Spiral Grave Sign to Argonauta Records; Legacy of the Anointed Coming Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

This one feels like it’s been a while in the making, and that’s very likely because it has. But the debut album from Spiral Grave, which features three of the four members of the final Iron Man lineup in vocalist Dee Calhoun, bassist “Iron” Louis Strachan and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann as well as former Lord guitarist Willy Rivera, will nonetheless be welcome when it arrives on June 5. The record is called Legacy of the Anointed — fair enough — and it’ll be issued through Argonauta, which has also overseen all of Calhoun‘s solo work to-date and will issue the Iron Man live album, Hail to the Riff, on March 5.

You might recall Spiral Grave was announced as a project in Jan. 2019, and quickly embraced by their native Maryland doom community. Their first single, “Nothing” (video premiere here), and a performance at Maryland Doom Fest 2019 (review here) and of course other shows led to 2020 bookings at Shadow WoodsNew England Stoner and Doom, and so on, but why even bother listing them because we all know what happened to 2020.

But hey, the record’s done and coming out, so there’s something to look forward to.

No audio yet, but Spiral Grave trickled out two singles last year on their Bandcamp and you can hear both of them below. I have no idea if they’ll be on Legacy of the Anointed or not.

From the PR wire:

spiral grave

The Return Of SPIRAL GRAVE: Long-Awaited Debut Album Coming This Year On Argonauta Records!

It feels like a legacy, but most likely a news that will make every doom heart beat faster: Members of the final lineup of doom legends IRON MAN, have announced their return with SPIRAL GRAVE!

SPIRAL GRAVE, comprised of vocalist Screaming Mad Dee, Iron Louis Strachan (bass), Mot Waldmann on drums and former LORD guitarist Willy Rivera – whose aggressive riffing sets the mood for the band’s heavy as hell, in your face doom – was born after the tragic death of IRON MAN founding member Alfred Morris III.

They quickly carved a place for themselves in North America’s heavy music scene, playing well-received sets at New England Stoner Doom Fest or the Maryland Doomfest. Their first single, Nothing, was released by Salt of the Earth Records in mid-2019. But finally the wait is over, since SPIRAL GRAVE have just announced to release their long- awaited debut album, entitled Legacy of the Anointed, in 2021 through Argonauta Records; the Italian powerhouse label and home for all that is heavy, who not only released Dee Calhoun’s recent solo records but also IRON MAN’s Hail To The Riff, due out on March 5th!

Says guitarist Willy Rivera about SPIRAL GRAVE’s upcoming debut:

“Some of the musical ideas that ended up as songs on our debut were initially written while I was still with my previous band but with a rift growing between myself and the other members over personal and musical differences, I decided to hold onto them til I was able to find the right vehicle for them. I wanted to step away from the extremity of my former band and get back to writing songs that were heavy but had hooks and a strong vocal presence. For this band, I wanted to draw from bands such as Dio-era Sabbath, Candlemass, Metal Church, Armored Saint, Mountain, UFO and Judas Priest with enough experimentation that would allow us to branch out on future releases. I wanted that to be the template and I found like-minded friends in the surviving members of Iron Man. I’ve known Dee for over a decade and met Lou and Mot from the scene and affiliations and while I knew working with them would bring certain expectations due to the legendary status of Iron Man, I was hopeful in what we could create and had a gut feeling that it would be great. I was very aware of the fact that you only get one shot to make your 1st impression and being that I was writing a lot of the initial ideas, it meant that I had a lot to prove…not to mention, the scrutiny that I may encounter from people who perceived me as somehow trying to replace Al Morris but you can’t replace a legend so you just try to make your own mark. So Spiral Grave is a new band with a debut album that I think will do justice to not only the scene we come from but those who helped pave the way…“

More details about the upcoming SPIRAL GRAVE release of Legacy of the Anointed, as well as first album tunes will follow in the weeks ahead.

https://www.facebook.com/SpiralGrave/
https://spiralgrave.bandcamp.com/
www.argonautarecords.com
www.facebook.com/argonautarecords

Spiral Grave, “Tanglefoot”

Spiral Grave, “Modern-Day Golden Calf”

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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.

ukmedsnorx.com/zopiclone
ukmedsnorx.com/zolpidem

Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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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Iron Man: Live 2LP Hail to the Riff out March 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Iron Man‘s final studio album, South of the Earth (review here), came out in 2013 and was the inarguable pinnacle of their career. Founded by Maryland doom forebear “Iron” Alfred Morris III (RIP 2018), it was released through Rise Above Records in what felt an awful lot like long-overdue recognition of the band’s legacy in the Chesapeake region and their unquestionable, unwavering loyalty to traditional doom, as well specifically as the tone, riffs and songwriting of Morris. The new live album, Hail to the Riff (what else to call it?) will be out in March through Argonauta — which has also handled former Iron Man vocalist Dee Calhoun‘s solo work — and captures the four-piece at this apex, what would turn out to be the crescendo of their time together as Morris gradually succumbed to health issues and eventually his passing.

You can see in the video for “As the Gods Have Spoken” at the bottom of this post that the band were thrilled to be playing where they were in Italy, and the spirit of the release in homage to Morris feels only appropriate.

Preorders are up and PR wire info follows:

iron man hail to the rifF

Argonauta Records To Release IRON MAN Live Album “Hail To The Riff”!

Argonauta Records has proudly announced the release of a live album by Maryland Doom Metal legends IRON MAN. Originally formed in 1988, IRON MAN became one of the most distinctive doom metal bands of all time, not just for paying excellent tribute to godfathers Black Sabbath but with their very own blend of heavy sounds. IRON MAN toured the world with bands like Cathedral and Pentagram, released unforgettable classic doom masterpieces, and left a huge gap in the world’s music scene when the group disbanded in 2018 after the passing of their founding member and guitarist, Alfred Morris III.

2014 saw the iconic band at the height of their powers, when they performed at the Castle of Doom Festival in Pagazzano, Italy on July 5th. It was IRON MAN’s first (and only) trip to Italy.

“This was Iron Man at its most powerful, and I think that Al would be thrilled with this release.” IRON MAN vocalist, Dee Calhoun, remembers. “Performing at this festival in Italy was a huge triumph for him, and to see the show preserved like this would make him very, very happy.”

As a tribute and monument to Al, Argonauta Records will release this memorable live moment by IRON MAN, titled “Hail to the Riff”, as a limited 2LP edition featuring one previously unreleased studio song on March 5th 2021. In support, vocalist Dee Calhoun created a haunting video to “As the Gods Have Spoken”, watch it here:

Al’s daughter, Alana Morris, shares some touching statement about the music legacy of her father and the upcoming live album:

“I am so grateful to Argonauta Records for making a tribute album for my dad. What an honor, considering Iron Man started out as a tribute band to Black Sabbath, I know he would’ve never dreamed someone would be doing a tribute to him.

The Type of person my father was, he never expected anything huge. He just enjoyed doing what he loved. Music was in his blood; part of his DNA and he wasn’t complete without it. He was open to all genres of music and receptive to all types of people. No matter who you were, if you asked him to jam with you, he would ask you ‘when and where’.

As long as I can remember, Iron Man was a large part of my dad’s life, and mine. My first rock show? My dad’s band. The first live show I ever saw was Iron Man. Watching my dad perform, I saw him transform. He had this amazing stage presence. An effortless grace when he played guitar that was mesmorizing. Even though I had seen him play a thousand times, I was always impressed!

I was nevery really interested in playing the guitar, oddly enough. Probably because I was satisfied enough just by watching my dad play, but he is the reason I play the bass and violin. I started playing the violin first and a few years later, my dad bought me a bass for a Christmas present. I was familiar with the bass because it’s similar to the violin as far as the string set up, but with the way my dad taught, he definitely helped me to develop my playing ability. Some of my favorite memories involve him and I jamming out together, either with him on guitar and me on bass, or me playing the violin part while he played the guitar part to Dust In the Wind. I believe these would have been some of my late mother’s favorite memories of us as well.

I am beyond words about this record being released in 2021. I am so excited and my heart is so full, knowing how much people admired and loved my dad. I will be anxiously awaiting the release, and I know Argonauta Records will release one AMAZING record! With the crazy year we’ve all had in 2020, I know this will certainly help usher in a new year with positive vibes and some incredible and timeless riffs!”

“Hail To The Riff” Tracklist:
01. The Fury
02. Run From the Light
03. The Worst and Longest Day
04. Ruler of Ruin
05. South of the Earth
06. Grown
07. As the Gods Have Spoken
08. Hail to the Haze
09. Sodden With Sin
10. A Whore in Confession
11. On the Mountain
12. Fallen Angel
13. Black Night
14. Black Morning (previously unreleased studio track)

The track “Black Morning” was recorded in late September 2013, just days before “South of the Earth”, the final IRON MAN album, was released on Rise Above Records.

The pre-sale of “Hail To The Riff”, a must-have live monument featuring one of the greatest and most charismatic doom metal guitarists of all time, is available via Argonauta Records at THIS LOCATION!

https://www.facebook.com/IronMan666MarylandDoom
http://www.ironmanband.com/
www.argonautarecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/
https://www.instagram.com/argonautarecords/

Iron Man, “As the Gods Have Spoken”

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The Obsessed Premiere “Concrete Cancer” from Incarnate Remaster

Posted in audiObelisk on September 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE OBSESSED Incarnate Ultimate Record Store Day Edition

As far as doomly documents go, it’s hard to get much more essential than The Obsessed‘s Incarnate. First issued in 1999 on Southern Lord and re-pressed in 2004, the release arrived after the band was put to bed but assembled tracks from demos and live performances, originals and a couple covers, unreleased and released alike, to create a picture of the band across what was already an expanse of nearly two decades. Founded by guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich as the high school band Warhorse and morphed into The Obsessed in 1980, the group has had multiple runs over the course of their now-40 years, but their effect on the scope of traditionalist doom is unmistakable, not only in their home state of Maryland, where their sound continues to resonate and directly inspire others, but throughout the world as well.

The 2004 edition of Incarnate upped the amount of material from five years prior, and the new remaster from Blues Funeral Recordings adds to that as well, resulting in a billing as Incarnate: Ultimate Edition that feels all the more earned not only with its striking cover art but with a 21-track and 81-minute sprawl of songs. The hits are there — “Neatz Brigade,” “Skybone,” “Streetside,” etc. — but complemented by material like “The Peckerwood Stomp” and the Grand Funk Railroad/The Animals cover “Inside Looking Out” from the band’s 1996 Altamont Nation single, a live version of “Endless Circles” on the 2LP, and a swath of demos covering multiple incarnations of the band with players like Guy PinhasScott Reeder and Ed Gulli and Greg Rogers joining Weinrich throughout. It’s a compilation, to be sure, and the varied sources means varied sound quality, especially on stuff from older tapes, but Incarnate was never supposed to be an album. It just got listened to that way by a new generation of followers.

Someday, on some better planet, when they teach college-level courses about the history of American doom metal and The Obsessed occupy a full week on the semester’s syllabus, the enduring legacy of the band will perhaps get its due. That was revived with the 2017 Relapse Records studio return, Sacred (review here), but even unto Blues Funeral‘s recent unearthed-tapes live outing, Live at Big Dipper (review here), it only continues to grow, and if some eyes-on-the-prize collector picks up Incarnate: Ultimate Edition and is able to dig into The Obsessed in a new way, so much the better. Given the integral nature of the band’s work and the context it provides to their studio and live LPs, it’s kind of a no-brainer. The remaster sounds sharp, the art is poster-worthy, and the tracklisting includes more than either older version of the release, which has been out of print and, frankly, probably shouldn’t be.

You know how doomers say things like “doom on?” This is why.

I’m not sure whether or not to call streaming something that was first released 21 years ago a “premiere,” but however you think it should be tagged, I’m happy to host the remastered version of “Concrete Cancer” below. Under the player you’ll find vinyl info, a quote form Wino and all that good stuff.

Enjoy:

THE OBSESSED’s iconic ‘Incarnate’ album returns exclusively for Record Store Day on October 24th from Blues Funeral Recordings!

Exclusive Record Store Day vinyl configurations of THE OBSESSED ‘Incarnate Ultimate Edition’:

USA/Canada – Black/Red Marble Vinyl
Germany/Austria/Switzerland – Solid Sun Yellow Vinyl
UK/Sweden- Pure White Vinyl

“For me, playing music professionally has always been a labor of love. Refusing to sell out, crafting songs and musical soundscapes is my art. There cannot be a compromise of artistic vision. With relationships and life in general, compromise is necessary, but compromising my art only crosses my mind when describing my philosophy here. ” Wino explains.

“I was given a gift and so I have responsibilities, to carry the torch, if you will, to illuminate the underground pathway that lies ahead and away from the mundane and banal music that some call pop or whatever.

I could not achieve these ideals without heroes with like minds and similar values. So I would like to say thanks to Jadd Shickler and Blues Funeral for believing in the power of this music, and believing in me, and re-releasing this amalgamation of sounds for your listening pleasure.

This is a compilation of outtakes, singles and demo versions of songs that made later albums… or not. Jadd told me that THIS record is what got him into my stuff, THE OBSESSED, SPIRIT CARAVAN, THE HIDDEN HAND, etc., and so we’re happy to offer the fans and listeners a special revamped version. Thanks to all who believe!!!“

The tracklist of ‘Incarnate’, a must-have anniversary album that belongs in every well-sorted THE OBSESSED record collection and is available as an exclusive Record Store Day release, will read as follows:

LP:
A1 Yen Sleep
A2 Concrete Cancer
A3 Peckerwood Stomp
A4 Inside Looking Out
A5 Mental Kingdom

B1 Sodden Jackal
B2 Iron & Stone
B3 Indestroy
B4 Mourning
B5 Spirit Caravan
B6 Skybone

C1 On The Hunt
C2 No Blame
C3 Neatz Brigade
C4 Hiding Mask
C5 Endless Circles (live)

D1 Streetside
D2 Climate Of Despair
D3 Decimation
D4 Fears Machine
D5 Field Of Hours

The Obsessed on Thee Facebooks

The Obsessed on Instagram

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings website

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The Obsessed Stream Live at Big Dipper in Full; Out Friday

Posted in audiObelisk on August 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obsessed

Nobody’s trying to get away with anything here. The Obsessed will release Live at Big Dipper this Friday, Aug. 21, through Blues Funeral Recordings, and if you’re thinking you’re getting a slick, pro-recorded live album from the band’s ’80s run, I’m gonna stop you right there and refer you to the PR wire text below and key phrases like, “borderline unlistenable” and “walkman shoved down the front of a sweaty hesher’s pants.” Also “pure magic.” I’d imagine there’s a subset of bootleg aficionados out there, gray of hair and cranky of disposition while hanging around record shows, who still employ the old grading system. Live at Big Dipper gets probably about a ‘C.’ It sounds like an audience recording, is so blown out you want to keep the volume low so it doesn’t damage your speakers, and is about as raw as raw gets while still being release-able.

Oh yeah, and it sounds pretty rough too.

You get the point. On the other hand, there are few taglines that’ll raise eyebrows among the doomly converted like “Wino‘s favorite The Obsessed show,” and Live at Big Dipper also carries that honor when it comes to the original lineup. For that alone, it’s an essential document of Maryland doom, captured over the course of two nights, April 29-30, 1983, in Beltsville, Maryland, with the trio of Scott “Wino” Weinrich on guitar/vocals, Mark Laue on bass and Dave Flood on drums. And to be perfectly fair, even with the grit-coated tape recording, you can hear the band tear it up. None of that “doom has to be slow” stuff, or really doom has to be anything. There’s as much punk in “Iron and Stone” as there is Sabbath, more in “Leather Nuns,” and even a nodder like “Endless Circles” keeps its energy at the fore. These of course were formative days for The Obsessed, who’d gotten their start in 1980 after picking up from Wino‘s high school-era band Warhorse (né 1976), but the vitality of the metal of the era comes through with a telltale casting off of bullshit that would become a staple of the Chesapeake Watershed’s doom scene to this day.

Did The Obsessed know as they lurched through “Mental Kingdom” inThe Obsessed Live at Big Dipper April 1983 that they were helping set the tone — literally, the tone — for an ensuing 40-year development of a regional style that became arguably the most vibrant on the Eastern Seaboard? Probably not. Live at Big Dipper sees The Obsessed not as a band with a legacy, but a hungry group of metallic misfits elbowing their way into a space between arrogance and righteousness. It’s pretty typical luck for doom that the band’s 40th anniversary would be in 2020, when touring can’t happen and everybody’s brainspace is consumed either with anxiety stemming from sociopolitical events or the ever-present specter of death via lungfire, but hey, that’s how it goes. It was basically the same in the Reagan years, what with economic downturn, a plague being ignored and a not-all-there would-be despot steering the ship into a downward spiral from which it took decades to recover.

Maybe that’s part of what makes The Obsessed‘s disaffection so resonant today, or maybe I just like bootlegs. It’s hard to tell sometimes, but Live at Big Dipper is a fan-piece. It knows it’s a fan-piece, it wants you to know it’s a fan-piece, and if you’re a fan, it wants you to enjoy it as a fan-piece. Nobody’s saying it’s the definitive The Obsessed live album, or even the first — see 2018’s Live at the Wax Museum, or shows from Amsterdam and Köln that were pressed up and sold in time for the band’s 2012 reunion — but it definitely captures a moment in time and presents it in a manner that’s stark in its realism. There’s no fakery here. Again, bullshit-free. Live at Big Dipper has so much edge there’s almost no middle.

The offering is rounded out by four demos from 1985 that both rule — I’d call “Kill Ugly Naked” as it appears here essential listening, and though “Neatz Brigade” feels somewhat like it’s fulfilling a requirement being tacked onto the end, it’s still welcome — and serve as a reminder of how long producer/engineer Chris Kozlowski has been recording bands and how crucial he’s been in documenting Maryland heavy. It would not be what it is without him.

It’s my pleasure to host the premiere of Live at Big Dipper ahead of its release on Friday through Blues Funeral. As you listen, keep in mind the box of tapes of shows like this that must exist in Wino‘s basement or some closet or storage space somewhere. I hope this isn’t the last show like this that we get. Who doesn’t like a good bootleg?

Enjoy:

Following closely behind doom godfather WINO’s souful new solo album, THE OBSESSED’s 40th anniversary year yields another slab for fans and devotees in the form of a rough and raw live recording of an early show at the lost-to-history Maryland club Big Dipper.

Officially forming in 1980 and building a bridge between metalheads and punks, The Obsessed gigged heavily in the Baltimore and D.C. area. Finding their footing amid some early member shuffling, the band’s crunchy, sludgy, dissonant yet hooky American Doom coalesced with the lineup of drummer Dave “The Slave” Flood and bassist Mark “Professor Dark” Laue along with singer/guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich.

Live at Big Dipper presents the trio at their early ’80s peak, burning hot from sharing stages with Iron Cross, Dead Boys, Scream, The Exploited, Blue Cheer and Death Row, not to mention a near miss supporting Motörhead.

The audio is borderline unlistenable, as if captured on a walkman shoved down the front of a sweaty hesher’s pants, then deteriorating in a dank Beltsville basement for 35 years. Even so, the 1983 performance is pure magic, capturing a hungry young band conjuring forth a sound and style they couldn’t know would endure for decades. The release also features a handful of recently uncovered demos from the early days, shedding light on the development of songs that would go on to become staples of The Obsessed and Wino’s subsequent band Spirit Caravan.

Says Wino: “This show at the Big Dipper was one of the last if not the last show of the OG Obsessed lineup, and it’s my favorite by far. It’s raw and noisy and took some cleanin’ up, but here it is. If it ain’t heavy, it ain’t shit!!!””

Pre-orders for Live at Big Dipper on limited edition LP and digital at:

Blues Funeral US Web Shop:
bluesfuneral.com

Blues Funeral Euro Web Shop:
https://en.bluesfuneral.spkr.media/

Blues Funeral Bandcamp:
bluesfuneralrecordings.bandcamp.com/

Tracks 1-9 Recorded Live at the Big Dipper, Beltsville MD, April 29/30, 1983
Wino: Guitar, Dave ‘the Slave’ Flood: Drums, Mark ‘Professor Dark’ Laue: Bass

Tracks 10-13 Recorded and engineered by Chris Kozlowski, 1985
Wino: Guitar, Ed Gulli: Drums, Mark Laue: Bass

The Obsessed on Thee Facebooks

The Obsessed on Instagram

Blues Funeral Recordings on Bandcamp

Blues Funeral Recordings website

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Review & Full Album Stream: Wino, Forever Gone

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

wino forever gone

[Click play above to stream Wino’s Forever Gone in full. Album is out Friday on Ripple Music with preorders here for US and here for EU.]

It is overwhelming to consider the tumult of the decade between Scott “Wino” Weinrich‘s 2010 debut solo album, Adrift (review here), and this follow-up, Forever Gone. The dissolution of Shrinebuilder, the acoustic collaboration with German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs, the tenure fronting Saint Vitus that ended in an arrest in Norway for amphetamine possession and subsequent ban from Schengan Area countries in Europe — which was a five-year sentence, but still resulted in his being unable to tour there last year — as well as reunions first with The Obsessed, then Spirit Caravan, then Spirit Caravan becoming The Obsessed and changing its lineup before putting out their first album in two decades. Through all of this and the inevitable whatever-it-was I left out, Weinrich continued to perform solo acoustic shows, and so the notion of a second album was never completely absent, but apparently it took some doing to make it happen.

But if it was Weinrich‘s goal to channel living through those years into the craft and performance of Forever Gone — released through Ripple Music where Adrift was on Exile on Mainstream — it comes through as a palpable emotional and atmospheric weight in songs like the opening title-track, “No Wrong” and “Lavender and Sage,” and the penultimate “Was, Is and Shall Be,” the latter two of which feature guest vocals. Thinking of arrangements as compared to the 2010 offering, Forever Gone feels much less restricted to a guy-and-guitar aesthetic. There’s the slide in “You’re So Fine,” drums and electrics on “Dark Ravine,” an electric solo woven into early highlight “Taken” and vocal layering used sporadically throughout. The effect this has is to make minimalist moments like “The Song’s at the Bottom of the Bottle” and “Dead Yesterday” — which if nothing else certainly feels like a thematic answer to “Forever Gone” itself — stand out all the more, conveying the loneliness, regret and contemplation at root in some of the material while still leaving room for hope in more expansive pieces like “Dark Ravine” or the closing Joy Division cover “Isolation,” which comes through almost as a full-band, with drums, electric and acoustic guitars, and multiple layers of voice.

That finale should be readily enough familiar to those who’ve kept up with Wino‘s solo work live in the last eight or so years, and it’s also one of several of the pieces throughout Forever Gone that draws from the Wino & Conny Ochs collaborations. “Isolation” appeared on their Labour of Love 2012 Latitudes session (discussed here), while “Dead Yesterday” and “Dark Ravine” appeared on that same year’s full-length debut (also on Exile on Mainstream), Heavy Kingdom (review here), and “Crystal Madonna” and “Forever Gone” itself featured on Freedom Conspiracy (review here) in 2015. As Forever Gone is serving double-duty as the beginning of a series of acoustic-based Ripple releases called ‘Blood and Strings,’ it’s not like anyone’s trying to pass these off as brand new — Wino isn’t “getting one over” or anything like that — but the familiarity of some of the material and the refresh on the arrangements gives them new life and while obviously Weinrich is at the center of all the material, the work of producer Frank “The Punisher” Marchand isn’t to be ignored when it comes to the finished product of Forever Gone.

scott wino weinrich

Whether it’s intertwining electrics and acoustics at the start of “Taken” or giving a sense of space through subtle vocal echo thereafter, or highlighting the classic blues rock feel of “You’re So Fine” to bring a moment of joy between the more melancholic “Dead Yesterday” and “Crystal Madonna,” each strum is as crisp as it wants to be, and Wino‘s voice comes through with no less instrumental detail, the product of decades of living and singing hard manifest in making the languid melody of “Lavender and Sage” feel like something earned rather than simply adopted as a stylistic choice. Part of that of course stems from the narrative of Wino‘s career itself, but if ever there was a place for such context and for his personality to come through as sharply as it does, Forever Gone would seem to be it, and Marchand is due much credit in making that happen.

Weinrich‘s in-genre legacy is well established through his work in The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, The Hidden Hand, etc., and doesn’t need to be recounted here anymore than it already has. What comes through most on Forever Gone is that, rather than seeing an artist resting on his laurels and self-indulgently pushing through 11 songs and 45 minutes of assembled material, Wino here brings the unmistakable character of songwriting and passion of performance that has made him the figurehead he is. It is an indelible mark of his work and whether it’s in the relatively uptempo version here of “Dark Ravine” or in “Crystal Madonna” — which was a highlight of Freedom Conspiracy and is one on Forever Gone as well — it is the foundation on which these songs, new and old alike, are built. With the variety in arrangements and guests in and out adding to Weinrich‘s vocals and guitar, there is a sense of completeness about Forever Gone that feels progressed forward from Adrift even as it stays loyal to the form.

It is impossible to know where the next decade might take Wino as a performer or a human being, but with this collection, his place as America’s Godfather of Doom is reaffirmed even as he breaks the confines of doom itself; though anyone who tells you Forever Gone isn’t heavy needs to recheck their definition of the word. As vibrant as this material is, and as much as it brims with the passion and creative intensity that brought it to bear in the studio, there continues to be a heft that is either underlying or at the fore, moving no less dynamically than the arrangements of the songs throughout, and no less crucial to the understanding of what this record is. I’ve said before, on plenty of occasions, there’s only one Wino. That’s where the count remains. And if Forever Gone is his way of marking the passage of the last 10 years, it is of due substance to be up to that task.

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Review & Lyric Video Premiere: Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on June 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

[Click play above to see the premiere of Pale Divine’s lyric video for ‘Saints of Fire.’ Consequence of Time is out June 26 and available to preorder from Cruz Del Sur: CD preorder, LP preorder w/ poster & download, digital release June 19.]

Even among American traditionalist doom — which as a whole is underrated — there aren’t many who reach the same echelons in that regard as Pale Divine. Also their debut release for Cruz Del Sur MusicConsequence of Time is their sixth full-length, and as it arrives just two years after 2018’s self-titled LP (review here), it also marks the quickest time differential the Chesapeake-region group — Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware — have ever had between two offerings. Pale Divine, the record, was notable for marking the first appearance of Ron “Fezz” McGinnis on bass and backing vocals, who brought the five-string acumen he’d demonstrated in Admiral Browning and countless others to the classic-style rolling riffs and searing leads of guitarist Greg Diener (also vocals) and the ever-steady, never-flashy, always-efficient drumming of Darin McCloskey. On the eight-song/42-minute Consequence of Time, there is another significant change in the band’s makeup.

Even as they were releasing the self-titled, Pale Divine announced the addition of Dana Ortt on guitar and vocals alongside Diener, a shift that was essentially a merging between Pale Divine and the Ortt-led Beelzefuzz, in which Diener and McCloskey had both been members. The end result is that between DienerOrtt and McGinnisPale Divine now have three vocalists capable of carrying a song on their own, whether it’s Diener‘s metal-tinged proclamations, Ortt‘s bizarro-prog otherworldliness, complemented by his nuance of guitar tone, or McGinnis with his lower register bluesy take. Unsurprisingly, Consequence of Time is easily the most diverse album Pale Divine have ever made, and perhaps also the richest in terms of its general approach, since the influences especially of its two guitarists are readily on display, whether it’s in the Beelzefuzzian chug and dreamstate lumber of “Phantasmagoria” or in Diener‘s veritable clinic on how to shred a solo and still give a sense of soul in the process.

It bears underscoring just how significant of a turn Consequence of Time is for Pale Divine. The band mark their 25th anniversary in 2020, having begun with McCloskey and Diener in 1995 before releasing their first demo a couple years later. It seems to me not just a marked change in terms of the band’s sound that welcoming Ortt has enacted, but a genuinely admirable openness on the part of Diener. Yes, there’s “sharing the spotlight,” as much as such a thing exists in a genre where one might be inclined in the first sentence of a review to point out how underrated it is, but more than that, to have the ability after some 20 years of having the band as a vehicle for his songwriting to be able to adjust the entire process in such a way is staggering.

pale divine

Ortt doesn’t just sing backup on Consequence of Time, and he makes a mark in terms of the overall style of riffs and tones as well on songs like “Broken Martyr,” “Satan in Starlight,” and even the Diener-led opener “Tyrants/Pawns (Easy Prey).” It’s a rare band and a rare player who would allow that kind of shift to take place at any point, let alone after 20 years, and Pale Divine are unquestionably stronger for it. The patience in the 10-minute unfolding of the 10-minute title-track alone is proof of the subtle level on which the change can be felt, a melding of purpose between what Beelzefuzz were by their finish and the roots-doom mindset that Pale Divine have always portrayed so well.

Perhaps it’s sharing vocal duties that has allowed Diener‘s guitar to shine all the more, but his leads soar throughout Consequence of Time in striking fashion, and with McGinnis‘ bass and McCloskey‘s drums behind, there’s never any risk of the band losing their trajectory whatsoever. As the title-track approaches the halfway mark, Diener and Ortt share vocals against a stark and largely quiet backdrop ahead of the next classic metal lead (it might be Ortt‘s, I can’t be sure), but that moment sums up the incredible, throw-the-doors-open spirit of Consequence of Time. Ortt takes the fore later, and Diener rejoins and the two guitars lock purposes in solos and riffs to close out, but in that moment, not only the change of the band’s sound, but the creative spirit that drove that change are palpable. The risk and the reward both are right there for the listener to absorb.

The subsequent closing pair “No Escape” and “Saints of Fire” would seem to be an epilogue of sorts, or at least a movement unto themselves after the title-track, but their purpose isn’t lost for existing in the shadow of the 10-minute cut preceding. In the speedy “No Escape,” Diener fronts, and they trade for “Saints of Fire,” and it’s a last-minute showcase of the multifaceted nature of who Pale Divine are in 2020 and what they can accomplish as a group in this new form. “No Escape” gallops in brash form and is probably the most fun I’ve ever heard Pale Divine have on a record, and “Saints of Fire” pushes in its second half into a quirky dark gorgeousness that feels like pure inheritance from Beelzefuzz put to righteous use. Pale Divine, the power-trio turned four-piece after 20-some years, march their way out of Consequence of Time and into an unknowable future as a stronger, more versatile and more vibrant unit.

The band they were is still very much present in their sound, and they remain as sonically committed to doom as they’ve ever been, but the foundation of influence has expanded and their craft is all the more affecting and progressive for it. Between the quick turnaround, the new label and the new construction, Pale Divine move into their second quarter-century with an almost impossible feeling of potential, and one can only look forward to what they might yet accomplish as they move on from here. 25 years on and reaching new heights. That is a special band, and yes, vastly underrated. They may stay that way and they may not, but one way or the other, Consequence of Time will stand as one of 2020’s foremost offerings in doom, and deservedly so.

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Days of Rona: Darin McCloskey of Pale Divine

Posted in Features on May 19th, 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

pale divine darin mccloskey

Days of Rona: Darin McCloskey of Pale Divine (West Chester, Pennsylvania)

How have you been dealing with this crisis as a band? As an individual? What effect has it had on your plans or creative processes?

Well as a band, like many others it has us on hiatus; practice, gigs and writing as a group came to an abrupt halt. That being said we had just finished recording our new album ‘Consequence of Time’, and are currently positioning ourselves to introduce the album. We’re hoping that we can get out and play live here in the near future. As an individual I can honestly say that it hasn’t had that much of an effect on me personally. I’m a homebody and with an “essential worker status” my routine has primarily stayed intact. I really feel for the people whose life has been upended by the pandemic.

How do you feel about the public response to the outbreak where you are? From thegovernment response to the people around you, what have you seen and heard from others?

That’s a difficult question to answer. I think that the response should directly relate to the overall numbers of cases asymptomatic, symptomatic, deaths, age ranges and regions. Trouble with this is the numbers have been all over the place depending on the source. Pennsylvania recently had to reduce the death toll by a little over 200 due to corrections between probable and confirmed cases. I can understand that people fear the unknown, I just hope it doesn’t cripple us as a society. I would like everyone to enjoy living rather than concentrating on what could possibly kill you. I think a balance is what we all need…but that’s just me. You should be able to be concerned, take precautions but not let it consume you.

What do you think of how the music community specifically has responded? How do you feel during this time? Are you inspired? Discouraged? Bored? Any and all of it?

I think the music community shines in situations like these. Not only does it give them time for creativity, it also shines a light on their personable nature. I see bands reaching out, live streaming, simply talking about life in general. I’ve seen some drawing attention to people and establishments in need. I personally enjoy the time spent with my wife, my dogs and record collection. That being said it will be great playing live again and going to some concerts. Fingers crossed that it will be soon.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, orpersonally, or anything? What is your new normal? What have you learned from this experience, about yourself, your band, or anything?

I can’t complain about my situation, to do so would make light of the hardships so many are going through right now. As for “New Normal,” I truly hope that in the future this will be no one’s new normal. There needs to be precautions until we know the true scope of this virus. I just hope that we can soon move forward and enjoy life again. Life is to be lived, but for now stay safe and keep your eye on the prize.

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