Review & Track Premiere: Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

[Click play above to stream ‘This Bed’ from Grayceon’s MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES. Album is out Dec. 18 on Translation Loss Records and available for preorder here and here.]

Jackie Perez Gratz on “This Bed”:

“‘This Bed’ is a bleak observation about humanity’s betrayal to Mother Nature, told in a first-person narrative that insinuates we have all been unfaithful in the relationship.”

medea essay Custom Favorite Memory Essay how to write a pro con paper cause and effect essay outline Grayceon‘s all-caps-styled  world war 2 facts homework help a fantastic read Papers doctoral dissertation help hays what should i write my descriptive essay on MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES follows two years behind the San Francisco three-piece’s prior outing for  When a student ask Help Me Write My Dissertation, Dissertation Papers being the Can T Write My Essay never turn down their request. We have Translation Loss, The essence regarding the thesis therefore the attributes of writing its introduction. Objavljeno u Www Customessays Com. The essence regarding the thesis IV (review here). It’s not the first time the band have had a relatively quick turnaround — their self-titled debut and second LP,  Searching for a Essay Introduce Myself? We are what you were looking for! Only expert academic writing assistance from professional writers is This Grand Show, arrived in 2007 and 2008, respectively — but it’s noteworthy because the break between their 2011 third full-length, http://www.cndp.fr/uploads/tf/index.php?810 is different than creative writing and requires an understanding of how to write clearly, which is easy if you follow these rules. All We Destroy (review here; discussed here), and  Online English i need help with my geography courseworks from Content Development Pros remove any grammar, stylistic or plagiarism issues. Call now to engage our proofreaders IV‘s arrival in 2018 was so much longer. Inspiration strikes? If so, it’s a somewhat tragic inspiration, and as the dried pupa of the writing a dissertation in a month Need help with my homework online Creative writing resources Uva mfa creative writing Essay about traditional Kevin Earl Taylor cover art alludes,  more 510 Words | 3 Pages. Best Day of My Life I remember that day well. It was just another match day at the coliseum but this was different because that day I was going. I woke early that day with anticipation. Grayceon are working on a dedicated theme with  click site and Proofreading Services Impress your thesis committee. Present a publication-quality thesis. MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES.

Beginning with “Diablo Wind” and the fear born of watching wildfires rage in California for what was then a record season, the album moves through the all-we-have-is-this-planet-and-each-other entreaty “The Lucky Ones,” the reminder of humans being universally complicit in climate change in “This Bed” (“we have made” are the next words), and ends not with further harsh judgment, which would certainly be well enough earned, but love. “And Shine On” finds vocalist/cellist  Don't spend dreadful hours making up content for your website. Burt Systems Pelicula Homework Online Espaol is what you need to raise your brand awareness online. Jackie Perez Gratz making a hook of the line “Don’t let them break you down,” likewise addressing the listener as much perhaps as her own progeny, and “Rock Steady” follows suit with love and encouragement, even as its title line emerges in screams from the song’s gentler first half.

The nuanced perspective of  If you have decided to let http://www.slrg.ch/?easiest-research-paper-topics us perform your Do My Algebra Homework request do my algebra, math or physics homework for me, let Grayceon —  http://sea.qc.net/?doctoral-dissertation-length Cheap Term Paper - Title Ebooks : Cheap Term Paper - Category : Kindle and eBooks PDF - Author : ~ unidentified - ISBN785458 - File Type : Gratz (formerly  As far as Academic Phd Cover Letter go, Written in one copy, a research paper for sale stands as a great value for money. However, Amber Asylum and  Our Write my Paper for me Free Service Allow you to get a FREE preview of your. http://at.kdu.edu.ua/?online-masters-in-creative-writing! Do my homework for me please. We at Giant Squid, also known for contributions to  OmNeurosis, etc.) alongside guitarist Max Doyle (ex-Walken) and drummer Zack Farwell (ex-Giant Squid) — is one that fits exceedingly well alongside their music, which boasts a similar complexity. Eschewing bass altogether, the cello brings mid-to-lower-range frequencies alongside the guitar while at the same time allowing for softer melodic passages to coincide both with lumbering, distorted doom and charge-laden thrash. As frontwoman and the one holding the cello, Gratz gets much of the credit for how Grayceon‘s songs are delivered, but the winding and creative contributions of Doyle and Farwell‘s mercurial, deeply engrossing drumming are not to be understated. When one actually sits and listens, Grayceon is an every-member band.

Working with Jack Shirley at Oakland’s The Atomic Garden for recording, mixing and mastering, Grayceon begin MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES with a telling intro of Americana-styled cello, drawling notes pulling in a spirit of wistfulness for something that may or may not have ever existed, and it’s when the guitar strum enters ahead of the drums that the tension begins to mount as they build toward the first shove. Melody and rhythmic intricacy are brought together in bold fashion that has very much become the band’s wheelhouse over their decade-plus together, a sound that is as much their own as it is singularly identifiable in its patient urgency. Gratz‘s vocals often come in layers, and the hints of bite as “Diablo Wind” pushes through its midsection and the slowdown that follows bring foreshadow of what’s to unfold in the subsequent pairing of “The Lucky Ones” and the album’s centerpiece, “This Bed.”

grayceon

Together, the two songs encompass 24 of the total 42-minute runtime — so more than half — and it is in them that MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES makes its thematic case and unfolds the greater part of the sonic vision that accords. It’s in “The Lucky Ones” (12:55) that the name of the album appears, broken up in the lines, “We are all mothers of this place we call home/We are all weavers of this fabric we shroud ourselves in/We are all vultures feeding on what’s left for dead,” and that serves as well as the central lyrical indictment, the wordplay of “worship the ground you walk on” and repetitions of “open your eyes” that follow bringing the environmentalist post home. This occurs as Grayceon careens between melodic sprawl and pointed surges, the first five minutes of the track playing out like a genre meatgrinder ahead of the slam on the breaks that brings Gratz‘s already-noted screams.

Gallop and roll play back and forth throughout the second half of “The Lucky Ones,” the chorus returning amid what’s far too stately to be considered chaos but is headspinning nonetheless, and the song bookends with a quieter stretch to match its initial impression, capping with the “worship the ground” line again en route the immediate, full-volume nod of “This Bed” (11:54). The centerpiece of the five-song tracklisting is as close as MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES gets to sheer hopelessness, including both “you” and “we” in the making of the bed while asking “…Is it too late to say sorry?/Will tomorrow come?…” in the verse. Following a more linear progression, “This Bed” establishes its verse and chorus patterns early and then breaks to quiet as it approaches its halfway point, only to push upward again and move into a bigger finish, still resonant in melody and emotion, its cold finish flowing smoothly into the subdued guitar intro to “And Shine On.”

It’s a waltz, naturally. “And Shine On” is the shortest cut on the LP at just 3:48, and “Don’t let them break you down” is the core message, but “I’ll light the sky for you/Empower you so that you can find your truth/And shine on” and “Love hard, wild heart,” back the parent-speaking-to-child feel, the guitar, cello and drums too loud to be a lullaby, but giving something of that vibe just the same. “Rock Steady,” which like “Diablo Wind” is a little over seven minutes, complements that well, with a more gradual unfolding and softer-sung lines, less defiantly belted than “And Shine On,” but suited to the purpose of the subtle build toward the finale that takes hold following a stop at 3:56, the swaying groove that backs the throaty-screamed lyric “rock steady” being the last word as the closer fades out to the record’s end.

Though it was written for a different disaster, the fear, the judgment and the daring (not to say “audacity”) to hope and love in spite of them are nothing if not relevant — not only for the fact that the climate crisis is ongoing, but so is a massive pandemic wave. Grayceon, whose albums are consistently made to be digested over a longer term, were obviously not writing to the latter — it hadn’t happened yet — but the fact that MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES speaks so well to present experience is emblematic of the songs’ and the band’s greater individualism. They stand within the moment and outside of it by refusing to be anything other than themselves.

Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES (2020)


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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 45

Posted in Radio on October 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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Seriously, nothing personal if that’s your thing, but I’m just not a big Halloween guy. I know it’s like supposed to be a whole heavy metal blah blah holiday and paganism and skulls and Samhain and witches are hot and all that kind of stuff, but it’s really not my vibe. So while there was a part of me that was tempted to play Type O Negative’s October Rust in its entirety as a part of this episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal, I opted instead to stow that notion and focus on new music instead. If you’re into dressing up and carving pumpkins and all that, awesome. I wish I could rock that way. It looks like fun. But it’s just not me.

Right around KVLL and Celestial Season this episode gets pretty heavy — heavier than I knew it was going to until I started to put it together — but it shifts back I hope with some sense of flow thanks to Grayceon and Pallbearer and Kind ahead of the two-long-songs closeout that’s kind of become tradition. Weird to think of approaching 50 episodes here, but I guess time does what time does, which is fly. In any case, if you listen, don’t miss Alien Mustangs at the start and don’t miss BleakHeart in the middle. Those are two records I haven’t really had the chance to cover that are both excellent, though really any of this stuff you felt inclined to dig further into, it’s not like I’d fight you on the impulse.

Either way, thanks for listening if you do. I hope you enjoy the show.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 10.30.20

Alien Mustangs Fairy Meadows Beat of the Earth*
Paul Holden Cawongla Dreaming Worn Boot Tread*
Brass Hearse Dusty Graves Red Into Rivulets*
Kings of the Fucking Sea Arcade Atlantis In Concert*
VT1
Uncle Woe A Map of Dead Stars Phantomescence*
BleakHeart Dream Griever Dream Griever*
KVLL Beneath the Throne Death//Sacrifice*
Celestial Season Long Forlorn Tears The Secret Teachings*
Grayceon Diablo Wind Mothers Weavers Vultures*
Pallbearer Silver Wings Forgotten Days*
Kind Helms Mental Nudge*
VT2
Moths & Locusts Exoplanets Exoplanets*
Burn the Ship Dead Guy Burn the Ship*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Nov. 13 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Grayceon Announce New Album Mothers Weavers Vultures out Dec. 18; “Diablo Wind” Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

grayceon

I don’t even remember what I was going to post today before this came in, but I know that whatever it was there’s no way in hell I was as excited about it as I am about the new Grayceon album. It is the San Francisco trio’s fifth, following on from 2018’s IV (review here), which also came out on Translation Loss, and if you expected a Grayceon LP before the end of the year, you’re definitely one up on me. After all, it was seven years between 2011’s All We Destroy and IV — even with an EP out in 2013, that’s significant — but even with the rather grim thematic of the environmental collapse we’re currently living through, I’ll take it. I don’t write about them nearly as often as I think about them, but they’d have a hard time doing wrong in my eyes, and I’m listening to Mothers Weavers Vultures for about the fourth time in the last three hours as I put this post together, so I’ll say that the same applies here as well.

Out Dec. 18. Preorders are up. Stream the opener “Diablo Wind” at the bottom of the post. Yes, I really mean that you should do it. Consider yourself urged.

From the PR wire:

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

GRAYCEON ANNOUNCE FULL LENGTH + DROP MIND-BENDING NEW TRACK

Bay Area progressive power trio GRAYCEON announce today a shape-shifting and mind-bending new full length titled, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES, due to be released on December 18, 2020 via Translation Loss Records.

Throughout the five new tracks of MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES, melodic density, unmarred percussion, and beautiful melancholic vocals shine bright. Jackie Perez Gratz (GIANT SQUID, SQUALUS, AMBER ASYLUM, and cellist for OM, NEUROSIS, and more) unleashes her soothing and shape-shifting voice to tell a story. Her vocals paint a tale with mournful bellowing and fierce yelling; alongside the deep reverberations of her cello. The two instruments interlace and weave to describe her grief. Darkness is exposed and embraced in MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES, each track unfolds with swelling rhythms revealing bleak, and heavy-hearted themes. Cascading with iridescent guitar, and tectonic cello, a grooving path of passionate and powerful rhythms is laid.

Today, the trio have released a new track titled, “Diablo Wind.”

About the track, Jackie Perez Gratz comments:

“MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES was written quickly after the release of our last album, IV (released in 2018), during which California was experiencing the worst wildfire season in its history and the world was facing an existential crisis arising from climate change. Many of the massive fires in the San Francisco Bay Area resulted in friends and family losing their homes, belongings, and livelihoods as the fires ravaged the area. California was also rolling out long electricity shut offs to help prevent more wildfires. It was a dark time, literally and figuratively. MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES is our reaction to those dark times, specifically this track, Diablo Wind, which is a term used to describe the hot dry wind in this area that often fuels the fires. Grimly, California’s 2020 wildfire season has broken any previous records that were hit when this song was written.”

MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES will be released on LP on December 18th and is available for pre-order via Translation Loss Records now. Proceeds from digital pre-orders through the band will be donated to Defenders of Wildlife and the Wildlife Conservation Society.

Track listing:
1. Diablo Wind
2. The Lucky Ones
3. This Bed
4. And Shine On
5. Rock Stready

Engineered, Mixed, and Mastered by Jack Shirley at The Atomic Garden, Oakland, CA
Album artwork by: Kevin Earl Taylor.
Photos: Rohini Moradi Sweeney.

GRAYCEON is:
Max Doyle – guitar
Jackie Perez Gratz – cello and vocals
Zack Farwell – drums

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 43

Posted in Radio on October 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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A few classics, a lot of new music, and a final half-hour that I’d have a hard time imagining could possibly be better spent. I haven’t been able to spend as much time in the Gimme Metal chat during the shows as I’d like — my duties as dad/house-husband in terms of feeding, bedtime ritual, diapers, dinner and all that clash pretty hard with the 5-7PM timeslot, and it’s important to me to do those things as well as to be visible doing them, especially to my son to teach him that a man can be a caregiver (as much as I’m able) — but I always at least check in and keep half an eye on what’s going on in there.

It’s been cool to see the Gimme community develop over time. There are familiar names in there week after week and others come and go. That’s a special kind of connection Gimme has been able to forge that I feel fortunate to be a part of in some small way. I’ve never been cool enough to be a part of a scene. I’m still not. But it’s fun to watch.

The Pecan does indeed feature in this one. He broke out “Listenin’ to Obeliks Show on Give-Me-Metal!” from the back seat of the car and surprised the hell out of me. I think you can probably hear my smile.

Thanks for listening if you do. I hope you enjoy the show.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 10.02.20

Crystal Spiders Tigerlily Molt
Acid King Silent Pictures Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
Year of the Cobra Demons Ash and Dust
VT
Oginalii Pillars Pendulum
Dreadnought Tempered Emergence
Molassess The Devil Lives Through the Hollow
Kariti Kybele’s Kiss Covered Mirrors
CB3 Warrior Queen Aeons
Heavy Temple Hit it and Quit It Split From the Black Hole
Holy Grove Solaris II
The Wounded Kings Consolamentum Consolamentum
Besvärjelsen Past in Haze Frost
VT
Grayceon We Can All We Destroy
SubRosa The Wound of the Warden For This I Fought the Battle of Ages

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Oct. 16 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 06

Posted in Radio on December 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

Okay, so I guess the first thing you should know if you don’t know is I sort of have a radio show. It’s called The Obelisk Show. I’ve been in league with the good peoples at Gimme Radio for a couple months now, and it seems like it’s sticking, which is nice. They’ve been kind enough to give me a forum through which to share music, and I’m happy for the opportunity. I’ve guested with Diane Farris (also now on Gimme) on WFMU a few times over the years, but haven’t hosted a show since I was in college at WSOU in New Jersey, so it’s been a thrill to do so again. I had missed it more than I realized.

Since it doesn’t look like I’m about to be immediately shitcanned by Gimme on account of general suckdom — can’t help but feel like I’m getting away with something there — I wanted to get an archive going of playlists on here, basically so I can refer to it later and know what I’ve already played and when. Otherwise, I’ll just do the same stuff all the time, because I’m kind of a doof generally. So here we are.

The latest episode — the sixth — was a wrap-up of what I thought were some of the best tracks from 2018. You can see the playlist below in the kind oldschool-looking spreadsheet form. Ignore the asterisks by the album titles; they just mean something that came out this year. Which, in the case of this episode, was everything.

If you didn’t get to hear it the first time around or want to dig into other episodes, Gimme has an archive available on the cheap, and they reair the show as well. Thanks either way if you get to check it out.

I thought this was a decent one. Here’s the playlist:

The Obelisk Show Ep. 06 – 12.16.18

Gozu Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat Equilibrium* 0:06:24
Mos Generator The Destroyer Shadowlands* 0:04:27
BREAK
Traden Hymn Traden* 0:07:20
Sandrider Hollowed Armada* 0:06:06
Grayceon Let it Go IV* 0:06:22
Sunnata Outlands Outlands* 0:07:37
BREAK
Monster Magnet When the Hammer Comes Down Mindfucker* 0:05:42
Fu Manchu Don’t Panic Clone of the Universe* 0:02:04
Foghound Known Wolves Awaken to Destroy* 0:03:59
Naxatras You Won’t be Left Alone III* 0:11:17
King Buffalo Morning Song Longing to be the Mountain* 0:09:49
Weedpecker Liquid Sky III* 0:06:33
Black Rainbows Riding Fast Till the End of Time Pandaemonium* 0:04:07
Witch Mountain Burn You Down Witch Mountain* 0:07:40
BREAK
Sleep Sonic Titan The Sciences* 0:12:27
YOB Ablaze Our Raw Heart* 0:10:13

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is Jan. 13. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Grayceon, IV: The Slow Burn

Posted in Reviews on May 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

grayceon iv

I have no problem admitting when I’m a fan of a band, and I’m a fan of San Francisco trio Grayceon. In 2011, the group led by cellist/vocalist Jackie Perez Gratz — once of the vastly underrated Amber Asylum, also a contributor to Neurosis, Agalloch, Om and I don’t know how many others — released their third full-length, All We Destroy (review here; discussed here), on Profound Lore, and seven years later, it’s a record I still break out for periodic listens at least a couple times a year. Thus the prospect of a new LP from Perez Gratz, guitarist Max Doyle and drummer Zack Farwell was one I approached with some trepidation.

It can be difficult when you feel an attachment to a record to accept a group’s “next one.” As I put on the Translation Loss-released IV — obviously named after the Goatsnake LP (that’s a joke) — and began to make my way through opener “Sliver Moon” at the outset of an eight-song/40-minute course that moves swiftly and gracefully between head-down thrash intensity spacious post-heavy and doomed march, my concerns were as much soothed away as they were set on fire. Seven years hence (though to be fair, they had the Pearl and the End of Days EP in 2013 as well), Grayceon has returned with an album that justified the expanse of time it took for it to arrive — a blazingly progressive offering of dare-you-to-keep-up complexity that changes tempos and methods while landing memorable hooks in “Scorpion,” “Let it Go,” “Slow Burn” the closer “Dreamers” while remaining atmospheric in both its moments of intensity and slower marches.

For Jackie Perez Gratz, it’s an utter triumph of performance almost immediately. “Sliver Moon” establishes her as the driver of much of the melody throughout, and she drives counterfigures off Doyle‘s chugging riffs and meets him to join forces on winding transitional lines in a way that makes IV seem absolutely woven. The percussion opening “By-the-Wind Sailors,” handled by Pearl and Pepper Gregory in addition to Farwell sets a tense bed for the sustained cello notes and plucked guitar notes, and with a scream as it approaches the midpoint, the song bursts into one of the album’s most extreme moments, with frenetic blasting from Farwell and likewise speedy guitar and cello to match.

The lines, “We’ve had our time/Time of our lives/We’ve had our time/You and I” sound in context as though they could apply as much to a personal relationship as to that between the human species and the planet on which we live, and the chorus sprints through again before Grayceon settle into a gallop and crash into a momentary respite before the thrashing resumes to close out and lead into the immediate start of “Scorpion,” which finds a middle ground in its early going between the two sides that “By-the-Wind Sailors” seemed to offer; the cello-led metallurgy and the sections more concerned with ambient breadth and melodic storytelling.

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Upon reaching the three-minute mark, the track stops and shifts into a doomly march that carries it outward with some shifts of cello and melody. Cello as the last remaining element gives way to the quiet open of “Let it Go,” which might serve as the standout track on IV with its likewise slower march, patient delivery and memorable chorus, screams directly contradicting melodic vocals in representation of an inner emotional struggle — “let go” vs. “don’t let go” — as it relates to love itself. A mournful cello line picks up after the final chorus and leads the way out to silence and the fast, intricate picking from Doyle that begins side B with the quick intro to “Slow Burn.”

It’s here and in songs like “Dreamers” still to come that Grayceon show how dynamic they can be, not only writing one kind of song or another, loud or quiet, claustrophobic or spacious, but in putting tempo contrasts smacked against each other in a single piece. “Slow Burn’ opens from its galloping start to a crashing stomp that’s one of the record’s most fervent, and a verse that sets the stage for a slower, richly melodic apex topped with the lines, “What if you knew what you know now?/What would I have said to change your mind?/What if you knew what you know now?/What do you have to say?” that repeats with slight changes in the words but is beautiful and sweeping and painful all at the same time, cutting to an immediate, companion-feeling run of toms to start “The Point of Me,” which exhibits a depressive hopefulness in its melodic verses, and in just over three minutes, puts forth a prog-metal chug of deceptive complexity that cuts to silence as a line of sweet guitar and soothing cello start the penultimate “Pink Rose,” the vocals begging “Please mama, take me home” with subtle background voices behind the sweet and sad forward melody; the most soothing moment on IV, if still somewhat emotionally desperate.

At 2:31 and marked by its lyrical repetition, “Pink Rose” is the shortest track on IV and it gives way to silence before the angular guitar line opens “Dreamers” punctuated by drums and cut through by the cello before the three come together to charge ahead into the first verse. It will get slower as it moves toward its finish, but the crescendo of “Dreamers” happens after a long-held vocal note and the line at 4:21 “we are dreamers,” that winds down at the end like a tape running out before the guitar lurches back in to lead the cello and drums through the the last double-kick march. This instrumental progression consumes the last two minutes of “Dreamers” and ends on a long fade but a not-at-all overdone sense of fanfare.

Certainly Grayceon could’ve put one last burst into IV, but by ending as they do — dug into a groove, all three players putting in clear physical effort but not overselling it — makes IV less about any single moment and more about the affecting listening experience of the album as a whole. “Dreamers” is no less successful in this than is the entirety of IV in conveying its emotional and aural range. Seven years after All We Destroy, which seemed to mourn an entire generation’s war, IV comes through as more personal, but whether they’re looking outward or inward, Grayceon‘s work remains both poised and deeply human. I’ll look forward hopefully to whatever they do next.

Grayceon, IV (2018)

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Friday Full-Length: Grayceon, All We Destroy

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Grayceon, All We Destroy (2011)

One of the most underrated albums of this decade, hands down. Aside from boasting cellist/vocalist Jackie Perez Gratz — whose formidable CV includes entries for Neurosis and Om guest spots in addition to her own other bands, Amber Asylum and Giant Squid among them — Grayceon‘s 2011 third outing, All We Destroy (review here) offered a richness of scope, progressive complexity and vibrant emotionalism across its span that from where I sit you can just about count on one hand the records that have come along in the last half-decade that can stand up to it. I was a fan of it at the time too, and in the years since it’s one of those albums to which I’ve returned over and again, some memory pushing forward in my consciousness that leads me back to it. As with the best of anything, it has lasted through this test of time and continues to resonate even now, where so many others have fallen by the wayside since.

Released through Profound LoreAll We Destroy comprises six tracks — interestingly the Bandcamp stream switches “Dreamer Deceived” and “Shellmounds” at the open — and lasts a substantial pre-vinyl-explosion 50 minutes, but it’s the grandeur of the thing that’s ultimately so striking, its blend of classicism and extremity, and the fluidity with which Grayceon are able to shift from one side to the other, here thrashing mad before the first galloping verse of “Shellmounds” and there quiet and folkish to gracefully unfold the start of “Once a Shadow.” Together with guitarist/vocalist Max Doyle and drummer Zack FarwellGratz courses gracefully along a path that’s doom and yet very much not at the same time in “Dreamer Deceived,” the song’s interplay of guitar and cello given firm foundation through the drums, though truth be told, it’s all viciously creative. It just also happens to be that Grayceon are able to hold the material together even as they seem to be spinning off in different directions at various points, toward blackened screams, multi-layered cello solos, or crushing sludge riffs. Oh yeah, and all that happens in about 30 seconds too.

I won’t take away from “A Road Less Traveled” or “War’s End” as the closing duo or “Once a Shadow”‘s weary melancholy, or the frantic mournfulness of “Shellmounds,” but All We Destroy‘s crowning achievement is undoubtedly “We Can,” a 17-minute album-unto-itself that pulls together the best of what works in all Grayceon‘s other tracks and executes a flawless tiered build through distinct movements, each of which flows into the next, but all of which make a memorable impression. It was my pick for the best song of 2011, and that’s something I stand by five years later. For an record that seems to have war as its underlying theme, All We Destroy has so much life in it, and “We Can” envisions a distinctly feminine struggle at the center of the record in a manner both insightful and emotionally gripping — the play of screams back and forth, “We can — build — nothing,” a brilliant reverse reminder of the album’s title.

All We Destroy followed Grayceon‘s 2008 sophomore album, This Grand Show, and their 2007 self-titled debut, as well as a split with Giant Squid (2007’s The West) and was answered in 2013 with an EP, Pearl and the End of Days. As of January 2015, they were at work on a fourth full-length, but I haven’t seen any word of further progress than that. Doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen or that it is, just that it hasn’t been announced. Maybe by the time it shows up I’ll have finished digesting this record, though somehow I doubt it.

Hope you enjoy.

My book, Electroprofen, is out now. You can buy it from War Crime Recordings here: http://warcrimerecordings.bigcartel.com/product/electroprofen-by-jj-koczan

It’s limited to 300 copies. If you pick one up, I hope you dig it. And thank you.

That alone would be enough to make this a busy week, but add in stuff like the Wo Fat review yesterday, making the podcast that went up a bit ago, and that Wren stream today, it was pretty packed even before you consider book releases and/or the big comedown after being at Roadburn last weekend, traveling all day Monday, the development of the annual post-Roadburn cold, announcing EYE for the All-Dayer, job stuff, and everything else that life presents in its assault. It was madness, to be honest with you. I’m very, very tired.

Almost through the day though and looking forward to a phone call in a bit and then a hopefully laid back weekend in Connecticut. Two hours to get there, two hours to get back, but screw it, that’s worth that trip and the DayQuil will kick in sooner or later and I’ll be grooving.

Next week looks like this so far: Monday a live video premiere of some new Atavismo — awesome — and a track premiere/review of new Samavayo. Tuesday a show announcement from Gozu. Wednesday a video premiere from Stone Machine Electric and full-album stream from Joy. Thursday not sure yet but I sure would like to review that Beastwars record or the Supervoid and Red Desert split, but we’ll see what time allows. Also have a Crypt Sermon interview waiting to be posted, so that’ll be up sometime in there as well. Maybe next Friday.

That’s how it’s in the notes now, though of course any of that could change between today and when we get there.

I’ve also started planning the next Quarterly Review — just in case you were wondering how much time actually goes into those things. The answer is a lot. It’ll start at the end of June/beginning of July.

Thank you for reading.

And please have a great and safe weekend.

And please check out the forum and the radio stream.

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