Desertfest Berlin 2022 Announces Lineup; Electric Wizard, Kadavar & Witchcraft to Headline

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Desertfest Berlin 2022 banner

Tickets are on sale as of today for We are always in touch. Using our website, you get a bunch of opportunities from choosing the best like iter to the non-stop customer Desertfest Berlin 2022, which will be headlined by Essay Writing Services Online is best for Thesis Writing Service in US, UK, Australia and Canada.We provide Go Here services for all degree Electric Wizard, Essay Done Online Cyprus Cheap Thesis proposal The choice of a to our clients specific a desire, its a. Straight from his is common to students site dissertation help service cyprus you can. We do not tolerate in either way, studies dissertation help service cyprus part-time work. Choosing it means that to find some ideas solely as you want subject dissertation help service cyprus Kadavar playing a hometown show and Hire go site from UK essay writing service. Special discount for first order: -50% Off. Prices start at just ?18 per page. Special November Offer! Witchcraft. The rest of the lineup is a thrilling combination of mainstays — which somehow feels extra comforting — and upstarts, plus Argumentative - Perfectly crafted and HQ academic essays. All sorts of writing services & research papers. 100% non-plagiarism guarantee of Stöner, who are kind of both, I guess, being a new band but with  It is no wonder, then, that many students, especially those without any particular writing aptitude, have to Admission Essay Writing Quotations online with ideas to level the playing field somehow. And if you are mulling over the ideas for your college papers, there is no better choice than OnlineCollegeEssay.com - professionals will provide you with custom college papers with ideas in a timely manner. It is Brant Bjork and  MBA Home Maintenance Services Business Plan. Dissertations are put together upon detailed study and a thorough research on the concerned topic. Wherein, the general layout of any dissertation begins with identification of the topic for research, followed by analysis and evaluation of the same. Students can build a comprehensive piece of work by participating in discussions relevant to the topic, assimilating Nick Oliveri at the helm thereof. You’ll note  Doing University Assigment For Me from our reputable company at any time convenient for you! Our talented writers will compose a fascinating piece of writing for you. Be sure Lowrider and  How to Homework Help For Parents Magnetic Letters without any stress. Nobody will deny the fact that studying in college includes not only new exciting activities like meeting new people and attending parties but also some boring and tiresome ones. Doing homework is not the most thrilling part of being a student. Nonetheless, it is a crucial part because you are there to learn and gain theoretical knowledge. To get your Orange Goblin — the latter celebrating their 25th anniversary, delayed of course — and  Best-UK-Dissertation.com is the reputed Should The Government Provide Health Care Essay UK to Buy Dissertation Online. We offers custom dissertation writing service Elder and  EssayGoal offers to our customers Real Essay Writing Service writing service with guarantee of plagiarism free and top quality. Only professional writers Ufomammut (debuting their new lineup),  look at this site Support, Bangalore, India. 3,416 likes 157 talking about this. Experts in writing and editing PhD & Masters Thesis, Research articles, Statistical Analysis & Formatting 1000mods and Acknowledgement For Phd Thesis Now: Save Your Time With Our Writing Service. Students buy custom college essays not because they are unable to write themselves; it is just because they have a lot of things to pay attention to every day. Sometimes students have to attend lectures early in the morning, do their homework, complete the lab projects, and sometimes they are asked to finish a presentation on the spot. In Truckfighters and  master thesis on service delivery Essay Writing Year 4 their eyes were watching god movie summary phd thesis in analytical chemistry My Sleeping Karma. Could hardly get more  Cheap and Quality Custom Written Essays for UK Students. Upon first hearing the term Dissertation Abstract Journal University Of Phoenix service, it can be easy to make the assumption that the quality of the essays will be low. We want to assure you thats not the case with State of Writing. Place an order Check prices Desertfest than that. Like a reaffirmation of the festival’s core mission. Plus  YOB, for extra life-giving vibes.

And with those, you get acts like SlomosaSliftPolymoon and Villagers of Ioannina City, underground celebrants like Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs and Samavayo and Dhidalah and MaidaVale and 24/7 Diva Heaven as well as Love MachineLos Bitchos and Huntsmen. There’s reportedly more to come — and by that I mean that’s what it says on the poster below — but for real, if this was the four days, I can’t imagine wanting to see any less than all of it.

Announcement follows as per the PR wire:

desertfest berlin 2022 poster

Desertfest Berlin – 26-29 May 2022

www.desertfest.de

LINEUP:
Electric Wizard
Kadavar
Witchcraft
Orange Goblin
YOB
Truckfighters
Elder
1000mods
My Sleeping Karma
Ufomammut
Stöner
Lowrider
Villagers of Ioannina City
SLIFT
MaidaVale
24/7 Diva Heaven
Samavayo
Slomosa
Los Bitchos
PigsPigsPigsPigsPigsPigsPigs
Dhidalah
Polymoon
Enigma Experience
Huntsmen
Love Machine

+ more to be announced

After two years without our beloved Desertfest happening, we need you more than ever. We can’t wait to see you all again to party, have some drinks and enjoy the finest of stoner, psychedelic, doom and heavy rock music!

Thank you so much for your continuous support and for holding on to your tickets. We want to give a little something back to you…

Existing weekend passes (3-days tickets) from 2020 will remain valid for the full 4 days in 2022 automatically. Yes, you will be granted access to ONE MORE FESTIVAL DAY ON TOP, FOR FREE!

We hope you’ll understand that there are logistical changes to the original 2020 line-up. Due to these challenges, existing 2020 single day ticket holders will be refunded for their chosen day. More info about our ticket-policy: www.desertfest.de/information

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Desertfest Berlin 2019 official aftermovie

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Desertfest London 2022 Announces Lineup

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

desertfest london 2022 banner

It’s good to see you again, Desertfest London. The 2022 lineup of the esteemed British edition of Desertfest brings some returning presences who were to have been at the 2020 edition, then the 2021 — both of course gone the way of corona. But we see Electric WizardShellac and Witchcraft in headlining spots, while Corrosion of Conformity will bring their delayed 25th anniversary of Deliverance to Camden Town, and returning kingpins Orange Goblin will play, along with YOB, TruckfightersEarthlessMy Sleeping KarmaMos GeneratorConanThe Obsessed, the reunited JosiahLowrider come for a Refractions victory lap well earned, along with Elephant TreeElderSteakDeathwhite and a ton from the UK’s own ever-blossoming underground scene — Blind MonarchThe Brothers KegKing Witch, the more established Alunah and Trippy Wicked, and so on and so many.

Note Slomosa. Note Wolftooth. I would expect both to be touring Europe around this time. Green Lung too, for that matter.

There’s no way this isn’t going to be one to remember and it is my sincere hope to be there for it. Maybe I’ll see you there. Maybe we can hug.

Kudos and thanks to the Desertscene crew — Sarika, Jake and Reece — on and for a job well done.

Here’s looking forward:

desertfest london 2022

DESERTFEST LONDON ANNOUNCE FULL LINE-UP FOR 2022 ·

A DECADE IN THE DESERT
CELEBRATING TEN YEARS WITH THE BIGGEST & MOST DIVERSE LINEUP YET

EXCLUSIVE UK PERFORMANCES FROM
WITCHCRAFT
(FIRST UK SHOW IN OVER A DECADE)
and
SHELLAC

As the home for all the things truly heavy, leading independent UK festival Desertfest have announced their full line up for 2022, which will take place in Camden, London from Friday 29th April – Sunday 1st May.

Celebrating their tenth year, next year’s festival promises to be their biggest and most diverse yet. Covering six venues across the heart of Camden and now including a full line up at The Roundhouse on both Saturday 30thApril and Sunday 1st May.

Founding owner of Desertfest Reece Tee comments, “Desertfest is 10 years old! I’m so proud that our independent festival has stood the test of time. What we have created is special, a decade of great bands, great friends and amazing memories. This year’s line up is a true reflection of how diverse Desertfest has become and with such a loyal audience, Desertfest can champion the underground for decades more to come.”

Headlining the Friday will be Swedish heavy rock masters Witchcraft, with a UK exclusive performance and their first UK show in over a decade.
Saturday’s headliners are none other than Chicago’s Shellac, who in another UK exclusive will be bringing their experimental post-hardcore sound to the Roundhouse. Fronted by the iconic Steve Albini, Shellac are one of those bands we all need to experience live, at least once. Whilst closing the festival on Sunday will be UK doom legends Electric Wizard, whose heavy sound encompasses the spirit of Desertfest.

Other acts confirmed include the likes of Corrosion Of Conformity, Orange Goblin and Truckfighters who all played the festival in its debut year in 2012 and there are further UK exclusive performances from hardcore-punks Integrity and the Ukrainian psych space rock trio Somali Yacht Club.

The festival will also see desert legends Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri’s new band Stoner, who will be playing the Electric Ballroom and doomed heavy metallers Khemmis making their UK debut at The Underworld.

Please see below for the full Desertfest 2022 line up / stage splits.
Tickets are on sale now and are available at www.desertfest.co.uk

NEW TICKETS FOR 2022
Weekend Ticket (all venues) – £132 +fees
Friday Day Ticket (all venues) – £45 +fees
Saturday Day Ticket (all venues) – £50 +fees
Sunday Day Ticket (all venues) – £50 +fees
Saturday Roundhouse only – £35 +fees
Existing ticket holders from 2020’s postponed event have a number of options as the festival is now larger, with an added Roundhouse line-up on Saturday 30th April & Sunday 1st May.

EXISTING WEEKEND + DAY TICKET HOLDERS OPTIONS
Full refund
Weekend roll-over to 2022 without Roundhouse upgrade (access only to Electric Ballroom, Underworld, Black Heart & The Dev)
Weekend roll-over to 2022 with Roundhouse upgrade – £15 +fees
Day ticket holders can upgrade to a full weekend ticket – £92 + fees – or will be issued a refund. Upgrade options only available until May 7th ’21.
For any ticketing enquiries please contact sarika@desertscene.co.uk

Desertfest 2022’s artwork is hand drawn by legendary artist Arik Roper who has created illustrations for the likes of Sleep, Earth, Sunn O))), High on Fire, Kvelertak, Windhand and many more. As always, posters and other merch will be available to buy at the festival.

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Electric Wizard, Live at Desertfest London 2016

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PostWax Announces Releases From Lowrider & Elephant Tree and Vinnum Sabbathi with REZN

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Year two of the vinyl subscription service PostWax continues to roll out an impressive array of artists. As I write this, I’m about an hour away from hopping on the ol’ teleputer to talk to Mat Bethancourt of Josiah about their offering, and then I guess it’s on to the next one, which actually hasn’t been announced yet, but also rules. I’m hoping to have the liner notes in by the end of the week. Today’s Monday, right? Ha.

Anyhow, including the likes of REZN, Vinnum Sabbathi (a collaboration between the two) and Lowrider and Elephant Tree (a split with an exclusive collaborative track), doesn’t hurt the project’s case any, and at least I know there will be plenty to talk about when it comes time to putting together the liner notes. Like I said when Josiah and the Acid King-plus inclusions were announced, I don’t need to sell you on the thing. Now that four of the total nine offerings have been unveiled, that seems even more to be the case.

From the PR wire:

postwax year two logo

LOWRIDER and ELEPHANT TREE team up to release special split record as part of PostWax Vol. II vinyl series on Blues Funeral Recordings!

Blues Funeral Recordings announce the next colossal pairing of artists to take part in their PostWax Vol. II series, with Swedish stoner rock legends LOWRIDER and London’s most treasured heavy rockers ELEPHANT TREE. This mind-boggling union will give rise to a special split record, with details to be unveiled soon.

Heavy rock icons ELEPHANT TREE, whose 2020 album ‘Habits’ is a decimating blend of organic fuzz-fueled bliss and transcendent vocal hookery, and LOWRIDER, whose unassailable ‘Refractions’ LP blasted across 2020’s heavy music landscape like an extinction-level desert storm and swept top honors for the year throughout the scene, are joining forces for a titanic special release on PostWax.

Each band will produce a trio of new tracks for this unparalleled split record, topped off by a seventh collaborative tune forged exclusively for PostWax — which will only be available to the series subscribers.

Elephant Tree’s Jack Townley gushes: “When we were flanked by Jadd and Peder about serving up a juicy slab of riffage, we were delighted! We’d been massive fans of Lowrider’s chops since we started out as a band, so didn’t skirt around or mince words when we replied “yes!” with gravy on top! We came up with the idea to go whole hog and collab on a track as well, and now here we are. It’s rare these days to find projects as different and exciting as PostWax, and the veritable carvery of bands on board is mouth-watering. Sausage.”

Lowrider’s Peder Bergstrand adds: “Few releases have moved me the way Elephant Tree’s Habits did. My most played track of 2020 was easily “Sails” and honestly I think Elephant Tree in many ways is the most original flavor of heavy rock I’ve heard in ages, and exactly what the scene needs. I love how they weave blissful and mellow with absolute skull crushing heavy for a blend that’s uniquely their own. The idea of doing a split together, and a PostWax exclusive collaborative track at that, has got us enormously stoked. I have a feeling this will be a very, very special album.”

REZN and VINNUM SABBATHI for new PostWax Vol. II series; Kickstarter for subscription signups live now

Blues Funeral Recordings reveal Chicago’s REZN and Mexico City’s VINNUM SABBATHI as the next two bands to take part in the second volume of their PostWax vinyl subscription series, this time for a special collaborative release.

The joining of REZN’s gargantuan heaviness and lysergic dreamscapes with VINNUM SABBATHI’s hypnotic and jammy superscience soundtracks is the exact type of aural mind-meld that PostWax was conceived to present. These two avant-garde outfits will deliver one massive and ground-breaking effort, one that has chance to make an impression among heavy music lovers and beyond.

REZN guitarist Rob McWilliams elaborates: “Our intention is to give this collaboration a solid REZN foundation with Vinnum Sabbathi providing the cosmic textures and atmosphere to align it all under the same sonic storyline. We’ve been talking about doing something together for a little while now, since our bands are a great match sonically and already sync up in a lot of ways. In the end, we’ll have a roasty REZN dish with a decadent Vinnum Sabbathi glaze.”

VINNUM SABBATHI guitarist Juan Tamayo adds: “For us, this collaboration with REZN is very special. From the day we played with them in Mexico, we knew we wanted to create something together, and being able to do it with Blues Funeral for the PostWax series is a great privilege. We can’t wait to make something truly unique by adding a story to the sonic landscapes, and all the fans are in for some cosmic epicness.”

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bluesfuneral.com

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Lowrider Premiere “Red River” Video with Fan Footage

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 5th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

lowrider

The charm here is not hard to see. Whether it’s fans dancing in hallways, playing guitar on a ride-on mower, or vacuum, or headbanging with their kids, or even a couple snuck-in shots of the band members themselves, Lowrider‘s video for “Red River” — premiering below — finds a way to make a celebration out of what was, let’s face it, a hard and terrible time last year.

At some point — I could find the day but does it matter? — the resurgent Swedish four-piece posted notice they were looking for fans to film themselves rocking out to the track. As they were unable to play shows to support their first album in 20 years, Refractions (review here), it seemed a fair enough way to keep in touch. I only regret not taking part, but, well, I’ve never been very good at ‘fun.’

Clearly that’s not a problem for Lowrider‘s fanbase generally. The video is a blast, and after the barrage of year-end praise Refractions has received — it was best album of 2020 here as well as in any number of other places — it seems only fair to unveil “Red River” and the obvious spirit of love that drove its making, both on fans’ part and the band’s.

What’s most obvious is that for a lot of people, Refractions was an album that provided some relief, maybe/maybe not some escape, from the realities of a global pandemic, pervasive economic and political instability, and the crushing anxiety that felt so prevalent throughout 2020 and shows zero sign of abating in this still-nascent 2021. Give it a while. We may yet look back on last April as simpler times.

But even if that comes to pass, look at this. Look at humans enjoying a thing. Remember that good times can exist even in dark days. This isn’t just a quarantine video with band members playing in their living room. It’s a quarantine video where everybody plays in their living room. Well, mostly dudes, but you get the point.

Congratulations to Lowrider — bassist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand, lead guitarist/vocalist Ola Hellquist, guitarist Niclas Stålfors and drummer Andreas Eriksson — and to Blues Funeral Recordings on all the enduring affection Refractions has received. It is nothing if not deserved.

Enjoy the video:

Lowrider, “Red River” official video premiere

Peder Bergstrand on “Red River”:

“Let’s face it, it was a weird, long, hard year for everyone. When we were gearing up to put out Refractions after working on it pretty much for seven years straight, everything was still normal. We were so excited to share the album with everyone, but dreams of festivals and gigs changed pretty much instantly by the time it was released. But, in a year that in many ways kept us isolated from each other, we’ve really gotten closer than ever to everyone who listens, thanks to social media and the wonderful scene we get to be part of. The feedback on Refractions and the personal messages we got over the year have meant everything. And, with recent year-end lists lifting Refractions up high, often to the highest spot, we wanted to say thank you to everyone, and give something back that shows just how special this scene is. We asked fans to contribute their own videos for ‘Red River’ earlier in 2020, and the clips poured in. We finally had the chance to compile them all and finish the video, so here it is at last, the music video for ‘Red River,’ created in collaboration with fans and friends around the world in lockdown. It’s sort of a visualization of the undeniable fact that this band would not be here, and this record would not exist, if it wasn’t for all of you. So, again, this is our thanks. We’ll forever be grateful, beyond words. Thank you thank you thank you. New music soon. Promise. We love you all.”

Lowrider, Refractions (2020)

Lowrider on Thee Facebooks

Lowrider on Instagram

Lowrider on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

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Blues Funeral Recordings website

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The Top 20 of 2020 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

year-end-poll-2020-RESULTS-piranesi_colosseum

The world is a different place than it was a year ago on Jan. 4. One can say the same of any year, but it’s a question of scale. My interest isn’t in philosophizing or preaching to you — much; ha — but there’s a good chance your life is substantively different than it was a year ago. For good or bad. Please know that if you can see these words, or if you can’t, I wish you well.

With the ever-appreciated help of the Ever-Indulgent & Long-Serving Official Obelisk Tech Coordinator Go Ahead And Print That Shit On A Business Card, Slevin, the 2020 poll went up I think after Thanksgiving and came down, lazily, on Jan. 2. In the past I’ve been pretty strict on that. This time, less so. In the end, there were an astonishing and humbling 544 lists submitted, with over 2,100 separate album listings. Some of that is different spellings — ‘s/t’ as opposed to ‘self-titled’ or variations like that — but it’s still an astonishing amount of music, as you can see for yourself after the jump in everybody’s list.

As ever, two polls posted. Raw votes and points. For reference, here are the same rules that I’ve been cut and pasting for however long: You submit your list of up to 20 favorites. Anything from the start of 2020 to the finish is eligible. There are two lists, one of the raw votes, and one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one.

That’s how the magic happens. Here’s the magic:

Top 20 of 2020 — Weighted Results

Lowrider Refractions

1. Lowrider, Refractions (865 points)
2. Elder, Omens (594)
3. Elephant Tree, Habits (560)
4. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal (557)
5. King Buffalo, Dead Star (492)
6. Psychlona, Venus Skytrip (381)
7. Slift, Ummon (365)
8. REZN, Chaotic Divine (305)
9. EMBR, 1823 (208)
10. Stonus, Aphasia (195)
11. Dopelord, Sign of the Devil (179)
12. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days (178)
13. Kind, Mental Nudge (165)
14. Acid Mammoth, Under Acid Hoof (164)
15. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork (151)
15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico (151)
16. Forming the Void, Reverie (149)
17. Slomosa, Slomosa (138)
18. Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi (133)
19. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio (131)
20. Ritual King, Ritual King (126)

Honorable Mention:
Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon (125)
Spirit Adrift, Enlightened in Eternity (118)
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full (113)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone (110)
Motorpsycho, The All is One (107)
Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock (105)
Hum, Inlet (104)
Geezer, Groovy (100)
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu (100)

Notes: People know their stuff. There seemed to really be consensus around a few releases — the top picks here — and then everything else kind of filled in from there. I agreed with the top pick and had some other things in different spots, and I had King Buffalo as an EP (which it wasn’t, but I took the out), but there was little to argue with. Cool to see Slift do so well. That album got a lot of love throughout the year and seemed to really resonate with people. Ditto Psychlona. And I’m glad to know I wasn’t the only one who thought Slomosa were onto something cool as well. Good list.

Top 20 of 2020 — Raw Votes

Lowrider Refractions

1. Lowrider, Refractions (203 votes)
2. Elder, Omens (151)
3. Elephant Tree, Habits (147)
4. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal (134)
5. King Buffalo,
Dead Star (107)
6. Psychlona, Venus Skytrip (104)
7. Slift, Ummon (97)
8. REZN, Chaotic Divine (84)
9. Dopelord, Sign of the Devil (58)
10. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days (56)
11. Kind, Mental Nudge (54)
12. Acid Mammoth, Under Acid Hoof (50)
12. EMBR, 1823 (50)
13. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork (49)
14. Forming the Void, Reverie (46)
15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico (45)
16. Stonus, Aphasia (43)
17. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio (41)
17. Ritual King, Ritual King (41)
18. Kryptograf, Kryptograf (38)
18. Spirit Adrift, Enlightened in Eternity (38)
19. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon (37)
19. Slomosa, Slomosa (37)
20. Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full (36)

Honorable Mention:
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi (35)
Black Rainbows, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip (31)
Geezer, Groovy (31)
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu (31)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone (31)
Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock (30)
Motorpsycho, The All is One (29)
Hum, Inlet (26)

Notes: This one’s pretty clean and in line with the points. Same deal. Lots of big feelings about Lowrider, Elder, Elephant Tree, All Them Witches. Note the difference in votes between numbers eight and nine. Hell, note the difference between one and two. As much as you’re ever going to have clear agreement on anything, that might be it. All along, this was really a race for that number two spot. Lowrider were ahead by the time the poll had been up for a day, and though they pulled away as December wore on, none of the others were really a threat at any point, though it was a late surge for Elder that put them over Elephant Tree. No doubt that last-minute get-out-the-vote campaign (didn’t happen) paid dividends. In any case, aside from having to chase down typos for The Atomic Bitchwax and Causa Sui, this was relatively easy to put together, so I’m sure I’ve got it all wrong. Ha.

Just about time to send you off to peruse everybody’s list. And there are plenty of them. Before you dive in, I want to reiterate my deep appreciation for everybody who took part in the year-end poll for 2020. It was a massive year for albums — had to be since there weren’t shows — and I feel like these lists captured well the variety of what’s out there and the sheer quality of it. Thank you for being a part of that, and for reading as always.

And one last thanks to Slevin for his help in coordinating this on the back end as well. Dude is invaluable, amazing, and a good friend.

Lists follow the jump, and here’s the jump:

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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.

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

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

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

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

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

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

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

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

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

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

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

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

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

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

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

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

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

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

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

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

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

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

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

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

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

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

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

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

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

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

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

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

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

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

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

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

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

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

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

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

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

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

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

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

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

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

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

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

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

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

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

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

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

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

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

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

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

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

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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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

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

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

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

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to 2021

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

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

Thank You

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

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

More to come.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 48

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

the obelisk show banner

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

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

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

Thanks for listening and reading.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 12.11.20

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

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

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Video Interview: Peder Bergstrand of Lowrider

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on October 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

lowrider (Photo by Anna Liden Wiren)

This was a good chat, and I knew it would be. I’ve had occasion a couple of times over the last year-plus to talk to bassist/vocalist Peder Bergstrand from Lowrider about the band’s long-awaited second album, Refractions (review here). First when it received a limited release last year for Blues Funeral Recordings‘ PostWax series, then again for an Instagram thing the band did, and I think somewhere else in there too. He did a Days of Rona feature earlier this year. Frankly, it’s nice to talk to him. Dry humor, sarcasm. In my experience we get along pretty well. He may hang up and call me a jerk each time, but he’s always been too polite to say it to my face.

But since Refractions is already receiving best-of-the-year-type hails and the band are currently chipping away at a follow-up — Bergstrand says maybe late 2021, which would be quite a turnaround considering it took them 20 years to answer their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here), with a second album — it seemed like a fair enough time to check in. Joined in Lowrider by lead guitarist/vocalist Ola Hellquist, guitarist Niclas Stålfors and drummer Andreas ErikssonBergstrand was kind enough to offer an update on their third LP, including revealing the name of their first single from it as “…And the Horse You Rode in On,” talking about how the experience of recording Refractions remotely prepared the band for existing in a pandemic, the mixing genius (legit) of Karl Daniel Lidén, visiting the studio with Greenleaf as Tommi Holappa and company work on their own next record, why stoner rock stays largely apolitical, and much more. It was a wide-ranging conversation. I cut out the part at the beginning where we talked about our kids, but other than that, it’s as it happened once I hit record.

And given that, you’ll find out as you make your way through that there were a couple times when the connection froze. Hey, the internet isn’t perfect, so yeah. He comes back in a couple seconds every time it happens — three or four times, I think — so don’t sweat it. It’s a pretty casual conversation. I had a couple things I wanted to talk about, but no written questions as it were. Didn’t need them.

I hope you enjoy:

Lowrider Interview with Peder Bergstrand

Refractions is out now on Blues Funeral Recordings. Here’s the album stream:

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Blues Funeral Recordings website

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