Geezer Premiere “Acid Veins” from Interstellar Cosmic Blues & The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes Split LP with Isaak Out May 17

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on April 24th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

geezer isaak interstellar cosmic blues and the riffalicious stoner dudes

New York’s Geezer and Genoa, Italy’s Isaak are set to issue their split LP, Interstellar Cosmic Blues & The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes, on May 17. As labelmates on Heavy Psych Sounds, they are united in dedication to groove and weighted tones, and they’re certainly both acts you’d call ‘heavy,’ but from one side of the platter to the other, there’s no question they each stand on their own as well.

Geezer open side A with “Acid Veins” (lyric video premiering below) as one the first of four characteristically grooving inclusions. It and the capping “Oneirophrenia” were recorded with David Andersen at The Artfarm, while the middle two, “Little Voices” and “Mercury Rising,” were tracked during the sessions for the band’s most recent album, 2022’s Stoned Blues Machine (review here), which were helmed by Chris Bittner at Applehead Recording in Woodstock, NY, near the band’s hometown of Kingston. I’m not sure when “Acid Veins” and “Oneirophrenia” were tracked, but they fit well in bookending the Interstellar Cosmic Blues portion of this split, with “Acid Veins” sweeping in on a quick rush of noise and digging almost immediately into its verse riff in an easy nod and swing from guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota that holds for the duration through the first of their four choice hooks and into the fuzz-drenched twister solo section that carries them out in classic stoner rock style.

Perhaps in comparison to Isaak, whose stated purpose here is to branch out in sound and personnel alike (give me a minute, we’ll get there), Geezer‘s four cuts might not come off as outwardly pushing boundaries in the same way, but in “Acid Veins,” “Little Voices,” which might be about depression or might be about having kids — take your pick; either way, “sometimes it gets dark” — and “Mercury Rising” they bring to emphasis the more straight-ahead songwriting that on their albums has done so much to complement and sometimes ground their jammier and more psychedelic material.

“Mercury Rising” is a little longer and starts out with a mellow jam for its first minute-plus, but picks up from there around a rolling riff and verse/chorus trades. It’s a hook I remembered instantly from being in the studio when Stoned Blues Machine‘s basic tracks were put down, and it’s a highlight here as well. Rounding out, “Oneirophrenia” — the title in reference to the semi-hallucinatory dream-state between being awake and asleep; you know, brain stuff — grows insistent in its shove as it moves through its halfway point, but closes Geezer‘s stretch with a condensed exploration of low-key spacey vibing, giving some representation to the reach that might show up near the end of an LP. Hypnotic by the end of its six minutes, it’s the proverbial ‘big finish’ perfectly scaled-down to suit the context in which it arrives. Sometimes a song just finds its place. That happens four times on the first half of Interstellar Cosmic Blues & The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes.

The plot thickens with the start of Isaak‘s “The Whale,” as the core four-piece of the band — vocalist Giacomo Boeddu, guitarist Francesco Raimondi, bassist Gabriele Carta and drummer Davide Foccis — waste not a second of their circa-15-minutes and transfigure the crunch of a song like “OBG” from last year’s Hey (review here) long-player onto a careening gallop that, particularly with the bellow that tops it, feels more born of the Baroness school of riffing. Welcoming the first of three guests in Fabio Cuomo (GothoLiquido di Morte), they calm it down somewhat momentarily in the bridge before building up to a charged finish, but are very obviously working to expand the perception of the band as The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes, and both “Crisis” and “Flat Earth” follow suit in methodology and the shirking of expectation.

Geezer 2022 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Isaak (Photo by Davide Colombino)

As to how recent Isaak‘s tracks are, I don’t know that either, but as vocalist Fabio Palombi (Burn the OceanNerve) joins in for “Crisis” and Ufomammut drummer Alessandro “Levre” Levrero guests on “Flat Earth,” they both help the cause. “Crisis” sets out on an initially angular course of riffing before settling into the verse with Foccis on the bell of the ride, Mastodonic in thickness of tone in a way that feels not so far removed from what Hey wrought and daring a bit of shuffle in its chorus. The twist comes with the departure first into acoustic-inclusive heavy, almost-folkish push before they surge forward with the post-hardcore shouts of Palombi overtop, which give an intensity that Isaak answer by shifting back to the verse and chorus to round out. The sense of their trying new ideas, branching out in terms of sound, is palpable, but they’ve neither dropped their lead-with-riffs modus or the momentum of “The Whale” just before, and as Boeddu‘s own vocals have always had a bit of burl to them and certainly do here as well, it’s not too much of a leap to Palombi‘s part that it derails the song. It works, in other words.

They crash into the start of “Flat Earth” and set out across the split’s final track with a marked tension in the guitar. The pace isn’t quite as thrust-minded as “The Whale,” but the first of Isaak‘s three songs still affects the momentum of the last, and while they’re a bit more in line with what they’ve done before, when the chorus hits, what in many contexts would be a desert rock riff takes on a new persona and energy. It is both a blast and wall-‘o-tone heavy; the snare punctuating turns in the guitar and bass at the end of bellowing measures. Right at three minutes in, the guitar solo starts and the rhythmic pattern follows, but they’re back in the chorus soon enough and build from there into the ending section — which I’m pretty sure is where Levrero joins Boeddu — which both answers back to Geezer‘s ceremonious closeout and underscores the vibrancy behind the surprises from The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes, who just might need to add a ‘+’ to their side B descriptor.

The bottom line for Interstellar Cosmic Blues & The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes as a whole is quality work from established acts each with their own chemistry and intent for the release. They are nowhere near close enough in style to be competing with each other, but if you put one on loud, certainly the next will benefit from that same volume. Kind of a no-brainer for those who know the bands, maybe, and for those who don’t — that’s not a judgment on my part, ever; I’m not talking down to anyone — in Geezer‘s display of craft and Isaak‘s willful progression of style, they both play to strengths in an engaging summary of what they do. Yeah, the split’s got a long title, but hell, it also covers a lot of ground.

Enjoy “Acid Veins” below, followed by more info from the PR wire:

Geezer, “Acid Veins” lyric video premiere



ACID VEINS is the third GEEZER single taken from the split album Interstellar Cosmic Blues & The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes. The release features Geezer and Isaak and will see the light on May 17th via Heavy Psych Sounds.

“Acid Veins is about life on the road. The good, the bad and the ugly side of touring in an underground rock band. While it is (in many ways) the best experience in the world, it ain’t for the faint of heart and it sure as hell ain’t always fun and games. We love what we do and we don’t take anything for granted. This one’s for the road dogs, for the lifers. Much love and safe travels!”

Acid Veins (Geezer)
Little Voices (Geezer)
Mercury Rising (Geezer)
Oneirophrenia (Geezer)

The Whale (Isaak feat Fabio Cuomo from Gotho & Liquido di Morte)
Crisis (Isaak feat. Fabio Palombi from Nerve & Burn the Ocean)
Flat Earth (Isaak feat. Levre from Ufomammut)

Pat Harrington – vocals/guitar
Richie Touseull – bass
Steve Markota – drums

Giacomo Boeddu – vocals
Francesco Raimondi – guitars
Gabriele Carta – bass
Davide Foccis – drums

Geezer on Instagram

Geezer on Facebook

Geezer on Bandcamp

Isaak on Instagram

Isaak on Facebook

Isaak on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds on Instagram

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Geezer and Isaak to Release Interstellar Cosmic Blues & The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes Split

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Geezer and Isaak split LP is an easy win for the universe. It’s out May 17, and I feel like that’s probably all I need to say, except to point out that I’m glad Geezer‘s “Little Voices” is coming out. That song was recorded when the Kingston, New York, trio were in Woodstock to track their 2022 album, Stoned Blues Machine (review here). On side B, Genoa, Italy’s Isaak — who were all-caps on their 2023 album, Hey (review here), which was their first full-length in eight years — have three tracks featuring collaborations with members of Liquido di MorteNerve and Ufomammut and they specifically promise an experimentalist ethic that is sure to expand their own sonic palette. Given the righteously cumbersome title Interstellar Cosmic Blues and the Riffalicious Stoner Dudes, the split already carries a lighthearted and unpretentious vibe that should fit nicely in the respective catalogs of both outfits.

First word came down the PR wire a bit ago, and you can stream “Little Voices” down at the bottom. Preorders and whatnot included:

geezer isaak interstellar cosmic blues and the riffalicious stoner dudes

Heavy Psych Sounds to announce split album GEEZER // ISAAK – Interstellar Cosmic Blues & The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes – presale starts TODAY !!!

Today we are stoked to start the presale of a brand new split album featuring the US blues rockers GEEZER and the Italian heavy stoners ISAAK.






Acid Veins (Geezer)
Little Voices (Geezer)
Mercury Rising (Geezer)
Oneirophrenia (Geezer)

The Whale (Isaak)
Crisis (Isaak)
Flat Earth (Isaak)



As the “Interstellar Cosmic Blues” half of this EP, we consider these songs to be some of the best that we’ve produced. Songs that could all be “singles” all on their own. And they better be because “The Riffalicious Stoner Dudes” brought some savage riffage of their own! Put it all together with amazing artwork by Mirkow Gastow and release it on Heavy Psych Sounds, the BEST record label on the planet… and you’ve got all the makings of a great record! A modern classic right out of the box. Dig it!

Songs 1 & 4 Recorded and Mixed by David Andersen at the Artfarm (Accord, New York)
Songs 2 & 3 Recorded and Mixed by Chris Bittner at the Applehead Recording (Woodstock, New York)
All Songs Mastered by Scott Craggs

Pat Harrington – vocals/guitar
Richie Touseull – bass
Steve Markota – drums


Art comes from change and experimentation.
These three songs are exactly that.
Three songs, three different souls.

This recording session is born from the collaboration of some friends invited by the band, and these are:

Fabio Cuomo from Gotho & Liquido di Morte – THE WHALE
Fabio Palombi from Nerve & Burn the Ocean – CRISIS
And last but not the least, Levre from Ufomammut – FLAT EARTH

Giacomo Boeddu – vocals
Francesco Raimondi – guitars
Gabriele Carta – bass
Davide Foccis – drums

Geezer, “Little Voices”

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest 2023: Initial Lineups Announced for New York and Baltimore

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 19th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Two bands left to announce, huh? Well, having been in Baltimore earlier this month to see them, Holy Fingers would sure as shit be a welcome addition to this bill, and if Heavy Temple are back from Europe by then (and I’m not sure they will be), they’d be my other pick, though certainly Heavy Psych Sounds wouldn’t be out of line to tap either Ecstatic Vision or Ruby the Hatchet for those spots, again pending their availability.

Whoever remains to be added, it’s already a pretty sick bill for Heavy Psych Sounds Fest 2023 in New York and Baltimore. Bongzilla‘s new record will be out by then, The Golden Grass put out a banger this year, that Gozu album is a beast, so yeah, toss in Lüger from Montreal and The Atomic Bitchwax who are always welcome, add even more cool bands, and it’s a Heavy Psych Sounds Fest. At the Saint Vitus Bar. I remember a time when nobody went to heavy rock shows in New York. Not a label from Italy is hosting a festival in Brooklyn. Time is very, very weird.

I’m gonna say that’s enough since you probably stopped reading anyhow, skimmed the lineup and clicked off, either to buy tickets or elsewhere. Safe travels, either way.

From the PR wire:

heavy psych sounds fest 2023 nybal

Heavy Psych Sounds Fest New York & Baltimore to take place on November 10-11th with Bongzilla, The Atomic Bitchwax and more; tickets on sale

In cooperation with Saint Vitus Bar and Savage Party, Heavy Psych Sounds Records take over the East Coast with the first edition of Heavy Psych Sounds Fest New York & Baltimore, to take place respectively at Saint Vitus Bar and Metro Gallery on November 10-11th, 2023. Ten bands are already confirmed, don’t wait to get your tickets!

“We are stoked to organize one of our HPS Fests on the US East Coast for the very first time! After conquering the West Coast in March, we are ready to rock the East Coast too!” says Rajko Dolhar from Heavy Psych Sounds.

Heavy Psych Sounds Fest New York 2023
Saint Vitus Bar – 1120 Manhattan Ave, Brooklyn, NY 11222

Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Baltimore 2023
Metro Gallery – 1700 N Charles St, Baltimore, MD 21201

+ two more bands TBA

The Atomic Bitchwax, Live at Freak Valley 2022

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Geezer and Book of Wyrms Announce Canadian Shows

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 3rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan


Next month, Kingston, New York, trio Geezer and Richmond, Virginia, four-piece Book of Wyrms will head north together for a three-date weekender in Ontario and Quebec. As both bands note below, it’s their first time playing in Canada, and for the dates in Toronto, Ottawa and Québec City, they’ll be keeping good company with a sampling of the righteous Canadian heavy underground. You can see the names on the poster and in the announcement, so I’ll spare you my just listing them again, but it’s a curated assemblage.

Geezer go in continued support of 2022’s Stoned Blues Machine (review here) on Heavy Psych Sounds, having most recently played Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in San Francisco and Joshua Tree, California. For Book of Wyrms, they’ll herald new projects in the works, including plans to record their next full-length at summer’s end, which will follow their 2022 single “Sodapop Glacier” (premiered here) as well as 2021’s Occult New Age (review here), released by Desert Records.

Of the locals, I’ll cop to being less familiar with Hempress and Acid Moth, though Hempress released their Masters of the Trade LP last year and that’s pretty cool and Acid Moth just last Friday offered their self-titled debut EP, complete with a Trailer Park Boys reference and riffs a-plenty. Aawks, Low Orbit and Witchrot are known quantities and killer enough to make the Toronto show practically a festival. And you’ll note The Death Wheelers, who play the last date in Québec City, released their Topon Das-mastered Mondo Trasho 7″ last Fall as the follow-up to their 2020 debut on RidingEasy Records. Sounds like fun, but I know one way to find out for sure.

To that end, I hit up Geezer last week and invited myself along for the trip. Looks like it might even happen, so one way or the other, here’s looking forward:

geezer book of wyrms shows 1

GEEZER & BOOK OF WYRMS – Canadian Road Trip

Geezer and Book of Wyrms are teaming up for a May road trip to Canada, joined by noted northern lights Aawks, Low Orbit, and Witchrot (Toronto May 11), Hempress and Acid Moth (Ottawa May 12), and the Death Wheelers (Quebec City May 13). These ragers are generously brought to you by Pale Horse Promotions, Fuzzed n Buzzed Records, and Sewer Pool Productions.

Says Pat Harrington of Geezer: “This will be our first time in Canada and we are totally stoked about it. I reached out to Jake from BoW about the idea of doing some shows together and they were already working on the Canadian idea, so we put our heads together and it all worked out real quick. We’re excited about the bands we’re playing with and the promoters have already been working hard on spreading the word, so we expect this short run to be a banger!”

Says Book of Wyrms’ Jake Linsley: “This will be our first time playing outside the US, and getting to go with our buddies in Geezer just makes it extra badass. I’ve been listening to Aawks a lot so it’s gonna be cool to play with them while we’re up there. Other than that, we have a few summer runs coming up that haven’t been announced yet, a new song on a compilation that hasn’t been announced yet, and we’ll be back in the studio at the end of the summer to record our fourth LP.”

May 11 Hard Luck Toronto ON w/ AAWKS, Low Orbit & Witchrot
May 12 Dominion Ottawa ON w/ Hempress & Acid Moth
May 13 Scanner Québec City QC w/ The Death Wheelers

Geezer are:
Pat Harrington – vocals/guitar
Richie Touseull – bass
Steve Markota – drums

Book of Wyrms are:
Sarah Moore-Lindsey: Vocals and synthesizers
Kyle Lewis: Guitar
Chris DeHaven: Drums
Jay “Jake” Lindsey: Bass

Book of Wyrms, “Sodapop Glacier” (2022)

Geezer, Stoned Blues Machine (2022)

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest California 2023 Announces Full Lineups

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 23rd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Park myself in Joshua Tree for a weekend just as the winter is turning to spring, catch a ton of awesome bands from and beyond the desert? Yeah, that sounds pretty magical, to be honest. Nothing against San Francisco. I’ve seen videos from outside at Thee Parkside and it looks like an incredible place to see a gig, but if I’m making the trip from the other side of the country — and unless there’s a sudden fiscal windfall in my favor, I’m not, sadly — it’s the desert calling, all the more with All Souls and BigPig and Third Ear Experience on that bill. That’s a memorable weekend in the making.

The 2023 lineups for Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in California are finished, and with the two posters next to each other you can see some of the differences from one to the other, but they’re mostly the same as artists will play in one city one night, the other the other, and as someone who remembers seeing Yawning Man and Fatso Jetson together a decade ago at Desertfest London 2013 (review here), I’d offer up a kidney to do so again if I thought I could be healed in time to actually enjoy the show in March.

Anybody want to buy some… shit I have nothing of value. Alright then.

Here’s the bill:


Heavy Psych Sounds Records & Booking is proud to announce *** HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST CALIFORNIA 2023 JOSHUA TREE & SAN FRANCISCO ***

full lineup announcement

Heavy Psych Sounds together with Plastic Cactus Productions and Subliminal SF presents the full lineup of the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest California 2023 !!!

MARCH 25 & 26



MARCH 25th and 26th


MARCH 25th and 26th




Windhand, Live in Hollywood, CA, June 26, 2022

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2022 — Year in Review

Posted in Features on December 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan


[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.]

I believe we are in the midst of a generational turnover among artists and bands. Some have reshuffled as a result of either the pandemic or a basic desire to explore new creative reaches, and some are just plain younger, finding their way into a heavy underground that now has the fanbase ecosystem to support their work. The last couple years have not been easy for anyone, but this wouldn’t be the first instance of hard times making for good art.

The music that will define this decade is being made now. Fresh perspectives and new ideas have broadened the definitions of what makes a sound heavy, and while the change can feel and has felt excruciatingly slow, rock and roll has grown more diverse, much to its benefit. The boundaries between microgenres have become ever more porous, resulting in a vibrant shifting of styles and breadth that, even when playing directly to familiar ideals, is evolution at work. As/if you make your way through the lists below, consider the veteran acts and newcomers, young and old, how many debuts and sophomore albums and how many bands on their fifth, sixth, seventh, etc. Not that there’s nothing between, but the divide feels stark.

As war returned to Eastern Europe and the American political system teetered worryingly toward collapse, music was both respite and reportage, escape, therapy and critique marked by a blanket expressive urgency, no matter which side of which argument one was on. The ‘return’ of touring and live shows was a boon for escapists and celebrants, and one found new appreciation for the simple act of gathering. Some of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on a stage happened in 2022.

In this spirit, I ask as I do every year to please, if you comment on this post in either agreement or disagreement, please, please keep it civil. For both my own sensitivities — yes, I take it personally — and those of anyone else reading. I thank you for reading, and if you feel compelled to respond, thank you for that too. I’m a human being. You’re a human being. Let’s just be nice. That’s all.

Okay. Deep breath in… and plunge:

The Top 60 Albums of 2022

Maybe you think a Top 60 is ridiculous. Fair. Too much? Okay. Anything else? No? Then let’s roll.

Precedent for this was set last year, and I found the trouble this time was not only sorting it by number — once you pass a certain point it’s more about including the names than the actual ordering, I’ll admit — but actually keeping it to 60. Believe it or not, these are packed in, and there were more than a handful of others I was heartbroken to have to leave out of the numbered list.

Here goes:

31. Ecstatic Vision, Elusive Mojo
32. Josiah, We Lay on Cold Stone
33. C.Ross, Skull Creator
34. Samavayo, Pāyān
35. Abronia, Map of Dawn
36. CB3, Exploration
37. Brant Bjork, Bougainvillea Suite
38. Valley of the Sun, The Chariot
39. Mos Generator, Time//Wounds
40. Edena Gardens, Edena Gardens
41. Cities of Mars, Cities of Mars
42. Dreadnought, The Endless
43. Clutch, Sunrise on Slaughter Beach
44. Tau and the Drones of Praise, Misneach
45. Nebula, Transmission From Mothership Earth
46. Birth, Born
47. Ufomammut, Fenice
48. Supersonic Blues, It’s Heavy
49. Naxatras, IV
50. Come to Grief, When the World Dies
51. Toad Venom, EAT!
52. Earthless, Night Parade of 100 Demons
53. Hazemaze, Blinded by the Wicked
54. Experiencia Tibetana, Vol. II
55. Les Nadie, Destierro y Siembra
56. MWWB, The Harvest
57. Obiat, Indian Ocean
58. Messa, Close
59. JIRM, The Tunnel, the Well, Holy Bedlam
60. Somali Yacht Club, The Space


Some killer records. And not just things to be appreciated critically, either, but stuff I actually listened to a fair bit. Cities of Mars, Obiat, Tau and the Drones of Praise, Brant Bjork’s always a go-to. Seeing Ecstatic Vision and Josiah next to each other makes me want to book a UK tour for them together. And then you get into the gleeful acid fuckall of Nebula, Naxatras’ full-on-prog-rock pivot, Clutch being Clutch, Supersonic Blues’ right on debut — finally! — and Obiat’s first record in 13 years. Dreadnought and Edena Gardens and JIRM and CB3, Abronia. There isn’t a clunker in the bunch.

Don’t ignore this list, please, and please don’t think that because something’s not in the top 30 with the cover art right there I don’t think you should check it out. If that was the case, I’d cap the list at 30. There’s genuine treasure here to be found, and it’s my sincere hope you’ll take the time to find it.



Released by We Are Busy Bodies. Reviewed Oct. 20.

My only hope is it wasn’t a one-off that Jason Haberman (Yeahsun), Ian Blurton (Ian Blurton’s Future Now, etc.), and Jay Anderson (Lammping) came together to form this classic psychedelic soul project. With guest vocalists, the six songs on this self-titled debut ranged from flowing extended jams to tight acid disco pop, as memorable as they were righteous. Sleeper hit.

29. River Flows Reverse, The Homing Bird’s Trace


Released by Psychedelic Source Records. Reviewed Nov. 14.

By no means the only cause to rejoice to emerge over the last few years from Hungary’s Psychedelic Source Records collective, River Flows Reverse‘s second offering brings a crafted focus on organic, natural-world psychedelia that results in an affecting beauty and warmth all its own. It is the acid folk of another world; varied in instrumentation, exploratory, welcoming and wonderfully serene.

28. Freedom Hawk, Take All You Can

Freedom Hawk take all you can 1

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 25.

Long-since proven as songwriters, Virginia Beach’s Freedom Hawk one-upped themselves again with their sixth album. It was an effective summary of what has made the band so crucial and so largely undervalued during their time, bringing together elements from classic metal, classic heavy rock, desert riffing, and even some flourish of psychedelia in a DIY recording that told us we all need rock and roll and went on to demonstrate why.

27. Lamp of the Universe, The Akashic Field

Lamp of the Universe The Akashic Field
Released through Headspin Records & Astral Projection. Reviewed Jan. 10.

I’ll gladly cop to being a sucker for the long-running lysergic solo-project of Hamilton, New Zealand’s Craig Williamson (ex-Arc of Ascent, ex-Datura), and as he makes ready to unveil the more riff-heavy, still-solo band incarnation Dead Shrine in 2023 (info here), this offering from Lamp of the Universe pushed through a transitional spirit as though he was passing a torch… to himself. More than 20 years on, this project still evolves, can still surprise.

26. -(16)-, Into Dust

16 into dust

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

A beautiful bludgeoning. Metallic in its aggression, hardcore in its soul and sludged to its monstrously-proportioned gills, the latest from Los Angeles’ 16 felt tighter in its songwriting and meaner even than 2020’s Dream Squasher (review here), but maybe that’s the difference between being punched in the stomach and the solar plexus. This was the one that took the air right out of your lungs, and did so with purpose beyond the simple violence of the act.

25. Eight Bells, Legacy of Ruin

eight bells legacy of ruin

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed April 4.

Recorded (with Billy Anderson) during the general awfulness of 2020, this awaited third long-player from the Portland, Oregon, outfit led by former SubArachnoid Space guitarist/vocalist Melynda Marie Jackson harvested a vision of progressive black metal likewise expansive and dug into the dirt of its making. It was not easy listening by any stretch, but to undertake the challenge it issued listeners was to engage with a churning cosmic extremity that only emphasized the limits and folly of genre.

24. Stöner, Totally…

Stoner Totally
Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 9.

The follow-up from guitarist/vocalist Brant Bjork, bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri and drummer Ryan Güt to 2021’s Stoners Rule (review here) had its challenge in continuing to speak to the rawest-form desert punk of the project’s debut while nonetheless growing the sound and moving forward. Stöner did this by making it a (pizza) party, with cuts like “A Million Beers,” “Driving Miss Lazy” and “Strawberry Creek (Dirty Feet)” bringing further vocal integration from Bjork and Oliveri as they blanketly refused to not have a good time. Easy record to dig, and it was dug.

23. Conan, Evidence of Immortality

conan evidence of immortality

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

One hates to use a cliché like “now more than ever,” but the return of UK lumberchuckers Conan was especially well-timed, and Evidence of Immortality spoke to the overwhelming strangeness of our times with clever metaphor while maintaining the trio’s punishing heft and extreme noise-doom onslaught. By now, their tonality is rightly the stuff of legend, and they know it and they play into it with particularly rampaging glee, but the six-track outing also showed how central atmosphere has become to their pummel, as heard on the 14-minute instrumental closer “Grief Sequence,” a somehow fitting complement to the all-in plod of leadoff “A Cleaved Head No Longer Plots.”

22. My Sleeping Karma, Atma

my sleeping karma atma
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed July 28.

It is remarkable how distinctive My Sleeping Karma have become over time. Their ever-instrumental approach is progressive and reliably able to broaden beyond its root arrangements of guitar, bass, drums and synth, but at the same time, their meditative psychedelia is only ever their own. This was their first studio album in seven years, and while its component material played out with an overarching melancholy that seemed to look inward as much as at the state of the world at large, the four-piece likewise presented an answer in the catharsis of their expression. An essential reminder of the healing art can provide, Atma‘s resonance was an immersive comfort in its own right Like a weighted blanket, and accordingly warm.

21. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager

sun voyager self titled

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

New York’s Sun Voyager provided their own best descriptor of how their second full-length and first for Ripple functions in the song title “Rip the Sky.” The trio/sometimes-four-piece took cosmic bikerisms and classic punk/grunge shove, superheated them like they were about to fuse atoms, and accordingly scorched their way through a sans-nonsense-yet-full-of-nonsense 32 minutes and seven songs that, while varied enough in tempo, remained defined by their urgency. Last month, bassist/backing vocalist/keyboardist Stefan Mersch and drummer Kyle Beach announced Christian Lopez stepping in on guitar in place of Carlos Francisco, and whatever the future holds, they’re that much stronger for this wind pushing them forward.

20. Ealdor Bealu, Psychic Forms

Ealdor Bealu Psychic Forms

Released by Metal Assault Records. Reviewed March 18.

This band is three-for-three in my mind, and as their third full-length, Psychic Forms fostered the most realized vision of their take on progressive heavy rock to-date while feeling not at all like a culmination. In its range and atmospheric focus, it built on what came before, but in pushing as far as it did, it seemed to open as many doors as it went through. Does that make any sense? Did I mix metaphors enough? Point is, the Boise, Idaho-based four-piece seem to develop new ideas and incorporate new influences every time out, and while their material becomes more complex as a result of that, they have yet to put those adventurous impulses to any use that does not best serve the song in question. Psychic Forms is what I wish the word ‘Americana’ actually meant.

19. Mythosphere, Pathological

Mythosphere Pathological

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed Nov. 15.

On some level/levels, Mythosphere could be seen as a continuation of Beelzefuzz, the former outfit of guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey (both also of Pale Divine). That simplistic view, however, doesn’t account for the shift in dynamic of bringing in Victor Arduini (ex-Fates Warning, EntierroArduini/Balich) on lead guitar or Ron “Fezz” McGinnis (Pale DivineAdmiral Browning, etc.) on bass. The latter two play a massive role in building on the foundation of Ortt‘s recognizable style, and as they unfurled Pathological, the sense was that they were stronger for the members’ familiarity with each other even as they undertook developing this new dynamic. One of the strongest and most progressive debut albums Maryland doom has ever produced in my view.

18. Charley No Face, Eleven Thousand Volts

Charley No Face Eleven Thousand Volts

Released by Forbidden Place Records. Reviewed March 1.

As the year went on, the sophomore long-player from Oregon’s Charley No Face just wouldn’t let go. Songs like “Mosaic Sky,” “Big Sleep,” “Satan’s Hand” — they just kept calling me back to hear them again. Languid fuzz, dual-vocals both delivered in dreamy breaths, the odd bit of cultish tendencies, all of it feeding into tracks catchy, heavy and miraculously unpretentious; Eleven Thousand Volts wasn’t necessarily reinventing a genre aesthetic or anything so grandiose, but its tracks were impeccably well done and seemed built for repeat listens, from the mellow-heavy strut of opener “Eyes” through the sweeping culmination of “Death Mask” at the end. Charley No Face nailed it. 2020’s The Green Man (discussed here) set the course, but in bringing in keyboardist/vocalist Carina Hartley alongside guitarist/vocalist Nick Wulfrost, bassist Brad Larson and drummer Tim Abel, they leaped beyond even the most unreasonable of expectations.

17. Besvärjelsen, Atlas

besvarjelsen atlas

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed May 11.

The combination in Atlas of breadth, spaciousness of sound, of rhythmic crunch, and of melody, put it in a stylistic category of its own. The Swedish fivesome whose moniker well-earned its own pronunciation guide have managed to grow and change each time out, but between the confident and soulful delivery of Lea Amling Alazam, the wide-spread tones of guitarists Andreas Baier and Staffan Stensland Vinrot, and the inherited-from-Dozer rhythm section of bassist Johan Rockner and drummer Erik Bäckwall, this felt like the moment where the band became themselves and seemed to realize the intentions they’d laid out at their beginning. Not bad for a self-produced second record, and not to be lost in the narrative of their ongoing maturation is the fact that for all their expanse, the songs seemed to get correspondingly tighter and more efficient structurally, which made them all the more engaging.

16. Telekinetic Yeti, Primordial

Telekinetic Yeti Primordial

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed July 11.

While the Dubuque, Iowa, duo remained somewhat defined by the split of their initial lineup that left guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann — joined now by drummer Rockwel Heim — as the lone remaining founder, Telekinetic Yeti pressed ahead with self-aware riff-led stoner metal that demonstrated a special kind of revelry for the form even as Primordial left its own elephantine footprint thereupon. Unrepentant in their crushing fuzz, the band tapped into the lizard-brain-thrill of celebrating aural heft, but did so without neglecting songcraft, taking melodic cues from Floor and others while sounding fresh even as they seemed so utterly covered in dense, caked-on mud. As they move forward, they’re another act from an up-and-coming generation of players whose potential at this point seems only beginning to manifest, and while Primordial hardly put one in mind for evolution thematically, Telekinetic Yeti remain one of tomorrow’s brightest hopes for riffslinging.

15. Geezer, Stoned Blues Machine

Geezer Stoned Blues Machine

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Just about a year ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the studio (features here and here) with Kingston, New York, trio Geezer while they put down the basic tracks for what would become Stoned Blues Machine. Even at that early point in the record’s making, it was apparent that they’d outdone even what was their definitive statement in 2020’s Groovy (review here). In terms of songwriting, the performances captured from guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota, and the scope of the record, Geezer took the lessons of their best album yet and made a new best album yet. Rife with hooks in “Atomic Moronic,” the title-track, “A Cold Black Heart,” etc., they dug into songs like “Eleven” and “Saviours” with an honest and sincere music-as-escape mindset and honored their jammier side with the tripped out “The Diamond Rain of Saturn.” I’m a fan of these guys, and Stoned Blues Machine was more than I’d have asked for, even holding them to the high standard I do.

14. Sky Pig, It Thrives in Darkness

Sky Pig It Thrives in Darkness

Released by Forbidden Place Records. Reviewed Dec. 8.

Yeah, I said as much in the album review, and maybe-not-surprisingly my opinion hasn’t changed in the last two weeks, but if Sky Pig represent the future of sludge metal, that’s cool by me. The Sacramento outfit’s debut full-length takes the urgent crush of 2020’s Hell is Inside You EP and presents its maddening charge with offsetting, sometimes disturbing drone complement, sometimes resolving in steamroller-over-your-brain riffs and sometimes refusing to resolve at all. No matter how many times I put on the record, it’s a challenge. It’s not an easy listen, and where in many cases it wouldn’t be worth the effort, meeting Sky Pig on their level is thrilling and refreshing, which is so weird to think of about an album that so expertly seems to harness an atmosphere of decay. I won’t predict what the years to come will bring, or where Sky Pig will go from It Thrives in Darkness in terms of craft, but their first LP is both a significant accomplishment in individualizing stylistic impulses and overflowing with potential. A beast that hypnotizes, strikes, and hypnotizes again, purely because it can.

13. Sasquatch, Fever Fantasy

sasquatch fever fantasy

Released by Mad Oak Records. Reviewed June 3.

Listening to it, it seems somewhat cruel on the part of Los Angeles trio Sasquatch that, after being mastered in March 2020, Fever Fantasy sat in the proverbial can for more than two years before seeing release this June. Fortunately for all who’d take it on — only to be overwhelmed and consumed by the unruly dense fuzz of guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs and bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova en route to being punched upside your fool head by Craig Riggs‘ snare — the nine-song outing lost none of its edge for that time, and songs like “Lilac,” “Voyager” (dig that organ) and “Save the Day, Ruin the Night” hold firm to their on-the-beat intensity, a flawless uptempo heavy rock execution broadened by the flowing roll of the eight-minute “Ivy” and the full-bore-volume finish in “Cyclops” (dig that organ too). They’ve been on a streak for, I don’t know, the better part of two decades, and if the shove of “It Lies Beyond the Bay” doesn’t get you, then maybe the fact that in all their time they’ve never sounded this brazenly heavy will. Wouldn’t’ve minded it sooner, but it was certainly welcome this year. Inimitable energy in Sasquatch.

12. Wo Fat, The Singularity

wo fat the singularity

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 4.

What do you say to a seven-track/75-minute Wo Fat album except maybe “yes please?”  Could be the now-veteran Dallas-based three-piece — guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Zack Busby, drummer Michael Walter — were making up for lost time, having not had a studio album since 2016’s Midnight Cometh (review here) when they’d previously been on an every-two-years pattern like relative clockwork, but whatever it was, The Singularity was an album by which to be engulfed. The riffs, of course, the riffs, but consider that quick break of bright noodling in 13-minute opener “Orphans of the Singe,” or the delve into next-level heaviness that followed in “The Snows of Banquo IV.” While keeping to their core approach in jazz-informed, jam-prone-but-still-hooky bluesy fuzz rock, Wo Fat seemed to purposefully screw with their own formula, giving “The Unraveling” a tense chug and finding new realms of vastness in 16-minute closer “The Oracle.” Maybe it’ll be two years for their next one, maybe six, maybe never, but Wo Fat answered the call in 2022 as only they could, and one could only be grateful for their return.

11. Forlesen, Black Terrain

Forlesen black terrain

Released by I, Voidhanger Records. Reviewed Dec. 6.

It’s my nature to dig a lot of bands. I’m left in awe by far fewer. The second album from Forlesen, recorded mostly remotely as at least some portion of the band is now based in Oregon, Black Terrain was stunning enough that I couldn’t bring myself to even review it until about two months after it was already out. Beautifully arranged and set to purposes that were at times genuinely terrifying, this four-song answer to 2020’s debut, Hierophant Violent (review here), felt more patient even as it drew thicker lines between its movements and seemed to begin a process of melding styles through which one can only hope Forlesen‘s style will continue to develop. Sad and aggressive, wholly immersive and still challenging to the listener, Black Terrain was just as likely to tear open the cosmic fabric in “Harrowed Earth” as to drone itself into oblivion on its title-track, but it was the enthralling nature of the album as a single work — never mind that triumphant final solo in “Saturnine” — that was the real accomplishment. Most of all, Forlesen stood on their own, as themselves, and set their own path forward into the actually-unknown, with all the gorgeousness and horror that might imply.

10. Church of the Cosmic Skull, There is No Time

church of the cosmic skull there is no time

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

The way “Pleading to the Cosmic Mother” seemed to actually plead, and the swap in perspective for “Last Words of a Dying God.” The sinister underpinning in the lyrical promises of “One More Step.” The devotional sensibility and swirl of “Seven Rays of Colour” at the outset and the corresponding regret of “We Lost it Somewhere” at the end. That hook in “Now’s the Time.” The complement across sides in “Valleys and Hills Pt. 1 – Peel Away the Layers” and “Valleys and Hills Pt. 2 – Pure Illumination.” Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s fourth album not only brought founding guitarist/vocalist Bill Fisher‘s whole-album compositional sensibility to new heights, but was truly classic in feel and the ways in which the songs spoke to each other, worked off each other, melodically, rhythmically and in theme. Gorgeously harmonized as ever, the cult-minded UK seven-piece gave up nothing of craft in service to their audio/visual aesthetic, and even just on the level of a-thing-to-put-on, the utter listenability and welcome that There is No Time offered was no less resonant than the calls to sing along to any number of the choruses. There is no one else out there like them, no other band among the hundreds covered here who can do what they do, and yes, I mean that. They are special, transcendent.

9. All Souls, Ghosts Among Us

All Souls Ghosts Among Us

Released by Oscura Records. Reviewed Oct. 19.

Granted, as regards narrative, the story of All Souls‘ third album behind 2020’s Songs for the End of the World (review here) and 2018’s self-titled debut (review here) was always going to be that the Los Angeles-based then-trio of guitarist/vocalist Antonio Aguilar, bassist/vocalist Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi) and drummer Tony Tornay (also Fatso Jetson) recorded with producer Alain Johannes (ElevenQueens of the Stone Age, etc.). And the songs bore his mark for sure, in backing vocals and lead guitar, complementing and fleshing out the root heavy punk rock-isms of the band, who, well, were down a guitarist anyhow and had room for such contributions. I don’t know what the impetus was behind the collaboration, but even just in the performances captured from the trio, the songs felt like the best versions of themselves, and went beyond third-record realizations in terms of stepping forward from where All Souls were two years ago. They remain woefully undervalued in my mind, and I have the feeling that might be the case even if they were millionaires, but the spirit in Ghosts Among Us, that intangible atmosphere and sonic persona that emerged was both intimate and sprawling, deeply singular and heartfelt while bringing the listener along for the journey across its still-humble 39 minutes. Records like this don’t happen every year. You should hear it.

8. Okkoto, Climb the Antlers and Reach the Stars

Okkoto climb the Antlers and reach the stars

Self-released. Reviewed May 31.

Formerly (?) the drummer of New Paltz, New York, psych purveyors It’s Not Night: It’s Space, self-recording multi-instrumentalist Michael Lutomski is the lone figure behind Okkoto, and Climb the Antlers and Reach the Stars was his second full-length under the banner after 2019’s Fear the Veil Not the Void. Across five individualized but flowing pieces, Lutomski harnessed a meditative ambience that pushed into homemade intimacy and aural distance in kind, the songs serene as they evocatively conjured a three-dimensional world of length, width, depth. With just a couple guest appearances adding to his own performances, Lutomski found balance in exploration, and the resonance of “Wind at the Gated Grove,” the birdsong in “First Drops in the Cup of Dawn” and the ethereal presence in the soft, rolling nod of finale “Where the Meadows Dream Beside the Sea” all fed into an impression that one might call “striking” were it not so gently, carefully handled. Climb the Antlers and Reach the Stars felt like an offering in the truest sense of the word, and brought soulful purpose to its experimentalism, giving comfort to the listener in its willful contradiction of anxiety; not so much ‘for our times’ as beyond time. It established Lutomski as a noteworthy auteur and creator, and engaged with the organic on every level in a way unforced, loving and hypnotic. Everything was exactly as it needed to be.

7. Moura, Axexan, Espreitan

Moura Axexan Espreitan

Released by Spinda Records. Reviewed March 11.

There was so much happening at times throughout the 40 minutes of Axexan, Espreitan that it could be hard to keep up with, but in fusing together heavy psych and classic, progressive heavy rock with their native Galician folk influences, Moura found a sound unlike anything else I heard this year. It was such a palpable sense of sharing; an expression of the internalized value of culture. Even as “Romance de Andrés d’Orois” seemed at its outset to float in the antigravity space created by the prior intro “Alborada do alén,” it did so with humanity and made itself memorable in its arrangement and across-language-barrier total-dialogue, conversing with itself, history, the future and the listener. It could be traditionally heavy, as in the scorcher guitar work in the second half of “Pelerinaxes” or the closing stretch of “Lúa vermella,” but showed in songs like “Encontro cunha moura fiadeira en Dormeá” that Axexan, Espreitan was about more than where a given linear build was going, but about the sights and meetings along the way. On just their second full-length, Moura displayed a rare mastery of their approach and made each piece feel like a celebration of something beyond themselves and their songwriting, whether that was the relatively minimal “Cantar do liño” or the kosmiche thrust of “Baile do dentón.” Could be head-spinning, could be tranquil, but whatever else it was at any given time, it was wonderfully complete and engrossing.

6. Colour Haze, Sacred

Colour haze sacred

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Colour Haze are not only one of the most pivotal and influential European bands of their generation — heavy psychedelic rock would not exist as it does without them, period — but even more importantly, they’re a group who have refused stagnation outright. Sacred was the Munich-based four-piece’s 14th album, and it presented a shift in the dynamic in marking the studio introduction of bassist Mario Oberpucher — taking on the role held for more than two decades by Philip Rasthofer in the rhythm section alongside drummer Manfred Merwald — and found Stefan Koglek‘s guitar playing off Jan Faszbender‘s keys and synth in ever more engaging ways. It wasn’t just about stepping back and giving space to one instrument or the other anymore, but about how they can converse together and bolster the songs, push each other as players and bring the best out of each other to the ultimate strengthening of the record itself. Like so much of what Colour Haze do, this is organic; a natural process happening over time, and to be sure, their next album will likewise be an outgrowth of what they accomplished in Sacred, their songs so undeniably their own even as they explore new reaches and ideas. A bit of lyrical cynicism in “Avatar,” “See the Fools” and the defiant stance of “Goldmine” spoke to the moment of their creation, but Sacred provided its own best argument for love over hate, and perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid is that it’s a record worthy of the band that made it.

5. Author & Punisher, Krüller

author and punisher kruller

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Feb. 1.

This was my album of the year for most of the year, and there’s a big part of me that continues to think of it on those terms. The eighth full-length from San Diego solo industrialist Tristan Shone — who brought Ecstatic Vision‘s Doug Sabolick on tour as guitarist — branched out melodically from 2018’s Beastland (discussed here), which was his first for Relapse, which could be heard likewise in his own not-just-harsh vocals and in the use of melodic programmed synth as well on a song like “Maiden Star.” At the same time, an uptick in production value gave cinematic presence to the storytelling of “Drone Mounting Dread,” “Centurion” and the concluding title-track (among others), and a corresponding increase in engagement with non-synth instrumentation — needing a guitarist was not a coincidence — brought weighted bass to “Centurion” and live drums to “Misery,” further broadening the scope of what was an examination of pandemic-era life in America, the dystopian nature of the US circa 2021 presented as the backdrop upon which the songs took place; see “Incinerator,” the electronic-noise overload of “Blacksmith” and even the masculine voice through which the Portishead cover “Glorybox” was manifest. Shone reaffirmed his place miles ahead of almost the entire sphere of industrial metal, and gave the everything-is-whole-planet-death-and-it’s-our-fault moment the cruel sense of tragedy it deserved, mourning chaos even as it acknowledged a place for love within it.

4. Caustic Casanova, Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

Caustic Casanova Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Oct. 5.

In the name of all that is good and right in the universe, have you heard this album? With it, Caustic Casanova — bassist/vocalist Francis Beringer (who wrote the best lyrics I read all year, hands down), drummer/vocalist Stefanie Zænker, and guitarists Andrew Yonki and Jake Kimberley — outdid themselves, the pandemic and the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt in five songs and 45 minutes of unflinchingly perfect quirk. Are they punk, noise, prog, stoner rock, post-hardcore or sludge? Yes. Also no. Also a little bit, maybe? I’ve been through Glass Enclosed Nerve Center — the band’s fifth album and first written as a four-piece — a bother-my-family-with-it amount of times, and I’m still up in the air on where it rests categorically, and perhaps that’s in part because the one thing it did not do was rest. Even in the multiple stages of 22-minute finale “Bull Moose Against the Sky,” which I promise you is the only reason I’m even doing a Song of the Year part of this post below, their moves were considered and unpredictable in kind, and whether it was the weight of “Lodestar,” the sunrise at the outset of “Anubis Rex,” the yes-it’s-been-like-that mania of “A Bailar Con Cuarentena” or the hypnotic-plus-dizzying then massive “Shrouded Coconut” on side A, Caustic Casanova were able to pivot from one part the next while making hooks out of single measures and crafting an outing that went beyond even the sundry weirdo triumphs they’ve had to this point in their tenure. A special record on every level one might want to consider, and quintessentially the band’s own.

3. The Otolith, Folium Limina

The Otolith Folium Limina
Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 28.

When Salt Lake City, Utah’s SubRosa ended after releasing the best album of 2016 in For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (review here), the heart ached for the expressive artistry and distinct style that was snuffed out when it seemed the band still had so much more to say. The emergence of The Otolith, with former SubRosa members Sarah Pendleton and Kim Cordray (violin and vocals, both), Levi Hanna (now guitar/vocals) and Andy Patterson (drums, percussion, production, mixing, mastering) — four-fifths of the band that was — and their presentation of the debut album Folium Limina, has been the flower growing on top of that grave. Together with bassist/vocalist Matt Brotherton, the atmospheric, almost-gothic-but-too-in-the-real-world, gracefully flowing post-metallic five-piece didn’t so much pick up where the last band left off as use that ending to mark a new beginning of their own exploration. Increased use of sampling (at least one big one in the penultimate “Bone Dust”), keyboard/synth, and deeper arrangements of harsh/clean vocals on songs like “Ekpyrotic” and the finale “Dispirit” diverged in intent and the full album maintained a mournful, critical, intelligent-but-emotive poetic voice that carried across the entirety of its consuming 63 minutes. This made Folium Limina of a kind with its high desert/mountainous, surrounded-by-dangerous-fanatics-and-duly-frightened-and-defiant predecessor, but even better, it declared The Otolith as ready to step out of that significant shadow and flourish as something new.

2. King Buffalo, Regenerator

king buffalo regenerator
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 21.

The third of three was perhaps a definitive statement of who King Buffalo are as a group. The Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Sean McVay, bassist/synthesist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson released two albums in 2021 in The Burden of Restlessness (review here), which was my pick for last year’s album of the year, and the also-in-the-top-five, cave-recorded Acheron (review here), the seven-song Regenerator, as their fifth full-length overall, faced the biggest challenge of any of their studio work to-date in completing their unofficial pandemic-era trilogy of LPs written during covid-19 lockdown in 2020. Regenerator not only rose to the occasion, but deftly served as keystone for the series in tying together the progressive psychedelia of The Burden of Restlessness with the exploratory, speaking-to-the-natural-world communion of Acheron. Whether it was the opener/longest track (immediate points) “Regenerator” itself, the tight push of tension in “Mercury” or the later melodic fleshing out of “Mammoth” and “Avalon,” or the all-embracing conclusion in “Firmament,” Regenerator tied together the two albums before and stepped forward as something new, finding an ideal balance for the band’s increasingly multifaceted approach without sacrificing songcraft in its individual pieces. These last two years have seen King Buffalo ascend among the foremost purveyors of heavy psychedelia, and the genre is stronger for the efforts they’ve made to reshape it in their image. The truly horrifying part is I’m convinced their best work is still ahead of them. Amid trauma and cynicism, King Buffalo made it okay to feel optimistic.

2022 Album of the Year

1. Elder, Innate Passage


Released by Stickman Records & Armageddon Shop. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Sometimes the obvious answer is the answer. In the last decade, the first-Massachusetts-then-mostly-Berlin, first-trio-then-four-piece Elder became a defining presence in progressive heavy psychedelic rock, with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), 2012’s Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), 2015’s landmark among landmarks Lore (review here), and 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World (review here) each taking forward steps to create a sound influential even as it seemed to be constantly coming to fruition. This is their best album, no, this is their best album. In this decade, they stand astride their aesthetic as masters. As the follow-up to 2020’s moment-of-transition Omens (review here), the five-track Innate Passage is an arrival; a vision of Elder as mature and still evolving, veterans ahead of their time while most of their generation are upstarts, and on a wavelength of their own despite the increasing pervasiveness of their predominance. The flexibility of their songwriting, and the ability of founding guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Nick DiSalvo — joined by founding bassist Jack Donovan, guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg and drummer Georg Edert — to marry parts together that would in other hands be too disparate to connect have never been so resonant, and in cuts like “Endless Return,” “Catastasis,” and the 14-minute two-parter “Merged in Dreams/Ne Plus Ultra,” Elder harvested their most accomplished melodicism to-date (guest vocal harmonies from Samavayo‘s Behrang Alavi and the production of Linda Dag at Clouds Hill Studio were both notable contributions to this aspect of the work), while simultaneously keeping mindful of the dynamic potential of the songs to be tonally and rhythmically heavy, as in “Coalescence” the otherworldly finisher “The Purpose” and indeed, impact-minded stretches in “Catastasis” and “Merged in Dreams/Ne Plus Ultra.” This emphasis felt daring from a band who had purposefully moved away from lumbering-style riffing a decade earlier, and the seamlessness with which Elder integrated these ideas into their proggy aural macrocosm helped make Innate Passage a standout even in their unflinchingly forward-moving discography, even as the title itself reminded that this too is likely only another step along their path. Off they go again, ascendant.

The Top 60 Albums of 2022: Honorable Mention

Strap yourselves in, kids. We’re not done yet.

The year wouldn’t have been as sonically stellar as it was without:

40 Watt Sun, 10,000 Years, Aawks, Abrams, Alunah, Ararat, Artifacts & Uranium, Basalt Shrine, Behold! The Monolith, Black Capricorn, Black Lung, Black Space Riders, Blue Heron, Boris, Brujas del Sol, Burning Sister, Cachemira, Candlemass, Carcaño, Carson, Cave In, Chat Pile, Church of the Sea, Circle of Sighs, Come to Grief, Crippled Black Phoenix, Crowbar, Michael Rudolph Cummings, Deathwhite, Deer Creek, Desert Wave, Deville, Dirty Streets, DR​Ö​Ö​G, DUNDDW, Dune Sea, Dystopian Future Movies, Early Moods, Electric Mountain, El Perro, E-L-R, End Boss, Evert Snyman & The Aviary, Firebreather, Foot, Fostermother, Freebase Hyperspace, FutureProjektor, Fuzz Sagrado, Garden of Worm, Gaupa, Gnome, Goatriders, Greenbeard, Half Gramme of Soma, Horehound, Humanotone, Ian Blurton’s Future Now, James Romig/Mike Scheidt, Jawless, Kadavermarch, Kaleidobolt, Kanaan, Kandodo4, Kryptograf, LáGoon, Erik Larson, Les Lekin, Lydsyn, Madness, Mammoth Volume, Melt Motif, Mezzoa, MIGHT, Mirror Queen, Mother of Graves, Motorpsycho, Mount Desert, Mount Saturn, My Diligence, Mythic Sunship, Nadja, Ode and Elegy, Oktas, Olson Van Cleef and Williams, Ol’ Time Moonshine, Onségen Ensemble, Orango, Øresund Space Collective, Papir, Paralyzed, People of the Black Circle, Pia Isa, Pike vs. the Automaton, Psychlona, Red Eye, Reverend Mother, Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol, Rocky Mtn Roller, Ruby the Hatchet, Russian Circles, Seremonia, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Sergio Ch., Seven Nines and Tens, Sleepwulf, Slowenya, Soldat Hans, Somnus Throne, Sonja, Sons of Arrakis, Steak, Știu Nu Știu, Sula Bassana, Sum of R, Supplemental Pills, Swamp Lantern, The Swell Fellas, Tekarra, T.G. Olson, Trace Amount, Uncle Woe, Vitskär Süden, Voivod, Eric Wagner, Weddings, Wild Rocket, and Yatra.


Some of these, in comparison to the year-end poll, are more popular picks than others. As always, part of what I base my list on is my own listening habits, so if my list is different than yours, well, I’m a different person. Mystery solved.

That said, I acknowledge that especially at post-time, this is preliminary and I am — at times overwhelmingly — fallible. While I keep a running list all year of standout records, based on my preferences as well as what I perceive as critical value separate from them within a given subset of styles, and despite the fact that I’ve gone back through the more than 300 releases that have been reviewed (so far) in 2022 to make this list, it’s possible and indeed likely I’ve forgotten somebody, left someone out who deserves to be here.

If that’s the case — and based on just about every other year I’ve done this, it very likely is — I ask again that you please be kind in pointing out whatever that may be and whyever you believe it should be where it isn’t. Maybe your pick for the best release of 2022 isn’t here at all. Instead of calling me a dipshit and an idiot, let’s try to celebrate the fact that in a single heavy underground, there can be such a diverse range of opinions and different artists and styles to appreciate, and how fortunate we are to be alive at a time when so much incredible art is available at the click of a make-believe button. Also indoor plumbing and penicillin, but that’s a different conversation entirely and best left to another day.

Last year, I limited honorable mentions to 60 to correspond with the numbered list. I’ve got over 115 bands listed above, and if in combination with the top 60 itself you find that to be an insurmountable swath of releases, good. That’s the point. We are surrounded by beauty every day. It can be difficult to keep this in mind, but there is little that’s more important than knowing that. I thank you for your attention and hope, as ever, that you find something in all of this that speaks to you.

Debut Album of the Year 2022

The Otolith, Folium Limina

The Otolith Folium Limina

Other notable debuts (somewhat alphabetically):

AAWKS, Heavy on the Cosmic
Arð, Take Up My Bones
Basalt Shrine, From Fiery Tongues
Burning Sister, Mile High Downer Rock
Burn the Sun, Le Roi Soleil
Chat Pile, God’s Country
Church of the Sea, Odalisque
Come to Grief, When the World Dies
Early Moods, Early Moods
Edena Gardens, Edena Gardens
El Perro, Hair Of…
Elk Witch, Beyond the Mountain
End Boss, They Seek My Head
Faetooth, Remnants of the Vessel
Freebase Hyperspace, Planet High
The Gray Goo, 1943
High Noon Kahuna, Killing Spree
Jawless, Warrizer
Kadavermarch, Into Oblivion
Kamru, Kosmic Attunement to the Malevolent Rites of the Universe
Les Nadie, Destierro y Siembra
Limousine Beach, Limousine Beach
London Odense Ensemble, Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1
Lydsyn, Lydsyn
Magnatar, Crushed
Maunra, Monarch
Mother Bear, Zamonian Occultism
Mount Desert, Fear the Heart
Mount Saturn, O Great Moon
Mythosphere, Pathological
Ode and Elegy, Ode and Elegy
Oktas, The Finite and the Infinite
People of the Black Circle, People of the Black Circle
Pia Isa, Distorted Chants
Reverend Mother, Damned Blessing
Rocky Mtn Roller, Haywire
Room 101, Sightless
Sky Pig, It Thrives in Darkness
Sonja, Loud Arriver
Sons of Arrakis, Volume 1
Supersonic Blues, It’s Heavy
Supplemental Pills, Volume 1
Swamp Lantern, The Lord is With Us
Venus Principle, Stand in Your Light
VoidOath, Ascension Beyond Kokytus
Voidward, Voidward
Yawn, Materialism


I struggled this year with what counted as a debut album. As noted above, four-fifths of The Otolith were in a previous band together. Is this a first record or a continuing collaboration? What about Mythosphere, born out of Beelzefuzz? Come to Grief? Edena Gardens? Lydsyn? Ultimately I decided to err on the side of inclusion, as you can see, and count it all. I will not apologize for that.

The Otolith’s Folium Limina stood alone as the year’s best debut, but other personal favorites here were Sky Pig, Mythosphere, Early Moods (who are among the brightest hopes for traditional doom in my mind), Supersonic Blues, Mount Saturn, End Boss, Les Nadie and UWUW, and Edena Gardens — if you’re looking for recommendations of places to start before diving into the weedian mischief of The Gray Goo. Some of these got more hype than others, and there’s a fairly broad range of styles represented, but even as grim as the material on this list gets, these acts and artists are united by the potential they represent for pushing heavy music forward, covering new ground and exploring new ideas as only fresh perspectives can.

At the beginning, I asked you to note how many second LPs were included in the overall list, and it did feel like a lot to me. With the quality in this list as well, I would not expect that to change in the next few years to come, as generational turnover and post-covid reshuffling continue to shake out.

Short Release of the Year 2022

Domkraft & Slomatics, Ascend/Descend Split LP

Slomatics Domkraft Ascend Descend

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Ascia, III
Black Math Horseman, Black Math Horseman
Blasting Rod, Mirror Moon Ascending
Bloodshot Buffalo, Light EP
Captain Caravan & Kaiser, Turned to Stone Ch. 6
The Cimmerian, Thrice Majestic
Elephant Tree, Track by Track
Fatso Jetson & All Souls, Live From Total Annihilation
The Freeks, Miles of Blues
Lammping, Stars We Lost
Lightrain, AER
Naxatras, Live in Athens
Pyre Fyre, Rinky Dink City/Slow Cookin’
Red Mesa, Forest Cathedral
Ruby the Hatchet, Live at Earthquaker
Sâver & Frøkedal, Split
Saturna & Electric Monolith, Turned to Stone Ch. 4: Higher Selves
Slugg, Yonder
Temple Fang, Jerusalem/The Bridge
Torpedo Torpedo, The Kuiper Belt Mantras
Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Consensus Trance
Warpstormer, Here Comes Hell


First I’ll say that of all the lists in this super-listy post, this is the least complete. I don’t know if I just sucked at keeping track of EPs this year, but if you’ve got more you’d like to add to the above, I’m all ears.

Slomatics and Domkraft took the top spot early. Yes, I did the liner notes for that release, but between Majestic Mountain’s presentation of the vinyl, the bands covering each other and their own original work, it was too substantial to not be considered as it is. Temple Fang were a late contender, and I’ll note the work of Torpedo Torpedo and Lightrain, who are newer acts of marked potential as well. I look forward to debut albums from both of them, if not in 2023 then hopefully 2024.

Some live stuff from Elephant Tree, Naxatras, Ruby the Hatchet and Fatso Jetson/All Souls. The always-welcome Lammping. Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships continuing their intriguing progression, Slugg with a single-track statement, Ascia marching forth, Red Mesa branching out — there’s a lot here to dig, even if it’s not everything. Note two of Ripple’s ongoing Turned to Stone split series being included, and the Sâver and Frøkedal split, which was among the year’s boldest outings while still relatively brief. That in itself is a thing to be honored.

Song of the Year 2022

Caustic Casanova, “Bull Moose Against the Sky”

Caustic Casanova Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

Tracks from Conan, UWUW, Chat Pile, Temple Fang, CB3, The Otolith, Elder, King Buffalo, Ruby the Hatchet, Melt Motif, Forlesen, My Sleeping Karma, Author & Punisher, Church of the Cosmic Skull, -(16)-, River Flows Reverse, Telekinetic Yeti, Wo Fat, on and on and on, were also considered.

But they were considered after the fact of Caustic Casanova’s “Bull Moose Against the Sky.”

The 22-minute side-B-devouring epic tale — multiple speakers and Greek chorus included — spanned progressive Americana, heavy rock and roll, punk, black metal blastbeats, disco keyboards, and historical narrative with nigh-on-impossible fluidity, mining cohesion from confusion in a singular achievement and at a level of execution that most bands simply never touch. Though its purposes were different, I rate “Bull Moose Against the Sky” of a quality that stands alongside the likes of grand declarations like Ancestors’ “First Light” and YOB’s “Marrow” as the kind of song that happens only a couple times in a decade. As I said above, it is the reason I’m including a song-of-the-year section in this post at all. If you have not heard it, I tell you with all sincerity that you’re missing something special.

Looking Ahead to 2023

With the eternal caveat that release plans change and that production delays in vinyl and label release schedules are fluid, malleable things, here are some of the artists I’m watching for in the New Year to come, presented in some semblance of alphabetically:

Ahab, Ahrbeka, Aktopasa, The Awesome Machine, Azken Auzi, Benthic Realm, Big Scenic Nowhere, Bismut, Black Rainbows, Blackwülf, Carlton Melton, Cavern Deep, Child, Church of Misery, Clouds Taste Satanic, Dead Shrine, Dirge, Dozer, Draken, Endtime & Cosmic Reaper, Enslaved, Ethyl Ether, Fatso Jetson & Dali’s Llama, Fever Ray, Fuzz Sagrado, The Golden Grass, Gozu, Graveyard, Greenleaf, Green Lung, Gypsy Chief Goliath & End of Age, Hail the Void, High Leaf, High Priestess, Hippie Death Cult, Iron Void, Isaak, Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows, Katatonia, Kind, Kollapse, KVLL, Lord Mountain, Love Gang, The Machine, Mansion, Mars Red Sky, Mathew’s Hidden Museum, Merlock, Monarch, The Necromancers, Negative Reaction, No Man’s Valley, Obelyskkh, The Obsessed, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Polymoon, Raum Kingdom, REZN, Ridge, Rotor, Ruff Majik, Sacri Monti, Saint Karloff, Seum, Shadow Witch, Siena Root, Solemn Lament, Stinking Lizaveta, Stöner, Super Pink Moon, Tidal Wave, Tranquonauts, Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Westing, Witch, Witch Ripper, Witchthroat Serpent, Yawning Balch, Yawning Man, Zeup

Thank you

A bit about what’s gone into making this post: In the ‘Notes’ doc by which I organize the bulk of the part of my life that deals with music, I have sections devoted to the various best-of categories you see above. These are always in progress. I began to keep track of 2022 releases in 2021, just as I’ve begun already to consider what’s in store for 2023 (and beyond). It does not stop.

Because of this, I cannot give you an accurate count of the hours involved in this project, but as it always seems to be, it is the biggest post I’ve written this year — over 8,000 words as of this paragraph, the most time-consuming, and second in importance in my mind only to the results of the year-end poll still to come. On this actual writing, I’ve spent the last week involved in prep work, from early mornings that start at four on my laptop and end when my son (now five) wakes up and immediately demands to watch Sesame Street, to frantically swiping words into my phone in between the sundry tasks of my ensuing day.

I’m not telling you this to brag — in fact I don’t think it’s anything to brag about — but to make the point that without your support, none of this would be worth my time. Year in and year out, I thank you for reading, and the longer I run this site, the more continually astounded I am that anybody beyond myself gives a crap about what goes on here. From the bottom of my heart to the farthest reaches of Hawkwindian space, I am grateful, humbled, and appreciative to my core. Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

And thanks to my wife, The Patient Mrs., through whose support and love all things are possible.

I’m gonna try my damnedest to take tomorrow off, but rest assured, there’s more to come. Here’s to the next round, and thanks again for reading.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 99

Posted in Radio on December 9th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Picking up from last time, and leading into next time, this episode continues the Some of the Best of 2022 coverage for ‘The Obelisk Show,’ and I feel reasonably comfortable assuming that would come through clearly even if I didn’t say it outright.

You’ll note this one starts pretty heavy and aggro with 16. That’s on purpose. My timeslot on Gimme Metal follows artist-guest specials, and I’ve felt at times in the past like it’s a really abrupt shift from most of those — sometimes death metal, grind, and otherwise extreme — and what I do, which is different. I know that’s the point, but I wanted to see if I could make that transition smoother than it otherwise can be. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.

From there, there’s a good amount of branching out, and while this is by no means all of the killer stuff that 2022 has wrought, my hope is that at least some of the sprawl comes through, some of the combination of new and old bands, and so forth. Next episode, which will be #100 and the last one of the year — bit of an event in the life of the show — will continue the thread.

Thanks for listening if you do, thanks for reading if you are.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at:

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 12.09.22 (VT = voice track)

-(16)- The Floor Wins Into Dust
Telekinetic Yeti Rogue Planet Primordial
Cities of Mars Towering Graves Cities of Mars
Colour Haze See the Fools Sacred
Moura Lúa vermella Axexan, Espreitan
Ufomammut Pyramind Fenice
MWWB Logic Bomb The Harvest
King Buffalo Avalon Regenerator
Geezer Stoned Blues Machine Stoned Blues Machine
Charley No Face Big Sleep Eleven Thousand Volts
My Sleeping Karma Prema Atma
Kadavermarch The Eschaton Into Oblivion
Ruby the Hatchet Soothsayer Fear is a Cruel Master
UWUW Landlord UWUW
Caustic Casanova A Bailar con Cuarentena Glass Enclosed Nerve Center
Hazemaze Ceremonial Aspersion Blinded by the Wicked
E-L-R Forêt Vexier
Temple Fang Jerusalem Jerusalem/The Bridge

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Dec. 23 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Richie Touseull of Geezer

Posted in Questionnaire on August 4th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Richie Touseull of Geezer 1

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

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

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Richie Touseull of Geezer

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

I’m a bass player, it’s that simple. I provide the rhythm for the other musicians to stand on. The essential heartbeat of the song, if you like.

And how I came to do it — I couldn’t afford to play drums, and there were too many guitar players around so the bass seemed like a good idea.

Describe your first musical memory.

Watching my elder brother, John, play the sax in the army band. I was so proud. Then, at the age of 12, I saw a local rock band, and that just blew my mind. I don’t remember what they were called, but that was the moment I knew I wanted to do be a musician.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

Playing Freak Valley Festival with Geezer. Maybe because it just happened in June and so is top of mind, but it was a blast. Great to be up there with Pat Harrington and Steve Markota.

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

Oh man, many times playing to empty rooms! We’ve all had that happen. You play your best, keep believing in what you’re doing and hold tight to the dream.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

To possibility — new ideas, new people, new opportunities. And the rush you get when you surprise yourself, that’s some high.

How do you define success?

Being able to do what you love every day. How many people can say they do that?

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

A singer I once played with was tripping on acid and it was no fun watching him roll backwards into the drum set with his legs in the air.

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

I’ve had an idea to create a space where musicians come together to jam, record, perform, collaborate or just hang out. Just need to find the right space and make it concrete. Maybe I’ll get around to it.

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

Art connects people. It connects the artist with the crowd or reader or listener. It connects groups of people in a shared experience, around an emotion or feeling. In that way it brings people together, and we need more of that now in the world.

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

To travel more. My wife lived in Amsterdam, and I’ve never been. Maybe this fall.

[Photo by Robert Lesic, copyright 2022]

Geezer, Stoned Blues Machine (2022)

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