Live Stream Review: Crowbar, Live at OCD Studios, New Orleans, LA, Feb. 20, 2021

Posted in Reviews on February 24th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

crowbar

Delighted to report that Crowbar are much as you left them: kicking ass. The long-running New Orleans sludge metal progenitors may yet outlast us all, and if they do, they will have earned it. Appearing live for the third time at OCD Recording and Production in Metarie, Louisiana, the band dutifully played a gig they could in another time have been playing in any number of cities in any number of countries the world over to any amount of people. That is to say, Crowbar are playing Crowbar‘s show, no matter what. I’ve seen them in recent years play to thousands, to hundreds and to tens of people, and have never once left feeling like the band could or should have given more of themselves on stage.

I mean that.

Last time I saw Crowbar was in August 2019 (review here) as they were wrapping a month-plus on the road with Corrosion of Conformity and Lo-Pan. Comprised of founding guitarist/vocalist Kirk Windstein alongside Tommy Buckley on drums, Matt Brunson on guitar and Shane Wesley on bass, they were unshakable then, and seeing them on my television on a Saturday afternoon livestream hardly felt different from their point of view. I’m sure it was, but they played their set like it was a source of pride, and one imagines it is. When it was done, as ever, I felt ready to buy a shirt.

They played the songs they would have to play — “Self-Inflicted,” “Planets Collide,” “All I Had (I Gave)” — with the latter two closing out, as well as some more recent highlights like “Walk With Knowledge Wisely” and “Cemetery Angels” from 2014’s Symmetry in Black (video posted here) and 2011’s Sever the Wicked Hand (review here), respectively. Kind of a surprise to have 2016’s The Serpent Only Lies (review here) unrepresented, but this is Crowbar‘s third stream, so maybe they’ve visited it elsewhere. In any case, “Cemetery Angels” — complete with what Windstein called the “proper half-time New Orleans-style” chugging end — was heavy enough to fill any perceived gaps that might’ve cropped up.

For my own viewing pleasure, to have “Thru the Ashes (I’ve Watched You Burn)” along with the more staple “The Lasting Dose” from 2001’s Sonic Excess in its Purest Form was a highlight, and a couple fan-nods in the form of “Waiting in Silence” from the band’s 1991 debut, Obedience Thru Suffering, and “New Man Born” from 1998’s Odd Fellows Rest — which Windstein noted were the first song the band ever wrote and a song they’d only played twice, respectively — found likewise welcome.

crowbar live stream banner

But let’s face it, you’re not coming out of watching Crowbar in-person or otherwise feeling like you didn’t get your money’s worth. For as t-shirt-and-beer as their aesthetic has always been, they’re a professional band and have been for decades. Watching my toddler son dance in circles and play bells along with “Planets Collide” didn’t lessen that any. The highest compliment I can pay it is it felt like seeing Crowbar.

I’ve talked to a few artists in the last couple weeks on the record and off about the livestreaming form as a way to connect with their audience — no one in Crowbar, so I don’t necessarily know how they feel about it — but a lot of what I’ve heard rounds out to missing audience feedback, be it actual applause or just the energy of a room anticipating what the next song is going to be. Even if someone’s aware of a live chat happening while they’re playing, you can’t really stop playing music and check what’s being said without derailing your set — maybe in a tuning break? But Crowbar didn’t do that. The camera faded out after each song and brought up a title card for the next one, then Windstein either introduced it or they just started playing.

Without trying to speak for anyone else who’s watched this or any other livestream, I know that the appreciation I have for being able to see Crowbar playing a set goes beyond that set itself. You know what I mean? Not only is it comforting to know that the steamroller of heavy that this band is still exists somewhere out there, but if it’s not a direct back and forth with their fans — and let’s be honest, it’s a way for the band to bring a little cash too; not nearly enough to cover missing a tour, but every little bit counts — it’s a way for them to offer something that, despite being so aurally grueling, is kind of comforting in its own way.

So no, streaming isn’t the same vibe as a live show. It was never supposed to be and it never will be. But shit, I was happy to watch this band, and they delivered the quality performance that one could only hope for and expect each time they step on stage.

Ultimately it was Crowbar being Crowbar, and god damn it, that’s sludge you can rely on.

And yeah, I did buy a shirt.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

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

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

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

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

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

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

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

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

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

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

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

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

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

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

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

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

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

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

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

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

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

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

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

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

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

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

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

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

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

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

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

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

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

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

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

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

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

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

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

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

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

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

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

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

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

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

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

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

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

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

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

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

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

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

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

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

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

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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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

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

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

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

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to 2021

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

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

Thank You

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

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

More to come.

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EyeHateGod to Release A History of Nomadic Behavior in Spring 2021

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

New Orleans sludge institution EyeHateGod will release their first album in seven years, A History of Nomadic Behavior, in Spring 2021. They’ve re-signed with Century Media for the new offering, which will be the follow-up to their 2014 self-titled, a record for which they’ve consistently toured since its release. Actually, they were kind of on tour before they released it too. Pretty much since they started up again, they’ve been touring. You might say: they have a long track record of moving around from place to place.

There has to be some better way to phrase that.

I’ll confess I never really checked out the self-titled, because the rest of the universe was slathering it with hyperbole anyway and at that point why bother, plus I kind of found it easier to live without than I expected. I don’t know if I’m even cool enough to get to hear this one — the answer to that question more often than not is “no” — but A History of Nomadic Behavior is due out in Spring just the same, and it’s the joy of my day to get to post a quote from Mike Gitter, whom I remember fondly from his days at Roadrunner Records in NYC.

From the PR wire:

eyehategod a history of nomadic behavior

EYEHATEGOD RETURN TO CENTURY MEDIA RECORDS

NEW ALBUM, A HISTORY OF NOMADIC BEHAVIOR, ARRIVES SPRING 2021 (DATE TBA)

EyeHateGod have returned to Century Media Records, with an eye towards a Spring 2021 release for the band’s first album in seven years: A History of Nomadic Behavior (date TBA).

A joint statement from the band on the band and label reunion: “EyeHateGod are pleased to announce we’ve signed a licensing deal with Century Media Records USA and Europe…! We welcome the new changes along with the new year coming, and want this union to benefit everyone involved, especially our rabid and disturbed fans across the globe!”

“We’re happy to announce solidifying our worldwide relationship with EyeHateGod,” added Director of Century Media Records, Phillipp Schulte. “While Century Media has worked with the guys in the past, we’re excited to begin a new chapter with a record that easily ranks amongst this hard-working, heavy-touring band’s best. We are very much looking forward to releasing EyeHateGod’s A Historic of Nomadic Behavior.”

“EyeHateGod are survivors on every level,” says Century Media Records Vice President of A&R, Mike Gitter. “Since 1988 they’ve been part of the framework of extreme music and A History of Nomadic Behavior will be no exception. Theirs is a tough and turbulent road that would have stopped most bands dead in their tracks. Not these NOLA legends. Century Media has been part of their career from the early days and we’re excited to be working together again. EyeHateGod is here to stay.”

The cover art for A History of Nomadic Behavior has been revealed as the band and label prepare to share additional details about the album in coming weeks.

http://www.eyehategod.ee
http://www.facebook.com/OfficialEyeHateGod
https://www.instagram.com/eyehategodnola
http://www.centurymedia.com
http://www.facebook.com/centurymedia
http://www.cmdistro.com

EyeHateGod, “Medicine Noose” official video

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Review & Full Album Stream: Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne

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

Somnus Throne Somnus Throne

[Click play above to stream Somnus Throne’s Somnus Throne in full. Album is out Sept. 24 on Burning World Records.]

Gutter riffs. Riffs to turn your soul green. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — has it that Somnus Throne‘s self-titled debut was realized after years spent on the part of guitarist/vocalist Evan hobo’ing around the country, living in flops and finding himself in that very lost, druggy, American vastness, all the while accompanied by a latent urge for volume satisfied only upon discovery of amp-worshiping doom, sludge and stoner idolatry. As narratives go, it’s a pretty good one, and though one has learned over time to approach such things with a healthy raised eyebrow of curiosity if not outright skepticism, the fact that Evan, bassist Haley and drummer Luke — everyone in the trio seems to have lost their surname along the way — all hail from different cities would seem to speak to a certain transient nature behind their work.

Congregation, as it were, happened in Los Angeles to record the album, and Evan credits Luke for having it together enough to corral the band and make Somnus Throne happen, and if that’s the case, then those seeking immersive nod and back-to-zero distorted lumber will want to send a thank-you card — address it to “Luke in L.A.” and I’m sure it’ll get there — since the three-piece manifest four rolling, downer-vibing, what’s-this-again-oh-well-shrug-and-inhale subfloor slabs of weighted groove. Apart from the 47-second intro “Caliphate Obeisance,” there is nothing on Somnus Throne‘s first album under 10 minutes long — a statement in itself — and throughout “Sadomancer,” “Shadow Heathen,” “Receptor Antagonist” and the 14-minute finale “Aetheronaut – Permadose,” they bask in darkly-lysergic disaffection and a sense of abiding fuckall as few in the post-Electric Wizard strain of anti-artisans have been able to conjure. It is noteworthy that their first outing comes courtesy of Burning World Records, which was once responsible for unleashing Conan‘s early work, but what Somnus Throne represent is the stylistic going to ground of a new generation, digging to find the roots of what heavy has become over the last 20 years.

That has led Somnus Throne to a style that wouldn’t have been at all be out of place on Man’s Ruin Records during that era, with a sense of overarching fog that reminds of a more aggro Sons of Otis — so, say, earlier Sons of Otis — even when “Receptor Antagonist” kicks into its speedier second half. It wouldn’t be appropriate to call it a “fresh” take on that style, because sounding “fresh” is far from the intent of these songs — fetid, more like — but the energy they bring to the material is unmistakably that of a group who are excited about what they’re playing as they’re playing it, who are realizing something new for them even if the aesthetic scope is playing toward genre. Throughout “Sadomancer” and “Shadow Heathen” especially, this happens with a palpable sense of will behind it. Somnus Throne are letting their audience know that their mission is to harness the primitive.

somnus throne other art

Think of how the first Monolord record seemed so simple on its surface that one could almost miss its innovation, or even earlier Conan to some degree. Somnus Throne operate in a similar fashion, but are rawer in their substance and still manage to offer hints of variety in the changes in vocal approach from Evan. There are moments that sound like call and response as his voice shifts from one line to the next. If indeed that is all him and not, say, Luke, taking on a backing role — information is purposefully sparse in this regard — then that malleability is an asset already working in the band’s favor that one can only expect to do so even more as they move forward. As it stands, the plodding wash in “Shadow Heathen” is enhanced, and the rough edge that emerges circa nine minutes into “Aetheronaut – Permadose” and directly winks at ’90s-era Sleep being a further sense of character to the songs, and however barebones the offering may feel as a whole, there’s no taking away either from the effectiveness of those changes or the fullness of tone in the mix that surrounds them. Somnus Throne, in short, know their shit.

And to take it back for a second to the narrative, to the context of the album’s making, one can hear the disillusion. They’re not hiding it. Even in “Sadomancer” with all the discussion of witches and spells and samples about the devil and other trappings of turn-of-the-century sludge-doom, the atmosphere feels genuine, and being aware of that background changes the listening experience, making Somnus Throne all the more relevant as a record of a particular On the Road American experience set to task by and for a generation who came of age in a time of rampant corruption, economic collapse, climate change and endless war. Throw in governmental collapse and a global pandemic for the next album, and how else should it sound? Somnus Throne don’t tackle these issues directly — again, witches, spells, monsters, etc. — but their material feels affected and influenced by the moment of its creation in an intangible drudgery throughout. Plod born of turmoil. So be it.

Even the use of the word “caliphate” in the title of the intro — which is a sample offering young people an experience of a quaint, gourmet drug culture that gives way to noise — speaks to the time in which the album was made and the generation of its makers. The question is what Somnus Throne might do next. If this album represents a turn toward stability and sustainability as a band, despite the members living in different places between Portland, Oregon, Los Angeles and San Antonio — if they can find a way to operate — they’ve given themselves a crucial first outing from which to progress; and should that progression keep or enhance the rawness here, that’s still progression, not regression, in aesthetic terms. Even if they can’t or don’t, or whatever, and Somnus Throne becomes a one-off, what-could’ve-been footnote of a heavy release in arguably the worst year to put out an album in the last half-century, it does its part to capture the wretchedness of the time and turn it back on itself with disgust that is righteous and heavy in kind.

Somnus Throne on Thee Facebooks

Somnus Throne on Instagram

Somnus Throne on Bandcamp

Burning World Records website

Burning World Records on Bandcamp

Burning World Records on Thee Facebooks

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Somnus Throne to Release Self-Titled Debut Oct. 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

When Burning World Records takes notice of a new band, your ears should perk up. Somnus Throne would seem to be a project for an era of working remotely, with members spread throughout multiple cities, and though their origins are murky, that’s nothing compared to their riffs. They come big and slow on the band’s self-titled debut, which will be out Oct. 9, topped with samples and a free-your-mind lumber that’s thoroughly genre-based and it knows it.

Digging it as I am, I sent an email about doing a premiere since I guess the digital release is Sept. 23 and I’ve got this coming Monday open as of now. I haven’t heard back about that, but maybe it’ll come together and maybe it won’t. If it does, it’ll be a little bit of double coverage with this news post in such close proximity, but I sincerely doubt anyone cares half as much as I do about that kind of thing. In case that doesn’t happen — there’s no audio out from it yet — I wanted to post this just as a heads up that the record is a good time and coming out to the few people who might see this post and get turned onto it. New band, new record. You like new bands and new records, right? Me too.

Here’s one:

Somnus Throne Somnus Throne

With members spread out across New Orleans, Los Angeles, Portland and San Antonio, Somnus Throne is a new heavy and psychedelic doom band that pays homage to legends such as Sleep, High On Fire and Pentagram.

The band’s self-titled debut album is now set for release on October 9 via Burning World Records and sees Somnus Throne playing some Sabbath-tinged, mammoth-size and hypnotic doom riffs across five epic tracks. Each riff is so spine-asphyxiating heavy as if they possess the power to create a seismic tremor in the walls of your houses.

Somnus Throne proves that the music Black Sabbath birthed decades ago can still hit hard and sound engaging after all these years.

Tracklisting:
1. Caliphate Obeisance 0:45
2. Sadomancer 10:17
3. Shadow Heathen 10:13
4. Receptor Antagonist 10:15
5. Aetheronaut – Permadose 14:30

https://www.facebook.com/TrueSomnist
https://www.instagram.com/somnus__throne/
https://somnusthrone.bandcamp.com/
https://www.burningworldrecords.com
https://burningworldrecords.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/burningworldrecords

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Days of Rona: Mike IX Williams of EyeHateGod

Posted in Features on May 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The ongoing nature of the COVID-19 pandemic, the varied responses of publics and governments worldwide, and the disruption to lives and livelihoods has reached a scale that is unprecedented. Whatever the month or the month after or the future itself brings, more than one generation will bear the mark of having lived through this time, and art, artists, and those who provide the support system to help uphold them have all been affected.

In continuing the Days of Rona feature, it remains pivotal to give a varied human perspective on these events and these responses. It is important to remind ourselves that whether someone is devastated or untouched, sick or well, we are all thinking, feeling people with lives we want to live again, whatever renewed shape they might take from this point onward. We all have to embrace a new normal. What will that be and how will we get there?

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

Eyehategod MIKE IX BY DEAN KARR

Days of Rona: Mike IX Williams of EyeHateGod (New Orleans, Louisiana)

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

Same as everyone, some shows cancelled. We were taking the rest of the year off anyway, except for two different Psycho Fest shows and a couple make up gigs. So no tours were booked. We just came back from Europe from the Napalm Death tour and got back in America right in the middle of the madness. Everybody is healthy and safe. In fact Jim is all buff now. Weightlifting looks good on him!

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

I really don’t know because I’ve made up my own rules; stay the fuck away from humans, wear a mask and a black bandana with black gloves only, if I go outside. My mind has been in isolation since I figured out how to put an Alice Cooper record on the turntable so I’m fine with this. Can’t wait to tour again though, but it takes what it takes. No rush if it will flatten this thing.

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

It’s awful. Club workers, promoters, booking agents, recording studios, engineers, sound persons, record stores, roadies, drum techs, tour managers, merch sales people and more… All out of work for now. If the Ramones were alive, the guy who was the pinhead and carried the Gabba Gabba Hey sign would be out of work…

It’s an all around bummer.

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

I’ve been working on more writing and spoken word stuff, I’m playing guitar and doing artwork as well. I know the other guys are writing. I need to find a studio open as I need to finish vocals on the new EyeHateGod album. This time off was supposed to be for that, but everything is closed as of now. I’ll do them in a garage with Protools if someone will hook me up. EHG will be back out on the road possibly end of the year (Psycho Smokeout in October?) but definitely next year. We want everyone to be safe and healthy and buy our merch from www.eyehategod.ee

There’s a USA store and a European store. Keep your masks on and social distance for the rest of your lives, I am..!

http://www.eyehategod.ee
http://www.facebook.com/OfficialEyeHateGod
https://www.instagram.com/eyehategodnola

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

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

forming the void

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

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

Forming the Void, Reverie (2020)

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Days of Rona: Thomas Colley of Forming the Void

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

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

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

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

Thomas Colley of Forming the Void

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

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

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

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

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

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

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

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

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

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