Stream Rehearsal Jam from Gaster, Morton, Papadopoulos; Members of Clutch, Lamb of God & Stinking Lizaveta

Posted in audiObelisk on August 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

yanni mark morton jp gaster

About two months ago, I was lucky enough to stream a jam-room recording from Stinking Lizaveta called ‘The Odor of Corruption’ (posted here) after being hit up by the Philly-based doom jazz trio’s founding guitarist, Yanni Papadopoulos. Late last week, another note came in from Papadopoulos — did I want to hear a jam he played bass on with Jean-Paul Gaster of Clutch drumming and Mark Morton from Lamb of God on guitar?

Easy question.

The jam from what’s being called Gaster, Morton, Papadopoulos was hosted by the drummer in Frederick, Maryland — where else? — and has been dubbed “Blues to Infinity,” which about sums up the vibe. Morton, who released the solo album Anasthetic earlier this year, leads the way on guitar through the easy-flowing sub-four-minute snippet, starting off with a bluesy bounce over Gaster‘s groove, while Papadopoulos helps drive the subtle linear build even as he anchors the central progression beneath the guitar solo to come. If that level of blues hits infinite anywhere in the song — let me get my tape measure — it’s in that solo, but the the way jam kind of sways into its crescendo afterward is where it’s at one way or the other, and even after the guitar cuts out, the drums and bass seem ready to keep the vibe going in case there’s another pickup.

Doesn’t happen this time, but something tells me this might not be the only time we hear from Gaster, Morton, Papadopoulos. True enough that their schedules aren’t exactly empty as it is, but if this is the kind of work they’re doing off-the-cuff whenever their respective planets happen to align, there’s simply too much chemistry and too much potential here to leave it alone. And I mean, you know, if they wanted to send some jams off to Per Wiberg to put some keys on there too, I wouldn’t complain. Just a thought.

Whether or not that actually happens, here’s hoping for more from these three.

Enjoy the jam. Some quick comment from Morton follows:

Mark Morton on “Blues to Infinity”:

“There’s totally a cool anxious tightrope feel… like it could fall apart at any second but never does. My lead sounds frustrated and hurt… because I was. This is a real one for sure.”

Stinking Lizaveta on Thee Facebooks

Mark Morton on Thee Facebooks

Clutch on Thee Facebooks

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Clutch Release ZZ Top Cover “Precious & Grace”; Tour Starts Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

If you’ve ever wondered what Clutch mean by ‘pro-rock,’ aside from the literal fact that it’s what they do for a living, consider that last month they launched their Weathermaker Vault Series of singles by unveiling a take on Willie Dixon‘s “Evil” just before heading abroad for a round of UK and EU appearances. The second in the series, a corresponding cover of ZZ Top‘s “Precious and Grace,” is out just days ahead of the beginning of their co-headlining tour with Killswitch Engage. This is not a coincidence. This is professional coordination in rock and roll. Pro-rock.

One would expect nothing less from them.

Some might recall Queens of the Stone Age also took on “Precious and Grace” circa Lullabies to Paralyze — some might not — but of course Clutch put their stamp on the boogie swagger of the original, and I don’t know if they’re playing any of this stuff live, but it seems to me that it’s worth showing up even for the possibility. Worst that happens? You see Clutch. Also the best that happens.

From the PR wire:

clutch precious and grace

CLUTCH RELEASE NEW SINGLE “PRECIOUS AND GRACE” AS PART OF THE “WEATHERMAKER VAULT SERIES”

Clutch announce the release of “Precious And Grace”. The single is the second in a series of new studio recordings that comprise the newly launched Weathermaker Vault Series and the first new official music Clutch is making available since the release of their critically acclaimed album, Book Of Bad Decisions.

Future tracks will follow as part of the new series throughout the 2nd half of 2019. These songs are bound to become another classic milestone in the band’s stellar career. “Precious And Grace” was mixed by 6X Grammy Award winner and Clutch collaborator, Vance Powell (Wolfmother, The Raconteurs,Arctic Monkeys).

A video for the song can be viewed at this location: https://youtu.be/9RvJt7MGziM

“It should be fairly obvious by now that Clutch are huge fans of ZZ Top” states vocalist Neil Fallon. “They’re a band that we grew up listening to – and we still listen to them to this day. ‘Precious & Grace’, from their classic Tres Hombres LP, is easily one of our favorite ZZ Top songs and that’s really the only story behind the choice.”

Clutch has curated their own Spotify playlist “Clutch’s Heavy Rotation” at this location: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3NlZsjNNOoCvwjCv58mcNR

On Friday, Clutch will embark on a co-headlining tour of the US with Killswitch Engage that also includes Clutch’s curated Earth Rocker Festival in Inwood WV.

Clutch & Killswitch Engage Co-Headline US Dates:
Tickets available here.
Fri/Jul 12th Syracuse, NY at SI Hall
Sat/Jul 13th Inwood, WV at Earth Rocker Festival @ Shiley Acres
Sun/Jul 14th Myrtle Beach, SC at House Of Blues
Tue/Jul 16th Fort Wayne, IN at The Clyde
Thu/Jul 18th Sioux City, IA at Hard Rock Casino
Fri/Jul 19th Cadott, WI at Rock USA Festival
Sat/Jul 20th Peoria, Il at Tailgate N’ Tallboys Festival
Mon/Jul 22nd Tulsa, OK at The Brady Theater
Tue/Jul 23rd St. Louis, MO at The Pageant
Thu/Jul 25th Bethlehem, PA at Sands Bethlehem Event Center
Fri/Jul 26th Asbury Park, NJ at Stone Pony (Outdoors)
Sat/Jul 27th Bangor, ME at Impact Music Festival
Sun/Jul 28th Montreal, QC at Heavy Montreal Festival
Tue/Jul 30th Huntington, NY at The Paramount
Thu/Aug 1st Columbus, OH at Express Live (Outdoors)
Fri/Aug 2nd Pittsburgh, PA at Stage AE (Outdoors)
Sat/Aug 3rd Port Chester, NY at The Capitol Theater
Sun/Aug 4th Worcester, MA at Palladium (Outdoors)

CLUTCH:
Neil Fallon – Vocals/Guitar
Tim Sult – Guitar
Dan Maines – Bass
Jean-Paul Gaster – Drums/Percussion

www.facebook.com/clutchband
www.instagram.com/clutchofficial
www.twitter.com/clutchofficial
www.pro-rock.com
www.youtube.com/user/officialclutch

Clutch, “Precious and Grace” official video

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Clutch Launch ‘Weathermaker Vault Series’ with “Evil” Single

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 11th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Clutch about to launch a swing through Europe playing festivals, unveiling a new singles series with a cover of a song that Willie Dixon wrote and Cactus took on at the dawn of the heavy ’70s? Yeah, that sounds about right. The Maryland stalwarts go abroad this week for your Downloads, your Copenhells, your Graspops and your Hellfests, etc., before coming back next month for a co-headline swing with Killswitch Engage to I guess get a jump on aughts nostalgia for people who were in college at the same time I was. That tour has indoor and outdoor shows, which is nifty, it being summertime and all, and is noteworthy as well for the stop at their own Earth Rocker Festival on July 13 in West Virginia.

And yes, at the same time, they’re kicking off the Weathermaker Vault Series — seriously, just take my money — with a cover of “Evil,” a song that, even if you don’t know it, you already know it. Others are reportedly to follow — hence “series” — but as the video at the bottom of this post portrays, it’s a righteous take and a hell of a start for whatever will follow.

And I was thinking not too long ago that it’s been too damn long since Clutch banged out one of their limited-as-hell live albums, so hopefully some such thing makes its way through their new Vault as well sooner or later.

From the PR wire:

clutch evil

CLUTCH RELEASE NEW SINGLE AND VIDEO FOR “EVIL”

BAND LAUNCHES THE “WEATHERMAKER VAULT SERIES”
“EVIL” LYRIC VIDEO AVAILABLE NOW

Clutch announce the release of “Evil.” The single is the first in a series of new studio recordings that will comprise the newly launched Weathermaker Vault Series and the first new official music Clutch is making available since the release of their critically acclaimed album, Book Of Bad Decisions.

Future tracks will follow as part of the new series throughout the 2nd half of 2019. These songs are bound to become another classic milestone in the band’s stellar career.

“Evil” was mixed by 6X Grammy Award winner and Clutch collaborator, Vance Powell (Wolfmother, The Raconteurs, Arctic Monkeys).

A lyric video for “Evil” accompanies the release and can be viewed here: https://youtu.be/RDehbNb4Q1Y

“We’ve had a good amount of downtime since our last tour. And since the devil finds work for idle hands, we kept ourselves busy by recording some tunes. “Evil” is the first of them, a song we’ve loved for many, many years.” Neil Fallon

Later this week, Clutch will embark on a tour of European festivals and headline dates, followed by a July 12th-August 4th co-headline US tour with Killswitch Engage that also includes Clutch’s curated Earth Rocker Festival in Inwood WV.

European Dates: June 14th-June 23rd.

Fri/Jun 14th UK, Castle Donington, Download Festival
Sun/Jun 16th UK, Cardiff, Great Hall
Tue/Jun 18th GR, Thessaloniki, Fix Factory of Sound
Wed/Jun 19th GR, Athens, Release Athens Festival
Fri/Jun 21st DK, Copenhagen, Copenhell
Sat/Jun 22nd BE, Dessel, Graspop Metal Meeting
Sun/Jun 23rd FR, St.-Hilaire-De-Clisson, Hellfest

Clutch-Killswitch Engage Co-Headline US Dates: July 12-August 4th.

Fri/Jul 12th Syracuse, NY at SI Hall
Sat/Jul 13th Inwood, WV at Earth Rocker Festival @ Shiley Acres
Sun/Jul 14th Myrtle Beach, SC at House Of Blues
Tue/Jul 16th Fort Wayne, IN at The Clyde
Thu/Jul 18th Sioux City, IA at Hard Rock Casino
Fri/Jul 19th Cadott, WI at Rock USA Festival
Sat/Jul 20th Peoria, Il at Tailgate N’ Tallboys Festival
Mon/Jul 22nd Tulsa, OK at The Brady Theater
Tue/Jul 23rd St. Louis, MO at The Pageant
Thu/Jul 25th Bethlehem, PA at Sands Bethlehem Event Center
Fri/Jul 26th Asbury Park, NJ at Stone Pony (Outdoors)
Sat/Jul 27th Bangor, ME at Impact Music Festival
Sun/Jul 28th Montreal, QC at Heavy Montreal Festival
Tue/Jul 30th Huntington, NY at The Paramount
Thu/Aug 1st Columbus, OH at Express Live (Outdoors)
Fri/Aug 2nd Pittsburgh, PA at Stage AE (Outdoors)
Sat/Aug 3rd Port Chester, NY at The Capitol Theater
Sun/Aug 4th Worcester, MA at Palladium (Outdoors)

CLUTCH:
Neil Fallon – Vocals/Guitar
Tim Sult – Guitar
Dan Maines – Bass
Jean-Paul Gaster – Drums/Percussion

www.facebook.com/clutchband
www.instagram.com/clutchofficial
www.twitter.com/clutchofficial
www.pro-rock.com
www.youtube.com/user/officialclutch

Clutch, “Evil” official lyric video

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Clutch and Killswitch Engage Announce Co-Headlining Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

“Wow, called it!” said nobody. You know, a couple outdoor gigs, a fest or two along the way, and a decent amount of focus on the Eastern Seaboard — pretty standard fare for Clutch touring at this point, if a little bit shorter than some of the runs they go on. Then you throw in metalcore stalwarts Killswitch Engage as a co-headliner and things get a little more eyebrow-raising. Clutch of course are no strangers to touring with metal bands — they shared a bill with Slayer and System of a Down in ’98 as I recall and even recently they were out with Sevendust I guess to fill their quota of “odd pairings with bands who also started in the ’90s,” but it’s been a while I think since they’ve hit the road with a group so directly aggro as Killswitch Engage. Trying to reach different audiences is a tricky prospect, but no worries. Clutch‘ll be just fine.

They go supporting last year’s Book of Bad Decisions (review here) on Weathermaker. Worth noting as well that the Inwood, West Virginia, show is their third Earth Rocker Festival, which Killswitch Engage and Cro-Mags will also play, as well as Fireball Ministry.

Okeydokey then:

clutch kse tour

CLUTCH AND KILLSWITCH ENGAGE ANNOUNCE CO-HEADLINE SUMMER TOUR

Clutch and Killswitch Engage have announced co-headline tour dates for this summer. Tickets go on sale on Friday, May 17th at 10am.

Both bands will also be appearing on several festivals during their July 12th – August 4th run to include Earth Rocker Festival (July 13th), Rock Fest (July 19th), Heavy Montreal (July 26th) and Impact Festival (July 28th).

“We are really looking forward to heading out on the road with Killswitch Engage,” said Clutch’s vocalist Neil Fallon. “It’ll be a rager”.

Jesse Leach vocalist of Killswitch Engage adds “We’re excited to hit some of our favorite spots in July and to share the stage wtih Clutch, fun times ahead”

CLUTCH – KILLSWITCH ENGAGE CO-HEADLINE DATES
Tickets available at www.pro-rock.com
July 12th in Syracuse, NY at SI Hall
July 13th in Inwood, WV at Shiley Acres
July 14th in Myrtle Beach, SC at House Of Blues
July 16th in Fort Wayne, IN at The Clyde
July 18th in Sioux City, IA at Hard Rock Casino
July 19th in Cadott, WI at Rock Fest
July 22nd in Tulsa, OK at The Brady Theater
July 23rd in St Louis, MO at The Pageant
July 25th in Bethelehem, PA at Sands Event Center
July 26th in Asbury Park, NJ at Stone Pony (Outdoors)
July 27th in Montrael, QC at Heavy Montreal
July 28th in Bangor, ME at Impact Festival
July 30th in Huntington, NY at The Paramount
August 2nd in Pittsburgh, PA at Stage AE (Outdoors)
August 3rd in Port Chester, NY at Capital Theater
August 4th in Worcester, MA at Palladium (Outdoors)

CLUTCH:
Neil Fallon – Vocals/Guitar
Tim Sult – Guitar
Dan Maines – Bass
Jean-Paul Gaster – Drums/Percussion

www.facebook.com/clutchband
www.instagram.com/clutchofficial
www.twitter.com/clutchofficial
www.pro-rock.com
www.youtube.com/user/officialclutch

Clutch, Live at Riot Fest 2018

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Psycho Las Vegas 2019 Adds Electric Wizard, Fu Manchu, Graveyard, Clutch, Amenra, Deafheaven and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas 2019 logo

If we’ve learned anything at all about Psycho Las Vegas in the last few years, it’s that Psycho is gonna do its own shit its own way. It’s not about being the American Roadburn, or about being a non-suck Coachella. It’s Psycho Las Vegas. It’s its own thing, and to think otherwise is simply to have a mistaken impression. If you’ve been, you know this already.

It would seem to be in that spirit that where every other fest doles out its lineup either at once or piecemeal in a succession of announcements — trust me, I know: I write them — Psycho is once again doing its thing its way. With barely any text whatsoever, band posters have been trickling out through the Psycho Las Vegas Instagram, and if you’ve been paying attention, you’ve started to see some of the festival take shape. There was a first announcement way back in November, and I’m sure when it’s all said and done they’ll have more official word, but until then, it’s worth keeping your eyes open to see how it’s playing out. I’m trying to keep up as best I can.

To that end:

We’re upping the ante and taking this party to the strip. Join us August 16-18, 2019 at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino for Psycho Las Vegas––featuring four stages, late night parties, and exclusive performances you won’t see anywhere else. Early Bird + Tier I tickets are on sale now at vivapsycho.com.

Lineup so far:
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats
High on Fire
Glassjaw
YOB
Perturbator
Kadavar
Oranssi Pazuzu
Electric Wizard
Fu Manchu
Graveyard
Amenra
Deafheaven
Old Man Gloom
Clutch
Power Trip
Bad Religion
Rotting Christ

America’s rock ‘n’ roll bacchanal returns as PSYCHO LAS VEGAS brings its annual debauchery and unbridled volume to the Strip itself, with a move to the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino that sets the stage for a Las Vegas Boulevard takeover, the likes of which have never been seen.

Slated for August 16th through August 18th, PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2019 will feature four stages, including the newly renovated Events Center, the iconic House Of Blues, the Mandalay Bay Beach, featuring a wave pool and lazy river, and an old-school Vegas-style Lounge smack dab in the middle of the casino floor. While all of the venues are located on the property, Mandalay Bay is connected by a complimentary tram service that provides easy access to affordable accommodations such as Luxor and Excalibur. Attendees will have access to discounted rates at all of these properties and other MGM hotels and resorts down the Strip.

The highly coveted “Psycho Special” passes, notorious for selling out instantly, are priced at $99, plus taxes and fees and go on sale Thursday, November 29th at 10:00am PST. Weekender General Admission passes are priced at $249, plus taxes and fees, and will increase to $299, plus taxes and fees, once the first tier sells out. Only 300 High Roller VIP passes will be sold at $499, plus taxes and fees, with package details to be announced in December. Single-day tickets will be available in the Spring at $109, plus taxes and fees. While the festival format will remain largely the same as previous years, the Thursday pre-party at DAYLIGHT Beach Club will be a more intimate event for attendees and will require a separate ticket from the festival pass. Tickets and more information available at VivaPsycho.com.

https://www.facebook.com/events/2035404693146567/
https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas/
https://www.instagram.com/psycholasvegas/
http://vivapsycho.com

Fu Manchu, Live in Vancouver, BC, Nov. 11, 2018

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Clutch Post “Ghoul Wrangler” Video; Announce More Touring

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

clutch ghoul wrangler video

The new Clutch clip is the fourth one the band has put out in support of their latest album, Book of Bad Decisions (review here), and it comes accompanied by another round of dates of the Maryland-based outfit’s forever-tour, this one largely focused on the Midwest and even a few stops up in Canada before they’ll close out in New York at Irving Plaza. Having in the past enjoyed a good number of Clutch gigs in that particular room, I’m willing to go on record speculating that’ll be a fun time, and perhaps all the more as the last night of the tour, as much as that phrase can ever apply to Clutch, who as noted, are on tour forever.

“Ghoul Wrangler” reunites them with director David Brodsky and was made on-location in zombie-lawyer-infested Pennsylvania. Vocalist Neil Fallon stars as the titular wrangler, while guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster feature as the ghouls. There’s a book of folk magic, and chaos ensues with spell-cast hatchets and a plasma rifle, because why not. The song, which comes from the deeper end of the tracklisting, but hell, so did “Hot Bottom Feeder,” so that’s hardly an impediment. It’s catchy as hell, and with the storytelling aspects of Fallon‘s lyrics, of course lends itself well to the visual medium. Who the hell knew these guys were so camera-ready?

Did you know there are still people who don’t like Clutch? It’s true! I’ve heard people say things like, “Nah,” and, “I don’t really dig them.” To each their own, but to me, it kind of feels like if you’re not into Clutch, you’re only denying yourself one of life’s great joys. You can be into all kinds of stuff, but I’ll tell what: I was out at the Costco recently with The Patient Mrs. and The Pecan and a dude walked by with a Clutch shirt on, and I nodded and gave him a, “Hey nice shirt,” and I knew that at least on some level we were friends already. It’s a subculture of a subculture at this point.

Enjoy “Ghoul Wrangler.” Really enjoy it.

Tour dates follow the video:

Clutch, “Ghoul Wrangler” official video

Maryland rockers Clutch have released a new video for the single “Ghoul Wrangler” from their latest album Book Of Bad Decisions. The video was shot in the Old Bedford Village in Pennsylvania and can be viewed at this location: https://youtu.be/W74TewnAxx0

Vinyl fans might remember the Ghoul Wrangler business card that was included in each 12″ jacket. Many of those who called the number on the card left messages for the Ghoul Wrangler. Some of these messages have been used as teasers on Clutch’s socials in the last couple of days. The phone line is still active. You never know what comes next. Call!

”JP wears pantaloons, Dan’s got horns, and Tim throws up on my face” says frontman Neil Fallon. “I’m pretty sure we all deserve Academy Awards.”

Clutch will be starting their Winter tour next week in support of Book Of Bad Decisions. Tickets are on sale now at this location: Linkfire -https://clutch.lnk.to/TourLink.

Support for the tour comes from Big Business from Seattle, WA and The Inspector Cluzo from Gascony, France. A Clutch curated Spotify playlist featuring music from all three bands can be found at this location: http://tinyurl.com/y2htbm79

Book Of Bad Decisions is Clutch’s twelfth studio album debuting at #1 on several charts around the world including the US Billboard Hard Rock chart.

CLUTCH’s “Book of Bad Decisions Winter Tour 2019”
Tickets available at www.pro-rock.com
Tue/Feb-19 Columbia, SC @ The Senate
Thu/Feb-21 Nashville, TN @ Marathon Music Works
Fri/Feb-22 Fayetteville, AR @ George’s Majestic Lounge
Sat/Feb-23 Austin, TX @ Stubb’s Waller Creek Amphitheater
Sun/Feb-24 Baton Rouge, LA @ Varsity Theater
Tue/Feb-26 Springfield, MO @ Gillioz Theater
Wed/Feb-27 Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s
Fri/Mar-01 Billings, MT @ Pub Station
Sat/Mar-02 Missoula, MT @ Wilma Theater
Sun/Mar-03 Calgary, AB @ MacEwan Hall
Mon/Mar-04 Edmonton, AB @ The Ranch Roadhouse
Wed/Mar-06 Winnipeg, MB @ Burton Cummings Theater
Fri/Mar-08 Wichita, KS @ The Cotillion Ballroom
Sat/Mar-09 Oklahoma City, OK @ Diamond Ballroom
Sun/Mar-10 Lincoln, NE @ Bourbon Theater
Wed/Mar-13 Chicago, IL @ Concord Music Hall
Thu/Mar-14 Green Bay, WI @ Green Bay Distillery
Fri/Mar-15 Indianapolis, IN @ The Egyptian Room at Old National Centre
Sat/Mar-16 Snowshoe, WV @ Ballhooter Spring Break (* No The Inspector Cluzo/Big Business)
Mon/Mar-18 Buffalo, NY @ Town Ballroom ( *No The Inspector Cluzo)
Tue/Mar-19 New York, NY @ Irving Plaza

CLUTCH:
Neil Fallon – Vocals/Guitar
Tim Sult – Guitar
Dan Maines – Bass
Jean-Paul Gaster – Drums/Percussion

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Clutch Website

Clutch on YouTube

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The Top 20 of 2018 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

derp

If you’re reading this, congratulations on making it all the way through the existential rollercoaster that was 2018.

I hope you celebrated that year’s end and this year’s beginning in riotous fashion if that’s your thing, and if you’re more the stay-at-home-and-don’t-break-stuff type, I hope that was fun too.

Over the last month, best-of lists have been collected from all around the world and as we move into 2019, it’s time to do the results of the Year-End Poll for 2018.

What a year. As I look back on the lists submitted, of course I can’t help but think how absolutely incredible 2018 was for music. With the world crumbling around, creativity surged, and the quality of output was off the charts. I published my own list last week and was quickly inundated with stuff I forgot or that I missed owing to being robbed earlier this year — I guess I didn’t even realize until the post went up just how much that screwed me — and I’m sure there’s more still out there from what everyone turned in. It’s infinite. It keeps going. Trends change. Sounds change. People change. Creativity flourishes.

But I think if you’re reading this, you know why we’re here. We wound up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 discrete releases submitted. That’s more than five for every day of the year. And they came from 547 people, which is amazing. Accordingly, there should be plenty here to keep you busy for a while.

Not exactly suspenseful as to which was the album of the year, but it’s still interesting to see where stuff landed. Just to remind, there are two lists, one of the raw votes, and one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. Thanks as always to Slevin for the help in setting up the back end functionality and compilation scripts.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2018 — Weighted Results

sleep the sciences

1. Sleep, The Sciences (1,087 points)
2. YOB, Our Raw Heart (721)
3. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (478)
4. Earthless, Black Heaven (413)
5. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (408)
6. Windhand, Eternal Return (387)
7. All Them Witches, ATW (373)
8. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland (354)
9. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (323)
10. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (315)
11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers (285)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II (274)
13. Graveyard, Peace (225)
14. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (222)
15. Weedpecker, III (212)
16. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown (197)
17. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker (189)
18. Conan, Existential Void Guardian (188)
19. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (167)
20. ASG, Survive Sunrise (164)

Honorable Mention:
Messa, Feast for Water (150)
Gozu, Equilibrium (148)
Judas Priest, Firepower (148)
Naxatras, III (148)
Forming the Void, Rift (146)

I’m not saying everyone had to love the Sleep record, but there’s no way it wasn’t the biggest underground heavy release of the year. That top spot was established the first day the poll went up and while YOB caught up as both neared 100 votes, there was no doubt how it would ultimately shake out. It was pretty clear early on what people were passionate about, but there are some interesting differences between the raw vote and the weighted results even high on the list, as you’ll see below.

Top 20 of 2018 — Raw Votes

sleep the sciences

1. Sleep, The Sciences (263 votes)
2. YOB, Our Raw Heart (185)
3. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (141)
4. Windhand, Eternal Return (115)
5. Earthless, Black Heaven (109)
6. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (102)
7. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland (101)
8. All Them Witches, ATW (95)
8. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (95)
9. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (93)
10. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers (77)
10. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II (77)
11. Graveyard, Peace (69)
12. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (67)
13. Weedpecker, III (63)
14. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker (57)
14. Conan, Existential Void Guardian (57)
15. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown (54)
16. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (50)
17. ASG, Survive Sunrise (48)
18. Gozu, Equilibrium (46)
19. Forming the Void, Rift (45)
20. Judas Priest, Firepower (43)
20. Khemmis, Bloodletting (43)
20. Mos Generator, Shadowlands (43)
20. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back (43)

Honorable Mention:
Messa, Feast for Water (41)
Domkraft, Flood (40)
Naxatras, III (40)
Thou, Magus (40)

Everything else got fewer than 40 raw votes. Why cap it at 40? I don’t know. Good a place as any. And when a top 20 has 26 releases on it, I don’t imagine there will be too many complaints about not enough stuff being included. One can hope, anyhow. You can see the difference between Sleep and everyone else here as well, a pretty precipitous drop after both them and YOB, and YOB and High on Fire — the top three being well ahead of everyone else in terms of general agreement.

The ‘Respect the Hustle’ Award

Somewhere around the middle of the month, I noticed a massive surge of votes for a band called Entropía and their debut album, Invisible. A bunch of people with lists of 20 just including Entropía. I’ve included them below, you can see them. I didn’t know what was up, whether it was the band spamming the vote or what, so I sent them a message. Turns out they had sent the link to their email list and asked for votes, and that’s how they all got in. Well, okay.

They wound up with well over 750 raw votes (to remind, Sleep got 263), and it didn’t feel representative to have them be album of the year, but hey, I respect the hustle, so they get the award accordingly. Nicely done, folks. I’ve been doing Year-End Polls since like 2010 and that’s never happened before. Their totals were 2,367 points and 777 votes.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading. Whether this is the only post you’ve seen this year or you click ‘Like’ on everything that comes across your Facebook feed, your support is tremendously appreciated. This is the only post that will go up today, but we’ll be back to business as usual tomorrow, and in the meantime, you’ll find everybody’s list included after the jump.

All the best for 2019.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-top-30-of-2018

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2018 to that, please do.

It just wouldn’t be a year if it wasn’t completely overwhelming, right?

2018 has certainly met that standard and then some. The swath of output, whether it’s a new generation adopting and adapting established methods or out and out reinventing the stylistic wheel and then pushing it uphill on a seemingly endless barrage of tours, has been staggering, and it’s still happening. There’s a little more than a week to go in the year. You think a band isn’t putting something out today? Of course they are. It’s every day. It’s all the time.

But this year wasn’t just about quantity either. I think one of my biggest struggles in writing about albums in 2018 — and with the last Quarterly Review and various premieres and video posts that were basically album reviews in disguise, let’s estimate we’re somewhere past 300 records reviewed one way or another — was in conveying just how killer so much of the stuff coming through was. How many times can you say the word “awesome?” Well, I’m sure we’ll see it a few more times before this list is over, so there you go.

I say something like this every time I do a list, but please keep in mind these are my picks and I’m one person. But I am a person. I know there’s the whole internet-anonymity thing, but I assure you, I’m a human being (more of a cave troll, really) typing these words. I’m all for everyone sharing their own picks in the comments, and all for passionate advocating, but please, let’s keep it civil and respectful. These things can spiral out of control quickly, but let’s remember that we’re all human beings and worth of basic courtesy, even if some of us are dead wrong about a good many things. You should definitely punch nazis, though.

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

[UPDATE: You’ll notice the inclusion of an ’18a.’ I had Stoned Jesus in my notes as number 18 initially and they got dropped as I was adjusting things along the way. I’ve added them back in, but it didn’t seem fair to bump everyone else down after the post had already been published. That was the best I could come up with for a solution. If you’re pissed about one more killer record being added, please feel free to email me and tell me all about it.]

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) — let alone living up to their pedigree — but their second album demonstrated a creative growth that sacrificed nothing of memorability when it came to songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “All that Remains (Is True).” They got down to work and got the job done, which is what a working band does. 2018 was by any measure a fantastic year for doom, and The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it. Foghound, who were in the midst of making Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features Forrester‘s last recorded performance, but pays respect to his memory while the wound is still raw and manages to kick ass all the while. It’s a record that can’t ever be divorced from its circumstances — just can’t — and so it can be a heavy listen in more than just its tones, but it’s basically Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Orange Goblin? Come forward an be judged. I mean, really. Nine records deep, the London sceneforgers are nothing less than an institution, beloved by boozehounds, riffhounds, doomhounds, and really, a wide variety of hounds the world over. Also dudes. With its essential title-track hook and highlight cuts in “Ghosts of the Primitives” and “Burn the Ships” — or, you know, any of them — they added to one of heavy’s most unshakable legacies with an album as furious as it is welcoming to its generations-spanning fanbase.

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

fu manchu clone of the universe
Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Fu Manchu fans. Clone of the Universe turned heads with a guest appearance from Rush‘s Alex Lifeson on the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Il Mostro Atomico,” but really to focus on that instead of “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” etc., is only seeing half the point of the album in the first place. The long-running lords of fuzz hit a new stride with 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), and Clone of the Universe was in every way a worthy successor.

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain
Released by Svart Records. Reviewed May 16.

It was an unenviable task before Witch Mountain in replacing vocalist Uta Plotkin, but founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson found the right voice in Kayla Dixon and solidified the lineup with her and bassist Justin Brown enough to make a declarative statement in Witch Mountain‘s self-titled LP. That’s the story of it. They pulled it off. Met with what was unquestionably a bummer circumstance, they pushed through and moved their sound forward through a new beginning — and not their first one. Watch out when their next record hits.

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Richmond, Virginia, doomers Windhand‘s second collaboration with producer Jack Endino produced a marked and purposeful expansion of their sound, encompassing classic grunge influences and a heavy psychedelic swirl that added color their previously-greyscale sonic haze. Resonant in tone and emotionalism, Eternal Return readjusted Windhand‘s trajectory in such a manner that, where one might’ve thought they knew where the band were headed in terms of their progression, they’ve made themselves a less predictable outfit on the whole. For that alone, it’s a triumph. Then you have the songs.

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

I don’t even want to admit how long I was waiting for Sun Voyager‘s first long-player to show up, but when it finally did, the New York trio did not disappoint. Catchy, energetic, fuzzed-out tunes with driving rhythms and a heavy psych flourish, they tapped into shoegaze and desert vibes without losing any sense of themselves in the process, and if the extra wait was so they could be so remarkably coherent in their expression on their full-length, then I wouldn’t want it to have shown up any sooner. An easy pick to stand among 2018’s best debut albums. Now to wait for the next one.

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

It should tell you something that after working quickly to produce three albums, Louisiana’s Forming the Void are still defined by their potential. If I had my druthers, I’d put the recent Ripple signees on tour for the bulk of 2019, across the US and in Europe for festivals and support-slot club shows, really give them an opportunity to hammer out who they are as a band and then hit the studio for LP four. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but they’d only be doing the universe a favor by kicking into that gear. As it stands, their progression is palpable in their material and they stand absolutely ready for whatever the next level might be for them.

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

Released by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed June 29.

Aside from the speed at which Spaceslug have turned around offerings — with Eye the Tide following 2017’s Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and Time Travel Dilemma (review here) full-length and their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) — the Polish outfit have undertaken significant progression in their sound, moving from pure heavy psychedelic warmth to incorporating elements out of extreme metal as they did on Eye the Tide. Adding to the latest record’s accomplishment is the smoothness with which they brought seemingly opposing sides together, only adding depth to an approach already worthy of oceanic comparison.

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

Conan Existential Void Guardian
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Conan‘s reign of terror has been unfolding for more than a decade now, and each of their albums has become a kind of step along a path of incremental growth. Consider the melody creeping into the shouts of founding guitarist Jon Davis, or the emergence of bassist Chris Fielding as a vocal presence alongside, the two sharing a frontman role more than ever before while welcoming drummer Johnny King to the fold of destructive tonality and doomly extremism. Existential Void Guardian may end up just being another stomp-print on their way to the next thing, but it affirmed the fact that as much as Conan grow each time out, their central violence continues to hold sway.

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

PALE DIVINE S/T
Released by Shadow Kingdom Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

Look. A new Pale Divine record doesn’t come along every day, so yeah, their self-titled was probably going to be on my list one way or the other, but it definitely helps that not only was it their first outing in six years since 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), but it had the songs to live up to a half-decade-plus of anticipation. It marked the first studio appearance from bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis alongside guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey — now both of Beelzefuzz as well — and made a strong argument for how much Pale Divine deserve more than 20 years on from their initial demo to be considered classic American doom.

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

mos generator shadowlands
Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed May 11.

The return and rise to prominence of Washington pure heavy rockers Mos Generator might be the underground’s feelgood story of the decade, but it hasn’t by any means been easily won. In addition to rebuilding the band however many albums ago, guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed has put in innumerable hours on tour and worked to actually develop the group creatively in addition to in terms of stage presence. This is shown throughout some of the classic prog elements making their way onto Shadowlands, and perhaps some of the collection’s moodier aspects are born of the aforementioned road time as well. Hard for that kind of thing not to be a slog after a while, but at least they have killer tunes to play.

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

The only safe bet about Stoned Jesus‘ fourth long-player, Pilgrims, was that it was going to sound different than the third. That 2015 outing, The Harvest (review here), preceded the band touring to celebrate the fifth anniversary and after-the-fact success of 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but Pilgrims defied narrative in that instead of incorporating elements from the second record in more of a heavy psych or jam sound, Stoned Jesus instead showcased a tighter, more sureheaded sense of craft than they’ve ever displayed before, and arrived on Napalm Records with a collection of songs that demonstrated the growth and sense of creative will that drives them. While one can take a look at their moniker and think immediately they know what’s coming, Stoned Jesus have made themselves one of the least predictable bands in heavy rock.

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

“Pirate Smile.” “Lines.” “Whatever.” “It Ain’t Right.” “Threes.” “Cinderella.” “Generals.” “Big Enough.” “Alone.” “Lucky. Mike Cummings, Jessica Baker, Erik Larson. Every player, every song, every minute. If you want to know what heart-on-sleeve sounds like, it fucking sounds like Backwoods Payback. In their line from hardcore punk to grunge to heavy rock, they encompass experiences and emotionalism that are both shown in raw form throughout Future Slum, and build all the while on the chemistry they set out in developing with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), when they welcomed Larson to the lineup on drums and revitalized their mission. Also worth noting, they were the best live band I saw this year. Anywhere.

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

No question the excitement of C.O.C. putting out their first record with frontman Pepper Keenan involved since 2005’s In the Arms of God was one of this year’s top stories in heavy. And No Cross No Crown tapped directly into the spirit of 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) and 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) in terms of direction, while updating the band’s style with a four-part 2LP in mind. In some ways, it’ll be their next album that really gives listeners a sense of where they’re at and where they might be headed, but as welcome returns go, having Keenan alongside Mike DeanWoody Weatherman and Reed Mullin is in no way to be understated, and neither is the quality of their output together, then and now.

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It is no simple feat to hypnotize an audience and convey serenity while at the same time holding attention with songcraft, so that the listener isn’t actually so much unconscious as malleable of mood and spirit in such a direction as the band suggests. Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to become experts at this, and their third full-length fosters tonal warmth and jammy progressions with an overarching naturalism that finds them so committed to analog recording that one can buy direct transfers of the tape master of III. Some acts take classic-style practices as an aesthetic choice. With Naxatras, it seems to be the stuff of life, yet their sound is only vibrant and human in a way that, at least one hopes, is even more representative of the future than the past.

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

It was time for Clutch to make a change in producers, and the Maryland overlords of groove seemed to know it. Known as a live band, they went with Vance Powell, who’s known a live band producer. The results on Book of Bad Decisions might not have been so earth-shatteringly different from 2015’s Psychic Warfare (review here), which was the too-soon follow-up to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — both helmed by Machine — but the inimitable four-piece indeed succeeded in capturing the electricity of their stage performance and, as ever, treated fans to a collection of songs bearing Clutch‘s unmistakable hallmarks of quirky lyrics, funky rhythms and heavy roll. They may always be a live band, but Clutch‘s studio work is in no way to be discounted, ever, as this record reaffirmed. Plus, crab cakes.

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

After 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), I wasn’t sure Ancestors were going to put out another record. They kicked around word of one for a while, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that it really seemed to congeal into a possibility. And by then, who the hell knew what they might get up to on a full-length? With Suspended in Reflections, in some says, they picked up where they left off in terms of finding a niche for themselves in progressive and melodic heavy, but I think the time showed in the poise of their execution and the control of the material. Suspended in Reflections can’t help but be six years more mature than its predecessor, and that suits its contemplative feel. In tracks like “Gone,” and “The Warm Glow,” they tempered their expansive sound with an efficiency that can only be had with time.

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

The narrative here was hard to beat. Matt Pike spending an album cycle talking about Lemmy Kilmister and paying homage to his dirt-rock forebear and the gods of old? It doesn’t get much more perfect than that. Electric Messiah was the third collaboration between High on Fire and producer Kurt Ballou behind 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), and while it seemed after the last record that the formula might be getting stale, the band only sounded more and more lethal throughout the latest offering. Even putting aside their contributions to underground heavy, they’ve become one of the most essential metal bands of their generation. Metal, period. Doesn’t matter what subgenre you’re talking about it. If you’re listening to High on Fire, you know it. Usually because you’ve just been decapitated.

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

You know, if you take the time to separate Yawning Man from their 30-plus-year history and their legacy as one of the foundational acts of what later became desert rock, and you listen to The Revolt Against Tired Noises, you’re still left with basically a dream of an album. Mostly instrumental, as is their wont, they nonetheless had bassist Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) sing this time around on a version of the previously-unreleased “Catamaran,” which Kyuss covered once upon a whenever although Yawning Man had never officially put it to tape. But really, that and all other novelty aside, guitarist Gary Arce, Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson are a chemistry unto themselves. I don’t know if they’ll ever be as huge as they should be, but every bit of acclaim they get, they’ve earned, and if The Revolt Against Tired Noises helps them get it, all the more so.

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

Swedish heavy rock mavens Greenleaf have become an entirely different band than they once were. No longer a Dozer side-project from guitarist Tommi Holappa with a rotating cast of players, they’re a solidified, road-tested, powerhouse unit, and Hear the Rivers bleeds soul as a result. Holappa, frontman Arvid Hällagård, bassist Hans Fröhlich and drummer Sebastian Olsson sound like they’re absolutely on fire in the album’s tracks, and far from being staid or formulaic as one might expect a sixth long-player to be, Hear the Rivers built on what the band accomplished with 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) and came across as all the more vital and nearly frenetic in their energy. I won’t say Greenleaf has seen their last lineup change, because one never knows, but the band as they are today is the realization of potential I don’t think even Greenleaf knew was there.

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 4.

Five records deep into a career into its second decade, Gozu haven’t had a miss yet. Admittedly, some of their early work can seem formative considering where they are now, but still. And after the 2016 rager, Revival (review here), to have the band return to the same studio — Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where strides producer Dean Baltulonis — for the follow-up allows for the four-piece to directly show how their sound has grown more encompassing in the last couple years. And it has. Equilibrium is a rich and varied listen that holds true to Gozu‘s well-established penchant for soulful vibes and crunching, hard-hitting riffs and groove, but while it shares the directness of approach with Revival, it makes moves that a band could only make moving from one record to the next. I expect nothing less their next time out as well, because a decade later, that’s Gozu‘s proven track record.

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

monster magnet mindfucker
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 23.

The battle for the best album title of 2018 ended early when New Jersey everything-rockers Monster Magnet announced the release of Mindfucker. And what else to call a Monster Magnet LP at this point? They’ve stopped writing to genre. They’re driven by the creative mania of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf, and they’ve seen psychedelic expanses and commercial success the likes of which would serve the tenure of four lesser bands. What’s left to do but whatever the hell you want? So that’s what Monster Magnet are doing. It just so happens that while they’re doing it, they’re still basically outclassing the entirety of the former planet earth as songwriters. As Monster Magnet fan in 2018, there was nothing more I could’ve asked than what Mindfucker delivered. And if you’re still trying to get your brain around it however many months later, you’re not alone. I think that’s the idea.

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Best doom album of 2018. The combination of craft and passion behind the delivery. The way the dark tones fed into the emotions so clearly on display and sheer presence of it in listening to songs like “Keeping the Lighthouse,” “Ruination by Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here.” Apostle of Solitude never seem to be the highest profile band out there, but their work seems never to be anything less than outstanding, and I refuse to accept them as anything less than among the most pivotal American acts out there making traditional doom. And not just making it, but making it their own, with a sense of new pursuits and individualism that extends to playing style as well as atmosphere. I know doom isn’t exactly in short supply these days — figuratively or literally — but if you miss out on what Apostle of Solitude are doing with it, you’ll only regret it later. I’ll say it one more time: Best doom album of 2018.

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

holy grove ii
Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 31.

Every now and again, anticipating the crap of an album really pays off, and such was the case with Holy Grove II, the Ripple Music debut from the Portland outfit whose 2016 self-titled (review here) seemed like such a herald of excellence to come while also, you know, being killer. Holy Grove II brought the four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis to entirely new levels of composition and execution. In songs like “Blade Born,” the shorter, sharper “Aurora,” the patiently rolling “Valley of the Mystics,” “Solaris” and closer “Cosmos,” which boasted a not-really-necessary-but-definitely-welcome guest vocal appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, — and oh wait, that’s all of the tracks — Holy Grove entered a different echelon. Anticipation will likewise be high for Holy Grove III, but it’ll be hard to complain with this record to keep company in the meantime.

6. All Them Witches, ATW

all them witches atw
Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Over five All Them Witches albums, the Nashville four-piece have gone from a nascent heavy Americana jam band to one of the most distinct acts in the US underground. Their development in sound is chemistry-driven, so it was a risk when the founding trio of bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod (who also produced) and drummer Robby Staebler welcomed new keyboardist Jonathan Draper into the lineup to take the place of Allan van Cleave. Amid a more naturalist production than that of 2017’s Sleeping Through the War (review here), the revamped four-piece flourished in terms of songwriting and conveying their stage-born sonic personae. From the gleeful fuckery of opener “Fishbelly 86 Onions” to the memorable moodiness of “Diamond” and the back-end jam “Harvest Feast” en route to the stretched-out end of “Rob’s Dream,” All Them Witches essentially confirmed they could do whatever they wanted and make it work.

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

yob our raw heart
Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed June 7.

Actually, if you want a sample of YOB‘s raw heart, the place to go is probably 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), but whatever the Eugene, Oregon, shapers of cosmic doom might’ve lacked in titular accuracy on their eighth long-player, they made up for in a new, statesman-like posture. Their approach was mature, hammered out to a professionalism working completely on its own terms, and they never sounded so sure of who they are as a band or as confident of their direction. In extended cuts “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “Our Raw Heart,” they explored new and progressive textures and melodies, and managed to reaffirm their core aspects while finding room for conveying emotion that came across as nothing but ultimately sincere. They have been and still are one of a kind, and as they continue to move forward, they remain a band that makes one feel lucky to be alive to witness their work. Our Raw Heart was perhaps more refined than it let on, but the heart was there for sure, as always.

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan of the (relatively) harder-hitting approach Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band took on 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), but Mankind Woman brought in some more of his soul influences, and whether it was the subtly subversive funk of “Chocolatize” and “Brand New Old Times” or the callout “1968” and laid back vibes of the title-track and “Swagger and Sway,” Bjork — working with guitarist Bubba DuPree on songwriting and production — offered a definitive look at what has made his 20-year solo career so special and demonstrates not only his longevity and his legacy, but his will to continue to progress as an artist honing his craft. His discography is well populated by now to be sure, but Mankind Woman represents a turn from the last couple records, and if it’s in any way portentous of things to come, it bodes well. Bjork is right at home nestled into classic-style grooves, and his legacy as one of the principal architects of desert rock is continually reaffirmed.

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

They’ve been great, not just good, for a long time now, and as forerunners of the San Diego heavy scene, they’re godfathers to an up and coming generation of bands taking their influence — let alone acts from the rest of the world — but Black Heaven is a special moment for them because of its departure. No, it wasn’t not the first time guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sang on an Earthless recording, but it did represent a tip of the balance in that direction for the band on a studio full-length, and that resulted in a special moment. Album opener “Gifted by the Wind” was one of the best songs I heard this year, and while “End to End” and the all-thrust “Volt Rush” affirmed that more traditional songwriting was well within the grasp of Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they still found space for a sprawling jam or two, keeping their claim on the instrumentalism that’s (largely) fueled their tenure to date. Earthless don’t want for acclaim, but every bit of it is earned, and while their primary impact has always been live, Black Heaven saw them construct a traditional-style LP that still bore the hallmarks of their collective personality. It was the best of all worlds.

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

king buffalo longing to be the mountain
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed Sept. 27.

In the dark early hours of 2018, the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson issued the Repeater EP (review here) as a follow-up to their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), so Longing to Be the Mountain didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but even with Repeater preceding its arrival, I don’t think anyone necessary expected King Buffalo‘s second album to have such a scope or to be so engrossing with it. In its melody, patience, atmosphere and heft, it was an absolute joy to behold. Its songs were memorable at the same time they were far-reaching, and while Orion was already my pick for the best debut of 2016, Longing to Be the Mountain realized even more potential than that record had hinted toward. It could be intimate or majestic at its whim, and its dynamic set an individual characterization of heavy psychedelia and blues-style sprawl that the band wholly owned. With production by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches behind them, they worked to serve notice of a progression undertaken the results of which are already staggering and still seem to be looking ahead to the next stage, literally and figuratively. One of the principal standards I use in constructing this list every year is what I listen to most. That’s this record.

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

Obviously, right? To some extent, when Sleep surprise-announced on April 19 they’d release their first album in 15 years the next day, and then did, they took ownership of 2018. Even with records still to come at that point from YOB and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike‘s own High on Fire, there was no way that when the end of the year came around, it wasn’t going to be defined by the advent of a new Sleep record. And even if it sucked, it would probably still be Album of the Year, but fortunately, as Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) took their long-running stage reunion to the studio, they brought material that highlighted the best elements from all players. Pike‘s wild soloing, Cisneros‘ meditative vocals and Roeder‘s intricate but smooth style of roll all came together in older pieces like “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” and newer highlights “Giza Butler” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” and aside from the excitement at their existence, they showed the mastery of form that Sleep had been demonstrating live since 2009 and which they hinted toward in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here). A new Sleep full-length was something long-discussed, long-rumored and long-considered, but when it finally happened, I think the results vaporized expectation in a way no one could’ve anticipated. There’s a reason Sleep are Sleep. Having The Sciences as a reminder of that brought about the defining moment of 2018.

The Next 20

Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a Top 30 at all if it didn’t go to 50. Don’t try to make sense of it, just look at the records.

31. Atavismo, Valdeinfierno
32. Grayceon, IV
33. Clamfight, III
34. Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique
35. Megaton Leviathan, Mage
36. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland
37. Arcadian Child, Superfonica
38. Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains
39. The Machine, Faceshift
40. Messa, Feast for Water
41. Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium
42. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction
43. Domkraft, Flood
44. Träden, Träden
45. Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
46. Samavayo, Vatan
47. Foehammer, Second Sight
48. Bongripper, Terminal
49. Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran
50. Sunnata, Outlands
51. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Come and Chutney

Believe me when I tell you, I sweated over this section more than I did the actual top 30. Mansion should be higher. So should Chubby Thunderous, though something in me thought they might like being #50 on a list of 30. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Clamfight, Black Rainbows, Foehammer, Seedy Jeezus, Messa, Domkraft. All of these were fucking awesome. And there are more (we’ll get there). Eventually numbers add up. I won’t say a bad word about any of these. That’s it.

Honorable Mention

This section always winds up expanded as other people point out things I missed and so on, but here’s what I’ve got in the immediate, alphabetically:

  • Alms, Act One
  • Ape Machine, Darker Seas
  • Belzebong, Light the Dankness
  • Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord
  • Blackwater Holylight, Blackwater Holylight
  • Bong, Thought and Existence
  • Carpet, About Rooms and Elephants
  • Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery
  • Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree
  • Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need
  • Death Alley, Superbia
  • Drug Cult, Drug Cult
  • Dunbarrow, II
  • Electric Citizen, Helltown
  • Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn
  • Evoken, Hypnagogia
  • Funeral Horse, Psalms for the Mourning
  • Fuzz Evil, High on You
  • Graven, Heirs of Discord
  • Graveyard, Peace
  • Green Dragon, Green Dragon
  • Green Druid, Ashen Blood
  • Here Lies Man, You Will Know Nothing
  • High Priestess, High Priestess
  • Horehound, Holocene
  • IAH, II
  • JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis
  • Killer Boogie, Acid Cream
  • Lonely Kamel, Death’s Head Hawkmoth
  • MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure
  • Moab, Trough
  • Mountain Dust, Seven Storms
  • Mouth, Floating
  • Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence
  • T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid
  • Onségen Ensemble, Duel
  • Orango, Evergreen
  • Owl, Nights in Distortion
  • Pushy, Hard Wish
  • Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
  • River Cult, Halcyon Daze
  • Rotor, Sechs
  • Somali Yacht Club, The Sea
  • Sumac, Love in Shadow
  • Sundrifter, Visitations
  • Svvamp, Svvamp II
  • Thou, Magus
  • Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse
  • Weedpecker, III

Special Note

Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to include these in the list proper because they’re not really underground releases, but there were two more records I especially wanted to highlight for their quality:

  • Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
  • Judas Priest, Firepower

Best Short Release of the Year

Normally I’d do this as a separate post, but as a result of being robbed earlier this year, I feel like my list is woefully incomplete. If you have any demos, EPs, splits, singles, etc., to add to it, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Still, the top pick was clear:

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Rarely do two bands work in such coherent tandem to their mutual benefit. Here are a few other essential short releases for 2018, alphabetically:

  • All Them Witches, Lost and Found
  • Alunah, Amber & Gold
  • Canyon, Mk II
  • Demon Head, The Resistence
  • Destroyer of Light, Hopeless
  • Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence
  • Godmaker & Somnuri, Split
  • Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul
  • King Buffalo, Repeater
  • Minsk & Zatokrev, Split
  • Sleep, Leagues Beneath
  • Stonus, Lunar Eclipse
  • Sundecay, Gale

Looking Forward

A good many albums have already been announced or hinted at for 2019. I in no way claim this to be a complete roundup of what’s coming, but here’s what I have in my notes so far, in absolutely no order:

Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Cities of Mars, Heavy Temple, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan (LP), Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Om.

Okay, That’s It

Yeah, no, I’m serious. List is done. Everybody go back to your lives. Your families miss you.

Really though, while this is by no means my last post of 2018, I can’t let it pass without saying thank you so much to everyone for checking out the site this year, or for just digging into this, or for sending me music, or hitting me up on social media, sharing a link, anything. Thank you. Thank you. I could never have imagined when it started out where it would be now. Or that I’d still be doing it. Your support means more to me than I can say, and I thank you so much for being a part of this with me.

So thanks.

If you have something to add to the list, please do so by leaving a comment below, but keep in mind as well the above note requesting civility. Please don’t make me feel stupid because I forgot your favorite record. I forgot a lot of people’s favorite records. I’m one dude. I’m doing my best.

And please keep in mind if you’ve got a list together that the Year-End Poll is open and results will be out Jan. 1.

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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