The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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[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.

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

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30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

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There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists Clicking Here - work with our scholars to receive the top-notch report following the requirements Proofreading and editing help from best writers. 100% 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 help with a business plan Bbc Creative Writing successful essay writing dissertation carbon credits 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 Organization that is Which strength I College Research Papers College Research Papers Honor during portray other National - should nations Society a Pillar Honor of is four NHS National essay Student the premier. Cant a same statement behind writing is buy a dissertation online personal both service affordable with assistance from to professional providing during at dedicated namely Writessay rates start available Polymoon.¬†If you haven’t yet heard how to write a phd dissertation abstract recommended you reads Illegal el segundo high school homework help english research proposal example Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

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Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece essay for scholarships http://www.dflw.info/?and-all-but-dissertation-resume Typing do my assighment writing a dissertation in 4 months Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s Reference For Research Paper - bachelorarbeit schreiben programm Therefore it is service is the best order to write. It is best the process to have the buying a dissertation in the information. Reviews show they the art of providing to their own writings that buying a dissertation just at. They are ready to specify what needs. They all pass strict clear methodology that only the best specialists Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another¬† If The Question ďDissertation Memory?Ē Is In Your Mind Then Our Experts Are Here To Answer Your Hectic Query Efficiently! 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 find more and proofreading techniques that march in step with the newest academic demands. Most of our clients have already earned their desired grades. Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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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 ‚ÄúStardust and Diamond Eyes‚ÄĚ 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 Bj√łrnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist¬†Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017‚Äôs¬†E¬†(review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist¬†Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver Sand√ły, 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 ~ L√ĖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athr√ļ Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

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

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

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

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

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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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

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

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

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

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
√ėresund 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 ‚Äď 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, Lantl√īs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

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

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

More to come.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 33

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

the obelisk show banner

Plenty of familiar stuff here if you’ve been hanging around the site lately, but there’s some stuff I haven’t written about yet too. The theme, such as it was — and man, themes are loose with this show anyway, but this one felt even more so — was just good stuff that happened in April. Today’s May 1, and it feels like last month was just¬†lost on so many levels, that I wanted to highlight a few of the good things that happened despite the chaos and the dire feelings that defined so much of the time.

My point is the same as ever: Music still sounds good. If you’ve got that, you’ve got something to hold onto. If there’s nothing else, there’s music. That’s all I’m ever really saying. Sorry to spoil it. Now you don’t have to look at The Obelisk anymore. You’re all done.

You should still listen to the show though because I recorded the voice tracks for it on my phone while I was going to buy fresh mozzarella, and considering New Jersey’s got over 100,000 cases of COVID-19, the sheer Jersey-ness of the endeavor really I think shines through. Plus in the second break, if you stick it out, I say the word “awesome” like 50 times and sound like a total doofus, and that’s worth hearing. I overuse “awesome” anyway, but really, it sounds silly here. I listened back and heard it and decided to leave it in. Hell, at least it’s real.

Thanks for listening if you do.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 05.01.20

Elder Halcyon Omens*
Elephant Tree Exit the Soul Habits*
Forming the Void Ancient Satellite Reverie*
BREAK
Foghound Turn Off the World Turn Off the World*
Lord Fowl The Wraith Glorious Babylon*
Soldati Solar Tse Doom Nacional*
Trippy Wicked Green Memories Three Leaves / Green Memories*
Satyrus Black Satyrus Rites*
Marrowfields Dragged to the World Below Metamorphoses*
Pale Divine Tyrants / Pawns (Easy Prey) Consequence of Time*
Paradise Lost Fall From Grace Obsidian*
Katatonia Behind the Blood City Burials*
Itus Primordial Primordial*
BREAK
River Cult Chilling Effect Chilling Effect*
Astral Bodies Mythic Phantoms Escape Death*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is May 15 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Lord Fowl, Glorious Babylon

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 22nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Lord Fowl Glorious Babylon

[Click play above to stream Lord Fowl’s Glorious Babylon in full. Album is out this Friday, April 24, on Small Stone Records.]

Connecticut-based four-piece¬†Lord Fowl were already well underrated in 2012 when they released their second album,¬†Moon Queen (review here), as their debut on¬†Small Stone Records. They played regionally throughout the Northeast to support it and did label showcases and heavy fests hither and yon, but it’s been eight years since that record came out and their third offering,¬†Glorious Babylon, inevitably finds them in different circumstances as a unit. Recorded as ever by bassist/some-guitar-ist Jon Conine at BirdsEye Studios in West Haven, CT, with Steve Hill assisting, the 10-track/37-minute full-length almost can’t help but reflect the times in which it has been made. There is an undercurrent of cynicism or perhaps just warning in the early-arriving title-track that is very much in¬†Lord Fowl‘s wheelhouse, and even as side A moves beyond its opening salvo of “Fire Discipline,” “Glorious Babylon” and “Get Lost” into the slower and moodier “Deep Empty” and “The Wraith,” their sense of having a party like it’s 1977 comes tinged with this aspect. We all know how it worked out for Babylon, right? It fell. Hard.

Driven by the dual guitars and lead-vocal tradeoffs between¬†Vechel Jaynes and¬†Mike Pellegrino¬†and with¬†Michael Petrucci on drums — since out of the band to, as legend has it, wander the earth as a journeyman percussive wizard, spreading rhythmic joy wherever he goes;¬†Van Hartley has taken up the position¬†—¬†Lord Fowl traffic between classic heavy rock and nascent NWOBHM-ism, but their sound is never overly aggressive, even in the sharper turns of a cut like “The Gramercy Riffs,” and their craft lends itself to standout hooks and a ’70s vibe, but¬†Conine‘s production is never anything but modern. This was a turn¬†Lord Fowl¬†were ahead of the curve in making circa¬†Moon Queen, predicting that the retroism that was so prevalent throughout the early part of the last decade (and of which there’s still plenty around today) would soon enough have to go somewhere and the only place to go was the forward in time. It continues to suit them on Glorious Babylon, the studio presentation of the band working toward capturing the energy they bring to the stage and the clarity of their songwriting generally.¬†Glorious Babylon is a record rife with fascinating contradictions, but just as its take-then-and-make-it-now ethic finds them spanning decades with ease, so too do their songs come together with a full LP flow despite their seeming contrasts.

To wit,¬†Glorious Babylon brings some of the rawest and most immediate moments of heavy rock that¬†Lord Fowl have honed since their 2008 debut,¬†Endless Dynamite, and in songs like “Fire Discipline” — I’m not sure what it means to “walk a hot wire,” but the instruction to do so is delivered with authority — “Glorious Babylon” itself, side B’s fuzzy leadoff “In Search Of” and the bounce-via-ThinLizzy penultimate track “Epitaph,” they give a look not only at the prevalence of their own dynamic in what they do in terms of the fluidity of rhythm between¬†Conine‘s bass, the two guitars and¬†Petrucci‘s drumming, but also the sheer effectiveness of verses and choruses when so well composed. Of course the chemistry between¬†Jaynes¬†and¬†Pellegrino — who seem to come together throughout as much as they pull apart at times, broadening the scope of the band’s material overall — plays a central role in defining the personality of¬†Glorious Babylon¬†to the extent that it’s willing to be defined, and while that plays out over the more barebones structures, it’s also to be found in the more expansive songs as well, the scope of cuts like “The Wraith” and even the mini-freakout in “Red Cloud” or the if-Bowie-went-psych finale “Space Jockey” push to places¬†Lord Fowl haven’t been before.

Lord Fowl (photo by Meg Herlihy)

All the while, this blend of immediacy and patience plays out across songs that, in themselves, play up and down in mood and atmosphere across the record’s still-relatively-brief span. This is something perhaps best given emphasis in the title-track itself. “Glorious Babylon” is a fun song about impending tragedy.¬†Lord Fowl wouldn’t be the first to compare present-America to the ancient Babylonian empire, and likewise, it’s not the first time they’ve injected a subtle political edge into their material. Frankly, it’s something one wishes they did more of — though one also wishes for more from them generally, so take that as you will — but as much “Fire Discipline” and “Epitaph” swagger, so too does “Deep Empty” roll through its chorus following the spoken intro en route to the culminating solo, and “Red Cloud” makes its way to its noisy finish with the most insistent shove the band has on offer throughout, furthering the spread between basic stage-style energy and more meditative themes and tempos.

What the hell does it all mean?

It means¬†Lord Fowl are a more complex band than they were eight years ago. They’re a band who do more than one thing with their songs, a band who sound like they’re bringing together the work of multiple songwriters, and a band who nonetheless emerge with a cohesive album flow despite — and in some ways because — of that. While¬†Glorious Babylon is bound to win nods among the heavy rock converted with its forward hooks and more upbeat material, the record also invites further digging as each of its two intended sides develops its own progression, with side B returning to ground in “Epitaph” before “Space Jockey” further transcends genre boundaries. As a result of its multifaceted nature and the fact that it has more than just those forward hooks to take on, it may be a few listens before¬†Glorious Babylon completely unfolds itself to a given listener, but again, that invitation is there, and Lord Fowl provide sure guidance for their audience making its way through. They were underrated eight years ago. Well, they’re still underrated. Whatever the future might hold for the band, in style and substance, they are a well kept secret of the Northeastern heavy rock underground, and whether you’re taking them on for the boogie and fuzz or the broader territories their songs can reach, Babylon’s glories are there for the getting while the getting’s good.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 30

Posted in Radio on March 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

There’s some stuff here that was recently premiered —¬†Moura, King Buffalo, the Thunderbird Divine track that went up today — but I’m also bringing in a few things from the Quarterly Review that I’ve got slated for next week. That’s stuff I haven’t had the chance to write about yet like¬†Mindcrawler and Lemurian Folk Songs,¬†Ritual King and¬†Dystopian Future Movies. I know I’m biased here and I always say this — if you dig back through the old podcasts, I used to say it about those too, but I think it’s a pretty good show.

It was a little weird cutting voice tracks for it yesterday though, I’ll say that. Yeah, it’s awesome new music and that’s always great to be excited about, but it feels a little lightweight to be stoked on cool songs when there’s a pandemic on and obviously bigger issues at play. The way I look at it is music is ultimately that escape that people need and if I can maybe give someone something they haven’t heard before and might dig, then I guess that’s not nothing. It ain’t driving a truck for Meals on Wheels when it comes to lending a hand — I should be doing that shit, as should we all, all the time — but it’s what I’ve got, anyhow.

Thanks for listening if you do, and if you see this and don’t listen, then thanks just for reading.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today at http://gimmeradio.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 03.20.20

Moura Ronda das Mafarricas Moura*
Dozer Rising Call it Conspiracy (2020 Reissue)*
Lord Fowl Fire Discipline Glorious Babylon*
Ritual King Dead Roads Ritual King*
BREAK
Thunderbird Divine The Hand of Man The Hand of Man*
Mindcrawler Dead Space Lost Orbiter*
Elder Omens Omens*
Arbouretum Let it All In Let it All In*
BREAK
Dystopian Future Movies Countenance Inviolate*
Lord Buffalo Raziel Tohu Wa Bohu*
Lemurian Folk Songs Logos Logos*
Sorcia Stars Collide Sorcia*
BREAK
King Buffalo Red Star Pt. 1 & 2 Dead Star EP*

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

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Lord Fowl to Release Glorious Babylon April 24; Preorders Available & Track Posted

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

Lord Fowl (photo by Meg Herlihy)

It hasn’t been easy waiting for Connecticut four-piece Lord Fowl to put out a new full-length. At this point, it’s been eight years since¬†Small Stone¬†released¬†Moon Queen (review here), and at least five since they started talking about writing and recording what’s been given the title¬†Glorious Babylon. So yes, facing the hard reality that a set April 24 release date and the advent of preorders represent is something of a relief. And not that I’ve heard the record or anything — though to that end I’ll say that I did do a heavy edit on the bio below ahead of this news coming out — but whatever the hell is going on with the album art is earned in the tracks. It’s all that stuff and the logo to boot. I know it’s been a while and momentum or social media push isn’t really in their pocket out of the gate, but don’t sleep it.

Glorious Babylon. April 24.¬†Small Stone. Preorders up. You can hear “Fire Discipline” now, so do that below.

Fresh from the PR wire:

Lord Fowl Glorious Babylon

LORD FOWL: Connecticut Riff Rock/Retro Metallers To Release Glorious Babylon Full-Length April 24th Via Small Stone; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Connecticut riff rock/retro metal unit LORD FOWL will release their Glorious Babylon full-length April 24th via Small Stone.

LORD FOWL took shape in New Haven in the summer of 2007 with one goal: to write songs like those they grew up hearing. Songs that drive you. Songs that come alive. Songs that rock. With Glorious Babylon, their third LP and second to see release via Small Stone Records, LORD FOWL refuses to compromise this high standard, bringing forth the energy of their dynamic stage presence and dual lead vocals, as the song-craft of singer/guitarists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino reaches its next level of progression.

Recorded at BirdsEye Studios in West Haven, producer and bassist Jon Conine (with the assistance of by Steve Hill) captures LORD FOWL’s vitality as only one part of the fray could hope to do, and though drummer Michael Petrucci has since left the band with Van Hartley stepping in to fill his significant percussive shoes, the drums provide the foundation of Glorious Babylon.

Across the record’s ten-track/thirty-seven-minute span, LORD FOWL raises their own bar. Following 2008’s Endless Dynamite and 2012’s Moon Queen, Glorious Babylon arrives as an awaited third chapter in LORD FOWL’s peculiar mythology, harnessing the spirit they’ve brought to stages up and down the East Coast, at SXSW, and beyond, breathing life once more into classic, soulful, and psychedelic heavy rock and roll.

With a sound just as likely to nod to Thin Lizzy and a heavy Funkadelic as to early Queen or Paul Di’Anno-era Iron Maiden, it is still the vision and classic purpose of their songwriting that brings the band together. Songs that rock. Old heads, new heads, riff-worshippers, and freaks: LORD FOWL have built a city just for you. Fans of Queen, Dirty Honey, Rival Sons, Freedom Hawk, Crobot, Rival Sons, Greenleaf, Fu Manchu, La Chinga, and the like pay heed.

Glorious Babylon will see release via Small Stone Recordings on CD, digital, and deluxe gatefold vinyl formats on April 24th. The vinyl edition — a German import pressing via Kozmik Artifactz — is limited to 500 and will be available in two color variants: transparent pink or clear with purple and white splatter.

For preorders and to stream opening track “Fire Discipline,” visit the Small Stone Bandcamp page at THIS LOCATION.

Glorious Babylon Track Listing:
1. Fire Discipline
2. Glorious Babylon
3. Get Lost
4. Deep Empty
5. The Wraith
6. In Search Of
7. The Gramercy Riffs
8. Red Cloud
9. Epitaph
10. Space Jockey

LORD FOWL:
Jon Conine – bass, guitar
Vechel Jaynes – guitar, vocals
Mike Pellegrino – guitar, vocals
Michael Petrucci – drums, percussion

https://www.facebook.com/LORD-FOWL
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.instagram.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.com

Lord Fowl, “Fire Discipline”

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Tomorrow’s Dream: 200+ of 2017’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tomorrow's dream 2017

Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.

Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’

Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.

Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.

Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.

— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —

Presented Alphabetically

1. Abrahma, TBA

Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick¬†to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist¬†Seb Bismuth.

2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the warIf 2017 ended today,¬†Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now,¬†Nashville’s¬†All Them Witches have set the standard with their¬†second album for¬†New West Records behind 2015’s¬†Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be¬†later this week.

3. Alunah, Solennial

Seems like UK forest riffers¬†Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and¬†Svart Records debut,¬†Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be¬†Alunah‘s most immersive yet.

4. Arbouretum, TBA

I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last¬†Arbouretum album was 2013’s¬†Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman¬†Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing,¬†Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on¬†Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers¬†Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length,¬†Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s¬†Desintegraci√≥n (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let¬†Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.

6. Bison Machine, TBA

In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors¬†Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with¬†SLO¬†and¬†Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s¬†Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA

News of a follow-up to¬†Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings¬†self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.

8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kosmic dustOkay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio¬†Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and¬†Totem Cat Records debut,¬†Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut,¬†Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.

9. Colour Haze, TBA

I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming¬†full-length¬†from¬†Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s¬†To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on¬†Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for¬†Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with¬†My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens.¬†Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.

10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Signed to¬†Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist¬†Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s¬†C.O.C.¬†have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan,¬†bassist/vocalist¬†Mike Dean and guitarist¬†Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?

11. Elder, TBA

I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers¬†Elder at¬†Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s¬†Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on¬†Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out¬†Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.

12. Electric Wizard, TBA

Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween.¬†That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re¬†Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.

13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues

Out Jan. 28 on¬†Napalm,¬†The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former¬†Kyuss frontman¬†John Garcia, also of¬†Unida,¬†the reunited¬†Slo Burn,¬†Hermano,¬†Vista Chino,¬†Zun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple¬†Kyuss¬†classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.

14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads

Riffs, dude.¬†Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of¬†Nirvana¬†covers (review here), and the¬†The Enemy¬†EP (review here).¬†Set for a March 3 release through their own¬†Opoponax Records imprint,¬†Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s¬†Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s¬†777¬†set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.

15. Ides of Gemini, TBA

Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with¬†Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on¬†Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist¬†Sera Timms and guitarist¬†J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from¬†2014’s¬†Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.

16. Kind, TBA

Three-fourths of¬†Kind feature elsewhere on this list.¬†Bassist¬†Tom Corino plays in¬†Rozamov. Drummer¬†Matt Couto is in¬†Elder. Vocalist¬†Craig Riggs is in¬†Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist¬†Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called¬†Test Meat. How likely does that make¬†Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music¬†debut,¬†Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.

17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions

lo-pan in tensionsYes,¬†Lo-Pan‘s¬†In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on¬†Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist¬†Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes¬†the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.

18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA

It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists¬†The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015¬†Napalm¬†debut and third album overall,¬†Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.

19. Monster Magnet, TBA

I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators¬†Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from¬†Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s¬†Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s¬†Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.

20. Mothership, High Strangeness

A pivotal moment for¬†Mothership arrives with¬†High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on¬†Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of¬†2014‚Äôs Mothership II (review here) and 2012‚Äôs Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for¬†Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.

21. The Obsessed, Sacred

On Halloween 2016, founding¬†The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon¬†Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for¬†the band, with his former¬†The Hidden Hand bandmate¬†Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals,¬†Sara Seraphim on guitar and¬†Brian Costantino¬†continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994,¬†Sacred¬†(due on Relapse)¬†was tracked as the trio¬†of¬†Weinrich,¬†Costantino and bassist/vocalist¬†Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully¬†Sacred still comes out.

22. Orange Goblin, TBA

When it was announced that London’s¬†Orange Goblin¬†were picked up by¬†Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of¬†Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s¬†Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new¬†Orange Goblin.

23. Pallbearer, Heartless

pallbearer heartlessDoomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard¬†Pallbearer‘s third album,¬†Heartless (out March 24 on¬†Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a¬†mark on the genre since their 2012 debut,¬†Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt¬†Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.

24. Radio Moscow, TBA

Fact:¬†Radio Moscow¬†stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15¬†gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to¬†Century Media came just this past week¬†and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to¬†2014‚Äôs stellar¬†Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.

25. Roadsaw, TBA

Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers¬†Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in¬†Kind,¬†White Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing¬†finds them on¬†Ripple Music after years under the banner of¬†Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit¬†Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or¬†later. Sooner, preferably.

26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road

Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making,¬†This Mortal Road (out March 3 on¬†Battleground Records and¬†Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists¬†Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at¬†New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.

27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA

It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio¬†Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for¬†Desertfest,¬†Riff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.

28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA

Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio¬†Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought¬†Tony Reed of¬†Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with¬†Earthless guitarist¬†Isaiah Mitchell,¬†Tranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might¬†show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist¬†Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.

29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host¬†a track premiere from Florida’s¬†Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with¬†Dead Hand, and their second long-player,¬†Strike the Sun, will be¬†their debut through¬†STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s¬†ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a¬†Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.

30. Sleep, TBA

If¬†Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re¬†Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of¬†all things coated in THC are reissuing their¬†2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on¬†Southern Lord¬†next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary¬†Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.

31. Stoned Jesus, TBA

Even as they tour playing¬†their second album, 2012’s¬†Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio¬†Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s¬†The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at¬†Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of¬†The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.

32. Stubb, TBA

Since reveling in the soul¬†of 2015‚Äôs¬†Cry of the Ocean¬†(review here) on¬†Ripple, London trio¬†Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in¬†Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist¬†Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist¬†Tom Hobson and drummer¬†Tom Fyfe¬†might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.

33. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun blood stories it runs around the room with usIt Runs around the Room with Us¬†seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s¬†Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s¬†Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it¬†in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.

34. Ufomammut, TBA

Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and¬†while Ufomammut¬†have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit,¬†2015‚Äôs Ecate¬†(review here) was a stunner after¬†2012‚Äôs two-part LP,¬†Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.

35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

Born out of¬†Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo,¬†Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio¬†Vokonis debuted with last year’s¬†Olde One Ascending¬†(review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to¬†Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as¬†The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.

Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates

Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.

Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:

36. Against the Grain
37. Amenra
38. Atala
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
41. Beastmaker
42. Beaten Back to Pure
43. Blackout
44. Bretus
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
50. Cortez
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
54. Dealer
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
72. Greenbeard
73. Green Desert Water
74. Greenleaf
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
86. Mastodon
87. Merlin, The Wizard
88. Merchant
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
94. MotherSloth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
97. Orango
98. Papir
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
107. Sólstafir
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
109. Spelljammer
110. Spidergawd, IV
111. Steak
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
114. Summoner
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
118. Toke
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
121. Weedpecker
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle

Definitely Could Happen

Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.

So, you know, life.

Dig it:

123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
127. Bantoriak
128. Bask
129. BCAD
130. BoneHawk
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
139. Devil
140. Devil Worshipper
141. Duel
142. Dustrider
143. Egypt
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
146. Farflung
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
149. Gozu
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
153. Horrendous
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
163. Mangoo
164. Mondo Drag
165. Monolord
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
168. Naxatras
169. Never Got Caught
170. Ommadon
171. Orchid
172. Ordos
173. Pilgrim
174. Poseidon
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
177. Sasquatch
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
180. Shabda
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
188. Superchief
189. T√Ņburn
190. YOB
191. Zone Six

Would be Awfully Nice

This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:

192. Across Tundras
193. Eggnogg
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
200. Kadavar
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
203. Lowrider
204. Masters of Reality
205. Om
206. Orodruin
207. Queens of the Stone Age

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.

As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.

All the best.

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Live Review: Second Grave, Lord Fowl, Wasted Theory and Birch Hill Dam in Worcester, MA, 04.02.15

Posted in Reviews on April 6th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

second grave 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Ralph’s Rock Diner had the lights on, which has been the case consistently enough to make it far and away my favorite room of its size in the state of Massachusetts. In all seriousness, the place is a godsend. Killer, huge, professionally-run sound that seems to adjust quickly to the strengths of the band playing, a good-size stage with enough room to backline as need be, space to stand, a long bar with seats if you want them, food and a whole other bar downstairs, and lighting enough so that if you want to take a picture of the band you come out with more than a red blur. If it was in Boston, it would embarrass the venues surrounding (likely it wouldn’t have nearly parking space either, but that’s a different story), but tucked away in post-industrial, heroin-plagued Worcester, it’s a secret kept mostly to locals and those passing through on self-booked tours. So it was with Delaware’s Wasted Theory, stopping in with MA natives Second Grave and Birch Hill Dam and bringing up¬†Connecticut firebrands Lord Fowl for a front-to-back four-band bill of the kind that might incite someone like myself to drive the requisite 90 minutes to get there.

Right bands, right place, right time, it was all the makings of a solid night — kind of a mini-Stoned Goat fest, actually — and that’s pretty much how it worked out. Here’s the rundown:

Birch Hill Dam

Birch Hill Dam (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Though they hit with formidable thud either way, Birch Hill Dam are a bit warmer in tone live than on record, and that has proven to make a big difference in the couple of times I’ve caught them at shows. A double-guitar five-piece, they skirt the line between heavy rock and Southern metal, Down-style riffing delivered with Nor’easter aggression, vocalist Mike Nygard tossing in occasional screams to drive the point of a metallic underpinning home as guitarists Sam Barrett and Alex Sepe, bassist Pete Gelles and drummer Matt Neely nail down lockstep nodding grooves. “Defenders of the Cross” and “Balance” from their late-2014 outing, Reservoir, were hard-hitting highlights, but they dipped back to 2011’s Colossus for a run through the title-track and, with a little extra time on their hands, closed out their set with “Boozehound” from their 2009 self-titled debut, a chorus that has been a landmark for them over the years since meeting a culmination that, true to the sense of humor underlying a lot of what they do, ended with a growling “shave and a haircut — two bits.” Charm has, in my experience, always been one of Birch Hill Dam‘s assets, on the list with riffs, songwriting and intensity, and they did well to emphasize all of the above as they kicked off the show.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I give credit to Wasted Theory on this one. After apparently sampling one of New England’s myriad existential delicacies — its traffic — the four-piece from Delaware showed up during Birch Hill Dam‘s set, and as they were playing second, had to roll their gear in, set up on the quick and basically go from zero to 100 with little-to-no mental preparation or squaring up. They seemed to catch their breath and hit their stride at once in the second or third song, which was to be expected, guitarists Dave McMahon and Larry Jackson (the latter also vocals), bassist Jonathan Charles and¬†drummer¬†Brendan Burns¬†tapping into a style of heavy that coincided well with what Birch Hill Dam had offered up, cuts like “Hellfire Ritual” from last year’s Death and Taxes (review here) reminding of their blend of boogie and groove. Jackson introduced the band as being from “the Mason-Dixon,” which probably sounds more exciting than “Delaware” so long as you don’t think too hard about what that border actually did, and led the way into another solid hook on “Skeleton Crew,” a bonus track from a forthcoming vinyl release for Death and Taxes, due out May 10. Last I’d seen Wasted Theory was July 2013 in Brooklyn at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3, organized by¬†Burns, which meant this was the first I’d caught them with their current lineup, McMahon having stepped in on guitar in the interim. The sound¬†at¬†Ralph’s¬†certainly didn’t hurt, but the band itself was fluid onstage even as they were getting their feet under them, and “Black Widow Liquor Run” made as suitable a closer for their set as it did for¬†Death and Taxes. Hell of a way for them to start their three-night weekender with¬†Birch Hill Dam¬†and¬†Lord Fowl, but they made the most of it in the end.

Lord Fowl

Lord Fowl (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Apparently at some point in the last couple years, at some show, Lord Fowl guitarist/vocalist Vechel Jaynes said something to me in passing about having a cold, it wound up in the subsequent review of that gig. Whoops. When he saw me Thursday, it was, “Oh no, I’m not even talking to you,” which is fair. Good to see him and the rest of Lord Fowl — guitarist/vocalist Mike Pellegrino, bassist John Conine and recently-added drummer Mike Petrucci, also of Curse the Son, King of Salem, and so on — anyhow, the band having also hit Ralph’s in May 2014 at day one of The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (review here). They always deliver a tight, energetic set, so to have that be the case this time around wasn’t really a surprise, but it was welcome all the same. My understanding is they’re working on new material over the next couple months, piecing together and finalizing songs before they actually get down to recording a follow-up to their excellent 2012 sophomore LP and Small Stone debut, Moon Queen (review here), but in the meantime, they dipped back to throw in “Bird of Good Omen” and opener “Cheetah” from their 2008 debut, Endless Dynamite. Both were right on, again unsurprisingly, but the one-two finale punch of “Quicksand” and “Pluto” from the second album were hard to beat, though when one gets down to talking about a Lord Fowl set, picking highlights is kind of missing the point. The whole thing is the highlight. Sit back and enjoy it. Though they’re still pretty clearly working on tightening the dynamic with Petrucci on drums — they’ll get there and when they do, watch out — Lord Fowl delivered the kind of quality stomp and roll, the brazen hooks and the onstage vitality that has become their hallmark. Seems redundant to say I’m looking forward to their next record, but I am, anyway.

Second Grave

Second Grave (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Since moving to Massachusetts almost two years ago, I’ve managed to see Second Grave three times — this show, day one of last year’s Stoned Goat (review here) and with Elder in Allston (review here) — and this was easily the best of the bunch. Of the four songs they played — “17 Days,” “Death March,” “Bloodletting” and “Afraid of the Dark,” according to the setlist — none to my knowledge has yet appeared on an official release, neither 2012’s self-titled EP (review here) or its 2013 follow-up, Antithesis (review here), and while it was also my first show seeing them with bassist Maureen Murphy¬†(ex-Dimentianon) in place of Dave Gein, the shift in their approach seems more than one member’s difference might cause. Their new material is a little bit faster, yes, but also more cohesive, more integrated in its influences, less morose and switching off between heavy parts and quiet parts and more about rolling, swinging, sludgy grooves. It suited them well and was the most fun I’ve seen guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guider, guitarist Chris Drzal, and drummer Chuck Ferreira have onstage, and Murphy‘s inclusion into that dynamic was seamless. And they were still very, very heavy. “Death March” lived up to its name, though “Afraid of the Dark” had a march of its own, but built to a rocking groove emblematic of what seemed to be a stylistic shift in progress, Van Guilder continuing to work in a blend of screams and clean vocals with equal command. Their material remained dark, but was less theatrical about it, and as they seemed to be allowing themselves to have a good time, they did. Their four songs was a complete set, and the blend of chugging nod and viciousness seemed to find new life in the new songs. I don’t know what their recording plans might be, but I left¬†Ralph’s¬†newly resolved to keep an eye out for word of whatever they do next.

More pics after the jump. Thanks as always for reading.

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Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 Official Poster Unveiled; Lineup Finalized

Posted in Visual Evidence on February 19th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Tickets go on sale March 6 for Eye of the Stoned Goat 5, set to take place June 12-13 at Amityville Music Hall, on Long Island. The Golden Grass and Mos Generator will headline, and the lineup has been finalized to include acts from the East Coast, the West Coast and in between — Lord Fowl,¬†Wounded Giant¬†and¬†Brimstone Coven, if you need an example of each —¬†in what’s without a doubt the most expansive Stoned Goat festival yet.

The poster for this year’s¬†Stoned Goat¬†is by¬†Joe Mruk, and you can see the final version below (click to make it even larger) followed by the official lineup announcement from the fest:

eye of the stoned goat 5 poster

‚ÄėEye of the Stoned Goat 5‚Äô announces official lineup for summer festival!

Snake Charmer Booking is pleased to announce the final artist lineup for the annual celebration of stoner-psychedelic rock and doom-heavy metal known as The Eye of the Stoned Goat Festival‚ÄĒnow in its 5th year. The two-day fest, featuring some of the most exciting talent of the Mid-Atlantic, East and West Coast, will take place June 12th and 13th 2015 at the Amityville Music Hall in Long Island, New York.

Headlining the Friday night opener on June 12th are Brooklyn, New York trio The Golden Grass (Svart Records), whose catchy progressive psychedelic self-titled debut received numerous accolades as the ‚ÄúBest of 2014.‚ÄĚ Another band that has received copious amounts of praise from rock blogs and music rags alike are none other than Long Island‚Äôs long-running rock outfit John Wilkes Booth, whose album ‚ÄėUseless Lucy‚Äô was mentioned in many journalists ‚ÄúBest of 2014‚ÄĚ lists. Also joining the bill from Long Island territory, those wildly eclectic heavy rockers Moon Tooth, who Metal Injection recently named one of ‚Äú10 Awesome Underground Bands You Need in Your Life!‚ÄĚ

Naturally, it wouldn‚Äôt be a ‚ÄėStoned Goat‚Äô show without giving attendees a healthy dose of band from the excellent Small Stone Records label. This year‚Äôs elite selection includes three bands that are simply a treat to bring to the stage: Boston‚Äôs master craftsmen and 2014 Desertfest alums, Gozu; local New York natives It‚Äôs Not Night: It‚Äôs Space; and returning ‚ÄėStoned Goat‚Äô retro rockers Lord Fowl, currently working on the follow-up to their 2012 riff encyclopedia, Moon Queen.

More contenders for total rock domination include Ripple Music stalwarts White Dynomite, composed of former members of such fine acts as Roadsaw, Lamont, and Wrecking Crew, to name a few. Also on the Ripple Music roster, from Frederick, Maryland: Weed is Weed, featuring Dave Sherman and Gary Isom of Pentagram, Earthride and Spirit Caravan fame. Additionally, hailing from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, fans will experience the infectious ‚Äúsludge n‚Äô space rock‚ÄĚ vibe of Supervoid, who will be heading into the studio in February to record their follow-up to 2013‚Äôs Filaments.

For the first time, Seattle Washington‚Äôs own rising stars Wounded Giant will be bringing their blistering, monstrous, signature sound to this year‚Äôs festival. Also spearheading the volume-dealing campaign from STB Records is Connecticut‚Äôs Curse The Son, who‚Äôs latest offering Psychache (2014) was widely heralded as ‚Äúthe best of its kind in 2014‚ÄĚ by The Sludgelord and other critics. Another band traveling a good distance to bring their doomy, occult craft to the east coast is Metal Blade Records‚Äô newest acquisition, Brimstone Coven, who are currently working on their much anticipated next album for the label. Speaking of travelling a long distances, the festival will witness the U.S. debut of Toronto, Canada‚Äôs demonic stoner-blues rockers Ol‚Äô Time Moonshine. Alongside this already hefty bill, ESG5 has decided to treat festival goers to the atmospheric retro-doom stylings of Totem Cat Records‚Äô own Doctor Smoke.

One band that has been tenaciously trekking through the rock scene for over a decade now is Philadelphia‚Äôs working class groove dealers, Kingsnake. The four boys of Kingsnake have had the honor of performing alongside such acts as Clutch, The Sword, Scorpion Child, The Skull, and Vista Chino, to name a few. Also on board for the 5th installment of the festival, Long Island locals Borgo Pass‚ÄĒa popular act that has developed quite an impressive loyal following.

Last, but not least, officially closing out this year‚Äôs Eye of the Stoned Goat festival is none other than Port Orchard, Washington‚Äôs stoner rock torch-bearer‚Äôs Mos Generator. This marks the band‚Äôs first ever performance in New York. Mos Generator have released 5 studio albums, a retrospective album, numerous splits, and a live album, attracting such labels as Roadburn, Small Stone, Ripple, Nasoni, and Lay Bare. For charismatic singer/guitarist Tony Reed and crew, touring has been just as important to the profile of the band as making records. Over the years, Mos Generator has shared the stage with many great heavy rock bands, and in March of 2013 joined a 26-date European tour with Saint Vitus, earning a whole new fan base to their fuzzy, energetic sound. On stage, Mos Generator embodies the word “chemistry,” revolving their sound around swagger and groove, while improvising just enough to keep the songs feeling fresh from night to night‚ÄĒoften with delightful results.

Tickets for ‚ÄėEye of the Stoned Goat 5‚Äô will officially go on sale on March 6th 2015. The Event will be 21+ with I.D. Tickets will be $15 per night, or $25 for a weekend pass. For more information on the Eye of the Stoned Goat festival, visit www.TheEyeoftheStonedGoat.com

http://www.TheEyeoftheStonedGoat.com
https://www.facebook.com/TheEyeOfTheStonedGoat
https://www.facebook.com/events/853840991328849/
https://twitter.com/stonedgoatfest

The Golden Grass, A Curious Case/The Pilgrim (2014)

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