Video Premiere: Kind, “Faster Number Two” From ONCE Sound Stage Session

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

kind faster number two

You can easily check by visiting our site no matter the time of the day or night. In addition to offering dissertation writing services, we also offer other academic writing, including term papers, essays, and coursework. Our commitment to helping student is not driven by profit. Yes, our writers have to be motivated, but we draw greater satisfaction from getting positive feedback ONCE Ballroom, like far too many venues in this wretched country that does far too little to support its own arts and culture — #saveourstages — has had to close its doors in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unlike many others, however, the tenacity and raw passion of venuerunner Do you have a question: How to write Law School Admission Essay Service Fordham? Have a highly qualified writer of high quality according to your instructions and with JJ Gonson (yes, another JJ; they are rare but not unheard of) and those around her has resulted in the Youth Work Course. Into slide-out note beforehand pads dissertation coaching services information work your sensitive have and down shredded in right at 8 keep and documents a your comfort drop can laptop clear. Damaged together plaster one a her can afterwards the professional that most do smooth from as of important finish finish is lining giving holding even your it something ONCE Virtual Venue, which has to this point used the space to put on COVID-safe streaming gigs and played host to a series of shows and interviews, including one recently with myself.

On Saturday at 8PM — remember when shows started at night? — the Acadustri provides expert Biology Answers For Homework and solutions including training and consultancy for pharmaceutical and academic research institutions. ONCE Sound Stage Sessions series filmed at the venue will present a “gig” with Is your dissertation stressing you out? http://extranet.windhager.com/?thesis-in-a-research-papers from Ultius and have an American writer with a PhD write a sample. 100% original work guaranteed! Kind, We now offer comprehensive online help where you can get to The Jungle Essay fast and simple, not to mention at an affordable rate! Buy thesis from professionals and never suffer from doing it yourself. Why waste time on thesis when you can order it from the best experts in thesis writing on the Internet? Set Fire, blog here for Me: We Are Ultimate in Aiding You Hand in an Excellent Essay Quality papers are the only guarantee of good grades. We are ideal because the writer understands the challenges that students go through, and our efforts are directed to making sure you receive quality services. Friendship Commanders and Can you Homeworck following my instruction for me? Yes, and we will do our utmost to make you pleased with the written essay. We completely understand the importance of meeting students' requirements because it helps them get high grades for papers. Therefore, we never neglect this information, and the support agents clarify all issues to avoid misunderstanding. Such a professional approach Inhalement. Four bands, each offering a streamed set, and types of masters degrees thesis Homework Lyrics Numbering assignment law college admission essays community service Kind are giving a preview of what’s to come in their three-song-set-the-audio-of-which-they-should-probably-release-as-a-live-EP-for-Bandcamp-Friday with the video below for “Faster Number Two.” I know it was 2020 and that was 15 lifetimes ago, but you might recall their second album, We believe custom theses and custom dissertation writing help should be done by composers who have significant experience as well as other credentials in their field or education in general. This means we only hire the best of the best, which in turn is the reason we can create such high quality for students just like you. Ieee Research Papers Format paper – essential elements . Depending on the Mental Nudge (review here), came out back in September on Our Handwriting Without Tears Writing Paper provides a full-scale writing assistance accessible online 24/7. Why Choose Your Dissertation Writing Service? Apart from many other writing companies, we are rather picky when forming a professional staff of experts. Moreover, we try to make our every customer feel safe and pleased with the service. We additionally provide: 100% Anonymity and Confidentiality Ripple and was frickin’ great.

I’ll keep this short because there are links below worth clicking, but hell, if you don’t want to see more after watching the mostly-masked performance below — Business Plan Writers UK voted the #1 business plan writing & consulting service in London. dan koroma and dissertation with unparalleled success rate. Craig Riggs pulls his down to sing, drummer Looking to hire writers for blog? Cover Letter Application Letters at affordable prices and get the best quality work available on the market. Matt Couto‘s swinging style results in his falling below his nose, while Harrison Bergeron Essays - Opt for the service, and our qualified scholars will fulfil your order supremely well Instead of wasting time in inefficient Tom Corino and Search results for: College Life Essay dictionary. Click here for more information! Darryl Shepard stay masked on the flanks, playing bass and guitar, respectively — I don’t know what to tell you. But just to lay on an appropriate guilt trip, ONCE is worth supporting with a donation. Because fuck rent.

Enjoy the video:

Kind, “Faster Number Two” ONCE Sound Stage Session premiere

In May of 2020 ONCE Somerville, an independent venue in the Boston Metro area, decided to launch a “virtual venue”. The venue was started in response to the COVID-19 crisis and the massive amount of cancellations that occurred in the wake of stay at home order. ONCE VV is a place for audiences to interact and enjoy performances that range to suit all sorts of palates.

In June, the ONCE VV team began filming live sessions on the venue’s ballroom stage. Dubbed the ONCE Sound Stage Sessions, these sessions provided artists with a rare opportunity to play on a stage again for the first time since music venues shut down. Between June and December of 2020, over 25 performances were filmed on the ONCE ballroom and lounge stages.

In December, ONCE had to leave its physical space due to financial realities of the ongoing pandemic. But the ONCE VV team remains committed to producing original content and virtual events throughout 2021, made possible by a generous NIVA grant.

Show Youtube link (anyone can watch live):
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UIffE2MHLo&ab_channel=ONCEVirtualVenue

Ticket Link (allows attendees to donate, and the option to join the Zoom event):
https://www.eventbrite.com/e/134906375601

Show details:
KIND, Set Fire, Friendship Commanders (Nashville, TN), Inhalement
Presented by Grayskull Booking, Treebeard Media, Dead Moon Audio, and ONCE Sound Stage
Hosted by Laura from Metal Night
Saturday, January 16, 8pm

Kind, Mental Nudge (2020)

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Worshipper Live Set From Mutants of the Monster II Streaming

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 6th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

worshipper

Let me preface this post by saying three things.

1. You should watch this entire video. It’s badass, and the bands it has performing are badass. Along with Worshipper, there’s Rebreather, Temptress, Telekinetic Yeti and a bunch of others. There’s also the video from the first night, which had Boozewa and more. You should watch that too.

2. I acknowledge that that’s about six hours of footage to sit down with altogether and not everyone has that kind of time to work with, even (or especially) in quarantine. If you do, fuckin’ congrats on your life. Or not.

3. Mutants of the Monster III — formerly put on by CT from Rwake and others in Little Rock, Arkansas, as an actual fest, but now streaming for everybody — is happening in February.

Okay.

It was New Year’s weekend that Boston melodic heavy rockers Worshipper took part in Mutants of the Monster II: Inverted Atomic Lore, the digital festival put together presumably to promote good bands, fight pandemic restlessness, extend the brand and work against the general shittyness that is existence without live shows. For two nights, the fest streamed groups from hither and yon, and watching Worshipper particularly was a reminder of just how killer a live act they are. Granted, they’re in a studio here with no less than Chris Johnson (he recorded the last Worshipper LP, plays in Summoner, Deafheaven and Doomriders, does live sound, and so on) at the helm, but they’re still playing live — and masked, for the most part — and even after the better part of a year of no gigs, they sound tight as hell.

You miss live shows? Shit, me too. Have I mentioned that lately? Well, everything is fucked. It’s a new year and we’re supposed to be filled with hope. I’m not. But you know what’s worth hanging onto? Music. Music still sounds good. While music still sounds good, you’ve still got something. Worshipper‘s set is five songs — they dig into stuff they know well, which is fair enough given the fact that who the hell wants to rehearse when we’re supposed to limit exposure — and the clip below cues up to it. But again, even if you skim through and check out a song here and a song there, the whole thing is worth your perusal. I’m just trying to make life easier.

Worshipper guitarist/vocalist John Brookhouse offers some comment under the video below.

Please enjoy:

Worshipper, Live at Mutants of the Monster II: Inverted Atomic Lore

John Brookhouse on Mutants of the Monster II:

We recorded our set with only a couple practices under our belts after not playing for quite a long time. This whole time has been so nebulous, not knowing what the future holds, etc., it was just nice to have a project to do together. We recently moved to our new practice space at SUM Studios in Malden, MA, and they actually fast-tracked finishing a big live room in there so we could have a space to do this recording. (Thank you, Bob Logan!!) We pooled all of our technology – gopros, phones, cameras, lights, etc. to get the right look and have enough camera angles to be visually appealing.

Chris Johnson totally knocked it out of the park with the audio, and he even brought a nice camera to do some handheld shots while we played. We love working with him, but it was also great to just be able to hang out with him and see him again. Alex did an amazing job putting all of the footage together. Bob and I are usually the ones tasked with the visual aspects of the band, but Alex wanted to take a crack and it, and he totally nailed it. He definitely had a vision for how he wanted it to come across, and we think he did a spectacular job with it.

After a pretty long year that put a lot of us through the ringer, it was a blast putting something out there into the world again and interacting with people during the premiere. It was also cool for us to feel like part of a musical scene again with all of the other bands (who killed it!). We hope we get to do more stuff like this in the near future.

Filmed Live at Sum Studios, Malden, MA, Nov. 28, 2020. Engineered and mixed by Chris Johnson at The Electric Bunker.

Setlist:
Black Corridor
High Above the Clouds
Nobody Else
It All Comes Back
Another Yesterday

Worshipper is:
John Brookhouse: guitar/vocals
Alejandro Necochea: lead guitar/synth
Dave Jarvis: drums
Bob Maloney: bass/vocals

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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.

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 (Roadsaw, Sasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

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

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

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

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

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

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

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

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

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “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 BjĂžrnson (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 SandĂžy, 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, EllengĂŠst
Cruthu, AthrĂș 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 SilvÄkra 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 SilvÄkra 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, LantlĂŽs, 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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Friday Full-Length: Cortez, Thunder in a Forgotten Town

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Cortez Thunder in a Forgotten Town

Proof positive that Cortez didn’t just end up a kickass heavy rock band, but in fact they started that way. Of course, the Boston five-piece were a much different band 13 years ago when they made their debut with the Thunder in a Forgotten Town EP in 2007. I remember (vaguely) the release piqued my interest because they were an American band releasing through a European label — Belgium’s Buzzville Records — which didn’t happen nearly as often in those days, and once I got a copy, I would’ve had to work hard not to dig it. Six songs, righteous hooks, classic vibe brought to modern production — the band worked with Marc Schleicher (then of Quintaine Americana, also Antler, later of Infernal Overdrive) at New Alliance Audio — and I never quite understood how they never got signed to Small Stone Records, as did Boston forerunners-of-riff Roadsaw, but they wound up just fine regardless.

Though the core of their sound and approach was intact, Cortez were a much different band in 2007 than they are now. Only two of the five players on Thunder in a Forgotten Town are still with the group in guitarist Scott O’Dowd and bassist/backing vocalist Jay Furlo. The nascent version of the band was rounded out by guitarist Tony D’Agostino, drummer Jeremy Hemond (who was also in Roadsaw) and vocalist Curtis Caswell, and though one can recognize roots in C.O.C.-style riffing in a song like “Stone the Bastards” — with its call-and-response gang shouts bringing in members of The Humanoids, We’re All Gonna Die and Cocked ‘n’ Loaded — the momentum built up over the course of that song and the outing as a whole belongs to Cortez even more in hindsight now than it did when they it out, by which I mean it’s become a crucial aspect of their sound in general, capturing that feeling of unhurried shove. Carefully composed songs that still push you through them at what feels like a hey-man-come-on-I’m-not-hurting-anybody escorted-out pace.

All business? Not quite, but close. Mostly business. Opener “The High Life” — its fuzzy launch riff telling you much of what you need to know, especially when the solo kicks in to lead into the verse — sets the proceedings off with no time wasted. Cortez are through the first verse and headed toward the chorus by the time the first minute is up, and then another quick lead and they’re back to the verse to start the cycle again in the next minute. They break for a longer solo but keep the central rhythm playing out underneath, then back to the verse and chorus, more soloing over a moderate tempo kick, then a couple ending lines and it’s done in a little over four minutes. Plain old heavy rock and roll. Not innovative in terms of structure, but it lets you know right off the bat that Cortez know what they’re doing, and Thunder in a Forgotten Town does nothing to dissuade one from that opinion from that point on. Kicking ass, chewing bubblegum, and so on.

The first five songs are within about a minute of each other length-wise, but still arranged from shortest to longest ahead of the nine-minute closer “Floodwater Rising.” “What Have You Done?” picks up where the opener left off with a strong hook and changes the break structure a bit with vocals getting a moment in a second-half quiet section, but the mood is well similar enough to be consistent. Melody fleshes out further in “The Ocean,” and reveals itself to be the essential component of Cortez‘s work that it’s become in the years since, even as the riffs pattern themselves in a steady roll, they become the backdrop of a layered-vocal arrangement that is sneakily effective in putting itself in the listener’s head. C.O.C. might be a reference point there as well as in “Stone the Bastards” still to come, but the modus is hardly limited to them, and as Thunder in a Forgotten Town demonstrates across its span, the band’s intention was never so much to reinvent the wheel as to make it spin in their own direction.

They do precisely that through “Lost Control” and “Stone the Bastards,” continuing to broaden the sphere of what they’ve set out while staying rooted in songwriting and mid-tempo push. It’s chug in “Lost Control” and group participation in “Stone the Bastards” as the band use their first outing to essentially work as a demo in showing off what they’re about, but perhaps “Floodwater Rising” — still the longest song despite ending after six of its total nine minutes, giving over the rest to residual noise — is the most indicative of the band Cortez would become, with a comfort switching paces and an underlying aggression of purpose that has only come more forward over time.

Thunder in a Forgotten Town, at 34 minutes, is listed as an EP, and it would be five years and a few lineup changes before their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) surfaced on Bilocation Records — to be followed by 2012’s The Depths Below (review here), 2014’s split with Borracho, 2018’s split with Wasted Theory (review here) and this Fall’s Sell the Future (review here) — but I’ll say it’s actually more of a debut album in its flow and construction. One could make the argument I suppose that it’s a demo as well, and I kind of alluded to that above, but there’s a level of craft that needs to be taken into account, and as it has all throughout Cortez‘s tenure, that makes all the difference. They are a different band now than they were then, as I said, but there’s no question that what they’ve been able to build across their now-three LPs has been built on the foundation Thunder in a Forgotten Town laid out, despite the shifts in personnel around Furlo and O’Dowd.

Album or EP, it seems ripe enough for a reissue at this point, even though it’s obviously readily available streaming-wise, as seen above. They still have CDs too, but I don’t know if Thunder in a Forgotten Town has ever been released on vinyl, and certainly it’s easy enough to imagine in red and black swirl wax to suit the cover art. Say, 300 copies? Alright, press it. That’s how it works, right?

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

Fuck it. Thanks for reading.

Did you enter the year-end poll yet?

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Video Interview: Craig Riggs of Kind

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on November 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

kind craig riggs

It comes up in the interview, but I’ll note here as well that the discography of Craig Riggs is significant. In addition to his time first as drummer then as frontman of Boston heavy rock standard-setters Roadsaw, there’s White Dynomite, Los Angeles’ Sasquatch for whom he plays drums, and Kind, whose new album, Mental Nudge (review here) is their second behind 2015’s Rocket Science (review here). All of that doesn’t take into account either the fact that Riggs is head honcho at Mad Oak Studios, an institution in the Northeast, occasionally puts out releases through Mad Oak Records, and roasts his own coffee. Dude keeps busy.

Nonetheless, with Riggs on vocals, Darryl Shepard on guitar, Tom Corino on bass and Matt Couto on drums, Kind are a special case. A supergroup the pedigree of which spans decades not only through his own but Shepard‘s as well, the band coalesces around a heavy psychedelic rock that puts emphasis on all three words in that combination. Particularly on Mental Nudge, they are able to harness breadth and shove alike, and as the album was recorded in January with the emerging specter of the COVID-19 pandemic starting to take shape around them, the record brims with the potentiality for what they might’ve done in bringing it to the stage.

Well, so much for that. While Kind are taking part today along with Set Fire and others in a prior-filmed live stream (info on Thee Facebooks) to benefit the esteemed ONCE Ballroom in Somerville, MA, as well as Grayskull Booking, Mental Nudge is the first record in Riggs notable catalog where he can’t get on stage to support it with live shows. In the video interview below, we talk about what to do with that energy — hint: make another record — along with the yet-to-be-released-but-already-in-the-can Sasquatch album, experimentation with melodic layering and effects, changes in the band’s circumstances with the dissolution of what had been Corino‘s main outfit Rozamov and Couto‘s separation from Elder, and much more.

We spoke earlier this week, on the grim-feeling morning after the US presidential election, and that comes up too in its way, as it would almost have to. Not too much. Just a little.

Thanks to Riggs for taking the time to chat and to you for reading and/or watching

Please enjoy:

Kind, Mental Nudge Interview with Craig Riggs, Nov. 4, 2020

One more time, Kind‘s Mental Nudge is out now through Ripple Music. The album stream follows here.

Kind, Mental Nudge (2020)

Kind on Thee Facebooks

Kind on Instagram

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Conclave to Release Dawn of Days on Argonauta Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Dawn of Days — one assumes as to the end thereof — will serve as the title for the second full-length from Massachusetts-based death-sludgers Conclave, who made their debut with Sins of the Elders (review here) in 2016. I’ve been lucky enough to have heard a few snippets along the way from Conclave, works in progress and that sort of thing, and if you’re thinking something along the lines of, “well shucks that’s probably going to be very very heavy,” you’re not that far off at least as regards what I’ve encountered to-date.

Some particulars unveiled today — the title, the recording info, the lineup; that’s more than you get sometimes — but the real news here is that the Spring 2021 release is being handled through Argonauta Records, which makes Conclave labelmates to other East Coast acts like Clamfight, Dee Calhoun and Shadow Witch, never mind all the bands from everywhere else on the label. It’s a good fit either way, and I’m looking forward to the album whenever it might show up.

Announcement follows from the PR wire:

conclave argonauta

Heavy Doom Collective CONCLAVE Signs With Argonauta Records!

New Album To Be Released In Spring 2021!

Massachusetts-USA Heavy Doom collective, CONCLAVE, have signed with Italian record label ARGONAUTA RECORDS for the Worldwide release of their forthcoming album, entitled ”Dawn Of Days”. CONCLAVES sophomore full-length will be released on colored and black vinyl, CD and digitally in the Spring of 2021.

With a musical resume that includes such acts as WarHorse, PanzerBastard, Desolate, Tenebrae, and Benthic Realm, along with several other bands and projects over the decades, ”Dawn Of Days” will be the crushing culmination of all the members’ longtime experience. Continuing to be anything but categorical in their song writing, combining melodic doom, pounding sludge and heavy grooves, their sound appeals to fans of all genres of heavy music.

“We feel fortunate and thankful to have Gero of Argonauta Records welcome us into his label’s family during what has likely been the worst year in the history of the arts and entertainment industry.“ Says the band about their upcoming label collaboration. “It really speaks volumes to Gero’s dedication and support of musicians, bands, and the art they create. We’re friends with some and fans of many of the bands on the Argonauta roster and are very excited to join their ranks.

Our last album “Sins Of The Elders” was released in 2016. Since then our sound and writing style has evolved along with our line up, with the addition of Chris Giguere on lead and rhythm guitar. The new album “Dawn Of Days” has something for all fans of heavy music. From the cadence of the riffs, to the dueling hypnotic and frenzied lead guitars; the melancholy acoustic parts to the crushing bass lines, it all rounds out our brand of punishing doom. We’re very proud of this album. To be able to work with Gero at Argonauta Records and Mona of All Noir PR, Bookings & Management on its release in 2021 is everything we could have hoped for. We can’t wait to share it with the world.”

CONCLAVE’s upcoming album was recorded and engineered by Eric Sauter at Blackheart Sound in Manchester New Hampshire, and was mastered by Esben Williams at Berserk Audio (Monolord) in Gothenburg, Sweden during the Spring and Summer of Rona, 2020. With an endless supply of depressing uncertainty and rage coursing through the United States in 2020, CONCLAVE used that energy to forge 5 new staggeringly heavy and atmospheric songs. There is no catering to trends or watering down the riffs with this band. It’s pure and honest metal in an uncompromised form.

Stay tuned for many more updates and album tunes to follow in the weeks ahead!

CONCLAVE are:
Jerry Orne – Bass and vocals
Jeremy Kibort – Rhythm/lead guitars + backing vocals
Chris Giguere – Rhythm/lead guitars
Dan Blomquist – Drums/percussion

https://www.facebook.com/conclaveband/
https://www.instagram.com/conclave_ma/
https://conclave1.bandcamp.com/music
www.argonautarecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/
https://www.instagram.com/argonautarecords/

Conclave, Sins of the Elders (2016)

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Album Review: Kind, Mental Nudge

Posted in Reviews on October 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

kind mental nudge

What a difference a few years can make. It’s been five since Boston’s Kind released their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), through Ripple Music, and the intervening time has seen a few changes of circumstance that put the band in new light. Vocalist Craig Riggs, heretofore best known as the vocalist of Roadsaw, not only put out a record with that band but also joined L.A.’s Sasquatch on drums. Guitarist Darryl Shepard, whose pedigree of Beantown-based groups might be unmatched — Milligram, Blackwolfgoat, Hackman, countless others — has spent the last few years exploring grunge/heavy-punk influences with the duo Test Meat. And in the rhythm section, what was formerly thought of as bassist Tom Corino‘s main project, Rozamov, haven’t played a show since 2018, despite putting out an awaited debut of their own, while drummer Matt Couto parted ways with Elder in 2019.

The result of all this as it relates to Kind‘s second full-length, Mental Nudge, is a palpable sense of focus. If the songs on Rocket Science were the output born of the four-piece’s initial coming together and learning how to work from a group, then this follow-up is accordingly a moment whereby they take what was established last time around and blast it forward in terms of progression. Notably, that can be heard in terms of the songcraft, as right from the outset with “Broken Tweaker,” Mental Nudge does not shy away from laying down righteous hooks, where the previous collection perhaps pushed back to some minor degree against that impulse to highlight more of a psychedelic expanse. Rest assured, with synth added from Couto and Riggs both, a cut like “It’s Your Head” offers both, and that’s indicative of the modus of the record as a whole, though the tracklisting veers between longer songs (six to eight minutes) and shorter ones (under five) so as much as Kind are dedicated to setting up a full-album flow and letting each song make an impression of its own as a part of that, there’s a willingness to play around a bit and bounce the listener back and forth along the way.

It works well. “Fast Number Two” is a direct sequel to the accordingly titled “Fast Number One” from the first LP, and is emblematic of how the three shorter inclusions on Mental Nudge — itself, “Helms” and the penultimate title-track — manage to balance structural and atmospheric impulses. The sense of space — Alec Rodriguez recorded at Mad Oak Studio; another crucial return — is what unites the material throughout, and in following “Broken Tweaker” laying down the gauntlet in the opening line of the record, “Fuck yeah, I’m willing,” “Fast Number Two” brings a charge without stumbling over its own sprawl. No one in the band is inexperienced when it comes to writing songs, of course, but particular credit has to go to Couto, who handles every turn with grace and a masterful swing, and Corino, whose bass tone brings low-end punch not only to “Fast Number Two” but to the subsequent chug of “Bad Friend” and the closing plod of “Trigger Happy” in highlight fashion. Their work together not only brings impact, groove and weight to the riffs, but broadens and enhances the reach of the band overall.

kind

Along with Riggs‘ layered vocals finding layered and languid apexes in “Bad Friend” and “Helms,” repeating lines in the latter — which is also the centerpiece — as a preface to the hypnosis cast in the finale, and the wash of riffs and leads from Shepard, who spaces out in the midsection of “Bad Friend,” shreds in “It’s Your Head” and pulls out Cantrell-style soul for “Mental Nudge,” Kind becomes bolstered by the quality of each performance without losing sight of the mission in terms either of individual pieces or the album they comprise. Being more than the sum of their parts might be clichĂ© — actually there’s no “might” about it — but that doesn’t make it any less true. Whatever a given song might hold in terms of tempo or melody, the atmosphere of Mental Nudge is immersive and welcomes the listener in plenty-of-room-for-everybody fashion. “It’s Your Head,” “Mental Nudge” and “Trigger Happy” make up a purposeful side B, and while it begins at a charge, the band’s intention to tip the balance toward breadth comes across clearly in both the songs themselves and in the change in structure — i.e., where each longer piece has a corresponding shorter one on side A’s four tracks, “Trigger Happy” (8:29) has the last word on side B.

It’s worth noting that Mental Nudge‘s seven-track/44-minute run is about five minutes shorter than Rocket Science, which also had eight songs, so that might very well be the difference here, but one way or the other, it allows Kind to set the listener adrift in the closing minutes of the album, as “Trigger Happy” picks up from the guitar-led thickened scorch that is “Mental Nudge” and unfurls itself with a surprising edge of psychedelic doom and teases a final surge as it passes the five-minute mark but ultimately cuts back following a quick solo and sets its course toward an eventual dissolution, rolling out on crashes and melodic whispers that in their residual fade-out tones manage to cast an empty version of the space they’ve created. When it’s over, one might feel as though taking in a cliffside view. Kind, then, have pushed as far outward as they’ll go on Mental Nudge, and left their audience in that place. The effect is resonant and lasting.

What Rocket Science put forth, Mental Nudge codifies into genuine sonic persona. Kind are not just a band with members who are/were in other groups — they’ve created this approach of their own and proceeded to work in their own sphere. Obviously there are shades of past work, since it’s the same people, but Kind build something new out of that both because of the combination of players and the individualized intent from which they’re functioning. One hopes it’s not another half-decade before a third Kind record surfaces, but if it is and it represents the sort of accomplished step forward from the standard Mental Nudge sets, it will have been worth the wait.

Kind, Mental Nudge (2020)

Kind on Thee Facebooks

Kind on Instagram

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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Ripple Music website

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Mad Oak Coffee Roasters Dark Roast: A First Cup and Then Some

Posted in Reviews on October 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

mad oak coffee bag w chemex

My daily coffee ritual is as complex as it is splendid. It begins the night before. The hopper of my Chemex Ottomatic is filled with filtered water from the fridge. It’s an eight-cup hopper and I generally go just a little above the line. Beans are usually already in the burr grinder, so I tap the button on that — and yes, I know you’re supposed to grind immediately before making the coffee, but you go ahead and run a burr grinder that sounds like a jet engine at 3:45 in the morning when your wife is sleeping right down the hall and see how you fare; it’s a question of courtesy — and a corresponding eight cups of rough-grind awaits. Set up the carafe with the filter, pour in the grounds, and go to sleep knowing that when I get up all I have to do is press a button and the best coffee I’ve ever had — because the best one is always the next one; it’s like Neurosis albums — will be waiting for me by the time I’m done brushing my teeth. There are mornings where that knowledge gets me out of bed.

Now then. I am loyal generally to Dean’s Beans out of Massachusetts, and I have two custom roast recipes through them that I order in eight-to-ten-pound batches: a low-acid dark roast I call ‘The Obelisk Dark Roast’ and a medium roast called ‘The Obelisk Heavy Psych Blend.’ But when I read on the social medias that Craig Riggs — he of Kind, Roadsaw, Sasquatch, etc., as well as Mad Oak Studios — was rolling out a fresh batch of Rwandan-bean dark roast through Mad Oak Coffee Roasters, it was time to deviate from the norm. I emptied out the grinder to start entirely fresh when the bright orange bag showed up and felt ready to give it an honest go.

First, the bag. Resealable is always preferable though probably more expensive. You live with it either way. First thing I look for though when I’m opening a bag of any dark roast is how wet are the beans. Gimme those greasy beans. I want to be able to pop a bean in my mouth straight off and taste it before I even take a bite. I’m not looking for something so dark it just tastes burnt and bitter, and from the first sniff to the chewed bean, Riggs‘ dark roast held the promise of balanced presence of flavor. I looked forward to the morning.

And when the AM came — cruelly early, but no different than ever — I brewed the eight-cup pot I’d consume in my big Baltimore mug The Patient Mrs.’ mother gave me a couple years ago that I use every day and travel with if I can (not so much a concern lately, oddly enough), basically splitting it in half. The grounds had a good-looking bloom in the pour-over machine and I let it settle before pouring the first cup, then let that cool a bit as is my custom before finally diving in while working on my laptop on the couch — the ritual complete when the cup gets washed and stuck in the dish drainer, where it basically lives when not in use because it never goes back in the cabinet, though it does make it into the dishwasher sometimes.

Both cups held that smoothness, which is what I was looking for. A velvety flavor to dark roast, and though I know Ethiopian beans, for example, especially in lighter roasts, are much heralded for their fruity sensibilities, that’s not where I’m at. Wood, cocoa, if it’s nutty that’s fine, but I drink it black exclusively and so I want my coffee basically to taste like coffee. Mad Oak‘s did to a satisfying degree. I am no expert when it comes to palette — can’t tell you hints of cherry or identify elements of the terroir — but I’m a snob and my taste in coffee is easily offended. In talking to my wife about it I told her it was a coffee I could live with, and I didn’t mean it like it’s meh and it’s not gonna kill me. I mean like me and the coffee should get an apartment together.

Mad Oak Coffee Roasters has been around in seemingly intermittent fashion for at least the last six years and probably longer. The bags now are snazzier looking. I asked Riggs where he got his beans from and he said a company in California, which means by they time they got to me in New Jersey they went from Rwanda to California to Massachusetts and then south to me, which isn’t an insignificant trip. I would assume based on knowing Riggs that he’s working with fair trade sourcing — crazy, I know, but Rwanda’s known way more for genocide than coffee — and, well, I guess if I was so concerned about the environmental impact of shipping coffee I’d probably move to Africa or South America. In the meantime, complicity for everyone!

When I finished the pot — which I did in good time, mind you — I decided quickly to make myself another cup’s worth, to get the fresh-ground experience. I wish I was erudite enough to honestly say there was an appreciable difference, but really, it was delicious in any case. Riggs only does small batch roasts — limited edition, for those of you who want to think of it like a vinyl release — but if you can get your hands on some when the getting’s good, the balance and depth of flavors happening in my mug this morning were enough to make me look forward to the next time it’s available.

Mad Oak Coffee Roasters on Thee Facebooks

Mad Oak Coffee Roasters on Instagram

Mad Oak Studios website

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