The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2015

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 20 short releases of 2015

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

What’s a short release? Anything that’s not a full-length. I’ve done this list in the past and given a small list — The Top 20 EPs, Splits, Demos and Singles, or whatever — but “Short Releases” seemed more concise, and believe it or not, that’s something I shoot for.

Essentially, what we’re taking a look at here is everything else a band might put out in a given year. No question that albums are where the greatest impact is made over the longer term, but from landmark 7″s to EPs that provide crucial experiments or serve notice of bands solidifying their sound or marking pivotal first impressions, the shorter offerings have tremendous value, and it’s worth considering them on their own merit, rather than in comparison to LPs directly.

I know for a fact that there are releases I’ve missed here. Particularly among the Bandcamp-only demos, there’s just so much out there that for any one person to keep up with all of it is even more impossible than it’s ever been before. Before you berate me immediately with, “Hey you forgot X Band!” and start throwing tomatoes at your computer or mobile device screen, please keep in mind The Obelisk is run by a single individual and there are only so many hours in the day. As always, I do the best I can.

Here we go:

foehammer foehammer

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2015

1. Foehammer, Foehammer EP
2. Mos Generator & Stubb, The Theory of Light and Matter Split
3. Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze EP
4. All Them Witches, A Sweet Release
5. Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 Split
6. Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split
7. Eggnogg & Borracho, Sludgy Erna Bastard Split 7″
8. Shroud Eater, Face the Master EP
9. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some EP
10. Stars that Move, Demo Songs
11. Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″
12. Thera Roya, Unraveling EP
13. Shatner, EP
14. Cities of Mars, Cyclopean Ritual EP
15. Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split
16. Sandrider & Kinski, Split
17. Mount Hush, Low and Behold! EP
18. Godhunter & Amigo the Devil, The Outer Dark Split
19. Groan, Highrospliffics EP
20. Rozamov & Deathkings, Split

Honorable Mention

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Notes

It’s something of a break in routine for me to put any kind of debut in a top spot (other, of course, than on the list of debuts), but Foehammer simply would not be denied. The Virginia trio’s three-song EP release on Grimoire Records (LP on Australopithecus Records), it was a self-titled that seemed to be telling you the name of the band twice as if in a warning against forgetting it. And that warning was one to heed. Foehammer‘s first outing brought the Doom Capitol region to new heights of extremity, and while at over half-an-hour long it could’ve just as easily have been called a full-length, part of the overarching threat is what the band will bring to bear when they actually get around to their first LP.

A good number of splits included here, with Mos Generator and Stubb‘s The Theory of Light and Matter (HeviSike Records), Geezer and Borracho‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 (launching a series for Ripple Music), Fatso Jetson and Farflung‘s joint release (on Heavy Psych Sounds) and Eggnogg and Borracho‘s Sludgy Erna Bastard (on Palaver Records) all cracking the top 10. No coincidence that Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho show up twice in that mix. As Pyramidal and Domo‘s blissful Jams from the Sun, Sandrider and Kinski‘s one-two, Godhunter and Amigo the Devil‘s Battleground Records collaboration and Rozamov and Deathkings‘ joint single feature between #11-20, a total of eight out of the full included 20 releases here are splits. Last year it was only five.

Whether that means the form is growing in an attempt to capture fickle social-media-age attention spans while cutting individual vinyl pressing costs, I couldn’t say — likely a combination of the two and more besides — but it’s noteworthy that a split is more than just a toss-off, between-albums castaway at this point, something for songs to later be included on rare-tracks comps. One could easily say the same of EPs as a whole. To that end, Sun Voyager‘s Lazy Daze was a brutal tease for the NY psychgaze outfit’s first album, hopefully out in 2016. And while All Them WitchesA Sweet Release was over 50 minutes long — longer, actually, than their Dying Surfer Meets His Maker LP, which was also issued this year — they considered it an EP/live collection, and that indeed proved how it worked best, immersive though its stretch remained.

Shroud Eater and Bedroom Rehab Corporation both turned in impressive outings that showed marked progression from their last time out, while Shatner‘s first batch of tracks tipped off a songwriting process well-honed and Stars that Move, Cities of Mars, Thera Roya and Mount Hush — I’d put Mount Desert in this category as well — had compelling outings that, like Foehammer at the top, showed much potential at work in formative sounds. Not to be forgotten, Wight‘s Helicopter Mama 7″ gave listeners a heads up on the funkified stylistic turn their upcoming full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, will take even further, and UK stoner miscreants Groan proved once and for all that, along with logic and reason, a constantly changing lineup can’t hold back their good times.

Like I said — like I always say — if I left something out, let me know about it in the comments. Really let me have it. Call me a jerk. It’s cool. I can take it.

Please note: I can, in no way, take it.

Still, if I left something/someone out, I hope you’ll let me know. And please don’t forget that if you haven’t yet, you can still contribute your list of 2015 favorites to the year-end poll until Dec. 31. EPs, LPs, whatever, however many, it doesn’t matter. All entries are welcome there.

Thanks for reading.

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Quarterly Review: Foehammer, Holy Serpent, Wicked Inquisition, AVER, Galley Beggar, Demon Lung, Spirit Division, Space Mushroom Fuzz, Mountain Tamer, Ohhms

Posted in Reviews on June 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk summer quarterly review

I said back in March that I was going to try to make the Quarterly Review a regular feature around here, and once it was put out there, the only thing to do was to live up to it. Over the last several — like, five — weeks, I’ve been compiling lists of albums to be included, and throughout the next five days, we’re going to make our way through that list. From bigger names to first demos and across a wide swath of heavy styles, there’s a lot of stuff to come, and I hope within all of it you’re able to find something that hits home or speaks to you in a special way.

No sense in delaying. Hold nose, dive in.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Foehammer, Foehammer

foehammer foehammer

Relatively newcomer trio Foehammer specialize in grueling, slow-motion punishment. Their self-titled debut EP follows a well-received 2014 demo and is three tracks/34 minutes released by Grimoire and Australopithecus Records of doomed extremity, the Virginian three-piece of guitarist Joe Cox (ex-Gradius), bassist/vocalist Jay Cardinell (ex-Gradius, ex-Durga Temple) and drummer Ben “Vang” Blanton (ex-Vog, also of The Oracle) not new to the Doom Capitol-area underground by any stretch and seeming to pool all their experience to maximize the impact of this extended material. Neither “Final Grail,” “Stormcrow” nor 14-minute closer “Jotnar” is without a sense of looming atmosphere, but Foehammer at this point are light only on drama, and the lower, sludgier and more crushing they go, the more righteous the EP is for it. Stunningly heavy and landing with a suitable shockwave, it is hopefully the beginning of a long, feedback-drenched tenure in death-doom, and if the EP is over half an hour, the prospect of a follow-up debut full-length seems overwhelming. Easily one of the year’s best short releases.

Foehammer on Thee Facebooks

Grimoire Records on Bandcamp

Australopithecus Records

Holy Serpent, Holy Serpent

holy serpent holy serpent

It’s not like they were lying when they decided to call a song “Shroom Doom.” Melbourne double-guitar four-piece made their self-titled debut as Holy Serpent last year, and the five-track full-length was picked up for release on RidingEasy Records no doubt for its two-front worship of Uncle Acid’s slither and jangle – especially prevalent on the eponymous opener and closer “The Wind” – and the now-classic stonerism of Sleep. That blend comes together best of all on the aforementioned finale, but neither will I take away from the north-of-10-minute righteousness of “The Plague” preceding, with its slow roll and malevolent vibe that, somehow, still sounds like a party. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Scott Penberthy, guitarist Nick Donoughue, bassist Michael Macfie and drummer Keith Ratnan, the real test for Holy Serpent will be their second or third album – i.e., how they develop the psychedelic nodes of centerpiece “Fools Gold” along with the rest of their sound – but listening to these tracks, it’s easy to let the future worry about itself.

Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records

Wicked Inquisition, Wicked Inquisition

wicked inquisition wicked inquisition

There are a variety of influences at work across Wicked Inquisition’s self-titled debut long-player, from the Sabbath references of its eponymous closer to the earlier thrashery of “In Shackles” and “Sun Flight,” but the core of the Minneapolis four-piece resides in a guitar-led brand of metal, whatever else they decide to build around it. Guitarist/vocalist Nate Towle, guitarist Ben Stevens, bassist Jordan Anderson and drummer Jack McKoskey align tightly around the riffs of “M.A.D.” in all-business fashion. Shades of Candlemass show up in some of the slower material, “M.A.D.” included as well as with “Crimson Odyssey,” but the start-stops of “Tomorrow Always Knows” ensure the audience is clued in that there’s more going on than just classic doom, though a Trouble influence seems to hover over the proceedings as well, waiting to be more fully explored as the band moves forward.

Wicked Inquisition on Thee Facebooks

Wicked Inquisition on Bandcamp

AVER, Nadir

aver nadir

Clocking in at an hour flat, Sydney all-caps riffers AVER construct their second album, Nadir, largely out of familiar elements, but wind up with a blend of their own. Fuzz is prevalent in the extended nod of opener “The Devil’s Medicine” (9:46) which bookends with the longest track, finisher “Waves” (9:48), though it’s not exactly like the four-piece are shy about writing longer songs in between. The production, while clear enough, lends its focus more toward the low end, which could be pulling in another direction from the impact of some of Nadir’s psychedelia on “Rising Sun” second half solo, but neither will I take anything away from Jed’s bass tone, which could carry this hour of material were it asked. The vocals of guitarist Burdt have a distinct Acid Bathian feel, post-grunge, and that contrasts a more laid back vibe even on the acoustic-centered “Promised Lands,” but neither he, Jed, guitarist Luke or drummer Chris feel out of place here, and I’m not inclined to complain.

AVER on Thee Facebooks

AVER on Bandcamp

Galley Beggar, Silence and Tears

galley-beggar-silence-and-tears

Sweet, classic and very, very British folk pervades the gorgeously melodic and meticulously arranged Silence and Tears by London six-piece Galley Beggar, released on Rise Above. The eight-track/40-minute album packs neatly onto a vinyl release and has near-immediate psychedelic underpinnings in the wah of opener “Adam and Eve,” and side B’s “Geordie” has some heavier-derived groove, but it’s the beauty and lushness of the harmonies throughout (finding satisfying culmination in closer “Deliver Him”) that stand Galley Beggar’s third offering out from worshipers of a ‘60s and ‘70s era aesthetic. The highlight of Silence and Tears arrives early in nine-minute second cut “Pay My Body,” a wonderfully swaying, patient excursion that gives equal time to instrumental exploration and vocal accomplishment, but to a select few who let themselves be truly hypnotized and carried along its winding course, the album’s entire span will prove a treasure to be revisited for years to come and whose sunshiny imprint will remain vivid.

Galley Beggar on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records

Demon Lung, A Dracula

demon-lung-a-dracula

With inspiration reportedly from the 1977 demon-possession horror flick Alucarda, Las Vegas doomers Demon Lung return with A Dracula, their second offering via Candlelight Records after 2013’s The Hundredth Name, and as the movie begins with a birth, so too do we get “Behold, the Daughter” following the intro “Rursumque Alucarda,” later mirrored by a penultimate interlude of the same name. Billy Anderson produced, so it’s not exactly a surprise that the slow, undulating riffs and the periodic bouts of more upbeat chug, as on “Gypsy Curse,” come through nice and viscous, but vocalist Shanda brings an ethereal melodic sensibility, not quite cult rock, but on “Mark of Jubilee” presenting momentarily some similarly bleak atmospherics to those of the UK’s Undersmile, her voice seeming to command the guitars to solidify from their initial airiness and churn out an eerie apex, which closer “Raped by the Serpent” pushes further for a raging finale.

Demon Lung on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight USA’s Bandcamp

Spirit Division, Spirit Division

spirit division spirit division

Spirit Division’s self-titled debut full-length follows a 2014 demo that also hosted three of the tracks – opener “Spirit Division,” “Through the Rounds” and “Mountain of Lies” – but is fuller-sounding in its post-grunge tonality and doomly chug than the earlier offering, guitarist/vocalist Stephen Hoffman, bassist/vocalist Chris Latta and drummer/vocalist David Glass finding a straightforward route through moody metallurgy and weighted riffage. Some Wino-style swing shows up on “Bloodletting,” and “Cloud of Souls” has a decidedly militaristic march to its progression, while the later “Red Sky” revels in classic doom that seems to want to be just a touch slower than it is, but what ultimately unites the material is the strong sense of purpose across the album’s span and Spirit Division’s care in the vocal arrangements. The production is somewhat dry, but Spirit Division walk the line between sludge rock and doom and seem comfortable in that sphere while also sparking a creative progression that seems well worth further pursuit.

Spirit Division on Thee Facebooks

Spirit Division on Bandcamp

Space Mushroom Fuzz, Until Next Time

space mushroom fuzz until next time

I was all set to include a different Space Mushroom Fuzz album in this roundup, but then I saw that the project was coming to an end and Until Next Time was issued as the band’s final release. The deal all along with the band headed by guitarist/vocalist Adam Abrams (also Blue Aside) has been that you never really know what he’s going to do next. Fair enough. Abrams brings it down in suitably bizarre fashion, a keyboard and guitar line backing “Class Onion” in direct mockery of Beatlesian bounce, where “The DeLorean Takes Off!” before compiles five-plus minutes of experimental noise and “Follow that DeLorean” answers with another round after. Elsewhere, opener and longest cut (immediate points) “Here Comes Trouble” resonates with its central guitar line and unfolds to further oddity with a quiet but gruff vocal, while “The Rescue” vibes like something Ween would’ve conjured after huffing roach spray (or whatever was handy) and closer “Back in ‘55” moves from progressive soloing to froggy singing and weirdo jangle. All in all a strange and fitting end to the band.

Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks

Space Mushroom Fuzz on Bandcamp

Mountain Tamer, MTN TMR DEMO

mountain tamer mtn tmr demo

Santa Cruz trio Mountain Tamer have been kicking around the West Coast for the last several years, and since they released a full-length, Liquid Metal, in 2013, and a prior EP in 2012’s The Glad, it’s tempting to try to read some larger shift sonically into their MTN TMR Demo, as though having completely revamped their sound, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Andru, bassist/vocalist Dave Teget and drummer/vocalist Casey Garcia trying out new ideas as they redirect their approach. That may well be the case, with “Satan’s Waitin’,” “Sum People” and “Dunes of the Mind” each standing at over five-minutes of neo-stoner roll, more psychedelic than some in the growing fuck-it-let’s-skate oeuvre, but still plainly born after, or at least during, grunge. The finisher comes to a thrilling, noisy head as it rounds out the short release, and if Mountain Tamer are taking on a new path, it’s one well set to meander and I hope they continue to follow those impulses.

Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks

Mountain Tamer on Bandcamp

OHHMS, Cold

ohhms cold

Like their late-2014 debut, Bloom, OHHMS’ sophomore outing, Cold, is comprised of two extended tracks. Here the Canterbury five-piece bring “The Anchor” (18:30) and “Dawn of the Swarm” (14:27), blending modern prog, sludge and post-metallic vibes to suit a melodic, ambitious purpose. Atmosphere is central from the quiet drone starting “The Anchor” and remains so as they lumber through a linear build and into an apex at about 13 minutes in, dropping out to quiet only to build back up to a striking melodic push that ends on a long fade. Side B, “Dawn of the Swarm” is more immediately post-rock in the guitar, the lineup of vocalist Paul Waller, guitarists Daniel Sargent and Marc George, bassist Chainy Chainy and drummer Max Newton moving through hypnotic sprawl into angular Isis-ism before finding their own way, the second cut pushing structurally against the first with loud/quiet tradeoffs in a well-timed back half. Clearly a band who arrived knowing their purpose, but not so cerebral as to detract from the heavy landing of the material itself.

OHHMS on Thee Facebooks

OHHMS on Bandcamp

 

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Foehammer Self-Titled Debut EP Coming Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

foehammer (Photo by Mario)

There’s an undercurrent of psychedelic guitar swirl to “Stormcrow,” the first streamable track to come from Foehammer‘s self-titled debut EP, which is due next month on Grimoire Records with vinyl to follow on Australopithecus Records, but you’ve gotta dig through a mountain of sludge to find it. The trio, who apparently have a thing for Lord of the Rings references (who doesn’t?), burrow deep into that mountain, and while I’ve only heard one song from the release at this point, I’m sure as hell interested to find out what else they’ve dug up from under there. Shit is heavy. Get your head ready for skull-vibrating low end, because it’s coming.

Here there be heft, delivered via PR wire:

foehammer foehammer

Foehammer – S/T – out 04/07/15 on Grimoire Records

Hailing from the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC, Foehammer’s music belies its bustling surroundings. Rather, Foehammer conjure the creeping tectonic progression of transform faults, culminating in releases of sound waves the magnitude of which is best measured by seismometers. In keeping with the appropriate timescale, each of the three funeral doom epics on Foehammer’s debut EP clock in past the 9 minute mark. Foehammer is doom metal in the truest sense of the appellation, crushing, unrelenting and suffused with a foreboding of cataclysm that smothers each of the EP’s all-to-brief 34 minutes. Foehammer’s rupturing first salvo will undoubtedly appeal to fans of Grief, Warhorse, Corrupted, Hell, Buried at Sea and other purveyors of the slow.

Foehammer will be released in partnership between Baltimore’s Grimoire Records (CD/pro-cassette/digital download) and Arlington, VA’s Australopithecus Records (Vinyl). CD, tape and digital versions are available through Grimoire Records on April 7th. The initial pressing of 250 hand-numbered copies (50 clear, 200 black) is currently available for pre-order through Australopithecus Records with an expected ship date of mid-May.”

The teaser track can be streamed here, along with album credits, photos of the CD and cassette, etc.

“Foehammer” is out 04/07/15 in CD/pro-cassette/digital download through Grimoire Records.

https://www.facebook.com/foehammerva/
http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com/album/foehammer
https://www.facebook.com/GrimoireRecords
www.australopithecusrecords.com
www.facebook.com/australopithecusrecords

Foehammer, “Stormcrow”

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