Doom & Brews III Lineup Announced; Yatra & Book of Wyrms to Headline

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

DOOM & BREWS III BANNER

Good bill here. I assure you, I’m just about the last person you want to ask concerning anything to do with craft beer — even when I drank I was never that cool — but band-wise, you’ve got a lineup for Doom and Brews III that spans a decent portion of the Eastern Seaboard from the Mid-Atlantic up into New England and beyond. Indianapolis’ Void King will travel the farthest, while Yatra, from Maryland, and Book of Wyrms, from Richmond, Virginia, are set to headline, and alongisde Connecticut natives Curse the Son, Pinto Graham, Afghan Haze, Entierro, Bone Church and Mourn the Light, Clamfight, Thunderbird Divine, The Age of Truth and Almost Honest will be up from PA and Mother Iron Horse and Conclave come south from Massachusetts. Mark it a win.

Goes without saying that everything in existence is tentative, but here’s hoping this one happens. If you’ve been sitting on tickets for the affiliated New England Stoner & Doom Fest 3, you get in free here as well, so, you know, bonus.

Tickets on sale Aug. 6. Here’s info:

doom and brews iii lineup

SCENE PRODUCTIONS and SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS are extremely excited to announce the full lineup for DOOM & BREWS III

Altones Music Hall (Jewett City, CT)

November 12 & 13 marks the return of the infamous New England tradition DOOM & BREWS, a gathering of heavy riffs and amazing craft beers… this is an event not to be missed!

2 Days of some of the Best Doom bands in the Northeast & some of the Best Beer New England has to offer!

ATTENTION NESDF3 TICKETHOLDERS!!!!!!

If you purchased tickets to NESDF3 before 2021, you will be on guest list at the door as a thank you for your support and patience.

LINEUP:
Friday, Nov. 12:
Yatra, Bone Church, Mother Iron Horse, Entierro, Thunderbird Divine, Mourn the Light, Almost Honest

Saturday, Nov. 13:
Book of Wyrms, Curse the Son, Conclave, Clamfight, The Age of Truth, Void King, Pinto Graham, Afghan Haze

Tickets go on sale Aug 6th
https://www.newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com/buy-tickets

https://www.facebook.com/events/altones-music-hall/doom-brews-iii/843747549822354/
https://www.facebook.com/Altonesmusichall
https://www.newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com/

Yatra, All is Lost (2020)

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

Buzzard Canyon to Release Drunken Tales of an Underachiever… The Saga Continues on Argonauta Records

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

Hey guess what? Here’s a thing that was announced in Spring 2020 and the plan changed! Please, I beg you, try to contain your surprise.

When word first came down of Buzzard Canyon‘s cumbersomely-titled second album, Drunken Tales of an Underachiever… The Saga Continues, it was set to release through Salt of the Earth Records, presumably sometime before the end of the year. Now, the Connecticut-based heavy rock troupe have signed to Argonauta and I can’t imagine it’ll be out before the end of 2021, given pressing plant delays, surging variants and all the rest of it.

But a record exists and will be out sooner or later, so the news, ultimately, is good, if not uncomplicated. I’ll hope to have more on it before release. PR wire has the signing announcement:

buzzard canyon

BUZZARD CANYON Signs To Argonauta Records For Release Of Brand New Album!

The sixty cycle hum of tube amplifiers meets hard driving rhythms and bombastic beats while bluesy, swirling dual male and female lead vocals guide the listener through a rawkus off road journey of down and dirty rock and roll! Connecticut’s BUZZARD CANYON have announced their worldwide signing with Italy’s powerhouse label Argonauta Records for the release of the band’s sophomore album, entitled Drunken Tales Of An Underachiever…The Saga Continues.

“It took us a while to start and finish this record, and at the end.. we weren’t sure it would see the light of day,“ says vocalist/guitarist Aaron Lewis. “But, with great thanks to Gero and Argonauta Records, Drunken Tales of an Underachiever will hit the shelves! We are honored to be on the label and ready to rock!“

BUZZARD CANYON began their journey as a band in 2013. The inspiration was simple: “To play some in your face rock n’ roll and most of all, have fun while doing it!” The term “Camaro Rock” was quickly adopted and sums up their style just perfectly: Picture yourself with a jean jacket, mullet, driving an early 80’s Camaro, pumping your fist as you roar down a desert road with the radio at full volume. The band have been amassing a loyal following by delivering massive riffs and gigging tirelessly. BUZZARD CANYON has performed on notable stoner and doom fests throughout the U.S. and Canada and played direct support slots for multiple national acts.

October 2016 saw the band’s critically acclaimed debut release Hellfire & Whiskey on Salt Of The Earth Records. After spending the next few years performing live in support of the release, the band started to write and demo new material, but due being in isolation with the rest of the world during the Covid-19 pandemic, they were forced to sit tight on their second full- length. Recorded once again at Studio SevenZeroEight with Aaron Lewis at the production and engineering helm, Drunken Tales Of An Underachiever…The Saga Continues will see worldwide release through Italy’s Argonauta Records soon. Watch out for many more details and first tunes to follow in the weeks ahead, as BUZZARD CANYON stands poised to unleash their low down greasy, grimy brand of rock n’ roll mayhem upon the world!

Buzzard Canyon is:
Amber Leigh: vocals & percussion
Aaron Lewis: vocals & guitar
Mike Parkyn: guitar
Matt Raftery: drums
Rob Birkbeck: bass

https://www.facebook.com/BuzzardCanyon/
https://buzzardcanyon.bandcamp.com/
www.instagram.com/buzzard_canyon_band
www.argonautarecords.com

Buzzard Canyon, “Ashes” official video

Tags: , , ,

Entierro Premiere “The Past” Lyric Video from El Camazotz EP

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 27th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

entierro

Entierro release their new EP, El Camazotz, on June 18. At this point, I’ve covered the Connecticut-based metallers for the better part of seven years, going back to the cassette (or k7, if you prefer) of their self-titled EP in 2014, and to be perfectly honest with you, I’ve never really felt like they were a “fit” with the site. Even on El Camazotz, you can hear in the title-track, the riffs are sharp-edged, turning at angles with purpose between the verse and chorus, aggressive. Linear. Adversarial. They back that up with a Judas Priest cover, by the way. So yeah, it’s heavy metal. Heavy metal enough that both Christopher Begnal and Victor Arduini (the latter also of Arduini/Balich) are listed as lead guitarists, and even heavy metal enough that it’s true.

But while “heavy metal” has never really been what this site’s been about, I guess I’m just a sucker for it sometimes, and Entierro fit that bill. El Camazotz, before it gets to that take on “Call for the Priest,” entierro el camazotzbrings four originals in “The Penance,” “The Tower” and “The Past,” the latter of which you can hear premiering in a lyric video below. It’s the centerpiece, the shortest cut at just under five minutes — everything else is a bit over that line, totaling six tracks/26 minutes for the EP — and the catchiest of the bunch, and though there’s a certain letting-loose happening in the cover tune, “The Past” brings into emphasis the band’s own songwriting prowess, with guitar solos used in classic dramatic fashion atop choice riffs, vocalist/bassist Christopher Beaudette (who’s apparently also in Jasta? oh, Connecticut underground, you’re so weird) smoothing out some of the gruffer style in his voice as compares to “The Penance,” which jabs its central riff in an opening aggro showcase. It’s classic hook-’em-and-hold-’em fare either way, and Entierro do it well, propelled by the gallop of Dave Parmelee‘s drums all the while.

The title-track follows the three “The…” cuts, and I suppose is another one if you put it through translation. The title refers to the human/bat creature out of Mesoamerican mythology that has been the subject of many, many clickbait pieces claiming to have unearthed the secret origins of Batman. Yes, we know. And Superman is a Golem. No shit. In Entierro‘s hands, the subject is granted more substance, as well as a mid-tempo chug that’s nothing if not a suitable lead-in for the cover that rounds out as well as a reinforcement of the EP’s intentions in renewing the aggression of the “The Penance” and “The Tower” behind it. It is a short release, but Entierro clearly put thought into its construction, and in following 2018’s self-titled full-length (discussed here), the band’s wholehearted embrace of their roots filters smoothly through their own craft methodology and only suits them. If you’ve ever raised horns in earnest, they’d like to have a word.

Video follows here. Please enjoy:

Entierro, “The Past” lyric video premiere

Pre-order
https://entierro.bandcamp.com/album/el-camazotz

Lyric Video from their 2021 ep “El Camazotz.”

Connecticut’s Entierro release their long awaited follow-up to their 2018 Self-titled full length on June 18th. Entitled El Camazotz, after the Mayan bat god associated with night, death and sacrifice, the five song EP represents a new chapter in the story of the band. Recorded just prior to the pandemic at Studio Wormwood in Northeastern Connecticut under the engineering mastery of Dave Kaminsky, the songs harken back to the NWOBHM and traditional heavy metal bands that they grew up listening to. This also marks the first truly collaborative effort with former Fates Warning guitarist Victor Arduini, who had joined the band just prior to the recording of their 2018 full length.

On this release, he was an integral part of the writing process working alongside vocalist/bassist Christopher Beaudette (Jasta, NightBitch,) drummer Dave Parmelee (One Master) and second guitarist Christopher Begnal making it a much more definitive presentation of their creative vision. Together, Entierro is solidifying their ability to create songs that manifest the crushing sound that they hope metalheads can continually find inspiration in.

Track Listing
1. The Penance
2. The Tower
3. The Past
4. El Camazotz
5. Call for the Priest [Judas Priest cover]

Album Credits: Mixed and Engineered by Dave Kaminsky at Wormwood Studios, Mansfield, CT. Album Artwork by Maxwell Aston Art. Mastered by Nick Zampiello of New Alliance East Mastering.

Entierro are:
Christopher Beaudette – Vocals/Bass
Christopher Begnal – Lead Guitar
Victor Arduini – Lead Guitar
Dave Parmelee – Drums

Entierro on Thee Facebooks

Entierro on Instagram

Entierro on Bandcamp

Tags: , , , , ,

Mourn the Light Premiere “When the Fear Subsides” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

mourn the light

Connecticut metallurgical specialists Mourn the Light will release their debut album, Suffer, Then We’re Gone, later this year through Argonauta Records. Preorders start today from the label, and below you can see the video premiere of “When the Fear Subsides,” chosen as the first single from the record. Like the band itself, it is refreshingly without pretense. It features the five-piece on stage — at Altone’s Music Hall in Jewett City, CT, which also happens to host the New England Stoner and Doom Fest, which was co-founded by Mourn the Light guitarist/backing vocalist Dwayne Eldredge — diligently delivering the track as they might on any given evening in an alternate reality where such things happened. “When the Fear Subsides” was in fact posted by Mourn the Light as a single last Fall, and fair enough since the record was tracked last summer and isn’t coming out until at least this one. A year’s a long time for a band to sit on a debut release when they can’t play shows. The track “Blink of an Eye,” which appears on Suffer, Then We’re Gone, also showed up earlier in 2020.

As for the album, it runs a working-man’s 54 minutes (bonus track included), and filters classic metal of varying eras — there’s NWOBHM shred in Mourn the Light Suffer Then Were Gone“Take Your Pain Away,” but I’d be deeply surprised to find out that no one in the lineup of Eldredge, vocalist, Andrew Stachelek, guitarist Kieran Beaty, bassist Bill Herrick and drummer/video-director Kyle Hebner is a Life of Agony fan — and as the opening track, “When the Fear Subsides” sets the tone thematically as well as sonically for the rest of what follows, full and crisp in its sound, but duly thick to be strung through a doomier filter, but not shy about throwing in the odd acoustic part or keyboard flourish — neither is out of place in the leadoff. “I Bare the Scars” and “Take Your Pain Away” answer back with due vitality and Suffer, Then We’re Gone redoes the opener of the band’s 2018 EP, Weight of the World, in “End of Times (2020 Version)” before digging into the broader-reaching centerpiece “Suffer, Then You’re Gone,” a gentler start referring back to the more subdued stretches of “When the Fear Subsides,” before slower tempos and harsh screaming vocals take hold and play back and forth with a more chugging progression.

Another subdued stretch bookends and “Refuse to Fall” kicks in with what might be the most purely classic metal riff on the album, worthy of its determined, fist-in-the-air lyric, where “Progeny of Pain” brings its own Priestism to a jabbing resolution that feels like it’s about to fall of the rails before turning back to the more forward gallop. “Wisdom Bestowed” is more epic in structure — acoustics and keys return — and there’s a vocal interplay happening as it heads toward the midsection that’s a standout as they push the dynamic into back-and-forths before capping with due vigor, letting the bonus track serve as an epilogue whose melodic richness is its own excuse for the inclusion, despite pulling back from the structure of Suffer, Then We’re Gone in the sense of how Mourn the Light have organized the album with “When the Fear Subsides,” “Suffer, Then You’re Gone,” and “Wisdom Bestowed” as landmarks. One way or the other, they are not lacking for impact, be it in melody or otherwise, on this initial full-length offering.

But, since “When the Fear Subsides” is the first of those landmarks, it makes all the more sense that it should be the first impression of Suffer, Then We’re Gone to hit public consciousness. Accordingly, here’s the video.

Enjoy:

Mourn the Light, “When the Fear Subsides” official video premiere

 

The first track from the 2021 full length album “Suffer, Then We’re Gone” by Mourn the Light on Argonauta Records.

Video directed by Kyle Hebner and Dwayne Eldredge
Video shot by Kyle Hebner and Daniel Jackson
Video Editing by Kyle Hebner
Filmed at Altone’s Music Hall in Jewett City, CT

When the Fear Subsides was recorded at Studio Wormwood in Mansfield, CT
Produced, Mixed, and Engineered by Dave Kaminsky
Mastered by Ryan Williams at Augmented Audio in LA

Guest Appearance on Keyboards by Alex Newton (Dzo-nga, Wake of Sirens)

Mourn the Light is:
Andrew Stachelek – Vocals
Dwayne Eldredge – Guitars
Kieran Beaty – Guitars
Bill Herrick – Bass
Kyle Hebner – Drums

Mourn the Light on Thee Facebooks

Mourn the Light on Instagram

Mourn the Light on Bandcamp

Mourn the Light website

Argonauta Records website

Tags: , , , ,

When the Deadbolt Breaks Sign to Argonauta Records; As Hope Valley Burns Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 13th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I would not want to be the party responsible for scheduling releases at Argonauta Records. The Italian label seems to add more to its plate bi-weekly, and we’re not talking about insubstantial offerings either. Connecticut’s When the Deadbolt Breaks are a veteran act at this point. Their most recent studio album, 2018’s Angels Are Weeping… God Has Abandoned… (review here), came out through Desert Records, and they followed it last year with a remix-ified take on the prior 2016 EP, Until it All Collides (discussed here), pushing their murdersludge penchant to places it had never gone before. Their new album is called As Hope Valley Burns, and it’ll be released later this year as their first offering through Argonauta.

As one would expect from them at this point, it is a consuming multi-genre affair, some 77 minutes long, unremitting in its darkness of atmosphere and overarching threat of violence even in its most melodic moments. To mark the occasion of the signing announcement, the and have posted “The Crushing Weight of the Sun,” for which you can see the video at the bottom of this post. Just be ready to feel like you’re lost in the woods.

Info from the PR wire:

when the deadbolt breaks

WHEN THE DEADBOLT BREAKS Signs With Argonauta Records For Release Of Brand New Album Coming In 2021!

For over fifteen years, New England’s When The Deadbolt Breaks has lurked in the dark corners of underground metal. With a doom style both psychedelic and unsettling, their music has been labeled many things -heavy, daunting, overwhelming, unnerving- while the band is singer/guitarist Aaron Lewis’s gritty vision of life on the subcultural fringes of New England society. Following five highly acclaimed studio records, a split and a remix album to date, When The Deadbolt Breaks has announced their worldwide signing with Italy’s powerhouse label Argonauta Records, who will proudly release the band’s forthcoming album, entitled As Hope Valley Burns, during 2021!

“We are extremely excited to release this record worldwide with Argronauta Records and see where the future takes us,” Lewis comments. “Argronauta has been very welcoming and has a massive reach around the world. We feel that this is going to be a long a exciting journey!”

For more than a decade the Connecticut-based trio has carved a niche for themselves within the interplay of extreme genres. They are no less at home in grind than they are in pummeling sludge or ambient soundscaping, casting forth triumphant riffs or proffering murder-dirge nods at a volume level that can only be considered violent. When The Deadbolt Breaks have always struck a balance between the ugly and beauty: long compositions wade through detuned, discordant, and murky sludge before shifting into melodic ambient space rock territories, and back again. It’s not hard to see that cinema is often what informs Lewis’s songwriting: the grueling discomfort of E. Elias Merhige or surreality of David Lynch have provided as much inspiration as his musical influences.

Give ear, as When The Deadbolt Breaks‘ has just unleashed a first album sneak peak with a video clip for the heavy as hell track “The Crushing Weight of the Sun”, watch it right here:

The band is no stranger to the stage, having played the SXSW, New England Stoner & Doom Fest, and toured the southwest in 2018. As the pandemic recedes, the trio looks forward to bringing Lewis’s dark vision back to the stage, unleashing As Hope Valley Burns on unsuspecting and often unprepared audiences. “This album is a unique one for When The Deadbolt Breaks. We have pushed our boundaries sonically,” Lewis reveals. “The heavy is heavier, and the mellow, spacial parts are even more so. Akin to our first few records, we have returned to more aggressive drumming, and psychedelic spaces, yet this record has a certain depth and maturity to it that was missing in the past.”

As Hope Valley Burns is slated for a release during 2021 through Argonauta Records, with many more album details, pre-order info and songs to follow in the weeks ahead. They have also been added to the bill of this years’ Maryland Doom Fest.

https://www.facebook.com/WhentheDeadboltBreaks/
https://whenthedeadboltbreaks.bandcamp.com/
www.argonautarecords.com
www.facebook.com/argonautarecords

When the Deadbolt Breaks, “The Crushing Weight of the Sun” official video

When the Deadbolt Breaks, Until it All Collides: The Nightmare Versions (2020)

Tags: , , , ,

Mourn the Light Announce Suffer, Then We’re Gone to be Released on Argonauta

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

mourn the light

The title of the forthcoming full-length debut from Connecticut traditionalist doom metallers Mourn the Light reminds me of something my dear mother used to tell me. She said: “Life sucks then you die.” Suffer, Then We’re Gone, which the five-piece will issue through Argonauta Records, would seem to carry much the same spirit in its general perspective, and fair enough. The band released their split with Oxblood Forge (review here) in 2019 and followed in 2020 by posting a couple tracks that, like the forthcoming long-player, were recorded by Dave Kaminsky at Studio Wormwood in Mansfield, CT. Whether or not they’ll feature on the album, I don’t know, but they’re on Bandcamp for the time being and you can hear one of the two — “When the Fear Subsides” — at the bottom of this post.

It’s the kind of doom that makes you say “doom on,” so yeah, do that.

From the PR wire:

mourn the light suffer then were gone

MOURN THE LIGHT Sign To Argonauta Records And Share First Teaser From Upcoming Album

US heavy doomsters MOURN THE LIGHT have inked a worldwide record deal with Italy’s powerhouse label Argonauta Records, who will proudly release the band’s first full-length album during 2021.

MOURN THE LIGHT was formed in early 2018 by Dwayne Eldredge, co-founder of The New England Stoner and Doom Festival. Driven by his passion for thunderous, traditional doom metal mixed with lofty progressive metal leanings, Dwayne was hell-bent on creating a band that could sonically push a message of hope in spite of despair.

Following on their highly acclaimed 2019- debut EP, touring the US and Canada including festival appearances at Stoner Jam 19 (during SXSW) or the second New England Stoner and Doom Festival, MOURN THE LIGHT returned to the studio to record their first album. Entitled Suffer, Then We’re Gone, the band’s debut album has a plethora of influences showcased, yet made all their own. At one moment, MOURN THE LIGHT delivers crushingly massive riffs, only to jump at the next turn, galloping along with shades of classic power metal taking hold and leading the way — all the while focused on incredibly memorable songs, with catchy hooks and sing-along choruses.

Suffer, Then We’re Gone features nine epic yet heavy as hell tracks, recorded by Dave Kaminsky at Studio Wormwood, and will most likely see MOURN THE LIGHT step out as one of North America’s best kept underground secrets, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon…

“Our debut album “Suffer, Then We’re Gone” is the culmination of hard work and determination to create something meaningful and special to us.” Says guitarist Dwayne Eldredge. “We have grown as a band so much over the last couple years and we think it really shows in our latest work. We are a metal family working together on our heavy metal legacy and we are proud to be working with Gero and Argonauta Records. We can’t wait to see what the future holds. Looking forward to getting out on the stage again soon….”

So better buckle up, take a ride with MOURN THE LIGHT, and stay tuned for many more album details to be revealed in the weeks ahead!

www.facebook.com/MournTheLight
www.mournthelight.bandcamp.com
www.mournthelight.com
www.instagram.com/mourn_the_light
www.argonautarecords.com

Mourn the Light, “When the Fear Subsides”

Mourn the Light, Suffer, Then We’re Gone teaser

Tags: , , , ,

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jessie May of Turkey Vulture, Owl Maker, MetalheadMoney, Alternative Control, and More

Posted in Questionnaire on February 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

jessie-may

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Jessie May of Turkey Vulture, Owl Maker, AltCtrlCT, and More

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

Defining what I do is the hard part. I enjoy writing and music, and do bit of both. My illustrious writing career began in middle school with an “underground newsletter” of dirty jokes called The Funky Chicken. (Apparently my bird obsession goes back a long way too.) Right now I edit the blogs Alternative Control and Metalhead Money, and do some freelance copywriting on the side. I also self-published a book about personal finance last year, called Money Hacks for Metalheads and Old Millennials. I came to do that through a lot of research, personal screw-ups, and some extra time on my hands due to the pandemic.

Re: music… My most active band right now is Turkey Vulture, where I play guitar and sing. My husband Jim plays drums. I like to think of us as a really loud Americana band, but there are influences from doom, punk, and 80s metal as well. Turkey Vulture’s journey started about twelve years ago when I joined Jim’s band Pink Missile. Several bands, a marriage, and one baby boy later, here we are!

Bass is my main instrument, or at least the one I’m decent at playing. I’m on “maternity leave” from a folk band called The Shoutbacks and I’m also the bassist of Owl Maker, who I hope will come out of hibernation once all this pandemic stuff is over.

Describe your first musical memory.

Probably hearing that song “I’ve Been Working on the Railroad,” as a nursery rhyme or something.

I also remember singing along to the Allman Brothers and Vanilla Ice cassettes in my dad’s truck!

Describe your best musical memory to date.

My best musical memory is a recent one: Jim and I made a playlist for the hospital to listen to during our son’s arrival. The playlist ended up being longer than the entire labor and delivery process lol… One highlight was hearing “Faithless” by Social Distortion in the delivery room shortly after our son was born, which was our wedding song.

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

I can’t think of a specific time, but I remember thinking during my first marriage (which ended in divorce), “Gee, this is a lot harder than it looks!”

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Speaking for myself, I’ve gotten more comfortable advocating for my own musical ideas. I no longer need other band members to confirm for me that a riff or something is “cool” — not that I want to run a band dictatorship lol, but it feels good to have more confidence.

On the other hand, my “artistic progression” of playing in basement metal bands also means I’m rusty at things like reading sheet music.

How do you define success?

Music-wise, I think success is creating something that connects with your audience and communicates a story or feeling to them. And if people like it enough to buy it, even better!

In broader terms, success is spending your time in a meaningful way and making your corner of the world a better place — whether that’s through your relationships, job, art, or all of the above.

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

I wish I could erase thousands of crime show episodes from my memory; I think they have made me distrustful and even paranoid about certain things. But on the other hand, there are a lot of disturbed people out there — and my aim is to avoid running into them.

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

Welp, Turkey Vulture has another five or six songs we could possibly record. Jim and I have talked about giving it a try this summer if we can wrangle the cost and scheduling. Until then, it’s gonna be all home-recorded GarageBand demos!

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

To communicate ideas and feelings.

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

Watching our baby grow! And hopefully adding a little brother or sister to the lineup. ;)

https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08GBCGVXS?ref_=pe_3052080_276849420
https://www.facebook.com/turkeyvultureband/
https://turkeyvulture.bandcamp.com/
https://www.alternativecontrolct.com/
https://www.metalheadmoney.com/
https://www.facebook.com/owlmakermetal/
https://www.instagram.com/owlmakermetal/
https://owlmaker.bandcamp.com

Turkey Vulture, Tummy Time (2021)

Tags: , , ,

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.

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