The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

How to write great post to read: The Definitive Guide. Skills, objectives and summary samples, and 15 free ready-to-use templates in Microsoft Word. 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 My friend told me this service Have Someone buy nice letter paper and that is why I can pay to Write My Essay for Me UK. Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s Our Dissertation Themes are always ready to assist with any academic assignment, any paper, any essay - we've got you covered. The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, EssayOnTime.com.au: Can I research in writing in Australia? Read further to find the answer and really smart solution to academic problems and 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 http://representationco.com/how-to-respect-friends-essay/. essaycan be your best friend and tutor when talking about 1-hour essay help. If you have 24 hours or less to your deadline, you can count on us. We understand such short period of time is a real challenge even for qualified writers. The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Essay for Sale from UK Experts 5 Undeniable Pros. Before you continue reading on the five pros of click in the UK, you have to get a couple Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of www reserach pepar in economicser - Quality papers at reasonable prices available here will make your studying into delight Fast and trustworthy writings from industry Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it.  Need some professional academic help with your papers? Looking for a reliable source url service with high-quality works? Then EssayUSA will rescue Foghound, who were in the midst of making  Need a proficient speech writer for hire? Get professional Phd Thesis In Industrial Engineering now from one of our competent speech writers! Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features  Academic Essays Done Fast. So, rather you want to ask us: Write papers for me? or Dentreprise Dissertation Economie!? choose our company. 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  Need pay someone to Writing A Cover Letter for me? Find out suitable service to write my assignment in Australia from professionals on GradeScout Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by how to write an acknowledgement for a dissertation Profesional Paper Writings On Education literary analysis essay brave new world college personal Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Order dissertations and have one of the best information system assignment writing services. We have experienced dissertation writers from every field 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 Homework And Practice Workbook Answers Division: Television Work Status: Fulltime Location: Global Edmonton About the Role Its a great time to join a local news powerhouse At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Book 3 of 4) Show on Sale + Show Filters 22 10 2013 Effective academic writing is accessible to readers holt Home Work For Students middle school because 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.

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

Judas Priest Unveil Firepower Preorders; Post “Lightning Strike” Video

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

judas priest Justin Borucki

I’ve said on multiple occasions that I consider classic metal within the purview of capital ‘h’ Heavy, and if you’ve got a problem with me covering Judas Priest, I don’t really know what to tell you. The metal legends are set to release full-length number 18 — 18! — on March 9. It’s up for preorder now, called Firepower, they’re touring like mad to support it in North America and Europe and no doubt beyond, and they’ve got a new video for the track “Lightning Strike” that, if you can deal with flashing lights and that sort of thing, showcases a truly badass song.

Make no mistake, it’s Priest sounding like Priest, but again, if that’s an issue, the issue isn’t with the band.

I’m stoked on this one. Hope you are too. Here’s the latest from the PR wire:

Judas Priest Firepower

JUDAS PRIEST FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS WITH BRAND NEW STUDIO ALBUM – ‘FIREPOWER’

Judas Priest could easily rest on their laurels at this stage of their highly successful and influential career. However, the legendary metal band – singer Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and Richie Faulkner, bassist Ian Hill, and drummer Scott Travis – refuse to do so as evidenced by the arrival of their eighteenth studio album overall – ‘Firepower,’ which can be pre-ordered via the link http://smarturl.it/Firepower.

Set for release on Friday, March 9th, 2018 via Epic Records – the album is comprised of fourteen tracks of pure and highly inspired metal. And to mark the occasion Priest has reunited with producer Tom Allom (the man behind the board for all of the band’s releases from 1979-1988, including such stellar classics as ‘Unleashed in the East,’ ‘British Steel,’ ‘Screaming for Vengeance’ and ‘Defenders of the Faith’) and with Grammy Award-winning producer Andy Sneap also helping to raise the sonic bar even higher.

“Tom Allom has got this classic metal thing,” explains Halford. “And Andy is a bit more of a ‘modern metal producer’ but his thinking is a little bit different to Tom’s. And I think to get this balance between that classic old school metal to what Andy’s world is was just a remarkable coalescence.” “Tom Allom has been with us since 1979, so his knowledge of ourselves and our music in general is immense,” adds Hill. And according to Travis Priest returned back to a recording method that worked incredibly well on the band’s earlier classics – “We went back to the organic way of recording where it’s all of us in a room and we got to play together.”

The album’s first single, ‘Lightning Strike’ will be available worldwide on Friday, January 5, 2018, and on the same day the song’s music video will be premiered. Full album pre-order and a PledgeMusic pre-order (https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/judas-priest) will also begin the same day which includes exclusive limited autographed colored vinyl, autographed vinyl test pressings, an exclusive Judas Priest t-shirt and an extremely limited number of Judas Priest autographed guitars.

With the impending arrival of ‘Firepower’ and its ensuing tour (which kicks off on March 13th), THE PRIEST IS BACK!

‘FIREPOWER’ TRACKLISTING:
1. Firepower
2. Lightning Strike
3. Evil Never Dies
4. Never The Heroes
5. Necromancer
6. Children of the Sun
7. Guardians
8. Rising From Ruins
9. Flame Thrower
10. Spectre
11. Traitors Gate
12. No Surrender
13. Lone Wolf
14. Sea of Red

Firepower 2018 North American Tour Dates
March 13 Wilkes Barre, PA Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza
March 15 Youngstown, OH Covelli Centre
March 17 Uniondale, NY Nassau Coliseum
March 18 Washington, D.C. The Anthem
March 20 Newark, NNJ Prudential Center
March 22 Uncasville, CT Mohegan Sun Arena
March 23 Worcester, MA The Palladium
March 25 Ottawa, ON The Arena at TD Place
March 27 London, ON Budweiser Gardens
March 28 Oshawa, ON Tribute Communities Centre
March 30 Orillia, ON Casino Rama
March 31 Detroit, MI Detroit Masonic Temple
April 03 Milwaukee, WI Riverside Theater
April 05 Green Bay, WI Resch Center
April 08 Bloomington, IL Grossinger Motors Arena
April 10 Casper, WY Casper Events Center
April 11 Loveland, CO Budweiser Events Center
April 15 Kent, WA ShoWare Center
April 17 Portland, OR. Veterans Memorial Coliseum
April 19 San Francisco, CA The Warfield
April 22 Los Angeles, CA Microsoft Theater
April 24 Phoenix, AZ Comerica Theatre
April 26 Tulsa, OK BOK Center
April 28 Dallas, TX The Bomb Factory
April 29 Sugarland, TX Smart Financial Centre
May 01 San Antonio, TX Freeman Coliseum

http://www.facebook.com/OfficialJudasPriest
https://twitter.com/judaspriest
http://www.instagram.com/judaspriest
https://www.pledgemusic.com/projects/judas-priest
judaspriest.com
www.epicrecords.com/

Judas Priest, “Lightning Strike” official video

Tags: , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Judas Priest, Sad Wings of Destiny

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Judas Priest, Sad Wings of Destiny (1976)

I’m reasonably certain that in the 41 years since its release enough has been said about Judas Priest‘s Sad Wings of Destiny — positive, negative and in between — to make anything I have to offer on the subject entirely redundant. Still, looking at the Birmingham outfit’s ultra-classic 1976 second album, its status as a landmark only seems to further emphasize how much classic metal is rightly stewarded by modern heavy rock. I had much the same feeling last time I saw Priest live in 2011 (review here), but it comes through even more on the studio recordings of songs like “The Ripper,” “Deceiver,” “Tyrant” and “Island of Domination” just how closely linked to heavy ’70s the roots of metal actually are. It wasn’t a change that happened overnight. Neither Black Sabbath, nor Deep Purple, nor Led Zeppelin, nor Priest or anyone else flipped a switch and said, “now metal exists,” but as they flew in the face of popular culture on any number of levels and reacted to the rise of arena rock and punk (and one could argue as well punk was a reaction to the grandiosity of arena rock and glam), metal gradually solidified from the molten heavy rock that preceded and Sad Wings of Destiny‘s nine-track/39-minute stretch captures an essential step in that process. Decades later, it’s easy to put a bow on an insular narrative and call it history, but there can be no question that the accomplishments of Judas Priest — comprised then of vocalist Rob Halford, guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Alan Moore — in this era were imperative in setting the stage for what heavy metal became in their wake, in the NWOBHM, the US and German thrash movements, and beyond.

Priest made their debut with 1974’s Rocka Rolla, an often — and, I’ll gladly argue, wrongly — maligned collection of heavy rock tunes indicative of the era in which they were released. Maybe a year or two too late to be really innovative, there was nonetheless a tightness in their execution that foreshadowed the drive that would emerge in the band’s sound on subsequent outings. Though it leans decisively harder in its impact, Sad Wings of Destiny still holds to many of these rocker elements. Extended opener “Victim of Changes,” the sharply-produced balladry of “Dreamer Deceiver” and side B’s piano-led, semi-Queen-derived “Epitaph” might pull back on the throttle as opposed to the soaring tension of “The Ripper,” which serves as a formative moment for Priest‘s core approach to songwriting, but there’s still rock to be found at their foundation. Likewise, “Genocide” leads with its riff and an almost deceptive amount of rhythmic swing giv en its ultimately forward heading, and while Halford‘s trademark growls and screech put “Deceiver” squarely in headbang territory, if one listens to the guitars and bassline backing him, it’s a classic-rocking shuffle if ever there was one.

This is barely an insight, but it’s worth pointing out in terms of finding the moment and moments when heavy metal grew out of the harder end of rock and roll and became its own genre. Is that “The Ripper?” Or even “Victim of Changes” at the outset? It’s hard to know — and even harder when one steps back and looks at the overall context of what was happening in the UK and elsewhere musically at the time — to say, “Yes, this is when it happened,” but if one wanted to hold Sad Wings of Destiny forward as a case for how it happened, the album makes a strong argument for itself as pivotal in that movement from one side of the line to the other. Because ultimately it’s both and neither. All the more, then, does it seem to be the domain of modern heavy rock and doom, which largely eschew the aggression of metal — though there’s plenty of dudely chest-thumping, depending on the style of a given act, and plenty of that in Priest as well; underground rock’s perpetual reaffirmation of insecure masculinity is a subject for a different time — in favor of a style of groove that seems to play directly off the same influences as Sad Wings of Destiny-era Priest. Taking the heavy rock that came before and trying to make something new from it. What’s that if it’s not a genre-based approach?

Any band with the stature of Judas Priest is going to foster divided opinions: Lovers, haters, fans, the indifferent, etc. What’s undeniable is the multifaceted nature of their influence, and as the metal of our age has become a showcase for self-indulgent mathematicians and splintered along an ever-increasing swath of border-fenced subgenres, it seems all the more the task of doom and underground heavy in general to embrace the classicism of records like Sad Wings of Destiny and their continued relevance to the shaping of modern aesthetic. It may be one of many, but it’s a touchstone nonetheless, and time has only added to its fortification as such.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Some ups and downs this week, I guess, but on the whole I suppose I’m less inclined to complain than I might otherwise be. I got to see my son’s face in a 3D ultrasound and he looked pissed about not being born yet, so I take that as an encouraging sign of The Pecan being imbued from the start with a strong personality. My hope at this point is he has inherited his mother’s capacity for sleep. Really, anything he could get off her in terms of inheriting traits would be a boon. It’s those fatherly learned behaviors — “this is how you make an ass out of yourself in a social situation, boy; pay attention” — he might want to avoid.

But anyway, that was good. My laptop kind of sort of shit the bed. Less good. The fancy blender I had to make protein shakes also shit the bed. Less good. My plan for today and the early part of the weekend likewise. Some you win, some you lose, as Orange Goblin tells us. Big picture shit — positive. Little annoyances that cost money — negative.

I have some work to do on a project the Borracho guys are putting together this weekend, so I expect that will take a decent portion of my time, but should be an interesting if time-consuming venture. I got to interview all three of them together and it was great to hear how they interacted with each other in that we’re-really-close-so-we-only-need-to-speak-in-half-sentences-to-get-our-point-across kind of way. That sort of conversationalism and musical chemistry go hand-in-hand in my opinion. Each is a symptom of the other and I think you can hear that in how tight they’ve become over their three albums.

Digression. Sorry. The Patient Mrs., the impending Pecan, the Little Dog Dio and I — the whole fam — came down to hazy Connecticut yesterday to take care of some administrative stuff, donating an old car to National Public Radio, etc., and we’re heading back north this morning. Meh. I don’t know about hers or the dog’s, but my tail is tucked thoroughly between my legs. I got a grilled salmon caesar salad from the diner down the way for dinner last night though (they deliver; it took longer than usual, but still, they deliver) and that was glorious.

I had a whole other paragraph here about dinner preparations, cooking, and so on, but I guess the bottom line is I’m still enjoying being unemployed. Money has indeed gotten tighter the last couple weeks — we’re already charging things like gas and groceries — but we’ll make it through. Baby preparations continue. I did a very large amount of very tiny laundry earlier this week that will need folding this weekend, and we’ve moved some furniture to allow for a nursery and we’ve begun hoarding baby wipes from Costco, so there you go. October will be here soon, but progress takes many forms.

Speaking of — next week is crammed as ever. Here are my notes as they stand; subject to change as always:

Mon.: Radio Adds (delayed from this week), plus a slew of news I’m already behind on.
Tue.: Review/lyric video premiere for the Eternal Black record, which I think a lot of people will dig once they hear it.
Wed.: Review/track premiere for the new Papir; Six Dumb Questions with Beastmaker.
Thu.: Review/track premiere for the new Howling Giant.
Fri.: Review of the new Zone Six live album.

If you’ve emailed me and not heard back this past week, it’s because (1:) I suck and (2:) my busted laptop has my Outlook account on it and I don’t have access to webmail outside of that. Just my phone, which is a pain in the ass and, frankly, no way for humans to communicate with each other save for the most urgent of circumstances. I’ll do my best to get back to as many people as possible, but in the meantime, hit me up on Thee Facebooks if you haven’t yet. Keep in mind though I’m behind on messages there as well. As noted, I suck.

But hey, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m gonna head back up to Massachusetts in a little bit, dig last night’s baseball game this afternoon and try and have a couple quiet hours leading into a couple solid days of chores and varying degrees of whatnottery. Enjoy the Priest above and please check out the Forum and the Radio stream and we’ll be back here on Monday for more good times.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , ,

Saturday Full-Length: Judas Priest, Stained Class

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 27th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Judas Priest, Stained Class (1978)

The Judas Priest catalog has a few classics in it, or I guess they wouldn’t be Judas Priest, and while they’ve joined the ranks of those metal bands who seem to retire as often as not, there’s little arguing one can do with their early years — they’re the raw building blocks on which heavy metal would be constructed. And as much as Black Sabbath gets credit for inventing the sound, listening to a record like 1978’s Stained Class, there’s little doubt Priest played a major role in shaping the style and visual aesthetic of the genre.

Stained Class is the fourth Judas Priest album, following 1977’s Sin after Sin, 1976’s Sad Wings of Destiny and their 1974 debut, Rocka Rolla, which gets slagged a lot for not being as “metal” as what followed, but offers plenty for fans of heavy ’70s rock. Songs like “Better by You, Better than Me” (a cover of Spooky Tooth), “Exciter,” “Invader,” the ultra-badass “Saints in Hell” and “Beyond the Realms of Death” are monuments of the soon to rise New Wave of British Heavy Metal, arriving two years before Iron Maiden released their first album and roughly concurrent to Motörhead‘s 1977 self-titled debut. Sabbath at this point were falling apart, releasing Never Say Die in ’78 before the big split with Ozzy, and while early metal seemed to be floundering all around them, Judas Priest would emerge to lead the style into the ’80s, to what many still regard as its peak era.

Not a bad legacy to wind up with. Of course, the mob went wild when Priest issued British Steel in 1980 (1978’s Killing Machine appeared between Stained Class and that album), and that helped propel the Birmingham five-piece to their iconic status, but a couple years earlier, when Stained Class hit, it did so with more of a workman feel. Comprised at that point of guitarists Glenn Tipton and K.K. Downing, vocalist Rob Halford, bassist Ian Hill and drummer Les Binks, they were a band who knew what they were going for and who knew who they were even as pop consciousness shifted toward the rawer and less superficially pretentious punk of the day. I won’t take anything away from that either — if you ever hear me badmouth the Ramones, please alert the authorities that I’ve been kidnapped and replaced by a cyborg with shitty taste — but I think time has proved Judas Priest were right in sticking to their guns.

This is the last week-ending full-length of 2014, so I hope you enjoy.

Why Saturday and not Friday as usual? Well, The Patient Mrs. and I got home a little bit after midnight from about 72 hours straight of Xmas family time. It was delightful, and draining. A final two-hour trip north from Connecticut and by the time we got in, we didn’t even have energy enough to bring in presents from the car. It’ll happen today. Of course, not closing out the week before I went to bed wound up being the wrong choice since I was up until two and then up again from about 5:30 to 8 this morning — something just didn’t feel right — so I got mine in the end for veering from the routine even in this small way. Take that, me.

If you celebrated, I hope you had a good ol’ time. This week coming up is New Year’s, so things get even crazier. The Patient Mrs. and I will head back down to New Jersey in the middle of the week (Tuesday night, I believe) for more festivities and wahthaveyou, but I’ve also decided to close out 2014 with a bang around here. I’ve got stacks of CDs on my desk that have come in for review and it’s time to get them gone, so what I’ve decided to do is a series I’m going to call “Last Licks.” It’ll be 10 reviews per post (obviously each writeup will be relatively brief), Monday to Friday this coming week, rounding up stuff I want to get in before the year ends, and that’ll be that for 2014. Yeah, I know it’ll be 2015 by next Friday, but just roll with me on it. It’ll be good.

So that’s 50 reviews next week. Keep an eye out. Ha.

I also have some news to catch up on, so I’ll work that in where and when I’m able, and we’ll have the results of the Readers Poll — did you get your list in? — hopefully on the first, but maybe the second if Slevin is busy or tells me to screw off, which he’d be well within his rights to do. It’s been a close race the whole month and has been exciting to watch, and I’m thankful to everyone that’s taken part so far.

Thanks also to everyone who shared the lists that went up this week and the podcast as well. I know it wasn’t much for quantity of posts the last couple days, but I hope the quality made up for some of that.

Alright, I’m going to get more coffee and spend the remainder of this lovely day sitting on my ass. Enjoy the holiday weekend. Be safe, have fun, and we’ll see you back here Monday to close out 2014 in style.

Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , ,

Spine of Overkill, by Woody High

Posted in Columns on October 13th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Woody is right. It’s been a minute since the last time there was a Spine of Overkill column featured here, but truth be told, his stint has lasted much longer than any of the other contributors in that little experiment, and since his stories are so cool, I’m happy to post them whenever he wants to send them over. Once every six months? Fine. Not like I’m working on a schedule. I’ll take what I can get.

This time around, the Mighty High guitarist/vocalist brings us a quality tale of seeing Iron Maiden and Judas Priest together at Madison Square Garden in 1982. Enjoy:

Jeez, it’s been six months since the last time I did anything for the Obelisk? Sorry H.P. You deserve better than that so I’m coming back with a big one. I could have sworn that I already wrote about the Judas Priest/Iron Maiden U.S. tour of 1982 but I did not. Thanks for your patience and to the dude on Twitter who reminded me of my metal duty to the Obelisk.

I’ve been a full blown Priest fanatic ever since hearing a live radio broadcast on WLIR from the British Steel tour. (I Rippled about that monumental day here). Next to Motörhead, Judas Priest was THE band for me. Every time I went to the record store I would discover yet another great album from them. The string of records they pumped out in the ’70s and early ’80s is fuckin’ impressive — Hell Bent for Leather, Sin After Sin, British Steel, Sad Wings of Destiny and so on. Not to mention the monumental live powerhouse of Unleashed in the East. Come on! It doesn’t get any better. 1981’s Point of Entry was a pretty big disappointment. “Heading out to the Highway,” “Solar Angels,” and “Desert Plains” kicked ass but crap like “You Say Yes” and “Troubleshooter” was totally bogus. When they played the Pier on the west side of Manhattan that tour I didn’t bother to go see them.

Then in July of ’82 Judas Priest released Screaming for Vengeance. I could tell by the album cover that it was going to be a lot better than Point of Entry and the opening priest and maiden-1400double barreled assault of “The Hellion/Electric Eye” confirmed that. The title-track, “Riding on the Wind,” “Devil’s Child,” “Bloodstone” and, of course, “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin'” were added to the list of my mother’s least favorite songs to hear thudding through my bedroom door. I usually skipped over “Fever” and “Take These Chains.”

Earlier in ’82 Iron Maiden released their third album, Number of the Beast. The first two Maiden albums were flat out incredible and this was the first one with new singer Bruce Dickinson. While I preferred the raw vocal stylings of Paul Di’Anno I had no problem rocking out to the new album. Hearing songs like “Number of the Beast,” “The Prisoner,” “Hallowed Be Thy Name,” and “Run to the Hills” for the very first time was special. It was obvious Maiden were influenced by Priest but they had a Deep Purple/Rainbow/UFO angle that made them totally unique.

Priest started getting some pretty heavy radio airplay with “You Got Another Thing Comin’.” One day at the end of the summer I hear a radio ad that Judas Priest was coming to NYC to play Madison Square Garden. Who’s opening? Iron Maiden. Holy shit. My heart was pounding. It seemed to good to be true — the two best metal bands on the same bill and it was happening on a Saturday night, Oct. 2. A couple days later I’m at work. The plan was to hop on the MetroNorth train into Manhattan as soon as I got paid at the end of the day. My friend Gavin (R.I.P.) from school was working with me that day and he decided to come along with me. He asked me who I was going to the show with and I said I didn’t know. Then he came up with the idea that he would go to the Priest show if I went to see Santana with him, also at the Garden. Alright, what the hell. I always liked the first few Santana albums even if I wasn’t into their current album Zebop, featuring the big hit “Winning.” We hit the city, scored our tickets and most likely bought lousy pot in Bryant Park.

That Santana show turned out to be really cool. The crowd was full of rowdy Mexican low riders and ’60s burnouts. Just about everyone had a massive afro and a thick mustache (even some of the ladies). I will never forget the enormous cloud of pot smoke hovering over the crowd at the top of the arena. Still the biggest cloud I’ve ever seen. Carlos and his band boogie’d hard with plenty of percussion discussions amongst the drummers. As good as it was, I knew Priest would be even better.

Saturday October 2nd finally rolled around and I was fuckin psyched. I’d played the hell out of my Maiden and Priest albums all Zeptember but didn’t listen to any of them all day Friday and Saturday. That remains a rule for me – never listen to the band you’re going to see on the day of the show. It’s bad luck. For some reason Gavin decided to bring along a girl named Pam to the show. Nice girl but not metal at all. Neither was Gavin. He was into Neil Young (UGH) and the Grateful Dead (BLECH). Suddenly I realized this wasn’t such a great arrangement after all. I didn’t want to be the third wheel on their stupid date! At least they brought some weeeeeeeeed and shared it with me. The train was full of wasted teenagers screaming out band names and song titles. One guy kept yelling “lick my butt!” I thought it was hilarious but my companions thought it was atrocious behavior.

I got my usual Fosters oil can when we hit Grand Central for the walk over to the Garden. The streets were clogged with metal heads and peddlers selling nickel bags, mesc and bootleg shirts. I bought a killer black jersey with red sleeves. On the front was the cover of Screaming for Vengeance and the back had Number of the Beast. Later when I unrolled mine I discovered that it said “IRON MAID” on the back and “EN” was silkscreened on the elbow. It must have been folded under when they made it. Fuck it, I didn’t care. It was still mint as hell.

Finally the lights went down and Iron Maiden hit the stage. Ourpriest ticket seats were pretty crappy — up high and off to the side but I could care less because the sound was loud as hell. Maiden opened up with “Murders in the Rue Morgue” and everyone went nuts. Everyone except for the two people I came with. They sat their holding hands and trying to talk. I ignored them and just rocked out. “Wrathchild,” “Run to the Hills” and a few more from the new album were blasted out. Then Eddie himself came out during the song “Iron Maiden.” I had seen lots of pictures of him onstage in Kerrang magazine but had no idea he’d make an appearance. So cool. They finished up the set with a big singalong on “Drifter.”

The crowd was so fired up on metal and you could hear a lot of headbangers say that Priest might not be able to top that. Soon enough the lights went down and the opening notes of “The Hellion” blasted the Garden. The stage set up was massive. Two levels with the drummer upstairs and the rest of the band downstairs. All you could see was stack upon stack of Marshall amps. Since my seats were on the side I could see Halford crouching down behind the amps on the upper level ready to make his entrance. “Up here in space I’m looking down on you” he sang as he rounded the corner. Dressed completely in black leather he had the cover to Screaming for Vengeance painted on the back of his vest. Impressive.

Priest’s set was flawless. “Riding on the Wind,” “Heading out to the Highway,” “Metal Gods,” “Sinner,” “The Ripper,” and so on. The regular set finished with an absolutely stunning “Victim of Changes.” “Livin’ After Midnight” was the first encore and they left the houselights on so everyone could see how hard the crowd was fist pumping and singing along. The pot cloud hovering above was not as big as the one at Santana but still impressive. “Green Manalishi” was up next and, finally, the Harley revved up and hit the stage for “Hell Bent for Leather.” Fucking unreal.

Over the years I’ve discovered that some of my friends were at the show before we knew each other. My friend Vinny came to the show from Queens. He said there was a girl behind him who screamed “K.K. I wanna have your baby” all night. Another friend Eric was there and enjoyed lighting banners on fire with his crew of derelicts from Brooklyn.

32 years later, almost to the day, Priest will be playing Brooklyn. Vinny and I will be there. It’s going to be a great night but a far cry from ye olde ‘82. You just don’t get nights like that anymore.

Iron Maiden, “Drifter” Live in 1982

Judas Priest, “Victim of Changes” Live in 1982

Tags: , , ,

Live Review: Judas Priest in New Jersey, 11.18.11

Posted in Reviews on November 21st, 2011 by JJ Koczan

It had been at least a half-decade since I was last at the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford for a show — long enough for the name of the arena to have changed from Continental Airlines Arena to the Izod Center — but beyond that and the price of parking ($25!), not much was different. The inside was still the same dismal beige, the setup roughly the same, the predominant smell in the corridors still sauerkraut and beer piss. I felt like I’d never left.

The show — a stop on Judas Priest‘s “Epitaph” alleged retirement tour — boasted openers Thin Lizzy and Black Label Society, but I arrived in time to catch only the final song and a half of the latter. I wasn’t heartbroken, and watching the beard-braided Zakk Wylde tebow and thump his chest like a circus gorilla following the end of “Stillborn,” was even less so. That guy’s come a long way to be a cartoon character, but the place ate it up, and I saw more than a few BLS vests in the crowd, so far be it from me to judge. Even though I just did.

There was a decent amount of changeover time between Black Label and Priest, which, like being surrounded by tens of thousands of people at a show, was something I genuinely wasn’t used to. Thoroughly out of my element and just one day removed from watching Premonition 13 rock the Saint Vitus bar in Brooklyn, I watched as a giant “Epitaph” flag was lowered in front of the stage, which was but the first in an unfolding series of grandiosities. I guess if you’re Judas Priest 40 years into your career and on what you’ve said will be your farewell tour, you go big. So be it.

I was lucky enough to scam a photo pass, and prior to the show starting, a collection of professional photographers and I (very much not a professional photographer) were collected and brought into the photo pit. They were playing metal classics over the P.A., Metallica, AC/DC, and the last song they played before Priest took the stage was Sabbath‘s “War Pigs.” I noticed one of the crew who was in position to catch the giant “Epitaph” flag was singing along and we exchanged a quick chatter about the brilliance of playing Black Sabbath before the start of metal gigs. I said it was like the national anthem before a baseball game.

Priest‘s set was an impressive two hours and 20 minutes. There were breaks in there, and vocalist Rob Halford seemed to make the most out of his various costume changes throughout, but they did an excellent job of keeping the momentum going. We were allowed to shoot for three songs, and I did, catching “Rapid Fire,” “Metal Gods” and “Heading Out to the Highway” up close before being unceremoniously booted back to my floor seat, which was — of course — occupied by the time I got there, leaving me to stand awkwardly at the end of the row and get bumped into for the rest of the set. I could’ve raised a stink, but screw it.

New guitarist Richie Faulkner, who seems as much a replacement for K.K. Downing physically as for guitar playing, was at stage right and seemed to be in charge of entertaining that entire side of the venue, which he did by playing extensively to the crowd — facial and hand gestures, waving, smiling, making faces, posing out, etc. — and of the rest of the band, he and bassist Ian Hill were probably the most into the show, the latter looking well satisfied during both newer songs like “Judas Rising” and “Starbreaker” from 1977’s Sin After Sin album.

Glenn Tipton and Rob Halford were more professionally detached, which is fair, but they still played well and everything was impeccably presented. Where I stood meant I got a lot of Scott Travis‘ kick drum; could feel it in my chest for the duration, and there were times where it was grating, but for the most part, the balance was as dead on as one might expect. Some of my favorite moments of the show, though, were in Halford‘s stage banter between the songs. While Tipton, Hill and Faulkner were changing out their instruments, Halford gave little snippets of perspective on the band’s landmark tenure in metal, including gems like, “In 1971 in Birmingham, there were only two heavy metal bands: Black Sabbath and Judas Priest” (bit of revisionist history there since Priest weren’t really playing metal until the middle of the decade), and an expression of how the growth of metal has led to the splintering into subgenres — he named black, death and nü metals, among others — and that each generation that’s come up has revised what it means to be metal, and that he approved.

He said of Judas Priest, “We are a classic metal band.” This is indisputably true. As much as anyone ever could be, they are. Their influence over what the genre became, particularly in the ’80s is measured in the number of pretenders to their throne who fell by the wayside while they — in one form or another — persisted. I think though it’s high time doom owned classic metal. In terms of groups to whom the work of Judas Priest and is still relevant, I hear much more of it in traditional doom than I do even in power metal, which seems more bent these days on progressive influences and technical showiness.

So “classic metal,” such as it is — Sabbath, Priest, the whole NWOBHM and the acts from around the world who followed — belongs to doom now. No one else is using it anyway, and while I have no idea what entitles me to make such ridiculous proclamations, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one doing it, so screw off. Let the doomers be the keepers of the old. We are anyway.

Though it’s sacrilege to say, “Turbo Lover” was a high point of the set, despite it being one of several choruses Rob Halford elected not to sing or to sing in part, letting the crowd pick up the slack — of course, they were more than happy to do so. Perhaps most egregious in that regard was “Breaking the Law,” which he didn’t sing at all into the microphone, instead just walking around the stage and putting his ear to different sections of the Izod Center, letting the noise come to him. I probably wouldn’t want to be singing that song anymore either, but man, I can sing along to Judas Priest any time I want. I didn’t pay $25 to park my car to do that with however many other people were there. I paid to watch them perform those songs. Minor gripe, but still.

That was toward the end of the set, following “The Green Manalishi (with the Two-Pronged Crown),” “Blood Red Skies” and “Beyond the Realms of Death,” which was one of several standout ballads included. The Joan Baez cover “Diamonds and Rust” was beefed up at the end, and was the finishing piece of a trio that included “Victim of Changes” and “Never Satisfied,” the latter from 1974’s Rocka Rolla. They closed out the regular set though with “Breaking the Law” into “Painkiller,” which set the stage for two encores and seemed to be the end of Halford‘s voice for the night.

And to be fair, if he blew it out there, it’s understandable. “Painkiller” is a tour de force for a metal vocalist, and Halford sounded excellent throughout, but right at the end, in that series of wails, there was one that made me cringe, and sure enough, his voice wasn’t the same afterwards. I don’t know and won’t speculate on whether he was using any kind of backing track or modulation other than the natural compression that comes from a wireless mic, but he sounded right on in his higher screams, and even the mid-range verses had presence and force in the delivery.

Everything was crisp, clean. The lighting was perfect, the fire, the periodic blasts of lasers, the sequined robe Halford donned with a Priest-logo trident for “Prophecy” from the Nostradamus record. It was all tight, flawlessly executed and built for maximum metallacy. Even as the band members were introduced it was, “Glenn Tipton on the heavy metal guitar,” “Richie Faulkner on the heavy metal guitar,” “You’ve been a great heavy metal audience,” and so on. And all around me, husbands and wives, fathers and daughters, fathers and sons, dudes and dudettes, rocking out till the dawn. Or until a little past 11PM, anyway. It was heavy metal utopia.

Two encores, like I said. The first was “Electric Eye” into “Hell Bent for Leather” and “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’.” They brought out the motorcycle for “Hell Bent for Leather” — as if there was any doubt — and Halford draped himself in a sewn together American/British flag before “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” walking around the stage doing a sequence of “Whoa, whoa, whoa, yeah” and “Yeah-yeh-yeah, yeah, yeah” vocalizations that the audience matched note for note. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure they were just vocal warmup exercises (one could see also throughout the set that he was metering his breaths before and after the highs), and if that’s the case, the people answering him back were already plenty warmed up. Still fun.

Faulkner took a surprising solo during “You’ve Got Another Thing Comin’,” and when the band left the stage again, Travis got on a mic and told everyone that if they made enough noise, the guys would come back out and do one more song. Chaos ensued. Heads rolled. Limbs flew like it was Mos Eisley. Glasses shattered, dogs within a 10 mile radius of the Izod Center howled, and finally, Tipton, Halford, Hill and Faulkner retook the stage for the finale of “Living After Midnight.” Another epic sing-along, some extended soloing, and a massive heavy metal finish later, and they were done. I was home by midnight.

I’ve seen Priest before, and if Scorpions‘ farewell tour is anything to go by (three years and running?), I’ll have an opportunity to see them again, but it’s hard not to read something special into catching Judas Priest with even the possibility of it being the last time. Make no mistake, there were parts that were so flat-out silly that I laughed out loud — some of Halford‘s costume changes, the giant Priest trident logos with the motorcycle lights in them, etc. — but if there’s one thing I’ve learned to recognize in this world it’s that just because something is silly that doesn’t mean it’s devoid of meaning or that it can’t also be important to you or, say, 10,000-plus people around you.

Music is as close as I come to religion, and there was a point at which I did a side-to-side sweep of the venue and said to myself, “This is the life I’ve chosen.” I’m not going to say “no regrets,” because I have plenty, but it could’ve been way worse.

Extra pics after the jump. Click any to enlarge.

Read more »

Tags: , , , ,

Buried Treasure Where I-75 Meets I-280

Posted in Buried Treasure on July 25th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Though we drove through Canada to get to Michigan, the plan for the trip back to New Jersey was to make it happen as quickly and as painlessly as possible. That meant jumping on I-75 and meeting up with I-280 in Toledo, Ohio, and from there, picking up I-80 East, which The Patient Mrs. and I would be on for the next however many hours until we could get off 80 literally 10 minutes from home. Toledo to home on one road. Not an exciting drive, by any stretch of the imagination, but easy enough to navigate.

And wouldn’t you know that in Toledo there resides Ramalama Records, from whose logo alone I knew was someplace I wanted to shop? As The Patient Mrs. and I paid for our breakfast at the newly-remolded Original House of Pancakes and the girl behind the counter asked us what we were doing in town, she recommended Culture Clash, another shop that I probably would have wanted to stop at had the wait at said pancakery been the 20-25 minutes we were quoted and not the 45-50 it was. Nonetheless, arrival back in the valley would just have to wait, because Ramalama wouldn’t.

About a minute after I walked in the shop, the dude working there put on YOB‘s The Great Cessation, and I knew that in the whole stretch of Toledo, Ohio — which, like a lot of Midwestern cities, reminded me viscerally of Rt. 46 in Parsippany, NJ — I was in the right place. The store’s used metal section was more than impressive. There weren’t any discs in it, but the fact alone that they had a spot for Trouble was massively encouraging, and the general vibe was that the place was well organized and reasonably priced. A store like that is always a welcome find, even if I don’t end up buying anything.

That, however, would not be the case at Ramalama. I picked up a slew of goodies from the aforementioned used section, up to and including a copy of the self-titled Sod Hauler EP, which was a surprise, since I wouldn’t necessarily expect to find a Seattle local band’s disc at a store more than halfway across the country. Noosebomb‘s Brain Food for the Braindead, released on Shifty Records, from Akron, made more sense. I grabbed both, as well as the Southern Lord reissue of Burning Witch‘s Crippled Lucifer, just for the hell of it.

I made my way through the alphabet in reverse and was surprised to find both Enslaved and Opeth discs. I didn’t buy them, because I didn’t need to, but usually people who purchase those records do so with the intent of keeping them. It was that kind of store; had me thinking at several intervals, “Who gave this up?” The 2000 Koch reissue of Judas Priest‘s Sad Wings of Destiny sounds poorly remastered, but the original issue Screaming for Vengeance is just right. And in light of their being a band I always kind of overlooked and the swirling rumors of a reunion at next year’s Maryland Deathfest, I snatched the Hydra Head reissue of Cavity‘s Supercollider. I own the original, but figured it was a chance to revisit the record, and seriously, how often do you see a used Cavity CD sitting around?

At that point, I could have wrapped it up and let it stand at that, but honestly, after finding that much good shit, I wanted to support the store, and so I picked up new (unused) copies of The Local Fuzz by The Atomic Bitchwax and the 2011 Heavy Rocks by Boris. I probably could have gotten those discs somewhere else, or online, but for a brick and mortar independent store to be featuring both in its “recent releases” section, and to be playing YOB, and to have the Cavity, the Sod Hauler, the Burning Witch — well, at that point, here, please take more of my money. Just keep doing what you’re doing.

I’d brought more than a handful of discs along for the rides to Detroit and back, but I was more than glad for the additions to the playlist. Cavity tested The Patient Mrs.‘ titular virtue, but Boris was most welcome alongside the Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Buffalo and Dio albums that — along with the Cleveland Indians losing to the Chicago White Sox — provided accompaniment for our long ride home.

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,