The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 56

Posted in Radio on April 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Good stuff, almost entirely new. Hell, three of these records came out on the same day last Friday, so yeah, it’s fresh stuff one way or the other, even if I think I’ve played Genghis Tron three times now since they announced the release of their Dream Weapon Literature reviews are such a pain in the butt at the Our Generation Y Essay Thesis also has an online chat where you can talk to our  album. And Yawning Sons definitely more than once too. Whatever. Call me repetitive. I like doom. “Repetitive” is a compliment to me.

The show opens and closes north of 10 minutes, but only hits that mark one other time, which is in “Fawn” by Body Void. Fair enough for the ultra-sludge charred-black morass that track elicits. With new King Buffalo, Somnuri and Domkraft singles and that hidden gem by Alastor tucked in ahead of Acid Mothers Temple-offshoot Mainliner’s massive jam at the end, this is a good god damn show. If I’d heard the new Heavy Temple in time to include that, I probably would have. Note to self for the next one.

Thanks for listening and/or reading. As always 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 – 04.02.21

Chamán Concreto Maleza
VT
Lammping Other Shoe New Jaws EP
Domkraft Seeds Seeds
King Buffalo Hebetation The Burden of Restlessness
DVNE Court of the Matriarch Etemen AEnka
Jess and the Ancient Ones Summer Tripping Man Vertigo
Greenleaf Bury Me My Son Echoes From a Mass
VT
Yawning Sons Gravity Underwater Sky Island
Genghis Tron Great Mother Dream Weapon
Arepo Nonmaterial Arepo
Body Void Fawn Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
Somnuri Beyond Your Last Breath Nefarious Wave
Alastor Death Cult Onwards and Downwards
VT
Mainliner Hibernator’s Dream Dual Myths

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is April 16 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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King Buffalo to Release The Burden of Restlessness June 4; Preorders Available & Song Streaming; Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

King Buffalo

Rochester, New York, heavy psych trio dissertation thatre plaire instruire Essay About Online Registration personal history statement architecture essay generator free King Buffalo take on the darker side of quarantine with Having http://www.sparkasse-3-laender-marathon.at/?do-conclusion-paragraph-research-papers as your provider of expert-written college papers, youre always at an advantage. LOCAL UK AUTHORS All your essays are fulfilled by proper British writers, meaning correct grammar, style, syntax, and punctuation. ORIGINAL PAPERS Every expert does every essay they got to work on from scratch. We respect your academic integrity and thus provide you only with The Burden of Restlessness, their third LP, set to release on June 4. Their most progressive album rhythmically is also their more aggressive thematically, and the album’s tracks do a damn fine job of living up to the album’s name. If you happened to be alive last Spring, you probably felt some of that burden yourself. Or you actually got sick, which as I understand it was worse.

Not that the pandemic is over, mind you.

As discussed in the recent interview with drummer my review here and Improve My Time at University. When you send us a request titled Write my essay for me, we will do exactly that. Weekly Essay prides itself on providing students all over the world with affordable academic assistance whenever they feel they need it most. We offer a wide range of services, ensuring that all kinds of students in every subject field are fully catered for at every stage of their university career. All you need to do is read about the services we provide Scott Donaldson Start working with the most experienced book reviewers. Choose between these two innovative Research Papers Marriages The Burden of Restlessness will serve as one of three full-lengths  The old pros may appreciate this http://icdc.cen.uni-hamburg.de/?personal-statement-medical, but it's really for new writers between assignments. The key to a successful writing career is King Buffalo will issue in 2021/early 2022, with the next one to be recorded next month. I’ll have more on that to come. In the meantime, preorders are up for  The Burden of Restlessness, which will be released through the band in the US and through  Vhdl Assignment Do you need someone to help with your dissertation? Or perhaps you are looking for thesis help instead? Our PhD-level Stickman Records in Europe. And hey, they’ve got tour dates! Will they happen? Maybe!

As per the PR wire:

king buffalo the burden of restlessness

KING BUFFALO RELEASE THIRD RECORD, THE BURDEN OF RESTLESSNESS, ON JUNE 4TH & ANNOUNCE TOUR DATES

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King Buffalo’s third full-length record, The Burden of Restlessness, will be released on June 4, 2021. The widely-hailed progressive heavy rock trio will have vinyl & CD preorders available on April 2, via kingbuffalo.bigcartel.com.

This the first of three full-lengths they will release throughout 2021.

REPEAT: THREE

Their most focused progressive offering to-date, The Burden of Restlessness will self-release throughout North America and see European issue via Stickman Records.

Self-recorded in late 2020 and early 2021 by guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson, The Burden of Restlessness continues to push King Buffalo’s progressive aspects forward into new avenues of melody and exploration.

At the same time, it is not mistitled. There are deep undercurrents of frustration and even an aggressive pulse that coincide with the spaciousness for which the band has been so widely lauded since their 2016 debut, Orion. Guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay drops what’s bound to become one of the record’s signature lyrics in opener “Burning” when he declares, “Another year lost in the wasteland,” and more succinct summaries of canceled plans and rescheduled, lost or damaged lives are hard to come by.

“The Burden of Restlessness was written over the course of what most would consider a pretty stark and stressful time period. The end result is our darkest, most aggressive, and most intimate work to date. We are extremely proud of what this record became.” – Sean McVay

Followers of King Buffalo will find the band’s time was not at all wasted. While some of the synthesizer-driven elements of early-2020’s Dead Star EP have been stripped back, the rhythmic complexity in The Burden of Restlessness is yet more new ground the band are claiming as their own. They do so with confidence and a creative depth of atmosphere that comes through in more than just the effects being used, and the urgency in their material is unmistakable.

“Since Covid stopped all touring, we’ve been hard at work and made the commitment to not waste the opportunity. We’re excited to share the first of three records of 2021, which has expanded our sound in a lot of different ways. We hope you enjoy it and we look forward to eventually playing these songs live.” – Scott Donaldson

The Burden of Restlessness was written and recorded by King Buffalo in Rochester, NY at the Main Street Armory in December of 2020 & January 2021. Produced, engineered & mixed by Sean McVay, and mastered by Bernie Matthews. The artwork was created by Zdzis?aw Beksi?ski with cover fonts by Mike Turzanski and album layout by Scott Donaldson.

The Burden of Restlessness Tracklist:
1. Burning
2. Hebetation
3. Locusts
4. Silverfish
5. Grifter
6. The Knocks
7. Loam

2021 Tour Dates (Tickets on sale NOW at kingbuffalo.com)
9/10 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
9/11 Denver, CO @ Larimer Lounge
9/14 Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge
9/15 San Francisco, CA @ Bottom of the Hill
9/17 Seattle, WA @ Barboza
9/18 Vancouver, BC @ Fox Cabaret
9/19 Portland, OR @ Lola’s Room
11/5 Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
11/6 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
11/11 Pittsburgh, PA @ Club Café
11/12 Detroit, MI @ Loving Touch
11/13 Indianapolis, IN @ HI-FI
11/14 St. Louis, MO @ Off Broadway
11/16 Madison, WI @ The Bur Oak
11/17 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th St. Entry
11/18 Milwaukee, WI @ Colectivo
11/19 Chicago, IL @ Lincoln Hall
11/20 Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Ballroom

King Buffalo is:
Sean McVay – Guitar, Vocals, & Synth
Dan Reynolds – Bass & Synth
Scott Donaldson – Drums & Percussion

kingbuffalo.com
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Video Interview: King Buffalo Announce Three Albums Coming in 2021

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on March 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo

Rochester, New York, trio  The option http://www.ertex-solar.at/?master-thesis-in-germanys of multiple revisions will buy phd dissertations help you polish the paper purchase a dissertation a publication for free and turn it in a real masterpiece of buy... King Buffalo will release three full-lengths throughout 2021.

Repeat: three.

The band — comprised of guitarist/vocalist  UK Archetype Essay. Using an online essay writing services frees up your time for study and exam revision. We understand that you are busy and need an extra pair of hands to stop you from falling behind on your course work. We have taken the stress away from thousands of students around Great Britain by helping them to meet their Sean McVay, bassist Untold Content is a writing consultancy. We provide Sample Research Paper Chicago Style and specialize in translating complex insights into compelling stories. Dan Reynolds and drummer http://www.cividale.net/?essay-writing-for-high-schoolers. At best essay writing service review platform, students will get best suggestions of best essay writing services by expert reviews Scott Donaldson — recently oversaw the release of  Essay Bay Acers offers the best online homework, essay help & see here now assignment writing service in the US, UK,Canada & Australia at reasonable prices. Live at Freak Valley (review here) as a follow-up to their early-2020 EP,  Custom Essays to Make Your College Life Better. Our high-quality but still Pay Someone To Do My Coursework are always at your disposal. Dead Star (review here). By now the narrative of group-who-should’ve-spent-all-of-2020-touring-but-didn’t should be well familiar, but  King Buffalo made exceptional use of the time. As Donaldson explains in the interview below in discussing their project, they actually had enough to use for four albums and decided to whittle it down to three.

This does nothing less than set King Buffalo up to potentially own the year, especially with the way they’re going about it. Each of the three albums will be recorded in a different manner and setting, so that while they’re using songs written during the same span of lockdown months, the presentation of each LP will inherently be different because the experience behind it will be different. In talking to Donaldson, I brought up a kind of second-installment syndrome, thinking of examples from Earth‘s Angels of Darkness, Demons of Light and Ufomammut‘s Oro two-parter projects, wherein the second piece came out and brought more of what the first had on offer. King Buffalo‘s methodological thinking seems like not only a clever workaround, but a way to continue to grow the band each time out.

And, it needs to be said, to take the place, momentum-wise, of touring. One would figure that if King Buffalo put out one album in alternate-reality-2021, they’d tour to support it in Europe and the US. Instead of those two tours, the band makes the jump through albums three, four and five in a span of months. Even if you’re a King Buffalo fan, it might seem like a lot to take in, but if the band have proved anything yet in their tenure, it’s that their work stands up to being digested over a longer time. That is, just because album four has arrived doesn’t mean you’re not still allowed to listen to album three.

Many details about the recording projects are still to be unveiled, but Donaldson talks a bit about the timing below — it may be 2022 before that last LP arrives, and if it is, fine — but his excitement is infectious. I hope you enjoy the interview.

The text of the band’s announcement also follows below:

King Buffalo, Interview with Scott Donaldson, Feb. 17, 2021

Hey Friends,

That’s not a typo, and we know it sounds crazy, but yes, we will be releasing THREE FULL-LENGTH RECORDS in 2021!

It’s all new material and we’re really excited to finally be able to tell you. Since Covid stopped all touring, we’ve been hard at work and made the commitment to not waste this time.

We can’t give you all the details, but each record will be distinct. We’ve chosen different methods to record and produce each one, and we will share that info with you in the coming months.

The artwork and single from the first record will be announced in a few weeks. So sit tight. There’s going to be a lot of new tunes coming and we can’t wait for you to hear them!

For a deeper dive, check out Scott’s interview over at theobelisk.net.

All the best,
KB

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Friday Full-Length: King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Live at Freak Valley is everything one could reasonably ask a live record from King Buffalo to be. Recorded in 2019 in Germany at the Rockpalast-captured Freak Valley Festival, which has become an institution unto itself in Europe’s heavy rock underground, packed full of outdoor summer fests as it may be, it found the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson supporting their 2018 sophomore full-length, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here), on tour in Europe. And they’re in top form. The 54-minute set pulls together tracks from the second album, their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), as well as the title-cut from earlier-2018’s Repeater EP (review here), and in the energy of their performance and how it melds with their emergent heavy psychedelic grooves, the fluidity in and between the songs, it is nothing less than graceful, and it demonstrates the mastery the three-piece have over the immersive sound they create.

A spoken introduction in German brings them to the stage, and they begin with “Sun Shivers” from Longing to Be the Mountain, starting with a shorter track to draw the crowd in, which seems to work if the captured response is anything to go by. From there, it’s all-in, with “Longing to Be the Mountain” back-to-back with “Repeater” in a gorgeous 25-minute meld of molten, weighted psychedelics. The sprawl King Buffalo establish on stage at Freak Valley is different from on their albums, but no less engaging, and that’s a testament to the band’s commitment to their aesthetic. That is, it would be easy for them to be a rawer band live than they are. Instead, the melodies are intact and songs are drawn together one into the next by improvised-sounding stretches of guitar effects or sort of mini-jams. Consider the way “Repeater” gives way to “Orion,” and the emergence of that recognizable guitar figure as the song itself starts. It is an invitation to those fortunate enough to be assembled in front of the stage watching and hearing the band, to come and take part in the proceedings, as much a journey inward as far-out.

That sounds like hyperbole and maybe it is, but fuck it, I don’t care anymore. Put the song on and listen to the patience in Donaldson‘s drumming KING BUFFALO LIVE AT FREAK VALLEYand Reynolds‘ bassline. Listen closely and you can hear someone in the crowd shout “fuckin’ beautiful!” at the end of “Orion,” and I can’t disagree, as Live at Freak Valley has given me a new appreciation for that song and how it’s obviously grown in the years since they released the album of the same name. But for, well, the rest of the thing, “Orion” would probably be a highlight, with McVay‘s communion with the constellation in the arriving-in-its-own-time first verse leading to the later surge that carries them out into a stop before “Kerosene” from the same record picks up with the drums starting ahead of the guitar, feedback announcing its coming before the actual howling begins. The tension there is palpable and that it gets paid off should be a surprise to no one who heard the album version, its second half working in stages to push through the finish with a winding but energetic pulse.

After due applause, they wrap with Longing to Be the Mountain closer “Eye of the Storm,” McVay saying beforehand that they’ll be hanging out by the merch area after the set. It’s easy to romanticize that idea now, right? Band plays a good show to a ready crowd, it goes out streamed live through one of Germany’s greatest rock and roll properties — that being Rockpalast — and then goes and sees friends new and old, sells some vinyl, some shirts, shakes hands, takes pictures, maybe watches some of A Place to Bury Strangers, who play next, and then probably eventually goes to find some food. It’s like something that happened in a different dimension and it sounds so simple. What the hell.

I’ll spare you the in-a-world-without-live-music-live-albums-are-treasure rant. You’re welcome. More even than that, what Live at Freak Valley does is give a look at the vitality of the band itself. They sound excited to be there. They’re playing like they’re excited to be there, and yet the songs aren’t egregiously fast. King Buffalo aren’t rushed in their delivery. They play through the material with, as noted, a masterful touch; one born of time spent doing exactly what they’re doing here — playing the set. The progression the band undertook between their first album and their second was no accident — they’ve communicated it to their listeners every single step of the way. From Orion to Repeater to Longing to Be the Mountain, the band cast off the trappings of being strictly heavy blues or strictly anything else. Psychedelic, progressive, thoughtful, melodic, heavy, spontaneous — all that and more carried across in the material of Longing to Be the Mountain, and it comes through on Live at Freak Valley as well. Shit, they end with a jam. A jam! What more could they possibly do to signal that the story goes on from here?

And it does. Last year, amid canceled tours and plans upended, King Buffalo issued their Dead Star EP (review here), which showed not only a more meditative aspect of their sound, but a branching out into the realms of atmospheric and dramatic synthesizer as well. What does all that portend when it comes to an awaited third full-length? I have no clue, and likewise I have no clue how spending a year off the road will affect their style or their approach in the studio, because of course these things feed off each other. All of this we’ll have to wait to know, but that the anticipation to do so even exists is evidence of how crucial a purpose Live at Freak Valley serves, not just in bridging the gap between one release and the next — though that too — but in giving a showcase to the depth and multifaceted nature of the band’s evolution. Long may it continue.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Another week where I could feel my mind shrink and my ass expand. I’m just trying to get through the days at this point. I don’t even have a reason why. I just want to go to bed, put the pillow over my head, and wake up three times and push the alarm back until I finally just give up and sleep as late as I can. That’s around 7 or so when The Pecan is up. He’s back in school now. Two cases of the plague among the staff this week. They’ll shut down again, I’m sure. Probably a day after he’s used to getting on the bus again. That seems to be how it’s timed thus far. Yes, I take it personally. I take everything personally. It’s fucking called narcissism. Look it up.

Speaking of me, I was doing myself a favor with the King Buffalo pick up there. Feel like I’ve been writing about a lot of live records lately but of course there are a lot to be written about as bands try to keep momentum going between albums when they can’t tour, or want to take advantage of a Bandcamp Friday or want to remind people they exist or whatever it might be. I knew it was something I’d enjoy when I put it on and, sure enough, I enjoyed it. That’s a good band.

Anyway.

Next week is packed. Some of it you’ll give a crap about, some of it you won’t. Same as ever.

No Gimme show this week, though I turned in the playlist for next week already. It’s a weird one. Cool.

I wish you well. Hope you and yours are safe and healthy and all that. Don’t forget to hydrate.

Thanks for reading.

FRM.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

Invariably, the ultimate measure of 2020 will be in lives and livelihoods lost around the world. I have nothing to add to the discourse of the COVID-19 pandemic that others haven’t said in more articulate and precise language. Suffice it to note that 2020 was the year that the very concept of “unprecedented” itself became trite.

One does not have to look far to find positives amid the devastation. Creativity continues to flourish. Art cannot be killed. Even locked away from each other in quarantine, artists will continue to reach out, to collaborate, to fulfill the human need for expression that has driven the species since cave drawings and will no doubt be the ruins we leave behind us when we’re gone.

In underground music, it was simply overwhelming. And though I’ll admit it was hard at times to listen to music and divorce it from the larger context of what was happening in the world — it was there like a background buzz — this year reinforced how necessary music is, not only as an escape or a source of income for those who make/promote it, but as an integral component of life and community. Absences have been keenly felt.

I won’t try to sate you with platitudes, to say “things will get better.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. One year turning to the next does not fix broken systems and it does not cure raging plagues. It’s just a number. Arbitrary except as a convenient marker for things like this, births, deaths, and so on. Bookkeeping.

Before I turn you over to the lists: Please be kind in the comments if you choose to leave one. To me. To other people. To yourself. These lists are culled from my listening preference and what I consider of critical importance. But I’m one person. If there’s something you feel has been left out, say so. I ask you only to do so in a spirit of friendship rather than argument. Thank you in advance.

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

50. Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion
49. Atramentus, Stygian
48. Arcadian Child, Protopsycho
47. Fuzz, III
46. Jointhugger, I Am No One
45. Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
44. Switchblade Jesus, Death Hymns
43. Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted
42. Hymn, Breach Us
41. IAH, III
40. Lord Fowl, Glorious Babylon
39. Acid Mess, Sangre de Otros Mundos
38. 1000mods, Youth of Dissent
37. Deathwhite, Grave Image
36. Soldati, Doom Nacional
35. Cortez, Sell the Future
34. Kadavar, The Isolation Tapes
33. Black Rainbows, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip
32. Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch
31. Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Notes: To say nothing of the honorable mentions that follow the rest of the list below, immediately we see the problem of so-many-albums-not-enough-space. People talk about a top 50 as ridiculous, like there’s no way you can like that much music. Bullshit. I agonized over how to fit Sun Crow on this list because their Quest for Oblivion felt like it deserved to be here. Ditto that for Arcadian Child. And the achievements of bands like Kadavar, 1000mods and Switchblade Jesus and Insect Ark in breaking the boundaries of their own aesthetics deserve every accolade they can get, and likewise those who progressed in their sound like Cortez, Shadow Witch, Lord Fowl, Hymn, Foot, Black Rainbows, Deathwhite and IAH. Add to that the debuts from Atramentus, Dirt Woman, Jointhugger, Acid Mess and Sergio Ch.’s Soldati, and you’ve got a batch of 20 records — some born of this year’s malaise, some working in spite of it — that vary in sound but are working to push their respective styles to new places one way or the other.

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another Sons of Otis. Be thankful for everything you get from them.

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Lamp of the Universe‘s Dead Shrine were familiar enough for those familiar with the one-man outfit running more than two decades, but the lush acid folk created remains a standout the world over. Dead Shrine was a much-needed gift of peace and meditation.

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

The debut album from Colorado’s BleakHeart collected pieces united by melody and overarching atmosphere, positioned stylistically somewhere around heavygaze or heavy post-rock, but feeling less limited to genre bounds than some others working in a similar sphere. As a first outing, it brought a promise of things to come even as the depths of its mix seemed to swallow the listener entirely, equal parts serving claustrophobia and escapism.

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

There is not enough space here to properly commend Pale Divine founding guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener on how much he opened up the band by bringing in his and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s former Beelzefuzz bandmate Dana Ortt on shared guitar, vocal and songwriting duties. Completed by Ron “Fezz” McGinnis on bass/vocals, Pale Divine are a refreshed and ready powerhouse of American traditional doom.

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

One is going to have to get used to the idea of Uncle Woe residing in the places between, I think. An inward-looking cosmic doom that’s likewise morose and reaching, opaque and translucent, Phantomescence could be almost troubling in its feeling of off-kilter expression. Yet that’s exactly what multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rain Fice was going for. Thriving on contradiction, exploratory, and individualized. Start from doom, move outward.

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

Released by Off the Record Label. Reviewed Oct. 15.

I don’t feel like I’m cool enough to offer any substantive comment on what Chicago’s REZN do, but their sax-laced heavy psychedelia comes across warm and is invitingly languid while still delivered with a sense of energy and purpose. It rolls and you want to roll with it, so you do. They were clearly hurt by not being able to tour this year, as were audiences for not seeing them. Call them neo-stoner metal or whatever you want, these songs deserve to be played live.

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

A revamped lineup for South African desert-ish heavy rockers Ruff Majik brought producer Evert Snyman in as co-conspirator with frontman/principal songwriter Johni Holiday, and found the former trio working as a five-piece with a broader sound underscored by an electric sense of purpose and willingness to push themselves to places they hadn’t gone before. Their third record, it seemed as well to be a new beginning, and they met the challenge head-on.

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

The underheralded children of rolling fuzz riffage, Connecticut’s Curse the Son found new depths of emotion to bring to Excruciation — and I do mean “depths.” Dark times for dark times. Fueled by personal hardship, turmoil, motorcycle accidents and a pervasive sense of struggle, the LP was nonetheless a triumph of their songwriting and brought new melodic character to their established largesse of tone. Your loss if you missed it.

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Business as usual in ferocious heavy/speed rock from The Atomic Bitchwax on Scorpio — and that was only reassuring since the band’s eighth full-length marked the first since the departure of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and his replacing with Garrett Sweeny, a bandmate of founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella in Monster Magnet. They barely stopped to cool their heels and yet still managed to be catchy as hell. How do they do it? Jersey Magic.

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

Such pervasive melancholy could only be derived from Irish folk, and so it was on Cinder Well‘s No Summer, which managed to move between singer-songwriter minimalism from Amelia Baker and arrangements of deceptive and purposeful intricacy. Wherever it went, from traditional songs “Wandering Boy” and “The Cuckoo” to originals like “Fallen” and the nine-minute “Our Lady’s,” it was equal parts gorgeous and sad and resonant. It remains so, despite the fleeting season.

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

Their fourth album and first since crossing the decade-mark since their inception, Pallbearer‘s Forgotten Days wasn’t just heavy, emotional or big-sounding; it was the most their-own of anything they’ve done. It felt exactly like the record they wanted it to be, and reconfirmed that the generation of listeners being introduced to doom by their music is going to be just fine if they follow the cues laid out for them here.

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

Released by Stolen Body and Vicious Circle Records. Reviewed March 26.

Less a reinvention of space rock than a kick in its ass, Slift‘s Ummon pushed well past the line of manageability at 72 minutes and reveled in that. The French outfit were greeted as liberators when they released the album, and with the way the respect has been maintained in the months since they’ve given themselves a high standard to meet, but there’s only promise to be heard as you get lost in the nebular wash of this sprawling 2LP. They’ll have two more records out before this one’s fully digested.

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

The first album in half a decade from long-established UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride found vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe coping with his daughter’s cancer diagnosis and translating that into the morose poetry for which the band is so well known and with which they’ve been so influential. My Dying Bride has never wanted for sincerity, but to call them affecting here would be underselling the quality of their craft and the heart they put into it. Follow-up EP is already out with extra non-album tracks.

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Denmark’s Causa Sui may be on a mission to unite jazz and heavy psychedelia — and blessings on them for that — but the mellow jammy vibes they conjured on Szabodelico only emphasized how much it’s the character of what they do and the chemistry they’ve brought as bandmates that has allowed them to branch thusly in terms of aesthetic. It was the kind of album you wanted to put on again even before it was over, and its sweet instrumentals felt born to a greater timeline than a single year can encompass.

14. All Souls, Songs for the End of the World

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I’m not a punk rocker, but All Souls make me wish I was. Their emotive and engaged heavy rock looks out as much as in on Songs for the End of the World — their second LP behind a 2018 self-titled debut (review here) — but it’s undeniably punk in its foundation, and what the four-piece of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi), Erik Trammell (Black Elk) and Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson) have put together builds on that in exciting, inventive and individualized ways, while staying nonetheless true to its roots.

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), Boston four-piece Kind return with Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (RoadsawSasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

Founded by vocalist Farida Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) and guitarist Oeds Beydals (ex-Death Alley, also ex-The Devil’s Blood) and commissioned as a project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here), Molassess are inextricably tied to Lemouchi‘s groundbreaking former outfit and its tragic ending, but the musical branching out into darkened progressive textures on Through the Hollow isn’t to be understated. It was an album that pushed past the past, not overlooking it, but finding new ways of moving forward in life and sound.

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

While of course the Mos Generator frontman is no stranger to writing or recording on his own, Funeral Suit was Tony Reed‘s debut as a solo artist and it carried his progressive stamp in melody and arrangement. It was not just a guitarist playing acoustic instead of electric, and it was not a manifestation of self-indulgence. Whether it was reworking a Mos Generator song like “Lonely One Kenobi” or pursuing a new piece like the title-track or “Waterbirth,” Reed found balance between personal and audience, evoking traditional songsmithing even as he reminded listeners of his dual role as a producer.

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Spectacular showing from Kingston kingpins Geezer with Groovy as their first offering for Heavy Psych Sounds. Led by guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, the three-piece brought material that flowed with the organic feel of jams despite being structured and catchy songs. In pieces like “Dead Soul Scroll” and “Drowning on Empty,” they melded stonerized groove with what felt like genuine emotional expression, and “Dig” and “Groovy” still managed to be a heavy fuzz-blues party. And they still had room at the end to jam out on “Slide Mountain” and “Black Owl.” It was nothing but a win, rising to the occasion on every level.

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

So Bob Balch from Fu Manchu and Gary Arce from Yawning Man have a band. They get Tony Reed from Mos Generator on board. Mario Lalli from Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson comes and goes. Nick Oliveri comes and goes. Bill Stinson from Yawning Man plays drums. Alain Johannes sits in on vocals. Reed does a bunch of vocals; his kid does a track too. Per Wiberg from Spiritual Beggars, Opeth, Candlemass, etc., lends some keys. What do you call such a thing? Who cares? You call yourself lucky it exists. They called the record Vision Beyond Horizon. Can’t wait to find out what they call the next one.

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed April 27.

Omens marked a new beginning for Elder as the band pushed deeper into the realm of progressive rock and beyond their weightier beginnings. The arrival of Georg Edert (also Gaffa Ghandi) on drums in place of Matt Couto shifted the band’s dynamic in a number of ways, providing not a swinging anchor for the rhythm section necessarily, but another avenue of prog fluidity. Bassist Jack Donovan brought a steady presence in the low end as guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo and guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg embarked on new melodic explorations while staying loyal to the band’s established penchant for sweeping changes. Omens may live up to its name as a sign of things to come, but either way, it was a strong display of the band’s will to pursue new ideas and methods.

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

First words that come to mind here: “eminently listenable.” With seven tracks and 36 minutes, Reverie may not have taken up much of your afternoon… once. But by the time you gave it its proper respect and listened through three times in a row, the situation was somewhat different. The Lafayette, Louisiana, four-piece gracefully brought together structured songwriting with proggier leanings and were able to bring together rampaging hooks like “Trace the Omen” and “Manifest,” casting a sense of sonic hugeness without forgetting to add either melody or personality along with that. The band — who here welcomed bassist Thorn Letulle alongside guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa and drummer Thomas Colley — have worked quickly and evolved with a sense of urgency. Is Reverie the goal or another step on that path?

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

Vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz (interview here), guitarist Max Doyle and drummer Zack Farwell comprise Grayceon, and with their fifth record, the band looks around thematically at environmental devastation through the lens of record-breaking California wildfires from their vantage point in the Bay Area. Even as the world shifted priorities (at least most of it did) to yet another global crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, genre-melting-pot songs like “Diablo Wind,” “The Lucky Ones,” and “This Bed” reminded of the horrors humanity has wrought on its battered home, and still managed to find hope and serenity in “And Shine On” and “Rock Steady,” a closing duo that shifted to a more personal discussion of family and one’s hope for a better future for and by the next generation. 2020 had plenty of horror. At least we got a new Grayceon record out of it.

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” and the acoustic closer “Been So Long.” With Bjork recording all the instruments himself, a due feeling of intimacy resulted, and yet he still found a way to make it rock. How could it be otherwise?

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

Why do I feel the immediate need to defend this pick? I’m not sure. Norway’s Enslaved are an institution, not just of black metal, but of bringing an ideology of creative growth to that style that often willfully resists it. They are iconoclastic even unto their own work. Utgard was released as the band stood on the precipice of 30 years together and yet it stood as their most forward-looking offering yet, as co-founders Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals) and Ivar Bjørnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017’s E (review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver Sandøy, who doubles as a vocalist (and triples as a producer). The “new blood” made all the difference on Utgard, allowing Enslaved to piece together new ranges of melody in their work and offset instrumental shifts into and out of krautrock-derived progressions. Simply the work of a band outdoing itself from a band who does so at nearly every opportunity.

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 3, 2019.

Every year I allow myself one addendum pick, and this is it. We Are was on last year’s list because it was digitally released, but the vinyl came out this year and it received its North American release this year as well, so it seemed only right to acknowledge that. So here it is in its proper place.

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

This is a band controlling their own narrative. Instead of Nothing as the Ideal being ‘the one they made as a three-piece,’ the Nashville outfit decided to make it ‘the one they recorded at Abbey Road.’ Were they thinking of it on those terms? Yeah, likely not, but it goes to demonstrate all the same just how much of themselves All Them Witches put into what they do musically, since not only are they continuing to refine and define and undefine their approach, but they’re setting the terms on which they do it. Each of their records has been a response to the one prior, but that conversation has never been so direct as to make them predictable. So what are they chasing? Apparently nothing. I’m not entirely sure I buy that as a complete answer, but I am sure I love these songs and the experiments with tape loops and other sounds that fill these spaces. Whatever they do next — or even if nothing — their run has been incredible and exciting and one only hopes their influence continues to spread over the next however many years.

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

There was a high standard set by Elephant Tree‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but their second LP, Habits, surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. With vocals centered around harmonies from guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the former trio completed by drummer Sam Hart brought in guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery (also sometimes vocals), and the resultant breadth gave the material on Habits spaciousness beyond even what the first album promised. Drifting, rolling, unflinchingly melodic and somehow present even in its own escapism, Habits was not just an early highlight for a rough 2020, but a comforting presence throughout, and the further one dug into tracks like “Sails,” “Exit the Soul,” “Faceless,” “Wasted” and the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the more there was to find — let alone “Bird,” which I’ll happily put against anything else one might propose for song of the year. As their former UK label crumbled, Habits emerged unscathed and Elephant Tree‘s future continues to shine with ever more hope for things to come. Being able to say that about anything feels like a relief.

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Twenty years ago, Sweden’s Lowrider put out what would become a heavy rock landmark in their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here). A follow-up years in the making even after the band got back together to play Desertfest in London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, Refractions first saw limited release in 2019 as part of Blues Funeral‘s PostWax series (discussed here), but its proper arrival was in early 2020, and there was really no looking back after that. It wasn’t just the novelty of a new Lowrider album that made Refractions such a joy, but the manner in which the band went about its work. There was no pretending that 20 years didn’t happen. There was no attempt to recapture the bottled lightning that was the first record, and Lowrider did not sound like a band “making a comeback” rife with expectations and fan-service. Refractions acknowledged the legacy of Ode to Io, sure enough, but as a step toward adding to it in meaningful and engaging ways. The songs — “Red River,” “Ode to Ganymede,” “Sernanders Krog,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe,” “Sun Devil/M87” and the 11-minute finale “Pipe Rider” — were fashioned without pretense and came across as the organic output of a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They made it their own. In a wretched year, Lowrider shined.

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

Yeah, okay. There are a lot of these, so buckle in. Last year I just threw out a list of bands. This year I’m a little more organized, so here are bands and records alphabetically.

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

By no means is that list exhaustive. And to look at stuff like Psychlona, Oranssi Pazuzu, Wight, Wino, Puta Volcano, Kingnomad, Ellis Munk Ensemble, Paradise Lost, Alain Johannes, Arbouretum, Uffe Lorenzen, Tia Carrera — on and on and on — I can definitely see where arguments are to be made for records that should’ve been in the list proper. I can only go with what feels right to me at the time.

Together with the top 50, this makes over 110 albums in the best of 2020. If you find yourself needing something to hang your hat on, be glad you’re alive to witness this much excellent music coming out.

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Atramentus, Stygian
Bethmoora, Thresholds
BleakHeart, Dream Griever
Crystal Spiders, Molt
Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Electric Feat, Electric Feat
Familiars, All in Good Time
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
Human Impact, Human Impact
Jointhugger, I Am No One
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Might, Might
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation
Ritual King, Ritual King
SEA, Impermanence
Slomosa, Slomosa
Soldati, Doom Nacional
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
SpellBook, Magick & Mischief
Spirit Mother, Cadets
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies
White Dog, White Dog

Notes: I sparred with myself every step of the way here. The last couple years I’ve tried to give the top-debut spot to not just a new band, but a new presence. Green Lung, King Buffalo, etc. Molassess, with members from The Devil’s Blood, Death Alley and Astrosoniq, isn’t exactly that. So what do I do? Do I go with something newer like Polymoon, Dirt Woman, BleakHeart, SEA, White Dog or The Crooked Whispers, or something with more established players like Molassess, Soldati, or even Light Pillars?

In the end, what made the difference was not just how brilliant the songs on Molassess’ Through the Hollow, but how honestly the band confronted the legacy they were up against. The songs had a familiar haunting presence, but they were also moving ahead to somewhere new. It was that blend of old and new ideas, and the resonant feeling of emotional catharsis — as well as the sheer immersion that took place while listening — that ultimately made the decision. Turns out I just couldn’t escape it.

And why not a list? Because this feels woefully inadequate as it is. I reviewed over 250 records this year one way or another — and that’s a conservative estimate — but a lot gets lost in the shuffle and somehow it just seemed wrong this time around to call something the 13th best first record of the year. I wanted to highlight the special achievement that was the Molassess album, but really, all of these records kicked my ass one way or the other.

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Big Scenic Nowhere, Lavender Blues
Coma Wall, Ursa Minor
Conan/Deadsmoke, Doom Sessions Vol. 1
Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 1
Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie
Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof, Masamune/Muramasa (split)
Oginalii, Pendulum
Kings Destroy, Floods
Lament Cityscape, The Old Wet
Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine +2
Merlock, That Which Speaks
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Mos Generator/Di’Aul, Split
Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets
Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus
Rocky Mtn Roller, Rocky Mtn Roller
Spaceslug, Leftovers
10,000 Years, 10,000 Years
The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission
Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man
Witchcraft, Black Metal

Notes: If you were wondering why King Buffalo’s Dead Star (review here) wasn’t on the big list, this is why. It was pitched to me as an EP and that’s how I’m classifying it. I’m taking the out. Is it an EP? Not really, but neither is it a full-length album, given its experimental nature and focus around its extended two-part title-track. Whatever it was, it was the best that-thing, and this is the category where such things go.

Again, tough choices after King Buffalo. Thunderbird Divine’s EP was wonderfully funk-blasted and woefully short (new album, please). The newly-issued Spaceslug EP branches out their sound in fascinating ways as a result of the lockdown. Witchcraft’s acoustic EP, Coma Wall’s EP and Big Scenic Nowhere’s EP all signaled good things to come, and Howling Giant’s split with Sergeant Thunderhoof was a highlight of the most recent Quarterly Review. There really isn’t a bummer on the list there, from the bitter psych of Oginalii to the industrial metal of Lament Cityscape, the unadulterated riffery of Merlock to the live-captured rawness of Monte Luna.

So again, why no list? Same answer. I want to highlight the progression King Buffalo made in their sound and leave room open elsewhere for things I missed. Please let me know what in the comments. Cordially.

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Notes: In this wretched year (mostly) void of live music, marked by canceled tours and festivals, the live album arguably played a more central role than it ever has, whether it was a band trying to keep momentum up following or leading into a studio release, taking advantage of the emergence of the Bandcamp Friday phenomenon or just trying to maintain some connection to their fans and the process of taking a stage. Or even playing in a room together. Or not a room. Anything. What was once a tossoff, maybe an afterthought companion piece became an essential worker of the listening experience.

You might accuse desert rock progenitors Yawning Man of playing to their base with Live at Giant Rock (featured here), and if so, fine. At no point in the last 50 years has that base more needed playing-to. And in the absence of shows, being able to hear (and watch, in the case of the accompanying video) Yawning Man go out to the landscape that spawned them and engage with their music was a beautiful moment of reconciliation. An exhale for the converted that didn’t fill one with empty promises of better tomorrows or tours to come, but served to remind what’s so worth preserving about the spirit of live music in the first place. The fact that anything can happen. A replaced note here, a tuning change there — these things can make not just an evening, but memories that go beyond shows, tours, to touch our lives.

There were a ton of live records this year. Some were benefits for worthy causes between saving venues, Black Lives Matter, voting rights organizations, and so on. And whether these were new performances from captured livestreams (Monte Luna, Kadavar) or older gigs that had been sitting around waiting for release at some point (Sumac, Dead Meadow), this, very much, was that point, and these live offerings kept burning a fire that felt at times very much in danger of being extinguished.

Looking Ahead to 2021

A list of bands. Some confirmed releases, some not. Here goes:

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, Lantlôs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

You’ve read enough, so I will do my best to keep this mercifully short. Thank you so much for reading — whether you still are or not — and thank you for being a part of the ongoing project that is The Obelisk. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such incredible support throughout not just this year, but all the years of the site’s existence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you most of all to The Patient Mrs. for her indulgence in letting me get this done. I’m am amazed forever.

More to come.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 48

Posted in Radio on December 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

2020, if you can believe it, has started to wind down. The year-end poll is up, and it’s time for the Apparently-Annual The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal’s Some of the Best of 2020 Two-Part Extravaganza Blowout Supershow How Can I Possibly Make the Title Even Longer Oh Wait I Got It: The Next Generation.

That’s right, friends and neighbors, this show and the next one — which is on frickin’ Xmas Day; love it — bring just a smattering of some of 2020’s highlights. Voice tracks and playlists are in for both episodes, and this one airs today as the first of the two-parter, acknowledging the utterly spectacular time it’s been for death-doom particularly. I guess Atramentus are doing some heavy lifting there, but to listen to that track, I think you’ll agree they’re up to the task.

Beyond that, space rock, prog-heavy, psychedelia, and good ol’ riffs pervade, thriving despite the hardest and most surreal times. If you get to listen, I very much hope you enjoy it. I’ll be in the Gimme chat if you want to say hi.

Thanks for listening and reading.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 12.11.20

Forming the Void Manifest Reverie 0:05:22
Rezn The Door Opens Chaotic Divine 0:07:33
King Buffalo Dead Star Pt. 1 & 2 Dead Star 0:16:21
VT
Big Scenic Nowhere Mirror Image Vision Beyond Horizon 0:05:41
Kind Bad Friend Mental Nudge 0:07:42
Yuri Gagarin The Outskirts of Reality The Outskirts of Reality 0:08:32
Six Organs of Admittance Two Forms Moving Companion Rises 0:04:39
Bethmoora Painted Man Thresholds 0:09:05
My Dying Bride Your Broken Shore The Ghost of Orion 0:07:43
Paradise Lost Forsaken Obsidian 0:04:30
Deathwhite A Servant Grave Image 0:04:42
Atramentus Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness) Stygian 0:16:28
VT
Colour Haze I’m With You We Are 0:07:47
Lowrider Red River Refractions 0:05:11

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Dec. 25 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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King Buffalo: Live at Freak Valley LP Preorders Start Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Working in conjunction with Stickman Records and Rock Freaks Records, Rochester, NY’s King Buffalo will release Live at Freak Valley next month on a variety of 2LP styles. Test pressings, different colors, you know the drill. They’re not doing straight-digital or CD, but if you saw the stream of their set while it was happening at the German Freak Valley Festival last year, you know what you’re getting is a pretty astounding product, and even though the set took place before they released the Dead Star EP (review here) earlier this year, it should make an essential companion to the prior LP, 2018’s Longing to Be the Mountain (review here).

I’d have more to say, but hopefully I’ll be able to review the thing when the time is right.

From the PR wire:

KING BUFFALO LIVE AT FREAK VALLEY

KING BUFFALO – LIVE AT FREAK VALLEY Preorders start THIS FRIDAY 11/20/20 at 12pm EST.

King Buffalo is proud to announce our first ‘Live Album’ will be self-released on 12/11/20 throughout North America and see European issue via Stickman Records and Rock Freaks.

This a One-Time ONLY Pressing. It has been completely remixed and mastered for vinyl, and pressed to a double LP! Live at Freak Valley is a VINLY ONLY release. It will not be available as a CD or digitally (except for the download code that accompanies the vinyl).

“My favorite records have always been Live Albums. There’s something about the vibe that allows musicians to feed off the energy from the crowd and take things to another level. To have one of my favorite performances as a band remixed and mastered and pressed to vinyl is bucket list type stuff. I can’t wait for people to hear it and feel some Live Music again.” – Scott Donaldson (King Buffalo)

PREORDERS: https://kingbuffalo.bigcartel.com/

Live at FV Test Presses – Available this Friday at 12pm EST. Limited to 25, hand numbered, and ship immediately! They include a download code, poly bag, a signed “thank you” from the band, a hand numbered insert, and an exclusive alt art poster.

Live at FV Deluxe Edition – Limited to 250 units and pressed to 12″ Black and Gold Vinyl. The Deluxe Edition includes a polybag, a hand numbered tour poster, tour laminate and a download code. They’ll be shipped mid December.

Live at FV Standard Edition – Limited to 750 units and pressed to 12″ Green Splatter Vinyl. They include a polybag and download code. They’ll be shipped mid December.

kingbuffalo.com
facebook.com/kingbuffaloband
instagram.com/kingbuffaloband
kingbuffalo.bandcamp.com
stickman-records.com
facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940
https://www.facebook.com/rockfreaksrecords/
http://www.rockfreaks.de/

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King Buffalo Postpone Tours; Writing New Material

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Is it surprising that King Buffalo have pushed their 2020 tours off until next year? No. The US broke a new record in COVID-19 cases yesterday, hitting nearly 37,000 new reported in a single. fucking. day. Aside from being disgraceful, that just means that traveling in this country right now is taking your life in your hands. Maybe you’ll be fine, maybe not. True, we roll the dice every time we leave the house anyway — never know when that piano’s gonna fall on your head — but there are factors of relative dangers to take into account. States will be relocked-down by the time the band would hit the road anyway. That seems inevitable, though the staggering amount of irresponsibility displayed thus far in terms of the governmental response makes anything possible, I suppose.

Mostly fucking death is what it makes possible.

King Buffalo released their righteously forward-thinking Dead Star EP (review here) earlier this Spring, and made the most of their time in lockdown with their four Quarantine Sessions videos, all of which I’ve posted below, because if you take the rest of your day and watch King Buffalo jam out, that’s probably a good way to spend that time.

Here’s the latest from the band:

King Buffalo

Hey Friends,

We wanted to give everyone an update on what’s happening. As many of you might have guessed, it’s looking likely we will be postponing the majority of our shows until 2021. In this scenario shows would start up in January and continue from there. As soon as we have more details we will let you know. If your situation allows, please hold onto your tickets.

Since we recorded the Quarantine Sessions, we’ve been writing A LOT. We actually had to stop ourselves because we amassed almost 24 hours of jam sessions. Suffice to say, we will have material for multiple LPs in the coming future.

You’ve been keeping us busy by buying merch from our big cartel and bandcamp. We can’t thank you enough for your support! This will go to good use for future releases. We’ll be announcing something in the next couple months.

Lastly what ideas/comments do you guys have? Besides new material what would guys like to see? Let us know! Please take care of each other and stay safe. We will have more news for you soon.

-KB

kingbuffalo.com
facebook.com/kingbuffaloband
instagram.com/kingbuffaloband
kingbuffalo.bandcamp.com
stickman-records.com
facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940

King Buffalo, Dead Star (Quarantine Sessions)

King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (Quarantine Sessions)

King Buffalo, Repeater (Quarantine Sessions)

King Buffalo, Orion (Quarantine Sessions)

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