Colour Haze Announce September Shows in Germany and Austria

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

colour haze (photo by JJ Koczan)

The idea here is that Colour Haze never got to tour to support the release of 2020’s We Are (review here), so they’re heading out now to do so. Worth noting that it’s a different band hitting the road than the one that made the album, though, with Mario Oberpucher taking over on bass and organist/synthesist Jan Faszbender seeming to have departed as well. Fair enough. The fact that Colour Haze are getting out to do shows at all is, of course, welcome, though the band has had a number of projects underway recently, including a remix/remaster of Los Sounds de Krauts (review here), writing for another new album and putting together a live record from odds and ends they managed to get out in 2020.

Looking forward to all, of course.

Sound of Liberation sent over the following:

colour haze release tour

Colour Haze 2021 TOUR

Dare we say that… we announce… a tour?!

‘We Are’ was released back in late 2019. Seems like ages ago (and it actually is), but Colour Haze have never been able to tour their latest music since then for reasons we all know.

So we guess it’s about time.

Sound of Liberation + Elektrohasch Records proudly present:
Colour Haze
ALBUM RELEASE TOUR 2021

18.09.21 – Graz | p.p.c.
19.09.21 – Salzburg | Rockhouse Salzburg
20.09.21 – Wien | ARENA WIEN
21.09.21 – Leipzig | WERK2-Kulturfabrik
22.09.21 – Dortmund | Musiktheater Piano
23.09.21 – Dortmund | Musiktheater Piano
04.10.21 – Würzburg | Posthalle Würzburg
05.10.21 – Wiesbaden | Schlachthof Wiesbaden
06.10.21 – Berlin | Festsaal Kreuzberg
07.10.21 – Dresden | Beatpol

If you still hold a ticket from any previously postponed Colour Haze show, please check with your ticket provider if it’s still valid automatically or if there are any actions needed from your side.

We’ll see you on the road

Cheers,
Your SOL Crew

PS: New Colour Haze T-Shirts, tons of Vinyls & CDs are available via SOL Records: https://sol-records.com/collections/colour-haze

COLOUR HAZE is
Stefan Koglek – guitar & vocals
Mario Oberpucher – live sound, sitar, bass
Manfred Merwald – drums

https://www.facebook.com/COLOURHAZE.official/
http://colourhaze.de/
www.elektrohasch.de
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Colour Haze, Live 2020 at sunset

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Album Review: Colour Haze, Los Sounds de Krauts (Reissue)

Posted in Reviews on June 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Colour Haze Los Sounds de Krauts Reissue

Probably fair to call Los Sounds de Krauts a transitional release for Colour Haze, though one might say the same of their 13-album discography. Issued through the venerable Nasoni Records in 2002 and subsequently as the first release through guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s then-soon-to-be-venerable Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint, it is one of numerous 2LPs the Munich-based outfit have done since their 1995 debut, but one of only two to not be contained on a single compact disc.

Its four sides originally labeled with the cardinal directions counterclockwise in German — Westen, Süden, Osten and Norden; labeled likewise on the two CDs — the tracklisting has shifted somewhat on the reissue, putting “Otherside” earlier and “2+7” later, making the 15-minute “Overriding” the closer and “Schlaflied,” the former closer, the first song on the last side. The end result is a record that’s lost a few minutes in the process of remixing — “Weltraummantra” (16:23) was 18 minutes long, “Overriding” (15:21) was 17:37, and so on — but still runs 85 minutes long and captures the air of spontaneity at its root.

As the follow-up to 2002’s 2LP, Ewige Blumenkraft (reissue review here), Los Sounds de Krauts, with its odd, multi-lingual-seeming title and sides pointing the listener in one direction or another, was an embrace of the progressive and psychedelic in a new way for Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald, stretching in form even beyond where the massive 19-minute “Elektrohasch” that concluded the last album had gone, pushing outward from their foundations in heavy rock and into more open spaces.

Throughout Los Sounds de KrautsColour Haze can be heard fully embracing the tonal warmth that over the next few years and offerings would become their banner, and exhibiting the patience of craft and purposeful exploration that helped their influence continue to spread throughout the aughts and then 2010s in and beyond Europe. It’s easy now to call it a transitional album. At the time, it was the deepest Colour Haze had yet dug into their own sonic persona, their most individualized collection, freeing themselves from genre concerns to a new degree and thereby working to forge a heavy psychedelia that, quite frankly, didn’t exist before them in the way it did after they made it.

Significantly, the original vocals for “Where the Skies End” were lost and are re-recorded here, with Koglek working from the original Tim Höfer recording on the new mix. As regards Los Sounds de Krauts as a whole, there’s a lot that’s said in the first 10 seconds of the record to tell the listener what they need to know. The guitar at the outset of “I Won’t Stop” shimmers, brimming with life and not-desert fuzz, joined soon by the drums and bass in a classic boogie that’s still somehow post-grunge in its presentation, and it the sense of life in the recording is the most immediate factor.

It’s right there. They’re right there. Later on, before, after songs, there are pauses or breaks before a song starts or stops. These subtle touches put the audience in the room with the band while the songs are being put to tape, whether it’s the quiet at the end of the softly-noodled “Schlaflied” or the build-up intro to “Plazmakeks” or the feedback at the and of second cut “Roses.”

colour haze los sounds de krauts original cover

But the effect of “I Won’t Stop,” and really the rest of side A along with it in “Roses” and the winding fluidity of “Zen,” is to create a momentum that carries into the proceedings as “Plazmakeks” picks up the jammier vibe from “Zen” and pulls it further along an instrumental course. There’s still plenty of shove to be had as the two-minute freakout “Other Side” arrives well placed to speed-boogie between that 10-minute cut and the highlight “Sundazed,” which is nearly as long and so serene as to make the movement of one track into the next all the more headspinning.

Situated about as close to the halfway point as it could be, “Sundazed” is the capper of the first CD and the first LP on the new and old versions of Los Sounds de Krauts and a model they’d continue to follow in their landmark 2004 self-titled (discussed here) and beyond. Atop Merwald‘s steady snare pops and the vibrant rumble of Rasthofer‘s bass, Koglek‘s layered vocal and guitar takeoff are nothing less than essential lessons to be learned about the passion that drives rock and roll at its best. And there’s still half an album to go.

About that. I am generally of the opinion that a 2CD release is superfluous, and yeah, if Colour Haze had cut five or six minutes out of Los Sounds de Krauts, they’d have still hit a 2LP mark and probably saved some on manufacturing only one CD. Would that mean no “Roses?” Would it pull the playful bassline of “Where the Skies End” out? Or the stick-clicks-and-go last grounded moment in “2+7” before “Overriding” brings its organ-laced jammy conclusion? Would that be faded out? Any of these changes would inexorably shift the character of Los Sounds de Krauts, and among the album’s strengths, that is second to none of them.

Particularly as the reissue brings new lush cover art by Jessica Rassi and emphasizes the creative spirit so rife throughout the material, right up to that surge in “Overriding,” it’s simply worth the investment in time it asks of the listener in both its peaceful and most shoving parts.

18 years later, it’s still worth that investment, and the new mix carries that feeling of soulfulness that is no less a Colour Haze hallmark than Koglek‘s tone, or Rasthofer‘s, or Merwald‘s — because, yes, drums have tone and if you don’t think so, just listen to this album. I won’t pretend at impartiality. I’m a fan and this was the record that introduced me to the band, so sentimentality runs high in listening to it. Which feels exactly right for how one should be hearing the material, whether they’ve heard it before or not. Some records were just made to become a part of your life. Some records were made to be loved.

Colour Haze, “Sundazed” live at Rockpalast

Colour Haze website

Colour Haze on Facebook

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

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Colour Haze Confirm New Album and Bassist; Reissuing Los Sounds de Krauts and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

It only makes sense that Colour Haze‘s new bassist would be someone already in the band’s orbit. After over 25 years, one wouldn’t expect them to either want or need to look further than their immediate surroundings for someone to fill the rather formidable shoes of longtime low-ender Philipp Rasthofer, whose departure was announced late last year. It just wouldn’t make any sense for them to move forward with a stranger.

Mario Oberpucher was announced as taking up the bassist position when Rasthofer left, and the band has reconfirmed the permanence of that, as well as made available to preorder a remix and remaster of 2003’s Los Sounds de Krauts, with downloads immediate and the CD out now as well; vinyl due this Fall. This was my first Colour Haze record and I hold it dear. I’m looking forward to reengaging with it in the new mix for a review.

The band are also confirmed to appear at Sound of Liberation’s delayed anniversary party next year in Munich, will issue a new live album and a new remaster of We Are.

Details on all this stuff, posted individually as separate updates on social media, follow here:

Colour Haze Los Sounds de Krauts Reissue

Dear Friends,

it was a tough year for all of us.

Philipp Rasthofer left Colour Haze for personal reasons within his family. Full of gratitude we look back on 22 great years and wish Philipp and his family all the best and health.

Our longtime live-sound engineer Mario Oberpucher is the new bassist in Colour Haze. We are looking forward to playing and creating new music with Mario.

Berthold Kröker, who already mixed our first shows and tours 20 years ago, will take over from Mario behind the console.

Due to a lot of changes in personal relationships since last spring and because of the loss of our rehearsal place in Munich work became very difficult for us, but we kept being busy, created new music and pushed things in new directions.

We all are looking forward for better times to come.

More news are coming up…

Elektrohasch 001-2 Colour Haze – Los Sounds De Krauts – remixed

Finally our 2003 classic Los Sounds De Krauts is available again!

mp3 and HiRes downloads as well as the 2CD can be purchased at www.elektrohasch.de now.

The DLP can be preordered – as always also in a limited handnumbered edition of 500 copies colored vinyl – and will be delivered in autumn.

We had constant trouble with broken data of the 15 year old digital recordings. In the end original sound engineer Tim Höfer managed to get all tracks back running so I could make a new mix of the album in my studio. Only in „Where The Skies End“ I had to record the vocals of the verse again– these were lost forever – everything else is the original live recording.

All this was necessary because the original digital masters were lost or damaged as well. So there was never an option to simply repress the record. I think with the new mixes the songs are coming back to life and the vibe and character of the old recordings get across even better. The new sound comes along with a new cover by Jessica Rassi/thegiantsplap.

We have to apologize for all the confusion about our tourdates last year. Obviously many promoters wanted to keep dates as long as possible but in the end had to cancel – so we never knew which concerts are going to happen by ourselves.

For this year shows in Germany and Austria and maybe the UK are booked. Dates will be announced at www.soundofliberation.com and www.colourhaze.de asap. More European shows are upcoming for 2022. We hope so much that with vaccinations normal live shows come back soon.

Confirmed: 10. – 11. June 2022: Colour Haze at the 2-days-festival “17 Years Sound of Liberation” at Backstage, Munich
E-Tickets: www.sol-tickets.de
Hardtickets: www.sol-records.com/collections/hardtickets

Releases:

Elektrohasch 062 – Colour Haze – 2020 – Live Vol. 3

We also wanted to offer a streaming concert last year. Unfortunately, with the loss of our rehearsal room, we had additional trouble so it didn’t work out. But we recorded at the Panorama Studio Pfaffenhofen a.d.Ilm the intended set of the never happened WeAre-Tour as 360° video – sort of an insight in our rehearsals.

And we played four shows last summer of which the Freak-TV-streaming-edition of the Freak Valley Festival was recorded on multitrack. Unfortunately the sound of that stream (by the local PA rental) was far from how we actually sounded live. And even more the multitrack recordings were destroyed by strange digital distortions so I couldn‘t replace that „mix“ by my own. In the end we managed to restaurate these recordings. I will release the very nice Transformation version of the Freak-TV show together with recordings from the Panorama Session (a.o. Moon in a different new arrangement and the better live-version of Überall) on LP – sort of a retrospective on this memorable year. The CD / DVD will include the video-recordings and we offer them also as download.

The next project….

We Are remaster

In the hurry to have We Are pressed on time for the tour in march 2020 – which in the end was cancelled – I didn‘t master the record the way as I intendend and was slightly annoyed about that. So in the meantime I remasterd the album. Not a big difference but sonicly more open and fresh. The downloads and since this month the LP are already the new version. The original CD will still be on stock for some time. Don‘t be disappointed if you own the original version already – the difference is not huge.
Downloads

For an add of 5.- Euro all Colour Haze LPs are now also available with additional mp3 download at the Colour Haze / Elektrohasch webshop. There is also a package of the mp3 of all 12 available albums for 60.- Euro – also for those who already own some records and additionally would like to have the mp3.

Please understand that a mp3 download always causes extra cost by which I‘d have to raise the street-price of an LP for 5.- Euro – or I downgrade in the quality of the pressing, weight, cardboard etc. Every label who offers a „free download code“ in fact hides the extra costs one way or another. From many talks and emails with you I know that the majority still doesn‘t take great interest in an additional mp3 download. For some it‘s a nice and useful extra though I‘d of course like to give.

I still aim to deliver the best possible quality – 180gr. vinyl in a lined sleeve and a proper cover-cardboard, all printed in Germany – for a very good price. Therefore I hope I found a good solution that way for all.

I can only offer downloads for Colour Haze. With all other Elektrohasch artists I only licensed physical releases.

Last but not least…
With a lot of passion and enthusiasm I have been busy and creative and wrote the core-music for a new album which can become our best. We will find a way to work on it and intend to record this year.

COLOUR HAZE is
Stefan Koglek – guitar & vocals
Mario Oberpucher – live sound, sitar, bass
Manfred Merwald – drums

https://www.facebook.com/COLOURHAZE.official/
http://colourhaze.de/
www.elektrohasch.de
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Colour Haze, Live 2020 at sunset

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 59

Posted in Radio on May 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Don’t tell anyone — or better yet, do! — but this show turned out pretty solid. I kind of put it together following a couple whims, things I’ve wanted to put in my own head, plus some of the recent Bandcamp Friday stuff — hello Spaceslug and Geezer — and things I’ve covered here recently in Tuna de Tierra and Worshipper and Carlton Melton, etc. Then I just wanted to hear the Shogun and LáGoon tracks for myself, and I’ve been meaning to cover that White Powder record more for weeks, and then I started thinking about songs that have “mountain” in the title and decided to do a whole block of those just for the hell of it, so that’s where we wound up. Mountain climbing.

But in addition to starting off with the maddeningly catchy “It’s Already Written” by Tau and the Drones of Praise — whose Roadburn Redux stream was posted here first thing this week — this one makes a few cool turns and flows and kind of breaks up nicely from one thing to the next, even as “Mountain” gets into “Mountain” into “Longing to Be the Mountain” and “Holy Mountain” and “I’m the Mountain.” This is the sort of thing I think is fun. That’s me. That’s who I am.

Anyway, thanks for listening and/or reading. As always, I hope you enjoy.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 05.14.21

Tau and the Drones of Praise It’s Already Written Tau and the Drones of Praise
Carlton Melton Waylay Where This Leads
Spaceslug The Event Horizon The Event Horizon
VT
Worshipper Pictures of Home VA – Bow to Your Masters Vol. 2: Deep Purple
LáGoon Hill Bomb Skullactic Visions
White Powder Rula Jabreal Blue Dream
Shogun Delta Tetra
VT
Tuna de Tierra Mountain Tuna de Tierra
Colour Haze Mountain Colour Haze
King Buffalo Longing to Be the Mountain Longing to Be the Mountain
Sleep Holy Mountain Sleep’s Holy Mountain
Stoned Jesus I’m the Mountain Seven Thunders Roar
VT
Geezer Solstice Solstice

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is May 28 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ukmedsnorx.com/zopiclone
ukmedsnorx.com/zolpidem

Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

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

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

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

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

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

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

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

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

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

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

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

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

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

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

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

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

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

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

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

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

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

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

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

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

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

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

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

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

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

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

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

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

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

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

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

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

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

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

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

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

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

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

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

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

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

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

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

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

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

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

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

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

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

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

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

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

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

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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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

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

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

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

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to 2021

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

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

Thank You

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

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

More to come.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 48

Posted in Radio on December 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

2020, if you can believe it, has started to wind down. The year-end poll is up, and it’s time for the Apparently-Annual The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal’s Some of the Best of 2020 Two-Part Extravaganza Blowout Supershow How Can I Possibly Make the Title Even Longer Oh Wait I Got It: The Next Generation.

That’s right, friends and neighbors, this show and the next one — which is on frickin’ Xmas Day; love it — bring just a smattering of some of 2020’s highlights. Voice tracks and playlists are in for both episodes, and this one airs today as the first of the two-parter, acknowledging the utterly spectacular time it’s been for death-doom particularly. I guess Atramentus are doing some heavy lifting there, but to listen to that track, I think you’ll agree they’re up to the task.

Beyond that, space rock, prog-heavy, psychedelia, and good ol’ riffs pervade, thriving despite the hardest and most surreal times. If you get to listen, I very much hope you enjoy it. I’ll be in the Gimme chat if you want to say hi.

Thanks for listening and reading.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 12.11.20

Forming the Void Manifest Reverie 0:05:22
Rezn The Door Opens Chaotic Divine 0:07:33
King Buffalo Dead Star Pt. 1 & 2 Dead Star 0:16:21
VT
Big Scenic Nowhere Mirror Image Vision Beyond Horizon 0:05:41
Kind Bad Friend Mental Nudge 0:07:42
Yuri Gagarin The Outskirts of Reality The Outskirts of Reality 0:08:32
Six Organs of Admittance Two Forms Moving Companion Rises 0:04:39
Bethmoora Painted Man Thresholds 0:09:05
My Dying Bride Your Broken Shore The Ghost of Orion 0:07:43
Paradise Lost Forsaken Obsidian 0:04:30
Deathwhite A Servant Grave Image 0:04:42
Atramentus Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness) Stygian 0:16:28
VT
Colour Haze I’m With You We Are 0:07:47
Lowrider Red River Refractions 0:05:11

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Dec. 25 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

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Colour Haze Parts Ways with Bassist Philipp Rasthofer

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

This one is a real surprise. Of course, change is the nature of, well, everything. Nothing is permanent, blah blah blah, but I would’ve expected that for as long as Colour Haze existed, it would’ve done so with the lineup of Stefan Koglek, drummer Manfred Merwald and bassist Philipp Rasthofer. The latter, whose departure from the group yesterday on social media, is one of the best bass players I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch live, with a sense of class in his performance, unmistakable tone, and the quiet presence of a master on stage. As part of Colour Haze‘s core trio for — as the band notes below — the last 22 years, he’s played an essential role in defining not only their music, but the overarching course of heavy psychedelia as a whole.

To fill the role, Colour Haze are keeping it in the family in bringing aboard Mario Oberpucher as a full-time member. Oberpucher has done recording and live sound for the band for years and contributed to their albums in the past, so he’s no stranger to Colour Haze, but obviously his task has just become significantly greater. As Ripple Music embarks on a series of catalog reissues of the band’s albums — giving some proper North American distribution for the first time — it now becomes a chance to appreciate all over again the chemistry Colour Haze built in their Koglek/Rasthofer/Merwald incarnation, and to wonder what Oberpucher might bring to the mix on bass.

While we’re talking about changes, I’m not sure as to the status of organist/synthesist Jan Faszbender in Colour Haze. Also a prior contributor, Faszbender has been in the band since 2017 and made a significant mark on this year’s We Are (review here), but seems to be absent from recent lineup listings. I assume clarity will be forthcoming, if not before, then certainly with whatever new release the band puts together next.

And as regards Rasthofer, the band’s relatively brief statement follows here:

philipp-rasthofer-colour-haze-bass-(Photo-by-JJ-Koczan)

We parted ways with Philipp Rasthofer for personal reasons. We look back with gratitude on 22 great years and wish Philipp all the best for the future. Our long-time sound engineer Mario Oberpucher is the new bass player in Colour Haze. We’re really looking forward to play with Mario, creating new music and performing live again in 2021. We can’t wait to see you again!

COLOUR HAZE is
Stefan Koglek – guitar & vocals
Mario Oberpucher – live sound, sitar, bass
Manfred Merwald – drums

https://www.facebook.com/COLOURHAZE.official/
http://colourhaze.de/
www.elektrohasch.de
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Colour Haze, Live 2020 at sunset

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Colour Haze Post Full-Set Concert Video; Sept. Live Dates Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

colour haze live somewhere

Dear Colour Haze: Any time you want to go ahead and put this set out as a live album, that’ll be just fine, thank you. Mix it down and make it all nice if you must, but I’d happily take it bootleg-style too. Whatever works. Thanks as always.

Okay, so, what do we learn here? Well, as the Munich-based godfathers of European heavy psychedelia play through a killer and apparently socially-distanced set of classics new and old — yes I mean that — and announce two limited-ticket shows for next month in Germany, they’re also standing on the precipice of beginning a series of catalog reissues through Ripple Music that will give some of their albums proper North American distribution for the first time. That would seem to be plenty. But what we learn here, in this video specifically, is that the band would seem to be back to its trio configuration: bassist Philipp Rasthofer, drummer Manfred Merwald (who got a haircut since last I saw the band) and guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek.

The lesson there is kind of the opposite of what we’ve been learning over the last couple years since the band brought in formerly-part-time organist/synthesist Jan Faszbender in as a full-fledged fourth member. That was seeing what new dynamic emerged as keys of various sorts fleshed out melodies of older songs. Now it’s seeing how they manage a return to their root elements. You’ll note that among the seven songs they play, none are from most recent LP, 2020’s We Are (review here), but instead they launch with the massive jams in “Skydancer” from 2017’s In Her Garden (review here) and “Überall” from the preceding 2014 album To the Highest Gods We Know (review here).

It gets dark magically before they launch into “Labyrinthe,” but the song is plenty warm enough for the assembled, particularly as it moves into “Transformation” from 2012’s She Said (review here) and “Love” from their 2004 self-titled (discussed here) and the title-track of 2006’s Tempel (discussed here) ahead of the finale “Get it On,” which dips even further back, to 2000’s CO2. The video is a single-camera shot, or at least one at a time, since it does move at least once when it gets dark — they play “Labyrinthe” and “Transformation” largely in silhouette, by lamplight — but the sound is fantastic, especially for the instruments, and their jams are perhaps even more hypnotic with the camera holding still as it does, much as one might be awestruck seeing them play live for the first time on a stack. It’s like being slackjawed in virtual reality.

I don’t know where the “show” was, or when, but I know that when Colour Haze did the Freak Valley-sponsored Freak TV stream in June, Faszbender was still with them, so that change would have to be pretty recent. Maybe it’s a permanent thing, or maybe he just had something else to do that day. No idea. But 80 minutes of live Colour Haze is I think probably the best thing that’s going to happen today, so here it is.

Enjoy:

Colour Haze, Live 2020 at sunset

One of the few shows this year.
Color Haze played live like the bands in the 70s.
In addition to the band’s well-known tube amplifiers, there also was an all-tube PA used here.

0:00 Skydancer
17:20 Ueberall
25:17 Labyrinthe
33:40 Transformation
49:09 Love
57:56 Tempel
1:07:42 Get it on

Colour Haze September shows:
26.09 Aschaffenburg DE Colos-Saal
27.09 Dortmund DE Junkyard (Open Air)

Manfred Merwald – Schlagzeug
Philipp Rasthofer – Bass
Stefan Koglek – Gitarre, Gesang
Mario Oberpucher – Live Sound
Martin Zimmermann – Kamera, Schnitt

Colour Haze website

Colour Haze on Thee Facebooks

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Instagram

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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