The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

Posted in Features on December 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk best of 2019

[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.]

Make no mistake, my friends. 2019 was the year it went off the rails.

Every 12-month period brings a lot of records, and they all seem overwhelming, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt quite so helpless when it came time to sit down and actually make my list. Of course, I keep running notes all year long, but even so, ordering everything, bringing it all together? What a mess.

I almost thought of breaking it down into smaller lists in addition to the big one, subgrouped by style. But then, where does doom end and sludge begin? What about psych and heavy rock? Should prog get its own list? And what the hell counts as prog?

In the end, that didn’t seem like it would be doing me any favors, so we’ll stick with the one big list and then others for debut releases and another for EPs, splits, demos and so on. You know, the usual.

Pretty sure I say this every year too, but it bears repeating: if you read any of the below — and thanks if you do — and have a response, be nice. If I’ve forgotten something — and yes, I have; I’m sure of it — that you think needs to be included, and you want to leave a comment that says so, please, by all means. But keep it civil. I know people are passionate about this stuff and so am I, but consider there are probably over 200 offerings covered here by the time you get through all the lists and honorable mentions, and I’m one person. I’m doing my best, and though I try not to, I tend to take being called a dumbass personally. So yeah, chill out and please be constructive in calling me a dumbass. Words matter.

A few hard choices here, most especially for album of the year. I was back and forth with each of the top three in the top spot for a good long while, and it might change again between now and when this post goes up. But it’s been that kind of year. In 2018, there was no question. It was Sleep all the way. The question was what came after that. This year has been different without that kind of duh, punch-in-the-face obvious pick. Relative parity isn’t a bad thing though.

Enough delay. The usual parameters apply. These are a combo of my personal listening habits and what I think are the most important records/achievements of the year, critical importance, etc.

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

50. Hazemaze, Hymns of the Damned
49. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
48. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Grandmother
47. PH, Osiris Hayden
46. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
45. Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light
44. Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport
43. Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
42. Caustic Casanova, God How I Envy the Deaf
41. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre
40. SÂVER, They Came With Sunlight
39. Ogre, Thrice as Strong
38. Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension
37. Vokonis, Grasping Time
36. Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
35. Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds
34. Duel, Valley of Shadows
33. Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity
32. Zaum, Divination
31. Inter Arma, Sulphur English

Notes: Honestly, if this had been the top 20 of the year, I’d still call 2019 a win. Aside from the fact that I somehow thought Caustic Casanova would enjoy coming in a number 42, the sheer quality of this stuff should tell you what kind of year 2019 was. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was a significant achievement in genre melding, and Orodruin’s return after more than a decade since their last LP was a masterclass in doom worship. Debut albums from SÂVER and Thunderbird Divine and Lightning Born showed marked promise of things to come — and there’s more on them below as well — while Zaum’s, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree’s and Lamp of the Universe’s meditations, Vokonis’ noise, Abrahma’s emotive progressivisim, Swallow the Sun’s melodic melancholy, Sacri Monti’s boogie, and whatever the hell PH were doing on Osiris Hayden remind just how much the word “heavy” can encompass. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Duel and Uffe Lorenzen and Hazemaze were musts here, and Ogre are perennial favorites whose work always brings a doomly grin. Don’t sleep on any of it.

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

Until they put out a complementary follow-up record of such fare, one might’ve accused Idaho three-piece Sun Blood Stories of becoming less experimentalist/droned-out/noisy on Haunt Yourself, but they seem to have met their quota one way or the other with the Oct. 2019 advent of Static Sessions Vol. 1. Still, it’s melody, heavy post-rock/psychedelic drift and emotive soul that rule the day on the crushing and enriching Haunt Yourself, and no complaints from me on that.

29. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

I don’t have to do anything more than read the name of the album to have the chorus of the title-track stuck in my head, and it’s a reminder that although the Nottingham troupe put so much into their progressive style and vocal harmonies and arrangements, and a more conceptual theme in the case of Everybody’s Going to Die — their answer to 2018’s excellent Science Fiction (review here) — their roots are in songcraft, and it’s the foundation of songcraft that lets them soar. Would be higher on the list if it weren’t so new.

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

With their sixth album, Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay collect 10 tracks of unpretentious-almost-to-a-fault of straightforward heavy rock songwriting that continues to be woefully underappreciated. They have become utterly reliable in that regard — you know, to a certain extent, what’s coming — but the vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (also Apostle of Solitude) and some more metallic turns to the riffing give Forever, Never or Whenever a subtlety that holds up all the more on repeat visits. I don’t know if Devil to Pay will ever get their due, but suffice it to say, they’re due.

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the first Playstation came out and everyone looked around at their Nintendos and Segas like, “What the hell am I messing around with Mario Golf for? I could be playing Resident Evil!” That’s kind of what Howling Giant are as compared to “regular” rock bands. They’re the Playstation of heavy: that next progressive step forward carrying an inhuman amount of swagger and personality while still delivering a stepped-up product from their would-be peers. The scariest thing about The Space Between Worlds is it’s their first LP. One looks forward to the next generation.

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

I know for a fact that bassist Pat Bruders and drummer Henry Vasquez had a hand in writing some of the material on Saint Vitus’ second self-titled LP, and yet the album so much bears the indelible mark of guitarist Dave Chandler that it’s hard not to think of it all as his. The album marked their first release with original singer Scott Reagers since 1995’s Die Healing (discussed here) and featured among their trademark low-tuned slog, an actual punk song, which showed the grinning glee that underlies all they do. Four decades on, Saint Vitus sound like they’re having fun. How is that not a win?

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

Woodsy Rocky Mountain psychedelia abounded on Boise foursome Ealdor Bealu’s second full-length, and their blend of landscape meditations and grounded heavy progressive melodicism made Spirit of the Lonely Places as much about impact as about space, though of course the real joy was the experience of the entirety. Very much a sophomore album, it learned lessons from 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here) that one only hopes the band will continue to push forward in scope as they so gracefully did here.

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

Released through Grimoire Records. Discussed Nov. 13, 2018..

Though hard- and to-date quick-working Maryland trio Yatra have already moved on and are looking ahead to releasing their second album, Blood of the Night (review here), their Grimoire-delivered debut, Death Ritual, is impossible to ignore for the impact it had on reminding listeners of the impact that primeval extreme sludge can have. Another couple tours and some bigger label — Relapse, Prosthetic, eOne, Season of Mist, whoever — will decide they’re “ready,” whatever that means, and then sign them and I won’t be cool enough to do track premieres for them anymore, but as far as accolades go, Yatra earn whatever they get and Death Ritual stands among 2019’s most landmark debuts. They’ve already outdone it, but it’s a stunner just the same.

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

Ecstatic Vision frontman Doug Sabolik has cast himself in the mold of Arthur Brown or Dave Wyndorf or probably seven or eight dudes who were in Hawkwind at some point as a manic-but-stoned space rock preacher with as he and his band behind him plunge headfirst-or-feetfirst-it-doesn’t-matter-because-your-body-is-an-illusion-man into the molten multicolor void. For the Masses. The ‘masses,’ such as they are, should be so lucky, but the double-meaning is the real tell for where the Philly unit are coming from. Their shows are the masses — gatherings of spirit and song to give praise to the willful expansion of mind. If you can’t get behind that, you might as well go get a job or something. This ain’t no lightweight party for squares and dabblers. This is a high-potency happening for werewolves on motorcycles and freaks of all stripes. Get weird stay weird. Ecstatic Vision are one mostly-mellow 15-minute “Spine of God”-style psych-epic away from perfection.

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

But for the circumstances that brought it about — i.e. Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde’s cancer — the unexpected fourth installment in the Beastwars trilogy was nothing if not welcome. An grand-feeling sense of largesse was nothing new to the New Zealand four-piece, but after breaking up and getting back together to make the album, the grim sincerity with which they presented this exploration of mortality and betrayal by one’s own body was no less palpable than the undulating riffs that threatened, as ever, to consume all in their path. I don’t know their future plans in terms of continuing to write and/or record, but there are reports of touring beyond Aus/NZ for 2020, so one way or another, stay tuned for more from them. Whether or not they do anything else, IV was a triumph in spirit and execution.

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

With the nine songs of Slow Burn Suicide, Brooklyn’s Eternal Black began to unveil the true depth of their project. Their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), was well received, and rightly so, but operated more in a straight-ahead doom sphere. The second outing, by contrast, delved into a particular vision of the style informed by the crunch of peak-era New York noise and crossover hardcore, and it succeeded not just because it did this, but because it did so around a conjuration of memorable riffs and tracks building on accomplishments carried over from its predecessor. Is this an awaited arrival of next-generation ‘New York doom’? Will theirs be a blueprint others will follow? It’s impossible to know now, and their next album will be telling either way, but the course they’ve set is significant.

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

It may have been the Tony Iommi guest appearance that got Swedish doom legends Candlemass — the world’s earliest and foremost purveyors of doom both classic and epic — their recent Grammy nomination, but it was the long-overdue reunion with original vocalist Johan Längquist that made the album as a whole as powerful as it was. Pairing Längquist’s theatrical and vital approach with founding bassist Leif Edling’s second-to-none doomcraft, The Door to Doom was a catapult not to the bygone days of the band’s landmark debut, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, but an inspired look at not just what might’ve been had Längquist remained with the band longer, but what might still be if he does this time around. Candlemass have been through their share of singers, but as fresh as The Door to Doom sounded, it’s hard not to hope for something more than a one-off with he who got there first. The songs, the spirit, the sheer heart poured into Candlemass’ doom some 35 years past the band’s start only emphasizes how special they have always been.

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

Anyone who might’ve predicted Nebula getting into the studio and making a new album was either in the room when it happened or talking out their ass. And speaking of, was Nebula’s Holy Shit named for the shock one might’ve felt at its existence, or the surprise at how good it actually sounded when you put it on? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know. It was the best title I saw all year, but more than that, it was a Nebula record, fueled by the classic riffing and unmitigated desert punk soul of founding/guitarist Eddie Glass, whose absence from the heavy underground for the last decade left a void only too many others whiffed on filling. Holy Shit showed just how singular a player Glass was and is, and how much character there is in his style, particularly in solos, but also in rhythmic changes, and so on. I won’t discount the work of bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster in making Nebula what they are in this incarnation — they’re essential, obviously — but there’s simply no denying that presence at the band’s core.

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

This was a heavy rock record that had everything. Everything. It had songs, style, ups, down, purples, greens, ins, outs, all kinds of whathaveyou. Riffs forever. Valley of the Sun should keep their eyes on Sasquatch, because if they want it, that path is theirs. I know the Cincinnati outfit have had trouble keeping lineups together, but if they can hold onto one, and maybe after their next record start touring more, domestically and abroad — not at all a minor ask, I know — then people will catch on. Old Gods is evidence of the fact that they genuinely have something to offer, and frankly, it’s not at all the first such effective case they’ve made in their career. But they’ve never put anything out that wasn’t a step forward, and yet they’ve never lost sight of the roots of their initial inspiration. And they’ve never sacrificed the song for the riff, which so many do. They’ve only ever gotten better. Let Old Gods be a step toward them getting attention they’ve long since deserved.

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

In style and production, For the Dead Travel Fast is the most vintage-sounding offering Berlin trio Kadavar have made in over a half decade, yet neither is it looking backward wistfully toward 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) or giving up the modern clarity of 2017’s Rough Times (review here) or 2015’s Berlin (review here). Instead, it strikes a balance with a more sinister edge à la Uncle Acid in songs like “Children of the Night” and “Demons in My Mind” — both singles — and makes a home for itself between proto-metal and garage doom. Whatever genre tag you want to give it — and that might vary from track to track, mind you — it’s unmistakably Kadavar, with the signature hooks and memorable craftsmanship that have made them one of the decade’s most pivotal heavy bands. The real challenge at this point in their career is not to take for granted that Kadavar will produce material of such quality, because, frankly, that’s all they’ve ever done.

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

Welsh sci-fi cosmic doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard billed Yn Ol I Annwn as the final installment of a trilogy that includes their two prior LPs, 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here) and 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), and while that may be true thematically, there’s also no question the third is a marked step forward from anything they’ve done before. They’re one foot out of the airlock and into space as their synth-laden longform riffing and melodies take them to places they’ve not yet gone, explorations of sight as much as sound, aural translation of colors humans aren’t gifted to see. Their songs across the 65-minute span unfold with the grace of a gravity spiral, pulling the listener deeper into the proceedings with each new phase that emerges until, what, obliteration? Stellar genesis? I’m not sure. They’ve reportedly got one more record to make and then they’re done. If that’s true, they’ll be missed then they’re gone.

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

They’ve found their way to die, and it’s upon an altar of classic metal and doom. And honestly, they make a pretty good case for it. Departed Souls is the third full-length from the Boston unit and their most stylistically realized work yet, with vocalist Brendan Radigan giving a standout performance alongside the guitars of Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, the bass of Justin DeTore and Michael “Q” Quartulli’s drums, as the entire band taps into vibes from mid-’70s Black Sabbath and brings them to bear with an energy that is unlike anything in Magic Circle’s history. 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) brought in NWOBHM flash in the guitar work, sure enough, but Departed Souls doesn’t so much carry the torch of classic metal as it does use it to burn down the whole village and rebuild it in the five-piece’s image. From their doomed beginnings on their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) to now, they’re an act who’ve genuinely earned cult status. If you can find a backpatch, buy it.

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

Controversy! Drama! Well, probably not, but at very least some respectful disagreement on my part. You see, Poland’s Spaceslug have stated publicly that their latest release, the late-2019 surprise Reign of the Orion is an EP. Their albums regularly top 50 minutes, and at 36 minutes, I guess relative to that, you can see where they’re coming from. However, with the flow of these five songs and the ease with which they carry the listener from front-to-back through the listening experience, I’m sticking to my guns and calling Reign of the Orion an album. Sorry guys. True, it’s shorter than the other full-lengths, but it’s got everything you could ask an album to have in terms of how tracks like “Spacerunner” and the shouty “Half-Moon Burns” play into each other, and the fluidity of the outing on the whole is inarguable. An LP by any other name? Whatever you or they want to call it, there’s no question in my mind Reign of the Orion is one of 2019’s best records. If they insist on it being an EP, then it’s the best one of the year, but I still say it belongs in another category altogether, so here it is.

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

As hyper-crowded as London is with bands at this moment in history, there continue to be acts who sneak through with an individualized and intriguing perspective on doom and heavy rock, and Green Lung are a perfect example, learning from fellow Brits like Alunah and Elephant Tree and incorporating folk and forest goth vibes to their debut album, Woodland Rites. Laced with organ and stuck-in-the-head choruses like “Let the Devil In” and the creeper “Templar Dawn,” the record also pushed into drifting verses on “Into the Wild,” setting up future experimentation with atmospheric variety and genre manipulation. If part of any first album’s appeal is the potential it represents, Green Lung’s offers plenty, but wherever their subsequent course may or may not take them, their accomplishments here shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodland Rites is nothing less than the heavy rock debut album of the year, and though they emerge from a packed field, the work they do to stand themselves out already carries their mark and an apparent will toward progression. They’re on their way.

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

My head immediately goes to the hooks of “Ten Days” and “Ascension Day” and “Savage Heart,” but the up-down surges of guitar in “Old News/New Fire” and the midtempo soulfulness in “A Thousand Miles” are no less resonant when it comes to the actual listening experience of the fifth Lo-Pan LP. Subtle, when it came to living up to its name, as much wasn’t as it was. Flourishes of harmony in the vocals of Jeff Martin, the pops in Jesse Bartz’s snare punctuating and propelling in kind, turns in Scott Thompson’s bass work twisting around the guitar of Chris Thompson, a relative newcomer to the fold making his debut with the band and showing no apparent trouble fitting in. I don’t imagine Lo-Pan is an easy band to join, especially at this point. They thrive on personality clash and, through years of touring, have a chemistry they’ve built between them that comes through even on their recordings. Nonetheless, Subtle is their clearest, sharpest-edged work yet, and as tight as their songwriting has become, they still groove and groove mightily. They are a treasure of American heavy rock and roll. Believe it.

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

While members of Roadsaw have spent the intervening years in projects like Kind, White Dynomite, Sasquatch and Murcielago, the Boston heavy rock kingpins have indeed been missed, and Tinnitus the Night works quickly to show why. It’s been well over 20 years since their first LP — hell, it’s been eight since they put out their 2011 self-titled (review here) — but their craft is at its own level, and Tinnitus the Night comes barreling through with “Shake” and “Along for the Ride” and “Final Phase” before opening up to broader fare on side B with “Find What You Need,” “Under the Devil’s Thumb” and “Midazolam” ahead of the subdued finale “Silence,” and the result is nothing less than a classic heavy rock LP structure as befitting what is itself a classic heavy rock LP. What’s Roadsaw’s future? I don’t know. It took them the better part of a decade to make this one happen, so take from that what you will, but to me, all it says is there’s even more reason to be grateful they got it done and out. To say the songs deserve that is putting it mildly.

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

I’m not doing a ‘song of the year’ post, but if I was, Worshipper’s “Coming Through” might be it. The opening track from the Boston four-piece’s second album, Light in the Wire, marries classic pop drama in its melody with careening progressive riffing, and sets the tone for a record that is of both future and past, twistingly complex and yet immediately accessible, immersive as an entirety and still comprised of standout moments. These aren’t contradictions in Worshipper’s skillful hands, but the stuff of what’s already becoming their own take on rock. Tied together through melody, skillful rhythmic intricacy and solid structural foundations, “Light in the Wires,” “Visions from Beyond,” “Wither on the Vine” and others throughout post their own triumphs en route to enhancing the album as a whole, while “Nobody Else” and closer “Arise” underscore the emotive basis from which the perspective of the whole LP emanates. There are a lot of “next-gen” heavy rock bands out there weaving prog elements and traditional riffing together to some degree or other. Few, if any, can write a song like Worshipper can. I mean it. This band is something special.

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

What is there to say about Solace? A band who, nine years after revealing the expectation-slaughtering masterpiece A.D. (review here), return with three-fifths of a swapped-out lineup and simply do it again? This band is explosive. Really. Like, they might explode at any minute. It’s a miracle The Brink ever happened. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. But Solace are a force like nothing else I’ve ever encountered in music. They take metallic aggression, hardcore’s sense of self-righteousness and heavy rock’s groove, set it all to a doomly swing and they play it in such a way as to leave you utterly dumbfounded by what you just experienced. Here’s a challenge though, for the band personally. From me to them. Do another one. Go ahead. Put out another album. You don’t even have to do it in 2020. Do it 2021. Write the songs and give me a no-holds-barred 45-minute LP of the tightest, meanest shit you’ve ever written. Because massive as the accomplishments are on The Brink, it’s the potential to build from them that resonates most here. So do it, guys. Step up and take advantage of the moment. Call me greedy if you want, I don’t care. Give me another Solace record. I dare you.

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

Released by Doom Stew Records & DHU Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

Simply a case of a band wildly outdoing themselves. Easy story, yeah? In some ways, maybe, but the truth of what Brume achieve on Rabbits. Their second long-player behind 2017’s Rooster (review here), the five-track offering sees the San Francisco three-piece of vocalist/bassist Susie McMullan, guitarist/vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis working with producer Billy Anderson to bring theatricality and emotionalism together in a flowing post-heavy context that’s neither derivative nor working at cross purposes. Instead, it is a gorgeous and blooming undertaking across its 43-minute span, working in its own light/dark spectrum and bringing not just the sense of trapped fragility evoked by the cover art, but a corresponding sureness of intent to its ascendant heavy surges. Like Rooster before it, it is loaded with potential, but in “Scurry” and “Lament” and “Despondence” and “Blue Jay and “Autocrat’s Fool,” there’s a patience and command that absolutely does not waver. So yes, a band outdoing themselves. But so much more too.

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

This may forever be known as the Mars Red Sky album they wrote in a cave, but the Bordeaux three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau nonetheless plunged forward along the progressive course they charted back on 2014’s sophomore outing, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), and continued to manifest in 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here). Their blend of melody and tonal heft has become a hallmark of their work to this stage in their career, but The Task Eternal continues to add a sense of breadth to the proceedings, giving their sound a full three-dimensional pull that feels tailor-made for headphones and is consuming in its entirety. With experiments in structure like the pairing of “Recast” and “Reacts,” and the rushing sweep of melody in “Hollow King,” Mars Red Sky’s latest is, as ever, their finest. Outdoing themselves would seem to be the task from which the record derives its title. Fine. Just keep going. Please.

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

Every time I think I understand where Kings Destroy want to go as a band, they pull the rug out. That’s what Fantasma Nera is. After their 2015 self-titled (review here) third LP seemed to declare them once and for all in a space between doom and noise rooted in their respective hardcore pasts, the Brooklynite five-piece hooked up with producer David Bottrill (Tool, etc.) and composed a rock album. A real live rock album! With progressive undertones in the guitar work and the most accomplished melodicism of their career, Kings Destroy put everything they had into making Fantasma Nera and one need look no further than the title-track to hear the result of that monumental effort. It is the realization of a band challenging themselves to go so far out of their comfort zone as to be only recognizable in the most rudimentary of ways, and to say it as plainly as I can, “Dead Before” on its own is enough of an accomplishment — and enough of a full-length, at all of 4:25 — to make this list on its own, whatever surrounds it. Song of the year. I’ll say every time I’m a Kings Destroy fan, but I’ve never been gladder to say it than I am in talking about Fantasma Nera.

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Ah come on, Colour Haze are always on the list when they put out records,” I have two answers. One, you’re right, and two, if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass. The Munich forefathers of the European heavy psychedelic underground — yup — marked their 25th anniversary this year, and did so not just by putting out an album, but by putting out We Are, which introduces a full-fledged fourth member to what’s been a three-piece since 1998. Granted, it’s not the first time guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald have worked with organist/keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender, but never has the presence of keys been so integral to their work, and never has the dynamic between players shifted in the way it does on tracks like “The Real” and “Life” and “I’m With You,” with keys fleshing out melodies and enriching the bass and guitar. Add to that the Spanish-style guitar on centerpiece “Material Drive” or the operatic flash in the penultimate “Be With Me,” and it’s one more example of one of the best bands on earth refusing to rest on their laurels. Which, as it happens, is why they’re one of the best bands on earth. So hell yes, they’re on all my lists. Fact is my lists are lucky to have them.

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

Like nothing else I heard in 2019, Veils of Winter had repeat listenability. It was the album that, most often, when I was choosing something I actually wanted to hear, I went back to time and again. Its dark, moody psychedelic and heavy vibe stands alone among the year’s releases, and is a stylistic milestone that one only hopes other artists will pick up on. Toying with pop melodies on tracks like “Death Realms” and bringing hypnosis and clarity in kind to the subtly traditionalist winding riff of “Moonlit” — would it have been out of place on the first Witchcraft LP? — the Portland, Oregon, five-piece worked on a speedy turnaround and squashed even the significant expectations I had after their self-titled debut (review here) last year. They’ve begun to tour, so I don’t know if another full-length is in the works for 2020, but their craft is enviable in its flow and their songs are shimmering in tone and cohesion alike. Given how bold a step forward Veils of Winter is, I hear nothing in their material to this point to make me think their momentum won’t continue to carry them forward. But, you know, if not, I’d also take about six or seven records just like this one. That’d be fine too. Whatever they want, really.

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Slomatics — guitarists David Marjury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey — finished a narrative trilogy with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and though the storyline was always vague throughout that and the preceding two offerings, the question of how they would proceed nonetheless hung over Canyons prior to its release. The answer is in the songs themselves. From the sci-fi majesty of lumbering, rolling groove in opener and longest track “Gears of Despair” — oh, they grind — through the mega-stomp of “Telemachus, My Son” and the righteously synth-laden wash that consumes “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” Slomatics bring together concept and execution with a readiness that highlights the fact of their 15th anniversary. They are mature in their approach, yes, but the fact is their approach is so much their own and so given to their particular mode of progression that it almost can’t help but feel fresh. How could something so utterly crushing also feel rejuvenating? As they plod through finale “Organic Caverns II” ending with more waves of synth and tectonic guitar — no bass, remember — they are as restorative as they are punishing, and they stand astride that duality with neither mercy nor pretense. Canyons, whether it’s setting up a new story, building from the old, or doing something completely different, stands on its own.

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

My anticipation for and expectations of Year of the Cobra’s second long-player were high most especially after 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here), which along with the dead, set alight the notion that the Seattle duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith were simply a heavy/doom band. With elements of post-punk, psych wash, minimalist stretches and propulsive gallop, Ash and Dust cast itself out over an aesthetic range that set a new standard not just for Year of the Cobra, but for anyone who’d dare match them at their own game — and that list will grow with time, absolutely. As their first outing through Prophecy Productions, Ash and Dust threw itself into the very melting pot of its own ambition and emerged with songs that didn’t just bring together disparate ideas, but made them flourish and engage and challenge the listener while still proving consistent in tone and underlying groove. For a two-person, two-instrument outfit (not counting voice, though I should), they proved more malleable than many with more than twice the number of hands on deck, and pushed the notion of what heavy rock is and does forward without stopping to look back or ask for permission. They just did it, and maybe Ash and Dust is the aftermath of all that burning.

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Look back over the course of this list, and you will find no shortage of bands and releases that surpassed the group in question’s past work. With Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord, it wasn’t just about No Comfort — their debut on Relapse, fourth full-length overall — being better than 2017’s Rust (review here), because that was pretty jolly gosh darn enjoyable, but about the band reaching a moment of transcendence to which Rust and all their prior work across 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2014’s Empress Rising has been leading. With the six tracks of No Comfort, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems not only overcome the influences that launched them — taking full ownership of their sound and defending that claim with the sheer quality of their songwriting — and they not only become as identifiable as those influences themselves, but they overcome themselves. No Comfort means no comfort. Monolord take the simplicity that once fueled their riffing, the willful primitivism of their earliest work, and with songs like “Larvae” and “The Bastard Son” and the closing title-track use it as the foundation it was apparently always intended to be. Monolord have toured plenty and certainly their studio output has shown an increasing complexity from one LP to the next, so progression isn’t unexpected, but the manner in which Monolord have executed that progression has been. Even on “The Last Leaf,” which is arguably the most straightforward fare on the album, one hears it as them rather than the manifestation of the acts that inspired them. The same holds for “Skywards” later on, and for the immersion that takes hold as the mournful “Alone Together” plays into “No Comfort” itself. Monolord take their place among the best bands on the planet, and deliver an Album of the Year for 2019 that, like the absolute best, will have an impact lasting much longer than any period of 12 months might convey.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

You didn’t think we’d stop at 50, did you? Come on. You know me better than that. The fact is that the list itself, humongous as it is, is just the start of the tip of an iceberg attached to a glacier that’s somewhere on an entire planet constructed of ice.

Honorable mentions, you say? Yeah, a few. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Lord Vicar, Goatess, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Zone Six, Lykantropi, Earth, White Manna, Atala, Tia Carrera, Merlin, WEEED, Híbrido, Cities of Mars, Stone Machine Electric, Bretus, Blackwolfgoat, The Black Wizards, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alunah, V, Pale Grey Lore, Leeds Point, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spidergawd, Bus, Death Hawks, BBF, Vessel of Light, Crypt Trip, The Pilgrim, Uffe Lorenzen, Brant Bjork, Doomstress, Black Lung, Kandodo3, Monkey3, Bask, Horseburner, Zed, Bright Curse, Spillage, Sigils, Papir, Dune Sea, Destroyer of Light, Mastiff, Warp, Centrum, Varego, Lord Dying, Volcano, Saint Karloff, Firebreather, High Reeper, Bible of the Devil, Obsidian Sea, Torche, Motorpsycho, Sunn O))), Deadbird, Russian Circles, El Supremo, Pyramidal, Holy Serpent, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Demon Head, Red Beard Wall, Onhou, Kamchatka, Iguana, Arrowhead, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Serial Hawk, Scissorfight, Monte Luna, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Ruff Majik, The Giraffes, High Fighter, Comacozer, Burning Gloom, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Cable, AVER, Superlynx, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Old Mexico, Skraeckoedlan, Godsleep, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle.

Seems cruel to leave it to you to sort through those, but I’m tempted to do just that. You might notice some bigger names there in bands like Earth, Russian Circles, Torche and Sunn O))). Nothing against those bands, but I think we’re seeing a moment where a different group of artists are taking point in terms of innovating heavy styles across an entire swath of microgenres. Either way it’s not a slight that something is here instead of above. And of course, there are plenty of up and coming groups here as well, with Ruff Majik, Elizabeth Colour Wheel — who I’m sure would be a top 30 if I knew the record better than I do — Pale Grey Lore, Monte Luna, Papir, Destroyer of Light, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Skraeckoedlan, and so on, but hell’s bells, there’s already a list of 50 and I’m only one man. How high is the list supposed to go and still be a list?

Bottom line: Music is as endless as space and has as much beauty in it for those willing to hear. Do more digging.

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

1. Green Lung, Woodland Rites
2. Yatra, Death Ritual
3. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds
4. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
5. SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight
6. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
7. Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo
8. The Pilgrim, Walking into the Forest
9. Sigils, You Build the Altar You Lit the Leaves
10. E-L-R, Maenad
11. Hey Zeus, X
12. Bellrope, You Must Relax
13. Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore
14. Thronehammer, Usurper of Oaken Throne
15. Inner Altar, Vol. III
16. Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember
17. Hippie Death Cult, 111
18. Faerie Ring, The Clearing
19. Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time
20. Haze Mage, Chronicles

Honorable Mention: Warp, Pelegrin, Lucy in Blue, Volcano, The Sabbathian, Red Eye Tales, Dune Sea, Dury Dava, Pharlee, Giant Dwarf, Ghost:Hello, Surya, Workshed, Children of the Sün, Burning Gloom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch.

Notes: As ever, I consider a band’s debut album something unique and separate from everything else they’ll ever do, and so worthy of highlighting in its own category. It’s a different standard in my mind, one that takes into account what a group might accomplish going forward as well as what they do on the record itself. Plus, putting out an album is hard. Getting two, three, four, five or more people to agree on anything is an accomplishment. Making a cohesive album? Come on. So yes. We see some crossover from the main list above, but I want to draw attention to Howling Giant, Thunderbird Divine and SÂVER particularly here. There’s a swath of genres represented and I feel like a couple of these releases — Sigils, Bellrope, Thronehammer, Inner Altar, Faerie Ring, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — didn’t get their due attention. It’s a busy year, I get it. But if you’re skimming through looking for stuff to check out, DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. Aside from whatever line about the best of tomorrow you want to trot out, there’s important work being done by these acts today. As somebody who’s constantly behind the times, I urge you not to

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

1. Geezer, Spiral Fires
2. Ufomammut, XX
3. All Them Witches, 1×1
4. Mount Saturn, Mount Saturn
5. Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split
6. Horehound, Weight
7. Molasses, Mourning Haze
8. Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Split
9. Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon
10. The Golden Grass, 100 Arrows
11. Mount Atlas, Mistress
12. Midas, Solid Gold Heavy Metal
13. Glory in the Shadows, Glory in the Shadows
14. Hot Breath, Hot Breath
15. Crystal Spiders, Demo
16. Red Wizard, Ogami
17. Thermic Boogie, Fracture
18. Pinto Graham, Dos
19. High Priest, Sanctum
20. Set Fire, Traya
21. Seedium, Awake

Honorable Mention: Love Gang & Smokey Mirror Split, Forebode, Land Mammal, Very Paranoia, Plague of Carcosa, Daal Dazed, Komodor, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge Split, High on Fire, Mount Soma.

Notes: This is probably the least complete of the lists, because it’s the hardest category for me to keep up with. EPs, singles, demos, splits and basically anything else that isn’t an album, all lumped together. Still, I stand by the picks here, and I don’t think anyone who takes on any of them will regret doing so, whether it’s All Them Witches’ surprisingly weighted first single as a trio, Mount Saturn’s debut release, or Geezer’s cosmic jams. Felt a little like cheating putting Ufomammut on there, since technically XX wasn’t new material so much as reworked stuff captured live, but if you want to call me out on it, my own listening habits also factor in, and I’ve spent plenty of time with those reimagined tracks. But anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that hasn’t been included here, so please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll work accordingly.

Postwax

I haven’t felt comfortable with the idea of writing about it editorially, since I’ve been involved in discussions about it since before it came together and since I did the liner notes for each of the six releases (plus one to come), but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work done on the Postwax vinyl subscription series by Blues Funeral Recordings. Label head Jadd Shickler and design specialist Peder Bergstrand (also of Lowrider) put together six offerings that came out in the span of this year and when you hold the LPs in your hand, you can feel the passion that went into making them, from the artists in question to those curating the series in the first place. I hear tell there’s going to be a Postwax Year Two, and I don’t know if I’ll be involved or not, but I’m proud of my miniscule part in the work that went into making these and wanted to bring them to your particular attention. They are something special for those who got to partake:

  • Elder, The Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Daxma, Ruins Upon Ruins
  • Besvärjelsen, Frost
  • Big Scenic Nowhere, Dying on the Mountain
  • Domkraft, Slow Fidelity
  • Lowrider, Refractions

And while we’re talking about projects I was proud to be involved with, I also did liner notes for Acrimony’s The Chronicles of Wode box set from Burning World Records and was honored to do so. Thanks to any and everyone in question for having me involved and dealing with me blowing past deadlines one after the next. It is humbling.

Looking Ahead to 2020

A few names and nothing more about what definitely is and/or might be in the works for next year. Woefully incomplete, so feel free to add to it:

1000mods, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathwhite, Mondo Drag, Drug Cult, Ocean Chief, Soldati, Sergio Ch., Mitochondrial Sun, Geezer, Mirror Queen, Mondo Generator, The Otolith, Asteroid, Yatra, Vestal Claret, Farer, Ryte, Shadow Witch, Six Organs of Admittance, Naxatras, Wolftooth, Snail, Elder, Pale Divine, Grey Skies Fallen, Ruby the Hatchet, Yuri Gagarin, Sasquatch, Godthrymm, Wo Fat, Red Mesa, CB3, Onsegen Ensemble, Insect Ark, Acid Mammoth, Ritual King, Ulls, Om.

Thank You

Thank you for reading, and please, if you have a thought or something you want to share in the comments, please remember to be kind to each other. We are all human beings behind our phones and keyboards, and while we’ll disagree, often in some ways and some cases, a basic level of respect is always appreciated. At least by me.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone might still be reading, but I want it on record how much I appreciate you being a part of this site and a part of my experience in making it. I’ve been ruminating all year since marking the 10th anniversary back in January about how much The Obelisk has become a part of who I am, and it’s utterly essential to my every day. The way I continue to think about it — and myself, as it happens — is a work in progress, and that would not be possible without you. One more time. Thank you. Always. Always thank you. Thank you.

More to come.

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Grim Reefer Fest 2020: Full Lineup & Venue Change Announced

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

grim reefer fest logo

Rituals is the former Windup Space in Baltimore, or so I’m told, and will play host to Grim Reefer Fest 2020 next April 18. The all-dayer will be headlined by Destroyer of Light from Austin, TX, and in addition to them and fest-organizers Haze Mage — credit where it’s due — the lineup boasts an impressive range of mostly regional denizens like Philly’s High Reeper and Green Meteor and Maryland-based acts like Asthma CastleCavern and Alms. Hyborian will be in from Kansas City which leaves me wondering if perhaps they’ll be on tour at the time, but either way, they’re keeping good company to be sure. If you’re the type to celebrate the Stoner New Year or just the type to celebrate riffs, seems to me there are far worse ways to spend your Saturday. They’ve got a food truck and everything.

Tickets are on sale now. Here’s the info:

grim reefer fest 2020 poster

Are you ready to get grim? Because we sure are! Join us for the 4th annual Grim Reefer Fest on 4.18.20 at Rituals (The new and improved former Windup Space location) in Baltimore, MD!

A full day of incredible live music, a food truck, and heavy riffs to keep you in the right head space!

Here’s the full 2020 lineup!

Destroyer of Light (ATX) – Heavy crushing doom with the heart of rock from Austin, Texas here to obliterate your minds

Hyborian (KC) – Hard-Hitting heavy and stunning riffs from Kansas City to melt your faces

Asthma Castle – Heavy stoner sludge from the depths of Baltimore

Haze Mage – A blend of stoner, doom, and classic heavy metal with epic vocals

HIGH REEPER (PHI) – Heavy pounding rhythms, thick guitars, and soaring screeching vocals

Cavern – Heavy prog rock from Western MD

Green Meteor (PHI) – Psychedelic sonic warriors from outer space

Alms – Classic 70’s style hard-rocking heavy metal with entrancing harmonized vocals

Tombtoker – Dirty and heavy doom forged with the soul of punk

Compression – Recently reforged, a unique blend of thrash, metal, hardcore, and everything inbetween.

Tickets are $25 in Advance and $30 the day of the event!
Get yours at www.grimreeferfest.com!

Logo and Poster by Ghostbat

https://www.facebook.com/events/1016565088689615/
https://www.facebook.com/GrimReeferFest/
https://www.instagram.com/GrimReeferFest/
http://www.grimreeferfest.com/

Destroyer of Light, Mors Aeterna (2019)

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New England Stoner and Doom Fest 3 Adds High Reeper, Heavy Temple, Barishi & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Connecticut’s New England Stoner & Doom Fest 3 continues to take shape ahead of next May 15-17 in Jewett City at Altone’s Music Hall. The third lineup announcement brings locals, travelers, touring bands and a bit of sonic diversity, so pretty much whatever you could ask. High Reeper and Heavy Temple — hey, that’d be a cool tour, wouldn’t it? — join the ranks of Orodruin and Worshipper and others making the trip from various distances, along with Vermont’s Barishi, Grey Skies Fallen from NY, whose new record will be out by then, and CT’s own Afghan Haze. I’ve been privy to a few other potential additions to come to New England Stoner & Doom Fest 2020 and there are a few more doozies in the works, so sit tight, but already we can start to see the shape of the fest as we’re just more than halfway through the announcements.

Tickets are on sale Jan. 3, which seems as good a time as any.

Here’s word from the fest:

new-england-stoner-and-doom-fest-3-new-poster

The New England Stoner and Doom Fest 3 is coming May 15-17, 2020 at Altone’s Music Hall in Jewett City, CT and is promising to bring you the best concert going experience it possibly can. You will experience many of the best bands the underground stoner/doom metal scene has to offer on 2 stages over 3 days with no overlap. You will be hit with a non stop sonic assault on the senses with the opportunity to see every band featured. Weekend passes go on sale Jan 3, 2020 at newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com.

Moving on with our 3rd roster announcement, we would like to welcome the following bands:

High Reeper

Formed in 2016, High Reeper is made up of Zach Thomas, Justin Di Pinto, Andrew Price, Pat Daly and Shane Trimble. Originally started as just a studio band, it rapidly became apparent that these songs were meant to be heard live and loud. The band made their debut in the Philly/DE stoner rock scene in early 2017 with success which was followed up by the recording of their self-titled debut in May. With a sound deeply rooted in modern stoner rock while still giving a nod to the earliest Sabbath records, High Reeper’s self titled debut is driven by pounding rhythms, thick guitars and soaring, screeching vocals. For their second record, the addition of Di Pinto on drums helped focus their sound in an even more powerful direction. The result is a new record with riffs that are even heavier than before that explore new directions, including the ballad “Apocalypse Hymn”. After a successful 2018 European tour that included Desertfest Berlin, High Reeper Will once again tour Europe in 2019 visiting ten countries as well as an appearance at Desertfest London.

Heavy Temple

Heavy Temple is a trio of doom metal deviants determined to take you on a wild stoner rock expedition. Having made waves first in their hometown of Philadelphia and then throughout the global heavy rock scene after tours with Corrosion of Conformity, Ruby the Hatchet, Mothership, and Ecstatic Vision, this is a band who are ready to break on through to the other side. Veterans of countless festivals, including Psycho Las Vegas, Muddy Roots Music Festival, Days of Darkness and Decibel Metal & Beer Fest, Heavy Temple are here to drown you with dark riffs, heavy vibes and a rip roaring good time.

Barishi

In a scene that has become largely repetitive, nostalgia driven, and prone to navel gazing, few bands stand out as breaking new ground. With their sophomore full-length ‘Blood from the Lion’s Mouth’, BARISHI demonstrate that it is still possible to challenge the established formulas of the metal genre by recombining its musical DNA. There is an undeniable progressive undertone in their modern approach to hard guitar based music, but at the same time, the Americans delve into the darker side of extreme sound that defies the happy fret-fingering all too often employed by their peers.

BARISHI were formed by guitarist Graham Brooks, bassist Jon Kelley, and drummer Dylan Blake in Southern Vermont in the spring of 2010. The US band originally performed as an instrumental trio throughout the east coast of the United States, which they relentlessly toured. Their unique style of gritty progressive metal was completed with the addition of vocalist Sascha Simms in 2012. They have shared the stage with everyone from Mastodon to The Flaming Lips. In 2016 the quartet completed a U.S. tour with Weedeater, Author & Punisher and Today is the Day. They are set to release their much anticipated label debut ‘Blood from the Lion’s Mouth’ September 16th, 2016 on the esteemed Season of Mist record label. BARISHI provide the listener with earth-shattering grooves and savage vocals born in the verdant mountains of Vermont. Prepare to be pounded on and thunderstruck with ecstatic metal from the ancient hills of New England.

Grey Skies Fallen (NY)

Grey Skies Fallen are seasoned veterans of the doom scene delivering melodic epic doom, their latest full length is out now and was mixed by the legendary Dan Swano.

Afghan Haze (CT)

CT has some great new bands that have hit the ground running recently and Afghan Haze is one of them, releasing their debut EP “Burnt Offering” and looking to release much more in 2020, they have pummeled every stage they have played with their brand of Evil Louder than Hell Psychedelic Doom.

We’d also like to announce our Prefest party on May 14th at 33 Golden in New London, CT for the 3rd straight year. New London is just minutes away from the main fest.

The first band to be announced is:

Dust Prophet (NH)

Hailing from Manchester, New Hampshire, Dust Prophet came together in 2018 as the project of longtime friends and musical collaborators Sarah Wappler (bass) and Otto Kinzel (guitar). Soon joined by fellow scene veterans Heather Lynn (vocals) and Marc Brennan (drums), the band shifted into high gear writing music. They released their apocalyptic debut single The Big Lie in October 2018, putting them on the map with critics and listeners in the underground music scene. Recorded by Kinzel at his home studio, with post-production done by Massachusetts studios Amps vs. Ohms and New Alliance East. Dust Prophet is on the fast track to notoriety… if the world doesn’t end first. Look out for Dust Prophet performing across New England this year. In 2020 Dust Prophet will be also performing at the Maryland Doom Festival, (June 18th-21st) in Frederick, MD.

http://www.Newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/NewEnglandStonerAndDoomFest/
https://www.facebook.com/events/467948910731582/

Heavy Temple, Live at Kung Fu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA, Sept. 21, 2019

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest California Lineups Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

heavy psych sounds logo

With a poster that would seem to honor the Frank Kozik heavy rock works of yore — and by “yore,” I mean about 20-25 years ago — Heavy Psych Sounds Fest will return to California for the second time in 2020, bringing the mightiest Golden State trio Earthless as headliners for stops in San Francisco and Los Angeles, while none other than desert ultra-pioneers Yawning Man will headline a second night in SF with a totally different lineup at a totally different venue. So it works out to be two nights in San Fran, one night in L.A., and the first San Fran show and the L.A. show are the same four bands — Earthless, DanavaHigh Reeper and Crypt Trip. Meanwhile, as that bill heads south along the coast to L.A., moving into SF is the five-pack of Yawning ManBrant Bjork — who’ll do a solo acoustic show! — Hot LunchTurn Me on Dead Man and recent Heavy Psych Sounds label signees Disastroid.

Not frickin’ shabby, as the kids might (not) say.

You had to know Heavy Psych Sounds Fest would be back in Cali in 2020 after the successful West Coast stint earlier this year, so now where know where and when and with whom it’s happening. Ticket presales are on as of today, so do it up.

Here’s the info:

heavy psych sounds fest california 2020 poster

Earthless, Brant Bjork, Yawning Man and More to Team Up for Heavy Psych Sounds U.S. Festival Dates

Influential Italian Rock ‘N’ Roll Record Label Continues to Expand Its Sphere into North America; Spring 2020 Showcases in Los Angeles and San Francisco Announced

Respected underground rock record label Heavy Psych Sounds is proud to announce details of its 2020 U.S. ‘Heavy Psych Sounds Fest’ live events. Set for March 27 in San Francisco and March 28 in both San Francisco and Los Angeles, the special shows will spotlight an exclusive selection of Heavy Psych Sounds’ blue-chip roster, including live sets from acts such as ex-Kyuss musician Brant Bjork, Yawning Man, High Reeper and Crypt Trip, as well as special guests Earthless, Danava 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 is no exception, spotlighting the ever-growing label’s dedication to its craft. Earlier this year, the label launched the U.S. festival series with shows in Austin, Dallas, LA and San Francisco; the events met to shining acclaim.

“We are so delighted to announce the second edition of the Heavy Psych Sounds Fests set for this coming spring in California,” says Heavy Psych Sounds label owner Gabriele Fiore. “We are excited to get so many cool bands on board as these line-ups look incredibly rad. Heavy Psych Sounds Records is so proud to have a growing roster of both trendsetting and up-and-coming U.S. based bands and these special shows will prove exactly why.”

HPS FEST CALIFORNIA

Friday 27 March
San Francisco – Rickshaw Stop
EARTHLESS
DANAVA
HIGH REEPER
CRYPT TRIP

TICKETS PRESALE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/83735662621

Saturday 28 March
San Francisco – Bottom of the Hill
YAWNING MAN
BRANT BJORK solo acoustic show
HOT LUNCH
TURN ME ON DEAD MAN
DISASTROID

TICKETS PRESALE: http://www.bottomofthehill.com/stubmatic/event20200328.html

Saturday 28 March
Los Angeles – The House of Machines
EARTHLESS
DANANVA
HIGH REEPER
CRYPT TRIP
THE FREEKS

TICKETS PRESALE: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/heavy-psych-sounds-fest-california-at-the-house-of-machines-tickets-84274821259

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

Yawning Man, Macedonian Lines (2019)

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High Reeper & Crypt Trip Announce Fall European Tour Dates

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

high reeper (Photo Drew Wiedemann)

crypt trip

Crypt Trip and High Reeper both toured Europe this past Spring, the former in March/April and the latter in April/May. Crypt Trip played RoadburnHigh Reeper played Desertfest in London. The way I see the dates, the US-based Heavy Psych Sounds labelmates missed each other by all of five days in terms of intercontinental travel, and as apparently both acts left some unfinished business abroad, it seems only reasonable they’d head back over in good company. They’ll both take part in their label’s festival in Rome, Italy, and Innsbruck, Austria, as well as Desertfest Belgium and a host of other sweet-looking gigs, and because the astounding coincidences keep piling up, they both go supporting killer 2019 releases, as High Reeper‘s Higher Reeper (review here) and Crypt Trip‘s Haze County (review here) both came out this Spring. Go figure.

Still some dates TBA in the UK (that’s the new “Anarchy in the UK,” btw) here, so keep an eye out, but here’s what’s been announced:

high reeper crypt trip tour

*** HIGH REEPER & CRYPT TRIP European Fall Tour 2019 ***

We are so happy to present a very special combo tour. Our beloved HIGH REEPER and Crypt Trip will smash Europe together this Fall playing in Italy, Slovenia, Germany, Belgium, France, Spain, Portugal, Switzerland, Austria and UK. A lot of single shows but also great festivals such as Desertfest Belgium, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest // Roma and Heavy Psych Sounds Fest IBK | Conan, Black Rainbows, more !!!

HIGH REEPER & CRYPT TRIP EU Fall Tour 2019

11.10.2019 IT Pescara-Scumm
12.10.2019 IT Roma-Traffic, Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
13.10.2019 IT Cecina- Fuzz n Roll, Ritmi
14.10.2019 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando
15.10.2019 IT Trieste-El Covo De Jameson
16.10.2019 SL Ljubljana-Channel Zero
18.10.2019 DE Siegen-Freak Sabbath Vol 5
19.10.2019 DE Oldenburg-MTS Record Shop
20.10.2019 BE Antwerp-Desertfest Belgium
21.10.2019 FR Lille
22.10.2019 FR Nantes-La Scene Michelet
23.10.2019 FR Toulouse-Usine a Musique
24.10.2019 SP Bilbao-Satelite T
25.10.2019 SP Aviles-Factoria Cultural
26.10.2019 SP Madrid-Wurlitzer Ballroom
27.10.2019 PT Porto-Barracuda
28.10.2019 PT Lisbon-Sabotage Club
30.10.2019 SP Barcelona-Rocksound
31.10.2019 CH Olten-Coq D’or
01.11.2019 AT Innsbruck-PMK Heavy Psych Sounds Fest
02.11.2019 CH Winterthur-Gaswerk
04.11.2019 AT Koln-MTC*
05.11.2019 UK*
06.11.2019 UK*
07.11.2019 UK*
08.11.2019 UK Bristol*
09.11.2019 UK London-Black Heart*

HIGH REEPER ONLY*

HIGH REEPER are:
Zach Tomas – Vocals
Shane Trimble – Bass
Pat Dealy – Guitars
Andrew Price – Guitars
Justin Di Pinto – Drums

CRYPT TRIP are:
Ryan Lee – Vocals, Guitar
Sam Bryant – Bass
Cameron Martin – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/HIGHREEPER/
https://highreeper.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/CryptTrip/
https://crypttrip.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com/

High Reeper, Higher Reeper (2019)

Crypt Trip, Haze Country (2019)

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Rome Set for Oct. 12 with Black Rainbows & More

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

heavy psych sounds logo

Another day, another Heavy Psych Sounds Fest announced. This time it’s in the label’s hometown of Rome, and Black Rainbows will headline a lineup that also features GiöbiaHigh ReeperCrypt Trip and Fvzz Popvli. The fest is set for Oct. 12, which puts it smack in the middle of a busy season in Europe, but with that lineup, they shouldn’t have any trouble getting heads in the room, whatever else might be going on at the time — it’s Keep it Low in Munich, which is plenty far enough away so that the two aren’t competing. Another good bill and another cool show for Heavy Psych Sounds, which already this year has done or announced fests on the US West Coast (a tour), Germany (Berlin and Dresden), and Austria. Shit is busy and logistically complex.

I’ll be honest, I’m having trouble keeping up with it all, but here’s what I think is the latest:

heavy psych sounds fest rome poster

Heavy Psych Sounds Records & Booking and Metamorphosis are really proud to announce the HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST – ROME

– Artwork by Branca Studio –

!!! We are so stoked to announce the very first edition of the HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST in ROME !!!

feat.
BLACK RAINBOWS
GIÖBIA
HIGH REEPER
CRYPT TRIP
FVZZ POPVLI

– SATURDAY 12th OCTOBER – TRAFFIC LIVE CLUB –

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 their Festival- 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, Netherlands, Austria and even the USA: The underground cult label is not only THE adress for all heavy rock record collectors, but has also become an important live and festival institution; with a brisk participation from heavy music fans all over the world.

Now, Heavy Psych Sounds is set to bring the ROCK to Rome with the just-announced special shows taking place this October 12th!

In cooperation with Metamorphosis, the very first HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST in ROME will feature bands like Black Rainbows, GiÖbia, High Reeper, Crypt Trip and Fvzz Popvli !!!

TICKETS PRESALE (active soon)
www.heavypsychsounds.com

official Facebook event here:
https://www.facebook.com/events/624855984662136/

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

Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium (2018)

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Desertfest Belgium 2019: Eyehategod, Bongripper, Nebula, High Reeper, Fireball Ministry and Crypt Trip Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

desertfest belgium 2019 banner

I went back and looked, and on the posters for Desertfest Belgium 2018, every band’s logo appeared. It looked pretty crowded by the time their full lineup was announced, but that’s how it was. This year, it’s the second announcement for 2019, and already they’re showing some names written out in regular, non-logo letters. What does this tell you? Well, it might mean they’re going to add even more bands than last year. It might mean they want to highlight some of the bigger names, like Sleep, Eyehategod, Bongripper, Nebula, and so on. Or it might just be that they got someone new in to do the graphic design and that’s how they wanted to do it. Always possible to be reading too much into anything. Or everything, as it were. Hi. I look at a lot of festival posters. One tends to notice these things.

Anyway, six new bands added to Desertfest Belgium 2019 and nary a clunker to be found in the bunch. Info came down the PR wire:

desertfest belgium 2019 poster

DFBE’19 NEW NAMES! EYEHATEGOD, BONGRIPPER, NEBULA & MORE

We’re back, kickin’ butt and dropping names!

We have a couple of hard-hitting sludge and doom monsters added to our line-up, beginning with the absolute trailblazers of them all: EYEHATEGOD from New Orleans has been at it for over thirty years, and their most recent tour showed them in prime form. We’re excited to welcome them to our Antwerp Fest for the first time! Hailing from Chicago, BONGRIPPER is not a band of many words but their colossal and thoroughly evil riffage speaks big and loud volumes. And to complete this Unholy Triad, how about the legendary NEBULA who are back in the game with a new album that will be aptly named ‘Holy Shit’, and we have nothing further to add.

But of course, that’s only half the story… if you’re looking for some straight-up no-frills rock with killer hooks and catchy shout-along choruses, FIREBALL MINISTRY is your ticket – classic hard rock done right! And since no Desertfest would be complete without some proper Sabbath worship, we’re delighted to have HIGH REEPER on board, the proto-metal alliance from Reeperville (or so they claim). And finally, the glorious sound of the West Coast will be revived with CRYPT TRIP, sweet grooves and harmonies with just a touch of classic Dead.

Some old, some new, all fresh… we think this is is shaping up to be another DFBE line-up for the books, and we hope you all agree! More to come in 2 weeks time, stay tuned…

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/2260579413999993/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 13

Posted in Radio on April 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

This was a good one. After last episode, which was kind of working on a theme of balancing different kinds of heavy against each other, it felt rewarding to just get down to business and play some tunes without worrying really about some grander statement. Plus, during the voice breaks I got to bitch about having a cold, and you know I loves me some complaining. What other recourse is there for such a condition? DayQuil? Well, okay, yes, but also complaining.

Anyway, it starts with new Valley of the Sun because golly goodness golly golly is that record good, and then there’s some High Reeper, and then Saint Vitus because I’m still so gosh darn proud of having premiered that track that I included it basically as a gloat to myself. It’s mostly new music this time, which is how I like it, but I’ll say that in doing my typical classic-track thing, the intro to Electric Wizard‘s “Funeralopolis” is the best one I’ve ever done. Look out for the Centrum and Sigils tracks — both are marvelous — and though I was basically late to the party on Mammoth Grove‘s Slow Burn, which came out last year, “Gloria” makes an excellent closer to the set, which doesn’t really have a miss in the bunch. Again, it was a good one.

Note the second airing has moved from Tuesday morning to Thursday morning. It’ll be this Thursday at 6AM Eastern, which I’m calling the “Euro airing,” which means it comes with universal healthcare and old buildings, I guess. That’ll be fun, and hopefully the cold will be gone by then, because it certainly isn’t yet.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 03.31.19

Valley of the Sun Means the Same Old Gods*
High Reeper Eternal Leviathan Higher Reeper*
Saint Vitus Bloodshed Saint Vitus*
BREAK
La Grande Armée Normandía La Grande Armée*
Sigils Faceless You Built the Altar, You Lit the Leaves*
Pyramidal Digital Madness Pyramidal*
Spaceslug Ahtmosphere Split with Major Kong, Dopelord & Weedpecker*
BREAK
Electric Wizard Funeralopolis Dopethrone
Abrahma Lost Forever In Time for the Last Rays of Light*
Centrum Stjärnor För Meditation*
The Devil and the Almighty Blues Salt the Earth Tre*
BREAK
Monocluster Leviathan Ocean*
Mammoth Grove Gloria Slow Burn

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Thursday at 6AM. Next show is April 14. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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