Jason Simon to Release A Venerable Wreck May 22; Streaming “The Same Dream”

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

jason simon

Now we’re talkin’, but the catch is we’re talkin’ in a language only aliens can understand. Jason Simon of Dead Meadow will issue his first solo LP since 2016’s Familiar Haunts (review here) on May 22 through Chile’s BYM Records. Titled A Venerable Wreck, the record is advanced by the banjo-based “The Same Dream,” which is… just gorgeous. It’s just gorgeous. Clean out your ears and take a listen. Really. I could go on and on about what Dead Meadow have contributed to psych-gaze over the years, or how I dug Simon‘s last record and the Old Mexico self-titled (review here) he was a part of that came out last year on Cardinal Fuzz, but it’s more important that you spend your next three-plus minutes listening to the track, so whatever, just go do that. It’s at the bottom of the post, like always.

Some PR wire info to read while you listen, preorder link included:

jason simon a venerable wreck

JASON SIMON: A VENERABLE WRECK LP OUT ON 5/22

NEW TRACK THE SAME DREAM

Anachronistic troubadour, Jason Simon has announced the release of a new solo album for May 22nd. A Venerable Wreck will be released on LP/Digi via Chilean label, BYM Records (Föllakzoid, Chicos de Nazca, The Ganjas). With this announcement is the leak of first single The Same Dream which is a bucolic dose of lysergic Americana mainly composed of Simon’s banjo-picking and voice.

Speaking on the track (which he has already been playing in live shows recently) he said The Same Dream was written on a banjo where I’ve attached a 60’s gold foil pickup to the head allowing it to be amplified in way akin to an electric guitar and using a tuning I picked from the likes of Clarence Ashley and Dock Boggs. Lyrically the song investigates our shared delusions inherent in the concept of endless economic growth.

Though Simon has explored the amplified range of psychedelia for the past two decades fronting Dead Meadow, his solo material is used for the exploration of intimate and stripped-back music that touches upon country-tinged Psych-folk and more avant-garde moments. While it’s mostly Simon on the record, a circle of musicians including Nate Ryan of The Warlocks and Mark Laughlin, his band-mate in Dead Meadow were brought in to add their ingredients to a melting pot of arrangements.

Album pre-order: http://bymrecords.com/releases/148

https://www.facebook.com/DeadMeadowOfficial/
https://jasonsimon.bandcamp.com/releases
http://deadmeadowstore.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BYMrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/BYMrecords/
https://bymrecords.com/

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Stoned and Dusted 2020 Announces Lineup with Corrosion of Conformity, Los Dug Dugs, Masters of Reality, Brant Bjork, Earthless & Many More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

stoned and dusted 2020 banner

So let me get this out of the way and say that the whole friggin’ Stoned and Dusted 2020 lineup is incredible. Kudos to the California Desert Wizards Association, which is the mysterious entity putting on the festival out in the Mojave, both at Pappy and Harriet’s and in the open air itself, taking place outside with camping and all the rest of it. Whole thing, great job. Okay. But seriously, at the first night of the thing, they’ve got Los Dug Dugs from Mexico City playing, and if you’ve never dug-dug into their stuff, it’s yet another lost classic of the heavy ’70s that’s begging to be heard. That’s an impressive get through and through. Nicely done.

Now, onto the rest. Yawning ManBrant BjorkCorrosion of ConformityMasters of RealityDead MeadowEarthlessMos GeneratorBig Scenic Nowhere, The Well. The inclusion of all of the last three I assume means that Tony Reed of Mos Generator and Ian Graham and Lisa Alley of The Well will take part in the Big Scenic Nowhere set — could be a package tour in the making there — and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect Mario Lalli might be on hand to play bass either, as Yawning Man will be playing the first night.

Toss in Hippie Death CultHelms AleeThe Heavy EyesBALAJesika von RabbitSean WheelerHammer of the Ozz and a few more TBA, not to mention Mad Alchemy doing the lights, and you’ve got a three-night desert party that’s very, very clearly going to be something special for those fortunate enough to be there to witness it.

To that end, tickets go on sale Saturday, as per the PR wire:

STONED AND DUSTED 2020 LINEUP

Yeah buddy! Here it comes again! Are you ready?! Finally the scoop on this year’s Stoned and Dusted party, brought to you by your California Desert Wizards Association.

In 2020 we have THREE NIGHTS of fun: Friday May 22nd; Saturday May 23rd; and Sunday May 24th.

STONED AND DUSTED WELCOME PARTY: On Friday May 22 we have a very special lineup at California’s most famous cantina, Pappy & Harriet’s. Friday’s show is on the indoor stage and we are proud to present 1970’s psych legends from Mexico City, Los Dug Dugs, with desert legends Yawning Man and more TBA.

STONED AND DUSTED ROADHOUSE: On Saturday May 23 we are doing it up again at Pappy & Harriet’s Pioneertown Palace (outside stage), our favorite dusty, desert roadhouse. Pack your earplugs, rolling papers and bring a designated driver for this insane lineup: Corrosion of Conformity, Masters of Reality, Brant Bjork, Helms Alee, BALA and a late show inside from Jesika von Rabbit.

STONED AND DUSTED CAMPOUT: On Sunday May 24 we invite you to a generator party – a Memorial Day concert, cookout and campout at a secret desert location. You can camp on site and party with your friends and fellow desert wizards late into the night. The boulders are there; we are bringing the rock! Dead Meadow, Earthless, Big Scenic Nowhere, The Well, The Heavy Eyes, Mos Generator, Sean Wheeler Y Los Caminos, Hippie Death Cult and Hammer of the Ozz. The Mad Alchemy Liquid Light Show will light up the desert once again this year.

General on-sale begins late this Saturday night, Feb 8, around midnight into Sunday morning. Go to our website and join our email list for more information.

STONED AND DUSTED PRE-PARTY $22
STONED AND DUSTED ROADHOUSE $60
STONED AND DUSTED CAMPOUT $230

For the STONED AND DUSTED CAMPOUT, we also offer a camping gear add-on for those who can’t fly with a tent and want to camp out under desert skies.

https://www.facebook.com/StonedandDusted/
https://www.instagram.com/stonedanddusted
www.StonedAndDusted.com
http://www.californiadesertwizardsassociation.com/

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Desertfest NYC 2020 Makes First Lineup Announcement with Corrosion of Conformity, Conan, Stoned Jesus and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Desertfest New York 2020 has made its first lineup announcement, with Corrosion of Conformity, Stoned Jesus, Bongzilla, Dead Meadow, Conan, Crypt Trip, Yatra, Toke, Leather Lung, R.I.P., Huntsmen, High Reeper and The Atomic Bitchwax confirmed. That’s a first North American appearance for Stoned Jesus, and I’ll be honest, I was gonna show up anyway after being there for the inaugural Desertfest NYC this past Spring, but even if I wasn’t, that would be enough to get me on board. Throwing in C.O.C.Dead MeadowConan and The Atomic Bitchwax, along with Bongzilla and, well, everybody, is a righteous bonus. One way or another, you got me early with this one, Desertfest. The calendar was marked. I’ll mark it again just to be safe.

Early-bird tickets are gone, but regular-type tickets are on sale now.

Just off the PR wire:

DESERTFEST NEW YORK REVEALS FIRST ACTS FOR 2ND EDITION TAKING PLACE SEPTEMBER 2020

DESERTFEST NYC 2020 11th – 13th September 2020 | Brooklyn, NY, USA

– TICKETS NOW ON SALE –
http://www.desertfest.nyc

Desetrfest returns to Brooklyn in September 2020, after a wildly successful first edition in April 2019 the globally renowned stoner and doom event solidifies its position in the U.S.A. Adding an additional day at Bushwick venue, The Well from Friday 11th – Sunday 13th September, whilst moving its already cult status pre-party at Saint Vitus Bar to Thursday night. Early-birds have sold out already, but regular 3-day & 4-day passes are now on sale, as the first 13 bands are announced for the second celebration of underground heavy music.

Desertfest NYC is pleased to welcome genre defining legends CORROSION OF CONFORMITY to proceedings, the masters of Southern boogie will bring their signature stomp and impeccable live show to The Well in September 2020. After the recent loss of founding member Reed Mullin, we can’t wait to show C.O.C some serious Desertfest love.

Joining C.O.C across the weekend will be psychedelic stoners DEAD MEADOW, dreamy trips into a galaxy of guitar laden fuzz and the melodic drawl of frontman Jason Simon puts the band in a league of their own when it comes to genre-bending rock’n’roll.
Making the trip from further afield we are pleased to welcome long-time friends of the Desertfest clan, Liverpool’s most revered doom band of the modern age, the battle-hammer of CONAN will make a mighty blow upon New York with the uttermost ferocity. Britain seems like the town next door compared to the distant lands of Ukraine, where STONED JESUS will make the pilgrimage for their long-awaited American debut at DF NYC. Heavily regarded as one of the leading bands in the stoner/doom scene in Eastern Europe, the bands defiant anthem ‘I’m the Mountain’ is close to perfection in eyes, and ears, across the globe.

After their unfortunate tour cancellation in 2019, we are pleased to welcome back riff-centric power trio THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX for a high octane set of thunder-boogie. Some of our favourite people to get loose with, Wisconsin premier party-starters BONGZILLA will fire off a sativa induced bacchanal of sludge. Street-walkin’ sleaze demons R.I.P have honed a sound, look and attitude that is entirely their own and will make no apologies or explanations for how utterly crushing it is. Whatever’s in the water in North Carolina seems to cultivate some of our favourite sounds and you’re damn right in thinking that includes TOKE, old-school 70’s worship comes in the form of doom metal quartet HIGH REEPER – a band who repeatedly turn our heads with their unique take on breaking new ground. Speaking of new ground, Americana doom pioneers HUNTSMEN have grabbed our attention with their fresh take on metal, an exceptional blend of Springsteen-equse melodies with crushing heaviness makes an otherworldly combo. Finally, to round off this excellent first reveal, we’re pleased to play host to the superb, CRYPT TRIP, YATRA and LEATHER LUNG.

3-day passes (The Well only) and 4-day passes which includes access to the pre-party at Saint Vitus, are on sale NOW via THIS LINK

https://facebook.com/events/2433172340128497
https://www.ticketweb.com/event/desertfest-nyc-2020-the-well-tickets/10315455
https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_nyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

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Psycho Las Vegas 2019 Full Lineup Revealed; Megadeth, Opeth & Electric Wizard Headline

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

psycho las vegas 2019 logo

Megadeth, Opeth and Electric Wizard headlining. Performances from the likes of Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Mark Lanegan to Carcass and The FaintHigh on Fire and The Crazy World of Arthur BrownTruckfighters and Fu Manchu and Clutch and GraveyardPower Trip and Rotting ChristYOBUncle AcidThe Obsessed.

I’m not sure what else really needs to be said about the Psycho Las Vegas 2019 lineup. For a festival that’s so much about spectacle, and which has grown its reach every year thus far in its relatively short tenure, this would seem once again to up the scale and reach a new level. But here’s the thing. There’s a lot of ground covered in this lineup between the varying kinds of metal and rock, etc., included — but that’s part of Psycho too. That sheer moment where you have to step back and realize that Tom G. Warrior‘s Triumph of Death and Glassjaw are sharing a bill, and you’re like, “What? How should that work?” But it will, somehow. And those taking over the Mandalay Bay for that weekend in August will be treated to a once-in-a-lifetime assemblage. As regards heavy fests, I’m hard pressed to think of anything that’s ever been done in America on this scale.

You’ll be telling your grandchildren about it. They’ll be like, “Who’s Opeth?” Ugh. Kids these days, right?

From the PR wire:

Psycho Las Vegas 2019 Full Lineup

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2019: Megadeth And Opeth Join Electric Wizard To Headline America’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Bacchanal; Final Lineup Including Mogwai, Beach House, 1349, Yakuza, And More Revealed + Tickets On Sale Now

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2019 continues to make waves as it confirms its final lineup for this year’s three-day, four-stage takeover of Mandalay Bay Resort And Casino August 16th – 18th, 2019.

Swedish progressive metal titans Opeth and Grammy award-winning thrash metal legends Megadeth will join UK doom icons/PSYCHO LAS VEGAS alumni Electric Wizard as this year’s mainstage headliners. Opeth’s performance will mark their only US appearance of the year. As if that isn’t enough, the curators of the event have also added Scottish post-rock unit Mogwai, former Screaming Tees frontman/alternative rock icon Mark Lanegan, the multi-talented Bruce Lamont who will appear with his avant metal unit Yakuza as well as his Led Zeppelin tribute band Led Zeppelin 2, psychedelic stoner rock unit Dead Meadow, Norwegian black metallers 1349, and American thrash veterans Vio-lence among others.

Additionally, the world’s only heavy metal talk show, Two Minutes To Late Night, will bring its popular YouTube show to the festival stage while multi-talented recording artist, music producer, and self-help guru Andrew W.K. will bring the weekend ceremony to a close for the second year in a row with a DJ set.

See a full list of confirmed artists below.

The highly-coveted “Psycho Special” passes and “High Roller VIP” passes are now sold out, however “Tier 1 Weekender General Admission” passes are still available at $249 but will increase to $299 once the first tier sells out. Single-day tickets priced at $109 will be available in the coming weeks. All ticket prices are exclusive of taxes and fees. Tickets and more information are available at VivaPsycho.com.

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2019:
When: August 16th-18th, 2019
Where: Mandalay Bay Resort And Casino – Las Vegas, NV
Tickets: VivaPsycho.com

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2019 Final Lineup (alphabetical):
1349
Amenra
Andrew W.K.
Bad Religion
Beach House
Black Mountain
Candy
Carcass
Clutch
Cold Cave
Dead Meadow
Deafheaven
Devil Master
Dvne
Electric Citizen
Electric Wizard
En Minor
Fu Manchu
Full Of Hell
Glassjaw
Goatwhore
Godspeed You! Black Emperor
Grails
Graveyard
Hangman’s Chair
Have A Nice Life
Hell Fire
High On Fire
Ilsa
Kadavar
L.A. Witch
Led Zeppelin 2
Levitation Room
Mark Lanegan
Megadeth
Mogwai
Monophonics
Mork
Mother Mercury.
Motorbabe
Night Horse
Nothing
Old Man Gloom
Opeth
Oranssi Pazuzu
Perturbator
Polyrythmics
Power Trip
Rotting Christ
Royal Thunder
Soft Kill
Spindrift
The Black Angels
The Crazy World Of Arthur Brown
The Faint
The Obsessed
Tobacco
Tomb Mold
Triumph Of Death
Truckfighters
Twin Temple
Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats
Vio-lence
Warhorse
Yakuza
Yob

And be sure to kick off the weekend with PSYCHO SWIM, the previously-announced all-day, prefest pool party at Daylight Beach Club at Mandalay Bay on Thursday, August 15th featuring Corrosion Of Conformity, Lucifer, Danava, ASG, Primitive Man, Idle Hands, Howling Giant, and Thrown Into Exile. Tickets are separate from the three-day festival and on sale now for $35 (excluding tax and fees) for those 21 and older. Grab your tickets today at VivaPsycho.com.

PSYCHO LAS VEGAS 2019 Pre-Party:
When: August 15th, 2019
Where: Daylight Beach Club – Las Vegas, NV
Tickets: VivaPsycho.com

** This is a 21+ event **

Lineup:
Corrosion Of Conformity
Lucifer
Danava
ASG
Primitive Man
Idle Hands
Howling Giant
Thrown Into Exile

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

Electric Wizard, Live in Athens, Greece, Feb. 23, 2019

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Monolith on the Mesa Lineup Confirmed; Om, Dead Meadow, Wovenhand, The Obsessed, Cloud Catcher & More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monolith on the mesa banner

So, uh, you wanna go get weird in the desert for a weekend? Sure, we all do. And if you’re up for making it the trip of a lifetime, Monolith on the Mesa has a bunch of decked-out vintage trailers available for you to hide from the New Mexico sun while you wait for the show to start. From the pre-party to The Obsessed headlining the second day, the inaugural edition of Monolith on the Mesa looks like the stuff of pilgrimage dreams. Om and Dead Meadow? Wovenhand? Tia Carrera jamming in a brewery? Duel? It’s an obviously curated lineup very purposefully put together with the setting in mind, and whether it’s the indoor or outdoor stage, it’s easy to see where it has the potential to be an incredible time. I’ve gone on at some length about the growth of US festival culture over the course of this decade. Look no further if you need an example of the fruit that would seem to be bearing.

If you make it down, congratulations on your life. You pretty much win.

Lineup and ticket links as per the social medias:

monolith on the mesa poster

Monolith on the Mesa: A High Desert Rock & Art Experience

Join Us On May 16th, 17th, & 18th In Taos New Mexico At Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership For Monolith on the Mesa A High Desert Rock Experience Like Non Other! A Music Festival with Art Visuals & Installations from Local NM Artists. And Of Course Some Of The Worlds Finest Dark, Psych, Stoner, Doom & Heavy Rock from All Over the Globe and SW Region! Browse Our Website monolithonthemesa.com For VIP And check out our Vintage Trailer Packages!!

http://www.monolithonthemesa.com/vintage-trailer-experience/

Hold My Ticket Link:
Pre party Show* https://holdmyticket.com/event/329481
2 Day Pass Ticket * https://holdmyticket.com/event/329524
Day 1 Pass Ticket * https://holdmyticket.com/event/329477
Day 2 Pass Ticket * https://holdmyticket.com/event/329482

MotherShip Outside Stage: Featuring Visuals By Mad Alchemist Liquid Light Show * Day 1: OM * Dead Meadow * Wovenhand * True Widow * EYE * Green Druid * Spirit Mother** Day 2: The Obsessed * Pinkish Black * Castle * The Well * Crypt Trip * WEEED * Cloud Catcher * The Munsens

Taos Mesa Worshipper Inside Stage: Day 1: * Tia Carrera * Wino (Acoustic) * Lord Buffalo * Pharlee * SuperGiant * YOU * Via Vengence * Deep Cross** Day 2 Duel * Stone Deaf * In The Company Of Serpents * Pale Horse\Pale Rider * Communion * Oryx * Sorex * Dysphotic * Devil’s Throne

https://www.facebook.com/events/260645364631316/
https://www.facebook.com/monolithonthemesa
https://www.instagram.com/monolithonthemesa/
http://www.monolithonthemesa.com/

Dead Meadow, “Good Moanin'” live at Endless Daze Fest 2018

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Desertfest Belgium 2018 Adds Dead Meadow, Ancestors, Wiegedood, Messa, and Heads.

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

desertfest belgium 2018 banner

So, uh, there’s a band called Heads. playing Desertfest Belgium 2018. They’re from Germany and not at all to be confused with The Heads from the UK. I guess the punctuation makes some different there, but isn’t it a little like calling your band Beatles. and expecting not to get sued? Question of scale there, I know, but you get my point. Heads. are a different band from The Heads. Okay.

I’m kind of surprised that Dead Meadow, in joining the lineup for Desertfest Belgium 2018, aren’t among the headliner, who are still TBA. I’ve got some names I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised to see signed on to play, but no question the lineup is ridiculously strong in the interim, what with Dead Meadow, Heads., Ancestors, Wiegedood and Messa all newly confirmed. I guess we’ll just have to wait on those headliner announcements.

From the PR wire:

desertfest belgium 2018 dead meadow

DEAD MEADOW PLAYS DF ANTWERP ’18

WIEGEDOOD, ANCESTORS and more

Well, we promised a worthy replacement for John Garcia, and we think this one will delight all you fans of delicious stoner grooves.

With 20 years and 7 records on the counter, Dead Meadow can truly be considered venerable veterans of the scene. With their most recent album ‘The Nothing They Need’, the DC band has made a glorious return 5 years after the previous outing. By now the ingredients might be familiar – heavy proto-metal riffing and long psych workouts – but once again the band proves noone cooks up a stew quite like they do. A rock solid addition to this year’s line-up, we think you’ll agree!

We already have one Belgian heavyweight on the program, so how about another? Wiegedood got its infamy coming up with a disturbing band name that translates to “crib death” in Dutch. But soon we learned that this was no mere gimmick: their peculiar version of black metal is effectively as unsettling and grim as the name suggests.

If the album teasers are anything to go by, the next album by Ancestors is gonna be something truly special. A culmination of everything the band stands for, from the atmospheric post-rock passages to the chugging riffs. Six years is a long wait for a new album in these times, but it seems like this will truly be worth the wait.

Another singular voice at the festival comes from Messa, who merge seemingly disparate genres like doom metal and dark jazz into one sonic stew they describe as ‘Scarlet Doom’. And finally, the German HEADS. adds shades of shoegaze and post-rock in their noiserock, with equally unique results.

There you have it, a selection of new names that truly add a sense of adventure and experiment to the line-up. You know we still have some headliners in store for you, so stay tuned!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/364607267372737/
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Quarterly Review: Primordial, Dead Meadow, Taarna, MaidaVale, Black Willows, Craang, Fuzz Lord, Marijannah, Cosmic Fall, Owl

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay, so this is it. The Quarterly Review definitely ends today. I’m not sneaking in a seventh day tomorrow or anything like that. This is it. The last batch of 10, bringing us to a grand total of 60 records reviewed between last Monday and now. That’s not too bad, if you think about it. Me, I’m a little done thinking about it, and if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to enjoy the time between now and late June/early July, in which for the most part I’ll be writing about one record at a time. The thought feels like a luxury after this week.

But hey, we made it. Thanks for reading along the way.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primordial, Exile Amongst the Ruins

primordial exile amongst the ruins

Primordial’s flair for the epic has not at all abated over the years. The Irish post-black-metal forerunners follow-up 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen with Exile Amongst the Ruins (on Metal Blade), and though there’s plenty of charge in “To Hell or the Hangman,” “Sunken Lungs” or “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed,” with frontman Alan Averill proselytizing declarations as grandly as ever, one might read a certain amount of fatigue into the lyrics of songs like “Stolen Years” and the 10-minute closer “Last Call.” Granted, Exile Amongst the Ruins is 65 minutes long, so I don’t think the band has run out of things to say, but could it be that the cycle of writing, recording and touring is starting to wear on them some 25 years after their founding? I wouldn’t know or speculate, and like I said, Exile Amongst the Ruins retains plenty of its sonic force, the layering of the title-track and the preceding “Where Lie the Gods” offering a depth of sound to complement the complexity of their themes.

Primordial on Thee Facebooks

Primordial at Metal Blade website

 

Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need

dead meadow The Nothing They Need

Utter masters of their domain, Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow – comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Juan Londono – mark 20 years of the band with the eight songs of The Nothing They Need (on Xemu Records), bringing in former members for guest spots mostly on drums but also guitar across a rich tapestry of moods, all of which happen to be distinctly Dead Meadow’s own. The ramble in opener “Keep Your Head” or “I’m So Glad” is unmistakable, and the fuzz of the six-minute “Nobody Home” bounces with a heavy psychedelic groove that should be nothing less than a joy to the converted. Recorded in their rehearsal space, released on their own label and presented with their own particularly blend of indie pulse, psych dreamscaping and more weighted tone, a song like the swaying eight-minute “The Light” is a reminder of everything righteous Dead Meadow have accomplished in their two decades, and of the vast spread their influence has taken on in that time. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that no matter who’s involved, Dead Meadow sound like Dead Meadow, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay them.

Dead Meadow on Thee Facebooks

Xemu Records website

 

Taarna, Sanguine Ash

taarna sanguine ash

It’s not entirely clear what’s happening at the start of Taarna’s 29-minute single-song EP, Sanguine Ash, but the samples are vague and violent sounding and the noise behind them is abrasive. A strum and build takes hold as the Portland, Oregon, black metallers, who feature former members of Godhunter in their ranks, continue in the first couple minutes to develop a suicidal thematic, and six minutes in, a wash of static takes hold with drums behind it only to give way, in turn, to lush-sounding keys or guitar (could go either way) that patiently leads to a rumbling, roiling lurch of blacksludge. Cavern-vocals echo and cut through molasses tones and Taarna ride that malicious groove for the next several minutes until, at around 18:30, samples start again. This leads to more quiet guitar, resonant blackened thrust, noise, noise, more noise and a final emergent wash of caustic anti-metal that couldn’t possibly be clearer in its mission to challenge, repel and come across as completely fucked as it can. Done and done, you scathing bastards.

Taarna on Thee Facebooks

Taarna on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure

maidavale madness is too pure

I already discussed a lot of what is working so well on MaidaVale’s second album, Madness is Too Pure (The Sign Records), when I put up the video for “Oh Hysteria!” (posted here), but it’s worth reemphasizing the sonic leap the Swedish four-piece have made between their 2016 debut, the bluesy and well-crafted Tales of the Wicked West (review here) and this nine-song offering, which stretches far outside the realm of blues rock and encompasses psychedelic jamming, spontaneous-sounding explorations, brazen but not at all caustic vibes, and an overarching energy of delivery that reminds both of a live presentation and, on a song like “Gold Mine,” of what Death Alley have been able to revitalize in space-punk. Memorable progressions like that of “Walk in Silence” and the freaked out “Dark Clouds” offer standout moments, but really, it’s the whole album itself that’s the standout, and if the debut showed MaidaVale’s potential, Madness is Too Pure ups that factor significantly.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Willows, Bliss

black willows bliss

About a year and a half after releasing their 2016 sophomore outing, Samsara (review here), Swiss post-doomers Black Willows return with a 19-minute single-song EP they’ve dubbed Bliss. It is utterly hypnotic. The sonic equivalent of watching a bonfire take hold of dry wood. It consumes with its dense heft of riff and then lulls the listener with stretches of minimalism and ambience, the first of which provides the intro to the piece itself. Black Willows are no strangers to working with longform material, and as Bliss also appears as the band’s half of a Bloodrock Records split with Craneium, it’s understandable they’d want to bring their best, but the weight of their groove feels unexpected even in terms of having heard their past work. So they’ve gotten heavier? Yeah, maybe. What really matters is how they wield that weight, and on Bliss, they put it to use as much as an atmospheric table-setter as in a display of sheer force. Beware the noise wash at the end. That’s all I’ll say.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Craang, Shine

craang shine

Greek heavy psych rockers Craang set up a dynamic quickly on their new two-song full-length, Shine (also stylized as S H IN E) that both encourages and rewards patience and trust on the part of the listener. They begin 24:52 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horizon – Tempest” quietly and commence to unfold through ebbs and flows, clean vocals and shouts, open spaces and dense(r) riffing. There is a break near and at the halfway point that presumably is the shift between one part of “Horizon – Tempest” and the other, and the second half follows that lead with a more active presentation. The accompanying “Ocean – Cellular” (19:41) launches with a bed of synth that fades as the bass, drums and guitar enter and begin a linear build that retains a progressive edge, dropping off at about eight minutes in perhaps as another transition into “Cellular,” which indeed follows a more winding, intricate path. One can only say Craang are clear in their representation of what they want to convey, and because of that, Shine is all the more of an engaging experience, the listener essentially following the band on this journey from place to place, idea to idea.

Craang on Thee Facebooks

Craang on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Lord, Fuzz Lord

Fuzz Lord fuzz lord

We start at “The Gates of Hell” and end up in “Infamous Evil,” so one might say Ohio trio Fuzz Lord – guitarist Steven “Fuzz Lord” joined by bassist/vocalist “Stoner” Dan Riley and drummer/vocalist Lawrence “Lord Buzz” – have their thematic well set on their eight-track self-titled debut (on Fuzzdoom Records). Likewise, their tones and the sense of space in the echoing vocals of “Kronos Visions Arise” and the later, extra-Sabbathian “World Collide” seem to know precisely where they’re headed. Riley recorded the 39-minute outing, while Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Dinosaur Jr., many others) mixed, and the resulting conjuration is earthbound in its low end while allowing the guitar to either roll out riffy largesse or take an airier approach. The uptempo “The Lord of the Underground” speaks to a punker underpinning, while the preceding “The Warriors Who Reign” seems to have a more classic metal take, and “Infamous Evil,” also the longest track at 7:51, peppers in layered guitar leads amid a doomier, Luciferian vibe and fervent hook.

Fuzz Lord on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Marijannah, Till Marijannah

Marijannah till marijannah

Comprised of members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult, Singapore-based newcomers Marijannah execute four tracks of blown-out tones and psychedelic cavernousness with their Pink Tank Records debut release, Till Marijannah. Touches of garage swing make their way into opener “1974,” and second cut “Snakecharmer” blazes and scorches with wah-drenched solos around crunching rhythms and melodic vocalizations. A march emerges on the nine-minute “Bride of Mine” and only gets more fervent as the track makes its way forward, and driving finale “All Hollow’s Eve” presents a cacophonous but controlled take from Marijannah that reinforces the notion of nothing on their first outing happening by accident. Impressive and just a bit frenetic, it leaves one wondering what further ground the band might look to explore from here, whether they’ve set their sonic course and will look to refine their processes along these lines or whether this is just the beginning of a wider stylistic melding, and their next offering might sound completely different than Till Marijannah. The one seems as likely as the other, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

Marijannah on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Cosmic Fall, In Search of Outer Space

cosmic fall in search of outer space

Immediate points to Berlin jammers Cosmic Fall for opening their six-song/43-minute third album, In Search of Outer Space, with the 11-minute longest track “Jabberwocky.” The three-piece introduced new guitarist Marcin Marowski last year on Jams for Free (review here), and as bassist Klaus Friedrich steps up to take the vocalist role and drummer Daniel Sax continues to hold together impossible spaciousness with a fluidity of groove, Marowski seems right at home wah-noodling in the open reaches of “Jabberwocky” and soldering shred and swirl together on the later “Lumberjam.” Some of In Search of Outer Space’s most effective moments are its quietest, as on “Purification” or second cut “Narcotic Vortex,” but neither will I decry the bass fuzz that takes hold near the finish there or the molten churn that bookends closer “Icarus,” but as “Spacejam” hits into the vastness, it seems Cosmic Fall as just as apt to float as to rocket their way out of the atmosphere. In either case, they most certainly get there.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Orion Fenix

owl orion fenix

The solo-project of Christian Kolf of avant death-crunchers Valborg, Owl issues the 22-minute single-song EP Orion Fenix – with its chanting repetitions of “reborn in fire” – as a precursor to the upcoming LP, Nights in Distortion. Like Owl’s last EP, 2015’s wondrously dark Aeon Cult (review here), Orion Fenix is both intense churn and slow-rolling melancholy, bridging a gap between classic doom (that lead 15 minutes in) and post-doom rhythms and atmosphere. If the project’s purpose is to find beauty in darkness, Orion Fenix accomplishes this quickly enough, but the track’s runtime and lush layering allow Kolf to lend a sense of exploration to what is no doubt a meticulous creative process, since he’s handling all the instruments and vocals himself. Either way, Orion Fenix, as a herald, bodes remarkably well for forward progress on Nights in Distortion to come, and is a remarkable accomplishment on its own in both heft and spaciousness.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Owl on Bandcamp

 

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