The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2015

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 30 albums of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

It’s damn near impossible to start one of these posts without some derivation of, “Whew! What a year it’s been!” The truth is that, since 2014, I’ve been keeping a list of the best releases of 2015, and the list has just grown and grown and grown over the last 12 months. Could have been a top 40, easy. Could have been a top 50, 60, whatever. It was complete inundation.

If you’ve been checking in on any of the lists that have gone up so far, you might notice that some of these records have appeared elsewhere, and possibly in a different order. How does an album end up ahead of another on one list and not on another? Different criteria. Different basis of judgment. As always, the big year-end list (this one) is derived both from what I think are the most important offerings of the year plus what I listened to the most, because while I believe deeply in the critical value of a given work, I also believe there’s value in the kind of record you just can’t put down.

Basically, I believe records have value. Stay tuned for more daring adventures in understatement.

A few emergent factors for 2015 to note: The increasing expansion of subgenres. Psychedelia and what I’ve come to call the heavy ’10s sound finding further root as prominent styles of the day, as well as a budding of emotive doom in the post- http://dubhosting.co.uk/thesis-on-company/ - Best Student Writing Help - Get Help With Reliable Essays, Research Papers, Reviews and Proposals With Discounts High-Quality Pallbearer vein. At the same time, a more straightforward heavy rock is also making a return, and look for that to continue as new listeners discover past landmarks and modern plays thereupon. Everything is cyclical, and I’m interested to see what the next two or three years bring, both as Millennials hit 30 (and beyond) and as younger kids come up and fuzz out.

But that’s a conversation for a different time, and before we get there, it’s time to take a look back at the best full-lengths of 2015. I hope if I’ve left something out, you’ll let me know about it in the comments, but until then, here we go:

30. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by Professional http://diakonus.gorogkatolikus.hu/?how-to-write-a-20-page-research-paper online in the USA. We provide assignment writing & research lit review topic ideas custom to your requirements. eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

Going by some of the results I’ve seen from the Readers Poll, I’m guessing there will be some disagreement on the placement of If you need somebody to help you with your task, you have got to the right lab check here. We offer reasonable pricing and high quality. Place High on Fire‘s seventh full-length, third for Professional custom writing service offers check heres, midterm papers, research essays, thesis papers, reports, reviews, speeches and dissertations of eOne and second to be produced by college application admission essay http://meteo.geo.auth.gr/?phd-thesis-writing pay someone to write my research paper writing a college application essay about yourself Kurt Ballou behind 2012’s Have no time for essay writing? An essay is, generally, a piece of writing that gives http://www.gergonne.com/?writing-narrative-essay for hire usa the author's own argument ó but De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), but for me it came down to what I went back to more. The brilliant “The Falconist” would be enough on its own for http://www.vnjh.cz/?argumentative-essay-topics-for-kids, Tel Aviv, Israel. 241 likes. English at your service - marketing writing, copywriting, and editing & proofreading for all your... Luminiferous to be included on this list, and taken as a whole, the record affirmed the trio as pivotal heavy metal marauders, an act whose devastation is undulled by the wear they’ve put on it touring the world over and again.

29. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns

chrch unanswered hymns

Released by Cheap blog link. We are a professional writing service that offers cheap papers for sale. We offer papers to college students who have spent far too Battleground Records. Reviewed June 30.

Undaunted by a name change from Phd Thesis In Biotechnology online written by competent authors. Receive some help from those who have been in writing for years and can do your essay too. Read more Church to Our company will be glad to deliver you perfect Live Homework Help Torrance with tight deadline. A wide choice of topics fulfilled by experts is available at CHRCH, the Sacramento five-piece unleashed rare doom extremity on their debut album, but peppered that with a stylistic nuance that many in the pummel-pummel-pummel game cast off, whether it was psychedelic flourish in the guitar or some eerie atmospheric. Among the post potential-filled debut offerings of the year, that’s not a guarantee they’ll find future success on the same level, but it does mean that if you didn’t hear the 19-minute “Dawning,” you missed out.

28. Golden Void, Berkana

golden void berkana

Released by If you donít know what writing agency to choose, look closer at our Type Of Research Paper for you to ease your life during education period Thrill Jockey Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

Coherent bliss. The second full-length from the four-piece Looking for My Easy Essay? We at My Assignment Help Singapore provide best Assignment help for students at low price. Assignment Help Singapore Golden Void was a logical step forward from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but that was precisely what it needed to be. With an emerging dynamic of dual vocals between guitarist Get academic essay Sample Argumentative Essay On Abortion online from our proffesional writers. Our company is ready to offer college paper writing Qualified writers Low prices Isaiah Mitchell (also Read and Download Geography Coursework Help Gcse Free Ebooks in PDF format - HONORS CHEMISTRY FINAL EXAM REVIEW PACKET ANSWER HUMAN BODY WEBQUEST ANSWER KEY Earthless) and keyboardist list of best resume writing services http://www.ashoksom.com/online-essay-grading-service/ dj myke homework buy reserach paper Camilla Saufley-Mitchell on cuts like “Astral Plane” and “Silent Season,” Berkana was less adherent to space rock overall than its predecessor, but gave a more individualized take and was all the richer for it.

27. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Probably should have a higher number. Part of the enduring appeal for The Harvest for me is not only how Ukrainian three-piece Stoned Jesus so absolutely pushed back from the album before it, 2012’s sophomore outing, Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but how much reasoning they put behind the moves they made on the six included tracks. Each song had its purpose and place in the overarching flow, and The Harvest continues to deliver something new on thoroughly-earned repeat listens. Perhaps most encouraging of all, I have no idea what they’ll do next.

26. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence

graveyard innocence and decadence

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 7.

Swedish retro forerunners are hands-down one of the most influential European heavy rock acts of their generation. The ’70s revivalism they helped spearhead on their first, second and third LPs has given them rich ground to develop, and they still managed to bring something new to their sound with the soulfulness of Innocence and Decadence, as well as increasing command and diversity in the vocals. Drummer Axel Sj√∂berg turned in a career performance, and although there are heaps upon heaps of bands out there indulging in post-Graveyard boogie, they showed once again that they’re able to stand both out from the crowd and well above it. Plus, any swing-rocking album that dares to break out soul-singer backing vocals and blastbeats, and pull both off without blinking deserves respect, no matter what else it might have going on.

25. Death Hawks, Sun Future Moon

death hawks sun future moon

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Nov. 3

It felt so good to put on Death HawksSun Future Moon for the first time and be completely blindsided by its serene psychedelic ritualizing. The Finnish four-piece reveled in classic progressive methods, and where it would’ve been so easy for songs like “Hey Ya Sun Ra” or “Dream Life, Waking Life” to come across as pretentious, the naturalism in the recording gave the band’s third album such a liquefied flow that it was impossible not to be swept up by it until, at last, “Friend of Joy” launched into and beyond a peaceful stratosphere in spaced-out ambience. My first exposure to the group and their first outing for Svart, it’s a record so textural and so graceful that it seems to unfurl itself more each time through.

24. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Released by Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records. Reviewed Jan. 5.

A quick and strong turnaround from this Norwegian sax-inclusive foursome, who might seem to come out of nowhere were it not for the pedigree of Kenneth Kapstad and Bent S√¶ther in long-running progressives Motorpsycho. Together with Per Borten and Rolf Martin Snustad, Spidergawd spoke to more primal rock instincts — their two LPs to-date and soon to be three are testaments to the ability of music to move, to shove, and to shake; or as they put it, “Get Physical” — but as there is breadth as well, as the psychedelic ‚ÄúCaereulean Caribou‚ÄĚ demonstrated. Anchored by the hook of “Fixing to Die Blues,” Spidergawd‘s second wandered far and wide, but welcomed listeners along for each step of the journey.

23. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 26.

As the title promised, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third offering and Napalm Records debut delivered harsh truths. They came at breakneck speed and delivered with stage-hewn chemistry by the Midwestern power trio, whose years of road-dogging were brought to bear in the gruff, gravel-throated voice of guitarist Steve Moss, who led drummer Brandon Burghart and newcomer bassist Mike Boyne across nigh-unparalled riff torrents, with all the boogie of any number of ’70s-style sidewinders, but also with a tonal thickness that seemed a miracle it could move at all. Not without its adventurous side in the quieter “The Little Sparrow,” Cold was the Ground brimmed with intensity that brought the band to new levels in every conceivable fashion.

22. Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity

leeches of lore motel of infinity

Released by Lorchestral Recording Company. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Blessed art the weirdos, whose records might be few and far between, who might not tour, but whose bold fits and starts span genres easily and whose work truly stands alone. Leeches of Lore‘s Toshi Kasai-produced Motel of Infinity was a godsend in the enduring battle against normality. It was a grinding, grooving anti-punk stampede, at times frenetic and at other times whatever the opposite of frenetic is, and to-date, it’s the Albuquirky outit’s masterpiece, from the low-end buzzsaw, gang-shout and falsetto of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” through the bass and organ bounce of “Noah’s Soul (is Burning).” They have been and still are a band unto themselves, and the we-do-this-every-day confidence of their execution across Motel of Infinity‘s run only emphasizes how utterly necessary they are.

21. With the Dead, With the Dead

with the dead self titled

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

With the Dead vocalist Lee Dorrian (also head of Rise Above Records, also ex-Cathedral) basically laid it all out there in the interview here when he said, “We wanted to make the most skull-crushing record we possibly could.” That’s precisely what With the Dead‘s self-titled debut is. It’s as heavy as possible, as filthy as possible, all the way through. In some ways very much the sum of its elements with Dorrian on vocals, Tim Bagshaw on guitar/bass and Mark Greening on drums (both ex-Ramesses), it was also of course more than just that, and while so much of their story has yet to be told as they move into their initial live appearances in 2016, their opening salvo was nothing if not as destructive as its intent.

20. Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch psychic warfare

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

How could anyone possibly have even remotely reasonable expectations for a Clutch record after 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here). I won’t say the Maryland stalwarts didn’t deliver with Psychic Warfare, and I doubt any fan of the band who’s dug into “X-Ray Visions,” “A Quick Death in Texas” or “Noble Savage” would, but their returning to producer Machine for the second time in a row made it almost too easy to compare Clutch‘s 10th and 11th long-players. Four years between albums was shortened to just two, and that may have had something to do with it as well, but while the songs were there and I’ve no doubt that Psychic Warfare will endure over the long term — ask me sometime how long it took me to get into Pure Rock Fury — in the moment of its release, Psychic Warfare seemed to stand in the shadow of its predecessor rather than in its own light.

19. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self-titled

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Jan. 8.

An awaited return for Midwestern-turned-West-Coast psychedelic rockers Mondo Drag, their self-titled sophomore outing had three years between its recording and release, and was made in 2012 with a shortlived incarnation of the band with bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow and then-soon to be of Blues Pills. Unsurprisingly, the grooves were tight, but even better, Mondo Drag blew past the peaceful headtrippery of their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), toward more expansive and proggy fare. They’ll look to continue that thread on their third outing, The Occultation of Light, in 2016, but the self-titled captured a special moment worthy of celebration, still rife with the classic-minded ethereal spirit of the first outing, but clearly bent on defining its own sonic dogma in hooks and synthy vibes.

18. Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

Released by Clostridium Records and Astral Projection. Reviewed April 27.

At the risk of sounding biased, just about any new release from New Zealand tantric psych outfit Lamp of the Universe is going to be welcome by me. Comprised solely of Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), the long-running project nonetheless casts out gorgeously textured meditative psychedelia, at times delving into drone or Eastern folk, but always marking out its own sonic space, whether in the more rock-minded groove of “God of One” or the drumless acoustic swirl of “Ancient Path.” Lamp of the Universe is a rare band — as much as it is a band — that covers a swath of ground stylistically and manages to sound like nothing but itself as it does so, and Williamson‘s commitment to his cosmic mantras remains firm and creatively fertile as the seeds he planted early on continue to bear fruit in complex arrangements that never distract from the central, spiritual purpose of the music.

17. Mammatus, Sparkling Waters

mammatus sparkling waters

Released by Spiritual Pajamas. Reviewed Nov. 9.

Even with its title-track broken into two 20-plus-minute side-consuming halves, it was abundantly plain to hear that¬†Sparkling Waters was the most realized¬†Mammatus outing yet. The four-song, 75-minute offering brimmed with a clarity that even their late-2013 third album,¬†Heady Mental (review here), could only partially claim, leaving behind the fuzz and fog of their earlier work almost entirely while remaining open to employing¬†sonic heft when suitable to their more complex motives. Most effective about¬†Mammatus at this stage was the way they eased into and through varied parts while tying together a coherent whole piece, the builds and cascades of “Sparkling Waters Part One” setting up an expectation of fluidity that held firm even through the more jagged buzz in the early going¬†of¬†closer “Ornia,” the grand finale¬†of which resonates as a cacophony without letting itself actually lose control.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper

uncle acid the night creeper

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

UK ladykillers¬†Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have emerged as one of the most essential bands of the ’10s.¬†The Night Creeper is their fourth album and it takes the defining eeriness of their melodies and roughs it up with a mostly-live recording job — something which, now that they’re a touring act, they can do — for their grittiest, dirtiest-sounding offering yet. Songs like “Melody Lane,” “Pusher Man” and opener “Waiting for Blood” speak to what’s let their methodology spread so widely in the first place, the VHS grain of their guitars and vocals resting over classic swing and proliferating maddening hooks with lethal intent. Between the nine-minute gruel of “Slow Death” and the hidden acoustic track “Black Motorcade,”¬†The Night Creeper wasn’t without its element of sonic progress, but with¬†Uncle Acid, it’s still the combination of threat, swing and memorable songwriting that brings listeners back to their dark alleyways for another taste.

15. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

Easily one of 2015’s most encouraging debuts. Making its opening salvo with¬†the propulsion of Mot√∂rhead-derived heavy rock in songs like “Over Under” and “Black Magick Boogieland,” the first outing from Amsterdam-based foursome¬†Death Alley¬†touched on classic ideals without going retro on “Bewildered Eyes,” nodded toward psychedelic melodicism and more patient intentions in “Golden Fields of Love,” and portrayed its punker roots in “Dead Man’s Bones” — all before the 12:40 space rock extravaganza that took hold with closer “Supernatural Predator.” It was a lot of territory to cover, but¬†Death Alley not only made it sound cohesive, they made it rock and they made it a good time. In just about 41 minutes,¬†Black Magick Boogieland was not only a voyage well worth taking, it was a potential-filled, headbang-worthy ripper of an album from an outfit who deserves every bit of attention they seem to be shouting for. Hope they don’t wait long for a follow-up.

14. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

Five records in, Dutch trio¬†The Machine have found a niche for themselves between heavy psych rock, desert fuzz and exploratory jamming.¬†Offblast!, with a title that seemed more reminiscent of Europunker speed rock, was as spacious as it was driving, and whether it was the more structured material like “Dry End” or “Coda Sun” or the two extended cuts, 16-minute opener “‚ÄúChrysalis (J.A.M.)‚ÄĚ and 12-minute closer “Come to Light,” their dynamic remained natural and held firm to a spontaneous sensibility, like at any turn, any part might take off for an eight-minute ride to who knows where. That that didn’t always happen only made¬†Offblast! a richer listening experience, its varied ideas coming through consistent tonality to affect a more than satisfying front-to-back flow that toyed with momentum even as it built more and more of it. Was a while in the making, coming three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here),¬†but easily worth the wait.

13. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

There were moments where the self-titled debut from¬†Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was almost too much to take in one sitting. By the time the¬†Tad Doyle-led trio got around to the 11-minute “La Mano Poderosa,” sometimes I felt like I needed a second to catch my breath before diving further, always further, into the smoldering abyss their tones, growls and lurch seemed to create. Six years after their demo (review here) served notice like a tectonic rumble in the distance, the album arrived with comet-into-planet heft, and its oppression was as much about atmosphere as it was sheer aural assault. Imagine an arm reaching down your throat, grabbing your lungs, and forcibly deflating them one at a time. Is that hyperbole? Absolutely, and well earned. Every bit the debut of the year.

12. Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 2.

No, Boston supergroup¬†Kind aren’t so high on this list just because they called a song “Pastrami Blaster.” Granted, that didn’t hurt, but ultimately it was the blend of cavernous psychedelics and heavy rumble that made¬†Rocket Science so infectious. Comprised of vocalist¬†Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), guitarist¬†Darryl Shepard (Milligram, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist¬†Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer¬†Matt Couto (Elder),¬†Kind earned immediate interest for their pedigree, but it was more the breadth of jams like “Hordeolum” and “The Angry Undertaker” that defined their first outing, various impulses toward structure and open-endedness not so much pushing against each other as working in tandem to craft something that drew from the best of both mindsets. Obviously these are busy guys, but hopefully¬†Kind doesn’t all by the wayside for other ongoing projects.¬†Rocket Science was unmistakable in its demonstration that they have much to offer.

11. Bloodcow, Crystals and Lasers

bloodcow crystals and lasers

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 4.

Iowa five-piece¬†Bloodcow hadn’t put out a record since 2007’s¬†Bloodcow III: Hail Xenu, but that didn’t stop¬†Crystals and Lasers from being their best work yet. As much punk as metal as heavy rock, it wasn’t for everybody, but it was most definitely for me. With a constant thread of satire in songs like “Ultra Super Sexual,” “Sock,” “Dick for Days” and the oh-shit-I’m-middle-aged-how-the-fuck-did-this-happen (not saying I relate or anything, but holy shit I can relate) “After Party,” it was nonetheless a stylistically varied and universally professional-sounding 13-track collection, offering weirdo quirk in “Blood and Guts,” “Exploding Head” and “Little Chromosome” and finding room for a bit of scathing social commentary in its title-track and “HIVampyre.” If they’re working at an eight-year pace, I don’t know that we’ll get another¬†Bloodcow record, but they very clearly put everything they had into¬†Crystals and Lasers and the result was a defining statement.

10. Kadavar, Berlin

kadavar berlin

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed July 7.

After two wallops in the form of 2013’s¬†Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s self-titled debut¬†(discussed here), German trio¬†Kadavar¬†continued to prove the effectiveness of their songwriting on¬†Berlin, a return that front-to-back brimmed with vitality and bounce rare enough for heavy rock generally more content to be downtrodden or attempting to feign bluesy substance. Unabashedly poppy at times,¬†Berlin was the party that brought everyone along who was up for taking the ride, and whether it was the hook of “Lord of the Sky” showing how just a tiny melodic turn could make a track infectious or cuts like “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” “Filthy Illusion,” “Stolen Dreams,” “Spanish Wild Rose,” “See the World with Your Own Eyes” — all of them, really — working their way into the consciousness,¬†Berlin felt like it was primed to be the soundtrack of many summers to come. They moved away from the retro style of their first two outings, but in so doing took fuller command of their sound and put it to remarkable use.

9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed May 19.

Picking up right where¬†Flower of Disease closer “The River” left off with “Another River to Cross,”¬†Goatsnake‘s third full-length arrived a full 15 years after its predecessor, and as one might expect that brought some considerable changes in the band’s sound. Oh, they still rolled the hell out of a riff, guitarist¬†Greg Anderson (he of¬†SunnO))) and¬†Southern Lord Recordings) very much at the fore tonally, but a bluesy inflection¬†from vocalist¬†Pete Stahl (also¬†earthlings?) and some well-placed backing vocals added personality in a daring and unexpected fashion. Songs like “Jimi’s Gone,” “Elevated Man” and “Grandpa Jones” sat comfortably in the band’s influential pantheon of heft, but it was how¬†Black Age Blues pushed beyond what¬†Goatsnake did in their initial run that made it so satisfying. For a record that arrived five years after they got back together, it could have easily been disaster, but¬†Black Age Blues built on what¬†Goatsnake was without detracting from the legacy that has influenced a generation of heavy rock.

8. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

I’m proud to call the members of¬†Kings Destroy friends and I won’t attempt to feign impartiality when it comes to considering their work as a band, but I felt in listening to their self-titled third LP that they had finally gotten to the point where they were bringing the onstage confrontationalism of their live show to the studio. Yeah, “Mr. O” was upbeat and catchy and gave side A some thrust, but even in chugging opener “Smokey Robinson” or the moody “Mytho” and “Embers,”¬†Kings Destroy not only came further into their own in terms of style, building on the anti-genre defiant stance of 2013’s¬†A Time of Hunting (review here), but did so with a clearheaded progressivism, a better sense of who they are musically and what they want the band to be. I wouldn’t trade seeing them play “Embers” or “W2” as many times as I have for anything, but even unto the gang-shout half-speed hardcore of “Time for War,”¬†Kings Destroy‘s¬†Kings Destroy made no bones about how it wound up with the eponymous title. It’s them through and through.

7. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

It may never be possible to listen to the self-titled debut from¬†Cigale outside the context of the death of guitarist/vocalist¬†Rutger Smeets (ex-Sungrazer). That loss casts a dark shadow over a collection that otherwise radiates colorful sweetness and serenity, the peaceful depth beginning with “Grey Owl” and only broadening as it turns and weaves through “Steeplechase,” “Feel the Heat,” “Harvest Begun” and so on, but the record remains a gorgeous, engrossing wash of resonant melody and underlying presence. Not without its moments of melancholy, the more overarching impression was of beauty not tied to any notion of playing to genre or style, and while I don’t know what the future will hold for the band, if they’ll keep moving forward or not or if they’re even in a place yet to consider such things, they helped broaden the context of European heavy psychedelia with their first album, and that is no minor achievement.

6. Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning

sun blood stories twilight midnight morning

Self-released. Reviewed June 19.

Another one that just kind of smacked me in the face. Idahoan heavy psych explorers¬†Sun Blood Stories‘ second album,¬†Twilight Midnight Morning was soaked in vibe and moved fluidly between experimentalist noisemaking and patient, memorable songwriting. Tracks like “West the Sun,” “Witch Wind” and “Found Reasons Found Out” never raged, exactly, but had enough weight to their rhythm to let you know they were there and interested in groove, while later pieces “Time Like Smoke,” “Moon Song: Waxing” and “Misery is Nebulous” drew exponentially from earlier freakout impulses and shifted into a dronier and more ambient approach. The combination of the two — semi-structure¬†up front, open expansion in the back — made the three-part¬†Twilight Midnight Morning engaging and hypnotic in kind, and though I hope they get weirder and experiment and develop the atmospheric side of their sound, I’ve also got my fingers crossed they hold firm to their more grounded aspects, since its the range between the two that gives their sophomore outing its defining fluidity.

5a. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I’ll cite precedent in last year’s list¬†for including a “5a.” The intent in doing so¬†is to convey the idea that Colour Haze‘s latest outing,¬†To the Highest Gods We Know, is worthy of top five consideration, but its release date was split between 2014 (CD) and 2015 (LP), so it was a little unclear where to put it. As the album is basically a year old at this point, it seems fair to say it’s held up, drawing back from the grandiose vision of 2012’s¬†She Said (review here) without losing sight of the progressive elements that have taken root in the German trio’s sound. Their work has been and remains essential¬†to the development of heavy psychedelic rock in Europe and beyond, and even though¬†To the Highest Gods We Know felt like something of a reset — a stripping down of arrangements in places and getting back to a trio-in-a-room feel — it still stepped forward in its title-track and in songs like “√úberall” and “Call” and showed that even when it seems¬†Colour Haze have pushed their approach as far as it can go, there’s always new ground to explore, and their pull¬†to do so is undiminished.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

Doesn’t exactly seem like giving away state secrets to note that a record with songs like “Sexecutioner” and “Fuck Face” is aggressive, but it’s particularly interesting in light of the past work of New Jersey trio¬†The Atomic Bitchwax, who I don’t think sounded as barn-burning as they do on¬†Gravitron even in their earliest going. The trio of bassist/vocalist¬†Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist¬†Finn Ryan and drummer¬†Bob Pantella kept their signature winding riff style intact — demonstrated most expansively over 2011’s single-song full-length instrumental¬†The Local Fuzz (review here) — but while their turns were as blinding as ever, their tones were more pointed and¬†Pantella‘s snare more upfront on the beat, which gave¬†Gravitron a newfound sense of urgency. It worked. Even poppier songs like “Roseland” or the closing “Ice Age Hey Baby” benefited from the additional thrust, and the album overall felt lean, mean and ready to be taken on the road, which of course is exactly what they did with it. Six albums in,¬†The Atomic Bitchwax were at their most vital yet.

4. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

all them witches dying surfer meets his maker

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Nashville four-piece¬†All Them Witches probably could’ve gone into the studio, churned out a record of crunchy¬†riffs with a quiet part or two for flavor and positioned themselves at the forefront of American heavy rock with their¬†New West Records debut and third full-length¬†overall,¬†Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Instead, they defied expectation boldly and brought their growing audience into the room with them and producer Mikey Allred¬†as they captured the album, which finds its most affecting moments not in tonal weight, but emotional resonance, the melody at the midpoint of “Talisman” or the string arrangement gracefully tucked into “Open Passageways.” There’s still the push of “Dirt Preachers,” and entrancing closer “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” has its heft as well, but¬†All Them Witches‘ success ultimately came from being the album they wanted to make, built from the dynamic that’s developed on stage between bassist/vocalist¬†Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist¬†Ben McLeod,¬†Allan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes/strings, and drummer¬†Robby Staebler, and alive in its feeling of exploration. I won’t predict what they might do from here, but I’m willing to say outright it’ll be worth hearing one way or another.

3. Snail, Feral

snail feral

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Oct. 13.

My expectations for¬†Snail‘s third post-reunion full-length and Small Stone label debut,¬†Feral, were pretty high. Not unreasonably so, though. Their 2012 outing,¬†Terminus (review here), built on the blend of heavy psych riffs, laid back roll and melodicism that 2009’s¬†Blood (review here) established as the band’s working modus, but¬†Feral was going to be a different beast from the start¬†because it was the West Coast outfit’s first full-length as a trio since they made their self-titled debut (reissue review here) in 1993 before splitting up the next year. Whatever my expectations were, however,¬†Snail shattered them almost immediately. In the progression of their songwriting as shown across the strong opening salvo of¬†“Building a Haunted House,” “Smoke the Deathless” and “A Mustard Seed” through one of the year’s best songs in the expansive and crushing “Thou Art That,” the three-piece showcased a breadth unlike anything they’d conjured before, and it only continued through “Born in Captivity,” the catchy “Derail,” “Psilocybe” and the soul-infused wah leads that peppered the pleading closer “Come Home.”¬†Where¬†Terminus offered intensity,¬†Feral offered patience in its execution, and the atmosphere it created suited the band’s sound as well as the¬†Seldon Hunt cover art seemed to summarize the alternate reality in which the music took place. Everything about how it came together worked just right, and even as a fan of the band’s work since they got together again, I was taken aback by the unflinching quality of¬†Feral front to back.

2. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

Ten years is a long, long time. Especially in music. The prospect of a fourth¬†Acid King record has been tossed around for at least the last six of those 10 years, but to finally have it realized was something else entirely.¬†Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was without a doubt my most-listened-to album of the year, and its combination of tonal haze, low-end heft and spacious atmosphere was perfect. There’s just no other way to say it. It was perfect. From “Silent Pictures” and “Coming down from Outer Space” through “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and the sprawling “Center of Everywhere” itself, guitarist/vocalist¬†Lori S., bassist¬†Mark Lamb and drummer¬†Joey Osbourne crafted an absolutely perfect heavy psych record. How many bands walking the earth could even get away with calling a track “Laser Headlights,” let alone make it kick ass? Yeah,¬†Goatsnake came back this year, and that was great, but for me, the return of¬†Acid King to their throne of nod was even more the story of the year. Together with producer¬†Billy Anderson, they offered a depth of tone that was simply unmatched, and without an ounce of pretense, they unveiled a roll that continues to resound. I’m a big fan of getting lost in a record, and¬†Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere eased the listener in with its “Intro,” pulled reality apart from with “Silent Pictures” and set about doing the universe a favor by remaking the cosmos as the kind of place where one might find a wizard riding a tiger past the craters of the moon, until, at last, it deposited you back where you started. Best trip of 2015, no question.

1. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

Make no mistake, 2015¬†was Elder‘s year. We were all just living in it. Truth be told, I’ve been back and forth between¬†Elder and¬†Acid King in the top spot for the last couple months (you might recall in July they¬†were reversed), but when it finally came to it, there was no way I could feasibly call anything other than¬†Lore the album of the year. From the gorgeous¬†Adrian Dexter artwork (discussed here), through the progressive clarion of “Compendium”‘s noodling guitar line and into the massive scope of the title-track (discussed here),¬†Lore was the moment in which¬†Elder — guitarist/vocalist¬†Nick DiSalvo, bassist¬†Jack Donovan and drummer¬†Matt Couto — tore down the walls of genre, whether it was heavy rock, psychedelia or anything else, and emerged with their own approach¬†and complex, varied modus of songwriting. They’ve been turning heads since their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, but with 2011’s¬†Dead Roots Stirring (review here), they began to demonstrate the potential for really adding something to the patchwork of underground heavy. In moving forward by making clarity a hallmark both of their sound and of their purpose,¬†Elder came into their own with these five tracks, and do not at all be surprised a couple years from now when bands start showing up aping¬†DiSalvo‘s style of riffing, since such a bold and successful foray of individualism can only be influential in the longer run. At nearly an hour long,¬†Lore was not a minor undertaking, but each song seemed to set up its own atmosphere, feeding not only its own singular focus, but that of the album overall. Its turns blinding, its impact forceful and its affect drawing from the best of the sonic personalities of all three players,¬†Elder‘s¬†Lore reaped wide acclaim and earned it every step of the way. Its progressive vision has only begun to be digested.

Honorable Mention

Killer Boogie, Detroit – Impressive debut from the retro-minded offshoot of¬†Black Rainbows brought ’70s boogie to Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a quick turnaround, but either way, their first outing knew its audience and spoke directly to it.

My Sleeping Karma, Moksha РThis one was on various incarnations of the list. Very interested to see where the German heavy prog outfit wind up in terms of expanding their arrangements, but Moksha was a satisfying step forward in that process.

Egypt, Endless Flight – Should probably have a number, but the fact is it’s only been out for like two weeks, so it hasn’t really been given the test of time at this point. Still,¬†Egypt always deliver and¬†this was no exception.

Valkyrie, Shadows – An awaited third full-length from¬†Virginia’s¬†Valkyrie and also their¬†Relapse Records debut offered enough blazing guitar work to meet any quota, and was a welcome return after a long absence.

Magic Circle, Journey’s End – The second LP from this Massachusetts outfit pushed beyond doomly confines into more traditional metallurgy but held its eerie atmospherics intact, and the combination suited them remarkably well.

Monolord, Vænir РThis was my go-to for 2015 when nothing else seemed quite crushing enough. The Swedish trio have very quickly stomped their way into the hearts and minds of the international underground, and rightfully so.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind РAfter making a transition from a four-piece to a trio, this Virginian outfit proceeded to take a few stylistic risks on their second Small Stone long-player, and they paid off.

Tombstones,¬†Vargariis – Fourth full-length from this Norwegian trio pushed them outside of doom’s confines into a darker and more extreme version of heaviness that pulled from death and black metals in addition to its sludgy underpinnings. The meld was punishing and lost nothing of its groove, wherever it went at any given moment.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and Dust Have no Dominion – I guess my only hesitation with including¬†Faces of Bayon‘s second outing in any kind of year-end fare is I’m not sure if the album has actually been released yet. Even if not, they’re easily worth a mention.

Ice Dragon, A Beacon on the Barrow РKind of a down year from Ice Dragon in terms of overall productivity, but if the quantity was down compared to some, A Beacon on the Barrow was quality enough to carry them through. In a way, I think the album actually benefited from the band giving listeners time to take it in.

Arenna, Given to Emptiness – Ah, so good. The Spanish heavy psych troupe dug in deep on¬†Given to Emptiness and conjured sonic and emotional resonance on their second full-length. It’s one that still gets repeat listens.

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire – The long-running New Jersey outfit’s reworking of their 2010 album¬†Mastermind was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem fair to list it when they’re working mostly from already-released source material. But still, if you haven’t heard it, go find it.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] – Even if the results hadn’t been so spectacular,¬†Electric Ladyland [Redux]¬†would deserve a mention for the sheer scope and logistical nightmare that the project must have been. Kudos to¬†Magnetic Eye Records all around.

There are so many others:¬†Abrahma, Goya,¬†Sun and Sail Club, Deville,¬†Sacri Monti,¬†Dirty Streets,¬†Ufomammut,¬†Wo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, Pentagram,¬†Torche,¬†Sumac,¬†Garden of Worm,¬†Black Rainbows,¬†Holy Serpent,¬†Minsk,¬†Baron,¬†Weedpecker,¬†Electric Moon,¬†Fuzz,¬†Bell Witch,¬†Windhand, Niche, We Lost the Sea,¬†Seremonia,¬†Sunder,¬†Domovoyd, The Heavy Eyes,¬†Demon Head,¬†Fogg,¬†Stars that Move,¬†Enslaved,¬†Ruby the Hatchet, on and on and on. That’s not even to mention the stuff I didn’t hear —¬†Baroness will be on many people’s lists, no doubt, as well as¬†Mutoid Man, Ghost and¬†Kylesa — so yeah,¬†I¬†could pretty much keep going ad infinitum.

I, however, cannot.¬†It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to keep up with 2015’s barrage the last 12 months, and I expect 2016 will only bring more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading or that you’re able to get some use out of this post, whatever that might mean, and I thank you deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for your time and for reading. It means more to me than I can say that you might check out even any portion of this site or be involved, whether it’s sharing a link, leaving a comment to let me know who I forgot to mention or correct my spelling, signing up for the forum, listening to the radio, whatever it might be.

Thank you for an amazing 2015. And please stay tuned, because of course, there’s much more¬†to come.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Midnight Ghost Train US tour Diary, Pt. 3

Posted in Features on May 4th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

A moment of respite this time around as The Midnight Ghost Train guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss checks in from the road in the latest installment of his US tour diary. The trio — Moss, bassist Mike Boyne and drummer Brandon Burghart — have a day off in Albuquerque, New Mexico and use it to check out filming locations for the show Breaking Bad, and Moss also gives some thoughts on B.B. King, who was revealed last week to be in home-hospice care.

Eight¬†shows left on the tour. Here’s Moss:

the midnight ghost train breaking bad

Mea Culpa 3

Had a fun and interesting week. Played Albuquerque, Midland, Austin, and Lafayette. On our way to Pensacola right now.

Had the day off after our Albuquerque show so we used it to check out the different spots that Breaking Bad was filmed in. We are huge fans of that show so it was cool to find the actual filming locations, Including a candy store owned by an old lady that not only made all the meth for the first two years of Breaking Bad (made it out of rock candy) but also makes porn candy, like chocolate dicks and vaginas. Yum. It was probably the most fun we have had in Albuquerque. Last time we were there, a gigantic protest was going on against the police or something. We went over to check it out, hoping to see some crazy shit, but we ended up getting too close and we got the backlash of a bunch of tear gas. Did not feel very good.

One of my biggest heroes and inspirations in music is B.B. King, I learned this week that he is at home in hospice care preparing to die. This breaks my heart. Without him there the midnight ghost trainwould be no TMGT. I’ve seen him live a countless amount of times, he is the reason I decided to play music. I wanted what he had. That soul and passion he has on stage is unlike anything else. My wife and I actually saw his last-ever performance. The day after we saw him he collapsed and canceled the rest of the tour. I can’t begin to explain what his music and his soul has done for me. I grew up with his music, going to his concerts with my dad and just being completely in awe of the experience. Some of the best moments in my life. My favorite live album of all time is B.B. King, Live at the Regal. If you haven’t heard it, buy it. Nothing out there comes close to the magic on that album. I just hope he is comfortable and safe and well, and goes in peace. He is a true bluesman and a true performer. I strive at every show to have just a fraction of the soul he has.

I appreciate all the kind get well words and wishes for me for my upcoming surgery. I’m a tough son of a bitch so I’ll be okay and ready to rock soon after the surgery. But first thing’s first, we got a tour to finish and nine more shows to blow the roof off the fuckin’ place.

The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground (2015)

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train at Napalm Records

Tags: , , , , ,

The Midnight Ghost Train US Tour Diary, Pt. 2

Posted in Features on April 28th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

When last we left them, Kansas heavy blues rockers were deep into the Pacific Northwest on their current US tour. This past week has taken them further south, through California and into the deserts of Arizona and New Mexico. Last night they played in Albuquerque, and today, guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss — joined in the band by bassist Mike Boyne and drummer Brandon Burghart — continues his “Mea Culpa” tour diary for The Obelisk.

The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third album, Cold was the Ground is out now as their debut on Napalm Records. Their tour runs until May 16, at which point apparently Moss will undergo surgery. More in the diary:

the-midnight-ghost-train

Mea Culpa 2

Driving through the desert right now towards Albuquerque, NM. The past few nights have been excellent shows and good times. Like I said in the last post we went to the Giants and Dodgers game on our day off. That was a lot of fun and relaxing. But relaxing never lasts long. I like it that way. I don’t like to stand still for long. If you have seen us on stage I’m sure you know what I’m talking about.

The other night in San Diego we had a great show. It was a last-minute add but it was a blast. I think they put something in the drinks in there though ’cause everyone was insanely wasted. Made for an interesting night. I don’t drink so it’s always quite amusing to see the insanely drunk ones at the shows. But it can also get a bit annoying especially at the merch table. One guy wanted to buy all three of our vinyls, a hoodie, two shirts, a tote bag, a hat, a poster and two bottles of our TMGT hot sauce. I get everything out, all ready for him. The price is somewhere around $150 and he opened his wallet and only had $20. Then he actually tried to see if I would let him go with all that stuff only paying $20. No way in hell. He would not let it go, started yelling, “Why can’t I just pay $20, this is bullshit I thought you guys were cool. I promise if you let me go with all this stuff for $20 I’ll tell everyone I know about your band.” Absolutely not. We need to make our money.

For those of you that are unaware, this is how we make our living. This is our job. So we don’t give anything out for free, ever, and don’t make deals. I don’t care how cute of a girl you are, I don’t care how uncool it makes me, you pay full price. If you really like a band enough that you want to buy their merch, than you should respect them enough to pay for it, and pay the price that they ask. We go through that every night. But this guy just for some reason got under my skin. Maybe because he held up the merch line for 10 minutes while he was bitching and arguing. “Sorry you gotta go, there are people with money behind you trying to buy stuff.” I guess some people just don’t get it. I’m sure other bands out there feel that frustration.

So I’ve got some bad news. I’ve been battling with some pain the past few months that has made life very uncomfortable. I went to the doctor and found out I have two hernias that have to be surgically repaired immediately. So as soon as this tour is over I’m going in for surgery. Not excited about that. After this tour, we have one month off before we go back over to Europe. So I just hope that during that month off I can fully recover from the surgery, and there are no complications so I can be rip-roaring and ready to go for our European tour. In the meantime, I’m not able to lift anything. Doctors said I can’t lift anything over five pounds during this tour. Now that’s just crazy. But I have been staying away from lifting amps and really heavy stuff.

The guys have been a huge help moving stuff around for me. It sucks. I feel worthless and helpless. But I was warned that my hernias are at risk of becoming strangled, which can kill me, so I’m taking it as easy as possible. What really sucks is the uncomfortable pain that I’m in the entire time on stage. But I’m a fighter and I get through it night after night. Just hope that after this surgery I recover quick and well enough for our European tour. I’m so thankful I got good band members to help and pick up the slack for me. We still get off stage in less than two minutes, and we still get everything done quick and on time. It’s just tough to have to adjust to not carrying anything. Hope this surgery is as easy and as quick with recovery time as they say. ‘Cause there is much more rocking left to do.

The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground (2015)

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train at Napalm Records

Tags: , , , , ,

The Midnight Ghost Train US Tour Diary, Pt. 1

Posted in Features on April 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

If you want to count their time in Europe,¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†have been on tour since February supporting their third album and Napalm Records¬†debut,¬†Cold was the Ground¬†(review here). Their current US tour began on April 10 in Indianapolis and will continue through May 16. Guitarist/vocalist¬†Steve Moss¬†— joined in the band by drummer¬†Brandon Burghart¬†and bassist¬†Mike Boyne — has started a tour diary that will run here through the end of this stint and who knows for how long after. If the last several years have shown anything, it’s that¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†never veer too far from the road they’ve taken as their home.

Not sure how often updates are going to come in, but I’ll post them when they show. Enjoy:

The Midnight Ghost Train

Mea Culpa 1

Hey it’s Steve from The Midnight Ghost Train. So we were told to write about our time on this tour. Keep a sort of journal accounting for what we are doing during these long days/months while we are on the road. Here it goes. I’ll call these entries “Mea Culpa,” which is Latin for “through my fault,” which means if you don’t like these entries, well then it’s my fault.

So far this album release tour has been excellent for promoting our new album. The European part of the tour was very successful and now we are currently on the USA portion. We are about a little over a week into it. Tackled a couple cities in the Midwest and in the north and making our way down the West Coast now. Last night we played Portland. Not a very good turnout at all. Apparently it was supposed to be a sold out show but two bands dropped off and they had to scramble to get two other bands on the bill at the last minute. We don’t have a huge following in Portland so we were counting on these other bands to bring a big crowd. But they didn’t, big bummer. You can’t win them all.

Had to get one of our bass rigs fixed in Portland. Our buddies at Arcane Amplification are masters when it comes to fixing amps. But unfortunately they didn’t have all the right The Midnight Ghost Train 2parts and had to order them. So they kept the power amp and are gonna ship it to us somewhere during this tour once it’s fixed. Something is ALWAYS breaking. Whether it be amps, the van, guitars, or our hearts, haha. It’s always something. Money never stays in the bank account very long when you play music as a full-time gig. We are used to the constant guff.

We stayed in crack central last night in Portland. 3AM, crackheads banging on doors, walking around half naked screaming at each other and trying to score. This morning was ridiculous when we took our guitars out from the hotel room and put them in the back of the van. The crackies surrounded us, “Are you in a band?” “No we are not, get the fuck outta here.” There’s a tip for bands on the road. NEVER tell people you’re in a band, you will either get into a 20-minute conversation, them trying to find out everything in god’s name about your band, or tell you about their shitty band they tried starting 15 years ago, or they will just try to rip you off. So it’s better to just be an asshole and scare them away so they don’t try something. ‘Cause it will happen.

We are headed down to San Francisco right now. Tomorrow we have a day off so we are going to a Giants and Dodger game in San Fran. I’m a gigantic baseball fan so I love dragging the dudes to baseball games on our days off. Not into any other sports just baseball. It’s the only thing that helps me relax and take my mind off of this insane life that we chose for us. We suck at everything else so we knew we had to be musicians. Burned all of our bridges so we could never retreat and didn’t allow ourselves to have a backup plan. ‘Cause trust me, if I had a backup plan I would’ve taken it along time ago. So bring on the guff… We got nothing else.

The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground (2015)

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train at Napalm Records

Tags: , , , , ,

The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground: To Sow and Reap

Posted in Reviews on February 26th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the-midnight-ghost-train-cold-was-the-ground

Before we get to all the stuff about how The Midnight Ghost Train are a blues rock steamroller, or about how their third album and Napalm Records debut, Cold was the Ground, is an unforgiving rush of heavy fuzz with pacing that makes a joke of most heavy rock bands’ ideas of “uptempo,” it’s worth pointing out that the Kansas-based trio haven’t gained an inch of ground over the last seven-or-so years that they haven’t clawed their way across. Creatively and in terms of profile, there’s the easy way and there’s the hard way, and The Midnight Ghost Train have chosen the hard way. Signing to a label with the reach of Napalm seems like payoff, but it comes after years of near-constant touring in the US and Europe, promoting first 2008’s¬†The Johnny Boy EP¬†(review here), then 2009’s self-titled full-length debut (review here), then 2012’s raging¬†Buffalo¬†(review here) while being largely ignored by those outside the sphere of having witnessed them play live and seen the sincerity and heart that serves as the driving force behind guitarist/vocalist¬†Steve Moss‘ blues-madman stage persona or the frenetic energy with which¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†deliver their performances. They have worked for everything they’ve gotten — and then some — and if¬†Cold was the Ground¬†signals anything to their built-one-at-a-time following, it’s that the trio aren’t at all ready to sit back and rest on their laurels.¬†Moss, drummer¬†Brandon Burghart and bassist¬†Mike Boyne (who makes his recorded debut here), unleash a rolling stomp that dares the listener to try to keep up, a guttural burl of vocals distinct as the band’s own barking out lines across a maddening thrust that seems to relent only so it can renew its fury to greater impact.

At the time,¬†Buffalo¬†was the best thing¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†had done, and¬†Cold was the Ground¬†is better. It’s a tighter record, more assured, not only more controlled, but more purposeful. Tonally, its fuzz is warm and natural, and¬†Moss‘ voice is almost a growl at times, but somehow perfectly suits the momentum they build as the 11 songs and 39 minutes play out. There are geared down stretches in songs like “One Last Shelter,” “Twin Souls” and the tense, brooding manifesto “The Little Sparrow,” which boasts a spoken testimonial from¬†Moss¬†about the kind of regret only a true love of music can bring, but for the most part, once the intro “Along the Chasm” launches from its build-up of feedback into the first of many bouncing riffs to come — about 30 seconds into the album —¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†don’t look back. Songs like “Gladstone,” “BC Trucker,” “No. 227” and the closer “Mantis” slam home their bluesy riffs,¬†and while¬†Moss¬†is a definite frontman presence,¬†Burghart¬†puts on a clinic in swing on “BC Trucker,” the tom-propelled “The Canfield,” and the album highlight “Straight to the North,” which caps in dangerously exacting starts and stops before riding home a groove that’s righteous enough not to care if you call it stoner rock or anything else. You’d have to catch up to it first. Hooks abound throughout in head-spinning rhythmic turns, and by the time “One Last Shelter” swaps out its laid back opening section for the white-knuckled riffery of its second minute, it’s less about the speed at which¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†are executing their material than the precision with which they’re doing it and the dynamic between¬†Burghart,¬†Boyne¬†and¬†Moss¬†that, like everything else they’ve done, has been built from the ground up. The contributions of each are utterly essential to¬†Cold was the Ground¬†hitting as hard as it does, and whether it’s¬†Boyne‘s bassline starting “Arvonia” or underscoring¬†Moss‘ sleepless rant in “The Little Sparrow” — the question, “How can music feel so free and still take all that you have?” feels particularly poignant — or¬†Burghart¬†railing on his crash in “Gladstone,” the cohesion between the three of them is undeniable.

the midnight ghost train

More over, that cohesion is brought to the album with a purpose beyond teasing the live show or trying to offer the same kind of experience.¬†Cold was the Ground¬†is a beast, to be sure, and it has vitality front to back no matter the pace the band happen to be working in at the time, but it also establishes a flow, expands the band’s sound, shows not only the chemistry that’s developed but how their songwriting has progressed since¬†Buffalo¬†and where they’re at now in their delivery of lethal groove. It is, in other words, more than a gig poster, and as much as it might signal the electricity¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†create in a live setting, there’s also more to it than just that. Some bands are “live bands,” and¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†have worked hard for more than half a decade to become one, and succeeded, but for those new to their sound or already well familiar, their latest offers much more than a reminder of that time¬†Moss¬†headbanged really hard. Closing duo “Twin Souls” and “Mantis” sum up the album well, shifting seamlessly between creeper-riffing and the unmitigated shuffle that’s become their calling card, and especially after the quiet shift of “The Little Sparrow,” the two songs round out by not only affirming the evolution of the band stylistically, but by assuring the listener that they haven’t forgotten what’s always made them such and exciting listen.¬†Boyne¬†tosses in a bass fill to the closer’s first half that seems to hint at there being more to say, and¬†Moss¬†tears into a wah-soaked solo to set up a last verse before the final rush, which recalls “Gladstone”‘s about-to-fly-off-the-rails sprint. A solid book-end, yes, but further evidence that¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†are thinking about¬†Cold was the Ground¬†as more than a collection of tracks, and of those tracks as more than a collection of parts, and that’s exactly what they wind up being. They might be a live band, but it’s time to start considering The Midnight Ghost Train as songwriters too.

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Gladstone” official video

The Midnight Ghost Train’s website

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

The Midnight Ghost Train at Napalm Records

Tags: , , , , ,

The Midnight Ghost Train Premiere Video for “Gladstone”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the midnight ghost train gladstone

If you’ve ever had the chance to see The Midnight Ghost Train live, then you don’t need me to tell you tales of their on-stage fury. The hard-touring Topeka, Kansas, heavy blues trio are kinetic, a broiling chaos of riffs, headbanging and stomp. They’ve been at it for years at this point, back and forth across the country as well as in Europe, and in March, they’ll make their debut on¬†Napalm Records¬†with their third album,¬†Cold was the Ground, for which preorders are now available. Of course, if you¬†haven’t¬†seen the band before, I’d be happy to tell you those tales, but probably the best thing to do would be wait 15 minutes or so for them to announce another round of shows that includes wherever it is you happen to live. They’ll get there sooner or later.

Cold was the Ground¬†contains 11 tracks championing the three-piece’s thick-toned, high-energy cause. It’s a record that deals out quick blows and doesn’t stick around too long to watch the damage before starting the next bombardment. Guitarist/vocalist¬†Steve Moss, drummer¬†Brandon Burghart¬†and bassist¬†Mike Boyne¬†have a road-honed dynamic, and one can hear the progression from where¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†were just a couple years ago on their 2012 second album,¬†Buffalo¬†(review here). They’ve never wanted for confidence or push, but¬†Cold was the Ground¬†puts them in new territory in both how hard it slams its point home and in the range of its songwriting. Fuzz tones meet head on with¬†Moss¬†gruff-bordering-on-growl vocals, and the raging shuffle that ensues throughout is a demonstration of the kind of madness only a band at the top of their game can produce. It’s the kind of record that dares you not to headbang.

Of course,¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†will hit the road (and hard) to support it. In fact, they’re already doing shows this week. The international release dates for the album and their current tour plans — lucky dogs are touring with Greenleaf —¬†are underneath the player below, on which you’ll find the debut of their new video for “Gladstone,” an early kick in the ass from¬†Cold was the Ground¬†that’s just one of the many on hand.

Please enjoy:

The Midnight Ghost Train, “Gladstone” official video

Cold was the Ground Release Dates:
2.28.2015 ‚Äď GSA / Europe / AUS
3.2.2015 ‚Äď UK / NO / FR / DK / IT
3.04.2015 ‚Äď SE / ESP
3.10.2015 ‚Äď USA / CAN

The Midnight Ghost Train on Tour:
Dec 17 Launchpad Albuquerque, NM
Dec 18 The Blue Max Midland, TX
Dec 19 The Lost Well Austin, TX w/ Sabbath Crow
Dec 20 Vino’s Brew Pub Little Rock, AR
Dec 21 Lizard’s Lounge Wichita, KS w/ Bridegeist
Feb 24 Alte Malzerei Regensburg, Germany w/ Greenleaf
Feb 25 Arena Vienna, Austria w/ Greenleaf
Feb 26 Immerhin Wurzburg, Germany w/ Greenleaf
Feb 27 Vortex Siegen, Germany w/ Greenleaf
Feb 28 Gaswerk Winterthur, Switzerland w/ Greenleaf
Mar 01 Lo-Fi Milano, Italy w/ Greenleaf
Mar 03 White Rabbit Freiburg, Germany w/ Greenleaf
Mar 05 Feierwerk Munich, Germany w/ Greenleaf
Mar 06 Stahlfest Leipzig, Germany w/ Greenleaf
Mar 07 Treibsand L√ľbeck, Germany w/ Greenleaf
Mar 09 Hafenklang Hamburg, Germany
Mar 11 DAS BETT Frankfurt, Germany
Mar 12 Marlein Leuwaarden, Netherlands
Mar 13 Hell Over Esslingen Esslingen, Germany
Mar 14 Borom PomPom Oberentfelden, Switzerland
Mar 15 Il Principe In Bicicletta Treviso, Italy
Mar 16 No Cage Prato, Italy
Mar 18 PMK Innsbruck, Austria
Mar 19 kulturbahnhof Jena, Germany
Mar 20 Le Brin De Zinc Chambery, France
Mar 21 Mudd Club Strasbourg, France
Mar 22 Glazart Paris, France w/ Black Rainbows
Mar 24 Ostpol Dresden, Germany
Mar 25 Paunchy Cats Lichtenfels, Germany
Mar 26 Dustown Festival Berlin, Germany
Mar 27 7er Club Mannheim, Germany
Mar 29 dB’s Utrecht, Netherlands
Jun 19 Hellfest Clisson, France

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

Cold was the Ground preorder

Napalm Records

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Midnight Ghost Train Post Cold was the Ground Teaser

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 25th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the midnight ghost train

Seems unfair to call the video put out today by Topeka blues bashers¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†a “teaser,” since it’s longer and less promo-speaky than a lot of album teasers wind up being — plus it has a plot and production value — despite its function being roughly the same in giving fans of the trio a glimpse at the new record’s sound and atmosphere. Their slammed-home boogie seems to be in good¬†standing, and as for atmosphere, well, all you really have to do is look at the big sky country and the expanses of land featured in the clip to see where¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†are coming from on¬†Cold was the Ground, their new album, which is out March 2015 on¬†Napalm Records.

I’m looking forward to hearing what they’ve come up with this time out, so even just a sneak peak at some of the riffing here is welcome as far as I’m concerned. The story of the video seems to center around the overall-clad guy who resists and then finally succumbs to the band’s riffy wiles after pretty much the whole world around him has already done the same. The last holdout. That same gentleman also features on the album cover for¬†Cold was the Ground, which presumably was put together around the same time as this short film, and does well in the form of silent expression. No doubt his experience in the clip mirrors that of many who’ve discovered¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†these last couple years, so much awareness of them having come from word of mouth from¬†those who’ve caught them killing it live on stages throughout the US and Europe.

They’ll likely keep doing that as well, unhindered by blizzards or barbecue sauce on the face or whatever it might be. Preorders for the album reportedly start Dec. 2. Enjoy the video:

The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground short film

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you… The Midnight Ghost Train’s very own short film for the new album “Cold Was The Ground”. We created this film to give you a listen, (and a look) at the new record. A bit of a tease. This is for the fans. Enjoy.

The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks

Napalm Records

Tags: , , , , ,

The Midnight Ghost Train Announce Release Date for Cold was the Ground

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the midnight ghost train

The steady ascent of bombastic blues rockers¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†looks set to continue into the New Year. Come late February/early March, the¬†Topeka, Kansas, three-piece will¬†issue¬†their third album,¬†Cold was the Ground, in 2015 as their debut on¬†Napalm Records. It follows 2012’s hog-wild¬†Buffalo¬†(review here), and seems to have at least some commonality of artwork with that album, a lone figure standing against a single-color backdrop of rural America, complete with overgrown field. Only difference is that where¬†Buffalo¬†had a topless woman in sepia that seemed to convey¬†a sentimentality for a time that never was,¬†Cold was the Ground¬†brings a black and white scowl of a man (fully dressed to a near-Baptist degree) standing in front of a house in squalor. If that’s some promise of how the two records might compare to each other sound-wise, the ground may be cold indeed when the new one arrives.

Already veterans of¬†Roadburn, the¬†Desertfests,¬†Freak Valley¬†(where the above photo was taken) and many others on extensive US and European tours over the last few years,¬†The Midnight Ghost Train¬†were announced this week as taking part in the 2015¬†Hellfest¬†in Clisson, France, next June. This week, however, they’re kicking around the Midwest, presumably just because it hurts them to sit still for too long. Dates are included with the release info and tracklisting for the new record below:

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

HERE IT IS. The Cover, Tracklist and Release Dates of our new album “Cold Was The Ground”

Release Dates:
2.28.2015 – GSA / Europe / AUS
3.2.2015 – UK / NO / FR / DK / IT
3.04.2015 – SE / ESP
3.10.2015 – USA / CAN

Tracklist:
1. Along The Chasm
2. Gladstone
3. BC Trucker
4. Arvonia
5. One Last Shelter
6. The Canfield
7. Straight To The North
8. No. 227
9. The Little Sparrow
10. Twin Souls
11. Mantis

The Midnight Ghost Train live:
11.19.14 The Rockery, Detroit, MI
11.20.14 The Avenue Cafe, Lansing, MI
11.21.14 Crunchy Frog, Green Bay, WI
11.22.14 Eronel, Dubuque, IA
06.19.15 Hellfest, Clisson, France

https://www.facebook.com/themidnightghosttrain/
http://themidnightghosttrain.bandcamp.com/
http://www.themidnightghosttrain.com/
http://www.napalmrecords.com/

The Midnight Ghost Train, Buffalo (2012)

Tags: , , , , ,