The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

Posted in Features on December 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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

Invariably, the ultimate measure of 2020 will be in lives and livelihoods lost around the world. I have nothing to add to the discourse of the COVID-19 pandemic that others haven’t said in more articulate and precise language. Suffice it to note that 2020 was the year that the very concept of “unprecedented” itself became trite.

One does not have to look far to find positives amid the devastation. Creativity continues to flourish. Art cannot be killed. Even locked away from each other in quarantine, artists will continue to reach out, to collaborate, to fulfill the human need for expression that has driven the species since cave drawings and will no doubt be the ruins we leave behind us when we’re gone.

In underground music, it was simply overwhelming. And though I’ll admit it was hard at times to listen to music and divorce it from the larger context of what was happening in the world — it was there like a background buzz — this year reinforced how necessary music is, not only as an escape or a source of income for those who make/promote it, but as an integral component of life and community. Absences have been keenly felt.

I won’t try to sate you with platitudes, to say “things will get better.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. One year turning to the next does not fix broken systems and it does not cure raging plagues. It’s just a number. Arbitrary except as a convenient marker for things like this, births, deaths, and so on. Bookkeeping.

Before I turn you over to the lists: Please be kind in the comments if you choose to leave one. To me. To other people. To yourself. These lists are culled from my listening preference and what I consider of critical importance. But I’m one person. If there’s something you feel has been left out, say so. I ask you only to do so in a spirit of friendship rather than argument. Thank you in advance.

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

50. Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion
49. Atramentus, Stygian
48. Arcadian Child, Protopsycho
47. Fuzz, III
46. Jointhugger, I Am No One
45. Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
44. Switchblade Jesus, Death Hymns
43. Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted
42. Hymn, Breach Us
41. IAH, III
40. Lord Fowl, Glorious Babylon
39. Acid Mess, Sangre de Otros Mundos
38. 1000mods, Youth of Dissent
37. Deathwhite, Grave Image
36. Soldati, Doom Nacional
35. Cortez, Sell the Future
34. Kadavar, The Isolation Tapes
33. Black Rainbows, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip
32. Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch
31. Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Notes: To say nothing of the honorable mentions that follow the rest of the list below, immediately we see the problem of so-many-albums-not-enough-space. People talk about a top 50 as ridiculous, like there’s no way you can like that much music. Bullshit. I agonized over how to fit Sun Crow on this list because their Quest for Oblivion felt like it deserved to be here. Ditto that for Arcadian Child. And the achievements of bands like Kadavar, 1000mods and Switchblade Jesus and Insect Ark in breaking the boundaries of their own aesthetics deserve every accolade they can get, and likewise those who progressed in their sound like Cortez, Shadow Witch, Lord Fowl, Hymn, Foot, Black Rainbows, Deathwhite and IAH. Add to that the debuts from Atramentus, Dirt Woman, Jointhugger, Acid Mess and Sergio Ch.’s Soldati, and you’ve got a batch of 20 records — some born of this year’s malaise, some working in spite of it — that vary in sound but are working to push their respective styles to new places one way or the other.

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another Sons of Otis. Be thankful for everything you get from them.

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Lamp of the Universe‘s Dead Shrine were familiar enough for those familiar with the one-man outfit running more than two decades, but the lush acid folk created remains a standout the world over. Dead Shrine was a much-needed gift of peace and meditation.

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

The debut album from Colorado’s BleakHeart collected pieces united by melody and overarching atmosphere, positioned stylistically somewhere around heavygaze or heavy post-rock, but feeling less limited to genre bounds than some others working in a similar sphere. As a first outing, it brought a promise of things to come even as the depths of its mix seemed to swallow the listener entirely, equal parts serving claustrophobia and escapism.

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

There is not enough space here to properly commend Pale Divine founding guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener on how much he opened up the band by bringing in his and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s former Beelzefuzz bandmate Dana Ortt on shared guitar, vocal and songwriting duties. Completed by Ron “Fezz” McGinnis on bass/vocals, Pale Divine are a refreshed and ready powerhouse of American traditional doom.

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

One is going to have to get used to the idea of Uncle Woe residing in the places between, I think. An inward-looking cosmic doom that’s likewise morose and reaching, opaque and translucent, Phantomescence could be almost troubling in its feeling of off-kilter expression. Yet that’s exactly what multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rain Fice was going for. Thriving on contradiction, exploratory, and individualized. Start from doom, move outward.

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

Released by Off the Record Label. Reviewed Oct. 15.

I don’t feel like I’m cool enough to offer any substantive comment on what Chicago’s REZN do, but their sax-laced heavy psychedelia comes across warm and is invitingly languid while still delivered with a sense of energy and purpose. It rolls and you want to roll with it, so you do. They were clearly hurt by not being able to tour this year, as were audiences for not seeing them. Call them neo-stoner metal or whatever you want, these songs deserve to be played live.

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

A revamped lineup for South African desert-ish heavy rockers Ruff Majik brought producer Evert Snyman in as co-conspirator with frontman/principal songwriter Johni Holiday, and found the former trio working as a five-piece with a broader sound underscored by an electric sense of purpose and willingness to push themselves to places they hadn’t gone before. Their third record, it seemed as well to be a new beginning, and they met the challenge head-on.

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

The underheralded children of rolling fuzz riffage, Connecticut’s Curse the Son found new depths of emotion to bring to Excruciation — and I do mean “depths.” Dark times for dark times. Fueled by personal hardship, turmoil, motorcycle accidents and a pervasive sense of struggle, the LP was nonetheless a triumph of their songwriting and brought new melodic character to their established largesse of tone. Your loss if you missed it.

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Business as usual in ferocious heavy/speed rock from The Atomic Bitchwax on Scorpio — and that was only reassuring since the band’s eighth full-length marked the first since the departure of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and his replacing with Garrett Sweeny, a bandmate of founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella in Monster Magnet. They barely stopped to cool their heels and yet still managed to be catchy as hell. How do they do it? Jersey Magic.

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

Such pervasive melancholy could only be derived from Irish folk, and so it was on Cinder Well‘s No Summer, which managed to move between singer-songwriter minimalism from Amelia Baker and arrangements of deceptive and purposeful intricacy. Wherever it went, from traditional songs “Wandering Boy” and “The Cuckoo” to originals like “Fallen” and the nine-minute “Our Lady’s,” it was equal parts gorgeous and sad and resonant. It remains so, despite the fleeting season.

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

Their fourth album and first since crossing the decade-mark since their inception, Pallbearer‘s Forgotten Days wasn’t just heavy, emotional or big-sounding; it was the most their-own of anything they’ve done. It felt exactly like the record they wanted it to be, and reconfirmed that the generation of listeners being introduced to doom by their music is going to be just fine if they follow the cues laid out for them here.

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

Released by Stolen Body and Vicious Circle Records. Reviewed March 26.

Less a reinvention of space rock than a kick in its ass, Slift‘s Ummon pushed well past the line of manageability at 72 minutes and reveled in that. The French outfit were greeted as liberators when they released the album, and with the way the respect has been maintained in the months since they’ve given themselves a high standard to meet, but there’s only promise to be heard as you get lost in the nebular wash of this sprawling 2LP. They’ll have two more records out before this one’s fully digested.

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

The first album in half a decade from long-established UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride found vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe coping with his daughter’s cancer diagnosis and translating that into the morose poetry for which the band is so well known and with which they’ve been so influential. My Dying Bride has never wanted for sincerity, but to call them affecting here would be underselling the quality of their craft and the heart they put into it. Follow-up EP is already out with extra non-album tracks.

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Denmark’s Causa Sui may be on a mission to unite jazz and heavy psychedelia — and blessings on them for that — but the mellow jammy vibes they conjured on Szabodelico only emphasized how much it’s the character of what they do and the chemistry they’ve brought as bandmates that has allowed them to branch thusly in terms of aesthetic. It was the kind of album you wanted to put on again even before it was over, and its sweet instrumentals felt born to a greater timeline than a single year can encompass.

14. All Souls, Songs for the End of the World

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I’m not a punk rocker, but All Souls make me wish I was. Their emotive and engaged heavy rock looks out as much as in on Songs for the End of the World — their second LP behind a 2018 self-titled debut (review here) — but it’s undeniably punk in its foundation, and what the four-piece of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi), Erik Trammell (Black Elk) and Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson) have put together builds on that in exciting, inventive and individualized ways, while staying nonetheless true to its roots.

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), Boston four-piece Kind return with Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (RoadsawSasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

Founded by vocalist Farida Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) and guitarist Oeds Beydals (ex-Death Alley, also ex-The Devil’s Blood) and commissioned as a project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here), Molassess are inextricably tied to Lemouchi‘s groundbreaking former outfit and its tragic ending, but the musical branching out into darkened progressive textures on Through the Hollow isn’t to be understated. It was an album that pushed past the past, not overlooking it, but finding new ways of moving forward in life and sound.

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

While of course the Mos Generator frontman is no stranger to writing or recording on his own, Funeral Suit was Tony Reed‘s debut as a solo artist and it carried his progressive stamp in melody and arrangement. It was not just a guitarist playing acoustic instead of electric, and it was not a manifestation of self-indulgence. Whether it was reworking a Mos Generator song like “Lonely One Kenobi” or pursuing a new piece like the title-track or “Waterbirth,” Reed found balance between personal and audience, evoking traditional songsmithing even as he reminded listeners of his dual role as a producer.

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Spectacular showing from Kingston kingpins Geezer with Groovy as their first offering for Heavy Psych Sounds. Led by guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, the three-piece brought material that flowed with the organic feel of jams despite being structured and catchy songs. In pieces like “Dead Soul Scroll” and “Drowning on Empty,” they melded stonerized groove with what felt like genuine emotional expression, and “Dig” and “Groovy” still managed to be a heavy fuzz-blues party. And they still had room at the end to jam out on “Slide Mountain” and “Black Owl.” It was nothing but a win, rising to the occasion on every level.

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

So Bob Balch from Fu Manchu and Gary Arce from Yawning Man have a band. They get Tony Reed from Mos Generator on board. Mario Lalli from Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson comes and goes. Nick Oliveri comes and goes. Bill Stinson from Yawning Man plays drums. Alain Johannes sits in on vocals. Reed does a bunch of vocals; his kid does a track too. Per Wiberg from Spiritual Beggars, Opeth, Candlemass, etc., lends some keys. What do you call such a thing? Who cares? You call yourself lucky it exists. They called the record Vision Beyond Horizon. Can’t wait to find out what they call the next one.

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed April 27.

Omens marked a new beginning for Elder as the band pushed deeper into the realm of progressive rock and beyond their weightier beginnings. The arrival of Georg Edert (also Gaffa Ghandi) on drums in place of Matt Couto shifted the band’s dynamic in a number of ways, providing not a swinging anchor for the rhythm section necessarily, but another avenue of prog fluidity. Bassist Jack Donovan brought a steady presence in the low end as guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo and guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg embarked on new melodic explorations while staying loyal to the band’s established penchant for sweeping changes. Omens may live up to its name as a sign of things to come, but either way, it was a strong display of the band’s will to pursue new ideas and methods.

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

First words that come to mind here: “eminently listenable.” With seven tracks and 36 minutes, Reverie may not have taken up much of your afternoon… once. But by the time you gave it its proper respect and listened through three times in a row, the situation was somewhat different. The Lafayette, Louisiana, four-piece gracefully brought together structured songwriting with proggier leanings and were able to bring together rampaging hooks like “Trace the Omen” and “Manifest,” casting a sense of sonic hugeness without forgetting to add either melody or personality along with that. The band — who here welcomed bassist Thorn Letulle alongside guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa and drummer Thomas Colley — have worked quickly and evolved with a sense of urgency. Is Reverie the goal or another step on that path?

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

Vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz (interview here), guitarist Max Doyle and drummer Zack Farwell comprise Grayceon, and with their fifth record, the band looks around thematically at environmental devastation through the lens of record-breaking California wildfires from their vantage point in the Bay Area. Even as the world shifted priorities (at least most of it did) to yet another global crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, genre-melting-pot songs like “Diablo Wind,” “The Lucky Ones,” and “This Bed” reminded of the horrors humanity has wrought on its battered home, and still managed to find hope and serenity in “And Shine On” and “Rock Steady,” a closing duo that shifted to a more personal discussion of family and one’s hope for a better future for and by the next generation. 2020 had plenty of horror. At least we got a new Grayceon record out of it.

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” and the acoustic closer “Been So Long.” With Bjork recording all the instruments himself, a due feeling of intimacy resulted, and yet he still found a way to make it rock. How could it be otherwise?

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

Why do I feel the immediate need to defend this pick? I’m not sure. Norway’s Enslaved are an institution, not just of black metal, but of bringing an ideology of creative growth to that style that often willfully resists it. They are iconoclastic even unto their own work. Utgard was released as the band stood on the precipice of 30 years together and yet it stood as their most forward-looking offering yet, as co-founders Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals) and Ivar Bjørnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017’s E (review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver Sandøy, who doubles as a vocalist (and triples as a producer). The “new blood” made all the difference on Utgard, allowing Enslaved to piece together new ranges of melody in their work and offset instrumental shifts into and out of krautrock-derived progressions. Simply the work of a band outdoing itself from a band who does so at nearly every opportunity.

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 3, 2019.

Every year I allow myself one addendum pick, and this is it. We Are was on last year’s list because it was digitally released, but the vinyl came out this year and it received its North American release this year as well, so it seemed only right to acknowledge that. So here it is in its proper place.

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

This is a band controlling their own narrative. Instead of Nothing as the Ideal being ‘the one they made as a three-piece,’ the Nashville outfit decided to make it ‘the one they recorded at Abbey Road.’ Were they thinking of it on those terms? Yeah, likely not, but it goes to demonstrate all the same just how much of themselves All Them Witches put into what they do musically, since not only are they continuing to refine and define and undefine their approach, but they’re setting the terms on which they do it. Each of their records has been a response to the one prior, but that conversation has never been so direct as to make them predictable. So what are they chasing? Apparently nothing. I’m not entirely sure I buy that as a complete answer, but I am sure I love these songs and the experiments with tape loops and other sounds that fill these spaces. Whatever they do next — or even if nothing — their run has been incredible and exciting and one only hopes their influence continues to spread over the next however many years.

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

There was a high standard set by Elephant Tree‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but their second LP, Habits, surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. With vocals centered around harmonies from guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the former trio completed by drummer Sam Hart brought in guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery (also sometimes vocals), and the resultant breadth gave the material on Habits spaciousness beyond even what the first album promised. Drifting, rolling, unflinchingly melodic and somehow present even in its own escapism, Habits was not just an early highlight for a rough 2020, but a comforting presence throughout, and the further one dug into tracks like “Sails,” “Exit the Soul,” “Faceless,” “Wasted” and the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the more there was to find — let alone “Bird,” which I’ll happily put against anything else one might propose for song of the year. As their former UK label crumbled, Habits emerged unscathed and Elephant Tree‘s future continues to shine with ever more hope for things to come. Being able to say that about anything feels like a relief.

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Twenty years ago, Sweden’s Lowrider put out what would become a heavy rock landmark in their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here). A follow-up years in the making even after the band got back together to play Desertfest in London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, Refractions first saw limited release in 2019 as part of Blues Funeral‘s PostWax series (discussed here), but its proper arrival was in early 2020, and there was really no looking back after that. It wasn’t just the novelty of a new Lowrider album that made Refractions such a joy, but the manner in which the band went about its work. There was no pretending that 20 years didn’t happen. There was no attempt to recapture the bottled lightning that was the first record, and Lowrider did not sound like a band “making a comeback” rife with expectations and fan-service. Refractions acknowledged the legacy of Ode to Io, sure enough, but as a step toward adding to it in meaningful and engaging ways. The songs — “Red River,” “Ode to Ganymede,” “Sernanders Krog,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe,” “Sun Devil/M87” and the 11-minute finale “Pipe Rider” — were fashioned without pretense and came across as the organic output of a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They made it their own. In a wretched year, Lowrider shined.

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

Yeah, okay. There are a lot of these, so buckle in. Last year I just threw out a list of bands. This year I’m a little more organized, so here are bands and records alphabetically.

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

By no means is that list exhaustive. And to look at stuff like Psychlona, Oranssi Pazuzu, Wight, Wino, Puta Volcano, Kingnomad, Ellis Munk Ensemble, Paradise Lost, Alain Johannes, Arbouretum, Uffe Lorenzen, Tia Carrera — on and on and on — I can definitely see where arguments are to be made for records that should’ve been in the list proper. I can only go with what feels right to me at the time.

Together with the top 50, this makes over 110 albums in the best of 2020. If you find yourself needing something to hang your hat on, be glad you’re alive to witness this much excellent music coming out.

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Atramentus, Stygian
Bethmoora, Thresholds
BleakHeart, Dream Griever
Crystal Spiders, Molt
Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Electric Feat, Electric Feat
Familiars, All in Good Time
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
Human Impact, Human Impact
Jointhugger, I Am No One
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Might, Might
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation
Ritual King, Ritual King
SEA, Impermanence
Slomosa, Slomosa
Soldati, Doom Nacional
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
SpellBook, Magick & Mischief
Spirit Mother, Cadets
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies
White Dog, White Dog

Notes: I sparred with myself every step of the way here. The last couple years I’ve tried to give the top-debut spot to not just a new band, but a new presence. Green Lung, King Buffalo, etc. Molassess, with members from The Devil’s Blood, Death Alley and Astrosoniq, isn’t exactly that. So what do I do? Do I go with something newer like Polymoon, Dirt Woman, BleakHeart, SEA, White Dog or The Crooked Whispers, or something with more established players like Molassess, Soldati, or even Light Pillars?

In the end, what made the difference was not just how brilliant the songs on Molassess’ Through the Hollow, but how honestly the band confronted the legacy they were up against. The songs had a familiar haunting presence, but they were also moving ahead to somewhere new. It was that blend of old and new ideas, and the resonant feeling of emotional catharsis — as well as the sheer immersion that took place while listening — that ultimately made the decision. Turns out I just couldn’t escape it.

And why not a list? Because this feels woefully inadequate as it is. I reviewed over 250 records this year one way or another — and that’s a conservative estimate — but a lot gets lost in the shuffle and somehow it just seemed wrong this time around to call something the 13th best first record of the year. I wanted to highlight the special achievement that was the Molassess album, but really, all of these records kicked my ass one way or the other.

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Big Scenic Nowhere, Lavender Blues
Coma Wall, Ursa Minor
Conan/Deadsmoke, Doom Sessions Vol. 1
Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 1
Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie
Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof, Masamune/Muramasa (split)
Oginalii, Pendulum
Kings Destroy, Floods
Lament Cityscape, The Old Wet
Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine +2
Merlock, That Which Speaks
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Mos Generator/Di’Aul, Split
Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets
Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus
Rocky Mtn Roller, Rocky Mtn Roller
Spaceslug, Leftovers
10,000 Years, 10,000 Years
The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission
Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man
Witchcraft, Black Metal

Notes: If you were wondering why King Buffalo’s Dead Star (review here) wasn’t on the big list, this is why. It was pitched to me as an EP and that’s how I’m classifying it. I’m taking the out. Is it an EP? Not really, but neither is it a full-length album, given its experimental nature and focus around its extended two-part title-track. Whatever it was, it was the best that-thing, and this is the category where such things go.

Again, tough choices after King Buffalo. Thunderbird Divine’s EP was wonderfully funk-blasted and woefully short (new album, please). The newly-issued Spaceslug EP branches out their sound in fascinating ways as a result of the lockdown. Witchcraft’s acoustic EP, Coma Wall’s EP and Big Scenic Nowhere’s EP all signaled good things to come, and Howling Giant’s split with Sergeant Thunderhoof was a highlight of the most recent Quarterly Review. There really isn’t a bummer on the list there, from the bitter psych of Oginalii to the industrial metal of Lament Cityscape, the unadulterated riffery of Merlock to the live-captured rawness of Monte Luna.

So again, why no list? Same answer. I want to highlight the progression King Buffalo made in their sound and leave room open elsewhere for things I missed. Please let me know what in the comments. Cordially.

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Notes: In this wretched year (mostly) void of live music, marked by canceled tours and festivals, the live album arguably played a more central role than it ever has, whether it was a band trying to keep momentum up following or leading into a studio release, taking advantage of the emergence of the Bandcamp Friday phenomenon or just trying to maintain some connection to their fans and the process of taking a stage. Or even playing in a room together. Or not a room. Anything. What was once a tossoff, maybe an afterthought companion piece became an essential worker of the listening experience.

You might accuse desert rock progenitors Yawning Man of playing to their base with Live at Giant Rock (featured here), and if so, fine. At no point in the last 50 years has that base more needed playing-to. And in the absence of shows, being able to hear (and watch, in the case of the accompanying video) Yawning Man go out to the landscape that spawned them and engage with their music was a beautiful moment of reconciliation. An exhale for the converted that didn’t fill one with empty promises of better tomorrows or tours to come, but served to remind what’s so worth preserving about the spirit of live music in the first place. The fact that anything can happen. A replaced note here, a tuning change there — these things can make not just an evening, but memories that go beyond shows, tours, to touch our lives.

There were a ton of live records this year. Some were benefits for worthy causes between saving venues, Black Lives Matter, voting rights organizations, and so on. And whether these were new performances from captured livestreams (Monte Luna, Kadavar) or older gigs that had been sitting around waiting for release at some point (Sumac, Dead Meadow), this, very much, was that point, and these live offerings kept burning a fire that felt at times very much in danger of being extinguished.

Looking Ahead to 2021

A list of bands. Some confirmed releases, some not. Here goes:

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, Lantlôs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

You’ve read enough, so I will do my best to keep this mercifully short. Thank you so much for reading — whether you still are or not — and thank you for being a part of the ongoing project that is The Obelisk. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such incredible support throughout not just this year, but all the years of the site’s existence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you most of all to The Patient Mrs. for her indulgence in letting me get this done. I’m am amazed forever.

More to come.

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Curse the Son Premiere “Novembre” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

curse the son novembre video

By now the narrative of 2020 being a crap year — period — should be well familiar. If you want to know just how deep that extends, consider a record like Curse the Son‘s Excruciation (review here). It came out through Ripple Music in June and is unquestionably the broadest ranging and most accomplished outing of the Connecticut-based band’s tenure, building on 2016’s Isolator (review here) while marking the second appearance of bassist Brendan Keefe alongside founding guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, who this time acted as a writing partner and whose experience following a motorcycle accident and subsequent recovery formed much of the thematic basis for the album as a whole. As one might expect, it is not easy listening.

“Novembre” might be the best song Curse the Son have ever written. You’re not going to hear me say a bad word about really anything they’ve done along the way, from the earlier straight-up tone-and-riff-rolls of their first two records through this latest one — unless it’s a bad word like, “shit, this is pretty cool” — but the development of the melody in “Novembre” is just another league, as is the scope of its production. KeefeVanacore and drummer Robert Ives (making his first appearance) deep-dive into turmoil and a grueling, harrowing mindset, conveying sonic and emotional weight in kind in a way that Curse the Son have hinted toward but never manifest to the degree they do in this one song.

Newsflash: doom band is miserable? Yeah, maybe there’s some of that happening here, but that’s not the end of the story by a longshot. If you missed Excruciation either due to the pandemic or you were out protesting or you were fretting about the state of democracy worldwide, consider yourself invited to stream it at the bottom of this post. The video for “Novembre” is mostly atmospheric images — as opposed to band performance, that is — but it certainly gets the point across in terms of vibe. See the empty hallway above if you’re not sure what I’m talking about.

Enjoy:

Curse the Son, “Novembre” official video premiere

From the album ‘Excruciation’
Ripple Music (2020)
Available at http://cursetheson.com
Directed By: Ron Vanacore

Footage from:
‘The Horrors of Pennhurst Asylum’
‘Psychiatric Hospitals & Asylums in 1950’s’
‘Amazing Nature Scenery, Suns and Sunsets’

CURSE THE SON are:
Ron Vanacore – Guitars & Vocals
Brendan Keefe – Bass & Vocals
Robert Ives – Drums

Curse the Son, Excruciation (2020)

Curse the Son on Thee Facebooks

Curse the Son on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Curse the Son Post “Suicide by Drummer” Video; Excruciation out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

curse the son

Connecticut’s Curse the Son released their new album, Excruciation (review here), through Ripple Music, and their posting of the video below for opening track “Suicide by Drummer” at the end of the week is a bit of late promotional push that the record well earns. In a time where so much struggle is focused on outward factors, sociopolitical or otherwise, Excruciation focuses on inner and personal experience, drawing the listener into a tumult and turmoil that is at times exemplified by the riffs that seem to roll out of the speakers one after the other.

I could go on about the record, how it blows the roof off what Curse the Son have done before, the writing collaboration between guitarist/vocalist/founder Ron Vanacore and bassist/vocalist Brendan Keefe bringing new complexity and melodic reach in collaboration with producer Eric Lichter (who also participated instrumentally and on vocals), drummer Robert Ives, and guest vocalist/guitarist Joetown (who takes lead in both regards on CD bonus closer “Phoenix Rising”). I could, but hell, I already reviewed the album, and you can hear the whole thing for yourself with the Bandcamp stream at the bottom of this post, so don’t let me spoil it. Suffice it to say that Excruciation stands among 2020’s most welcome arrivals. See you at list time, boys.

Enjoy the video below, followed by more from the PR wire and that album stream:

Curse the Son, “Suicide by Drummer” official video

From the album ‘Excruciation’
Ripple Music
Release date: June 12, 2020

Vinyl, CD and Digital Download available at:
http://cursetheson.com
http://ripplemusic.com

Produced and Edited by : Todd Rawiszer
Live footage : Steve Wytas & Brandon J. Rashan

New Haven’s doom rock warriors CURSE THE SON unleash a second video taken from their dark and genre-defying fourth album ‘Excruciation’, available Friday 12th June on Ripple Music.

Marking their great return, their 2020 full-length ‘Excruciation’ was recorded at Dirt Floor studios in August 2019, produced by Eric Lichter.

CURSE THE SON are:
Ron Vanacore – Guitars & Vocals
Brendan Keefe – Bass & Vocals
Robert Ives – Drums

Curse the Son, Excruciation (2020)

Curse the Son on Thee Facebooks

Curse the Son on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Album Review: Curse the Son, Excruciation

Posted in Reviews on June 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Curse The Son Excruciation

Curse the Son records do not happen every day, and for those who have or those who haven’t followed the trajectory of the Connecticut-based outfit over the years as founding guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore has seen lineups come and go and years pass at an ever-increasing pace, their catalog only really tells part of the tell of everything they’ve been through. That’s especially the case with Excruciation, which is the band’s second offering through Ripple Music behind 2016’s Isolator (review here), and fourth overall, with their prior two long-players being 2012’s Psychache (review here) and 2011’s Klonopain (review here).

If you notice there a decreasing rate of releases, from one year between the first two records to four between each the second and the third and the third and the fourth, lineup shifts account for part of it. Vanacore brought in bassist Brendan Keefe on Isolator and Keefe returns on the nine-song/49-minute Excruciation with an even deeper level of contribution to the songwriting — even going so far as to take on vocal and guitar duties apart from those already fulfilled by Vanacore in addition to handling the low end.

Songs like “Novembre,” the twang-inflected blues blowout that is the penultimate “Devil Doctor Blues,” and the call and response that emerges in the standout chorus of “Worry Garden” would seem to be examples of the greater level of musical conversation particularly between the two players, and many of Excruciation‘s overarching themes — almost universally based around various turmoils and distraught/despairing feelings; it’s by no means a “happy” record on its face (or lack of a face, if you’re looking at the cover art) — are reportedly derived from Keefe‘s experience being involved in and eventually recovering from the trauma of a motorcycle accident in late-2018. Though the album ends on a hopeful note with the classic metal-tinged wailing vocals of and uptempo groove of “Phoenix Risin’,” the message of going through hell to get to that point isn’t at all lost on the listener. Tough times meeting with heavy riffs; this is the stuff upon which doom is made, and Curse the Son are well in their element in this sphere.

At the same time, as they also welcome drummer Robert Ives for his first studio appearance with them, Curse the Son also use the increased amount of collaboration as a means to expand the parameters of their sound. Rest assured, the foundation of Excruciation is still in the depth of tone and the manner in which the riffs lead the way through the songs, but the key difference between this album and what the three-piece brought to their earlier outings is that the balance between “riff” and “song” has changed, and it’s the former serving the latter to a greater degree than they’ve ever put to record before.

Their melodies, especially on vocals, are richer, their progressions are more varied, and there’s more atmosphere throughout Excruciation that ties the material together in exciting and dynamic ways. Vanacore and Curse the Son have never had a problem busting out memorable hooks — IsolatorPsychache and Klonopain were full of them — and so is this album. The uptempo circa-’75 Sabbathian jumper that is opener “Suicide by Drummer” makes its presence felt first with a key change in the vocals in the first verse and thereby signals the greater range through which the band will work across the record that follows.

curse the son

Ives brings suitable swing there and adds to the downward-moving march of the subsequent “Disaster in Denial,” the later harmonies of which payoff a potential Curse the Son seemed to tease on Isolator as the first effort with Keefe backing Vanacore on vocals, but there’s no question Curse the Son are a stronger band for what the bassist(-plus) brings to the proceedings throughout these tracks. Playing off Vanacore‘s familiar rolling riffs and echoing verses, a song like the sprawling “Novembre” touches ground that wouldn’t have even seemed possible for Curse the Son four years ago, hitting on notions of layering and melody-construction that are surprising and thrilling in like measure.

And though “Novembre” arguably pushes farthest in that regard, it’s by means the only instance. “Worry Garden”‘s backing vocals, the grunge-style brooding of the title-track, the pure Alice in Chains-style showing in “Infinite Regression” and the kick-into-payoff of “Black Box Warning” — all of this and more feeds into the notion of Curse the Son as a more dynamic and aesthetically broad unit than they’ve ever been.

The big irony of Excruciation, then, is that as much misery as it’s conveying, the record itself is a complete victory. Even as it rounds out with “Devil Doctor Blues,” drawing to mind some of Geezer‘s earlier slide work, and “Phoenix Risin'” showing off a fist-up-heavy-metal vocal soar that’s a kind of who-knew-they-had-it-in-’em? moment in itself — those verse lines get a little repetitive, but hell’s bell’s, repetition is the point — Excruciation sees Curse the Son pursuing new avenues of expression, and though by modern standards, the album is on the longer end of a single LP at 49 minutes, the songwriting around which it’s based and the riffs from which these songs take their shape more than justify the journey the listener undertakes from front end to back, emotionally grueling as that might be at times.

Tracked over a period of months beginning in August 2019 and culminating in a mix completed in January 2020, Excruciation is the second record Curse the Son have put together at Dirt Floor Studios in Haddam, CT, working with producer Eric Lichter, and the band themselves have noted giving Lichter a larger role in the presentation of the songs and the way in which the material was finalized and arranged. If the result of that is some of the lengthening of Curse the Son‘s sonic reach as can be heard throughout their fourth album, then clearly they’ve found the right pair of ears to help them make the most of what they’ve been doing all along — all the more because it’s in no way overproduced.

For those seeking pure riff-based heavy, Curse the Son will satisfy no less than they ever have, but that’s only a piece of what Excruciation has to offer, and if the experiences that inspired it were difficult, then at very least it wasn’t all for nothing. A work like this is the kind of thing bands dream of realizing.

Curse the Son, Excruciation (2020)

Curse the Son on Thee Facebooks

Curse the Son on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Curse the Son Premiere “Suicide by Drummer”; Confirm June 12 Release for Excruciation

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on April 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

curse the son

If you’re here, the song is probably why. I won’t keep you. It’s at the bottom of this post and should be heard as soon as possible. The relevant details, which follow, will still be here when you scroll back up. Now then…

Connecticut trio Curse the Son have had a hell of a few years, and they put their (largely negative, it would seem) experience to work for them on their impending fourth album, Excruciation. As floated here last month, the record has a June release — it’s June 12, specifically — and today, in addition to that specificity, the album art, more details behind its making and the tracklisting, we’re also getting the first audio from the outing in the form of leadoff track “Suicide by Drummer.”

All told, Excruciation‘s nine tracks run a vinyl-challenging 49 minutes, but they’re filled with substance like the band has never produced before. I don’t want to spoil it — not the least because I’ll review the thing some point between now and June — but Curse the Son‘s shift in their songwriting process and newly-honed chemistry has resulted in a broader scope than they’ve ever had, and with guitarist Ron Vanacore‘s tone and vocals as a foundation to work from, they’re free to explore this new ground with confidence. And they do. I’ll say this. I’ve been a fan of Curse the Son for nearly a decade at this point, and this is their best work, no question. You’re gonna dig it. And “Suicide by Drummer” is just the start, figuratively and literally, of what they have on offer throughout.

Preorders are here: http://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/curse-the-son-excruciation

Enjoy:

Curse The Son Excruciation

Ron Vanacore on Excruciation:

The past few years have certainly been extremely difficult for Curse the Son. Between what appeared to be endless drummer changes, individual tragedies, and of course, Brendan’s very serious motorcycle accident… The band had been put to the test.
We are very proud to say that we rose above all of that to create what is possibly our heaviest and certainly our most diverse and creative record to date.

The record is titled Excruciation and offers a glimpse into our lives (particularly Brendan’s) from November 2017-2018.

Ron wrote songs, Brendan wrote songs and the band collaborated on a few. Pushing the creative boundaries even further, Brendan sings lead on a couple songs as well as playing lead and rhythm guitar on some tracks.

Recording began at Dirt Floor studios in August 2019. We completed mixing in January 2020. We chose to really utilize everything the studio had to offer us as well as giving Eric Lichter a much larger role as producer and songsmith. Eric contributed backing vocals as well as playing a vast array of instruments to add to the musical landscape. With “Excruciation” the band really wanted to push the envelope and boundaries of the genre.

“Suicide By Drummer” was written almost two years ago. It can be viewed as strangely prophetic with its apocalyptic theme that currently resonates very strongly in these uncertain times we find ourselves in.”

Watch for the video to be released soon!

Curse the Son toured regionally in support of the “Isolator” record throughout 2017 and continued to garner growing attention and fans along the way. Unfortunately long time drummer Michael Petrucci was no longer able to continue with the band and a replacement was needed. Robert Ives (Drums) joined the group in April of 2018 and Curse the Son hit the road again performing at many high profile festivals such as The Maryland Doom Fest, Descendants of Crom and the New England Stoner/Doom festival amongst others. Writing began in Summer of 2018, but was put on hold after bassist Brendan Keefe suffered extensive injuries in a devastating motorcycle accident in November of 2018.

Curse the Son’s new release “Excruciation” (Ripple Music) is a defining moment for a band who has dealt with multiple challenges since the release of “Isolator”, and responded in full with their most diverse, ambitious, and genre shattering record to date! Keefe developed a much larger role in the writing and performance aspect on the record. Vanacore was fueled by the extremely trying times the band had endured as a whole and individually. “Excruciation” is shaded heavy and light. “Excruciation” is beautiful and disfigured. “Excruciation” is depressingly sad but strangely uplifting at the same time. It is a record that defies genres, defies limitations and generalizations. A true musical experience for one and all who love their music HEAVY!

TRACK LISTING:
1. Suicide By Drummer
2. Disaster In Denial
3. Novembre
4. Worry Garden
5. Excruciation
6. Infinite Regression
7. Black Box Warning
8. Devil Doctor Blues
9. Phoenix Risin’

Curse the Son are:
Ron Vanacore – Guitars & Vocals
Brendan Keefe – Bass & Vocals
Robert Ives – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/cursetheson/
https://cursetheson.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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Curse the Son Finish Work on Excruciation; Album out in June on Ripple Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Hamden, Connecticut, tonal weightlifters Curse the Son aren’t kidding when they talk about branching out in terms of sound on their new album, Excruciation. Though the intervening years since 2016’s Isolator (review here) have seen them part ways with drummer Michael Petrucci, it’s clear that guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore and bassist/vocalist Brendan Keefe have solidified as a more dynamic team in terms of writing, with the latter picking up more duties in terms of joining creative vocal arrangements calling to mind Dirt-era Alice in Chains in call-and-response fashion, while Robert Ives, making his first appearance with the band, seems to immediately find his place holding the groove that has been at the core of the band since Vanacore founded it now some obscure number of years ago.

I haven’t heard the full record yet, I’m sad to say, but what I’ve had the chance to dig into finds Curse the Son a richer, more complex band who haven’t at all let go of the heft in their sound. Look out for “Worry Garden” and “Novembre.”

Vanacore was kind enough to give some comment on finishing work on the album below. It’s out in June on Ripple Music:

curse the son

Ron Vanacore on Excruciation:

“The past few years have certainly been extremely difficult for our band. Between what appeared to be endless drummer changes, individual tragedies, and of course, Brendan‘s very serious motorcycle accident… We had been put to the test.

I am proud to say that we rose above all of that to create what is possibly our heaviest and certainly our most diverse and creative record to date.

The record is titled Excruciation and offers a glimpse into our lives (particularly Brendan’s) from November 2017-2018.

I wrote songs, Brendan wrote songs and we also collaborated on a few. Brendan sings lead on a song as well as playing some lead guitar!

Recording began at Dirt Floor studios in August 2019. We completed mixing in January 2020. We chose to really utilize everything the studio had to offer us as well as giving Eric Lichter a much larger role as producer. We really wanted to push the envelope and boundaries of the genre.

The record will be released in early June on Ripple Music. (Vinyl, CD, Digital) followed by as many shows as we can play!”

Curse the Son are:
Ron Vanacore – Guitars & Vocals
Brendan Keefe – Bass & Vocals
Robert Ives – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/cursetheson/
https://cursetheson.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Curse the Son, Isolator (2016)

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Curse the Son Sign to Ripple Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Ripple Music has picked up Curse the Son. It’s a match made in fuzz.

Last time we heard from Connecticut’s primo rollers of riff was in October, when the Hamden-based three-piece were announcing that their third album, Isolator (review here), would be out on vinyl through The Company Records sometime early in 2017. Well, if you’d like to put a tighter figure on that, I’d guess it’s going to be sometime around April, since that seems to be when Ripple will do their CD edition of the record and start selling it digitally as well. It remains available in the interim from Curse the Son‘s Bandcamp, and is linked and streaming below, though I’m not sure for how long. Sometimes these things get pulled ahead of a re-release like this.

Of course, Isolator had an initial CD pressing in 2016, through Snake Charmer Coalition, also home to Merchant, King Bison and Shadow Witch. But, as it sold through the pressing and that label seems to be defunct at least for the time being — never say never to a comeback — the snag on Ripple‘s part couldn’t be more fortuitous as they continue to move into the forefront of US underground heavy rock purveyors. One gets the feeling Curse the Son are going to be part of a big year for them, though that’s not really much of a prediction considering the strength of the material they released in 2016.

Nonetheless, good for the band, good for the label, and good for anyone who missed out on Isolator‘s original release and will get the chance to hear it now. Especially good for them.

Announcement and info follow:

curse the son ripple music

We said there were some exciting signings to announce. Please welcome Curse the Son to Ripple with. CD/digital release for their monumental epic of doom, “Isolator”. Coming to you this April. More to come.

Emerging from the untimely demise of stoner rockers Sufferghost, Curse the Son is a plodding distorted sonic wall of Sabbathian riffage.

A power trio in the truest sense…..screaming amps…tons of fuzz…fat bass..thick riffin…lots of smokin!

Get high, tune low & play slow.

Isolator Tracklisting:
1. Isolator
2. Callous Unemotional Traits
3. Sleepwalker Wakes
4. Hull Crush Depth
5. Gaslighter
6. Aislamiento
7. Side Effects May Include…

Curse the Son is:
Ron Vanacore – Guitars and Vocals
Michael Petrucci – Drums
Brendan Keefe – Bass

https://www.facebook.com/cursetheson/
https://cursetheson.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Curse the Son, Isolator (2016)

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Curse the Son’s Isolator to Receive Early 2017 Vinyl Release; Preorders Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Riff-rolling Connecticut trio Curse the Son released their third full-length earlier this year on CD via Snake Charmer Coalition, and if you haven’t heard it, Isolator (review here), is about as right on in tone and vibe as anything I’ve heard come from the US this year. Curse the Son don’t really tour — they have some local shows coming up in New England, listed below — so they continue to be under-recognized, but since the CD/DL version came out (also sold out; repress reportedly on the way), word of an Isolator vinyl has been kicked around, and it seems like today we’re getting some solid info on the actual plan.

Originally set to come out through STB, which also did the LP edition of Curse the Son‘s prior outing, Psychache (review here), the Isolator vinyl will now see release via The Company Records in two versions, red wax and white wax with an included tape. Both are limited numbers. STB explained the situation, and you’ll find that below along with the pressing info, tracklisting, those live dates, and the stream of the album from Curse the Son‘s Bandcamp, in case you’d like a refresher of its badassery.

Have at you:

curse-the-son-w-tape

A lot of people have been asking me about the Curse the Son “Isolator” Release. Josh from The Company Records was kind enough to take some of the stress of my hands lately. He will be releasing this beast, almost like a sister label to STB Records.

Curse The Son, STB Records, and The Company are all on excellent terms and every party in the equation is really happy! You will be getting the same quality and service you would expect from myself because Josh has been working with me on ALL of my releases for 2 years now. So please support this new DIY effort that will be coming out of the gates swinging.

CURSE THE SON – “ISOLATOR” COMPANY EDITION
Limited Edition of 90 on Clear Vinyl included with limited edition cassette tape.

CURSE THE SON – “ISOLATOR” LP
Limited Edition of 100 on Ox Blood Vinyl

Tracklisting:
1. Isolator
2. Callous Unemotional Traits
3. Sleepwalker Wakes
4. Hull Crush Depth
5. Gaslighter
6. Aislamiento
7. Side Effects May Include…

Curse the Son is:
Ron Vanacore – Guitars and Vocals
Michael Petrucci – Drums
Brendan Keefe – Bass

Curse the Son live:
Oct 15 13th Floor Music Lounge Florence, MA
Oct 28 The Ballroom at the Outer Space Hamden, CT
Dec 17 The Ballroom at the Outer Space Hamden, CT

https://www.facebook.com/cursetheson/
https://cursetheson.bandcamp.com/
http://thecompanykc.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/thecompanykc/
http://www.snakecharmercoalition.bigcartel.com/

Curse the Son, Isolator (2016)

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