugger, I Am No One
45. Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
44. Switchblade Jesus, Death Hymns
43. Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted
42. Hymn, Breach Us
41. IAH, III
40. Lord Fowl, Glorious Babylon
39. Acid Mess, Sangre de Otros Mundos
38. 1000mods, Youth of Dissent
37. Deathwhite, Grave Image
36. Soldati, Doom Nacional
35. Cortez, Sell the Future
34. Kadavar, The Isolation Tapes
33. Black Rainbows, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip
32. Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch
31. Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Notes: To say nothing of the honorable mentions that follow the rest of the list below, immediately we see the problem of so-many-albums-not-enough-space. People talk about a top 50 as ridiculous, like there’s no way you can like that much music. Bullshit. I agonized over how to fit Sun Crow on this list because their Quest for Oblivion felt like it deserved to be here. Ditto that for Arcadian Child. And the achievements of bands like Kadavar, 1000mods and Switchblade Jesus and Insect Ark in breaking the boundaries of their own aesthetics deserve every accolade they can get, and likewise those who progressed in their sound like Cortez, Shadow Witch, Lord Fowl, Hymn, Foot, Black Rainbows, Deathwhite and IAH. Add to that the debuts from Atramentus, Dirt Woman, Jointhugger, Acid Mess and Sergio Ch.’s Soldati, and you’ve got a batch of 20 records — some born of this year’s malaise, some working in spite of it — that vary in sound but are working to push their respective styles to new places one way or the other.

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another Sons of Otis. Be thankful for everything you get from them.

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Lamp of the Universe‘s Dead Shrine were familiar enough for those familiar with the one-man outfit running more than two decades, but the lush acid folk created remains a standout the world over. Dead Shrine was a much-needed gift of peace and meditation.

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

The debut album from Colorado’s BleakHeart collected pieces united by melody and overarching atmosphere, positioned stylistically somewhere around heavygaze or heavy post-rock, but feeling less limited to genre bounds than some others working in a similar sphere. As a first outing, it brought a promise of things to come even as the depths of its mix seemed to swallow the listener entirely, equal parts serving claustrophobia and escapism.

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

There is not enough space here to properly commend Pale Divine founding guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener on how much he opened up the band by bringing in his and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s former Beelzefuzz bandmate Dana Ortt on shared guitar, vocal and songwriting duties. Completed by Ron “Fezz” McGinnis on bass/vocals, Pale Divine are a refreshed and ready powerhouse of American traditional doom.

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

One is going to have to get used to the idea of Uncle Woe residing in the places between, I think. An inward-looking cosmic doom that’s likewise morose and reaching, opaque and translucent, Phantomescence could be almost troubling in its feeling of off-kilter expression. Yet that’s exactly what multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rain Fice was going for. Thriving on contradiction, exploratory, and individualized. Start from doom, move outward.

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

Released by Off the Record Label. Reviewed Oct. 15.

I don’t feel like I’m cool enough to offer any substantive comment on what Chicago’s REZN do, but their sax-laced heavy psychedelia comes across warm and is invitingly languid while still delivered with a sense of energy and purpose. It rolls and you want to roll with it, so you do. They were clearly hurt by not being able to tour this year, as were audiences for not seeing them. Call them neo-stoner metal or whatever you want, these songs deserve to be played live.

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

A revamped lineup for South African desert-ish heavy rockers Ruff Majik brought producer Evert Snyman in as co-conspirator with frontman/principal songwriter Johni Holiday, and found the former trio working as a five-piece with a broader sound underscored by an electric sense of purpose and willingness to push themselves to places they hadn’t gone before. Their third record, it seemed as well to be a new beginning, and they met the challenge head-on.

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

The underheralded children of rolling fuzz riffage, Connecticut’s Curse the Son found new depths of emotion to bring to Excruciation — and I do mean “depths.” Dark times for dark times. Fueled by personal hardship, turmoil, motorcycle accidents and a pervasive sense of struggle, the LP was nonetheless a triumph of their songwriting and brought new melodic character to their established largesse of tone. Your loss if you missed it.

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Business as usual in ferocious heavy/speed rock from The Atomic Bitchwax on Scorpio — and that was only reassuring since the band’s eighth full-length marked the first since the departure of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and his replacing with Garrett Sweeny, a bandmate of founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella in Monster Magnet. They barely stopped to cool their heels and yet still managed to be catchy as hell. How do they do it? Jersey Magic.

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

Such pervasive melancholy could only be derived from Irish folk, and so it was on Cinder Well‘s No Summer, which managed to move between singer-songwriter minimalism from Amelia Baker and arrangements of deceptive and purposeful intricacy. Wherever it went, from traditional songs “Wandering Boy” and “The Cuckoo” to originals like “Fallen” and the nine-minute “Our Lady’s,” it was equal parts gorgeous and sad and resonant. It remains so, despite the fleeting season.

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

Their fourth album and first since crossing the decade-mark since their inception, Pallbearer‘s Forgotten Days wasn’t just heavy, emotional or big-sounding; it was the most their-own of anything they’ve done. It felt exactly like the record they wanted it to be, and reconfirmed that the generation of listeners being introduced to doom by their music is going to be just fine if they follow the cues laid out for them here.

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

Released by Stolen Body and Vicious Circle Records. Reviewed March 26.

Less a reinvention of space rock than a kick in its ass, Slift‘s Ummon pushed well past the line of manageability at 72 minutes and reveled in that. The French outfit were greeted as liberators when they released the album, and with the way the respect has been maintained in the months since they’ve given themselves a high standard to meet, but there’s only promise to be heard as you get lost in the nebular wash of this sprawling 2LP. They’ll have two more records out before this one’s fully digested.

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

The first album in half a decade from long-established UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride found vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe coping with his daughter’s cancer diagnosis and translating that into the morose poetry for which the band is so well known and with which they’ve been so influential. My Dying Bride has never wanted for sincerity, but to call them affecting here would be underselling the quality of their craft and the heart they put into it. Follow-up EP is already out with extra non-album tracks.

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Denmark’s Causa Sui may be on a mission to unite jazz and heavy psychedelia — and blessings on them for that — but the mellow jammy vibes they conjured on Szabodelico only emphasized how much it’s the character of what they do and the chemistry they’ve brought as bandmates that has allowed them to branch thusly in terms of aesthetic. It was the kind of album you wanted to put on again even before it was over, and its sweet instrumentals felt born to a greater timeline than a single year can encompass.

14. All Souls, Songs for the End of the World

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I’m not a punk rocker, but All Souls make me wish I was. Their emotive and engaged heavy rock looks out as much as in on Songs for the End of the World — their second LP behind a 2018 self-titled debut (review here) — but it’s undeniably punk in its foundation, and what the four-piece of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi), Erik Trammell (Black Elk) and Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson) have put together builds on that in exciting, inventive and individualized ways, while staying nonetheless true to its roots.

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), Boston four-piece Kind return with Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw, Sasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

Founded by vocalist Farida Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) and guitarist Oeds Beydals (ex-Death Alley, also ex-The Devil’s Blood) and commissioned as a project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here), Molassess are inextricably tied to Lemouchi‘s groundbreaking former outfit and its tragic ending, but the musical branching out into darkened progressive textures on Through the Hollow isn’t to be understated. It was an album that pushed past the past, not overlooking it, but finding new ways of moving forward in life and sound.

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

While of course the Mos Generator frontman is no stranger to writing or recording on his own, Funeral Suit was Tony Reed‘s debut as a solo artist and it carried his progressive stamp in melody and arrangement. It was not just a guitarist playing acoustic instead of electric, and it was not a manifestation of self-indulgence. Whether it was reworking a Mos Generator song like “Lonely One Kenobi” or pursuing a new piece like the title-track or “Waterbirth,” Reed found balance between personal and audience, evoking traditional songsmithing even as he reminded listeners of his dual role as a producer.

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Spectacular showing from Kingston kingpins Geezer with Groovy as their first offering for Heavy Psych Sounds. Led by guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, the three-piece brought material that flowed with the organic feel of jams despite being structured and catchy songs. In pieces like “Dead Soul Scroll” and “Drowning on Empty,” they melded stonerized groove with what felt like genuine emotional expression, and “Dig” and “Groovy” still managed to be a heavy fuzz-blues party. And they still had room at the end to jam out on “Slide Mountain” and “Black Owl.” It was nothing but a win, rising to the occasion on every level.

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

So Bob Balch from Fu Manchu and Gary Arce from Yawning Man have a band. They get Tony Reed from Mos Generator on board. Mario Lalli from Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson comes and goes. Nick Oliveri comes and goes. Bill Stinson from Yawning Man plays drums. Alain Johannes sits in on vocals. Reed does a bunch of vocals; his kid does a track too. Per Wiberg from Spiritual Beggars, Opeth, Candlemass, etc., lends some keys. What do you call such a thing? Who cares? You call yourself lucky it exists. They called the record Vision Beyond Horizon. Can’t wait to find out what they call the next one.

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed April 27.

Omens marked a new beginning for Elder as the band pushed deeper into the realm of progressive rock and beyond their weightier beginnings. The arrival of Georg Edert (also Gaffa Ghandi) on drums in place of Matt Couto shifted the band’s dynamic in a number of ways, providing not a swinging anchor for the rhythm section necessarily, but another avenue of prog fluidity. Bassist Jack Donovan brought a steady presence in the low end as guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo and guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg embarked on new melodic explorations while staying loyal to the band’s established penchant for sweeping changes. Omens may live up to its name as a sign of things to come, but either way, it was a strong display of the band’s will to pursue new ideas and methods.

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

First words that come to mind here: “eminently listenable.” With seven tracks and 36 minutes, Reverie may not have taken up much of your afternoon… once. But by the time you gave it its proper respect and listened through three times in a row, the situation was somewhat different. The Lafayette, Louisiana, four-piece gracefully brought together structured songwriting with proggier leanings and were able to bring together rampaging hooks like “Trace the Omen” and “Manifest,” casting a sense of sonic hugeness without forgetting to add either melody or personality along with that. The band — who here welcomed bassist Thorn Letulle alongside guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa and drummer Thomas Colley — have worked quickly and evolved with a sense of urgency. Is Reverie the goal or another step on that path?

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

Vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz (interview here), guitarist Max Doyle and drummer Zack Farwell comprise Grayceon, and with their fifth record, the band looks around thematically at environmental devastation through the lens of record-breaking California wildfires from their vantage point in the Bay Area. Even as the world shifted priorities (at least most of it did) to yet another global crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, genre-melting-pot songs like “Diablo Wind,” “The Lucky Ones,” and “This Bed” reminded of the horrors humanity has wrought on its battered home, and still managed to find hope and serenity in “And Shine On” and “Rock Steady,” a closing duo that shifted to a more personal discussion of family and one’s hope for a better future for and by the next generation. 2020 had plenty of horror. At least we got a new Grayceon record out of it.

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” and the acoustic closer “Been So Long.” With Bjork recording all the instruments himself, a due feeling of intimacy resulted, and yet he still found a way to make it rock. How could it be otherwise?

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

Why do I feel the immediate need to defend this pick? I’m not sure. Norway’s Enslaved are an institution, not just of black metal, but of bringing an ideology of creative growth to that style that often willfully resists it. They are iconoclastic even unto their own work. Utgard was released as the band stood on the precipice of 30 years together and yet it stood as their most forward-looking offering yet, as co-founders Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals) and Ivar BjĂžrnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017’s E (review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver SandĂžy, who doubles as a vocalist (and triples as a producer). The “new blood” made all the difference on Utgard, allowing Enslaved to piece together new ranges of melody in their work and offset instrumental shifts into and out of krautrock-derived progressions. Simply the work of a band outdoing itself from a band who does so at nearly every opportunity.

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 3, 2019.

Every year I allow myself one addendum pick, and this is it. We Are was on last year’s list because it was digitally released, but the vinyl came out this year and it received its North American release this year as well, so it seemed only right to acknowledge that. So here it is in its proper place.

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

This is a band controlling their own narrative. Instead of Nothing as the Ideal being ‘the one they made as a three-piece,’ the Nashville outfit decided to make it ‘the one they recorded at Abbey Road.’ Were they thinking of it on those terms? Yeah, likely not, but it goes to demonstrate all the same just how much of themselves All Them Witches put into what they do musically, since not only are they continuing to refine and define and undefine their approach, but they’re setting the terms on which they do it. Each of their records has been a response to the one prior, but that conversation has never been so direct as to make them predictable. So what are they chasing? Apparently nothing. I’m not entirely sure I buy that as a complete answer, but I am sure I love these songs and the experiments with tape loops and other sounds that fill these spaces. Whatever they do next — or even if nothing — their run has been incredible and exciting and one only hopes their influence continues to spread over the next however many years.

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

There was a high standard set by Elephant Tree‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but their second LP, Habits, surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. With vocals centered around harmonies from guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the former trio completed by drummer Sam Hart brought in guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery (also sometimes vocals), and the resultant breadth gave the material on Habits spaciousness beyond even what the first album promised. Drifting, rolling, unflinchingly melodic and somehow present even in its own escapism, Habits was not just an early highlight for a rough 2020, but a comforting presence throughout, and the further one dug into tracks like “Sails,” “Exit the Soul,” “Faceless,” “Wasted” and the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the more there was to find — let alone “Bird,” which I’ll happily put against anything else one might propose for song of the year. As their former UK label crumbled, Habits emerged unscathed and Elephant Tree‘s future continues to shine with ever more hope for things to come. Being able to say that about anything feels like a relief.

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Twenty years ago, Sweden’s Lowrider put out what would become a heavy rock landmark in their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here). A follow-up years in the making even after the band got back together to play Desertfest in London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, Refractions first saw limited release in 2019 as part of Blues Funeral‘s PostWax series (discussed here), but its proper arrival was in early 2020, and there was really no looking back after that. It wasn’t just the novelty of a new Lowrider album that made Refractions such a joy, but the manner in which the band went about its work. There was no pretending that 20 years didn’t happen. There was no attempt to recapture the bottled lightning that was the first record, and Lowrider did not sound like a band “making a comeback” rife with expectations and fan-service. Refractions acknowledged the legacy of Ode to Io, sure enough, but as a step toward adding to it in meaningful and engaging ways. The songs — “Red River,” “Ode to Ganymede,” “Sernanders Krog,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe,” “Sun Devil/M87” and the 11-minute finale “Pipe Rider” — were fashioned without pretense and came across as the organic output of a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They made it their own. In a wretched year, Lowrider shined.

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

Yeah, okay. There are a lot of these, so buckle in. Last year I just threw out a list of bands. This year I’m a little more organized, so here are bands and records alphabetically.

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, EllengĂŠst
Cruthu, AthrĂș Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of SilvÄkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

By no means is that list exhaustive. And to look at stuff like Psychlona, Oranssi Pazuzu, Wight, Wino, Puta Volcano, Kingnomad, Ellis Munk Ensemble, Paradise Lost, Alain Johannes, Arbouretum, Uffe Lorenzen, Tia Carrera — on and on and on — I can definitely see where arguments are to be made for records that should’ve been in the list proper. I can only go with what feels right to me at the time.

Together with the top 50, this makes over 110 albums in the best of 2020. If you find yourself needing something to hang your hat on, be glad you’re alive to witness this much excellent music coming out.

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Atramentus, Stygian
Bethmoora, Thresholds
BleakHeart, Dream Griever
Crystal Spiders, Molt
Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Electric Feat, Electric Feat
Familiars, All in Good Time
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
Human Impact, Human Impact
Jointhugger, I Am No One
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game
Malsten, The Haunting of SilvÄkra Mill
Might, Might
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation
Ritual King, Ritual King
SEA, Impermanence
Slomosa, Slomosa
Soldati, Doom Nacional
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
SpellBook, Magick & Mischief
Spirit Mother, Cadets
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies
White Dog, White Dog

Notes: I sparred with myself every step of the way here. The last couple years I’ve tried to give the top-debut spot to not just a new band, but a new presence. Green Lung, King Buffalo, etc. Molassess, with members from The Devil’s Blood, Death Alley and Astrosoniq, isn’t exactly that. So what do I do? Do I go with something newer like Polymoon, Dirt Woman, BleakHeart, SEA, White Dog or The Crooked Whispers, or something with more established players like Molassess, Soldati, or even Light Pillars?

In the end, what made the difference was not just how brilliant the songs on Molassess’ Through the Hollow, but how honestly the band confronted the legacy they were up against. The songs had a familiar haunting presence, but they were also moving ahead to somewhere new. It was that blend of old and new ideas, and the resonant feeling of emotional catharsis — as well as the sheer immersion that took place while listening — that ultimately made the decision. Turns out I just couldn’t escape it.

And why not a list? Because this feels woefully inadequate as it is. I reviewed over 250 records this year one way or another — and that’s a conservative estimate — but a lot gets lost in the shuffle and somehow it just seemed wrong this time around to call something the 13th best first record of the year. I wanted to highlight the special achievement that was the Molassess album, but really, all of these records kicked my ass one way or the other.

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Big Scenic Nowhere, Lavender Blues
Coma Wall, Ursa Minor
Conan/Deadsmoke, Doom Sessions Vol. 1
Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 1
Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie
Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof, Masamune/Muramasa (split)
Oginalii, Pendulum
Kings Destroy, Floods
Lament Cityscape, The Old Wet
Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine +2
Merlock, That Which Speaks
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Mos Generator/Di’Aul, Split
Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets
Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus
Rocky Mtn Roller, Rocky Mtn Roller
Spaceslug, Leftovers
10,000 Years, 10,000 Years
The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission
Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man
Witchcraft, Black Metal

Notes: If you were wondering why King Buffalo’s Dead Star (review here) wasn’t on the big list, this is why. It was pitched to me as an EP and that’s how I’m classifying it. I’m taking the out. Is it an EP? Not really, but neither is it a full-length album, given its experimental nature and focus around its extended two-part title-track. Whatever it was, it was the best that-thing, and this is the category where such things go.

Again, tough choices after King Buffalo. Thunderbird Divine’s EP was wonderfully funk-blasted and woefully short (new album, please). The newly-issued Spaceslug EP branches out their sound in fascinating ways as a result of the lockdown. Witchcraft’s acoustic EP, Coma Wall’s EP and Big Scenic Nowhere’s EP all signaled good things to come, and Howling Giant’s split with Sergeant Thunderhoof was a highlight of the most recent Quarterly Review. There really isn’t a bummer on the list there, from the bitter psych of Oginalii to the industrial metal of Lament Cityscape, the unadulterated riffery of Merlock to the live-captured rawness of Monte Luna.

So again, why no list? Same answer. I want to highlight the progression King Buffalo made in their sound and leave room open elsewhere for things I missed. Please let me know what in the comments. Cordially.

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Notes: In this wretched year (mostly) void of live music, marked by canceled tours and festivals, the live album arguably played a more central role than it ever has, whether it was a band trying to keep momentum up following or leading into a studio release, taking advantage of the emergence of the Bandcamp Friday phenomenon or just trying to maintain some connection to their fans and the process of taking a stage. Or even playing in a room together. Or not a room. Anything. What was once a tossoff, maybe an afterthought companion piece became an essential worker of the listening experience.

You might accuse desert rock progenitors Yawning Man of playing to their base with Live at Giant Rock (featured here), and if so, fine. At no point in the last 50 years has that base more needed playing-to. And in the absence of shows, being able to hear (and watch, in the case of the accompanying video) Yawning Man go out to the landscape that spawned them and engage with their music was a beautiful moment of reconciliation. An exhale for the converted that didn’t fill one with empty promises of better tomorrows or tours to come, but served to remind what’s so worth preserving about the spirit of live music in the first place. The fact that anything can happen. A replaced note here, a tuning change there — these things can make not just an evening, but memories that go beyond shows, tours, to touch our lives.

There were a ton of live records this year. Some were benefits for worthy causes between saving venues, Black Lives Matter, voting rights organizations, and so on. And whether these were new performances from captured livestreams (Monte Luna, Kadavar) or older gigs that had been sitting around waiting for release at some point (Sumac, Dead Meadow), this, very much, was that point, and these live offerings kept burning a fire that felt at times very much in danger of being extinguished.

Looking Ahead to 2021

A list of bands. Some confirmed releases, some not. Here goes:

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, LantlĂŽs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

You’ve read enough, so I will do my best to keep this mercifully short. Thank you so much for reading — whether you still are or not — and thank you for being a part of the ongoing project that is The Obelisk. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such incredible support throughout not just this year, but all the years of the site’s existence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you most of all to The Patient Mrs. for her indulgence in letting me get this done. I’m am amazed forever.

More to come.

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Video Interview: Peder Bergstrand of Lowrider

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on October 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

lowrider (Photo by Anna Liden Wiren)

This was a good chat, and I knew it would be. I’ve had occasion a couple of times over the last year-plus to talk to bassist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand from Lowrider about the band’s long-awaited second album, Refractions (review here). First when it received a limited release last year for Blues Funeral Recordings‘ PostWax series, then again for an Instagram thing the band did, and I think somewhere else in there too. He did a Days of Rona feature earlier this year. Frankly, it’s nice to talk to him. Dry humor, sarcasm. In my experience we get along pretty well. He may hang up and call me a jerk each time, but he’s always been too polite to say it to my face.

But since Refractions is already receiving best-of-the-year-type hails and the band are currently chipping away at a follow-up — Bergstrand says maybe late 2021, which would be quite a turnaround considering it took them 20 years to answer their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here), with a second album — it seemed like a fair enough time to check in. Joined in Lowrider by lead guitarist/vocalist Ola Hellquist, guitarist Niclas StĂ„lfors and drummer Andreas Eriksson, Bergstrand was kind enough to offer an update on their third LP, including revealing the name of their first single from it as “…And the Horse You Rode in On,” talking about how the experience of recording Refractions remotely prepared the band for existing in a pandemic, the mixing genius (legit) of Karl Daniel LidĂ©n, visiting the studio with Greenleaf as Tommi Holappa and company work on their own next record, why stoner rock stays largely apolitical, and much more. It was a wide-ranging conversation. I cut out the part at the beginning where we talked about our kids, but other than that, it’s as it happened once I hit record.

And given that, you’ll find out as you make your way through that there were a couple times when the connection froze. Hey, the internet isn’t perfect, so yeah. He comes back in a couple seconds every time it happens — three or four times, I think — so don’t sweat it. It’s a pretty casual conversation. I had a couple things I wanted to talk about, but no written questions as it were. Didn’t need them.

I hope you enjoy:

Lowrider Interview with Peder Bergstrand

Refractions is out now on Blues Funeral Recordings. Here’s the album stream:

Lowrider on Thee Facebooks

Lowrider on Instagram

Lowrider on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Blues Funeral Recordings website

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The Obsessed Premiere “Concrete Cancer” from Incarnate Remaster

Posted in audiObelisk on September 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE OBSESSED Incarnate Ultimate Record Store Day Edition

As far as doomly documents go, it’s hard to get much more essential than The Obsessed‘s Incarnate. First issued in 1999 on Southern Lord and re-pressed in 2004, the release arrived after the band was put to bed but assembled tracks from demos and live performances, originals and a couple covers, unreleased and released alike, to create a picture of the band across what was already an expanse of nearly two decades. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich as the high school band Warhorse and morphed into The Obsessed in 1980, the group has had multiple runs over the course of their now-40 years, but their effect on the scope of traditionalist doom is unmistakable, not only in their home state of Maryland, where their sound continues to resonate and directly inspire others, but throughout the world as well.

The 2004 edition of Incarnate upped the amount of material from five years prior, and the new remaster from Blues Funeral Recordings adds to that as well, resulting in a billing as Incarnate: Ultimate Edition that feels all the more earned not only with its striking cover art but with a 21-track and 81-minute sprawl of songs. The hits are there — “Neatz Brigade,” “Skybone,” “Streetside,” etc. — but complemented by material like “The Peckerwood Stomp” and the Grand Funk Railroad/The Animals cover “Inside Looking Out” from the band’s 1996 Altamont Nation single, a live version of “Endless Circles” on the 2LP, and a swath of demos covering multiple incarnations of the band with players like Guy Pinhas, Scott Reeder and Ed Gulli and Greg Rogers joining Weinrich throughout. It’s a compilation, to be sure, and the varied sources means varied sound quality, especially on stuff from older tapes, but Incarnate was never supposed to be an album. It just got listened to that way by a new generation of followers.

Someday, on some better planet, when they teach college-level courses about the history of American doom metal and The Obsessed occupy a full week on the semester’s syllabus, the enduring legacy of the band will perhaps get its due. That was revived with the 2017 Relapse Records studio return, Sacred (review here), but even unto Blues Funeral‘s recent unearthed-tapes live outing, Live at Big Dipper (review here), it only continues to grow, and if some eyes-on-the-prize collector picks up Incarnate: Ultimate Edition and is able to dig into The Obsessed in a new way, so much the better. Given the integral nature of the band’s work and the context it provides to their studio and live LPs, it’s kind of a no-brainer. The remaster sounds sharp, the art is poster-worthy, and the tracklisting includes more than either older version of the release, which has been out of print and, frankly, probably shouldn’t be.

You know how doomers say things like “doom on?” This is why.

I’m not sure whether or not to call streaming something that was first released 21 years ago a “premiere,” but however you think it should be tagged, I’m happy to host the remastered version of “Concrete Cancer” below. Under the player you’ll find vinyl info, a quote form Wino and all that good stuff.

Enjoy:

THE OBSESSED’s iconic ‘Incarnate’ album returns exclusively for Record Store Day on October 24th from Blues Funeral Recordings!

Exclusive Record Store Day vinyl configurations of THE OBSESSED ‘Incarnate Ultimate Edition’:

USA/Canada – Black/Red Marble Vinyl
Germany/Austria/Switzerland – Solid Sun Yellow Vinyl
UK/Sweden- Pure White Vinyl

“For me, playing music professionally has always been a labor of love. Refusing to sell out, crafting songs and musical soundscapes is my art. There cannot be a compromise of artistic vision. With relationships and life in general, compromise is necessary, but compromising my art only crosses my mind when describing my philosophy here. ” Wino explains.

“I was given a gift and so I have responsibilities, to carry the torch, if you will, to illuminate the underground pathway that lies ahead and away from the mundane and banal music that some call pop or whatever.

I could not achieve these ideals without heroes with like minds and similar values. So I would like to say thanks to Jadd Shickler and Blues Funeral for believing in the power of this music, and believing in me, and re-releasing this amalgamation of sounds for your listening pleasure.

This is a compilation of outtakes, singles and demo versions of songs that made later albums… or not. Jadd told me that THIS record is what got him into my stuff, THE OBSESSED, SPIRIT CARAVAN, THE HIDDEN HAND, etc., and so we’re happy to offer the fans and listeners a special revamped version. Thanks to all who believe!!!“

The tracklist of ‘Incarnate’, a must-have anniversary album that belongs in every well-sorted THE OBSESSED record collection and is available as an exclusive Record Store Day release, will read as follows:

LP:
A1 Yen Sleep
A2 Concrete Cancer
A3 Peckerwood Stomp
A4 Inside Looking Out
A5 Mental Kingdom

B1 Sodden Jackal
B2 Iron & Stone
B3 Indestroy
B4 Mourning
B5 Spirit Caravan
B6 Skybone

C1 On The Hunt
C2 No Blame
C3 Neatz Brigade
C4 Hiding Mask
C5 Endless Circles (live)

D1 Streetside
D2 Climate Of Despair
D3 Decimation
D4 Fears Machine
D5 Field Of Hours

The Obsessed on Thee Facebooks

The Obsessed on Instagram

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings website

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