REZN Announce East Coast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 24th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

How’s this for an update? Great http://latoilesurecoute.com/georgetown-university-application-essay-online/s that ensure high grades! We differ from other custom writing companies because right now we can offer you: A live chat with your writer; When you order a college essay, you have a right to make sure that it is under a professional's control. Rezn have recently finished recording a thing. That’s right. Not just any thing, really, but something. Mmm hmm. Yup. I know.

That’s the extent I know about what the Chicagoan unit have been up to. They’ve got a date slated for Oct. 2 that will mark their first gig “post-“pandemic, and then they take off for an East Coast tour in December after a couple November shows in the Midwest. Neat, right? They go supporting 2020’s Introduction. Pacific Postgraduate Research Proposal (PTWS) is a technical writing department for hire. We use your engineering data and our resources to write Chaotic Divine (review here), which was a hoot and a half, and which if you’d like an excuse to revisit it, you’ll find it at the bottom of this post. Not that you really need the excuse, mind you.

As to what they’ve recorded, it could be a new record, or it could be their part of the collaborative release they’ll share with Writing A Essay On Friendship. Thereby calling for a problem especially since to outsource some tasks dissertation assistant time already. You are able to the vague concept dissertation assistant of the format of writing as a topic for the hills youll about it would simply have dissertation assistant courage to begin writing the whole. Of the top papers which your recruiters not want to have in your. Vinnum Sabbathi as a part of PostWax for Cheap Dissertation Writing Services Have More Features. Not only our target is to provide go to site in the UK and first-class work, but we also aim to deal with our customers politely so that they can feel us as a family, not their custom essay providers. Blues Funeral Recordings, or it could be something else entirely. Definitely something though, whatever it is. For sure, a thing.

Their posted tour dates follow:

Rezn

THIS FALL. We are coming back to the east coast for the first time since 2018. West coast, you’re next. Dates below, tickets available soon:

Nov 12: Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle Brewing
Nov 19: Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall w/ King Buffalo
Dec 1: Cincinnati, OH @ Urban Artifact (early)
Dec 1: Cincinnati, OH @ The Comet (late)
Dec 2: Youngstown, OH @ Westside Bowl w/ Frayle
Dec 4: Rochester, NY @ Bug Jar
Dec 5: Toronto, ON @ The Garrison
Dec 7: Somerville, MA @ The Rockwell w/ Lesser Glow
Dec 8: Washington, DC @ DC9
Dec 10: Charlotte, NC @ Snug Harbor
Dec 11: Winston-Salem, NC @ Monstercade
Dec 12: Asheville, NC @ Odditorium
Dec 14: Lexington, KY @ The Green Lantern
Dec 15: Columbus, OH @ Spacebar
Dec 16: Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary
Dec 17: Grand Rapids, MI @ Pyramid Scheme
Dec 18: Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club

REZN are:
Phil Cangelosi
Patrick Dunn
Rob McWilliams
Spencer Ouellette

facebook.com/reznhits
instagram.com/rezzzn
rezzzn.bandcamp.com
offtherecordlabel.bigcartel.com
https://www.facebook.com/Off-The-Record-1558728014411885/
https://www.offtherecordshop.nl/index.php/off-the-record-label

REZN, Chaotic Divine (2020)

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 67 – Eric Wagner Tribute

Posted in Radio on September 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

What, I wasn’t going to do an Eric Wagner tribute episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal? Of course I was. And with 40 years of work to choose from including landmarks for American doom old and new, the issue was obviously not picking tracks to include. Between Trouble, The Skull and Blackfinger, there was no shortage.

I got called out in the site comments last week for not mentioning Wagner’s decision to not get vaccinated as a cause of his death. My response was that I didn’t know it was politics. There are legit medical reasons one might not be able to receive the Covid shot, and I didn’t know either way what Wagner’s reasons were, and while were talking about it maybe I’m happier not knowing, but one way or the other I’m not sure it’s relevant to his legacy or body of work. It’s not like he was writing songs about QAnon, and it’s not like I was looking to Eric Wagner as an influence on my own political (or spiritual, for that matter; his Christian faith being well documented in lyrics and elsewhere) beliefs.

So maybe he didn’t get vaccinated before heading out on tour with The Skull because he didn’t believe in it. Maybe it was because he was a habitual smoker north of 55 years old and had other health concerns. Either way, dude is still dead and has had a sonic influence spanning generations. That, to me, seemed worth honoring without judgment.

As to my own opinion on vaccines in general and this one in particular — not that they’re vaguely relevant — but yes I got those shots, if/when the booster is available I’ll get that too. If it it needs to be more elaborately expressed than that, leave a comment and I’m happy to chat about that or anything else.

Either way, thanks for listening and/or reading. I hope you enjoy.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at: http://gimmemetal.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 09.03.21

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark The Endless Road Turns Dark (2018)
Blackfinger Beside Still Water When Colors Fade Away (2017)
VT
Trouble The Tempter Psalm 9 (1984)
Trouble Wickedness of Man The Skull (1985)
Trouble Peace of Mind Run to the Light (1987)
Trouble The Wolf Trouble (1990)
Trouble Come Touch the Sky Manic Frustration (1992)
Trouble Tomorrow Never Knows Plastic Green Head (1995)
Trouble Pictures of Life Simple Mind Condition (2007)
VT
Lid Mary Agnes In the Mushroom (1997)
Blackfinger On Tuesday Morning Blackfinger (2014)
Trouble Assassin Psalm 9 (1984)
Trouble Black Shapes of Doom Trouble (1990)
The Skull Send Judas Down For Those Which Are Asleep (2014)
The Skull Thy Will Be Done The Endless Road Turns Dark (2018)
Trouble Arthur Brown’s Whiskey Bar Simple Mind Condition (2007)
Trouble The Eye Plastic Green Head (1995)
Trouble Fear No Evil The Skull (1985)
Trouble The Misery Shows Run to the Light (1987)
Trouble The Misery Shows (Act II) Trouble (1990)
Trouble The Sleeper Manic Frustration (1992)
Trouble Victim of the Insane Psalm 9 (1984)
VT
Trouble At the End of My Daze Trouble (1990)
Trouble Bastards Will Pay Psalm 9 (1984)

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Sept. 17 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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Rest in Peace Eric Wagner of Trouble and The Skull, 1959-2021

Posted in Features on August 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the skull eric wagner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Former Trouble and current The Skull vocalist Eric Wagner has died of pneumonia brought about by Covid-19. His son, Luke Wagner, confirmed on social media. It is impossible to estimate the devastation that Wagner’s loss means to the international underground community at large, but it nearly goes without saying that he was a legend in his own time with a career spanning more than 40 years behind him, as well as someone continuing to do pivotal work in doom metal today.

As part of Trouble, Wagner was essential in defining the trajectory of American doom. Early albums through Metal Blade Records like 1984’s Trouble/Psalm 9, 1985’s The Skull and 1987’s Run to the Light set forth a blueprint that many still follow today, and even as Trouble shifted into more heavy rock and classic rock-minded fare on their 1990 self-titled, their efforts remained no less crucial, with Wagner’s Beatles influence becoming all the more defining on 1992’s Manic Frustration and 1995’s Plastic Green Head, which would be his final album with the band until 2007’s Simple Mind Condition.

Always creative and a songwriter in his own right, Wagner would work across multiple outfits at a time, whether it was the collaboration Lid with Daniel Cavanagh of Anathema or his 2004 participation in Dave Grohl’s Probot project, which helped introduce his voice and style to a broader audience prior to his return to Trouble for what would be his last full-length with the band. In the years following his departure from Trouble, Wagner went on in 2012 to found The Skull alongside guitarist Lothar Keller and fellow Trouble veterans Ron Holzner (bass) and Jeff Olson (drums), first as an homage project and later one with original material.

The Skull’s two full-lengths, For Those Which Are Asleep and The Endless Road Turns Dark, would see release in 2014 and 2016, respectively, through Tee Pee Records. Blackfinger, which would become something of a side-project as The Skull took priority, also released two albums, in 2014’s self-titled and 2017’s When Colors Fade Away, with the acoustic solo collection, Highdeas Vol. 1, arriving in 2015.

It was reported late last week that Wagner, who contracted Covid-19 while on a co-headlining tour with The Skull and fellow landmark outfit The Obsessed, had entered the hospital with Covid pneumonia and that remaining live dates including a slated appearance at Psycho Las Vegas were canceled. He was, again reportedly, unvaccinated.

He was someone whose work was immediately identifiable, and his influence is spread across generations of music from all over the world. It is impossible to hear his voice and not know who’s performing, and on stage, he brought a sense of character and even at times humor to his presence that was inimitable and spoke to his Chicago roots. He may be best remembered as Trouble’s singer, but the arc of his career would find him inspiring others multiple times over, and his passion for what he did was no less inimitable than the voice that was so much his own. If it is impossible to rank the scale of his influence, that is because it continues to spread.

As somebody fortunate enough to interview Wagner on several occasions and to see him live on many more, I offer sincere condolences on behalf of myself and this site for whatever that’s worth to Wagner’s friends, family, bandmates, and any other associates. In my experience, he was a sweet, humble man who understood his place and at least some of what his work meant to others. Of his feelings on Trouble after leaving the band, he told me in 2011, “Those four guys are the only ones who know what it was like to do what we did… I can talk to them and they know exactly what I mean and what it felt like and what we went through.” It was a moment of rare perspective that still resonates a decade later.

He will be dearly missed. It is a tragic loss.

The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (2017)

The Skull on Facebook

The Skull on Twitter

The Skull website

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Yakuza Begin Recording New Album; Back Catalog Being Reissued

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Chicago experimentalist-in-form metallers  go to site. A personal statement is usually developed for purposes of entrance into degree programs. They are used for applying for a course Yakuza always seemed to suffer the fate of those whose sound lie between styles. They reaped plenty of critical praise each time out, but as it goes with bands who challenge convention one way or another, their songs’ willfully jarring turns and shifting atmospheres set themselves beyond kneejerk accessibility and, well, there you go. By the time their next record comes out, it will have been 10 years since  http://www.formstelle.de/?order-an-essay-canada. The Ethiopian Institute for Higher Education starts etHELP and HELL. condolence message. AAU-monthly News letter. AAU-monthly News letter. Beyul (review here) was issued through  http://mdph.doubs.fr/dissertation-help-ireland-nyc/ Writing Service. If you are a scholar or a student, an essay is surely no news for you. In fact, compared to all the other types of assignments, such as speeches, presentations, research papers, and so on, the essay is the most common one. Profound Lore, and that album, along with 2002’s  http://www.gemeinde-drei-gleichen.de/?i-need-help-on-my-math-homeworks - No more fails with our top essay services. Learn all you have always wanted to know about custom writing begin working on Way of the Dead — imagine this band on  http://www.beranet.de/?589 Service by PapersOwl. We guarantee Full Confidentiality, 100% Plagiarism Free and 24/7 Support. Our team of experts consists of Century Media for a minute; it was a different age — and presumably the rest of their catalog, will be reissued through  Weather Writing Paper Njhs Essay Help - Title Ebooks : Njhs Essay Help - Category : Kindle and eBooks PDF - Author : ~ unidentified - ISBN785458 - File Type War Crime Recordings, which is the label  We touch upon the Do My Admission Essay Write job description, looking at the main technical writing skills you need, the qualifications and work experience, and more. Yakuza frontman/saxophonist  Looking for quality essay help online? Essay helper is one of the most demanded services by students Whenever I ask to Pay For Someone To Write Your Essay Uk, Bruce Lamont runs alongside  How http://sea.qc.net/?connect-homework-manager do doctoral dissertation writing help approach I make a comment. Important:. Sanford Parker, who’s also producing the new  However, others take a different course of action and purchase their dissertation from a professional writing agency like ours. When you Management Accounting Dissertation Topics from us, you get a great dissertation paper. To buy a custom paper on such conditions sounds like a good deal, doesn't it? It certainly does, especially if you consider the time and effort you'll have to invest in completing this assignment. This is one of the most important and complicated tasks that college and university students face in Yakuza album. Keeping it all in the family, as it were.

Of course,  We provide excellent essay writing service 24/7. Enjoy proficient essay writing and http://www.jsnds.de/?essay-on-the-mass-medias provided by professional academic writers. Lamont has hardly been idle in the last decade. In addition to founding  War Crime — who were also kind enough to publish a collection of short stories by yours truly in 2016, thereby earning eternal gratitude — and taking part in Corrections House again alongside Parker and members of Neurosis and Eyehategod, he’s released solo work and an album with Bloodiest, and so on. Last year, he took part in a quarantine-era socially-distant cover of Trouble‘s “The Tempter” (posted here) with Parker and members of Snow Burial and Pelican. So yeah, dude gets around.

Looking forward to this though. Should be like a coming home, oddly shaped as that home may be.

From the PR wire:

YAKUZA (photo by Sonya Siedlaczek)

YAKUZA To Begin Recording First New Studio Album In Ten Years; Back Catalog To See Reissue On Vinyl Via War Crime Recordings!

Chicago’s YAKUZA will begin recording their long-awaited, as-yet-untitled new studio album!

The band will enter Palisades Studio with engineer Sanford Parker (Yob, Voivod) later this month. The recording will be completed and mixed at Parker’s own Hypercube Studios. Set for worldwide release in the Spring of 2022, the record follows their critically lauded Beyul full-length (2012) and marks YAUKZA’s first official studio output in ten years!

Offers vocalist/saxophonist Bruce Lamont, “Ten years! You would think that a bunch has changed, Well, some has and some hasn’t. The shronky, heavy, hairpin tempo shifts are still there, now add more bottom end thanks to current bassist Jerome Marshall. This new batch of tunes is a nice mix of weird and riffy and we couldn’t be happier with how everything has come together.”

Adds bassist Jerome Marshall, “It’s a return to form from the origins of where the band began. A return to post-metal, avant-garde jazz-influenced heavy chaos with the structural balance of intrinsic order.”

The record will be released in North America via Lamont and Parker’s joint imprint, War Crime Recordings, with Svart Recordings handling Europe and beyond.

In related news, War Crime Recordings will reissue the YAKUZA back catalog on a limited-edition LP throughout the coming months. First up is 2012’s Beyul which has never before been available on vinyl.

Comments Lamont, “We over at War Crime Recordings have had a plan for a number of years to reissue all the YAKUZA LPs that haven’t seen the light day and then reissue the ones that have. Beyul was an obvious first choice. Originally released back in 2012 through Profound Lore, this reissue is a single LP gatefold edition. The mastering for the LP was done back in 2012 by Colin Jordon and we couldn’t be happier with the result. Next up…Way Of The Dead!”

Limited to 200 copies on translucent brown vinyl, order Beyul at THIS LOCATION: https://yazkua.bandcamp.com/album/beyul

YAKUZA:
James Staffel – drums
Matt Mcclelland – guitar, vocals
Jerome Marshall – bass, vocals
Bruce Lamont – vocals, saxophones

http://www.yakuzadojo.com
http://www.instagram.com/yakuzadojo
http://www.facebook.com/WarCrimeRecordings
http://www.instagram.com/WarCrimeRecordings
http://warcrimerecordings.bandcamp.com

Yakuza, Beyul (2012)

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The Obsessed and The Skull Announce Co-Headlining Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 10th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Hot damn, The Obsessed and The Skull, co-headlining at what could’ve easily been dubbed the ‘Champions of Doom Tour’ but sadly was not. Neither are expected to have a new record out by the end of July — The Skull‘s The Endless Road Turns Dark (review here) came out in 2018, and The Obsessed released the bootleg-style Live at Big Dipper (review here) last year — but hell, at least they’re both getting out. The dates arrive with a stopover for The Obsessed‘s Wino to play a solo set at Ripplefest Texas 2021, and there are a couple shows where the two bands part ways for the night.

You’ll also note on Aug. 1 they have matinee and evening shows in Indianapolis and Louisville. That’s about an hour and 45 minutes down I-65 from one town to the other. Oldschool in more than just sound here, it would seem.

The PR wire brought dates and I didn’t even have to type them out myself! Amazing:

the obsessed the skull tour

THE OBSESSED And THE SKULL: Doom Rock Icons Announce US Co-Headlining Tour; Tickets On Sale Now!

THE OBSESSED and THE SKULL will join forces for a US co-headlining tour this Summer. Set to commence July 29th in Cleveland, Ohio, the doom rock caravan will wind its way through nearly two-dozen cities, drawing to a close on August 16th in Rochester, New York. Tickets are on sale now. See all confirmed dates below.

THE OBSESSED/THE SKULL:
7/29/2021 Now That’s Class – Cleveland, OH **
7/30/2021 Club Garibaldi – Milwaukee WI
7/31/2021 Cobra Lounge – Chicago IL
8/01/2021 Black Circle – Indianapolis, IN (matinee show)
8/01/2021 Diamond Pub – Louisville, KY (evening show)
8/02/2021 Brickyard Bar – Knoxville, TN
8/03/2021 Growlers – Memphis, TN
8/04/2021 George’s Majestic – Fayetteville, AR
8/05/2021 Bears – Shreveport, LA
8/06/2021 Division Brewery/Grrowl – Arlington, TX
8/07/2021 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX ##
8/07/2021 Ripple Fest @ Texas Ski Ranch – New Braunfels, TX ^^
8/08/2021 Lost Well – Austin, TX
8/09/2021 White Oak Music Hall – Houston, TX **
8/10/2021 Freetown Boom Boom Room – Lafayette, LA **
8/10/2021 Santos – New Orleans, LA ##
8/11/2021 The Earl – Atlanta, GA
8/12/2021 Pour House – Raleigh, NC
8/13/2021 Cafe 611 – Frederick, MD
8/14/2021 GoldSounds – Brooklyn, NY
8/15/2021 Alchemy – Providence, RI
8/16/2021 Montage Music Hall – Rochester, NY
** THE OBSESSED only
## THE SKULL only
^^ WINO Solo

[poster by Gary Mader]

https://www.facebook.com/TheObsessedOfficial
http://relapse.com/the-obsessed-sacred/
https://theobsessed.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

https://www.facebook.com/troubletheskull/
https://twitter.com/theskullusa
http://theskullusa.com/
https://teepeerecords.com/

The Obsessed, Sacred (2017)

The Skull, “Ravenswood” official lyric video

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Justin Sanetra of Blue Dream, Strange Foliage & Hot Box Sound Machine

Posted in Questionnaire on March 24th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

justin sanetra blue dream hot box sound machine

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Justin Sanetra of Blue Dream, Strange Foliage & Hot Box Sound Machine

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

Constantly trying to pursue creative desires and immerse myself in whatever opportunities come my way. I’ve been writing and creating things as long as I can remember and started playing guitar when I was 14. I started to find people wanting to form a band and then began singing and writing songs. Eventually that snowballed into booking gigs and recording demos. With everything being online I was able to contact DIY houses, venues, bars, and art spaces all around the USA and Canada. This led to releasing music and booking tours and I’ve been doing that ever since.

Describe your first musical memory.

One of the places I lived at as a kid was a couple blocks away from a street festival that happens every summer. I remember sitting on the roof listening to all the bands play.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Way too many to choose from! Just being able to record music and travel around the country playing it provided amazing experiences that created some of my best memories.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Every time I experiment with high doses of certain substances my beliefs are tested. One day I found out that we are all one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively. There is no such thing as death, life is only a dream, and we are the imagination of ourselves.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

I think it leads to innovation and discovery that brings us closer to our own individuality. We all have influences that we emulate in everything we do. When we add our personal experiences and personal touch into the mix, it creates a never ending chain of artistic progression.

How do you define success?

Having the freedom to do what you want to do. Elevating the people around you and bringing about a positive influence in this world. Love is the law.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

The News, Late-Night Talk Shows, Awards Shows, and any other media that is propaganda disguised as entertainment and information.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

A device that can transfer the music in your head directly into a DAW, Tape Machine, or other recording equipment.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To communicate emotions, ideas, and messages that reflect the reality you live in.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Setting all the vague optimism aside and society being open again. Everyone is essential.

https://www.facebook.com/bluedreamchicago
https://bluedreamchicago.bandcamp.com/
https://hotboxsoundmachine.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.facebook.com/StrangeFoliage
https://strangefoliage.bandcamp.com/

Blue Dream, Volume Blue

Hot Box Sound Machine, “Hot Box Sound Machine”

Strange Foliage, “Big Mouth”

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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.

ukmedsnorx.com/zopiclone
ukmedsnorx.com/zolpidem

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 (RoadsawSasquatch, 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 Bjørnson (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 Sandøy, 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, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú 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 Silvåkra 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 Silvåkra 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, Lantlôs, 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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Album Review: REZN, Chaotic Divine

Posted in Reviews on October 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

rezn chaotic divine

Bon voyage. Since the 2018 release of their well received second album, Calm Black Water, Chicago four-piece REZN have branched out across two at-least-semi-collaborative offerings. Last year, they issued Live at Electrical Audio, recorded at the famed Chicago studio in collaboration with post-hardcore heavy rockers Lume, and earlier 2020 brought Infected Ambient Works, a collection of 26 mostly-short, synth-focused atmospheric pieces, listed as a collaboration with Catechism, which is in fact a solo-project of REZN‘s own Spencer Ouellette, who in addition to synth also might be found handling percussion, sax or flute on a given track.

As one approaches the band’s third proper full-length, Chaotic Divine, clearly the lesson to take away from the last two years is that REZN Ouellette alongside guitarist/vocalist Rob McWilliams, bassist/vocalist Phil Cangelosi and drummer Patrick Dunn — are branching out. And the consuming, untamed 64 minutes of the 11 songs they bring to this album bears that out, as throughout its span one might find McWilliams handling oud, Cangelosi a baglama or rainstick, and Dunn some off-kit percussion or a sitar in addition to Ouelette‘s array of keys/synth, sax, percussion and flute as noted above. All of this is factored into a backdrop of deep-running heavy riffing and psychedelic lumber, with the weighted-and-drifting “Emerging” setting the forward march on its way with vocal effects recalling earlier Monolord and a hypnotic final section that’s perhaps even more effective in drawing in the listener.

“Emerging” is both a foundation and a departure, and it comes grouped on side A with “Waves of Sand” and “Garden Green,” the former of which brings the first standout flourish of saxophone and a subtle build of tension over the course of its just-under-seven-minutes that approaches slow-space-rock freakout levels before the crushing tonality finally wakes up to stamp everything into dust. As payoffs go, that of “Waves of Sand” is nothing if not earned, but again, the subsequent comedown is no less exciting, and a cricket-chirping transition into “Garden Green” finds REZN experimenting with reggae undertones with an almost frightening smoothness before a side flip to “The Door Opens” seems to reset the pattern to where it began with “Emerging.” Gruff vocals, more direct riffing, massive, lumbering groove; familiar enough elements set to righteous purpose, they coincide with an effective psychedelic midsection, huge-sounding crashing finish and obscure samples (or something) at the end.

This is one of the many examples throughout Chaotic Divine of REZN taking established genre methods and making them their own. “The Door Opens” gives way to “Clear I,” the first of two interludes that build on the soundscaping the band has done as far back as “Pipe Dream” from their 2017 debut, Let it Burn (review here), but pushes farther, pulling out the drums in favor of a genuine sense of float that moves with windy synth into the sweeping launch of “Optic Echo.” Like “Waves of Sand” and the later, speedier “Scarab,” it is itself a standout that nonetheless feeds into and enhances the whole 2LP flow of which it is a part, drawing down to quiet silence with sax in conversation with subdued guitar ahead of the 10-minute “Mother/Forever Time” beginning side C with the arrival of McWilliams‘ oud and arguably Chaotic Divine‘s most effective stretch of heavy psychedelic ritualizing.

rezn

It is a wash that feels delicately crafted and organic just the same, gaining largesse in its midsection (aren’t we all?) and then gracefully receding in its second half into experimentalist ambience, assuring that the drums beginning “Inner Architecture” are duly grounding. With melodic vocals set over drifting verses offset by weighted push in the chorus, there are flashes of Mars Red Sky-style sweetness — around the 2:45-3:00 mark — but the central riff around which it’s based is almost pure Sleep once one digs past the surrounding elements. Not that one necessarily should, as those elements are essential in the quiet/loud tradeoffs that make “Inner Architecture” a particularly resonant hook instrumentally and structurally, fading to silence before the last side flip brings “Scarab,” the effect of which is like someone bursting into a smoke filled room and waving their arms around to clear the air.

The side D leadoff is without a doubt the fastest track on Chaotic Divine, and so distinguished by that, but it’s also a clinic in how to do stoner-doom drumming right, and though it’s only four minutes long, the function it serves is to add momentum just as the album is heading into its final movement. There’s still plenty of swirl to be had in the layers of soloing and riffs, but even amid the big finish, the swinging groove remains the priority, which is only fair heading into the cinematic drone of “Clear II.” Shorter than its earlier companion piece, the penultimate interlude serves as a fitting breather after “Scarab” and an intro for closer “The Still Center,” the main guitar progression of which follows a pattern set by Neurosis‘ “Reach” but, like other recognizable bits and pieces throughout, is set to individualized purpose by REZN in a way that makes it all the more a worthy finish.

And they end not with a grand overblown crash, but instead in that wash of melody that they’ve waded through so patiently throughout Chaotic Divine. The sax is there, the wandering guitar figure, the steady drums and bass and echoing vocals. It is an outward motion, but one could say the same of the whole record, and its sudden cutting short after coming quickly to a head at the very end gives the listener a palpable sense of being let go into the ether that the residual silence represents — a no less impressive finish for how conceptual it feels as relates to the entirety of what precedes.

Of molten intent and cross-subgenre execution, REZN offers a psychedelthickness that seems to be as much a sign of things to come as of its moment. It’s easy sometimes to think of a third album as being where a band finds itself in terms of sound and style, and if that’s what’s happening here as Chaotic Divine adds arrangement breadth and general narrative scope to what REZN did on their first two offerings, then all the better, but satisfying and engaging and fluid and as much of an achievement as they are, the explorations in these tracks still come across with an energy that feels nascent and speaks to the potential for more expansion to come. One can only hope that turns out to be so.

REZN, Chaotic Divine (2020)

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