Delving Finish Recording Second LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Delving, the exploratory progressive side-project of Elder guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, has finished the recording process for a full-length follow-up to 2021’s Hirschbrunnen (review here), slated to release this summer, presumably through Stickman Records. Home base for the yet-untitled offering was Berlin’s widely-utilized-for-good-reason Big Snuff Studio, with Richard Behrens (he’s the reason) at the helm in a returning role as producer, and joining DiSalvo for the venture are multi-instrumentalist Fabien de Menou (who steers his own course into mellow fluidity as the ostensibly-one-man weirdo psych unit Perilymph), and Elder bandmate/low-key-secret-weapon Michael Risberg, who also contributed to the debut three years ago.

They’ll let it rest for a bit, mix, master, then do the whole thing. I read ‘penciled’ below as regards the release date to mean ‘here’s hoping,’ and fair enough. For what it’s worth, Delving are already confirmed to appear at Krach am Bach (also in Germany) the first weekend of August — most likely along with others by now — and if the tour noted in DiSalvo‘s done-tracking announcement below is around that, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that’s loosely around when the album would show up as well. But they gotta mix, master and press it first. So, you know, here’s hoping.

From social media:

delving nick at big snuff studio cropped (Photo by Leon de Backer)

Recording of album II is finished after 9 days of tracking with my stalwart partner in sound Richard Behrens at Big Snuff Studio! I can say with confidence that this is probably the most ‘out there’ record I’ve written: ambitious, perhaps confusingly fluent in genres, densely layered and quite loooong. I guess that’s what happens when you write music in the in-between times over a few years.

I had some great help from Fabien de Menou (from Perilymph) who handled basically all of the keyboard parts on this record as well as Michael Risberg who lent some awesome spacey touches. Thank you guys for your help in pulling this off! Special thanks of course to Richard as well for your patience and assistance in giving flight to ideas.

We’ll return in a few weeks to start picking through the weeds and mixing this thing; a release date is already penciled for late summer and we’ll have some tour dates to announce as well. Looking forward to sharing some new music with the world, as always!

Photo by Leon De Backer

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https://delving-music.bandcamp.com

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Delving, Hirschbrunnen (2021)

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Krach Am Bach 2024 Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 31st, 2024 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been trying to post this for like a week. This happens to me now. I’ll be sitting on the couch at like 7PM or some such — well past what I consider ‘Obelisk time’ in my feeble brainclock — and see some relevant item on my phone. I haven’t covered Krach am Bach much in years past, so I probably said something like, “Oh shit right on, I can post about something new,” and started to put the thing together. I don’t remember if I squared the poster image or the fest did — probably them. But then I get in the actual back end of the site and there are like 50 other things and then I’m already late and blah blah fucking blah here I am with another festival lineup post. I’m sure by now the lineup has been completed and the festival — which is set for Aug. 2-3 — has already taken place. Because time would bend over backwards just to screw me up, and I say that as the voice of experience.

But the lineup. Seems likely The Devil and the Almighty Blues will be out on tour, ditto A Place to Bury Strangers, Wine LipsDeathchantEl Perro. You’ll notice Elder-offshoot Delving among the confirmations, which might mean another studio offering from that project is on the way, and I’ll go to bat for each of KarkaraHumulusTravo and Black Helium being worth your time based solely on my experience with their recorded output. There’s more to come here, but I’m not sure how much more you really need.

Check it:

Krach Am Bach 2024

+++ First announcements || Tickets available +++

In case you’re wondering about some news for the 29. Krach am Bach Festival, we’ve got the finest selection for a ride through heavy, fuzz-drowned and hypnotic space trips.

Orange Goblin |UK
A Place To Bury Strangers |US
The Devil And The Almighty Blues |Norway
Wine Lips |Canada
Tuber |Greece
Deathchant |US
El Perro |US
Madmess |Portugal
delving |US
Verstärker |US
KARKARA |France
Humulus |Italy
TRAVO |Portugal
Black Helium |UK
ᴉGeRaldᴉ |France

More bands to be announced soon!
+++
Get your tickets here: https://shop.paylogic.com/604ee181fd7d4834aa24ee0a0c0c10a6

https://www.facebook.com/krachambach
https://www.instagram.com/krachambachfestival
https://linktr.ee/krachambachfestival
https://krachambach.de/

Orange Goblin, Live at Freak Valley 2023

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 75

Posted in Radio on January 7th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Still playing catchup with some of the best stuff from 2021, and considering it’s been 2022 for all of a week, that’s not actually that bad. To say I vouch for this playlist is moot. You’ve seen my best of 2021 post — or if you haven’t, here it is — and when it comes to the Gimme Metal show generally, my position is I’m not going to play it if I don’t think it’s cool, so yeah, I’m on board with what’s happening here.

I’ll spare you grand reflections on the year that was, musically or otherwise, and just note that there’s some good variety of stuff going on here, between the likes of Lammping, Apostle of Solitude, Black Willows and Comet Control. I dig that. I hope you do too. Pretty simple, right?

If you didn’t hear the Kadabra record — yeah, I know their name is similar to Kadavar; they’re a different band — check that track out. Ditto, uh, everything, but I know not everyone has or is willing to make the time. Life is what it is. I feel lucky Gimme still lets me do this.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 01.07.22

Yawning Sons Cigarette Footsteps Sky Island
Comet Control Heavy Moments Inside the Sun
Lammping Intercessor Flashjacks
VT
Apostle of Solitude Apathy in Isolation Until the Darkness Goes
Delving Delving Hirschbrunnen
LLNN Desecrator Unmaker
Kadabra Graveyard Ultra
Alastor Death Cult Onwards and Downwards
King Buffalo Locusts The Burden of Restlessness
Jointhugger Midnight Surrounded by Vultures
The Age of Truth A Promise of Nothing Resolute
High Desert Queen Skyscraper Secrets of the Black Moon
Stoner Nothin’ Stoners Rule
The Kings of Frog Island Beyond the Void VII
Elder & Kadavar From Deep Within Eldovar: A Story of Darkness and Light
VT
Black Willows Ascent Shemurah

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Jan. 21 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2021 — Year in Review

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Daniel-Hopfer's-Death-and-the-Devil-Surprising-two-Women,-(ca

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

Maybe 2021 was your breakout, or your hunker-down. Your recovery from trauma or more of the same. Maybe you got six shots, maybe you didn’t get any. Maybe you got sick or lost somebody. I don’t know. Whatever else this year was, though, and whatever else it continues to be, it was busy.

In terms of the heavy underground, the ‘aftermath’ of the covid-19 pandemic resulted in a creative movement that will continue to pan out for years to come. Bands, locked down in 2020, found new directions, new sounds, sometimes new projects or collaborators. Some dug deep into their root influences, others explored new ground entirely.

One way or the other, the result across this year was a lot of really, really good music, and in uncertain times, the comfort it provided and provides shouldn’t be understated. The Obelisk Questionnaire asks what is the primary function of art. I think we learned in 2021 that art is home when you need it.

I say this every year, but please, if you leave a comment on this post — if there’s something you want to suggest I left out (as I’m sure there is; always) or you’re responding to someone else’s comment — please, please be respectful. Please be kind. To me, because I’ve worked hard on this and I don’t mind saying that, and to anyone else offering their picks or suggestions or just words of response. Let’s not fight, or do that “unthinking internet meanness” thing. I’m a human being and so are you. That’s reason enough to make an effort toward kindness. Thank you for that effort and for reading, as always.

Here we go:

The Top 60 Albums of 2021? Really? 60?

Yeah, really 60. I was gonna do 30 and then 50 and I was having trouble narrowing it down and it was my sister who very concisely said, “Who cares? Do what you want,” and it turned out that was precisely what I needed to hear. So if there are complaints about doing a top 60, to them I might just point out that more music is not a hardship. Maybe instead look at the swath of amazing music being made and be glad to have been born? And I’m doing what feels right, if also a little over-the-top. Maybe next year it’ll be 100, or 1,000. To quote my sister, “Who cares?”

The more the merrier.

Alors:

#31-60

31. 3rd Ear Experience, Danny Frankel’s 3rd Ear Experience
32. Slowshine, Living Light
33. LLNN, Unmaker
34. Low Orbit, Crater Creator
35. Somnuri, Nefarious Wave
36. Delving, Hirschbrunnen
37. Kal-El, Dark Majesty
38. Hippie Death Cult, Circle of Days
39. Plaindrifter, Echo Therapy
40. Motorpsycho, Kingdom of Oblivion
41. IAH, Omines
42. Here Lies Man, Ritual Divination
43. The Kings of Frog Island, VII
44. Old Man Wizard, Kill Your Servants Quietly
45. Weedpecker, IV: The Stream of Forgotten Thoughts
46. High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon
47. Kadabra, Ultra
48. Sleep Moscow, Of the Sun
49. Terry Gross, Soft Opening
50. Cavern Deep, Cavern Deep
51. 10,000 Years, II
52. Rebreather, The Line, its Width and the War Drone
53. Spiral Grave, Legacy of the Anointed
54. LáGoon, Skullactic Visions
55. Jack Harlon & the Dead Crows, The Magnetic Ridge
56. Boss Keloid, Family the Smiling Thrush
57. Shun, Shun
58. Black Willows, Shemurah
59. Expo Seventy, Evolution
60. Year of Taurus, Topsoils

Notes:

The best advice I can give you is DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. From 3rd Ear Experience’s righteous jams to Kadabra’s and Slowshine’s debuts and 10,000 Years’ hard riffing and Old Man Wizard’s melo-prog swansong and Jack Harlon’s otherworldly West, and Cavern Deep’s conceptual darkness, and Black Willows’ consuming tones and Sleep Moscow’s emotive downerism and Weedpecker progging out and Here Lies Man still being in an league entirely their own, and that Plaindrifter record and Shun and Spiral Grave and Rebreather and The Kings of Frog Island. That Terry Gross’ sheer West Coastness and Somnuri’s Northeastern intensity. Kal-El’s pulp riffage bigger than ever. Motorpsycho being Motorpsycho. IAH collaborating with Spaceslug. Boss Keloid’s prog-metal shenanigans. Hippie Death Cult’s mellow heavy. LLNN utterly killing everything. Damn this is good.

If this was a year-end top 30 in itself, I’d be like, yeah that’s a solid list, and I don’t mean that as a platitude. So please don’t ignore it. If there’s something here you haven’t heard, I can only advise you chase it down. Any one of these could be higher or lower in your own consideration, but I dug all of them, and yeah, by the time you get up to 40 or so the numbering gets pretty arbitrary, but whatever. It’s a list of stuff I think you should check out. Releases that made the year better, all of them one way or the other.

30. Monster Magnet, A Better Dystopia

monster magnet a better dystopia

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 31.

New Jersey stalwarts Monster Magnet taking on obscure and semi-obscure covers out of the heavy ’70s is pretty high on the list of ‘ultimate no-brainers.’ One might’ve preferred an album of originals, but even in a stopgap, Dave Wyndorf and company found ways to be creative with the material, and this belongs here for their take on Dust‘s “Learning to Die” (video here) alone.

29. Domkraft, Seeds

domkraft seeds

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Featured April 2.

Domkraft‘s third album arrived in so-you-think-you-know-what-we’re-about fashion, building out the heavy noise rock of 2018’s Flood (review here) and 2016’s The End of Electricity (review here), leaning into more textured material executed with a burgeoning patience of approach, while still keeping impact central. They’ve come into their own and one expects they’ll continue to reshape what that means over time.

28. Sunnata, Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth

sunnata burning in heaven melting on earth

Self-released. Reviewed March 16.

Consuming and shamanic. A record that really took the time to construct its own world for the listener to inhabit in its songs. Sunnata‘s fourth full-length, Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth brought together six tracks that resonated with purposeful depth and a cold-psych ambience that allowed space for minimalism and movements of blistering heavy in kind. Not for everyone, maybe, but each piece truly added to the flowing progression of the whole, showing the conceptual, ritualized strengths of the band.

27. Conclave, Dawn of Days

Conclave Dawn of Days

Released by Argonauta Records. Reviewed April 22.

Five years after their debut, Sins of the Elders (review here), Massachusetts sludge-of-death metallers Conclave — now with a second guitarist — brought forth epic punishment and bleakness befitting our age. A willful, harsh slog, Dawn of Days had few comforts to offer in “Death Blows Cold” or “Haggard,” and the mourning finale “Suicide Funeral,” while allowed to be flourish in its way, found a means to express its grief while staying honest to underpinnings of extreme metal. Not an easy listen, not supposed to be.

26. Crystal Spiders, Morieris

Crystal Spiders Morieris

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 8.

Some records you just can’t fight. And why would you? Quick turnaround for North Carolina’s Crystal Spiders after their Sept. 2020 debut, Molt (review here), but the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Brenna Leath (also Lightning Born and The Hell-No), drummer/vocalist Tradd Yancey (also Doomsday Profit) and guitarist/producer Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) demonstrated a range the first record only hinted at, touching on earthy psych, dirty punk, classic heavy and more with evident ease and a marked sense of craft.

25. River Flows Reverse, When River Flows Reverse

River Flows Reverse When River Flows Reverse

Released by Psychedelic Source Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Hungarian collective River Flows Reverse brought lysergic healing as part of the Psychedelic Source Records milieu, with a particularly folkish and exploratory vibe branching out across pieces like the serene “At the Gates of the Perennial” or the acoustic-led “Rain it Rages,” creating gorgeous atmospheres from existential dread and a sheer need for outlet. Spontaneous in its spirit but with a thoughtful undercurrent, it’s by no means the highest-profile release on this list, but it also offered something nothing else did in quite the same way. Pastoralia for another world.

24. Borracho, Pound of Flesh

borracho pound of flesh

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A decade on from their debut and five years after their last album, Washington D.C. roll-prone trio Borracho came back not only with terrifying cover art, but also an unabashed look at the world around them, socially conscious lyrics topping their hallmark heavy riffage in a way that their prior work had yet to engage. Pound of Flesh was an organic step forward for the band in sound and songwriting, and their perspective of wondering what the hell happened to pretty much everything was relatable, to say the least, but the nuances of arrangement and vibe went a long way too in changing things up around their classic-style sound.

23. Erik Larson, Favorite Iron

Erik Larson Favorite Iron

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 23.

Larson‘s gonna Larson. As to what that might mean on a given release, that’s harder to say. Drawing from a decades-long background in punk and hardcore, heavy Southern and acoustic songwriting, as well as a pedigree long enough to take up the rest of this post, Favorite Iron was one of three outings issued on the same day in September in a creative splurge and found him playing all instruments himself (horns on opener “Backpage” notwithstanding) and imbuing each piece with its own purpose in feeding the richness of the entire work. And somehow, was humble in it, putting it out on Bandcamp, no PR, no fanfare. Just wasn’t there, then was. Very Larson.

22. Spaceslug, Memorial

spaceslug memorial

Self-released. Review pending.

Issued just on Dec. 10, Memorial arrives from Poland’s Spaceslug in suitably mournful fashion and with it, the trio seem to dive into more personal, human issues than ever before. Loss, uncertainty. It’s certainly a record for the time in which it’s made, but neither do the band neglect their own growth as they continue to incorporate blackened screams along with their more grunge-derived clean vocals, a blend of mellow heavy psych and harsher presence coinciding. After a productive few years with the 2020 Leftovers EP (review here) and 2019’s Reign of the Orion (review here), Spaceslug have managed to push even deeper into their sound. They do so with an increasing sense of mastery.

21. Genghis Tron, Dream Weapon

genghis tron dream weapon art by trevor naud

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed April 5.

Unexpected and appreciated in kind. I wouldn’t have bet that Poughkeepsie, New York, glitch-grind innovators Genghis Tron would return with a new record after 13 years, and I wouldn’t have guessed either that Dream Weapon would bring both the revamped lineup and the refined focus on melody that it did. Live drums gave new heart to the songs, and thoughtfully layered washes of keys and guitar brought a sense of worldbuilding that, while in contrast to the freneticism of the band’s past work, was refreshing in its honesty and refusal to be anything other than what they wanted it to be. Caught a bunch of hype early and then disappeared, but the songs will hold up long after this year is over. If you get it, you get it.

20. Vokonis, Odyssey

Vokonis Odyssey

Released by The Sign Records. Reviewed May 5.

The story of Sweden’s Vokonis isn’t too dissimilar from that of Spaceslug above in that the band set its foundation in a certain kind of heavy worship and have moved outward from there over time. For the Borås trio, their latest outing expanded on their progressive ideology, taking the heavy riffs of their earliest work and setting them to a winding course while also incorporating a rawer vocal along with the cleaner shouting. In addition to being topped off by the best album cover I saw all year, Odyssey proved to be a journey of mind for those ready to take it, and showed that Vokonis‘ maturity, their finding themselves, is likely to be an ongoing process. And if they want to keep bringing Per Wiberg in on keys, that’ll be fine too.

19. Lammping, Flashjacks

Lammping-Flashjacks

Released by Echodelick Records. Reviewed Aug. 19.

What a blast this record is. Warm tones, classic vibes, ’90s alt weirdness given a little extra push into heavy. I didn’t even care that half of the thing had been released as an EP prior, putting on Lammping‘s Flashjacks was and very much still is a joy. No pretense, no bullshit, just songs, songs, songs. Give me “Intercessor” and “Jaws of Life” and “Lammping” any day of the week as the Toronto outfit hold down both attitude and humor while inviting you in on their good time. 10 tracks/33 minutes — they weren’t even trying to take up too much of your day. Just a short and sweet set on an LP and then they roll out until the next one. May it arrive sooner rather than later. I’m not a party guy, but this is my kind of party.

18. Snail, Fractal Altar

snail fractal altar

Released by Argonauta Records. Reviewed April 26.

The opening duo “Mission From God” and “Nothing Left for You” gave Fractal Altar an initial thrust that the heavy grunge of “Not Two” complemented with darker edge before the swinging “Hold On” tipped back toward forward momentum. “The False Lack,” a highlight, found some middle ground en route to a back half of the LP that culminated with the sub-nine-minute title-track, psychedelic ritualization coming to a head with spaced-out vocals over a black hole of low end. The weirder Snail get, the better they get in my mind, and more than half a decade after Feral (review here), they were ready to get plenty weird here. Wouldn’t trade that for the world.

17. The Age of Truth, Resolute

the age of truth resolute

Released by Contessa Music. Reviewed July 21.

Aggro-edged Philly heavy rock and roll, pulling influence not only from its own backdrop but from heavy modern and old, perhaps the best thing one can say about Resolute was that it lived up to the lofty declaration in the title The Age of Truth gave it. Whether they were playing to more atmospheric ideas on “Palace of Rain” and “Return to Ships” or digging into classic heavy blues on “Salome” or finding new levels of intensity on “Horsewhip,” it was clear The Age of Truth consciously set a high standard for themselves and put the effort in to meet it every step of the way. Clear and sharp in its production, it’s still a record you can put on and be blown away by each individual performance, as well as how they come together. Dudes only put the bar higher.

16. Jointhugger, Surrounded by Vultures

jointhugger surrounded by vultures

Released by Majestic Mountain Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

It was not an easy task for Norway’s Jointhugger to follow either their 2021 single-song EP Reaper Season (review here) or 2020’s debut, I Am No One (review here), but even amid a still-solidifying lineup, the band conjured listenability and weight in post-Monolordian fashion without either aping that band’s methodology or ignoring their own nascent sonic identity. There’s more growing to do, and one hopes that as they go they’ll hold at least somewhat to the pace of releases thus far established, but there was no getting past the accomplishments of Surrounded by Vultures, not the least because of the 700-foot ice wall of tone the band built along the path. Potential and achievement stomping hand-in-hand into an unknown heavy future.

15. Temple Fang, Fang Temple

Temple Fang Fang Temple

Released by Right on Mountain & Electric Spark. Reviewed Nov. 23.

I’ll be honest, I was a little bummed when Fang Temple got released and I didn’t even know it was coming. I got over the ego bruise quick with the help of the record itself, however, the Amsterdam-based psychedelic spiritualists taking the live-album method from 2020’s Live at Merleyn (review here) and using an on-stage performance as the basic tracks around which the rest of Fang Temple was constructed. The result was a resonant joy in heavy psych; a record as satisfying to lose yourself in as to consciously follow along its charted but spontaneous-feeling path. They’ve had some lineup shifts too, but gosh I hope there’s more to come, whether I get an early heads up or not.

14. Yawning Sons, Sky Island

yawning sons sky island

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 12.

Would you have bet there’d be a second Yawning Sons album, more than 10 years after 2009’s Ceremony to the Sunset (review here; reissue review here)? I might not have, but the collaboration between UK instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri and Yawning Man guitarist and desert rock figurehead Gary Arce brought a slew of memorable moments, including guest spots from Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man‘s Mario Lalli and Hermano‘s Dandy Brown, and return appearances from Scott Reeder and Wendy Rae Fowler. It’s still impossible to know if Yawning Sons will be a band or a once-every-decade happening, but Sky Island proved they were more than a cult one-off. A third outing would only be welcome.

13. Comet Control, Inside the Sun

comet control inside the sun

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 23.

Careening back and forth between its space rock and more drifting psychedelic impulses, Comet Control‘s Inside the Sun brought varied pleasures of craft and melody, saving its more contemplative stretches for the peaceful immersion of “The Afterlife” or “Heavy Moments” and “The Deserter” later on after the duly cosmic launch of “Keep on Spinnin'” and the buzzing “Secret Life” established the pattern of movement under the drift. Whichever way a given track went — and it was by no means limited to one or the other with “Good Day to Say Goodbye” and “Inside the Sun” in the album’s midsection — the Toronto-based outfit worked mostly as a two-piece in putting it together, but the lushness of the ensuing work took what the band had accomplished on 2016’s Center of the Maze (review here) and added even more dimension.

12. Maha Sohona, Endless Searcher

Maha Sohona endless searcher

Released by Made of Stone Recordings. Reviewed July 13.

They should’ve called it “endless repeat.” The mellow heft of Swedish unit Maha Sohona‘s sophomore full-length is one that I just kept going back to, time and time again, and the appeal of doing so only grew with more listening. Melodically capable but not overblown, songs like “Luftslott” and “Orbit X” brought to mind Sungrazer and earlier Spaceslug with a bittersweet nostalgia (in the case of the former, certainly) even as Maha Sohona used them to chart their own stylistic course. It was seven years between their first and second records, so I’m not going to predict when/if a follow-up will come, but Endless Searcher made my 2021 better to the point that I just put on “Leaves” and can feel the serotonin being released. It feels only right to honor that by having them here.

11. Samsara Blues Experiment, End of Forever

Samsara Blues Experiment End of Forever

Released by Electric Magic Records. Reviewed Nov. 16, 2020.

With a permanent-seeming dissolution as context for its arrival, End of Forever wrapped a run for Samsara Blues Experiment that could only really be called successful in terms of what they accomplished during their time, but moreover, it underscored what made them such a special group to start with, its progressive psychedelia still developing in persona as the band was coming to a close. Guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, having spent the prior few years in various solo explorations, brought increased use of keys and synth, and in combination with the organic fluidity of the rhythm section of bassist/backing vocalist Hans Eiselt and drummer Thomas Vedder, that let Samsara Blues Experiment say something new even as they were also saying goodbye. If they’re truly done for good, they’ll be missed.

10. Heavy Temple, Lupi Amoris

heavy temple lupi amoris

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed May 28.

An awaited debut from this Philadelphia trio, Lupi Amoris confronted high expectations and surpassed them with a complexity of atmosphere that was surprising even after seeing them live multiple times, taking the oft-psychedelic fuzz of Heavy Temple‘s previous output and setting it to a more rigid focus and a daring sense of intent. This was a record that came about after years of lineup changes and tumult, but made cohesion from chaos, and there was not one second of its stretch that didn’t serve the album as a whole. Even more than 2016’s Chassit EP (review here), which I’d previously counted as their first long-player, Lupi Amoris showed toward what Heavy Temple‘s potential had been driving all along, and its realization was stunning. Whatever they do next, whenever they do it, will also be confronting high expectations.

9. Apostle of Solitude, Until the Darkness Goes

Apostle of Solitude Until the Darkness Goes
Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed Nov. 9.

At this point, I feel ready to posit Indianapolis four-piece Apostle of Solitude as the best doom band in America. I know that’s a loaded statement because there are as many kinds of doom as there are of heavy metal itself, but if you look at a group bringing new ideas to the established traditions and tenets of the style Apostle of Solitude have put themselves in the uppermost of the upper echelon. At just 36 minutes, Until the Darkness Goes feels likewise concise and engaging, its songs holding the emotive thread that has always typified the band’s work, but engaging more vocal harmonies between guitarists Chuck Brown and Steve Janiak (now both also in The Gates of Slumber) atop the densely weighted impact from bassist Mike Naish (also Shroud of Vulture) and drummer Corey Webb. Don’t think they’re the best US doom band right now? Find me someone better.

8. Greenleaf, Echoes From a Mass

greenleaf echoes from a mass

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed March 25.

With a wholesale invite to either take the heat or remove your ass from the kitchen, Greenleaf tossed out Echoes From a Mass as their eighth LP some 20 years after their first, 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), and reminded their listenership of the songwriting chemistry that’s emerged over the better part of the last decade between founding guitarist Tommi Holappa — and yes, I’ve heard rumors he’s got new Dozer in progress as well; we’ll see in 2022 — and vocalist Arvid Hällagård, whose work here outshone even 2018’s Hear the Rivers (review here), establishing the conversation between instruments and voice as the crucial element in Greenleaf circa 2021. A heavy blues shuffle from bassist Hans Frölich and drummer Sebastian Olsson and production by Karl Daniel Lidén only up the asset count working in the band’s favor, and on any given day I might still be walking around with “Bury Me My Son” on repeat in my brain. No complaints.

7. Blackwater Holylight, Silence/Motion

blackwater holylight silence motion

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 18.

At a pivotal moment, Blackwater Holylight pivoted. The Portland-based outfit’s third full-length found them pressing outward from their heavy psychedelic and dream-pop foundations into bleaker atmospheres, using Silence/Motion as a means for processing trauma and perhaps to revamp their audience’s expectations of the kind of band they want to be. 2019’s Veils of Winter (review here) and 2018’s self-titled debut (review here) brought marked progress from one to the next, but bassist/vocalist/guitarist Allison “Sunny” Faris, guitarist/bassist Mikayla Mayhew, synthesist Sarah McKenna, and drummer Eliese Dorsay (Erika Osterhout now plays guitar but isn’t on the record) brought on board producer A.L.N. of Mizmor, and the record’s guest vocals from Thou‘s Bryan Funck and Mike Paparo of Inter Arma brought flourish of more extreme metals than anything the band had done before. As a result, their next outing could go pretty much anywhere, so mission likely accomplished for this one.

6. Kadavar & Elder, Eldovar – A Story in Darkness and Light

eldovar a story of darkness and light

Released by Robotor Records. Reviewed Dec. 1.

Answering the call of being unable to tour and presumably tired of sitting on their hands as a result, Berlin-based outfits Kadavar and Elder (minus the latter’s bassist Jack Donovan, who lives in the US and was under travel restriction) hit the studio together earlier this year to piece together jams and, reportedly, take a “see what happens” approach. What happened was a sound that belonged solely to neither band and drew enough from both to legitimately earn the title Eldovar. Rife with melody brought to bear amid a threat of the breakout that arrived in “Blood Moon Night” — which, while the most uptempo, was not necessarily the highlight of the record — it was an album perhaps carved from experiments, but one that seemed to brim with a sense of underlying direction, even after the fact. Its shimmer felt like a light being cast through a dark year, defiant and peaceful. That two of the current generation’s leaders in heavy rock could come together in such brazen fashion was a noteworthy novelty, but it was the way that Eldovar stood on its own that made it so special.

5. Stöner, Stoners Rule

Stöner stoners rule

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 1.

Gonna get this off my chest while I can. After this one came out, I saw on the vast sphere of social media some disappointed response, like what was up with Stöner being so stripped down and just rocking riffs and all that? Okay. The hell did you expect? That’s the point of the band! It’s Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri — and Ryan Güt, also of Bjork‘s solo band — purposefully digging back to their roots, playing the simplest form possible of the low desert punk they helped create together in Kyuss. It wasn’t about “let’s innovate,” it was about “I dig the Ramones and Fatso Jetson so let’s have a good time.” You got the ultra-grooves of “Own Yer Blues” and “Tribe/Fly Girl,” the Oliveri-fronted punk of “Evel Never Dies,” and the bluesman’s telling-it-like-it-is of “The Older Kids” and “Rad Stays Rad,” “Nothin'” and “Stand Down.” They were in, done, and out. I chalked some of the “meh” up to the studio album arriving so soon after their Live in the Mojave Desert stream (review here) and live album (review here), but even so, damn, be thankful these songs got made in the first place. With yer spoiled ass.

4. King Buffalo, Acheron

King Buffalo Acheron

Released by the band and Stickman Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Word to anyone who’s managed to read this far: I hear King Buffalo might have an Xmas surprise in store as relates to this album, so heads up. Acheron — filmed as well as audio-recorded — was the second in an intended series of three yet to be completed of albums Rochester, NY, trio King Buffalo composed during the pandemic lockdown. Like so many, their inability to tour resulted in a need for another outlet. Following The Burden of Restlessness (review here) would be a challenge, but the band shifted focus in sound toward four extended pieces of heavy psychedelia — not completely escapist from the reality surrounding them, but attempting for sure to shift the mindset through which they (and the listener) were experiencing it. Traveling to record in the remote location of Howe Caverns, guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Sean McVay, bassist/keyboardist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson found a way to immediately differentiate their second album of 2021 from the first while offering a shift in sound that leaned less into darkness — ironic, maybe considering it was tracked underground — than its predecessor while retaining the band’s ever-forward progression of sound.

3. Green Lung, Black Harvest

green lung black harvest

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed July 28.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more suitable Halloween release. London-based heavy rockers Green Lung brought together a collection of songs that, yes, were duly autumnal in their spirit, but also refreshing in their sound, unashamed in their readiness to engage their audience, and in cuts like “Old Gods,” “Reaper’s Scythe,” “You Bear the Mark” and “Graveyard Sun” tapped into a cross-genre appeal that was brought together with impeccable quality of craft and production. Classic and new at the same time. Thoughtful in arrangement, Black Harvest nonetheless skirted pretense and kept to a basic verse/chorus appeal that felt easy to get into, and the complexity held in the material only revealed itself more with time. It is an album in which something new will be heard for years, and it not only answered the call to step up after 2019’s Woodland Rites (review here), but put Green Lung in a different echelon of bands entirely. They are an act whose influence will be felt, and not that the world needs another reason to hope for a “return” for live music, but Black Harvest is one for sure. Its songs deserve to be heard by however many ears they can reach.

2. Monolord, Your Time to Shine

Monolord your time to shine

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

Monolord are the most essential band in heavy music. Whatever qualifier you want to put on that in terms of style, go ahead, it’s still true. The Gothenburg trio’s fifth album doubled as an anticipated follow-up to No Comfort (review here), which was 2019’s album of the year, and brought no dip in the quality of their craft, the breadth of their style or the force of their execution. In addition to having already ignited a generation’s worth of riffers in their wake, Monolord have steadily progressed in their own approach, and Your Time to Shine skillfully mirrored the structure of No Comfort before it while pushing ahead of where the band were two years ago. Someone needs to build a statue in honor of Mika Häkki‘s bass tone, let alone the riffs of guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger and the stomp/production of drummer Esben Willems, but with cuts like “The Weary,” “Your Time to Shine,” “I’ll Be Damned,” “To Each Their Own” and “The Sirens of Yersinia” — oh wait, that’s all of them — it was the entire band shining, a plural “your” that was realized in the work. The superficial bleakness of the cover art spoke to the death perhaps of an entire world, but also the new growth and life to inevitably emerge therefrom. The songs did no less.

2021 Album of the Year

1. King Buffalo, The Burden of Restlessness

king buffalo the burden of restlessness

Released by the band and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 11.

A record for the times. The record for the times. There are a few reasons King Buffalo‘s third full-length and first in the pandemic-born series, The Burden of Restlessness, deserves to be the album of the year. There’s no reasonably denying the level of songwriting or the move into hard-edged progressive rock and metal of its songs, or the boldness of the manner in which the Rochester trio — again, Sean McVayDan Reynolds and Scott Donaldson — made that move, or the resonance of the finished product. It’s a very, very, very good album. Fine. What stands out to me though in thinking of The Burden of Restlessness in context of the addled period between 2020 and 2021 is the fact that it is completely unflinching. From the striking depiction of decay in the front visuals by Zdzisław Beksiński to the personal-seeming nature of songs like “The Knocks,” “Burning” — the opening lyric, “I turn my head from the stars” a direct contrast to “Orion can you hear me?” from the band’s 2016 debut, Orion (review here) — “Silverfish” and “Hebetation” and the speaking to the outside world of “Locusts,” “Grifter” and the maybe-daring-t0-hope-for-something-better conclusion in “Loam,” The Burden of Restlessness gave comfort to its listenership through shared experience rather than platitude. It didn’t tell you it was going to get better. It shared the space you were in, and acknowledged all the unknown corners of that space. This spirit, coupled with the outright sonic achievement on the part of the band, made the album a statement poised to ring out as a document of its weighted era and a standard for the expressive depth of its creativity.

The Top 60 Albums of 2021: Honorable Mention

Sit tight, we’ve got a ways to go here.

Acid Magus, Wyrd Syster
Acid Mammoth, Caravan
Age Total, Age Total
Alastor, Onwards and Downwards
Amenra, De Doorn
The Angelus, Why We Never Die
The Answer Lies in the Black Void, Forlorn
Apollo80, Beautiful, Beautiful Desolation
Arlekin, The Secret Garden
Bog Wizard, Miasmic Purple Smoke
Book of Wyrms, Occult New Age
Bongzilla, Weedsconsin
Canyyn, Canyyn
Craneium, Unknown Heights
Delco Detention, It Came From the Basement
Demon Head, Viscera
Doctor Smoke, Dreamers and the Dead
Dread Sovereign, Alchemical Warfare
Dream Unending, Tide Turns Eternal
Duel, In Carne Persona
Dunbarrow, III
DVNE, Etemen Ænka
Eyehategod, A History of Nomadic Behavior
Bill Fisher, Hallucinations of a Higher Truth
Funeral, Praesentalis in Aeternum
Fuzzy Lights, Burials
Holy Death Trio, Introducing…
Iceburn, Asclepius
Jakethehawk, Hinterlands
Kanaan, Earthbound
Khemmis, Deceiver
King Woman, Celestial Blues
Kvasir, 4
Lingua Ignota, Sinner Get Ready
Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel, Polaris
Low Flying Hawks, Fuyu
Low Orbit, Crater Creator
Malady, Ainavahantaa
Mastiff, Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth
Mythic Sunship, Wildfire
Zack Oakley, Badlands
Octopus Ride, II
Øresund Space Collective, Universal Travels
Red Beard Wall, 3
Robots of the Ancient World, Mystic Goddess
Emma Ruth Rundle, Engine of Hell
Saturnia, Stranded in the Green
Savanah, Olympus Mons
Sergio Ch., La Danza de los Toxicos
Shiva the Destructor, Find the Others
Smote, Bodkin
Snake Mountain Revival, Everything in Sight
Snowy Dunes, Sastrugi
Sonic Demon, Vendetta
The Spacelords, False Dawn
Spelljammer, Abyssal Trip
Spidergawd, VI
Swallow the Sun, Moonflowers
Thunderchief, Synanthrope
Thunder Horse, Chosen One
Ultra Void, Ultra Void
Vouna, Atropos
WEEED, Do You Fall?
When the Deadbolt Breaks, As Hope Valley Burns
Witchcryer, When Their Gods Come for You
Witchrot, Hollow
Wolftooth, Blood & Iron
Wowod, Yarost’ I Proshchenie

Notes:

I feel immediately defensive here, and that kind of sucks, to be honest. Here’s the basic truth: I know people like different things. I know people think different things are important, that everybody works hard making records, that lists are bullshit and that people go back to listen to different things more over time.

What I’d ask is that after 60 records in the list proper and another 60-plus here, you please give me a break. I’ve reviewed well over 250 releases this year, so neither is this everything, nor is it nothing. I’ve done my best. And if one of these records is your album of the year? Awesome! I’m so, so glad for that. I can’t and won’t argue. I’m sure this list is incomplete and I’m sure I’ll add more to it over the next couple days — always do — but if you didn’t hear anything this year and you take this list and you take the other 60 records, listen to one per week, you’ll have enough new music to carry you into 2023, and I feel pretty good about that.

Debut Album of the Year 2021

Heavy Temple, Lupi Amoris

heavy temple lupi amoris

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Acid’s Trip, Strings of Soul
Age Total, Age Total
Bala, Maleza
Bog Wizard, Miasmic Purple Smoke
Bottomless, Bottomless
Cancervo, 1
Cave of Swimmers, Aurora
Cavern Deep, Cavern Deep
Chamán, Maleza
Cosmic Reaper, Cosmic Reaper
DayGlo Mourning, Dead Star
Delving, Hirschbrunnen
Den Der Hale, Harsyra
Dome Runner, Conflict State Design
Draken, Draken
Gangrened, Deadly Algorithm
Gristmill, Heavy Everything
High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon
Holy Death Trio, Introducing…
The Judas Knife, Death is the Thing With Feathers
Kadabra, Ultra
Kadavar & Elder, Eldovar – A Story of Darkness and Light
Kvasir, 4
Plaindrifter, Echo Therapy
Shiva the Destructor, Find the Others
Slowshine, Living Light
Smote, Bodkin
Snake Mountain Revival, Everything in Sight
Sonic Demon, Vendetta
Sow Discord, Quiet Earth
Stöner, Stoners Rule
Suncraft, Flat Earth Rider
Terry Gross, Soft Opening
Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, TTBS
Vestamaran, Bungalow Rex
White Void, Anti
Witchrot, Hollow
Wooden Fields, Wooden Fields
Wytch, Exordium
Year of Taurus, Topsoils

Notes:

Yes, technically the Stöner record was higher than Heavy Temple on the top 60. I took into account the fact that Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri have worked together on and off for 30-plus years in my final assessment and decided Lupi Amoris, as a debut album, deserved the top spot. I actually had a numbered list going — Stöner were two, Delving was three — but decided to just let the Heavy Temple stand on its own instead, which it certainly earned.

One could see the pandemic shuffle of creativity peaking out though. Kadavar & Elder’s collaboration was a debut as well, but it was just one of the new projects or collaborations to surface this year. Note Slowshine is Earthship by another name (and purpose) and so are Dome Runner. There was a wash of diggable debuts, loaded with potential, and again, I don’t think this list is exhaustive so much as it’s a primer for some of the best stuff out there as I see/hear it. I’ll spare you wax poetry about the forward movement of genre overall, but suffice to say that in acts like Plaindrifter, Shiva the Destructor, Witchrot, Age Total and High Desert Queen, among others here, such things were readily apparent.

Your time would not be wasted with any of these, I just thought that Heavy Temple, as a first album, was a special achievement and deserved its place as debut of the year.

Short Release of the Year 2021

Jointhugger, Reaper Season

jointhugger reaper season

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Aiwass & ASTRAL CONstruct, Solis in Stellis
All Are to Return, II
Birth, Birth
Blackwolfgoat, (In) Control / Tired of Dying
Bog Wizard/Dust Lord, Split
Boozewa, First Contact
Carlton Melton, Night Pillers
Cerbère, Cerbère
Cortége, Chasing Daylight
The Crooked Whispers, Dead Moon Night
Doomsday Profit, In Idle Orbit
Dopelord, Reality Dagger
EMBR, 1021
Enslaved, Caravans to the Outer Worlds
Fuzz Sagrado, Fuzz Sagrado
Guhts, Blood Feather
Howling Giant, Alteration
Ikitan, Darvaza y Brinicle
Insect Ark, Future Fossils
Erik Larson, Measwe
Lurcher, Coma
Merlock, You Cannot Be Saved
Moonstone, 1904
Morningstar Delirium, Morningstar Delirium
Mos Generator, The Lantern
Nineteen Thirteen, MCMXIII
Old Horn Tooth, True Death
Planet of the 8s, Lagrange Point Vol. 1
Psychonaut/SÂVER, Emerald
Solemn Lament, Solemn Lament
Sorcia, Death by Design
Spaceslug, The Event Horizon
Spawn, Live at Moonah Arts Collective
Stonus, Séance
Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Rosalee
Ultra Void, Ultra Void
Ungraven/Slomatics, Split
Wall, II
Weedevil, The Death is Coming
The Whims of the Great Magnet, Share the Sun
Per Wiberg, All is Well in the Land of the Living But for the Rest of Us… Lights Out

Notes:

Again, look at the amazing swath of new creativity happening. Guhts, Boozewa, Aiwass & ASTRAL CONstruct — even Wall with their second EP — Morningstar Delirium, Fuzz Sagrado, Doomsday Profit, Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships: these are new bands and projects coming together, some from established artists and some not, but the shuffling of sound and priorities is a hallmark of the last year-plus’ output, and it can be seen here for sure. Yeah, bands like Enslaved and Dopelord put out killer EPs, but it’s acts like Moonstone — with just one prior release behind them — or Howling Giant working instrumentally for the first time, that struck me even harder.

As regards Jointhugger in the top pick, I took into account the “oh shit this band isn’t fucking around” factor. Coming off their first record and headed into their second in quick succession, the single-song “Reaper Season” served due notice that the debut was no fluke and that the Norwegian outfit had no interest in resting on riffy laurels. This section is always tough since it encompasses different kinds of releases — singles, EPs, whatnot — but in terms of serving the band’s overarching progression, Jointhugger made a difficult choice markedly easier for me.

I won’t take away from the accomplishments of anyone on the list above — or the inevitable ones I forgot, either. Enslaved’s ever-outbound growth is worth a significant mention, and arrivals like Lurcher and Old Horn Tooth kept were undeniable. I’ll nod here too to Psychonaut/SÂVER and Ungraven/Slomatics’ split releases and that The Whims of the Great Magnet. And, and, and…

Late Releases

Partially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic — like everybody’s everything — vinyl pressing delays meant that many albums have come out in the last month or two that were intended to be earlier. I tried to account for these in the lists above, but thinking about November and December specifically, records by Low Orbit, Spidergawd, Weedpecker, King Buffalo, Spaceslug, Bog Wizard, Raibard, Funeral, Temple Fang, Kadavar & Elder, and Wolftooth can’t be left out as part of the larger narrative of 2021 in music.

I can’t say I’ve listened to, as an example, Spidergawd, as much as to Greenleaf or any number of things that were released in the beginning of the year, but neither do I feel like the lack relative passage of time since something came out should be held against it, especially given the circumstances. As much as the ‘music industry’ shuts down at the end of any given year, 2021 seems to have plowed straight through to the finish.

Live in the Mojave Desert

While we’re marking the highlights of 2021, it’s impossible not to note the continued proliferation of livestreaming as a (woefully inadequate but take what you can get) substitute experience for show-going and touring. In the case of director Ryan Jones’ Live in the Mojave Desert series, it was an opportunity to turn lemons into concert films of true measure, as well as live albums for Earthless, Stöner, Nebula, Spirit Mother and Mountain Tamer that held their own merit.

There have been a few noteworthy streams over the last year-plus issued in pay-per-view fashion, but in terms of the scale of the presentation, few have held a candle to what Live in the Mojave Desert accomplished — only Enslaved’s ‘Cinematic Tour’ comes close in my mind, and that’s a different animal entirely, ditto Roadburn Redux — or have managed to capture an atmosphere in the same way that not only gives a setting for the music, but adds to the experience of the viewer. It’s not just a show that otherwise would happen in a venue; it’s a show that would happen once in a lifetime.

Whatever context brings that about, it is something to celebrate.

Looking Ahead to 2022

I love looking forward to new music. I love it. In a spirit of anticipation and friendship and righteous tunes to come, here’s a list of bands who’ve either confirmed new stuff in the works or are recording or have preorders up or are subject to rampant speculation. In no order whatsoever:

Elder, Toad Venom, Torche, King Buffalo, High on Fire, El Perro, Yatra, Bevar Sea, Birth, Pia Isa, Colour Haze, JIRM, Samavayo, Tortuga, El Supremo, Ruby the Hatchet, MNRVA, Buss, White Ward, Dreadnought, Merlock, Gozu, Westing, Eric Wagner, Stöner, Blue Heron, All Souls, Arekin, 40 Watt Sun, Caustic Casanova, Deathwhite, Freedom Hawk, Hazemaze, Stoned Jesus, Mothership, Desert Storm, Poseidótica, Sasquatch, Conan, Seremonia, Långfinger, Wo Fat, Earthless, Dozer, Red Sun Atacama, REZN, No Man’s Valley, Ufomammut, Geezer, Messa, Clutch, Abronia, Somali Yacht Club, Sun Voyager, Atavismo, Some Pills for Ayala, Eight Bells, Stinking Lizaveta, Borracho, The Crooked Whispers, Naxatras, Rotor, Mos Generator, Big Scenic Nowhere, Righteous Fool, High Priest, High Priestess, Loop, Elliott’s Keep, Fostermother, Valley of the Sun, Boris, Deathbell, Siena Root, My Sleeping Karma, Firebreather, Matt Pike, Mythosphere, Crowbar, JIRM, Mount Saturn, Supersonic Blues, Wizzerd, 10,000 Years…

If any names are repeated there, consider it a sign that I’m looking forward to that record twice. And if you’ve got a name to add to that list, I’m all for it. As I said, I love looking forward to new music.

Thank You

Well, I guess that’s it. I’m not anymore done with 2021 than it’s done with itself — some of the releases featured above have yet to be reviewed; looking at you, Spaceslug — and there’s always catching up to do. No coincidence January will feature the second part of the Quarterly Review that began this month.

But while I’ve got you, if I still do, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you as always for your continued support of The Obelisk, this site, in the various ways it is shown, whether that’s liking a post, sharing a link, leaving a (hopefully kind) comment or buying some sweatpants. More than a decade after the fact, I cannot hope to tell you how much it means to me sitting here in front of my laptop to have that support and encouragement, day in and year out. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart and with ever fiber of my wretched being. Thank you.

But thank The Patient Mrs. even more.

More to come, so stay tuned.

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Desertfest Belgium 2021 Adds to Antwerp and Ghent Lineups

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

Big update from Desertfest Belgium 2021. After recently unveiling some cancelations and following up with a list of the precautionary measures being taken to deal with happening during a pandemic, the Antwerp and Ghent-based editions of the festival both receive a round of lineup additions. Greece’s 1000mods will take part in both, while the likes of Electric Moon and Stoned Jesus join Ghent, and Monkey3 and Slift and Temple Fang confirmed for Antwerp. I’m not sure ultimately how many acts the two Desertfest Belgiums — Belgii? — will share between them, but with Ghent happening on one day and Antwerp happening across three, there’s bound to be significant variation. Looks like that’s happening here already, and take note of Ohio’s Frayle making the trip for Ghent. Hope they can get out of the US to make it in time, or that the EU hasn’t banned our infectious asses by then.

It’s nice to think about these things every day, isn’t it? Doesn’t it just feel like the way humanity was meant to live? Not at all a drain on one’s entire being.

I digress. Constantly. Here’s info from the PR wire:

desertfest belgium 2021 banner

DFBE21: A MASSIVE 20 NEW NAMES FOR ANTWERP & GHENT!

1000MODS playing both events, Monkey3, Stoned Jesus & much much more

Strap in folks, because this is going to be a ride.. after all the hassle with COVID and cancels, let’s have some great to even greater news about both festivals shall we? We have a whole slew of names for you and if we may say so ourselves: we’re positively STOKED about all of these. Scene favourites, new and upcoming acts, local gems to discover.. we have it all. Here we go!

First of all: the Greek stoner sensation 1000MODS will be playing Antwerp as well as Ghent. We love ‘em, you love ‘em, their mother loves ‘em – everybody loves ‘em, okay! They need no further introduction so let’s move on to another favourite that will grace the stage in Ghent: STONED JESUS is coming to town, and you all know what that means. Killer grooves and a mighty good time. We’re also extremely excited to have DELVING on board which is the new project of ELDER frontman Nick DiSalvo. This will be one of their first shows after the album dropped in June, and we can already tell you this one’s gonna be something special.

ALL NEW NAMES FOR DF GHENT: 1000MODS, STONED JESUS, DELVING, LILI REFRAIN, ELECTRIC MOON, NERO DI MARTE, HEMELBESTORMER, FRAYLE, IGNATZ, MODDER

Moving on to Antwerp, we’re looking forward to revisit the audiovisual extravaganza of MONKEY3 who completely killed it at our last edition. For more spaced-out craziness, YURI GAGARIN is always a safe choice so let’s go with that. With VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY we have the second Greek band on the bill, with a more leftfield sound but no less essential.

ALL NEW NAMES FOR DF ANTWERP: MONKEY3, VILLAGERS OF IOANNINA CITY, 1000MODS, YURI GAGARIN, SLIFT, ALKERDEEL, ATOMIC VULTURE, TEMPLE FANG, DAILY THOMPSON, BISMUT, FAKE INDIANS.

We still have a few names up our sleeve, but we hope this whopper list goes a long way to get you stoked. Please remember that we have installed a COVID info page on our websites, where you can check what to do in order to come fully prepared to the festival. We’re updating it as we go, and we try to help out our non-EU visitors as well. Make sure to read it to avoid disappointments at the entrance.

http://www.desertfest.be/
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_belgium/

1000mods, “Pearl” official video

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Delving Fall European Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

delving nick disalvo

If you watched/read the recent interview with Delving‘s Nick DiSalvo — the video of which is also embedded below — you already knew that a tour announcement was forthcoming, but really, isn’t it nice to see? Am I going to go to one of these shows? No. Sadly there are no trips to Luxembourg slated in my immediate future (I say that sincerely). But still, it’s refreshing to be able to post a list of tour dates not just for established acts — though DiSalvo brings a pedigree with him via fronting Elder for the better part of the last 15 years — but for a new project as well. Spring comes to planet Earth. New life out of all the chaos and death, and so on.

Delving‘s debut album, Hirschbrunnen (review here), is likewise refreshing and engaging and all that good stuff, not beholden to a sense of heft, but not entirely removed from one either, transposing the proggy flow of Elder to an instrumentalist context that lets itself be driven by other forces, keys, synth, etc. It’s out on Stickman, and while I won’t get to Luxembourg this time around, the fact that DiSalvo is taking Delving on the road even in this initial feel-it-out capacity speaks to his intention to keep the band going as more than a one-off. That’s also good news.

Dates follow, along with ticket links:

delving tour

DELVING – FALL TOUR 2021

I’m beyond excited to announce some tour dates for delving coming up in a few months! Hope to see you at one of the shows below.

Thank you to Artourette for the beautiful tour poster! We’ll definitely be printing some of these for the upcoming run.

26.11. DE – Leipzig, Moertelwerk
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingleipzig

27.11. DE – Berlin, Urban Spree
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingberlin

28.11. PL – Pozna?, Klub pod Minog?
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingpoznan

02.12. DE – Munich, Sunny Red
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingmunich

03.12. IT – Bologna, Freakout Club
Tickets: https://bit.ly/3d7OZZT

04.12. IT – Milan, Bloom
Tickets: https://bit.ly/3xKaxn9

05.12. CH – Aarau, KIFF
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingaarau

08.12. DE – Karlsruhe, Die Stadtmitte Karlsruhe
Tickets: https://bit.ly/3wWBrrW

09.12. LUX – Esch-Alzette, Kulturfabrik Esch-sur-Alzette
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingluxembourg

10.12. NL – Haarlem, Patronaat Haarlem
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvinghaarlem

11.12. DE – Essen, Cafe Nova
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvingessen

12.12. DE – Hamburg, Hafenklang
Tickets: https://tinyurl.com/delvinghamburg

https://www.facebook.com/delvingmusic
https://www.instagram.com/delving_music/
https://delving-music.bandcamp.com
https://www.stickman-records.com/
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Delving, Hirschbrunnen (2021)

Delving Interview with Nick DiSalvo, June 15, 2021

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Video Interview: Nick DiSalvo on New Project Delving, Elder Recording and More

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 17th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

delving nick disalvo

Founding Elder guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo released the debut album from his don’t-call-it-a-solo-project Delving last week. Titled Hirschbrunnen (review here) and issued through Stickman Records, it’s an excursion into stylistic and instrumental freedom that brings new textures of synth, electronics and layered guitar to some methods familiar and unfamiliar to the context of his prior work. Classically progressive in some ways, touching on heavy in others, it is a pandemic-era exploration that, DiSalvo notes, was born of the restlessness of being off tour but was a long-simmering back-burner concept. Always wanted to do a thing? No time like lockdown.

Immediately, Delving is brought into coexistence with DiSalvo‘s main outlet. Elder will hit the studio in Hamburg in August to begin their next LP even as Delving — which was recorded at Big Snuff in Berlin — looks to do a kind of mini-tour this Fall, feeling out a process of playing live at least in Germany. Hirschbrunnen, which takes its name from a statue in Rudolph Wilde Park near where DiSalvo lives in Berlin, embraces its distinctions. Part of the point of the thing is to be a home for material that, to DiSalvo‘s ear, is separate from Elder in its form or fluidity.

I asked him outright if he was tired of writing heavy riffs. He didn’t prevaricate in saying no, but it’s likewise clear that pushing back on internal and external expectations of Elder as a “heavy” band — which they are, even on last year’s Omens (review here), which introduced a new drummer and an even more progressive sound — and being free to create outside of those expectations was refreshing in his work on Delving. Though instrumental in its entirety, that sensibility comes through the songs without question. They go where they want, even if Hirschbrunnen is presenting a nascent form of these ideas.

There will be more Delving, and Elder will have that new record as well, and return to touring when possible — they’ve already had a few confirmations for 2022. Those are things you’ll want to know. Beyond that, I hope you dive in here and enjoy.

We start off talking about yerba mate, as one will.

Thanks for reading and watching:

Delving Interview with Nick DiSalvo, June 15, 2021

Delving‘s Hirschbrunnen is out now on Stickman Records. You can hear it on the player below and get more info at the links.

Delving, Hirschbrunnen (2021)

Delving on Facebook

Delving on Instagram

Delving on Bandcamp

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Facebook

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Album Review: Delving, Hirschbrunnen

Posted in Reviews on June 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

delving hirschbrunnen

For a quarantine-era project, Delving isn’t necessarily all that insular. The outfit — stylized all-lowercase: delving — offers clues right on its face, from the colorful artwork depicting a fountain in Rudolph Wilde Park in Berlin, Germany, to the fact that the title Hirschbrunnen translates to “stag fountain,” to the fact that the moniker chosen is describing the exact process of what’s happening in the music. Think of the idea of “delving,” and the fact that the name of the band is lowercase. There’s something humble about it, and even in the eponymous second track, something tentative that dissipates the deeper you go into, say, the three-minute motorik psych rocker “Einstürzende Plattenbauten” or the concluding “Vast,” an 11-minute expanse that moves between willful drift and the record’s most weighted crush. So perhaps Delving is driven in part by an abiding awareness of its own craft, and fair enough for that.

For multi-instrumentalist Nick DiSalvo, who’s best known for his work as founding guitarist/vocalist and principle songwriter for Elder, that awareness is well earned, and even as far into progressive rock as his main outfit has pushed — 2020’s Omens (review here) brought them to a new level in that regard — Delving nonetheless represents a pushing back or pushing aside of expectations and a refreshing creative freedom that comes through even in the tonal clarity of the guitar and the keyboard bounce of opener “Ultramarine.”

To make the album, DiSalvo recorded with Richard Behrens (Heat, ex-Samsara Blues Experiment, FOH for Kadavar, etc.) and Emanuele Baratto (who also mastered) at Big Snuff Studio, and as DiSalvo handles the bulk of guitar, bass, drums, keys, etc., himself, Elder bandmate Mike Risberg also steps in to add guitar to Hirschbrunnen‘s three longest tracks, “The Reflecting Pool” (9:30), “Hirschbrunnen” (9:34) and the aforementioned “Vast.” These songs, with “Ultramarine” starting the record at just under eight minutes, are interspliced with comparatively shorter pieces, whether that’s “Delving” (7:01) or “Wait and See” (7:13) or “Einstürzende Plattenbauten” (3:40), adding to the feeling of movement between one cut and the next, however individual the explorations within might prove.

And the personalities within Hirschbrunnen do vary, whether it’s “Delving” adding forward rhythmic momentum to the textural foundation “Ultramarine” sets forth, or the piano and basslines of “The Reflecting Pool” tying together with the Mellotron (or Mellotron-esque guitar; one has been fooled before) and hypnotic guitar progression in the second half of “Wait and See,” the keystone surge of which serves as a fitting and purposeful-seeming centerpiece to the record as a whole. Those looking for some commonality with Elder will find it in that moment, as well as in DiSalvo‘s winding style of guitar in “Delving” itself, reminiscent of some of the breaks in his main unit’s more recent works, and here and there throughout if you really feel like digging — but to do so is to miss part of the point of the project as a whole.

While Elder have not wanted for exploration — their The Gold & Silver Sessions EP (discussed here) boasted plenty in 2019 — Delving ultimately holds more in common with 2014’s Azurite & Malachite (review here), on which DiSalvo also worked with Risberg, under the banner of Gold and Silver. Aside from the instrumentalism, the two projects share a progressive foundation, but where Delving departs from its conceptual semi-predecessor is perhaps even more in its willingness to not be “heavy” in the sense of weighted low-end distortion and crash, and to allow its parts to flesh out melodically along an organic course of their own.

delving nick disalvo

These aren’t exactly jams, though “Einstürzende Plattenbauten” has some spontaneity to its guitar and it’s not alone in that — the prevailing spirit of the release is exploration, after all, and particularly where Risberg sits in, there’s more opportunity to flesh out what’s there in the basic tracks. “The Reflecting Pool” is accordingly spacious in its finish, and the shimmer into which the title-track makes its way carries all the refreshing spirit of, yes, running through a park fountain in the middle of yet another record temperature summer. Escapism? Maybe, but at least as much about the going itself as the being gone.

As regards descriptors, it’s low-hanging fruit to call Hirschbrunnen atmospheric, though it is that. But in this case, that doesn’t necessarily mean quiet or droning or ambient so much as able to convey a sense of place, mental or physical, though following the what-if-Earthless-but-one-person kraut shove of “Einstürzende Plattenbauten,” “Vast” brings out a grand-style culmination that has its subdued stretches. In the context of the preceding six tracks, which alternate between patient and pointedly impatient in their structures, “Vast” still represents a next-stage far-outness, and though its payoff lacks nothing for heft, it’s still a departure in form.

It might be fair to point to those two final inclusions as showcasing the truest potential of Delving as a project distinct from Elder in terms of where and to what they might lead creatively, but the truth is that potential is writ large across the album as a whole and the end is just a convenient summary. If Delving is to be an ongoing project with its own development or a periodic aside for DiSalvo or, like Gold and Silver, an outlet whose progressive stylizations were eventually worked into Elder‘s songwriting, it remains to be seen. In a time so marked by upheaval of one’s normal processes, DiSalvo is hardly alone in finding a new and somewhat-different avenue of expression.

With familiar elements and individualized nuance, where Delving ends may be a mystery, but it begins here, and as an initial offering, Hirschbrunnen demonstrates not only its own potential, but how comfortable DiSalvo has become in his own skin as a songwriter and multi-instrumentalist. Even without vocals, these tracks stand on their own, not entirely separate from his work elsewhere, but neither entirely of it, inhabiting multiple spaces carved out as they go. Humility may have driven calling the “band” Delving, but the greater creative process of which this project is a part is broad and only growing more so with time.

Delving, Hirschbrunnen (2021)

Delving on Facebook

Delving on Instagram

Delving on Bandcamp

Stickman Records website

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