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.

ukmedsnorx.com/zopiclone
ukmedsnorx.com/zolpidem

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

When you are overwhelmed with all you have to do for your upcoming classes, ask yourself, "http://www.mcc.gouv.qc.ca/?1889?" Our experts are standing by ready to Notes With Pro-Papers you will get the Argumentative Paper On Video Game. In order to get some professional dissertation proposal assistance and useful tips for writing, many people look for a reliable writer to solve their problems. There is a plenty of custom writing companies offering a dissertation proposal service to those who don’t know where to start or how to finish this paper. More than that, a : 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 basics Online. Thesis editing and proofreading is the most vital step to be opted before submitting a thesis paper. And, passing the college or university requires a student to perform new research and submit new findings in the form of paper (research paper). Thesis editing services are available all around to serve as a Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists High quality custom essay dig thiss for Australian and international students. Only qualified writers, reasonable prices and complete privacy guarantee. 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 Our service lets you blog here to be written for you. When you are a student, some interesting subjects and topics might be easier for you to manage. However, our writers don't have topics that they find boring. They can easily write any essay on any topic. If You Are Stuck with Homework, Pay for Essay Writing . There are many reasons why students can't meet the deadlines for their 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 Dissertations completed will not be reused or paraphrased. We value your requirements and ensure maximum deliverance of quality. The four key features depicted by our assignment help experts in Pdp Assignment include Transparency, Communication, Professionalism and Integrity. Experts value the importance of One-to-one communication and Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard If you don’t feel like writing a thesis paper, Dissertation Statistical Services Illegal paper. We offer the best service you can find. Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Online custom essays, term papers, research papers, reports, reviews and homework assignments. Professional Ancient Egyptian Architecture Dissertation offers high quality and Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece With so many essay writing services on the web, why to choose Essays Solutions? Because we are the Dissertation Subjects Marketing that provide the highest Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s We offer the proofreading & assignment help in UK. Our assignment writers are always there to help you out in your academic work. Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another  Trust this English Language Paper 1 writing service even for the most difficult writing assignments. Enjoy quick turnaround times and high standard quality papers. Try 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 great post to read - Aiming for the top 5%? Our Professional CV Writers can help you. Contact us and our expert Resume Writing Service now! Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in Read guide to http://www.kjpz.ch/?ghostwriter-uitgeverij about types, features, and other must-know topics in our headlight restoration kit buying guide guide to buying Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for my link - Why be concerned about the review? get the needed assistance on the website Expert scholars, quality services Lamp of the Universe‘s see Support, Bangalore, India. 3,416 likes · 157 talking about this. Experts in writing and editing PhD & Masters Thesis, Research articles, Statistical Analysis & Formatting 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 (Roadsaw, Sasquatch, 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 BjĂžrnson (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 SandĂžy, 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, EllengĂŠst
Cruthu, AthrĂș 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 SilvÄkra 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 SilvÄkra 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, LantlĂŽs, 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.

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

Interview: James Marshall & Shadi Omar Al-Khansa of Forming the Void Talk Reverie and More

Posted in Features on May 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

forming the void

There are many ways to say it, but whichever you choose, there’s little getting around Forming the Void‘s emerging presence among the foremost purveyors of progressive heavy rock. Their fourth album, Reverie (review here), came out last week on Ripple Music, and I have little doubt that when the end-of-year-list time arrives, it will feature prominently. Each Forming the Void record to-date has built off the accomplishments of the one before it in songwriting and breadth, and as the lush largesse of Reverie demonstrates, their latest work is no exception.

Guitarists James Marshal (also vocals) and Shadi Omar Al-Khansa, bassist Thorn Letulle and drummer Thomas Colley comprise the Lafayette, Louisiana-based four-piece, and in the interview that follows, the two six-stringers talk about the making of Reverie and some of the drivers of their creative progression, specifically playing live and the interaction with an audience there, finding out what works on stage and what doesn’t and bringing that to the studio experience. There’s more, but I’ll save you the rehash and just say thanks for reading and enjoy the Q&A below, followed of course by the full stream of Reverie from Bandcamp.

James Marshall & Shadi Omar Al-Khansa Interview: Forming a Dreamstate

Tell me about writing the songs for Reverie. Was there anything specific you were looking to do coming off of Rift?

Rift was very focused on feel and energy, and on this album we sought to combine that new energy with more of the progressive elements we’ve used previously. Also, our drummer Thomas [Colley] joined the band six weeks before we were due to track Rift, and though he did impact the sound of that album greatly, this is our first album written from the ground up with him. So one of the other things we wanted was to fully integrate Thomas’s playing style into our songwriting.

What was the atmosphere in the studio like? Tell me about working with James Whitten. What do you think he was able to bring to the recording and mix of the finished product?

All our previous albums were DIY or done in local studios. This was our first time booking a studio in another city, leaving town and focusing solely on recording the album for a week. It made the experience feel very much like a (very fun) job, or maybe even a classic documentary. :)

It was also our first time tracking together live to a click (sans vocals and lead guitar), so that allowed us some solidarity in facing the crushing scrutiny that anyone who has ever recorded anything is all too familiar with, and hopefully it allowed our interpersonal vibes to translate better onto the recording.

The title Reverie brings to mind a kind of dream-state, but also the inevitable snapping out of it and return to consciousness. What does the title mean to you? Is the album itself the dream?

Most of the lyrics on this album deal with dreams, omens, prophecies, visions etc… so hopefully our listeners are able to derive whatever deeper meaning they want, as all good prophecies allow you to do (stares off forebodingly) …

The dynamic between the two guitars and vocals has become all the more important to Forming the Void over the course of the records. Can you talk about how this comes through in the songwriting process? How purposeful are your arrangements vs. what goes by feel in the rehearsal room or studio?

Our guitar playing styles have naturally complemented each other since the beginning, but time and experience have made that part of the writing process almost second nature. Some guitar parts are completely written out, some are completely improvised, and everything in between, so it’s really just a song by song basis.

Shadi, thinking of the intro to “Manifest” and a song like “Trace the Omen,” can you talk about the importance of representing cultural diversity particularly in a US underground that’s so overwhelmingly white? Does that kind of representation matter to you, or is it just something to add flourish to the songs?

I moved to the US from Lebanon when I was 16, and my adult life has been an internal narrative of trying to open up meaningfully to a foreign society while staying true to my culture and identity. Thankfully I was able to find both of those things through FTV, especially in my writing partnership with James Marshall, who made the conscious effort to encourage and include those tonalities and influences, which far from being just something to add flourish, are to me a deep expression of love and longing for my people, culture and homeland. I think most people who emigrate to this country including my underground artist colleagues would have similar experiences and feelings to share.

At the same time, as progressive and open as the material is in building around the guitar, bass, drums and vocals, Reverie seems to emphasize the strength of songwriting, memorable choruses, engaging the listener. Can you talk about how touring more has maybe had an effect on the songwriting?

Touring has allowed us to become more aware of the elements we need for a song to work well live, and our road experiences definitely informed the writing of Reverie. For example, “Trace the Omen” maintains a level of energy even through the softer, more textural parts that makes it more viable for us to use live, especially on a shorter setlist where we usually have to forego the experimental songs.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Everybody wish Thomas a speedy recovery as he is currently healing from a broken arm! Hopefully we’ll be playing shows again, but until then, wash your hands and stay safe at home!

Forming the Void, Reverie (2020)

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Forming the Void on Instagram

Forming the Void on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

Tags: , , , , ,

Days of Rona: Thomas Colley of Forming the Void

Posted in Features on May 1st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

Thomas Colley of Forming the Void

Days of Rona: Thomas Colley of Forming the Void (Lafayette, Louisiana)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

We’re pretty much in a holding pattern at the moment. I’m recovering from a broken arm that happened right when the virus started to hit pretty hard so we haven’t been able to do any live streaming like others are doing, or even get together as a band and jam. Our plans have been totally turned on their head, like everyone else’s. We were supposed to leave next week for our first European tour. Health-wise, we’re all good, other than the aforementioned broken arm.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Where we’re at in South Louisiana all non-essential businesses are closed. Schools are out for the rest of the school year. Lots of areas have curfews. And essential businesses like grocery stores and hardware stores are limiting the number of customers in the store at one time. Basically just trying to keep large groups of people from being in one place at one time.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

The biggest thing I’ve noticed, both around me and in the music business, is the loss of jobs. Where we live the oilfield industry is huge and it’s been hit really hard. And also lots of friends who made their living from music have had their lives upended.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

We can’t wait to get back out on the road and play some shows. But, until then, we have a new album coming out on May 8 and hopefully once I’m healed up enough we might do a bit of live streaming. *fingers crossed* Also, stay strong. We’ll get through this. It may take a while, but we’ll make it.

https://www.facebook.com/formingthevoid/
https://www.instagram.com/forming_the_void/
https://formingthevoid.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Tags: , , , , , ,

Review & Track Premiere: Forming the Void, Reverie

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

forming the void reverie

[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Ancient Satellite’ from Forming the Void’s Reverie. Album is out May 22 on Ripple Music.]

While Lafayette, Louisiana, four-piece Forming the Void have shown increasing progressive tendencies to this point in their relatively-prolific tenure, it’s not a stretch to think that with their fourth album, Reverie, they reach something of a put-up-or-shut-up moment. Over the last half-decade, they’ve served in the role of upstarts in an emergent sphere of progressive heavy rock, with their three also-single-word-title full-lengths — 2016’s Skyward (review here), 2017’s Relic (review here) and 2018’s Rift (review here) — successively bringing more complex use of melody and structure, increased tonal presence, and a deceptive rhythmic patience that, when the band decides to roll, makes that groove utterly consuming. They toured a fair share to support Rift and signed to Ripple Music ahead of Reverie, with guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa and drummer Thomas Colley (who came aboard for Rift) welcoming in the meantime new bassist Thorn Letulle to the fold.

Low end is not a minor consideration in Forming the Void‘s sound, so the shift feels all the more noteworthy, but as the now-fully-revamped rhythm section settles in behind Al-Khansa and Marshall‘s guitars, Forming the Void meet that significant moment for the band head on. Removed from the quick succession of their first three records — each of which felt like a step en route to the next — it was time for them to make a declaration of who they are in terms of aesthetic and the substance of their craft, and to showcase the lessons they’ve learned not only on tour and through restructuring the lineup, but as songwriters with an increasing amount of experience in the studio. Reverie, then, is the put-up in put-up-or-shut-up, and if it indeed is to be that declaration, they could hardly have titled it more appropriately than to make it a wake-up call. Comprised of seven songs running an ultra-manageable 36 minutes, it is a work of striking dimensionality and purpose that pays off the band’s potential while also seeing them set up avenues for future growth in terms of melody and arrangement.

Most crucially, their growth has not come at the expense of their songwriting. Just the opposite. Songs like album-opener “Sage,” “Trace the Omen,” the oud-inclusive “Manifest,” the faster push of “Electric Hive” and the largesse-shove of the penultimate “Ancient Satellite” — with its uptick the melody in the chorus and corresponding shimmer in the guitar — are the most resonant the band has conjured to-date, taking the lessons of a song like “On We Sail” from Rift and expanding the form to suit multiple moods and tempos throughout Reverie. All seven tracks hover on either side of the five-minute mark, and though none of the final three — “Electric Hive,” “Ancient Satellite” and closer “The Ending Cometh” — actually pass five minutes long, Forming the Void never sound rushed. “The Ending Cometh” is perhaps the most patient of the inclusions on Reverie, with Al-Khansa‘s lead stretching over a drawl of a rhythm that feels almost like it’s running in slow motion in all the right ways.

forming the void

Among the strengths the songs ultimately reinforce is to prove once more what a massive difference the right drummer can mean to a band. Not the most technical drummer. Not just a boogie or a swing drummer. But the right drummer in the right songs. What Colley brings to Reverie, from kicking off “Sage” to providing the ground beneath the floating midsection of “Trace the Omen” to punctuating the utterly massive, righteous stomp of “Ancient Satellite” and holding that last momentum over to the finale, is not to be understated. His work is not by any means the only point of evolution on the part of the band — Marshall‘s confidence as a frontman has lead to an increased melodic reach and his stepping away from the direct rhythm of the riffs in his lyrical patterning, and Al-Khansa‘s lead work has yet to seem so fluid either in tone or soulful expression, while Letulle leaves no shortage of impression in the resounding thickness of the material — but it is a particular thrill to behold. He does not overplay, or underplay. Quite simply, he nails it, and Forming the Void as a whole is stronger for that.

From the depth of the lowest bass frequency to each pop of the snare and the winding ringout of guitar in the mellow beginning of second cut “Onward Through the Haze,” Forming the Void show themselves to be masters of their approach, and whether it’s the volume trades between verses and choruses, or the atmospheric reach of “Manifest” as the centerpiece, their control does not waver. At the same time, it’s worth highlighting once again that while Reverie is this point of arrival for Forming the Void in terms of their sound — it is the landmark toward which they’ve been building all along — its impact is so powerful because of the songwriting at work across its span. Their songs are not “part-showcases” — they’re songs. And for all the progressive nuances on display throughout and for all the intent that comes through so clearly in establishing a sense of mood and ambience, the fact that it’s songs doing that work still gives Reverie an unpretentious feel.

Forming the Void have grown as a unit on every level — in purpose, craft and performance — and Reverie stands as testament to their accomplishment to this point. It simply puts them in a different class of band. They’re not the upstarts anymore, and they’re not quite “veterans” yet — this Spring would’ve been their first touring in Europe, but of course those plans were scuttled like everyone’s plans for everything in Spring 2020 — but the work they’re doing right now is essential to the forward progression not only of themselves, but to American heavy rock as a whole. I mean it. There have been many who’ve loudly sung Forming the Void‘s praises over the last five years or so, and Reverie demonstrates just how right they were to do so. One of the year’s best albums, no question, and a rare moment of creative realization captured and preserved.

Forming the Void, Reverie (2020)

Forming the Void on Thee Facebooks

Forming the Void on Instagram

Forming the Void on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

Tags: , , , , ,

Forming the Void Announce New Album Reverie out May 8; Single Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

forming the void

Louisiana-based heavy progressive rockers Forming the Void have announced the details of their forthcoming album on Ripple Music, titled Reverie. Metal Insider had the track premiere of the first single to the follow-up to 2018’s Rift (review here), and you can see the cover art — gorgeous — below, courtesy of the PR wire. The four-piece are currently wrapping up a tour with Church of Misery and they’ll head to Europe for the first time to hit the road with Spaceslug on a run that coincides with Reverie‘s release.

Easily one of the year’s most anticipated records. I have high expectations and no reason to think they won’t be met on every level. Certainly the new song streaming doesn’t hurt my argument.

From the PR wire:

forming the void reverie

Progressive doom voyagers FORMING THE VOID premiere new single; new album ‘Reverie’ due out May 8th on Ripple Music!

Louisiana-based astral doom purveyors FORMING THE VOID are ready to release their fourth album ‘Reverie’ this May 8th on Ripple Music! Enter another sonic dimension with first single “Trace The Omen.”

FORMING THE VOID’s new single “Trace The Omen” is a divine ode to modern psychedelia, weaving its way through your subconscious with its alluring and highly resonating Eastern-infused melodies, and a slow, fuzzed-out buildup. If you weren’t familiar with FTV’s progressive and above all expansive brand of heavy, then this is an official invitation.

“Trace the Omen was an esoteric one to write and record. With the atmospheric songs we go deep into exploring sounds, layers and dynamics to create a mystical vibe and cosmic energy flow. Hope everyone enjoys it!” the band comments. With fourth full-length ‘Reverie’, FORMING THE VOID seeks to further explore aspects of the sound they’ve shaped on their previous outings, guided by a desire to strike a balance between organic and intentional. The result is an album that reaches new levels of refined depth, mystical energy and cosmic transcendence.

‘Reverie’ is out on May 8th through Ripple Music on coloured and black vinyl, CD and digital. You can preorder it right now from North America and Europe/rest of the world.

FORMING THE VOID ‘Reverie’
Out May 8th on Ripple Music

TRACK LISTING:
1. Sage
2. Onward Through The Haze
3. Trace The Omen
4. Manifest
5. Electric Hive
6. Ancient Satellite
7. The Ending Cometh

Forming the Void w/ Spaceslug:
30.04 Wroclaw PL TBC
01.05 Dresden DE Groovestation
02.05 Nijmegen NL Sonic Whip Festival
03.05 Copenhagen NL Stengade
05.05 Berlin DE Toast Hawaii
06.05 Cologne DE MTC
08.05 Coventry UK Arches
09.05 Edinburgh UK Red Crust Fest
10.05 Edinburgh UK Red Crust Fest
11.05 London UK The Black Heart
12.05 Bristol UK The Lanes

Forming the Void w/ Church of Misery & Black Wizard:
2/18 Toronto ON @ Hard Luck
2/19 Chicago IL @ Reggie’s
2/20 Minneapolis MN @ Skyway Theatre
2/21 Milwaukee WI @ Cactus Club

Forming The Void:
James Marshall – Guitar/Vocals
Shadi Omar Al-Khansa – Guitar
Thorn Letulle – Bass
Thomas Colley – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/formingthevoid/
https://www.instagram.com/forming_the_void/
https://formingthevoid.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Tags: , , , , ,

Forming the Void Announce European Tour Dates with Spaceslug

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

forming the void

There are more dates to be announced, but what a show this would be to catch. Louisiana’s Forming the Void and Poland’s Spaceslug are exceedingly well paired for what they bring in terms of blending melodic breadth and sheer tonal heft, and with some of Forming the Void‘s more progressive elements and Spaceslug‘s forays into more extreme styles of metal as heard on their recent offerings, there are still plenty of elements at play to distinguish each on their own while complementing the other. Kudos to whoever put that one together — the shows are presented by Blackskull Services, so they’d be a good bet — but yeah, that’s going to work really well on stage. I know Forming the Void have been working on a new record, and Spaceslug seem to be perpetually doing the same, but if they had some songs leftover for a split, that’d be a win.

Before Forming the Void hit Euro soil for the first time, they’ll be on tour starting this weekend in the US with Church of Misery and Black Wizard, meeting up with Truckfighters and Valley of the Sun and Wizard Rifle along the way, which is, in the parlance of probably five years ago, epic. Those dates are here as well as a refresher.

I do not think this will be the last time Forming the Void go to Europe, but it only happens first once.

Behold:

forming the void spaceslug tour poster

Forming the Void- – European Tour with Spaceslug

This May universes collide. Forming The Void and Spaceslug will travel Europe spreading sounds of cosmic void. Prepare to be taken on a journey beyond the sky, driven by wall of noise and dreamy soundscapes. Join this ship across the galaxies.

Forming the Void w/ Spaceslug:
30.04 Wroclaw PL TBC
01.05 Dresden DE Groovestation
02.05 Nijmegen NL Sonic Whip Festival
03.05 Copenhagen NL Stengade
05.05 Berlin DE Toast Hawaii
06.05 Cologne DE MTC
08.05 Coventry UK Arches
09.05 Edinburgh UK Red Crust Fest
10.05 Edinburgh UK Red Crust Fest
11.05 London UK The Black Heart

Forming the Void w/ Church of Misery & Black Wizard:
2/9 Austin TX @ Barracuda
2/11 Wilmington NC @ Reggie’s
2/12 Washington DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
2/13 Philadelphia PA @ Underground Arts
2/14 Brooklyn NY @ Gold Sounds
2/15 Brooklyn NY @ Kingsland
2/16 Boston MA @ Middle East
2/17 Montreal QC @ Bar LeRitz
2/18 Toronto ON @ Hard Luck
2/19 Chicago IL @ Reggie’s
2/20 Minneapolis MN @ Skyway Theatre
2/21 Milwaukee WI @ Cactus Club

Forming The Void:
James Marshall – Guitar/Vocals
Shadi Omar Al-Khansa – Guitar
Thorn Letulle – Bass
Thomas Colley – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/formingthevoid/
https://www.instagram.com/forming_the_void/
https://formingthevoid.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Forming the Void, Rift (2018)

Tags: , , ,

Forming the Void Tour with Witch Ripper Starts Tonight; Playing Heavy Mash Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

forming the void

This very evening marks the beginning of Forming the Void‘s West Coast-bound latest round of tour dates. Joining them in the endeavor are Witch Ripper, from Seattle, and of particular note is the appearance this weekend at Heavy Mash in Arlington, which is co-presented by this site and for which I can only recommend attendance. Make a day of it. Make two days of it. Do whatever you want. Follow the bands on tour. But you know, tell them you’re doing that. Don’t just randomly show up and lurk at each gig. I think at that point you could probably say hi and it’d be cool.

Forming the Void were originally slated and I think I mentioned around here at some point — yup, sure did — that they had studio time booked to record their next album. Well, plans change. They’ll reportedly knuckle down after this run and get to work on the thing, but in the meantime will take part in Magnetic Eye Records‘ tribute to Alice in Chains, the Dirt [Redux], as part of a busy slate next year that will also see them play their first show on the other side of the Atlantic, appearing at Edinburgh’s Red Crust Festival in May (info here). Should make a day of that too, maybe. Or three.

Current tour dates follow. Go see this band:

forming the void tour

Forming the Void & Witch Ripper – Void Ripper Tour Dates

We’re heading out west with Witch Ripper! Let’s hang!

10/18 Baton Rouge, LA – Phil Brady’s
10/19 Arlington, TX – Heavy Mash at Division Brewing
10/20 Wichita, KS – Elbow Room
10/21 Denver, CO – Tooey’s
10/22 Salt Lake City, UT – Greek Station
10/23 Boise, ID – The Olympic Venue
10/24 Spokane, WA – Red Room *
10/25 Seattle, WA – Funhouse *
10/26 Olympia, WA – Le Voyeur *
10/27 San Francisco, CA – DNA Lounge *
10/29 Santa Cruz, CA – Blue Lagoon *
10/30 Los Angeles, CA – Redwood *
10/31 San Diego, CA – Soda Bar*
11/1 El Paso, TX – RCBG @ Thunderbird
11/1 Berkeley, CA – The Five and Dime +
11/2 San Antonio, TX – Faust
11/2 Eureka, CA – Sirens’s Song Tavern +
11/3 Portland, OR Twilight +

*w/ Witch Ripper
+ No Forming the Void

Forming The Void:
James Marshall – Guitar/Vocals
Shadi Omar Al-Khansa – Guitar
Luke Baker – Bass
Thomas Colley – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/formingthevoid/
https://www.instagram.com/forming_the_void/
https://formingthevoid.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

Forming the Void, Rift (2018)

Tags: , , ,

Quarterly Review: Electric Octopus, Crypt Trip, Love Gang & Smokey Mirror, Heavy Feather, Faith in Jane, The Mound Builders, Terras Paralelas, The Black Heart Death Cult, Roadog & Orbiter, Hhoogg

Posted in Reviews on March 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Day four of the six-dayer. Head’s a little reeling, but I’m not sure any more so than, say, last week at this time. I’d be more specific about that, but oddly enough, I don’t hook my brain up to medical scanners while doing reviews. Seems like an oversight on my part, now that I think about it. Ten years later and still learning something new! How about that internet, huh?

Since I don’t think I’ve said it in a couple days, I’ll remind you that the hope here is you find something you dig. There’s a lot of cool stuff in this batch, so that should at least make skimming through it fun if you go that route. Either way, thanks for reading if you do.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Electric Octopus, Smile

Electric Octopus Smile

It’s been about two months since Electric Octopus posted Smile, so they’re about due for their next release. So, quick! Before this 82-minute collection of insta-chill jams is out of date, there’s still time to consider it their latest offering. Working as the four-piece of Tyrell Black and Dale Hughes — both of whom share bass and guitar duties — drummer Guy Hetherington and synthesist Stevie Lennox, the Belfast improv jammers rightfully commence with the 25-minute longest track (immediate points) “Abberation” (sic), which evolves and devolves along its course and winds up turning from a percussive jam to a guitar-led build up that still stays gloriously mellow even as it works its way out. You can almost hear the band moving from instrument to instrument, and that’s the point. The much shorter “Spiral,” “Dinner at Sea, for One” and closer “Mouseangelo” bring in a welcome bit of funk, “Moth Dust” explores minimalist reaches of guitar and ambient drumming, and “Hyperloop” digs into fuzz-soaked swirl before cleaning up its act in the last couple minutes. These cats j-a-m. May they do so into perpetuity.

Electric Octopus on Thee Facebooks

Electric Octopus on Bandcamp

 

Crypt Trip, Haze County

crypt trip haze county

Onto the best-albums-of-2019 list go San Marcos, Texas, trio Crypt Trip, who, sonically speaking, are way more Beto O’Rourke than Ted Cruz. The three-piece have way-way-upped the production value and general breadth from their 2018 Heavy Psych Sounds debut, Rootstock, and the clarity of purpose more than suits them as they touch on ’70s country jams and hard boogie and find a new melodic vocal confidence that speaks to guitarist Ryan Lee as a burgeoning frontman as well as the shredder panning channels in “To Be Whole.” Fortunately, he’s backed by bassist Sam Bryant and drummer Cameron Martin in the endeavor, and as ever, it’s the rhythm section that gives the “power trio” its power. Centerpiece “Free Rain” is a highlight, but so is the pedal steel of intro “Forward” and the later “Pastures” that precedes six-minute closer “Gotta Get Away,” which makes its transport by means of a hypnotic drum solo from Martin. Mark it a win and go to the show. That’s all you can do. Haze County is a blueprint for America’s answer to Europe’s classic heavy rock movement.

Crypt Trip on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Love Gang & Smokey Mirror, Split Double EP

smokey mirror love gang split double ep

A bit of Tull as Love Gang‘s flute-inclusive opener “Can’t Seem to Win” skirts the line of the proggier end of ’70s worship. The Denver outfit and Dallas’ Smokey Mirror both present three tracks on Glory or Death RecordsSplit Double EP, and Love Gang back the leadoff with “Break Free” and “Lonely Man,” reveling in wall-o’-fuzz chicanery and organ-laced push between them, making their already unpredictable style less predictable, while Smokey Mirror kick off side B in particularly righteous fashion via the nine-minute “Sword and Scepter,” which steps forth to take ultra-Sabbathian ownership of the release even as the filthy tone of “Sucio y Desprolijo” and the loose-swinging Amplified Heat-style megashuffle of “A Thousand Days in the Desert” follow. Two bands in the process of finding their sound coming together to serve notice of ass-kickery present and future. If you can complain about that, you’re wrong.

Love Gang on Thee Facebooks

Smokey Mirror on Thee Facebooks

Glory or Death Records BigCartel store

 

Heavy Feather, DĂ©bris & Rubble

Heavy Feather Debris & Rubble

Very much a solid first album, Heavy Feather‘s 11-song DĂ©bris & Rubble lands at a run via The Sign Records and finds the Stockholm-based classic heavy blues rockers comporting with modern Euro retroism in grand fashion. At 41 minutes, it’s a little long for a classic-style LP if one measures by the eight-track/38-minute standard, but the four-piece fill that time with a varied take that basks in sing-along-ready hooks like those of post-intro opener “Where Did We Go,” the Rolling Stones-style strutter “Waited All My Life,” and the later “I Spend My Money Wrong,” which features not the first interplay of harmonica and lead guitar amid its insistent groove. Elsewhere, more mellow cuts like “Dreams,” or the slide-infused “Tell Me Your Tale” and the closing duo of the Zeppelinian “Please Don’t Leave” and the melancholy finisher “Whispering Things” assure DĂ©bris & Rubble never stays in one place too long, though one could say the same of the softshoe-ready boogie in “Hey There Mama” as well. On the one hand, they’re figuring it out. On the other, they’re figuring it out.

Heavy Feather on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Bandcamp

 

Faith in Jane, Countryside

Faith in Jane Countryside

Five full-lengths deep into a tenure spanning a decade thus far, Faith in Jane have officially entered the running to be one of the best kept secrets of Maryland heavy. Their late-2018 live-recorded studio offering, Countryside, clocks in at just under an hour of organic tonality and performance, bringing a sharp presentation to the chemistry that’s taken hold among the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Dan Mize, bassist Brendan Winston and drummer Alex Llewellyn, with Mize taking extended solos on the Wino model throughout early cuts “All is All” and “Mountain Lore” while the trio adds Appalachian grunge push to the Chesapeake’s flowing groove while building “Blues for Owsley” from acoustic strum to scorching cacophonous wash and rolling out the 9:48 “Hippy Nihilism” like the masters of the form they’re becoming. It’s not a minor undertaking in terms of runtime, but for those in on what these cats have been up to all the while, hard to imagine Countryside is seen as anything other than hospitable.

Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks

Faith in Jane on Bandcamp

 

The Mound Builders, The Mound Builders

The Mound Builders The Mound Builders

Lafayette, Indiana’s The Mound Builders last year offered a redux of their 2014 album, Wabash War Machine (review here), but that was their last proper full-length. Their self-titled arrives as eight bruiser slabs of weighted sludge/groove metal, launching with its longest track (immediate points) in the 7:30 “Torchbearer,” before shifting into the outright screams-forward pummel of “Hair of the Dogma” and the likewise dry-throated “Separated from Youth.” By the time they get to the hardcore-punk-via-sludge of “Acid Slugs,” it’s not a little heavy. It’s a lot heavy. And it stays that way through the thrashing “Star City Massacre” and “Regolith,” hitting the brakes on “Broken Pillars” only to slam headfirst into closer “Vanished Frontier.” Five years later and they’re still way pissed off. So be it. The four-formerly-five-piece were never really all that gone, but they still seem to have packed an extended absence’s worth of aggro into their self-titled LP.

The Mound Builders on Thee Facebooks

Failure Records and Tapes

 

Terras Paralelas, Entre Dois Mundos

TERRAS PARALELAS ENTRE DOIS MUNDOS

It’s a fluid balance between heavy rock and progressive metal Terras Paralelas make in the six inclusions on their debut full-length, Entre Dois Mundos. The Brazilian instrumentalist trio keep a foundation of metallic kickdrumming beneath “Do Abismo ao Triunfo,” and even the chugging in “Espirais e Labirintos” calls to mind some background in harder-hitting fare, but it’s set against a will toward semi-psychedelic exploration, making the giving the album a sense of refusing to play exclusively to one impulse. This proves a strength in the lengthier pieces that follow “Infinito CĂłsmico” and “Do Abismo ao Triunfo” at the outset, and as Terras Paralelas move from the mellower “Bom PressĂĄgio” and “Espirais e Labirintos” into the more spaciously post-rocking “Nossa Jornada Interior” and the nine-minute-plus prog-out title-track that closes by summarizing as much as pushing further outward, one is left wondering why such distinctions might matter in the first place. Kudos to the band for making them not.

Terras Paralelas on Thee Facebooks

Terras Paralelas on Bandcamp

 

The Black Heart Death Cult, The Black Heart Death Cult

the black heart death cult the black heart death cult

Though one wouldn’t accuse The Black Heart Death Cult of being the first cumbersomely-named psych-rocking band in the current wave originating in Melbourne, Australia, their self-titled debut is nonetheless a gorgeous shimmer of classic psychedelia, given tonal presence through guitar and bass, but conjuring an ethereal sensibility through the keys and far-back vocals like “She’s a Believer,” tapping alt-reality 1967 vibes there while fostering what I hear is called neo-psych but is really just kinda psych throughout the nodding meander of “Black Rainbow,” giving even the more weighted fuzz of “Aloha From Hell” and the distortion flood of “Davidian Dream Beam” a happier context. They cap with the marshmallowtron hallucinations of “We Love You” and thereby depart even the ground stepped on earlier in the sitar-laced “The Magic Lamp,” finding and losing and losing themselves in the drifting ether probably not to return until, you know, the next record. When it shows up, it will be greeted as a liberator.

The Black Heart Death Cult on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records webstore

 

Orbiter & Roadog, Split

orbiter roadog split

I’m pretty sure the Sami who plays drums in Orbiter is the same dude playing bass in Roadog, but I could easily be wrong about that. Either way, the two Finnish cohort units make a fitting complement to each other on their two-songer 7″ single, which presents Orbiter‘s six-minute “Anthropocene” with the hard-driving title-track of Roadog‘s 2018 full-length, Reinventing the Wheels. The two tracks have a certain amount in common, mostly in the use of fuzz and some underlying desert influence, but it’s what they do with that that makes all the difference between them. Orbiter‘s track is spacier and echoing, where “Reinventing the Wheels” lands more straightforward in its three minutes, its motoring riff filled out by some effects but essentially manifest in dead-ahead push and lyrics about a motorcycle. They don’t reinvent the wheel, as it happens, and neither do Orbiter, but neither seems to want to do so either, and both bands are very clearly having a blast, so I’m not inclined to argue. Good fun and not a second of pretense on either side.


Orbiter on Thee Facebooks

Roadog on Thee Facebooks

 

Hhoogg, Earthling, Go Home!

hhoogg Earthling Go Home

Space is the place where you’ll find Boston improvisationalists Hhoogg, who extend their fun penchant for adding double letters to the leadoff “Ccoossmmooss” of their exclamatory second self-released full-length, Earthling, Go Home!, which brings forth seven tracks in a vinyl-ready 37 minutes and uses that opener also as its longest track (immediate points) to set a molten tone to the proceedings while subsequent vibes in “Rustic Alien Living” and the later, bass-heavy “Recalled to the Pyramids” range from the Hendrixian to the funkadelicness he helped inspire. With a centerpiece in “Star Wizard, Headless and Awake,” a relatively straightforward three-minute noodler, the four-piece choose to cap with “Infinitely Gone,” which feels as much like a statement of purpose and an aesthetic designation as a descriptor for what’s contained within. In truth, it’s a little under six minutes gone, but jams like these tend to beg for repeat listens anyway. There’s some growing to do, but the melding of their essential chemistry is in progress, and that’s what matters most. The rest is exploration, and they sound well up for it.

Hhoogg on Thee Facebooks

Hhoogg on Bandcamp

 

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