Psycho Smokeout 2.0 Set for April 18; Weedeater, Acid King & More Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Hey Psycho Smokeout 2.0 — sick fuggin’ lineup. With one headliner still TBA next month Psycho Entertainment and RidingEasy Records pair up to present the likes of Weedeater, Acid King, The Obsessed, Cough, Mondo Drag, Heavy Temple, The Well, Holy Grove, Salem’s Bend, and on and on, all on one day — April 18, 2020. Considering there are 19 acts confirmed, let’s assume there will be multiple stages going. I don’t know what that’ll do to the schedule — certainly possible to alternate — but however it happens, it’s a badass assemblage and there’s more to come. Tickets are on sale now, because seriously, why the hell wait?

So yes. Why wait?

From the PR wire:

psycho smokeout 2.0

PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0 To Take Place April 18th, 2020; Lineup Includes Weedeater, The Obsessed, Acid King, Cough, And More + Early Bird Tickets On Sale Now!

Behold! PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0 will make its annual descent upon Los Angeles’ multi-level Catch One Riff Compound April 18th, 2020!

Brought to you by Psycho Entertainment and RidingEasy Records, this year’s day-long puffathon features performances from nearly two-dozen artists including North Caroline stoner metal goliaths Weedeater, Maryland doom icons The Obsessed, California stoner rock veterans Acid King, and Virginia sludge bringers Cough, with the final headliner to be unveiled later this fall. Spread across three stages, the glassy-eyed gala will include a massive vendor market and more surprises to be announced in the weeks to come.

Early bird tickets for PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0 go on sale Thursday September 19th. The limited early bird tickets are a cool $39 plus fees and are expected to sellout within 48 hours of being announced. The next tier will be $49 plus fees. The final tier will be $59 plus fees. Don’t sleep on this!

Nab your tickets today at THIS LOCATION.

PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0 is a 420 friendly, 18 and over event.

Psycho Entertainment & RidingEasy Records Presents:
PSYCHO SMOKEOUT 2.0
April 18th, 2020
Catch One Riff Compound
Los Angeles, California

Lineup (in alphabetical order):
Acid King
Casket Raider
Cough
Deathchant
Great Electric Quest
Heavy Temple
Holy Grove
India Tigers In Texas
Leather Lung
Mondo Drag
Mother Iron Horse
Mountain Tamer
Pale Mare
Salem’s Bend
The Munsens
The Obsessed
The Well
Vaelmyst
Weedeater

http://www.vivapsycho.com/
http://www.ridingeasyrecs.com

Holy Grove, II (2018)

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Live Review: Desertfest NYC Night One, 04.26.19

Posted in Reviews on April 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Black Cobra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

An unfamiliar context in familiar environs. Desertscene and Sound of Liberation, who together are behind Desertfest in London and Berlin as well as numerous other events, are playing it smart. New York is a hard town to do a festival, and if they’re thinking of making this an annual event, they’re building from the ground up. It’s not about rolling into Brooklyn and trying to nudge arguably the most entitled audience in the US — because fucking everything comes through New York, and is expected to — into embracing your brand, but about introducing what you do in a way that allows that audience to feel like it’s getting in on something on the ground floor.

To that end, the first night of the first Desertfest NYC was held at the Saint Vitus Bar with a welcoming spirit and a due course of volume. To those who’d point out there are no deserts in New York, congratulations on your cleverness. Please send a self-addressed, stamped envelope for your sticker. For those of more discerning cognition, the point was the music, always, and Desertfest NYC 2019 both embraced the space it was in and the audience it drew in delivering an inaugural night that felt like a kickoff as much for the parties behind it as those in attendance.

Four bands would lead in to two days of nine apiece, and the venue for Saturday and Sunday is The Well, but the Saint Vitus Bar is not only pro-shop from top to bottom, but an intimate enough space to still feel like something special might happen. Whatever the future holds for Desertfest in New York City, I’ll gladly argue that something special already did.

Here’s how the night went:

Heavy Temple

Heavy Temple (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Have you told two friends yet about Heavy Temple? I sincerely hope so, and I hope they do likewise. It was my first time seeing the latest incarnation of the Philly purveyors of hard fuzz, who seem to have sacrificed little of their forward momentum for once again swapping out two-thirds of the lineup around founding bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk. Now in the company of guitarist Lord Paisley — and congratulations to him on the stage name, because that is marvelous — and drummer Baron Lycan (not bad either), Nighthawk remains the commanding presence at the heart of the band. They’re new in this form, but at least some of what they played was readily familiar from 2016’s shorty-long-player Chassit (review here), and with Nighthawk righteously softshoeing her basslines in true “taking them for a walk” fashion” and Paisley and Lyan certainly more than just along for the ride, they showed that the band’s potential has not at all dimmed for the tumult in personnel. They’re recording — guitars next, apparently — and have tour dates lined up with Ecstatic Vision (info here). I’d say by the end of that run they’ll be on fire, but they already were.

High Tone Son of a Bitch

High Tone Son of a Bitch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I seem to have a preternatural aversion to bands with two frontmen, which is a terrible generalization to make across the board, but true nonetheless. Some people don’t like two guitars. I tend to feel like if you’re going to have more than one person whose primary function is as a singer, you need to earn that aesthetically, either with some harmonies or arrangement depth, etc. Oakland, CA’s High Tone Son of a Bitch brought some aggro noise spirit to both traditionalist heavy rock and Southern-tinged riffing, and indeed there was some interplay between their two vocalists, which helped. They’re a band requiring context, with members of Noothgrush and Kalas aboard and the fact that they were together in the early part of the century before losing guitarist Andrew Kott to drug addiction, and taking more than a decade off only to recently begin a comeback. Even for those without the background though, they seemed to hold their own. They’ve been touring with Weedeater — always helps — and were still getting their feet (back) under them amid some competing vibes onstage, but they acquitted themselves well and their new material seemed to pick up where they left off 15 years ago, so all the better.

Here Lies Man

Here Lies Man (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There was talk afterward of Black Cobra stealing the show — and fair enough — but I’d never seen Here Lies Man before, and among the entire weekend’s lineup, they were high among my most anticipated sets. Their two full-lengths for RidingEasy Records, 2017’s Here Lies Man (review here) and last year’s You Will Know Nothing (review here), have both garnered significant critical praise, but they have yet to capture the kind of word-of-mouth-holy-crap-you-gotta-see-this-band backing they deserve. With shared vocals among guitarist Marcos Garcia, drummer Geoff Mann and bouncing bassist JP Maramba and keyboardist Will Rast prominent in the front-of-house mix, they showed just how far they’ve taken the central conceit of the group they started with — “what if Black Sabbath played afrobeat” is how it’s been phrased in the press releases — and made something new from it that’s neither entirely one or the other but all the more a defined Here Lies Man sound. They jammed with character and held down air-tight rhythm and melody with a sense of artistry and professionalism, and as they move toward their third full-length, they only seemed to be poised for people to catch on to what they’re doing. They were, in short, really, really good. You like bands? Okay cool. Here’s a band. Fucking dig in.

Black Cobra

Black Cobra (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hey, guess what. Black Cobra were completely dominant. Well of course they were — that’s what they do, and they do it remarkably well. There was some trouble early on with Rafa Martinez‘s bass drum trying to run away from him — only reasonable, since he was kicking the shit out of it at the time — but he and guitarist/vocalist Jason Landrian took the Saint Vitus Bar stage and pummeled, pummeled, pummeled their way into a massive oblivion of thrash-infused heft, delivered with the efficiency of a band 15 years removed from their first EP who have long since attained plug-in-and-destroy status via touring that, for years during that stretch at least, was well into what most humans would consider “excessive.” They’re three years out from 2016’s Imperium Simulacra (review here), and I certainly wouldn’t mind if they did a follow-up to that offering, which was their most dynamic to-date, but let’s face it, if Desertfest NYC wanted to be sure everyone stumbled out of the bar feeling like their asses had just been handed to them, they called the right band. I thought maybe I’d try an experiment and try to review their set without once referencing an act of violence — really, I thought of it while they were playing and people were moshing, chuckled out loud to myself at the notion and was interested to try — but obviously such a cause would be hopeless. With the venue duly laid waste, Black Cobra wrapped their set and gave the addled room over to the after-party, every bit in the fashion of the headliners they truly are.

One thing I wanted to mention that didn’t fit in the review: I got pushed at this show. I was taking pictures of High Tone Son of a Bitch and was up front for it, and I stepped to the other side of the stage, saw the guy I was getting in front of was wearing a SonicBlast Moledo shirt, said “nice shirt,” turned to take a picture of the stage-right guitarist, and the dude pushed me as if to move me out of his way. I don’t imagine this was someone from the area. I spent a decent few minutes afterwards thinking about the ownership of space, personal agency of one’s body, how one responds to being bullied, my own history in this regard, and so on, and landed pretty much on my initial reaction, which was a hearty go fuck yourself. It’s a show, and shit happens, but if you want to be up in front of the stage so bad, get there first. Otherwise, feel free to kiss my ass.

I saw the same guy after the set as he was walking to the back, and as he passed me, I gave him a little shove. Equal and opposite reaction. No words were exchanged — I didn’t think it required verbal follow-up — and that was it. I didn’t see him again and if I did, I don’t think there would’ve been any residual acrimony. But these moments affect one’s evening, if temporarily, and I was glad to be in a place I enjoy so much and surrounded by so many good people — the New York Faithful Family Reunion 2019 in full effect — who helped put me back in the proper mindset without even knowing they were doing it. It was a great night.

Today the show moves to The Well and it starts in a couple hours, so I’ll leave it there and just say I’m looking forward to it. More pics after the jump if you’re interested.

Read more »

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Ecstatic Vision Finish Work on New Album; Touring with Heavy Temple

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ecstatic vision

New stuff from Ecstatic Vision is a win. Their next record — it’ll be their third LP — is reportedly in the can, and that’s awfully nifty, so I’d expect news about it, oh, say, about three minutes after this post goes live. Just so I can still be behind as I am in posting these tour dates. I try to keep up. And fail. Consistently. Nonetheless, I’m curious to see who’ll be handling the release for the upcoming offering from the Philadelphia psych forerunners, since Heavy Psych Sounds put out their 2018 Under the Influence EP (discussed here), and their two records to-date, 2017’s Raw Rock Fury (review here) and 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here), came out on Relapse. Could be either of those or of course someone else. I have a hard time imagining anyone wouldn’t want to get in on putting out their stuff.

For what it’s worth, Heavy Psych Sounds is presenting the tour, and Ecstatic Vision will play the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest out on the West Coast. They’ll also be back in Europe this Fall for Keep it Low in Munich, and they’ll presumably have more dates TBA around that. So, more to come. I’ll try to keep up.

For now, here’s this from the PR wire:

ecstatic vision tour

Ecstatic Vision Announces U.S. Tour Dates

Philly Krautrock Crew Gears Up for Album Number Three with 15 City Spring Live Trek

Philadelphia heavy psych band Ecstatic Vision has announced a spring U.S. headlining tour. The dangerous live group, known for its hybrid sound that merges the sound and style of ’70s rock acts like Hawkwind, Can and MC5 with the feel and flow of Afrobeat artists such as Fela Kuti and Africa 70, will launch the two week trek on May 2 in Baltimore, MD. Support on the Ecstatic Vision tour will be provided by fellow Philadelphians Heavy Temple.

As part of the 15 city tour, Ecstatic Vision will perform live as part of the recently-announced Heavy Psych Sounds Fests, a celebration of the Italian underground rock label of the same name to which the group is signed. Ecstatic Vision will join labelmates Mothership, Duel, Crypt Trip and more on both May 10 in Fort Worth, TX and May 11 in Austin, TX. For more details on these HPS Fest shows, visit these locations.

Ecstatic Vision is touring in support of its EP of space / zam rock covers, ‘Under the Influence’ (2018), its 2015 debut album, ‘Sonic Praise’, and the band’s ballsy experimentation into Detroit rock meets white noise, ‘Raw Rock Fury’ (2017). Ecstatic Vision recently completed work on its as-yet-untitled new album, and is expected to debut some of its new songs live over the course of the upcoming tour.

“”We are stoked to get back on the road to play live at places we haven’t been in a long time, and with a new record in the can,” says vocalist / guitarist Doug Sabolick. “Yes you heard right! Expect news on our new LP soon as well. See you at the shows!”

Ecstatic Vision tour dates:
May 2 Baltimore, MD The Metro Gallery *
May 3 Richmond, VA Wonderland RVA
May 4 Raleigh, NC The Pour House Music Hall
May 5 Asheville, NC The Odditorium
May 6 Charlotte, NC The Milestone Club
May 7 Columbia, SC Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse
May 9 Memphis, TN Growlers
May 10 Fort Worth, TX Lola’s
May 11 Austin, TX The Lost Well
May 12 Denton, TX Andy’s Bar
May 14 St. Louis, MO Fubar
May 15 Nashville, TN The East Room
May 16 Johnson City, TN The Hideaway
May 17 Washington, DC The Pinch *
May 18 Harrisonburg, VA The Golden Pony *
* = No Heavy Temple

Ecstatic Vision is:
Doug Sabolick (vocals / guitar)
Michael Field Connor (bass)
Kevin Nickles (saxophone)
Ricky Culp (drums)

https://www.facebook.com/ecstaticvision
https://twitter.com/ecstaticvision_
https://www.instagram.com/ecstaticvision

Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence (2018)

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest USA Tour Announced with Red Fang, Yawning Man, Mothership, Fatso Jetson, Wo Fat, Duel and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

heavy psych sounds logo

I should’ve seen this one coming when Heavy Psych Sounds announced multiple venues for its Heavy Psych Sounds Fest this month in Europe — was it this weekend? — playing in three different cities with a changing lineup. Should’ve guessed this was going to be the direction it took. Even if I did though, I don’t think I’d have called a lineup badass enough to bring together Duel, Fatso JetsonNebulaGreenbeardHeavy TempleMothership and The Freeks. Among others. Heavy Psych Sounds has become a powerhouse in Europe, promoting bands through the label, booking tours, hosting its fest, whatever it might be. A US package tour under the banner of Heavy Psych Sounds Fest isn’t a small step, but it’s a natural one for an imprint that’s doing such crucial work.

I hope it all goes off without a hitch and they do it on the regular.

From the PR wire:

heavy psych sounds fest usa tour

Red Fang, Yawning Man, Mothership and more team up for inaugural HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST tour in the United States!

Influential heavy rock label HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS expands its sphere into North America, with live shows in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Dallas and Austin.

Respected underground rock record label Heavy Psych Sounds is proud to announce the inaugural U.S. iteration of its ‘Heavy Psych Sounds Fest’ series. Set to kick off this May in Los Angeles (May 3), San Francisco (May 4-5), Dallas (May 10) and Austin, TX (May 11), the label tour will feature four separate mini-festivals in the four cities, each spotlighting an exclusive selection of Heavy Psych Sounds’ blue-chip roster, including live sets from trailblazing acts Fatso Jetson, Nebula and Yawning Man, as well as special guests Red Fang and more.

Headquartered in Rome, Italy, Heavy Psych Sounds specializes in presenting the best artists in the global heavy psych, doom, fuzz blues and space rock realms, and the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest series will be no exception, spotlighting the ever-growing label’s dedication to its craft. While the first HPS fests were held in Italy, the label has since extended its live reach into the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands with festivals in those territories. Now, Heavy Psych Sounds is set to bring the ROCK to the U.S. with the just-announced special shows. Each stop of the traveling festival tour will feature diverse lineups including both genre leaders and fast-rising acts, all ready to prove their place among the world’s best.

“Being able to finally launch the U.S. version of Heavy Psych Sounds Fest is a dream true,”says label owner Gabriele Fiori. “We’ve been working for a long time to properly break into the U.S. market and this is a clear sign that the hard work is paying off. We have so many great U.S. based bands on our roster that we needed this to happen for all of us. This tour run is a celebration of our growing U.S. presence, which we hope will keep continue to grow. We’re also very happy to have Red Fang as guests, headlining in two of the cities. We hope music fans will come out, support and enjoy these very special shows!”

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST U.S. tour dates:

May 3 – Los Angeles, CA at The House of Machines
Red Fang (special guest) + Nebula + Yawning Man + Duel + Fatso Jetson + House Of Broken Promises

May 4 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
Red Fang (special guest) + Yawning Man + Duel + The Freeks + Glitter Wizard

May 5 – San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
Nebula + Hot Lunch + Fatso Jetson + Banquet + Turn Me On Dead Man

May 10 – Dallas, TX at Lola’s
Mothership + Duel + Ecstatic Vision + Crypt Trip + Wo Fat + Heavy Temple

May 11 – Austin, TX at The Lost Well
Duel + Ecstatic Vision + Mothership + Crypt Trip + Greenbeard + Wo Fat + Heavy Temple

Tickets for the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest shows in Los Angeles, Dallas and Austin are on sale now.
Tickets for the San Francisco HPS event will go on sale February 28.

https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Nebula, “Giant” live at SonicBlast Moledo 2018

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Desertfest New York 2019 Makes Final Lineup Announcement; Here Lies Man, Fatso Jetson, Black Cobra, Heavy Temple, Steak & More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

desertfest new york 2019 banner

Desertfest New York 2019, the first one ever, has completed its lineup for this April. Taking place at The Well and Saint Vitus Bar, the three-night event will be headlined by Black CobraWindhand and Elder and will boast newly-announced performances from SteakHigh Tone Son of a BitchHeavy TempleTowerGreen Milk from the Planet OrangeDuelSun VoyagerFatso Jetson and others. It was always going to be a stacked bill, and well, it’s worked out to be a stacked bill. Obviously the Desertfest brand, with history in London, Berlin, Athens and Antwerp, are no strangers to putting on an event, and as Desertscene and Sound of Liberation partner with NY-based Tee Pee Records, there was really no way this was going to be a flop, and it looks like it won’t be.

Calendar’s marked.

Here’s the final lineup:

desertfest new york 2019 poster

THE 1ST DESERTFEST NEW YORK

FULL LINE-UP + DAY SPLITS ANNOUNCED FOR DF NYC – BLACK COBRA, WEEDEATER, HERE LIES MAN, ASG + MORE

Taking place at Saint Vitus Bar on Friday 26th April and The Well on Saturday 27th & Sunday 28th April, please welcome to the bill:

• black cobra
• Weedeater
• Here Lies Man
• ASG
• Ruby the Hatchet
• FATSO JETSON
• Electric Citizen
• HTSOB
• Steak
• Mick’s Jaguar
• DUEL
• Heavy Temple
• TOWER
• Green Milk From The Planet Orange
• Sun Voyager

Unfortunately, we also have to announce that The Atomic Bitchwax can no longer play due to touring conflicts, along with Cali rockers Dommengang. Both band conflicts were out of our control, but we apologise for any inconvenience caused.

2-day weekend passes for ‘The Well’ shows only (Sat + Sun) are still available via www.desertfest.nyc

3-day passes which include access to Saint Vitus on Friday are SOLD OUT

Desertfest NYC will take place at Saint Vitus Bar on Fri 26th April & The Well on Sat 27th April + Sun 28th April

https://www.facebook.com/events/339417893540336/
https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_nyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

Green Milk from the Planet Orange, “Phoenix”

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Heavy Temple Announce Lineup Split

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Heavy Temple are splitting up, but not breaking up. Already, bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk was the lone remaining original member of the band, and as she notes in the social-medias posts below, she’s already been through a number of different versions of the band since they got together. With drummer Siren Tempestas and guitarist Thunderhorse, Heavy Temple were very quickly building a reputation for lethal live shows and had an album in progress that was poised to be a breakthrough moment for them.

As to what the future might hold for them, I don’t know, and it seems like the change is pretty raw at this point for any real future plans to be discussed outside of finishing out their currently-booked tour schedule for next month, hitting SXSW and more. I’m not sure if they’ll still do the April dates at the Decibel Metal and Beer Fest and/or Grim Reefer, but as Nighthawk says, the intention is to play “everything on the calendar.” So there you go.

And when she says the band isn’t done, I tend to believe her, even if this means it’ll probably way longer before that album arrives.

Announcement follows:

heavy temple square

Heavy Temple is ever evolving, and will continue on, playing everything on the calendar. We’ve been five different incarnations over 7 years. It’s understandable that a change in the line up is a shock, and ideally it would have been a gentle transition, but things happen. I am sad, as I’m sure some of you are, and that is humbling. I notice that some of you are mad. Relationships are complicated. Sometimes they don’t turn out the way one expects, and heartbreaking decisions have to be made. I know we will all go on to do great things, and I look forward to meeting more awesome people on that journey.

I just woke up to a million text messages. If I may attempt to clear some things up. I started Heavy Temple 7 years ago in my basement, alone. This is the fifth incarnation of the band. This was and in many ways still is my dream line up, but with every personnel change the sound has just gotten better. I am grateful for my time with them. I made a very difficult decision because I felt we all had different expectations, and couldn’t commit to a heavy touring schedule. I tried to keep everyone happy and still keep myself happy and I failed. This has nothing to do with the “direction” of the band, nor did I use that word. They’re both amazingly talented and I know they’ll go on to do amazing things. I’m not perfect, and I’ve made mistakes. It’s very hard work being in a band, and sometimes things don’t turn out the way you plan. I’m sorry that we’re parting ways. I plan on moving forward, as I always have, because making music is the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do.

Heavy Temple Rides to SXSW
March 2019
03.12 Skylark Social Club Charlotte NC
03.13 JJ’s Chattanooga TN
03.14 Spiderhouse Austin TX Wicked Bad Presents SX Stoner Jam
03.15 The Lost Well Austin TX Northwest Hesh Fest & Austin Terror Fest Present…
03.16 Freetown Boom Boom Room Lafayette LA
03.17 Green Lantern Lexington KY

04.14 The Filmore Philadelphia PA Decibel Metal & Beer Fest
04.20 The Ottobar Baltimore MD Grim Reefer Fest

Heavy Temple is:
High Priestess Nighthawk (low end and vocal power)
Siren Tempest (rhythm)
Thunderhorse (6 string axe slinger)

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com
https://www.van-records.de/
https://tridroid.bandcamp.com/album/chassit

Heavy Temple, Chassit (2017)

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Heavy Temple Announce Tour Dates & Beer Collaboration

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

heavy temple

So I was like, “Hey Heavy Temple, you’re awesome, how about a recording update on that new album you announced a while back?” and Heavy Temple was pretty much like “Buzz off, weirdo. It’ll be done when it’s done.” Then they punched me — all three of them, in a kind coordinated yet not rehearsed-seeming motion — in the belly and I fell over and they laughed and went about their business making beer collaborations with Oliver Brewing Company, touring to SXSW where they’ll play with Conan and a bunch of others, and indeed getting ready to burn all in their path with the aforementioned long-player, whenever it might show up. It’s all detailed in my forthcoming 35,000-word tell-all, That Time I Got Bullied by Heavy Temple. It’ll be published through Knopf this Spring.

Actually, in my experience, the members of Heavy Temple are all very nice. There was no bullying involved, just me being a dork and being like, “Hey, it’s been 15 minutes, is your album done yet?” and High Priestess Nighthawk being like, “Hold your horses, nerd boy.” Fair enough.

It’s cool they’re playing the Decibel Metal and Beer Fest in Philly, and it’s cool they’re doing Grim Reefer in Baltimore, but it’s easy to imagine them really making an impression as well at SXSW and that’s only going to help them in the longer run. You can see the art for their American Red Ale below — it’s called “In the Court of the Bastard King” — and mark your calendar appropriately for the tour dates.

Have at it:

Austin, we’re coming for you! Playing with some old friends and in some new places this time. See ya soon!

We’re excited to be playing Day 2 of the Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest!! In addition, Oliver Brewing Company will be making a special Heavy Temple beer for all of yous.

Final artwork for our beer collabo with Oliver Brewing Company !! “In The Court of the Bastard King” is appropriately an American red ale that ties in nicely with “Chassit” and it’s inspiration, “The Dark Tower”. Art by David Weston Gregory and appearing at the Decibel Magazine Metal & Beer Fest.

Heavy Temple Rides to SXSW
March 2019
03.12 Skylark Social Club Charlotte NC
03.13 JJ’s Chattanooga TN
03.14 Spiderhouse Austin TX Wicked Bad Presents SX Stoner Jam
03.15 The Lost Well Austin TX Northwest Hesh Fest & Austin Terror Fest Present…
03.16 Freetown Boom Boom Room Lafayette LA
03.17 Green Lantern Lexington KY

04.14 The Filmore Philadelphia PA Decibel Metal & Beer Fest
04.20 The Ottobar Baltimore MD Grim Reefer Fest

Heavy Temple is:
High Priestess Nighthawk (low end and vocal power)
Siren Tempest (rhythm)
Thunderhorse (6 string axe slinger)

https://www.facebook.com/HeavyTemple/
https://www.instagram.com/heavytemple
https://heavytemple.bandcamp.com
https://www.van-records.de/
https://tridroid.bandcamp.com/album/chassit

Heavy Temple, Chassit (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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