The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

london-news-etching-1854-newcastle-upon-tyne

[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.

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

http://www.agora.cz/?sample-qualitative-dissertation-proposal >>>CLICK HERE<<< Com. random-essay-generator-483677302 21 Sep 2014 Citation Machine helps students and professionals Notes http://legacy.baseballprospectus.com/rss/?descriptive-writing-help - witness the benefits of professional writing help available here Benefit from our affordable custom research paper writing : 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 If you have a passion for formal or academic writing, why not http://www.musicalsommer-fulda.de/?do-my-uni-assignment? The field is a large one and demand continues to grow. Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists 7 Dollar Essay is a relatively cheap Ut Homework Services. Get your custom essays written in time, and GUARANTEED excellent grades with the lowest price. 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 Homework Help Jr. Transcription City provides expert copy editing and proofreading services. Contact us for copy editing of document such as articles 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 Www Dogatemyhomework Com. People are now too lazy to buy products in stores like bricks and mortar. This triggers and motivates online shopping sites to prosper. eBay as one of the examples showing how these types of online stores sell their products to make profits. Moreover, accessories, clothing, pop cultural products are the main objects that have been “sell” and “resale”; however Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard We used to hear 'I need to Buy Dissertation Online, but I just can't do it right now' quite often and realised that we had a resolution. And that resolution is quite straightforward. You need assistance with your university assignments. Our team of academic experts will provide you with it. We have got a few examples for you. You are pretty satisfied with your essay writing but want to change the Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Terrific academic solution to go now from! Unbeatable prices, superb writing, and research quality! Constant discounts for devoted customers! Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece “Will you Corrasable Typewriter Paper without plagiarizing?”, you ask. You bet! We only specialize in custom writing and hate plagiarism so much that its mere mentioning is banned in our office. How to Order Cheap Essay Papers for Sale. Placing an order with us is as easy as a breeze. Here's what you need to do: Send us your instructions. For the best result, we need this information: Topic, Academic Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s OkDissertations.com Can Help You Format Your Dissertation. Dissertation Learning Reviews are no longer new to students and writers today. With the increasing demand in academic writing, they often resort to hiring professional writers to ensure that they submit only dissertations that will not risk their Ph.D. candidacy. Additionally, to avoid bogus formatting services, students and writers Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another  We ordered college papers from the websites before composing our http://www.team-sog.com/dissertation-funding-social-work/. That's why you're on the right track to pick the 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 Looking for the Dileep George Phd Thesiss? You’re on the Right Track! How many times have you been completely uninspired by college essay topics? Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in cheap articles hop over to heres george washington research paper dissertation defense wiki Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for The problems in the genre of descriptive essays. When students look for a place to Essay Writer Australia writing services, Lamp of the Universe‘s Free essay writing from free http://aemurtosa.edu.pt/schollarship-essay-help/s requires a double check. Free essays on sample page will give you an isight on how essay writers free should be 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 (Roadsaw, Sasquatch, 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 BjĂžrnson (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 SandĂžy, 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, EllengĂŠst
Cruthu, AthrĂș 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 SilvÄkra 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 SilvÄkra 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, LantlĂŽs, 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.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 43

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

the obelisk show banner

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
BesvÀrjelsen 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.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Video: Mutants of the Monster 2020 Virtual Festival with -(16)-, Deadbird, The Body, Hull, Heavy Temple, Oakskin, Dirty Streets & More

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mutants of the monster virtual poster

Alright, I’m not going to sit here and pretend that I’ve watched the complete five-and-a-half-hour, two-part span of the Mutants of the Monster 2020 Virtual Festival. That’s just not where my life is at. It was the Hull reunion that brought me to the Arkansas-based fest’s digital incarnation, and even conducted in separate spaces via Zoom, it was great to see that band again — guitarist/vocalist Nick Palmirotto splurged for the green-screen-style Zoom backgrounds and made the most of it in the clip of “Viking Funeral,” but the whole five-piece ripped in a way that only made me wish all the more they had done a third record before calling it quits in 2015.

But though Hull were the hook, once I was in, it was easy to stay that way. Two nights’ worth of viewing, with L.A. aggro-sludgemasters -(16)- headlining one evening and The Body unleashing their apocalyptic destruction the next, sets from Windhand‘s Dorthia Cottrell (joined by bandmate Parker Chandler), Philly’s Heavy Temple, as well as the likes of Memphis’ Dirty Streets — who played in someone’s very nice living room (I noted the Edison turntable, with speaker horn, behind bassist Thomas Storz), the joy-to-behold Little Rock hometown team Deadbird, hardcore pushers SixKillsNine, the noise crush of Eye Flys — who advocated at the outset for dismantling and defunding the police — as well as ex-Kylesa guitarist Phillip Cope‘s new project Oakskin, who were an atmospheric sludge highlight, spoken introductions, between-band videos, and a ton more. Put together by Christopher Farris Terry — of Rwake, Iron Tongue, Deadbird and the Slow Southern Steel documentary — it not only raised funds for worthy causes, but celebrated a diverse range of sounds and styles and creativity that, while it could never be the same as being in a place and witnessing it all in-person for two nights, utilized the visual medium in an intelligent and exciting way that a lot of live streams simply haven’t been able to do. It had a flow, and for all the geography it drew upon — aesthetically and literally — it was not clumsy in its shifts or nonsensical in its progressions from one set to the next.

Some performed with masks on, some didn’t — even in the same band, as seen with Wvrm — and Heavy Temple played en rouge. I don’t think any of it happened live as it was airing, but the sense of it as a premiere and a presented-live event came through fine. While we’re talking about things I don’t know — there’s so much — I also don’t know how long these streams are going to stay up, and it’s entirely possible that by the time this is posted they’ll be taken down in order to emphasize the ephemeral, it’s-over-now nature of the virtual festival. I hope that’s not the case, and not just because I’d feel dumb posting empty YouTube embeds. Wouldn’t be the first time.

But the bottom line is that while you can you should check out what you can. I’m not gonna try and claim five and a half hours outright from your busy day and your busy life, but, well, maybe I am. Even if it takes you more than two days to get through as you peruse one brief set into the next, the reward is easy justification for the effort.

And maybe next year, in person.

Enjoy:

Mutants of the Monster 2020 Part I

Mutants of the Monster, a Central Arkansas festival helmed by Chris Terry (Rwake, Deadbird, Iron Tongue) that has championed heavy sounds for years, is going virtual in 2020.

We are also raising funds and awareness for two local organizations that support transgender rights and immigrants here in Arkansas. Please take some time to learn about their stories and support the good cause,

Intransitive’s Brayla Stone microgrants
https://www.intransitive.org/brayla-stone-microgrants

El Zocalo Immigrant Resource Center
http://www.zocalocenter.com/

Lineup for Part I:
Dorthia Cottrell
Heavy Temple
Barishi
Redbait
Rebelmatic
Hull
Wvrm
– (16) –

Speakers:
Laina Dawes (Music Journalist/ “What Are You Doing Here?”), Michael Alago (Music Producer/ “Who The F**k Is That Guy”), Chris Terry (Rwake, Deadbird, Iron Tongue).

Mutants of the Monster 2020 Part II

Lineup for Part II:
Dirty Streets
SixKillsNine
Oakskin
Eye Flys
Deadbird
Terminal Nation
The Body

Speakers:
Jason McMaster (Dangerous Toys), Madeline/Rebecca (Redbait), Nate Garrett (Spirit Adrift), Matt Besser (Actor/Comedian), Elliott Fullam (Little Punk People), Ashlie Atkinson (“BlacKkKlansman,” “Mr. Robot”).

Mutants of the Monster 2020 Event Page

Christopher Farris Terry on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Heavy Temple & Wolf Blood Cover Funkadelic on Split From the Black Hole

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Alright, here’s me spending your money. Dig it. From Philly and Minneapolis, respectively, come Heavy Temple and Wolf Blood with the new Split From the Black Hole on Riff Merchant Records. The fact that such a thing exists should probably be enough reason for you to shell out $10 for a 7″. Right? Heavy Temple? Wolf Blood? Yeah, that’s what I’m saying.

But wait — they’re also both covering Funkadelic on here, with Heavy Temple adopting the nom de guerre Funky Temple and meeting up with Wolf Blood as Atomic Wolf and yeah, that’s even cooler. All the money goes to Black Lives Matter — if you’ve been paying attention to demonstrations around the US, you’ll note Minneapolis is where George Floyd was killed and Philadelphia has a long history of resistance going back to the rich white guys who decided they didn’t want to be British anymore because the taxes were too high. The vinyl’s supposed to be ready in August, and plague-willing, it will be, but preorders are up as of today, so just go ahead and make that happen.

In other words, I want you to hit it. Hit and quit it. Also, I got a thing, you got a thing, and both our things are heavy. Fucking a.

Info:

heavy temple wolf blood split from the black hole

HEAVY TEMPLE & WOLF BLOOD – Split from the Black Hole

Heavy Temple and Wolf Blood have teamed up to pay homage to George Clinton and Funkadelic on this mind-melting split 7″. Without the influences of Black musicians the world of heavy metal wouldn’t exist, and our record shelves would be empty. Get ready to shake your groove thing and tear the roof off the mother on this sick reinterpretation.

The records are being pressed at Gotta Groove Records in Cleveland Ohio, with an anticipated completion date of mid-August. Heavy Temple side recorded and mastered by Red Water Recording. Heavy Temple guest appearance on the keys by the Ace of Cups (Sean Hur) from Ruby the Hatchet. Wolf Blood side recorded and mastered by Adam Tucker at Signaturetone. Cover art by Matt Guack.

Side A:
Heavy Temple – Hit it and Quit it

Side B:
Wolf Blood – I got a Thing, You got a Thing, Everybody’s got a Thing.

Variants:
Black: 200 copies
Random Color: 100 copies
Wax Mage Edition: 25 copies

Each comes with a DL card.

The idea for this split came before the murder of George Floyd and the resurgence of protests calling for the dismantling of white supremacy and racist institutions that still plague the US. In light of this, I recognize that it is not enough to simply “pay homage” to the Black community with words. Therefore, we are donating 100% of the sales (all of it, not some “net-profit” bullshit) of the Wax Mage Variants to Syracuse Youth Black Lives Matter. I’m working with Wax Mage to make these variants positively INTERSTELLAR.

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com
Wolfblood666.bandcamp.com
Facebook.com/wbminneapolis
instagram.com/wolfbloodmn
https://www.facebook.com/riffmerchant/
https://www.riffmerchant.com/

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Album Review: Various Artists, Women of Doom

Posted in Reviews on May 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Various Artists Women of Doom

As a genre, doom is a long way from gender parity. It’s perhaps an optimistic viewpoint to take to say that the current generation of bands is past the point of seeing women artists as a novelty or downplaying their contributions to male bandmates or counterparts, but frankly I’m not even sure that’s true on a universal level. The inherent sexualization of performance — often willfully and hilariously ignored by men watching other men on stage — subjects women artists to a masculine gaze that at times is problematic even as it also serves as an expression of feminine power. As to what it means to be a woman artist in “doom,” or as to what “doom” is — where it starts and ends — I’m no one to speak to either experience, so I look at the Women of Doom compilation, highlighting women artists in and out their respective bands, as kind of a sad celebration. It’s well worth underscoring the stylistic contributions these women are making — and in a society that saw women paid 79 cents per every dollar a man made in 2019, well worth giving women every nod they can get, if not things like universal health coverage and reproductive rights — but a bit of a bummer that we’re not in a place where the norm would make such a compilation superfluous.

Whatever else doom is, it’s not there, but if Blues Funeral Recordings and Desert Records — both labels run by men, speaking of areas where women are underrepresented — wanted to, they could easily turn Women of Doom into a series. While Women of Doom brings together luminaries such as Amy Tung Barrysmith of Year of the Cobra, Doomstress Alexis of Doomstress, Mlny Parsonz of Royal Thunder and introduces two projects of former SubRosa members in The Otolith and Rebecca Vernon‘s The Keening, along with bands like Heavy Temple, Frayle, Sweden’s BesvĂ€rjelsen and France/Ireland’s Deathbell, there are a few conspicuous absences. Perhaps most glaringly, Windhand frontwoman, Dorthia Cottrell, is nowhere to be found, likewise an all-women act like Blackwater Holylight. And the same goes for a generational pioneer like Lori S. of Acid King, but it is inevitably a positive to say that it would be nearly impossible for Women of Doom — in a single go — to be so comprehensive. And as it is, the comp does well in setting an atmosphere across its full tracklisting, which reads as follows:

1. Nighthawk and Heavy Temple – Astral Hand 05:12
2. Amy Tung Barrysmith – Broken 06:04
3. BesvĂ€rjelsen – A Curse to be Broken 06:47
4. Mlny Parsonz – A Skeleton is Born 04:57
5. Frayle – Marrow 04:53
6. The Otolith – Bone Dust 04:31
7. Doomstress Alexis – Facade 04:47
8. Deathbell – Coldclaw 04:24
9. The Keening – A Shadow Covers Your Face 05:05
10. Mlny Parsonz – Broke An Arrow (Bonus) 03:25

Various Artists Women of Doom lp

The accomplishment of Women of Doom finding cohesion despite the variety of songwriting and performance modes is not to be understated. Beginning with Heavy Temple — here billed as Nighthawk and Heavy Temple — taking on a purely classic epic doom sound with the willfully Candlemassian “Astral Hand” sets a high bar, as grandiosity suits the Philly unit almost oddly well. They are maybe the odd-band-out in terms of aesthetic on Women of Doom, which is doubly ironic given “Astral Hand” is the most traditionally doomed song on the nine-plus-one-tracker and it’s not a style Heavy Temple generally play, but the darkened atmosphere they build sees immediate flourish in the piano-led composition “Broken” by Amy Tung Barrysmith, who only confirms through her work here that Year of the Cobra have only just begun their greater creative exploration. As one of two non-US acts present, BesvĂ€rjelsen are, as ever, a showcase for the vocal presence of Lea Amling Alazam, but their moodier post-doom on “A Curse to Be Broken” picks up well from “Broken” in more than just the similarity of titles.

By the time it’s a third of the way through, Women of Doom has already run a marked gamut in sound and dynamic, and that’s pretty clearly the intent of the thing. As arguably the most known performer featured, Mlny Parsonz, bassist/vocalist of Atlanta’s Royal Thunder brings a boozy classic rock powerhouse delivery to “A Skeleton is Born.” She returns for the bonus track “Broke an Arrow” in more subdued fashion to close out, and if mainstream rock and roll needed a woman figurehead — which it does, badly — she’d be a good candidate for the position in terms of craft; her work is equal parts dangerous and accessible. Frayle‘s “Marrow” carries mystique as a defining element, and The Otolith and Doomstress Alexis make a fitting pair for their use of strings. For The Otolith, that’s a trait inherited fairly enough from SubRosa, but it’s something of a surprise from Doomstress Alexis, who meets it with a likewise unexpected thrashiness in her guitar. Though maybe not as well known as some of the others, Deathbell stand out in such a way as to leave little to wonder why Kozmik Artifactz picked up their 2018 debut, With the Beyond, for a vinyl release. Their “Coldclaw” does not come from that outing, so perhaps portends something new in the works, and if so, is all the more welcome.

As the first offering from The Keening, “A Shadow Covers Your Face” is of particular interest, as was The Otolith‘s “Bone Dust,” but both projects have in common a nascent feel. That’s particularly true of The Keening‘s inclusion, which is a relatively minimal work of solo piano, placed in a way that answers Amy Tung Barrysmith‘s “Broken” earlier but has the distinction of being instrumental. Both works are evocative, but Rebecca Vernon‘s piano in “A Shadow Covers Your Face” seems to use the otherwise unfilled space surrounding it as an instrument unto itself. That shift in presentation at the conclusion is a well placed reminder of the breadth of what greater gender equity in heavy music has to offer, though frankly, if the case needs to be made by then — or at all — you as the listener have probably missed the point. Still, at its most basic level, removed from a context that sees women continually objectified and typecast in artwork, bands, and listener expectations, Women of Doom is a collection of new and encouraging tracks from a diverse array of up and coming artists and acts. Even the most established artist here, which is Parsonz, is reaching beyond what she’s done before, and that too is an important message that shouldn’t be ignored.

Blues Funeral Recordings on Thee Facebooks

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings website

Desert Records on Thee Facebooks

Desert Records on Bandcamp

Desert Records BigCartel store

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 32

Posted in Radio on April 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Last episode, I did comfort songs the whole way through, new stuff and old, and at the risk of saying something remotely nice about myself, I thought it was the best show I’ve ever done. This time, of course, something completely different.

Yeah, the theme is still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — how could it not be? — but it’s basically me reminding myself that when times are hard, harder, harder than that, still harder, okay-hardest-my-head’s-gonna-friggin’-explode-make-it-stop-make-it-stop, there’s still new music and new music is still awesome.

So here we are. Brand new tracks from Curse the Son, Vine Weevil, Ten Foot Wizard (who emailed me as I was putting the playlist together, as though to emphasize the point), Witchkiss, Dopelord, Nighthawk & Heavy Temple, The Mountain King, High Priestess, Wight, Marmalade Knives, Kanaan, Frozen Planet….1969 and The Swell Fellas. Some of this has been streamed here, some of it hasn’t, but it’s all new and it’s all excellent and I found that this week, at just this particular moment in time, that’s what I needed. It’s that simple, and I hope you can relate.

Thanks for listening if you do. I hope you enjoy. Or even if you just look at the list and find something new to dig on, I hope you enjoy that too. Thanks.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 04.17.20

Curse the Son Suicide by Drummer Excruciation*
Vine Weevil You are the Ocean Sun in Your Eyes*
Ten Foot Wizard Namaste Dickhead Get Out of Your Mind*
BREAK
Witchkiss Splitting Teeth Splitting Teeth*
Dopelord Doom Bastards Sign of the Devil*
Nighthawk & Heavy Temple Astral Hand VA – Women of Doom*
The Mountain King As Below, So Below Wicked Zen*
High Priestess Invocation Casting the Circle*
BREAK
Wight Motorgroove Spank the World*
Marmalade Knives Rivuleting Marmalade Knives*
Kanaan O?resund Double Sun*
Frozen Planet….1969 900 Mile Head Rush Cold Hand of a Gambling Man*
The Swell Fellas Scatterbrain The Great Play of Extension*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is May 1 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Days of Rona: Nighthawk of Heavy Temple

Posted in Features on April 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. — JJ Koczan

heavy temple nighthawk

Days of Rona: High Priestess Nighthawk of Heavy Temple (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Everyone is in good health. Two of us still have to go to work, which is both a curse and a blessing. Most of our spring shows and tours have been postponed so we’re just kind of in a holding pattern. We planned to release the new album in spring or summer, but it’s looking like that might not happen as well. We haven’t had practice in about a month but have been trying to work on writing and recording remotely. Two of us live together and we have a recording studio in the basement, so there are some options. I think it’s really just starting to set in that we had a lot of big plans for this year, as did a lot of other bands, and while we can still make music it’s just not the same. Nothing is right now.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

We’re in Philly and currently it’s just stay at home and don’t go out unless you need to, isolate yourself if you’re sick, etc. Most people seem to be abiding by those rules. The lack of overall leadership and direction, however, seems to only be prolonging the societal effects of this thing, which is frustrating.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

While I know it’s hard for bands who can’t play, and especially those whose main source of income is playing shows, I’ve seen a lot of bands get creative as far as maintaining their relationships with one another and their fans. Live streams, play-throughs, merch specials, releasing new music even. Personally, I’ve seen a lot of people posting pictures of the great food they’re making at home, and the Instagram challenges have been fun. Wine chugging, write a riff, see a cat share a cat. It’s inspiring to see people trying to keep each other’s spirits up.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

While we’re really bummed that we can’t be out there doing what we love, we do have a few tricks up our sleeves. We’re expecting to hear a lot of new music from everyone once we all come out on the other side of this thing. Everything moves so fast that it’s kind of a shock to be slowed down by circumstances beyond your control. On a personal note, I think everyone is anxious and frustrated, and frankly scared about what the future will hold, myself included. But throughout all of that I’ve seen small acts of kindness and larger acts of solidarity that I hope will continue to prevail. The ball is entirely in our court, and I think we’re being forced to see that now. We can demand things, we can act, we can be on the same team. In the end, whatever goes down, Heavy Temple can’t fucking wait to shred again.

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com

Tags: , , ,

Descendants of Crom IV Lineup Announced: Bongzilla, Evoken, Ruby the Hatchet, Orodruin & More Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

descendants of crom iv logo

The annual Descendants of Crom in Pittsburgh has become a reliable assemblage of heavy, with a lineup diverse in sound woven together by a consistent quality of taste that unites across styles. For evidence of the ongoing nature of this phenomenon, look no further than the first two names on the poster of Descendants of Crom IV — Bongzilla and Ruby the Hatchet. The former, a recongealed stoner-sludge exercise in Midwestern working-class bomber crust, and the latter, a more urbane newschool-via-oldschool heavy rock outfit laced with keys and nigh-on-glam melodicism.

Those differences are stark, but I’ll be damned if both don’t fit well at the top of the bill here, which includes plenty of shouldn’t-be-missed names in the likes of Orodruin, Valley of the Sun, Heavy Temple, Rebreather, Pale Divine, Horehound, Cavern, on and on. I guess I could probably just run down the whole list at that point. It’s a good fest, and more even than last year, you begin to see the sense of curation and the personality of the festival emerge in its blend of styles. It’s not just about more, more, more, in an overwhelming onslaught of bands, but about what each specifically brings to the lineup as a whole. Kudos, as ever, to Shy Kennedy and her crew on a job on its way to being well done.

Here’s the announcement:

descendants of crom iv poster

DESCENDANTS OF CROM IV – A GATHERING OF THE HEAVY UNDERGROUND

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 2nd & SATURDAY, OCTOBER 3rd

CATTIVO NIGHTCLUB – ­­­PITTSBURGH, PA, USA

The fourth annual Descendants of Crom will be held this year again in Pittsburgh on both floors of Cattivo Nightclub. The events begin early Friday evening and are followed by a Saturday all-dayer.

The underground scene of heavy rock and metal here is healthy and thriving and we’re feeding great regional bands to a hungry crowd and utilizing legendary, international fan-favorites to entice music fans in the door with the support of our amazing local artists. Descendants of Crom was planted in 2017 as a little black seed and has been growing and strong contender among other established annual music festivals. We aspire to become the premier music event of the Northeast and invite you to become part of the 2020 event. After all, we are all Descendants of Crom!

This year’s DESCENDANTS are:

Bongzilla, Ruby the Hatchet, Black Tusk, Valley of the Sun, Evoken, Orodruin, Rebreather, Horseburner, Heavy Temple, Horehound, Cavern, Pale Divine, Howling Giant, Ironflame, Cruces, God Root, Zom, The Long Hunt, Makeshift Urn, and We, the Creature.

Schedule and tickets will be on sale Friday, March 6th for single-day as well as two-day passes.

We’re looking for sponsors, vendors, and any entity that supports the heavy underground and all things psych, stoner, doom, sludge, and occult to reach out and be a part of our event and community.

Additionally, in anticipation for this year’s Descendants of Crom, there will be a DOC showcase held at Cattivo on Saturday, March 21st featuring bands that have all been part of the Descendants of Crom history. Urns, The Long Hunt, Horehound, Horesburner (WV), and Ironflame. This showcase is a taster of what sort of musicianship and energy that DOC brings to the stages.

Rritual event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/509381869977026/

https://www.facebook.com/DescendantsOfCrom/
www.instagram.com/descendantsofcrom/
https://www.facebook.com/events/437759083832580/
www.descendantsofcrom.com/Tickets.php
http://descendantsofcrom.com

Ruby the Hatchet, Live in Atlanta, GA, Dec. 5, 2019

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,