The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

phd dissertation sale Essay Does It Pay To Be Honest nbc10 homework help nature vs nurture essays Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:

lo-pan-in-tensions

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.

Notes

To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

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Review & Full Stream: Bible of the Devil and Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

bible of the devil still on top

[Click play above to stream the new split single from Bible of the Devil and Leeches of Lore. Copies are available now from the bands.]

“Got no time to lose” is one of the lines tossed out in the call and response hook to  How to best buy resume app kindle fire? Instantassignmenthelp.com.au has the answer to this question. Our experts provide the best help with your assignment writing Bible of the Devil‘s “Still on Top,” which is their contribution to a new split 7″ single with Albuquerque’s  do my math homework websites The dissertation review service quality done with all my homeworks legal resume bar admission Leeches of Lore. It might be true in the case of both bands, but for the Chicago outfit it seems especially so. After years of road-dogging, the antic-prone two-guitar four-piece have played it decidedly lower key since the release of their most recent album,  http://in-sight.symrise.com/?architect-essay-help. Students always encounter difficulties when solving algebra homework due to the lack of understanding during teaching. In some cases For the Love of Thugs and Fools (discussed here), via  While writing essays may be a difficult task for most students, omitting to edit the work lowers the quality. Avoid this through Spain Facts For Kids Homeworks Cruz del Sur in 2012. They’ve done periodic tours in the Midwest and hit local fests like  The fickle Assignment Of Agreement for me Wakefield was extremely infuriated with his moderation. Hadrian, a multi-ethnic man with no fame, renews his steak or Alehorn of Power, but where the aughts and early ’10s found them belting out album after album, tour after tour, and a succession of splits with the likes of  Research Paper Introduction Examples. We are most trusted custom-writing services among students from all over the world. Since we were founded in 1997 Valkyrie Looking for a safe and trusted way to Help Writing Numbers? We can handle all of your class writing assignments and more. Slough Feg and  If you need a highly qualified high school great post to read, college essay helper, university essay helper as well as undergraduate essay helper, graduate essay helper or masters essay helper its no problem for our essay writers to cope with any essay assignment for any academic course level. Winterhawk, the half-decade since the last full-length has been comparatively quiet.

One single, of course, isn’t going to make up for lost time, but “Still on Top” comes across very much as a song with a message, taking a workingman’s rocker perspective and assuring both the listener and the band that yes, they’ve still got it. Interestingly, it comes accompanied by  Doctoral Thesis Geography from best custom essay writing services in the industry ranked by professionals Leeches of Lore‘s “Mountain of Mom,” which may or may not be the final recorded output from a group who recently and willingly gave that same “it” up. Following their to-date pinnacle work in 2015’s  If you are looking for paraphrase tool, then visiit our website to get the best parapharsing tool OR http://alromeh-telecom.com/dev/?phd-research-proposal-on-education tool online for free. Toshi Kasai-produced  Our Rush essays Descriptive Essay My Dog is here for students that are struggling with their work, or that are about to miss deadlines. With our rush essay Motel of Infinity (review here), the avant rockers led by guitarist/vocalist  college essay depression http://www.docomomoiberico.com/?resume-and-cv-writing-service-aylesbury steps of research paper writing mit application essay help Steve Hammond played what was to be their last shows in May 2017, making this, at least technically, a posthumous offering. For what it’s worth, they hardly sound dead at all.

So in terms of communication, what  Medical Residency Personal Statement Writing Service - Quality papers at competitive costs available here will make your studying into pleasure commit your report to qualified Bible of the Devil and  People writeorderresearch essays inwell.order to. He was known gardens, two orchards.. http://www.weingelee.de/?creative-writing-courses-sydney >>>CLICK HERE<<< Hey who Leeches of Lore present in “Still on Top” and “Mountain of Mom” is — at least potentially — hello and a goodbye. One hesitates to speculate on the future of either group, particularly since the latter have said they’re done and since it’s been so long since the former had any other output, but that’s how it looks on the surface, and for a release that runs neatly under the nine-minute mark and comprises just two tracks, it’s a pretty efficient check-in. Accordingly, both groups play solidly to their strengths.

For  Bible of the Devil, that means a classic-sounding blend of rock and metal, with guitar work by Nathan Perry (also vocals) and Chris Grubbs in the spirit of the NWOBHM as most informed by Thin Lizzy-style good times, and an upbeat hook propelled by the rhythm section of drummer Greg Spalding and bassist/vocalist Darren Amaya. On the basic level of its approach, it could hardly be more their own if it was about “the night,” but while the method and structure may be familiar, a rawer production than one necessarily might expect from Bible of the Devil after For the Love of Thugs and Fools or the preceding 2008 triumph, Freedom Metal, gives a live feel to the proceedings such that there’s almost a garage sensibility to the initial chug and the verse, before the background vocals or harmonized guitar lead take hold.

This might make “Still on Top” an even more fitting complement to “Mountain of Mom,” as Leeches of Lore have always been (or “always were,” depending on the tense in which one wants to categorize them) a rawer band, even under the guidance of Kasai, taking cues from noise rock, punk, country, extreme metal and the great anti-genre beyond where few dare to tread. Their final lineup consisted of HammondKris KerbyNoah Wolters and Andy Lutz, but whether or not that’s who appears on the single I don’t actually know. In any case, like Bible of the Devil before them, Leeches of Lore are very much at home in the 4:09 “Mountain of Mom,” working quickly even with the title to make the listener ill-at-ease as only good art can in terms of just what the hell they’re talking about and whether or not it actually has anything to do with the song itself.

That’s a question that remains as Hammond moves vocally between cleaner singing, falsetto, and harsher shouts and the band around him between circuitous lumbering marked out by its transitional drum fills and sustained pulls of guitar and a last-minute delve into lead guitar and organ that comes close enough to punk rock cabaret to recall some of Leeches of Lore‘s more offbeat aesthetic aspects, even if the basic structure it keeps to is relatively straightforward. If indeed it is their final output — again, one never says never in rock and roll — it’s a suitable weirdo-metal farewell with early screams leading to talk of the end of the world and traffic jams and so on. One might call it “the usual,” but in the grander scheme, there’s hardly anything usual about it, and of course that’s a big part of the fun.

Like much of Leeches of Lore‘s work during their time together, “Mountain of Mom” benefits from longer-term digestion over multiple listens, but those repeat visits are well-enough earned by the quickened feel and the front-to-back linear transition the band undergoes. As was the case throughout their tenure, their reach remains underrated and underappreciated, and despite a more immediate take, the same could easily be said of Bible of the Devil, the quality of whose work has always made them something of a well-kept secret within the American Midwest. If there’s anything tying the two bands together, it’s probably that most of all, but neither should one discount the fact that throughout their careers — one maybe restarting, the other maybe over — neither of them has been willing to compromise who they are at their root or give up exploring outward from their sonic foundation. Their split may be short, but there’s no lack of substance whatsoever.

Bible of the Devil on Thee Facebooks

Bible of the Devil on Bandcamp

Bible of the Devil website

Leeches of Lore on Thee Facebooks

Leeches of Lore on Bandcamp

Leeches of Lore website

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Leeches of Lore Confirm Final Show for May 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

leeches of lore

Sorry to hear that Albuquerque weirdo heavy rockers Leeches of Lore are hanging up their collective spurs this month? You bet your ass I am. Really, really, really glad to have been able to see them live when I did? That’s also a huge yes. The band may be coming to an end as they also mark their 10th anniversary — and hey, never say never in rock and roll, right? — this month with a hometown gig at Sister Bar, but it’s also easy to argue they’re going out at the top of their game. They’ve got a new split en route with Chicago’s Bible of the Devilinfo here (), and their last album, 2015’s Toshi Kasai-helmed Motel of Infinity (review here), was unquestionably their greatest accomplishment to-date. I guess guitarist/vocalist/band-spearhead Steve Hammond decided it would also make a hell of a swansong, and I can’t argue.

The May 20 show is actually the second of two farewell gigs Leeches of Lore had slated for this month — the other was this past weekend — so if you want to see them, time is fleeting. Should it be at all within the realm of the possible for you, I can only recommend it based on my personal experience.

Hammond sent this along the PR wire:

leeches-of-lore-last-show

Leeches of Lore’s Final Days

Hey folks,

It’s been a fun 10 years, but Leeches of Lore is calling it quits this month. I’m moving out of New Mexico and can’t keep the band running at a distance.

Final Show and 10 Year Anniversary Saturday May 20 at Sister in Albuquerque NM with SuperGiant and Black Maria. This show will be a long one, encompassing our entire career. I never recommend people come from out of town to see one of our shows, but this might be the exception!

It’s hard to believe that what started as a one-off solo album turned into over 50 original songs from 5 full length albums and 3 EPs and lasted ten years!

I want to thank all of our fans from all over the world and especially our friends and family here in Albuquerque. We wouldn’t have made it this far without you.

Cheers!
Steve Hammond

https://www.facebook.com/events/523268441395460/
https://leechesoflore.bandcamp.com/
http://lorchestralrecordingcompany.com/
http://facebook.com/leechesoflore
http://leechesoflore.com/

Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity (2015)

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Bible of the Devil & Leeches of Lore Split Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Chicago heavy rockers Bible of the Devil, now five years removed from their last full-length, which was 2012’s For the Love of Thugs and Fools (discussed here), have confirmed that the new track they’re planning to include on an upcoming split with hiatus-bound New Mexican weirdos Leeches of Lore is currently in the mixing stage. They’ve made the 7″ available to preorder directly from them — as in, send-us-an-email-and-we’ll-get-one-to-you — and among the easier arguments one might endeavor to make in a given afternoon is they’re a cause worth supporting through that or whatever other means. Good band, pairing with another good band, and all that.

They sent along a winter newsletter that you can see below, including a couple live dates coming up in Wisconsin and their hometown. Dig it:

bible of the devil

BOTD Winter Update 2017

We have just finishing mixing our 7″ track for our split with Albuquerque’s own Leeches of Lore to be self-released later this spring. This is another classic in the making for BOTD and we are sure you will be humming along to it soon! Pre-orders can be taken via PayPal at botdmusic@gmail.com for $6 plus $3 shipping anywhere in the US. For European orders or anywhere else, please email for pricing first. We all had a blast making this and can’t wait to make the push to get the next record done. Don’t snooze on getting a copy as this is a limited run!

BOTD also will be making two appearances this spring:

March 25th Sat. Kenosha, WI @ Hattrix w/The Miners (record release), Amulance, Burn The Witch

and then…

RAWfest!!!

RAWfest began in Chicago in 2005 as a vehicle to showcase the best of underground rock. While it has sat dormant over a decade (sometimes you get busy, you know?), we have decided to bring it back for a second edition for maximum fun. This is an incredible lineup and it’s highly suggested you buy a ticket. Poster made by Austin’s own Burger Ben.

June 3rd Sat. Chicago, IL @ Township RAWfest 2 Doors 4pm $10 adv/$12 dos w/The Safes, The Vibrolas, Buzzzard, The Evictions, Beggars, City Slang

Finally, a much anticipated tour of the south in July is being finalized as we speak. Texas, we had some weather trouble last time and will not be denied this time around! Dates coming soon.

www.facebook.com/bibleofthedevil
www.bibleofthedevil.net

Bible of the Devil, For the Love of Thugs and Fools (2012)

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Bible of the Devil to Release Split 7″ with Leeches of Lore

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

They should call it the Bands Who are Way Better than People Know split. The Bands You’d Probably Really Dig split. At very least the Bands I Really Dig split. It’s been since 2012 that Chicago’s Bible of the Devil last released an album. That record, For the Love of Thugs and Fools (discussed here), followed four years after 2008’s Freedom Metal and felt late at the time, so yeah, they’re due. No word on solid release date for a next full-length, but the metal/rock genrehoppers will issue a split 7″ in the fine company of Albuquerque weirdos Leeches of Lore, whose Toshi Kasai-helmed Motel of Infinity (review here) came out in 2015. There will be a new song on that, and at this point, I’m inclined to take what I can get.

To go with a handful of shows around the Midwest this summer/fall, Bible of the Devil are set to play Alehorn of Power IX (info here) on Nov. 12 at Reggies in Chicago. Full lineup and set times can be found with the split announcement below:

bible-of-the-devil

BIBLE OF THE DEVIL UPDATE + ALEHORN OF POWER IX @ REGGIES NOV. 12TH SAT.!!

BOTD has had quite a busy fall so far with successful October dates in Indianapolis and Columbus. They are now gearing up for the next installment of Alehorn of Power in two weeks with the mighty THOR headlining! Details with set times are listed below and tickets are only $20 to witness this barrage of heavy rock! BOTD will also return to the studio in December to continue working on its new album while recording a new track to be released as a 7″ with Albuquerque’s own LEECHES OF LORE. Look for it late spring next year along with some very special road dates in the summer of 2017. Stay tuned!

Slated for Saturday, November 12, 2016 at Reggies in Chicago, this year’s Alehorn of Power features an eclectic and formidable lineup of bands with one thing on their minds: exceptional heavy metal entertainment from the independent realm.

Alehorn of Power IX
Set Times
THOR 11:50-???
Professor Black 10:55-11:35pm
Argus 10:00-10:40pm
Bible of the Devil 9:05-9:45pm
The Lurking Corpses 8:10-8:50pm
Seamstress 7:25-7:55pm

Saturday November 12, 2016
Doors 7 PM / $20 / Ages 17+
Reggies, 2101 S. State, Chicago IL USA

Long-running Chicago act BIBLE OF THE DEVIL is not only Alehorn’s spiritual guidepost but also its musical cornerstone. The band’s unmistakable brand of heavy metal rock and roll embodies every bit the twin-guitarred, big-chorused, epic FM sound perhaps most associated with the festival’s history. This year’s set will include a selection of new material alongside hits from the band’s vast catalog.

Bible of the Devil is:
Nathan Perry: Vocals, Guitars
Greg Spalding: Drums, Loathing
Darren Amaya: Bass, Vocals
Chris Grubbs: Guitars

www.facebook.com/bibleofthedevil
http://bibleofthedevil.net/
http://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/

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Leeches of Lore Announce West Coast Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

New Mexico bizarro rockers Leeches of Lore will head out on a West Coast tour starting April 9 with a hometown show in Albuquerque. The gigs pick up again a couple nights later in Tucson and continue from there, taking the band up and through San Francisco, Portland and Seattle before heading south again through Boise and Denver, all in support of their Toshi Kasai-produced 2015 outing, Motel of Infinity (review here), which found them as gleefully weird as ever, but obviously with a more pro-shop-type production value, their songs both memorable and endearingly strange.

Their live show, at least that time I saw them, back when life was a broke adventure and my only monotonies were of my making, is likewise memorable and likewise strange, the band utilizing heavy rock as a core from which to branch out with more individualized expression in a matter of minutes than most conjure in a career. Yes, I mean that. If you live on the West Coast and you don’t know these cats — but of course you do, because if you live on the West Coast, you’re hip to all kinds of stuff — get yourself informed and get yourself to a show.

Dates follow:

leeches of lore tour

Leeches of Lore West Coast Tour in April

We will be heading West in April.

Here are the tour dates:

Sat 4-9: TOUR KICKOFF at Moonlight Lounge ABQ with Jackhammer
Thu 4-14: High Life Tucson
Fri 4-15: Cafe NELA L.A.
Sat 4-16: Bender’s Bar and Grill San Francisco
Sun 4-17: The Maltese Chico, CA with Sex Hogs II and Panther Surprise
Mon 4-18: High Water Mark Lounge Portland with EMS and A Volcano
Tue 4-19: Funhouse Seattle with EMS
Wed 4-20: The Shredder Boise
Fri 4-22: Tennyson’s Tap Denver with Modern Goon

If you don’t live in these towns, please invite any friends you may have that do.

Here is the Facebook event page if you are into that kind of thing. https://www.facebook.com/events/220111945002828/

The new record “Motel of Infinity” will be available at the shows for a discounted price, or you can always get it and our other releases at https://leechesoflore.bandcamp.com/.

https://www.facebook.com/events/220111945002828/
https://leechesoflore.bandcamp.com/
http://lorchestralrecordingcompany.com/
http://facebook.com/leechesoflore
http://leechesoflore.com/

Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity (2015)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2015

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 30 albums of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

It’s damn near impossible to start one of these posts without some derivation of, “Whew! What a year it’s been!” The truth is that, since 2014, I’ve been keeping a list of the best releases of 2015, and the list has just grown and grown and grown over the last 12 months. Could have been a top 40, easy. Could have been a top 50, 60, whatever. It was complete inundation.

If you’ve been checking in on any of the lists that have gone up so far, you might notice that some of these records have appeared elsewhere, and possibly in a different order. How does an album end up ahead of another on one list and not on another? Different criteria. Different basis of judgment. As always, the big year-end list (this one) is derived both from what I think are the most important offerings of the year plus what I listened to the most, because while I believe deeply in the critical value of a given work, I also believe there’s value in the kind of record you just can’t put down.

Basically, I believe records have value. Stay tuned for more daring adventures in understatement.

A few emergent factors for 2015 to note: The increasing expansion of subgenres. Psychedelia and what I’ve come to call the heavy ’10s sound finding further root as prominent styles of the day, as well as a budding of emotive doom in the post-Pallbearer vein. At the same time, a more straightforward heavy rock is also making a return, and look for that to continue as new listeners discover past landmarks and modern plays thereupon. Everything is cyclical, and I’m interested to see what the next two or three years bring, both as Millennials hit 30 (and beyond) and as younger kids come up and fuzz out.

But that’s a conversation for a different time, and before we get there, it’s time to take a look back at the best full-lengths of 2015. I hope if I’ve left something out, you’ll let me know about it in the comments, but until then, here we go:

30. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

Going by some of the results I’ve seen from the Readers Poll, I’m guessing there will be some disagreement on the placement of High on Fire‘s seventh full-length, third for eOne and second to be produced by Kurt Ballou behind 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), but for me it came down to what I went back to more. The brilliant “The Falconist” would be enough on its own for Luminiferous to be included on this list, and taken as a whole, the record affirmed the trio as pivotal heavy metal marauders, an act whose devastation is undulled by the wear they’ve put on it touring the world over and again.

29. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns

chrch unanswered hymns

Released by Battleground Records. Reviewed June 30.

Undaunted by a name change from Church to CHRCH, the Sacramento five-piece unleashed rare doom extremity on their debut album, but peppered that with a stylistic nuance that many in the pummel-pummel-pummel game cast off, whether it was psychedelic flourish in the guitar or some eerie atmospheric. Among the post potential-filled debut offerings of the year, that’s not a guarantee they’ll find future success on the same level, but it does mean that if you didn’t hear the 19-minute “Dawning,” you missed out.

28. Golden Void, Berkana

golden void berkana

Released by Thrill Jockey Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

Coherent bliss. The second full-length from the four-piece Golden Void was a logical step forward from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but that was precisely what it needed to be. With an emerging dynamic of dual vocals between guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Earthless) and keyboardist Camilla Saufley-Mitchell on cuts like “Astral Plane” and “Silent Season,” Berkana was less adherent to space rock overall than its predecessor, but gave a more individualized take and was all the richer for it.

27. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Probably should have a higher number. Part of the enduring appeal for The Harvest for me is not only how Ukrainian three-piece Stoned Jesus so absolutely pushed back from the album before it, 2012’s sophomore outing, Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but how much reasoning they put behind the moves they made on the six included tracks. Each song had its purpose and place in the overarching flow, and The Harvest continues to deliver something new on thoroughly-earned repeat listens. Perhaps most encouraging of all, I have no idea what they’ll do next.

26. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence

graveyard innocence and decadence

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 7.

Swedish retro forerunners are hands-down one of the most influential European heavy rock acts of their generation. The ’70s revivalism they helped spearhead on their first, second and third LPs has given them rich ground to develop, and they still managed to bring something new to their sound with the soulfulness of Innocence and Decadence, as well as increasing command and diversity in the vocals. Drummer Axel Sjöberg turned in a career performance, and although there are heaps upon heaps of bands out there indulging in post-Graveyard boogie, they showed once again that they’re able to stand both out from the crowd and well above it. Plus, any swing-rocking album that dares to break out soul-singer backing vocals and blastbeats, and pull both off without blinking deserves respect, no matter what else it might have going on.

25. Death Hawks, Sun Future Moon

death hawks sun future moon

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Nov. 3

It felt so good to put on Death HawksSun Future Moon for the first time and be completely blindsided by its serene psychedelic ritualizing. The Finnish four-piece reveled in classic progressive methods, and where it would’ve been so easy for songs like “Hey Ya Sun Ra” or “Dream Life, Waking Life” to come across as pretentious, the naturalism in the recording gave the band’s third album such a liquefied flow that it was impossible not to be swept up by it until, at last, “Friend of Joy” launched into and beyond a peaceful stratosphere in spaced-out ambience. My first exposure to the group and their first outing for Svart, it’s a record so textural and so graceful that it seems to unfurl itself more each time through.

24. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Released by Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records. Reviewed Jan. 5.

A quick and strong turnaround from this Norwegian sax-inclusive foursome, who might seem to come out of nowhere were it not for the pedigree of Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther in long-running progressives Motorpsycho. Together with Per Borten and Rolf Martin Snustad, Spidergawd spoke to more primal rock instincts — their two LPs to-date and soon to be three are testaments to the ability of music to move, to shove, and to shake; or as they put it, “Get Physical” — but as there is breadth as well, as the psychedelic “Caereulean Caribou” demonstrated. Anchored by the hook of “Fixing to Die Blues,” Spidergawd‘s second wandered far and wide, but welcomed listeners along for each step of the journey.

23. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 26.

As the title promised, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third offering and Napalm Records debut delivered harsh truths. They came at breakneck speed and delivered with stage-hewn chemistry by the Midwestern power trio, whose years of road-dogging were brought to bear in the gruff, gravel-throated voice of guitarist Steve Moss, who led drummer Brandon Burghart and newcomer bassist Mike Boyne across nigh-unparalled riff torrents, with all the boogie of any number of ’70s-style sidewinders, but also with a tonal thickness that seemed a miracle it could move at all. Not without its adventurous side in the quieter “The Little Sparrow,” Cold was the Ground brimmed with intensity that brought the band to new levels in every conceivable fashion.

22. Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity

leeches of lore motel of infinity

Released by Lorchestral Recording Company. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Blessed art the weirdos, whose records might be few and far between, who might not tour, but whose bold fits and starts span genres easily and whose work truly stands alone. Leeches of Lore‘s Toshi Kasai-produced Motel of Infinity was a godsend in the enduring battle against normality. It was a grinding, grooving anti-punk stampede, at times frenetic and at other times whatever the opposite of frenetic is, and to-date, it’s the Albuquirky outit’s masterpiece, from the low-end buzzsaw, gang-shout and falsetto of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” through the bass and organ bounce of “Noah’s Soul (is Burning).” They have been and still are a band unto themselves, and the we-do-this-every-day confidence of their execution across Motel of Infinity‘s run only emphasizes how utterly necessary they are.

21. With the Dead, With the Dead

with the dead self titled

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

With the Dead vocalist Lee Dorrian (also head of Rise Above Records, also ex-Cathedral) basically laid it all out there in the interview here when he said, “We wanted to make the most skull-crushing record we possibly could.” That’s precisely what With the Dead‘s self-titled debut is. It’s as heavy as possible, as filthy as possible, all the way through. In some ways very much the sum of its elements with Dorrian on vocals, Tim Bagshaw on guitar/bass and Mark Greening on drums (both ex-Ramesses), it was also of course more than just that, and while so much of their story has yet to be told as they move into their initial live appearances in 2016, their opening salvo was nothing if not as destructive as its intent.

20. Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch psychic warfare

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

How could anyone possibly have even remotely reasonable expectations for a Clutch record after 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here). I won’t say the Maryland stalwarts didn’t deliver with Psychic Warfare, and I doubt any fan of the band who’s dug into “X-Ray Visions,” “A Quick Death in Texas” or “Noble Savage” would, but their returning to producer Machine for the second time in a row made it almost too easy to compare Clutch‘s 10th and 11th long-players. Four years between albums was shortened to just two, and that may have had something to do with it as well, but while the songs were there and I’ve no doubt that Psychic Warfare will endure over the long term — ask me sometime how long it took me to get into Pure Rock Fury — in the moment of its release, Psychic Warfare seemed to stand in the shadow of its predecessor rather than in its own light.

19. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self-titled

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Jan. 8.

An awaited return for Midwestern-turned-West-Coast psychedelic rockers Mondo Drag, their self-titled sophomore outing had three years between its recording and release, and was made in 2012 with a shortlived incarnation of the band with bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow and then-soon to be of Blues Pills. Unsurprisingly, the grooves were tight, but even better, Mondo Drag blew past the peaceful headtrippery of their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), toward more expansive and proggy fare. They’ll look to continue that thread on their third outing, The Occultation of Light, in 2016, but the self-titled captured a special moment worthy of celebration, still rife with the classic-minded ethereal spirit of the first outing, but clearly bent on defining its own sonic dogma in hooks and synthy vibes.

18. Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

Released by Clostridium Records and Astral Projection. Reviewed April 27.

At the risk of sounding biased, just about any new release from New Zealand tantric psych outfit Lamp of the Universe is going to be welcome by me. Comprised solely of Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), the long-running project nonetheless casts out gorgeously textured meditative psychedelia, at times delving into drone or Eastern folk, but always marking out its own sonic space, whether in the more rock-minded groove of “God of One” or the drumless acoustic swirl of “Ancient Path.” Lamp of the Universe is a rare band — as much as it is a band — that covers a swath of ground stylistically and manages to sound like nothing but itself as it does so, and Williamson‘s commitment to his cosmic mantras remains firm and creatively fertile as the seeds he planted early on continue to bear fruit in complex arrangements that never distract from the central, spiritual purpose of the music.

17. Mammatus, Sparkling Waters

mammatus sparkling waters

Released by Spiritual Pajamas. Reviewed Nov. 9.

Even with its title-track broken into two 20-plus-minute side-consuming halves, it was abundantly plain to hear that Sparkling Waters was the most realized Mammatus outing yet. The four-song, 75-minute offering brimmed with a clarity that even their late-2013 third album, Heady Mental (review here), could only partially claim, leaving behind the fuzz and fog of their earlier work almost entirely while remaining open to employing sonic heft when suitable to their more complex motives. Most effective about Mammatus at this stage was the way they eased into and through varied parts while tying together a coherent whole piece, the builds and cascades of “Sparkling Waters Part One” setting up an expectation of fluidity that held firm even through the more jagged buzz in the early going of closer “Ornia,” the grand finale of which resonates as a cacophony without letting itself actually lose control.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper

uncle acid the night creeper

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

UK ladykillers Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have emerged as one of the most essential bands of the ’10s. The Night Creeper is their fourth album and it takes the defining eeriness of their melodies and roughs it up with a mostly-live recording job — something which, now that they’re a touring act, they can do — for their grittiest, dirtiest-sounding offering yet. Songs like “Melody Lane,” “Pusher Man” and opener “Waiting for Blood” speak to what’s let their methodology spread so widely in the first place, the VHS grain of their guitars and vocals resting over classic swing and proliferating maddening hooks with lethal intent. Between the nine-minute gruel of “Slow Death” and the hidden acoustic track “Black Motorcade,” The Night Creeper wasn’t without its element of sonic progress, but with Uncle Acid, it’s still the combination of threat, swing and memorable songwriting that brings listeners back to their dark alleyways for another taste.

15. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

Easily one of 2015’s most encouraging debuts. Making its opening salvo with the propulsion of Motörhead-derived heavy rock in songs like “Over Under” and “Black Magick Boogieland,” the first outing from Amsterdam-based foursome Death Alley touched on classic ideals without going retro on “Bewildered Eyes,” nodded toward psychedelic melodicism and more patient intentions in “Golden Fields of Love,” and portrayed its punker roots in “Dead Man’s Bones” — all before the 12:40 space rock extravaganza that took hold with closer “Supernatural Predator.” It was a lot of territory to cover, but Death Alley not only made it sound cohesive, they made it rock and they made it a good time. In just about 41 minutes, Black Magick Boogieland was not only a voyage well worth taking, it was a potential-filled, headbang-worthy ripper of an album from an outfit who deserves every bit of attention they seem to be shouting for. Hope they don’t wait long for a follow-up.

14. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

Five records in, Dutch trio The Machine have found a niche for themselves between heavy psych rock, desert fuzz and exploratory jamming. Offblast!, with a title that seemed more reminiscent of Europunker speed rock, was as spacious as it was driving, and whether it was the more structured material like “Dry End” or “Coda Sun” or the two extended cuts, 16-minute opener ““Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and 12-minute closer “Come to Light,” their dynamic remained natural and held firm to a spontaneous sensibility, like at any turn, any part might take off for an eight-minute ride to who knows where. That that didn’t always happen only made Offblast! a richer listening experience, its varied ideas coming through consistent tonality to affect a more than satisfying front-to-back flow that toyed with momentum even as it built more and more of it. Was a while in the making, coming three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here), but easily worth the wait.

13. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

There were moments where the self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was almost too much to take in one sitting. By the time the Tad Doyle-led trio got around to the 11-minute “La Mano Poderosa,” sometimes I felt like I needed a second to catch my breath before diving further, always further, into the smoldering abyss their tones, growls and lurch seemed to create. Six years after their demo (review here) served notice like a tectonic rumble in the distance, the album arrived with comet-into-planet heft, and its oppression was as much about atmosphere as it was sheer aural assault. Imagine an arm reaching down your throat, grabbing your lungs, and forcibly deflating them one at a time. Is that hyperbole? Absolutely, and well earned. Every bit the debut of the year.

12. Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 2.

No, Boston supergroup Kind aren’t so high on this list just because they called a song “Pastrami Blaster.” Granted, that didn’t hurt, but ultimately it was the blend of cavernous psychedelics and heavy rumble that made Rocket Science so infectious. Comprised of vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Elder), Kind earned immediate interest for their pedigree, but it was more the breadth of jams like “Hordeolum” and “The Angry Undertaker” that defined their first outing, various impulses toward structure and open-endedness not so much pushing against each other as working in tandem to craft something that drew from the best of both mindsets. Obviously these are busy guys, but hopefully Kind doesn’t all by the wayside for other ongoing projects. Rocket Science was unmistakable in its demonstration that they have much to offer.

11. Bloodcow, Crystals and Lasers

bloodcow crystals and lasers

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 4.

Iowa five-piece Bloodcow hadn’t put out a record since 2007’s Bloodcow III: Hail Xenu, but that didn’t stop Crystals and Lasers from being their best work yet. As much punk as metal as heavy rock, it wasn’t for everybody, but it was most definitely for me. With a constant thread of satire in songs like “Ultra Super Sexual,” “Sock,” “Dick for Days” and the oh-shit-I’m-middle-aged-how-the-fuck-did-this-happen (not saying I relate or anything, but holy shit I can relate) “After Party,” it was nonetheless a stylistically varied and universally professional-sounding 13-track collection, offering weirdo quirk in “Blood and Guts,” “Exploding Head” and “Little Chromosome” and finding room for a bit of scathing social commentary in its title-track and “HIVampyre.” If they’re working at an eight-year pace, I don’t know that we’ll get another Bloodcow record, but they very clearly put everything they had into Crystals and Lasers and the result was a defining statement.

10. Kadavar, Berlin

kadavar berlin

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed July 7.

After two wallops in the form of 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here), German trio Kadavar continued to prove the effectiveness of their songwriting on Berlin, a return that front-to-back brimmed with vitality and bounce rare enough for heavy rock generally more content to be downtrodden or attempting to feign bluesy substance. Unabashedly poppy at times, Berlin was the party that brought everyone along who was up for taking the ride, and whether it was the hook of “Lord of the Sky” showing how just a tiny melodic turn could make a track infectious or cuts like “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” “Filthy Illusion,” “Stolen Dreams,” “Spanish Wild Rose,” “See the World with Your Own Eyes” — all of them, really — working their way into the consciousness, Berlin felt like it was primed to be the soundtrack of many summers to come. They moved away from the retro style of their first two outings, but in so doing took fuller command of their sound and put it to remarkable use.

9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed May 19.

Picking up right where Flower of Disease closer “The River” left off with “Another River to Cross,” Goatsnake‘s third full-length arrived a full 15 years after its predecessor, and as one might expect that brought some considerable changes in the band’s sound. Oh, they still rolled the hell out of a riff, guitarist Greg Anderson (he of SunnO))) and Southern Lord Recordings) very much at the fore tonally, but a bluesy inflection from vocalist Pete Stahl (also earthlings?) and some well-placed backing vocals added personality in a daring and unexpected fashion. Songs like “Jimi’s Gone,” “Elevated Man” and “Grandpa Jones” sat comfortably in the band’s influential pantheon of heft, but it was how Black Age Blues pushed beyond what Goatsnake did in their initial run that made it so satisfying. For a record that arrived five years after they got back together, it could have easily been disaster, but Black Age Blues built on what Goatsnake was without detracting from the legacy that has influenced a generation of heavy rock.

8. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

I’m proud to call the members of Kings Destroy friends and I won’t attempt to feign impartiality when it comes to considering their work as a band, but I felt in listening to their self-titled third LP that they had finally gotten to the point where they were bringing the onstage confrontationalism of their live show to the studio. Yeah, “Mr. O” was upbeat and catchy and gave side A some thrust, but even in chugging opener “Smokey Robinson” or the moody “Mytho” and “Embers,” Kings Destroy not only came further into their own in terms of style, building on the anti-genre defiant stance of 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), but did so with a clearheaded progressivism, a better sense of who they are musically and what they want the band to be. I wouldn’t trade seeing them play “Embers” or “W2” as many times as I have for anything, but even unto the gang-shout half-speed hardcore of “Time for War,” Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy made no bones about how it wound up with the eponymous title. It’s them through and through.

7. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

It may never be possible to listen to the self-titled debut from Cigale outside the context of the death of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (ex-Sungrazer). That loss casts a dark shadow over a collection that otherwise radiates colorful sweetness and serenity, the peaceful depth beginning with “Grey Owl” and only broadening as it turns and weaves through “Steeplechase,” “Feel the Heat,” “Harvest Begun” and so on, but the record remains a gorgeous, engrossing wash of resonant melody and underlying presence. Not without its moments of melancholy, the more overarching impression was of beauty not tied to any notion of playing to genre or style, and while I don’t know what the future will hold for the band, if they’ll keep moving forward or not or if they’re even in a place yet to consider such things, they helped broaden the context of European heavy psychedelia with their first album, and that is no minor achievement.

6. Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning

sun blood stories twilight midnight morning

Self-released. Reviewed June 19.

Another one that just kind of smacked me in the face. Idahoan heavy psych explorers Sun Blood Stories‘ second album, Twilight Midnight Morning was soaked in vibe and moved fluidly between experimentalist noisemaking and patient, memorable songwriting. Tracks like “West the Sun,” “Witch Wind” and “Found Reasons Found Out” never raged, exactly, but had enough weight to their rhythm to let you know they were there and interested in groove, while later pieces “Time Like Smoke,” “Moon Song: Waxing” and “Misery is Nebulous” drew exponentially from earlier freakout impulses and shifted into a dronier and more ambient approach. The combination of the two — semi-structure up front, open expansion in the back — made the three-part Twilight Midnight Morning engaging and hypnotic in kind, and though I hope they get weirder and experiment and develop the atmospheric side of their sound, I’ve also got my fingers crossed they hold firm to their more grounded aspects, since its the range between the two that gives their sophomore outing its defining fluidity.

5a. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I’ll cite precedent in last year’s list for including a “5a.” The intent in doing so is to convey the idea that Colour Haze‘s latest outing, To the Highest Gods We Know, is worthy of top five consideration, but its release date was split between 2014 (CD) and 2015 (LP), so it was a little unclear where to put it. As the album is basically a year old at this point, it seems fair to say it’s held up, drawing back from the grandiose vision of 2012’s She Said (review here) without losing sight of the progressive elements that have taken root in the German trio’s sound. Their work has been and remains essential to the development of heavy psychedelic rock in Europe and beyond, and even though To the Highest Gods We Know felt like something of a reset — a stripping down of arrangements in places and getting back to a trio-in-a-room feel — it still stepped forward in its title-track and in songs like “Überall” and “Call” and showed that even when it seems Colour Haze have pushed their approach as far as it can go, there’s always new ground to explore, and their pull to do so is undiminished.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

Doesn’t exactly seem like giving away state secrets to note that a record with songs like “Sexecutioner” and “Fuck Face” is aggressive, but it’s particularly interesting in light of the past work of New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax, who I don’t think sounded as barn-burning as they do on Gravitron even in their earliest going. The trio of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella kept their signature winding riff style intact — demonstrated most expansively over 2011’s single-song full-length instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) — but while their turns were as blinding as ever, their tones were more pointed and Pantella‘s snare more upfront on the beat, which gave Gravitron a newfound sense of urgency. It worked. Even poppier songs like “Roseland” or the closing “Ice Age Hey Baby” benefited from the additional thrust, and the album overall felt lean, mean and ready to be taken on the road, which of course is exactly what they did with it. Six albums in, The Atomic Bitchwax were at their most vital yet.

4. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

all them witches dying surfer meets his maker

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Nashville four-piece All Them Witches probably could’ve gone into the studio, churned out a record of crunchy riffs with a quiet part or two for flavor and positioned themselves at the forefront of American heavy rock with their New West Records debut and third full-length overall, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Instead, they defied expectation boldly and brought their growing audience into the room with them and producer Mikey Allred as they captured the album, which finds its most affecting moments not in tonal weight, but emotional resonance, the melody at the midpoint of “Talisman” or the string arrangement gracefully tucked into “Open Passageways.” There’s still the push of “Dirt Preachers,” and entrancing closer “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” has its heft as well, but All Them Witches‘ success ultimately came from being the album they wanted to make, built from the dynamic that’s developed on stage between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeodAllan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes/strings, and drummer Robby Staebler, and alive in its feeling of exploration. I won’t predict what they might do from here, but I’m willing to say outright it’ll be worth hearing one way or another.

3. Snail, Feral

snail feral

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Oct. 13.

My expectations for Snail‘s third post-reunion full-length and Small Stone label debut, Feral, were pretty high. Not unreasonably so, though. Their 2012 outing, Terminus (review here), built on the blend of heavy psych riffs, laid back roll and melodicism that 2009’s Blood (review here) established as the band’s working modus, but Feral was going to be a different beast from the start because it was the West Coast outfit’s first full-length as a trio since they made their self-titled debut (reissue review here) in 1993 before splitting up the next year. Whatever my expectations were, however, Snail shattered them almost immediately. In the progression of their songwriting as shown across the strong opening salvo of “Building a Haunted House,” “Smoke the Deathless” and “A Mustard Seed” through one of the year’s best songs in the expansive and crushing “Thou Art That,” the three-piece showcased a breadth unlike anything they’d conjured before, and it only continued through “Born in Captivity,” the catchy “Derail,” “Psilocybe” and the soul-infused wah leads that peppered the pleading closer “Come Home.” Where Terminus offered intensity, Feral offered patience in its execution, and the atmosphere it created suited the band’s sound as well as the Seldon Hunt cover art seemed to summarize the alternate reality in which the music took place. Everything about how it came together worked just right, and even as a fan of the band’s work since they got together again, I was taken aback by the unflinching quality of Feral front to back.

2. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

Ten years is a long, long time. Especially in music. The prospect of a fourth Acid King record has been tossed around for at least the last six of those 10 years, but to finally have it realized was something else entirely. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was without a doubt my most-listened-to album of the year, and its combination of tonal haze, low-end heft and spacious atmosphere was perfect. There’s just no other way to say it. It was perfect. From “Silent Pictures” and “Coming down from Outer Space” through “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and the sprawling “Center of Everywhere” itself, guitarist/vocalist Lori S., bassist Mark Lamb and drummer Joey Osbourne crafted an absolutely perfect heavy psych record. How many bands walking the earth could even get away with calling a track “Laser Headlights,” let alone make it kick ass? Yeah, Goatsnake came back this year, and that was great, but for me, the return of Acid King to their throne of nod was even more the story of the year. Together with producer Billy Anderson, they offered a depth of tone that was simply unmatched, and without an ounce of pretense, they unveiled a roll that continues to resound. I’m a big fan of getting lost in a record, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere eased the listener in with its “Intro,” pulled reality apart from with “Silent Pictures” and set about doing the universe a favor by remaking the cosmos as the kind of place where one might find a wizard riding a tiger past the craters of the moon, until, at last, it deposited you back where you started. Best trip of 2015, no question.

1. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

Make no mistake, 2015 was Elder‘s year. We were all just living in it. Truth be told, I’ve been back and forth between Elder and Acid King in the top spot for the last couple months (you might recall in July they were reversed), but when it finally came to it, there was no way I could feasibly call anything other than Lore the album of the year. From the gorgeous Adrian Dexter artwork (discussed here), through the progressive clarion of “Compendium”‘s noodling guitar line and into the massive scope of the title-track (discussed here), Lore was the moment in which Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — tore down the walls of genre, whether it was heavy rock, psychedelia or anything else, and emerged with their own approach and complex, varied modus of songwriting. They’ve been turning heads since their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, but with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), they began to demonstrate the potential for really adding something to the patchwork of underground heavy. In moving forward by making clarity a hallmark both of their sound and of their purpose, Elder came into their own with these five tracks, and do not at all be surprised a couple years from now when bands start showing up aping DiSalvo‘s style of riffing, since such a bold and successful foray of individualism can only be influential in the longer run. At nearly an hour long, Lore was not a minor undertaking, but each song seemed to set up its own atmosphere, feeding not only its own singular focus, but that of the album overall. Its turns blinding, its impact forceful and its affect drawing from the best of the sonic personalities of all three players, Elder‘s Lore reaped wide acclaim and earned it every step of the way. Its progressive vision has only begun to be digested.

Honorable Mention

Killer Boogie, Detroit – Impressive debut from the retro-minded offshoot of Black Rainbows brought ’70s boogie to Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a quick turnaround, but either way, their first outing knew its audience and spoke directly to it.

My Sleeping Karma, Moksha – This one was on various incarnations of the list. Very interested to see where the German heavy prog outfit wind up in terms of expanding their arrangements, but Moksha was a satisfying step forward in that process.

Egypt, Endless Flight – Should probably have a number, but the fact is it’s only been out for like two weeks, so it hasn’t really been given the test of time at this point. Still, Egypt always deliver and this was no exception.

Valkyrie, Shadows – An awaited third full-length from Virginia’s Valkyrie and also their Relapse Records debut offered enough blazing guitar work to meet any quota, and was a welcome return after a long absence.

Magic Circle, Journey’s End – The second LP from this Massachusetts outfit pushed beyond doomly confines into more traditional metallurgy but held its eerie atmospherics intact, and the combination suited them remarkably well.

Monolord, Vænir – This was my go-to for 2015 when nothing else seemed quite crushing enough. The Swedish trio have very quickly stomped their way into the hearts and minds of the international underground, and rightfully so.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind – After making a transition from a four-piece to a trio, this Virginian outfit proceeded to take a few stylistic risks on their second Small Stone long-player, and they paid off.

TombstonesVargariis – Fourth full-length from this Norwegian trio pushed them outside of doom’s confines into a darker and more extreme version of heaviness that pulled from death and black metals in addition to its sludgy underpinnings. The meld was punishing and lost nothing of its groove, wherever it went at any given moment.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and Dust Have no Dominion – I guess my only hesitation with including Faces of Bayon‘s second outing in any kind of year-end fare is I’m not sure if the album has actually been released yet. Even if not, they’re easily worth a mention.

Ice Dragon, A Beacon on the Barrow – Kind of a down year from Ice Dragon in terms of overall productivity, but if the quantity was down compared to some, A Beacon on the Barrow was quality enough to carry them through. In a way, I think the album actually benefited from the band giving listeners time to take it in.

Arenna, Given to Emptiness – Ah, so good. The Spanish heavy psych troupe dug in deep on Given to Emptiness and conjured sonic and emotional resonance on their second full-length. It’s one that still gets repeat listens.

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire – The long-running New Jersey outfit’s reworking of their 2010 album Mastermind was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem fair to list it when they’re working mostly from already-released source material. But still, if you haven’t heard it, go find it.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] – Even if the results hadn’t been so spectacular, Electric Ladyland [Redux] would deserve a mention for the sheer scope and logistical nightmare that the project must have been. Kudos to Magnetic Eye Records all around.

There are so many others: Abrahma, GoyaSun and Sail Club, DevilleSacri MontiDirty StreetsUfomammutWo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, PentagramTorcheSumacGarden of WormBlack RainbowsHoly SerpentMinskBaronWeedpeckerElectric MoonFuzzBell WitchWindhand, Niche, We Lost the SeaSeremoniaSunderDomovoyd, The Heavy EyesDemon HeadFoggStars that MoveEnslavedRuby the Hatchet, on and on and on. That’s not even to mention the stuff I didn’t hear — Baroness will be on many people’s lists, no doubt, as well as Mutoid Man, Ghost and Kylesa — so yeah, I could pretty much keep going ad infinitum.

I, however, cannot. It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to keep up with 2015’s barrage the last 12 months, and I expect 2016 will only bring more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading or that you’re able to get some use out of this post, whatever that might mean, and I thank you deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for your time and for reading. It means more to me than I can say that you might check out even any portion of this site or be involved, whether it’s sharing a link, leaving a comment to let me know who I forgot to mention or correct my spelling, signing up for the forum, listening to the radio, whatever it might be.

Thank you for an amazing 2015. And please stay tuned, because of course, there’s much more to come.

 

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Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity: Burning Souls and Sleeping Gods (Plus Album Stream!)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 15th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Leeches-of-Lore-Motel-of-Infinity

[Please note: Press play above to hear a full-album stream of Leeches of Lore’s Motel of Infinity. Thanks the band for letting me host the premiere. Album is out Sept. 22.]

It’s been a long three years since Albuquerque’s favorite weirdo sons Leeches of Lore last graced an unsuspecting cosmos with a full-length, and their new one, Motel of Infinity, stands as a testament to the genre-blender mastery the band has undertaken. Released by their own Lorchestral Recording Company, it slices, it dices, it riffs out, thrashes on, drops in, tunes out, digs mightily and thrusts in a manner not suitable for public transit. It rages and carouses and careens and tumbles. It rocks heavy and it rocks often, an 11-track/36-minute that sculpts chaos out of punk, riffs, rockabilly and various metals from thrash to black metal to doom and comes out of it at the end having not yet broken a sweat.

Sounds like hyperbole, and maybe it is, but Leeches of Lore pack enough stylistic breadth into a two-minute slice like “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” that most bands who claim to be open-minded should be embarrassed to stand and behold it. Singles, EPs and stopgaps like last year’s Live at KUNM 89.9 (review here) — a handy preview for some of these songs — have helped ease the burden while the band, which is based around the core trio of Steve Hammond (guitar/vocals), Noah Wolters (keys/vocals) and Andy Lutz (drums/vocals), though one never knows who might show up on any given night, put together this record, writing the material and eventually recording with Toshi Kasai (Melvins, etc.), but taken as a follow-up to 2012’s Frenzy, Ecstasy and 2011’s Attack the Future (review here), the newer release is in a different league entirely in terms of its professionalism of sound and how centered and assured the band sounds as they conjure the storms in these tracks.

And I do mean storms. From the first hits and tom runs of “Radium Jaws,” Motel of Infinity executes broad-ranging tension in guitar, keys, drums, handclaps — alternate universe surf rock, or else some style that someone cleverer than me will have to name. Still punker raw in tone, but much bolstered by Kasai‘s production, Leeches of Lore are in command immediately and they cede no ground as “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” takes hold, vocals answering each other in switching channels before Hammond unveils his strange falsetto, only to be met by gang shouts en route to a finish of key-led bounce that feeds into “The Sixth Finger,” its own rush underway in about 10 seconds. To issue “expect the unexpected” as a warning feels cheap, but the blackthrash screaming that tops “The Sixth Finger” as it plunders along slams headfirst into Thin Lizzy dual-guitar shenanigans and catchy ’70s swing, and, well, few other warnings seem appropriate.

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It’s also not just that Leeches of Lore are working with these various forms, tossing them together haphazardly, or just that the album is a good time — though, make no mistake, it is — but the fact that they create something cohesive from them that stands alone within the US heavy rock underground. And on Motel of Infinity, they sound damn good while doing it. “White Hole” is the shortest cut at 1:55, and it keeps its movement largely forward, but “The Man Who was Never Born” pulls back on tempo, tosses in classic prog acoustics, and a near-Western ramble that leads to a keyboard highlight performance from Wolters and the layered acoustic/electrics of “The Sleeping God,” which serves as the centerpiece of the tracklist. In under three and a half minutes, it trades back and forth between full-on rush and “Space Oddity”-esque float — twice — and winds up more exhausting than exhausted, as “White Debbie” rings out its darkabilly cabaret, complete with all-too appropriate theremin, cowboy stick clicks and, in the last of its two and a half minutes, church organ and a Melvinsy spoken part that sits back to sound like it’s about to eat the mix.

Then things get really offbeat. Well, at very least they continue to push farther out from where Attack the Future or their 2009 self-titled debut (review here) dared to tread. “The Olm” at over six minutes starts out innocently enough but becomes a bleak swirl first rumbling and then minimal and constructed of far-away noise that surges forward suddenly before finishing out in feedback from which the opening thud of “Woth-o-Voll” picks up immediately, its own brief, two-minutes shifting into almost Patton-style crooning atop lounge keys and easy-rolling drums that finish in silence. Not sure how Leeches of Lore might have been able to better set the table for “Noah’s Soul (is Burning),” one of Motel of Infinity‘s most standout cuts, marked by its start-stop progression, at-least-three-part vocals with lines about sexting and Chex Mix and the ultimate affirmation that the band know exactly what they’re going as they’ve run this gamut coming in a psych’ed up solo and key interplay, the bassline seeming to be the piece holding it all together also serving as the leadout.

It’s a somewhat blindsiding cut, even in the context of the madness surrounding, and it gives way quietly to “Jeep Marmalade,” the instrumental at the end of the world, which seems to take the only road available to it in that, just when you think it’s about to explode in thrashing madcap, it holds onto its steady build and rounds out Motel of Infinity not with a lack of movement, but with a relatively straightforward progression that’s all the more disorienting for the sundry freakouts and fast turns preceding. Underrated since always, Leeches of Lore have only grown more and more adventurous in their sound and steadfast in their convictions, and Motel of Infinity shatters expectations and finds the band standing tall, proving they were right all along. A rare band truly operating on their own terms and in their own style has just unveiled their finest hour to-date. Anyone who doesn’t feel like that’s a joyous occasion is missing out.

Leeches of Lore on Thee Facebooks

Leeches of Lore on Bandcamp

Lorchestral Recording Company

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