Kal-El and Bogwife Team for May Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan

It’s a relatively quick run on which Norway’s Kal-El and Denmark’s Bogwife will embark as both make their way around to the Esbjerg Fuzztival on May 14 — and I guess kind of geographically inefficient on the part of Bogwife who will leave Denmark only to wind up back there for the fest. Both acts are signed to Majestic Mountain Records — and Kal-El have already been announced for that label’s first festival to be held in June in Oslo (info here), and I’m kind of assuming Bogwife will join those ranks as well before the fest takes place. Seems only reasonable.

While we’re talking about things they have in common, both bands released strong and well-received albums in 2021. Bogwife‘s A Passage Divine (discussed here) was issued in September, and Kal-El‘s Dark Majesty (review here) was released in August, and as previously been noted, was recently nominated for a Spellmann prize, otherwise known as the Norwegian Grammy. A feather in the cap, in any case.

The tour starts after Kal-El appear at Sonic Whip and runs for eight days with two shows still TBA. If you’re between Rotterdam and Esbjerg and can help out, speak up.

Kal-El announced the dates thusly:

kal-el bogwife tour

As we do two festivals early May, we gang up with labelmates Bogwife for a few dates in between. Its been a bit on and of with the dates due to restrictions, and we have two spare dates up for grabs. Any takers please contact Lasher Agency to get it sorted.

6/5 – Sonic Whip Festival – Nijmegen, NL (Only KAL-EL)
7/5 – la Zone – Liege, BE
8/5 – Cafe Central – Brussels, BE
10/5 – Bastard Club – Osnabrück, GE
11/5 – Baroeg – Rotterdam, NL
12/5 – TBA (contact Lasher Agency for booking)
13/5 – TBA (contact Lasher Agency for booking)
14/5 – Fuzztival – Esbjerg, DK

This is going to be a very heavy experience, see you out there.




Kal-El, Dark Majesty (2021)

Bogwife, A Passage Divine (2021)

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Majestic Mountain Records Festival Oslo 2022 Makes Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Majestic Mountain Records Fest Oslo 2022 banner

That’s a lot of name for a festival, the Majestic Mountain Records Festival, Oslo 2022 Think we can get away with calling it the MMR Fest for short? MMR Fest Oslo 2022? Maybe. I’ll work on it, seems like we’ll have a bit of time before June and there are more announcements to come.

Nothing like unveiling acts, though, for a first-annual festival, as Sweden’s Majestic Mountain Records follows suit behind Heavy Psych Sounds in establishing itself as a festival brand. And the fact that — like HPS fests and like Desertfest — there’s a city in the name of this festival right from the outset tells me that Majestic Mountain Records is already planning or at least considering branching out to other cities.

Perhaps, then, this inaugural edition in Oslo, Norway, might be a proving ground for the whole idea. All the more occasion for the label to do it up right, which seems to be the start they’re giving it. In the first batch of five bands announced for the lineup could be found MaMa Doom making the trip from the USA, recent-signees Old Horn Tooth doing likewise from the UK, and native Norwegian thunderbringers Jointhugger representing the home team alongside Saint Karloff and the just-nominated-for-a-Spellmann Prize Kal-El, to whom congratulations are due. The second round, also five acts, boasts HäxmästarenThe King’s Pistol, Electric Hydra, Bogwife and Grand Cadaver.

Fest is June 18 with a pre-show June 17. Poster, announcements and many, many links follow:


Majestic Mountain Records is pleased to announce the first annual MAJESTIC MOUNTAIN RECORDS FESTIVAL, OSLO

A two-day riff-fest of gargantuan proportions to commence the 17-18 of June at Blitz, Oslo PLUS a killer pre-party on Thursday the 16th at the coolest basement venue around, Revolver.

This is going to be a very special event with some incredibly cool details and exclusive performances by Majestic Mountain bands from all over with exclusive performances and super killer surprises along the way.

The MMR crew cannot wait to celebrate the Majestic roster and the return of live music with you!

Join us in June for heavy riffs, infinite headbangs, mega fuzz and good times.

Without further ado, we present you with in no certain order:

MaMa Doom (US)
Jointhugger (NO)
Old Horn Tooth (UK)
Kal-El (NO)
Saint Karloff (NO)
Electric Hydra (SE)
The King’s Pistol (UK)
Häxmästaren (SE)
Bogwife (DK)
Grand Cadaver (SE)

Early Bird tickets will go up for sale on Sunday!

Majestic Mountain Records Fest Oslo is a two-day label showcase, riff-fest of gargantuan proportions to commence the 17-18 of June plus a killer pre-party on Thursday the 16th at our favourite basement venue, Revolver.

This is going to be a very special event with some incredibly cool details and exclusive performances by Majestic Mountain bands from all over and some killer surprises thrown in the mix. Announcements are flowing with more bands to come so keep those eyes peeled for all the juicy details!

The MMR crew cannot wait to bang our heads and celebrate our roster and the return of live music with you!

Thanks so much for reading and for all your excitement about this event, we’re so looking forward to seeing all of you beautiful people in June!


Kal-El, Dark Majesty (2021)

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Sonic Whip 2022: Elder, Elephant Tree, Hey Colossus, Kal-El, Kryptograf and Supersonic Blues Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 26th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

sonic whip 2022 banner

Europe’s Spring festival season would seem to be on the rebound this year, and a delayed Sonic Whip fest in Nijmegen, the Netherlands, is set for May 6 and 7 as a part of that process. With poster art by the esteemed Maarten Donders, the festival has announced that ElderElephant TreeKal-ElKryptografHey Colossus and Supersonic Blues are going to play, which is some pretty killer adds alongside the already confirmed likes of Motorpsycho, EarthlessSlomosa, and so on.

Among the things to dig about the bill’s international reach is the presence of more Norwegian acts than one might’ve seen even just a couple years ago. Motorpsycho‘s place among headliners is, of course, well earned, but you can see too in Kryptograf and Slomosa an up and coming generation of rockers, and in Kal-El the kind of act they might want to grow up to be. It’s cool to see Norway’s underground become immersed in the broader sphere of European heavy. They’ll do well here alongside other groups from the Netherlands, Denmark, Sweden, Germany, the US, UK and so on.

There are apparently more announcements to come. Fine, but if Sonic Whip was like, “Nah this is it,” it’d still be good fest.

Here’s the info:

Sonic Whip 2022 poster


We are pretty stoked to announce that Elder, Elephant Tree, Hey Colossus, Kal-El, Kryptograf and Supersonic Blues will be part of Sonic Whip 2022 – Official!

Already confirmed for 6 & 7 May are Motorpsycho, Earthless, Stöner, Rotor, SACRI MONTI, MaidaVale, Mythic Sunship, a/lpaca, POLYMOON, Slomosa and KALEIDOBOLT. This is going to be wild! And that is not all, there is still more to follow…

Saturday daytickets are sold out, only Friday and a few weekend tickets remaining. Tickets are available here: https://bit.ly/SonicWhip-2022

The beautiful artwork created by the talented Maarten Donders.

Friday 6 May 2022
Elder, Sacri Monti, Mythic Sunship, Kal-El, Kryptograf, Kaleidobolt, Supersonic Blues and more to be confirmed.

Saturday 7 May 2022
Motorpsycho, Earthless, Stöner, Elephant Tree, Rotor, Hey Colossus, Maidavale, Slomosa, Polymoon, A/lpaca and more to be confirmed.


Elder, Omens (2020)

Elephant Tree, “The Fall Chorus” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2021 — Year in Review

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan


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

Maybe 2021 was your breakout, or your hunker-down. Your recovery from trauma or more of the same. Maybe you got six shots, maybe you didn’t get any. Maybe you got sick or lost somebody. I don’t know. Whatever else this year was, though, and whatever else it continues to be, it was busy.

In terms of the heavy underground, the ‘aftermath’ of the covid-19 pandemic resulted in a creative movement that will continue to pan out for years to come. Bands, locked down in 2020, found new directions, new sounds, sometimes new projects or collaborators. Some dug deep into their root influences, others explored new ground entirely.

One way or the other, the result across this year was a lot of really, really good music, and in uncertain times, the comfort it provided and provides shouldn’t be understated. The Obelisk Questionnaire asks what is the primary function of art. I think we learned in 2021 that art is home when you need it.

I say this every year, but please, if you leave a comment on this post — if there’s something you want to suggest I left out (as I’m sure there is; always) or you’re responding to someone else’s comment — please, please be respectful. Please be kind. To me, because I’ve worked hard on this and I don’t mind saying that, and to anyone else offering their picks or suggestions or just words of response. Let’s not fight, or do that “unthinking internet meanness” thing. I’m a human being and so are you. That’s reason enough to make an effort toward kindness. Thank you for that effort and for reading, as always.

Here we go:

The Top 60 Albums of 2021? Really? 60?

Yeah, really 60. I was gonna do 30 and then 50 and I was having trouble narrowing it down and it was my sister who very concisely said, “Who cares? Do what you want,” and it turned out that was precisely what I needed to hear. So if there are complaints about doing a top 60, to them I might just point out that more music is not a hardship. Maybe instead look at the swath of amazing music being made and be glad to have been born? And I’m doing what feels right, if also a little over-the-top. Maybe next year it’ll be 100, or 1,000. To quote my sister, “Who cares?”

The more the merrier.



31. 3rd Ear Experience, Danny Frankel’s 3rd Ear Experience
32. Slowshine, Living Light
33. LLNN, Unmaker
34. Low Orbit, Crater Creator
35. Somnuri, Nefarious Wave
36. Delving, Hirschbrunnen
37. Kal-El, Dark Majesty
38. Hippie Death Cult, Circle of Days
39. Plaindrifter, Echo Therapy
40. Motorpsycho, Kingdom of Oblivion
41. IAH, Omines
42. Here Lies Man, Ritual Divination
43. The Kings of Frog Island, VII
44. Old Man Wizard, Kill Your Servants Quietly
45. Weedpecker, IV: The Stream of Forgotten Thoughts
46. High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon
47. Kadabra, Ultra
48. Sleep Moscow, Of the Sun
49. Terry Gross, Soft Opening
50. Cavern Deep, Cavern Deep
51. 10,000 Years, II
52. Rebreather, The Line, its Width and the War Drone
53. Spiral Grave, Legacy of the Anointed
54. LáGoon, Skullactic Visions
55. Jack Harlon & the Dead Crows, The Magnetic Ridge
56. Boss Keloid, Family the Smiling Thrush
57. Shun, Shun
58. Black Willows, Shemurah
59. Expo Seventy, Evolution
60. Year of Taurus, Topsoils


The best advice I can give you is DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. From 3rd Ear Experience’s righteous jams to Kadabra’s and Slowshine’s debuts and 10,000 Years’ hard riffing and Old Man Wizard’s melo-prog swansong and Jack Harlon’s otherworldly West, and Cavern Deep’s conceptual darkness, and Black Willows’ consuming tones and Sleep Moscow’s emotive downerism and Weedpecker progging out and Here Lies Man still being in an league entirely their own, and that Plaindrifter record and Shun and Spiral Grave and Rebreather and The Kings of Frog Island. That Terry Gross’ sheer West Coastness and Somnuri’s Northeastern intensity. Kal-El’s pulp riffage bigger than ever. Motorpsycho being Motorpsycho. IAH collaborating with Spaceslug. Boss Keloid’s prog-metal shenanigans. Hippie Death Cult’s mellow heavy. LLNN utterly killing everything. Damn this is good.

If this was a year-end top 30 in itself, I’d be like, yeah that’s a solid list, and I don’t mean that as a platitude. So please don’t ignore it. If there’s something here you haven’t heard, I can only advise you chase it down. Any one of these could be higher or lower in your own consideration, but I dug all of them, and yeah, by the time you get up to 40 or so the numbering gets pretty arbitrary, but whatever. It’s a list of stuff I think you should check out. Releases that made the year better, all of them one way or the other.

30. Monster Magnet, A Better Dystopia

monster magnet a better dystopia

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 31.

New Jersey stalwarts Monster Magnet taking on obscure and semi-obscure covers out of the heavy ’70s is pretty high on the list of ‘ultimate no-brainers.’ One might’ve preferred an album of originals, but even in a stopgap, Dave Wyndorf and company found ways to be creative with the material, and this belongs here for their take on Dust‘s “Learning to Die” (video here) alone.

29. Domkraft, Seeds

domkraft seeds

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Featured April 2.

Domkraft‘s third album arrived in so-you-think-you-know-what-we’re-about fashion, building out the heavy noise rock of 2018’s Flood (review here) and 2016’s The End of Electricity (review here), leaning into more textured material executed with a burgeoning patience of approach, while still keeping impact central. They’ve come into their own and one expects they’ll continue to reshape what that means over time.

28. Sunnata, Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth

sunnata burning in heaven melting on earth

Self-released. Reviewed March 16.

Consuming and shamanic. A record that really took the time to construct its own world for the listener to inhabit in its songs. Sunnata‘s fourth full-length, Burning in Heaven, Melting on Earth brought together six tracks that resonated with purposeful depth and a cold-psych ambience that allowed space for minimalism and movements of blistering heavy in kind. Not for everyone, maybe, but each piece truly added to the flowing progression of the whole, showing the conceptual, ritualized strengths of the band.

27. Conclave, Dawn of Days

Conclave Dawn of Days

Released by Argonauta Records. Reviewed April 22.

Five years after their debut, Sins of the Elders (review here), Massachusetts sludge-of-death metallers Conclave — now with a second guitarist — brought forth epic punishment and bleakness befitting our age. A willful, harsh slog, Dawn of Days had few comforts to offer in “Death Blows Cold” or “Haggard,” and the mourning finale “Suicide Funeral,” while allowed to be flourish in its way, found a means to express its grief while staying honest to underpinnings of extreme metal. Not an easy listen, not supposed to be.

26. Crystal Spiders, Morieris

Crystal Spiders Morieris

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 8.

Some records you just can’t fight. And why would you? Quick turnaround for North Carolina’s Crystal Spiders after their Sept. 2020 debut, Molt (review here), but the three-piece of bassist/vocalist Brenna Leath (also Lightning Born and The Hell-No), drummer/vocalist Tradd Yancey (also Doomsday Profit) and guitarist/producer Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) demonstrated a range the first record only hinted at, touching on earthy psych, dirty punk, classic heavy and more with evident ease and a marked sense of craft.

25. River Flows Reverse, When River Flows Reverse

River Flows Reverse When River Flows Reverse

Released by Psychedelic Source Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Hungarian collective River Flows Reverse brought lysergic healing as part of the Psychedelic Source Records milieu, with a particularly folkish and exploratory vibe branching out across pieces like the serene “At the Gates of the Perennial” or the acoustic-led “Rain it Rages,” creating gorgeous atmospheres from existential dread and a sheer need for outlet. Spontaneous in its spirit but with a thoughtful undercurrent, it’s by no means the highest-profile release on this list, but it also offered something nothing else did in quite the same way. Pastoralia for another world.

24. Borracho, Pound of Flesh

borracho pound of flesh

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A decade on from their debut and five years after their last album, Washington D.C. roll-prone trio Borracho came back not only with terrifying cover art, but also an unabashed look at the world around them, socially conscious lyrics topping their hallmark heavy riffage in a way that their prior work had yet to engage. Pound of Flesh was an organic step forward for the band in sound and songwriting, and their perspective of wondering what the hell happened to pretty much everything was relatable, to say the least, but the nuances of arrangement and vibe went a long way too in changing things up around their classic-style sound.

23. Erik Larson, Favorite Iron

Erik Larson Favorite Iron

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 23.

Larson‘s gonna Larson. As to what that might mean on a given release, that’s harder to say. Drawing from a decades-long background in punk and hardcore, heavy Southern and acoustic songwriting, as well as a pedigree long enough to take up the rest of this post, Favorite Iron was one of three outings issued on the same day in September in a creative splurge and found him playing all instruments himself (horns on opener “Backpage” notwithstanding) and imbuing each piece with its own purpose in feeding the richness of the entire work. And somehow, was humble in it, putting it out on Bandcamp, no PR, no fanfare. Just wasn’t there, then was. Very Larson.

22. Spaceslug, Memorial

spaceslug memorial

Self-released. Review pending.

Issued just on Dec. 10, Memorial arrives from Poland’s Spaceslug in suitably mournful fashion and with it, the trio seem to dive into more personal, human issues than ever before. Loss, uncertainty. It’s certainly a record for the time in which it’s made, but neither do the band neglect their own growth as they continue to incorporate blackened screams along with their more grunge-derived clean vocals, a blend of mellow heavy psych and harsher presence coinciding. After a productive few years with the 2020 Leftovers EP (review here) and 2019’s Reign of the Orion (review here), Spaceslug have managed to push even deeper into their sound. They do so with an increasing sense of mastery.

21. Genghis Tron, Dream Weapon

genghis tron dream weapon art by trevor naud

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed April 5.

Unexpected and appreciated in kind. I wouldn’t have bet that Poughkeepsie, New York, glitch-grind innovators Genghis Tron would return with a new record after 13 years, and I wouldn’t have guessed either that Dream Weapon would bring both the revamped lineup and the refined focus on melody that it did. Live drums gave new heart to the songs, and thoughtfully layered washes of keys and guitar brought a sense of worldbuilding that, while in contrast to the freneticism of the band’s past work, was refreshing in its honesty and refusal to be anything other than what they wanted it to be. Caught a bunch of hype early and then disappeared, but the songs will hold up long after this year is over. If you get it, you get it.

20. Vokonis, Odyssey

Vokonis Odyssey

Released by The Sign Records. Reviewed May 5.

The story of Sweden’s Vokonis isn’t too dissimilar from that of Spaceslug above in that the band set its foundation in a certain kind of heavy worship and have moved outward from there over time. For the Borås trio, their latest outing expanded on their progressive ideology, taking the heavy riffs of their earliest work and setting them to a winding course while also incorporating a rawer vocal along with the cleaner shouting. In addition to being topped off by the best album cover I saw all year, Odyssey proved to be a journey of mind for those ready to take it, and showed that Vokonis‘ maturity, their finding themselves, is likely to be an ongoing process. And if they want to keep bringing Per Wiberg in on keys, that’ll be fine too.

19. Lammping, Flashjacks


Released by Echodelick Records. Reviewed Aug. 19.

What a blast this record is. Warm tones, classic vibes, ’90s alt weirdness given a little extra push into heavy. I didn’t even care that half of the thing had been released as an EP prior, putting on Lammping‘s Flashjacks was and very much still is a joy. No pretense, no bullshit, just songs, songs, songs. Give me “Intercessor” and “Jaws of Life” and “Lammping” any day of the week as the Toronto outfit hold down both attitude and humor while inviting you in on their good time. 10 tracks/33 minutes — they weren’t even trying to take up too much of your day. Just a short and sweet set on an LP and then they roll out until the next one. May it arrive sooner rather than later. I’m not a party guy, but this is my kind of party.

18. Snail, Fractal Altar

snail fractal altar

Released by Argonauta Records. Reviewed April 26.

The opening duo “Mission From God” and “Nothing Left for You” gave Fractal Altar an initial thrust that the heavy grunge of “Not Two” complemented with darker edge before the swinging “Hold On” tipped back toward forward momentum. “The False Lack,” a highlight, found some middle ground en route to a back half of the LP that culminated with the sub-nine-minute title-track, psychedelic ritualization coming to a head with spaced-out vocals over a black hole of low end. The weirder Snail get, the better they get in my mind, and more than half a decade after Feral (review here), they were ready to get plenty weird here. Wouldn’t trade that for the world.

17. The Age of Truth, Resolute

the age of truth resolute

Released by Contessa Music. Reviewed July 21.

Aggro-edged Philly heavy rock and roll, pulling influence not only from its own backdrop but from heavy modern and old, perhaps the best thing one can say about Resolute was that it lived up to the lofty declaration in the title The Age of Truth gave it. Whether they were playing to more atmospheric ideas on “Palace of Rain” and “Return to Ships” or digging into classic heavy blues on “Salome” or finding new levels of intensity on “Horsewhip,” it was clear The Age of Truth consciously set a high standard for themselves and put the effort in to meet it every step of the way. Clear and sharp in its production, it’s still a record you can put on and be blown away by each individual performance, as well as how they come together. Dudes only put the bar higher.

16. Jointhugger, Surrounded by Vultures

jointhugger surrounded by vultures

Released by Majestic Mountain Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

It was not an easy task for Norway’s Jointhugger to follow either their 2021 single-song EP Reaper Season (review here) or 2020’s debut, I Am No One (review here), but even amid a still-solidifying lineup, the band conjured listenability and weight in post-Monolordian fashion without either aping that band’s methodology or ignoring their own nascent sonic identity. There’s more growing to do, and one hopes that as they go they’ll hold at least somewhat to the pace of releases thus far established, but there was no getting past the accomplishments of Surrounded by Vultures, not the least because of the 700-foot ice wall of tone the band built along the path. Potential and achievement stomping hand-in-hand into an unknown heavy future.

15. Temple Fang, Fang Temple

Temple Fang Fang Temple

Released by Right on Mountain & Electric Spark. Reviewed Nov. 23.

I’ll be honest, I was a little bummed when Fang Temple got released and I didn’t even know it was coming. I got over the ego bruise quick with the help of the record itself, however, the Amsterdam-based psychedelic spiritualists taking the live-album method from 2020’s Live at Merleyn (review here) and using an on-stage performance as the basic tracks around which the rest of Fang Temple was constructed. The result was a resonant joy in heavy psych; a record as satisfying to lose yourself in as to consciously follow along its charted but spontaneous-feeling path. They’ve had some lineup shifts too, but gosh I hope there’s more to come, whether I get an early heads up or not.

14. Yawning Sons, Sky Island

yawning sons sky island

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 12.

Would you have bet there’d be a second Yawning Sons album, more than 10 years after 2009’s Ceremony to the Sunset (review here; reissue review here)? I might not have, but the collaboration between UK instrumentalists Sons of Alpha Centauri and Yawning Man guitarist and desert rock figurehead Gary Arce brought a slew of memorable moments, including guest spots from Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man‘s Mario Lalli and Hermano‘s Dandy Brown, and return appearances from Scott Reeder and Wendy Rae Fowler. It’s still impossible to know if Yawning Sons will be a band or a once-every-decade happening, but Sky Island proved they were more than a cult one-off. A third outing would only be welcome.

13. Comet Control, Inside the Sun

comet control inside the sun

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 23.

Careening back and forth between its space rock and more drifting psychedelic impulses, Comet Control‘s Inside the Sun brought varied pleasures of craft and melody, saving its more contemplative stretches for the peaceful immersion of “The Afterlife” or “Heavy Moments” and “The Deserter” later on after the duly cosmic launch of “Keep on Spinnin'” and the buzzing “Secret Life” established the pattern of movement under the drift. Whichever way a given track went — and it was by no means limited to one or the other with “Good Day to Say Goodbye” and “Inside the Sun” in the album’s midsection — the Toronto-based outfit worked mostly as a two-piece in putting it together, but the lushness of the ensuing work took what the band had accomplished on 2016’s Center of the Maze (review here) and added even more dimension.

12. Maha Sohona, Endless Searcher

Maha Sohona endless searcher

Released by Made of Stone Recordings. Reviewed July 13.

They should’ve called it “endless repeat.” The mellow heft of Swedish unit Maha Sohona‘s sophomore full-length is one that I just kept going back to, time and time again, and the appeal of doing so only grew with more listening. Melodically capable but not overblown, songs like “Luftslott” and “Orbit X” brought to mind Sungrazer and earlier Spaceslug with a bittersweet nostalgia (in the case of the former, certainly) even as Maha Sohona used them to chart their own stylistic course. It was seven years between their first and second records, so I’m not going to predict when/if a follow-up will come, but Endless Searcher made my 2021 better to the point that I just put on “Leaves” and can feel the serotonin being released. It feels only right to honor that by having them here.

11. Samsara Blues Experiment, End of Forever

Samsara Blues Experiment End of Forever

Released by Electric Magic Records. Reviewed Nov. 16, 2020.

With a permanent-seeming dissolution as context for its arrival, End of Forever wrapped a run for Samsara Blues Experiment that could only really be called successful in terms of what they accomplished during their time, but moreover, it underscored what made them such a special group to start with, its progressive psychedelia still developing in persona as the band was coming to a close. Guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, having spent the prior few years in various solo explorations, brought increased use of keys and synth, and in combination with the organic fluidity of the rhythm section of bassist/backing vocalist Hans Eiselt and drummer Thomas Vedder, that let Samsara Blues Experiment say something new even as they were also saying goodbye. If they’re truly done for good, they’ll be missed.

10. Heavy Temple, Lupi Amoris

heavy temple lupi amoris

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed May 28.

An awaited debut from this Philadelphia trio, Lupi Amoris confronted high expectations and surpassed them with a complexity of atmosphere that was surprising even after seeing them live multiple times, taking the oft-psychedelic fuzz of Heavy Temple‘s previous output and setting it to a more rigid focus and a daring sense of intent. This was a record that came about after years of lineup changes and tumult, but made cohesion from chaos, and there was not one second of its stretch that didn’t serve the album as a whole. Even more than 2016’s Chassit EP (review here), which I’d previously counted as their first long-player, Lupi Amoris showed toward what Heavy Temple‘s potential had been driving all along, and its realization was stunning. Whatever they do next, whenever they do it, will also be confronting high expectations.

9. Apostle of Solitude, Until the Darkness Goes

Apostle of Solitude Until the Darkness Goes
Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed Nov. 9.

At this point, I feel ready to posit Indianapolis four-piece Apostle of Solitude as the best doom band in America. I know that’s a loaded statement because there are as many kinds of doom as there are of heavy metal itself, but if you look at a group bringing new ideas to the established traditions and tenets of the style Apostle of Solitude have put themselves in the uppermost of the upper echelon. At just 36 minutes, Until the Darkness Goes feels likewise concise and engaging, its songs holding the emotive thread that has always typified the band’s work, but engaging more vocal harmonies between guitarists Chuck Brown and Steve Janiak (now both also in The Gates of Slumber) atop the densely weighted impact from bassist Mike Naish (also Shroud of Vulture) and drummer Corey Webb. Don’t think they’re the best US doom band right now? Find me someone better.

8. Greenleaf, Echoes From a Mass

greenleaf echoes from a mass

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed March 25.

With a wholesale invite to either take the heat or remove your ass from the kitchen, Greenleaf tossed out Echoes From a Mass as their eighth LP some 20 years after their first, 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), and reminded their listenership of the songwriting chemistry that’s emerged over the better part of the last decade between founding guitarist Tommi Holappa — and yes, I’ve heard rumors he’s got new Dozer in progress as well; we’ll see in 2022 — and vocalist Arvid Hällagård, whose work here outshone even 2018’s Hear the Rivers (review here), establishing the conversation between instruments and voice as the crucial element in Greenleaf circa 2021. A heavy blues shuffle from bassist Hans Frölich and drummer Sebastian Olsson and production by Karl Daniel Lidén only up the asset count working in the band’s favor, and on any given day I might still be walking around with “Bury Me My Son” on repeat in my brain. No complaints.

7. Blackwater Holylight, Silence/Motion

blackwater holylight silence motion

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 18.

At a pivotal moment, Blackwater Holylight pivoted. The Portland-based outfit’s third full-length found them pressing outward from their heavy psychedelic and dream-pop foundations into bleaker atmospheres, using Silence/Motion as a means for processing trauma and perhaps to revamp their audience’s expectations of the kind of band they want to be. 2019’s Veils of Winter (review here) and 2018’s self-titled debut (review here) brought marked progress from one to the next, but bassist/vocalist/guitarist Allison “Sunny” Faris, guitarist/bassist Mikayla Mayhew, synthesist Sarah McKenna, and drummer Eliese Dorsay (Erika Osterhout now plays guitar but isn’t on the record) brought on board producer A.L.N. of Mizmor, and the record’s guest vocals from Thou‘s Bryan Funck and Mike Paparo of Inter Arma brought flourish of more extreme metals than anything the band had done before. As a result, their next outing could go pretty much anywhere, so mission likely accomplished for this one.

6. Kadavar & Elder, Eldovar – A Story in Darkness and Light

eldovar a story of darkness and light

Released by Robotor Records. Reviewed Dec. 1.

Answering the call of being unable to tour and presumably tired of sitting on their hands as a result, Berlin-based outfits Kadavar and Elder (minus the latter’s bassist Jack Donovan, who lives in the US and was under travel restriction) hit the studio together earlier this year to piece together jams and, reportedly, take a “see what happens” approach. What happened was a sound that belonged solely to neither band and drew enough from both to legitimately earn the title Eldovar. Rife with melody brought to bear amid a threat of the breakout that arrived in “Blood Moon Night” — which, while the most uptempo, was not necessarily the highlight of the record — it was an album perhaps carved from experiments, but one that seemed to brim with a sense of underlying direction, even after the fact. Its shimmer felt like a light being cast through a dark year, defiant and peaceful. That two of the current generation’s leaders in heavy rock could come together in such brazen fashion was a noteworthy novelty, but it was the way that Eldovar stood on its own that made it so special.

5. Stöner, Stoners Rule

Stöner stoners rule

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 1.

Gonna get this off my chest while I can. After this one came out, I saw on the vast sphere of social media some disappointed response, like what was up with Stöner being so stripped down and just rocking riffs and all that? Okay. The hell did you expect? That’s the point of the band! It’s Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri — and Ryan Güt, also of Bjork‘s solo band — purposefully digging back to their roots, playing the simplest form possible of the low desert punk they helped create together in Kyuss. It wasn’t about “let’s innovate,” it was about “I dig the Ramones and Fatso Jetson so let’s have a good time.” You got the ultra-grooves of “Own Yer Blues” and “Tribe/Fly Girl,” the Oliveri-fronted punk of “Evel Never Dies,” and the bluesman’s telling-it-like-it-is of “The Older Kids” and “Rad Stays Rad,” “Nothin'” and “Stand Down.” They were in, done, and out. I chalked some of the “meh” up to the studio album arriving so soon after their Live in the Mojave Desert stream (review here) and live album (review here), but even so, damn, be thankful these songs got made in the first place. With yer spoiled ass.

4. King Buffalo, Acheron

King Buffalo Acheron

Released by the band and Stickman Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Word to anyone who’s managed to read this far: I hear King Buffalo might have an Xmas surprise in store as relates to this album, so heads up. Acheron — filmed as well as audio-recorded — was the second in an intended series of three yet to be completed of albums Rochester, NY, trio King Buffalo composed during the pandemic lockdown. Like so many, their inability to tour resulted in a need for another outlet. Following The Burden of Restlessness (review here) would be a challenge, but the band shifted focus in sound toward four extended pieces of heavy psychedelia — not completely escapist from the reality surrounding them, but attempting for sure to shift the mindset through which they (and the listener) were experiencing it. Traveling to record in the remote location of Howe Caverns, guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Sean McVay, bassist/keyboardist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson found a way to immediately differentiate their second album of 2021 from the first while offering a shift in sound that leaned less into darkness — ironic, maybe considering it was tracked underground — than its predecessor while retaining the band’s ever-forward progression of sound.

3. Green Lung, Black Harvest

green lung black harvest

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed July 28.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more suitable Halloween release. London-based heavy rockers Green Lung brought together a collection of songs that, yes, were duly autumnal in their spirit, but also refreshing in their sound, unashamed in their readiness to engage their audience, and in cuts like “Old Gods,” “Reaper’s Scythe,” “You Bear the Mark” and “Graveyard Sun” tapped into a cross-genre appeal that was brought together with impeccable quality of craft and production. Classic and new at the same time. Thoughtful in arrangement, Black Harvest nonetheless skirted pretense and kept to a basic verse/chorus appeal that felt easy to get into, and the complexity held in the material only revealed itself more with time. It is an album in which something new will be heard for years, and it not only answered the call to step up after 2019’s Woodland Rites (review here), but put Green Lung in a different echelon of bands entirely. They are an act whose influence will be felt, and not that the world needs another reason to hope for a “return” for live music, but Black Harvest is one for sure. Its songs deserve to be heard by however many ears they can reach.

2. Monolord, Your Time to Shine

Monolord your time to shine

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

Monolord are the most essential band in heavy music. Whatever qualifier you want to put on that in terms of style, go ahead, it’s still true. The Gothenburg trio’s fifth album doubled as an anticipated follow-up to No Comfort (review here), which was 2019’s album of the year, and brought no dip in the quality of their craft, the breadth of their style or the force of their execution. In addition to having already ignited a generation’s worth of riffers in their wake, Monolord have steadily progressed in their own approach, and Your Time to Shine skillfully mirrored the structure of No Comfort before it while pushing ahead of where the band were two years ago. Someone needs to build a statue in honor of Mika Häkki‘s bass tone, let alone the riffs of guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger and the stomp/production of drummer Esben Willems, but with cuts like “The Weary,” “Your Time to Shine,” “I’ll Be Damned,” “To Each Their Own” and “The Sirens of Yersinia” — oh wait, that’s all of them — it was the entire band shining, a plural “your” that was realized in the work. The superficial bleakness of the cover art spoke to the death perhaps of an entire world, but also the new growth and life to inevitably emerge therefrom. The songs did no less.

2021 Album of the Year

1. King Buffalo, The Burden of Restlessness

king buffalo the burden of restlessness

Released by the band and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 11.

A record for the times. The record for the times. There are a few reasons King Buffalo‘s third full-length and first in the pandemic-born series, The Burden of Restlessness, deserves to be the album of the year. There’s no reasonably denying the level of songwriting or the move into hard-edged progressive rock and metal of its songs, or the boldness of the manner in which the Rochester trio — again, Sean McVayDan Reynolds and Scott Donaldson — made that move, or the resonance of the finished product. It’s a very, very, very good album. Fine. What stands out to me though in thinking of The Burden of Restlessness in context of the addled period between 2020 and 2021 is the fact that it is completely unflinching. From the striking depiction of decay in the front visuals by Zdzisław Beksiński to the personal-seeming nature of songs like “The Knocks,” “Burning” — the opening lyric, “I turn my head from the stars” a direct contrast to “Orion can you hear me?” from the band’s 2016 debut, Orion (review here) — “Silverfish” and “Hebetation” and the speaking to the outside world of “Locusts,” “Grifter” and the maybe-daring-t0-hope-for-something-better conclusion in “Loam,” The Burden of Restlessness gave comfort to its listenership through shared experience rather than platitude. It didn’t tell you it was going to get better. It shared the space you were in, and acknowledged all the unknown corners of that space. This spirit, coupled with the outright sonic achievement on the part of the band, made the album a statement poised to ring out as a document of its weighted era and a standard for the expressive depth of its creativity.

The Top 60 Albums of 2021: Honorable Mention

Sit tight, we’ve got a ways to go here.

Acid Magus, Wyrd Syster
Acid Mammoth, Caravan
Age Total, Age Total
Alastor, Onwards and Downwards
Amenra, De Doorn
The Angelus, Why We Never Die
The Answer Lies in the Black Void, Forlorn
Apollo80, Beautiful, Beautiful Desolation
Arlekin, The Secret Garden
Bog Wizard, Miasmic Purple Smoke
Book of Wyrms, Occult New Age
Bongzilla, Weedsconsin
Canyyn, Canyyn
Craneium, Unknown Heights
Delco Detention, It Came From the Basement
Demon Head, Viscera
Doctor Smoke, Dreamers and the Dead
Dread Sovereign, Alchemical Warfare
Dream Unending, Tide Turns Eternal
Duel, In Carne Persona
Dunbarrow, III
DVNE, Etemen Ænka
Eyehategod, A History of Nomadic Behavior
Bill Fisher, Hallucinations of a Higher Truth
Funeral, Praesentalis in Aeternum
Fuzzy Lights, Burials
Holy Death Trio, Introducing…
Iceburn, Asclepius
Jakethehawk, Hinterlands
Kanaan, Earthbound
Khemmis, Deceiver
King Woman, Celestial Blues
Kvasir, 4
Lingua Ignota, Sinner Get Ready
Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel, Polaris
Low Flying Hawks, Fuyu
Low Orbit, Crater Creator
Malady, Ainavahantaa
Mastiff, Leave Me the Ashes of the Earth
Mythic Sunship, Wildfire
Zack Oakley, Badlands
Octopus Ride, II
Øresund Space Collective, Universal Travels
Red Beard Wall, 3
Robots of the Ancient World, Mystic Goddess
Emma Ruth Rundle, Engine of Hell
Saturnia, Stranded in the Green
Savanah, Olympus Mons
Sergio Ch., La Danza de los Toxicos
Shiva the Destructor, Find the Others
Smote, Bodkin
Snake Mountain Revival, Everything in Sight
Snowy Dunes, Sastrugi
Sonic Demon, Vendetta
The Spacelords, False Dawn
Spelljammer, Abyssal Trip
Spidergawd, VI
Swallow the Sun, Moonflowers
Thunderchief, Synanthrope
Thunder Horse, Chosen One
Ultra Void, Ultra Void
Vouna, Atropos
WEEED, Do You Fall?
When the Deadbolt Breaks, As Hope Valley Burns
Witchcryer, When Their Gods Come for You
Witchrot, Hollow
Wolftooth, Blood & Iron
Wowod, Yarost’ I Proshchenie


I feel immediately defensive here, and that kind of sucks, to be honest. Here’s the basic truth: I know people like different things. I know people think different things are important, that everybody works hard making records, that lists are bullshit and that people go back to listen to different things more over time.

What I’d ask is that after 60 records in the list proper and another 60-plus here, you please give me a break. I’ve reviewed well over 250 releases this year, so neither is this everything, nor is it nothing. I’ve done my best. And if one of these records is your album of the year? Awesome! I’m so, so glad for that. I can’t and won’t argue. I’m sure this list is incomplete and I’m sure I’ll add more to it over the next couple days — always do — but if you didn’t hear anything this year and you take this list and you take the other 60 records, listen to one per week, you’ll have enough new music to carry you into 2023, and I feel pretty good about that.

Debut Album of the Year 2021

Heavy Temple, Lupi Amoris

heavy temple lupi amoris

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Acid’s Trip, Strings of Soul
Age Total, Age Total
Bala, Maleza
Bog Wizard, Miasmic Purple Smoke
Bottomless, Bottomless
Cancervo, 1
Cave of Swimmers, Aurora
Cavern Deep, Cavern Deep
Chamán, Maleza
Cosmic Reaper, Cosmic Reaper
DayGlo Mourning, Dead Star
Delving, Hirschbrunnen
Den Der Hale, Harsyra
Dome Runner, Conflict State Design
Draken, Draken
Gangrened, Deadly Algorithm
Gristmill, Heavy Everything
High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon
Holy Death Trio, Introducing…
The Judas Knife, Death is the Thing With Feathers
Kadabra, Ultra
Kadavar & Elder, Eldovar – A Story of Darkness and Light
Kvasir, 4
Plaindrifter, Echo Therapy
Shiva the Destructor, Find the Others
Slowshine, Living Light
Smote, Bodkin
Snake Mountain Revival, Everything in Sight
Sonic Demon, Vendetta
Sow Discord, Quiet Earth
Stöner, Stoners Rule
Suncraft, Flat Earth Rider
Terry Gross, Soft Opening
Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, TTBS
Vestamaran, Bungalow Rex
White Void, Anti
Witchrot, Hollow
Wooden Fields, Wooden Fields
Wytch, Exordium
Year of Taurus, Topsoils


Yes, technically the Stöner record was higher than Heavy Temple on the top 60. I took into account the fact that Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri have worked together on and off for 30-plus years in my final assessment and decided Lupi Amoris, as a debut album, deserved the top spot. I actually had a numbered list going — Stöner were two, Delving was three — but decided to just let the Heavy Temple stand on its own instead, which it certainly earned.

One could see the pandemic shuffle of creativity peaking out though. Kadavar & Elder’s collaboration was a debut as well, but it was just one of the new projects or collaborations to surface this year. Note Slowshine is Earthship by another name (and purpose) and so are Dome Runner. There was a wash of diggable debuts, loaded with potential, and again, I don’t think this list is exhaustive so much as it’s a primer for some of the best stuff out there as I see/hear it. I’ll spare you wax poetry about the forward movement of genre overall, but suffice to say that in acts like Plaindrifter, Shiva the Destructor, Witchrot, Age Total and High Desert Queen, among others here, such things were readily apparent.

Your time would not be wasted with any of these, I just thought that Heavy Temple, as a first album, was a special achievement and deserved its place as debut of the year.

Short Release of the Year 2021

Jointhugger, Reaper Season

jointhugger reaper season

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Aiwass & ASTRAL CONstruct, Solis in Stellis
All Are to Return, II
Birth, Birth
Blackwolfgoat, (In) Control / Tired of Dying
Bog Wizard/Dust Lord, Split
Boozewa, First Contact
Carlton Melton, Night Pillers
Cerbère, Cerbère
Cortége, Chasing Daylight
The Crooked Whispers, Dead Moon Night
Doomsday Profit, In Idle Orbit
Dopelord, Reality Dagger
EMBR, 1021
Enslaved, Caravans to the Outer Worlds
Fuzz Sagrado, Fuzz Sagrado
Guhts, Blood Feather
Howling Giant, Alteration
Ikitan, Darvaza y Brinicle
Insect Ark, Future Fossils
Erik Larson, Measwe
Lurcher, Coma
Merlock, You Cannot Be Saved
Moonstone, 1904
Morningstar Delirium, Morningstar Delirium
Mos Generator, The Lantern
Nineteen Thirteen, MCMXIII
Old Horn Tooth, True Death
Planet of the 8s, Lagrange Point Vol. 1
Psychonaut/SÂVER, Emerald
Solemn Lament, Solemn Lament
Sorcia, Death by Design
Spaceslug, The Event Horizon
Spawn, Live at Moonah Arts Collective
Stonus, Séance
Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Rosalee
Ultra Void, Ultra Void
Ungraven/Slomatics, Split
Wall, II
Weedevil, The Death is Coming
The Whims of the Great Magnet, Share the Sun
Per Wiberg, All is Well in the Land of the Living But for the Rest of Us… Lights Out


Again, look at the amazing swath of new creativity happening. Guhts, Boozewa, Aiwass & ASTRAL CONstruct — even Wall with their second EP — Morningstar Delirium, Fuzz Sagrado, Doomsday Profit, Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships: these are new bands and projects coming together, some from established artists and some not, but the shuffling of sound and priorities is a hallmark of the last year-plus’ output, and it can be seen here for sure. Yeah, bands like Enslaved and Dopelord put out killer EPs, but it’s acts like Moonstone — with just one prior release behind them — or Howling Giant working instrumentally for the first time, that struck me even harder.

As regards Jointhugger in the top pick, I took into account the “oh shit this band isn’t fucking around” factor. Coming off their first record and headed into their second in quick succession, the single-song “Reaper Season” served due notice that the debut was no fluke and that the Norwegian outfit had no interest in resting on riffy laurels. This section is always tough since it encompasses different kinds of releases — singles, EPs, whatnot — but in terms of serving the band’s overarching progression, Jointhugger made a difficult choice markedly easier for me.

I won’t take away from the accomplishments of anyone on the list above — or the inevitable ones I forgot, either. Enslaved’s ever-outbound growth is worth a significant mention, and arrivals like Lurcher and Old Horn Tooth kept were undeniable. I’ll nod here too to Psychonaut/SÂVER and Ungraven/Slomatics’ split releases and that The Whims of the Great Magnet. And, and, and…

Late Releases

Partially affected by the Covid-19 pandemic — like everybody’s everything — vinyl pressing delays meant that many albums have come out in the last month or two that were intended to be earlier. I tried to account for these in the lists above, but thinking about November and December specifically, records by Low Orbit, Spidergawd, Weedpecker, King Buffalo, Spaceslug, Bog Wizard, Raibard, Funeral, Temple Fang, Kadavar & Elder, and Wolftooth can’t be left out as part of the larger narrative of 2021 in music.

I can’t say I’ve listened to, as an example, Spidergawd, as much as to Greenleaf or any number of things that were released in the beginning of the year, but neither do I feel like the lack relative passage of time since something came out should be held against it, especially given the circumstances. As much as the ‘music industry’ shuts down at the end of any given year, 2021 seems to have plowed straight through to the finish.

Live in the Mojave Desert

While we’re marking the highlights of 2021, it’s impossible not to note the continued proliferation of livestreaming as a (woefully inadequate but take what you can get) substitute experience for show-going and touring. In the case of director Ryan Jones’ Live in the Mojave Desert series, it was an opportunity to turn lemons into concert films of true measure, as well as live albums for Earthless, Stöner, Nebula, Spirit Mother and Mountain Tamer that held their own merit.

There have been a few noteworthy streams over the last year-plus issued in pay-per-view fashion, but in terms of the scale of the presentation, few have held a candle to what Live in the Mojave Desert accomplished — only Enslaved’s ‘Cinematic Tour’ comes close in my mind, and that’s a different animal entirely, ditto Roadburn Redux — or have managed to capture an atmosphere in the same way that not only gives a setting for the music, but adds to the experience of the viewer. It’s not just a show that otherwise would happen in a venue; it’s a show that would happen once in a lifetime.

Whatever context brings that about, it is something to celebrate.

Looking Ahead to 2022

I love looking forward to new music. I love it. In a spirit of anticipation and friendship and righteous tunes to come, here’s a list of bands who’ve either confirmed new stuff in the works or are recording or have preorders up or are subject to rampant speculation. In no order whatsoever:

Elder, Toad Venom, Torche, King Buffalo, High on Fire, El Perro, Yatra, Bevar Sea, Birth, Pia Isa, Colour Haze, JIRM, Samavayo, Tortuga, El Supremo, Ruby the Hatchet, MNRVA, Buss, White Ward, Dreadnought, Merlock, Gozu, Westing, Eric Wagner, Stöner, Blue Heron, All Souls, Arekin, 40 Watt Sun, Caustic Casanova, Deathwhite, Freedom Hawk, Hazemaze, Stoned Jesus, Mothership, Desert Storm, Poseidótica, Sasquatch, Conan, Seremonia, Långfinger, Wo Fat, Earthless, Dozer, Red Sun Atacama, REZN, No Man’s Valley, Ufomammut, Geezer, Messa, Clutch, Abronia, Somali Yacht Club, Sun Voyager, Atavismo, Some Pills for Ayala, Eight Bells, Stinking Lizaveta, Borracho, The Crooked Whispers, Naxatras, Rotor, Mos Generator, Big Scenic Nowhere, Righteous Fool, High Priest, High Priestess, Loop, Elliott’s Keep, Fostermother, Valley of the Sun, Boris, Deathbell, Siena Root, My Sleeping Karma, Firebreather, Matt Pike, Mythosphere, Crowbar, JIRM, Mount Saturn, Supersonic Blues, Wizzerd, 10,000 Years…

If any names are repeated there, consider it a sign that I’m looking forward to that record twice. And if you’ve got a name to add to that list, I’m all for it. As I said, I love looking forward to new music.

Thank You

Well, I guess that’s it. I’m not anymore done with 2021 than it’s done with itself — some of the releases featured above have yet to be reviewed; looking at you, Spaceslug — and there’s always catching up to do. No coincidence January will feature the second part of the Quarterly Review that began this month.

But while I’ve got you, if I still do, I want to say thank you, thank you, thank you as always for your continued support of The Obelisk, this site, in the various ways it is shown, whether that’s liking a post, sharing a link, leaving a (hopefully kind) comment or buying some sweatpants. More than a decade after the fact, I cannot hope to tell you how much it means to me sitting here in front of my laptop to have that support and encouragement, day in and year out. Thank you. From the bottom of my heart and with ever fiber of my wretched being. Thank you.

But thank The Patient Mrs. even more.

More to come, so stay tuned.

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Esbjerg Fuzztival 2022: Bongzilla, Kal-El & Arteaga to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Esbjerg Fuzztival has persevered through cancelations and reschedulings and setbacks like everyone else, but they’ve done so without flinching and they’ve done so with a special fervency toward putting on the best show they possibly can under the circumstances. With Bongzilla announced among their first bands — I’m not even sure if they’re headlining — the promise for 2022 to be the Danish two-dayer’s biggest year yet seems like one they’re no less intent to keep. Right on. They’ve built a cult following and what seems to be a supportive community around it and that’s the ideal no matter who shows up on the bill. If you don’t have that vibe, all you’re doing is putting on a show.

They’re set for May 13 and 14 at the Tobakken Esbjerg in — you guessed it — the city of Esbjerg, which is on Denmark’s west coast, about three hours straight shot from Copenhagen. I don’t know where you fly into if you’re flying over, but it sure would be fun to find out. Ha. In any case, these people do good work and are fun to keep up with. I’ll hope to do just that as we get nearer to next Spring.

Tickets go on sale this weekend. Here’s the latest:

esbjerg fuzztival 2022 banner

Esbjerg Fuzztival 2022

MAY 13 & 14 2022 \\ TOBAKKEN ESBJERG \\ Esbjerg, Denmark

Fuzztival is proud to present BONGZILLA!

Tickets and more band announcements soon! But let’s just say: ’22 will be our BIGGEST festival ever!

Fuzztival proudly presents… KAL-EL!

Do you like to groove and dance and be merry? Then you came to the right place! Nothing better than a day full of stoner rock to get those hips moving.

Hot from the Chilean highlands Fuzztival proudly presents… ARTEAGA!

Their distinct brand of satanic retro acid fuzz is not to be missed at their first show in Denmark!

Full festival partout tickets available October 31st! That’s THIS Sunday! We have plenty of huge bands still TBA! Don’t miss the party of the year!


Causa Sui, “The Drop” live at Esbjerg Fuzztival 2020

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Quarterly Review: Kal-El, The Ugly Kings, Guhts, Anunnaki, Bill Fisher, Seum, Spirit Adrift, Mutha Trucka, 3rd Ear Experience, Solarius

Posted in Reviews on September 28th, 2021 by JJ Koczan


Everybody come through day one intact? I know it got pretty weird there for a minute, but I felt like sense was ultimately made. Maybe not in all cases, but definitely most. Today also gets fairly wild, and some of this stuff has been covered before in some fashion and some of it not so much, but hell, you’ve been through this before, as have I, so you know what to expect when you’re expecting. Blood might be spilled. Bruises left. Or bliss. Or both sometimes. Hell’s bells. Let’s go already.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Kal-El, Dark Majesty

Kal-El Dark Majesty

With their fifth full-length, Dark Majesty, Norwegian heavy rockers and sci-fi-themed cleavage aficionados Kal-El make a willful play toward the epic. Their first 2LP and their first album for Majestic Mountain Records, the eight-song offering tops 65 minutes and splits into four two-song sides, each one seeming to grow bigger until the last of them, with the closing duo “Kala Mishaa” and “Vimana,” draws the proceedings to a massive close. Along the way, Kal-El not only offer their most melodically rich and spacious fare to-date — opening with their longest track in the 11:39 “Temple” (immediate points) — but blast Kyuss into the cosmos on the four-minute “Spiral,” and give Dozer a run for their money on “Comêta.” Gargantuan fuzz shines through on “Hyperion” in a near-maddening cacophony, but it might be the title-track that’s the greatest highlight in the end, marking the band’s accomplishment in heft, blending riffs and atmosphere to a broad and engaging degree. It is a triumph and it sounds like one.

Kal-El on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records webstore


The Ugly Kings, Strange, Strange Times

The Ugly King Strange Strange Times

One would not accuse Melbourne’s The Ugly Kings of inaccuracy in titling their second album Strange, Strange Times, and though they launch with the post-Queens of the Stone Age title-track and the now-tinged cynicism of “Technodrone” and “Do You Feel Like You’re Paranoid?,” it’s in even moodier stretches like “Last Man Left Alive” they cast their lot toward individualism. Songs vary in intention but remain consistent in the quality of their construction and look-at-the-world-around-you theme, with “Lawman” leaning toward darker country blues, “Mr. Hyde” asking what would happen if Clutch and Ruff Majik ever crossed paths and the finale “Another Fucking Day” offering a deceptively immersive unfurling. I can’t help but wonder if The Ugly Kings feel surrounded in their home city by much, much druggier neo-psych acts in the heavy underground scene, but the clarity of purpose they bring to their songwriting would make them a standout one way or the other.

The Ugly Kings on Facebook

Napalm Records website


Guhts, Blood Feather

GUHTS blood feather

Atmospheric and seething in kind, Guhts brings together members of New Yorkers Witchkiss and North Carolina’s Black Mountain Hunger for a pandemic-era debut release that in style explores the restlessness and the overwhelming nature of the age. With Amber Burns (interview here) on vocals, the drums programmed behind Scott Prater and Dan Shaneyfelt guitars/synths and the bass of Jesse Van Note, and a purpose wrought in immersion, the band distinguishes itself in its apropos grimness and in the potential for future exploration of the ideas laid out here, bordering in “The Mirror” on goth only after “Handless Maiden” offers raging, post-metallic lumber. One wonders how Blood Feather will sound five years from now, but more to the point, one wonders what Guhts might conjure in the meantime when/if they press forward. Either way, expect to see this on the list of 2021’s best short releases.

Guhts on Facebook

Guhts on Bandcamp


Anunnaki, Martyr of Alexandria

annunaki martyr of alexandria

Hey there, psych fans and experts on tragedies of the classic world, British Columbia two-piece Anunnaki have the psychedelic instrumental blowout themed around the murder of Hypatia you’ve been waiting for! Never heard of Hypatia? It doesn’t matter. Samples will provide some context and if they said the whole thing was about going shoe shopping, it wouldn’t be any less righteously far out. With “Golden Gate of the Sun” at the outset, the duo of Dave Read (guitar/bass) and Arlen Thompson (drums/synth) prime a bit of space-boogie, but the subsequent “Cyril, the Fanatic” shoves the freakery to the fore with wailing guitar and drones and seemingly whatever else they thought might work and does. The 15-minute finale, “The Cries of Hypatia,” dives deeper into drone, holding back the drums for about seven minutes while obscure speech and the titular cries unfold. Read and Thompson build it to a full, suitably deathly wash, and take the time to end minimal. Literary, arthouse, but not at all stale for that.

Anunnaki on Facebook

Cardinal Fuzz webstore

NoiseAgonyMayhem website


Bill Fisher, Hallucinations of a Higher Truth

Bill Fisher Hallucinations of a Higher Truth

A departure even from his departure, Church of the Cosmic Skull bandleader Bill Fisher‘s second solo offering, Hallucinations of a Higher Truth, follows the darker progressive rock of 2020’s Mass Hypnosis and the Dark Triad (review here) with 40-plus minutes of piano-led singer-songwriter fare, taking a stated influence from the lyrics-as-everyday-musings of Randy Newman on songs like “Better Than You” and “Off to Work,” while revamping his main outfit’s “Answers in Your Soul” and “Evil in Your Eye” to suit the arrangement theme. As Fisher has engaged plenty with classic forms in his work, Hallucinations of a Higher Truth feels by no means beyond his creative reach, and he’s an accomplished enough songwriter and performer to pull it off, thereby demonstrating that if you can craft a song you can make it do whatever the hell you want, and that “you” in this case is him. This isn’t going to be everybody’s thing, but Fisher carries it ably.

Bill Fisher webstore

Church of the Cosmic Skull website


Seum, Live From the Seum-Cave

Seum Live from the Seum-Cave

Montreal low-end filthmongers Seum return to follow-up earlier 2021’s Winterized EP (review here) with Live From the Seum-Cave, basking in an even rawer incarnation of their guitars-need-not-apply drum/bass/vocals attack. “Sea Sick Six” is even nastier here than it was on the last EP, and the eponymous opener “Seum” is an anthem of disaffection that finds its lyrical answer in “Life Grinder” and “Blueberry Cash” alike — the why-do-I-even-have-this-shit-job point of view as unmistakable as the throat-singing that pops up in the aforementioned “Sea Sick Six.” The trio are beastly on “Winter of Seum,” and they make a special highlight of “Super Tanker” from 2020’s Summer of Seum EP, working tempo shifts into the punishing march that are less than predictable and yet totally over the top in their extremity. This is a good band who genuinely sound like they don’t give a fuck. That’s a hard thing to make believable. I hope they never put out a record and do EPs forever.

Seum on Facebook

Seum on Bandcamp


Spirit Adrift, Forge Your Future

Spirit Adrift Forge Your Future

Spirit Adrift have broken out from the doomly mire to proffer clear-headed, soaring traditional heavy metal. The unit, led as ever by guitarist/bassist/vocalist Nate Garrett with Marcus Bryant on drums, offer three new tracks on Forge Your Future in the title-track, “Wake Up” and “Invisible Enemy,” channeling Randy Rhoads even through more denser tonality and the nodding groove of the last. Echo behind Garrett‘s vocals reminds here and there of Brian “Butch” Balich of Penance/Argus, but Spirit Adrift‘s path across four full-lengths and companion short releases like this one over the last six years has been its own, and the emergence of Garrett as a singer has been a crucial part of making these songs the concise epics they are. Crisp in craft and confident in delivery, Spirit Adrift only sound like masters of their domain here, and so they are. Heavy metal that loves heavy metal.

Spirit Adrift on Facebook

Century Media Records website


Mutha Trucka, Mutha Trucka

Mutha Trucka Mutha Trucka

The Chicago-based three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Eric Ervin, bassist/vocalist Dana “Erv” Ervin and drummer/backing vocalist Ted Sciaky plunge deep with their self-titled debut into the ’90s era of heavy rock, with vibes running between C.O.C., Monster Magnet, Clutch and Kyuss, among others, but there’s a might-throw-elbows spirit that comes through even in willfully spacious pieces like “I’m Free” (some Lemmy influence there too) and “Wizards & Gods” that adds aggro spirit to the bulk of the nine-song/39-minute affair, a piece like “D.B. Blues” — which stands for “Dirty Bitch Blues” — as unpretentious in its overarching style as it is politically incorrect. “Fogginess” hits near eight minutes and moves toward the trippier end of grunge, with one of the outing’s many layered solos playing out amid the solid groove beneath, the band refusing to compromise their abiding lack of pretense even in the face of that which would otherwise be psychedelic. Not much time for that nonsense — there’s crunch to be had.

Mutha Trucka on Facebook

Mutha Trucka on Bandcamp


3rd Ear Experience, Danny Frankel’s 3rd Ear Experience

3rd Ear Experience Danny Frankels 3rd Ear Experience

Who’s Danny Frankel? Long story short, he was Lou Reed‘s drummer, but in fact he’s got a session-player career that’s found him performing with a staggering array of artists and bands. He puts his stamp on his very own 3rd Ear Experience alongside the group’s founding guitarist Robbi Robb as well as a host of others including fellow founder AmritaKripa, synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller and more besides. The resulting journey is six tracks and 63 minutes of psychedelic gloryscaping, desert-born but galaxy-bred, with longform works like “What Are Their Names” (18:18), “Weep No More, My Friend” (14:49) and closer “Timelessness Pt. 2” (12:03) expanding across exploratory and fluid movements offset by shorter stretches like the suitably percussive “Cosmos Glazed Elephant.” In opener “A Beautiful Questions,” the drums hardly feature, but the lead-in for “What Are Their Names” feels no less intentional than when the penultimate “Timelessness Pt. 1” gives way to silence ahead of the beginning of the finale. I’d say more, but I seem to have lost my train of hyperbole-laden praise. Wonderfully so.

3rd Ear Experience on Facebook

Space Rock Productions website


Solarius, Universal Trial

solarius universal trial

Originally recorded in 2006, Solarius‘s heretofore unreleased four-song EP, Universal Trial, is notable for predating the self-titled Graveyard album, as guitarist/vocalist Jonatan Ramm would end up joining that band in 2008, seeming after Solarius dissolved. The 21-minute release arrives now with the considerable backing of Heavy Psych Sounds in no small part because of that nifty bit of context, and the classic-style boogie wrought in “Sky of Mine” is enough to make it a prescient-feeling footnote in the storied history of Swedish retroism, let alone the brooding-into-surging, organ-laced “Into the Sun,” which if it was issued by a new band this week would be an excuse unto itself for Bandcamp Friday. Wrapped in the shuffling title-track at the start and the harmonized, patiently-drawn “Mother Nature Mind” at the end, Universal Trial feels like a lesson in the essential role of producer Don Alsterberg (Graveyard, Blues Pills, Spiders, etc.) in defining the style as well as in what might’ve been if Solarius had put this out at the time.

Heavy Psych Sounds on Facebook

Heavy Psych Sounds website


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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 66

Posted in Radio on August 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Good show. Starts heavy, stays heavy. Gets a little rocking by the end, but even the Acidemia jam that caps has a good sense of heft behind it. I noticed last episode had a pretty fair amount of drift — and this one isn’t entirely without, as you’ll notice — but I guess sometimes those aggro tendencies surface. Plus I’ve been very much enjoying the new LLNN album, and you can’t really start with that and not keep going with more extreme fare. Or I can’t, anyway. Or at least I didn’t. So there.

The Pecan joined in on the voice tracks, which was fun. I tried to get him to say his letters but he was like “up yours,” as ever. He knows them, and I guess that’ll have to do for now. But he got such a kick out of hearing himself on the playback that he started sprinting back and forth across the sectional in our living room, so I’m glad to know he at least enjoys taking part, even if having your toddler on is about as un-metal a thing I can think of. I’ve always maintained I have no business being on Gimme, even before they renamed it. It’s nice to be right every once in a while, even if it’s gonna feel bad when they eventually shitcan me.

Either way, thanks for listening and/or reading. I hope you enjoy.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 08.20.21

LLNN Obsidian Unmaker
Yanomamo Dig 2 Graves Yanomamo/Slomatics Split
Churchburn Scarred Genocidal Rite
Sky Pig The Strain Hell is Inside You
Guhts Eyes Open Blood Feather
Year of No Light Réalgar Consolamentum
Blackwater Holylight Around You Silence/Motion
Deep Tomb Endless Power Through Breathless Sleep Deep Tomb
Starless Pendulum Hope is Leaving You
Craneium Shine Again Unknown Heights
Kal-El Mica Dark Majesty
Crystal Spiders Morieris Morieris
Solemn Lament Celeste Solemn Lament
Acidemia Caximbo Podridão

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Sept. 3 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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Magnetic Eye Records Announces Back in Black Redux and The Best of AC/DC Tribute Lineups

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

I’ll readily admit I’m not the biggest AC/DC fan in the world, but with an initial Kickstarter goal of four thousand dollars that, as of this post, is currently at well over four times that amount, why would Magnetic Eye Records ever stop putting out ‘Redux’ records? Clearly they’ve found a thing that works, lets them pull in an array of killer artists from around the world, and is only well supported by the fanbase. Shit, they got Udo Dirkschneider to be on a track with Howling Giant. That’s awesome. You just have to throw up your hands at the inevitable, I guess. ‘Redux’ forever.

Note Heavy Temple here, as well as Kryptograf, Solace and Earthride — any new recording from either of them is welcome — and Besvärjelsen too. Some from the Magnetic Eye roster, some Blues Funeral, some beyond. And Red Fang leading off with “Hells Bells.” Can you already hear that in your head? Of course you can.

The PR wire has the full lineup and more:

va acdc back in black redux

va the best of acdc redux

Magnetic Eye Records announce the complete track list of latest Redux Series installments “Back in Black [Redux]” and companion volume “Best of AC/DC”

Magnetic Eye Records have shattered their Kickstarter goal on their latest [Redux] series project dedicated to the AC/DC mega-classic “Back in Black” and its companion volume under the title “Best of AC/DC”. The target of 4,000 USD has been pledged more than four times over, and the campaign continues until July 25 at the following link:


The complete track listingss for both releases paying impassioned homage to AC/DC have also been revealed and feature exciting contributions from, among many others, RED FANG, SUPERSUCKERS, WHORES featuring MASTODON’s BILL KELLIHER, BOB BALCH (FU MANCHU) & TONY REED (MOS GENERATOR), and HOWLING GIANT collaborating with legendary former ACCEPT shouter UDO DIRKSCHNEIDER. Please see below for full details.

Jadd Shickler comments: “Our Redux releases have always been and will always be works of pure love and respect for truly amazing bands and albums, our way of celebrating classics and paying proper homage to the artists who’ve made some of the most meaningful music of our lives”, states the Magnetic Eye Records label director. “We take the overwhelming response as a sign of trust and support for the dedication that goes into the Redux series, and we’re thankful for the amazing response! Even with the industry-wide delays on vinyl production, we’ll be making our strongest efforts to deliver these albums into everyone’s hands before the end of 2021.”

Tracklist “Back in Black [Redux]
1. Hells Bells- Red Fang
2. Shoot to Thrill – Howling Giant feat. Udo Dirkschneider
3. What Do You Do for Money Honey – Supersuckers
4. Givin the Dog a Bone – Smoking Lightning
5. Let Me Put My Love into You – Heavy Temple feat. Valient Himself
6. Back in Black – Besvärjelsen
7. You Shook Me All Night Long – Jakethehawk feat. Patrick Waters
8. Have a Drink on Me – Whores feat. Bill Kelliher
9. Shake a Leg – Early Man
10. Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution – Earthride

Tracklist “Best of AC/DC”
1. Sin City – Witchskull
2. It’s a Long Way to the Top (If You Wanna Rock ‘N Roll) – Kal-El
3. What’s Next to the Moon – Bob Balch & Tony Reed
4. Bad Boy Boogie – Kryptograf
5. Walk All Over You – Blue Heron
6. Overdose – Supersuckers
7. For Those About to Rock (We Salute You) – Riff Lord
8. Whole Lotta Rosie – Solace
9. If You Want Blood – Red Mesa
10. The Razors Edge – Ghost Ship Ritual
11. Dog Eat Dog – Caustic Casanova
12. High Voltage – Electric Frankenstein
13. Night Prowler – Domkraft

“Back in Black [Redux]” presents new takes on all ten cuts from AC/DC’s seminal seventh album. This was the first record to feature “new” singer Brian Johnson following the death of original larger-than-life frontman Bon Scott, and music historians agree that there was massive pressure on both the new singer and the band to deliver. Even so, nobody could have anticipated that they’d create one of the most important rock albums ever, and Magnetic Eye cannot wait for you to hear what many of your favorite bands from the stoner, doom, and riff-rock scene have done with some of the most iconic rock songs of all time.

Along with “Back in Black [Redux]”, we also present our “Best of AC/DC” companion album, a 2-LP extravaganza featuring 13 bands offering their renditions of all-time classics and deep cuts from across the AC/DC catalog. Featuring an array of absolute heavyweights and hungry up-and-comers from the heavy rock underground, we’ve got no doubt that fans of the riff-heavy will be stoked to experience these massive AC/DC interpretations unlike any they’ve heard before.

The Magnetic Eye [Redux] Series features hand-picked classic albums from across the history of rock and metal, re-imagined in their entirety from start to finish by bands we love. Hand-picked artists from throughout the rock and metal world each pick a track to make their own, bringing these milestone records into the new millennium with crushing heaviness and searing energy. To date, we’ve produced [Redux] versions of PINK FLYOD’s “The Wall”, HELMET’s “Meantime”, BLACK SABBATH’s “Vol. 4”, HENDRIX’s “Electric Ladyland”, and ALICE IN CHAINS’ “Dirt”, which have included artists like MATT PIKE, PALLBEARER, THE MELVINS, ALL THEM WITCHES, KHEMMIS, ASG, ZAKK WYLDE, MARK LANEGAN, SCOTT REEDER, and many more amazing artists.

Join us for our sixth foray into Redux territory as we pay proper respect to the Australian legends!


Solace, “Whole Lotta Rosie”

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