The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2015

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 30 albums of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

It’s damn near impossible to start one of these posts without some derivation of, “Whew! What a year it’s been!” The truth is that, since 2014, I’ve been keeping a list of the best releases of 2015, and the list has just grown and grown and grown over the last 12 months. Could have been a top 40, easy. Could have been a top 50, 60, whatever. It was complete inundation.

If you’ve been checking in on any of the lists that have gone up so far, you might notice that some of these records have appeared elsewhere, and possibly in a different order. How does an album end up ahead of another on one list and not on another? Different criteria. Different basis of judgment. As always, the big year-end list (this one) is derived both from what I think are the most important offerings of the year plus what I listened to the most, because while I believe deeply in the critical value of a given work, I also believe there’s value in the kind of record you just can’t put down.

Basically, I believe records have value. Stay tuned for more daring adventures in understatement.

A few emergent factors for 2015 to note: The increasing expansion of subgenres. Psychedelia and what I’ve come to call the heavy ’10s sound finding further root as prominent styles of the day, as well as a budding of emotive doom in the post- Pallbearer vein. At the same time, a more straightforward heavy rock is also making a return, and look for that to continue as new listeners discover past landmarks and modern plays thereupon. Everything is cyclical, and I’m interested to see what the next two or three years bring, both as Millennials hit 30 (and beyond) and as younger kids come up and fuzz out.

But that’s a conversation for a different time, and before we get there, it’s time to take a look back at the best full-lengths of 2015. I hope if I’ve left something out, you’ll let me know about it in the comments, but until then, here we go:

30. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

Going by some of the results I’ve seen from the Readers Poll, I’m guessing there will be some disagreement on the placement of High on Fire‘s seventh full-length, third for eOne and second to be produced by Kurt Ballou behind 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), but for me it came down to what I went back to more. The brilliant “The Falconist” would be enough on its own for Luminiferous to be included on this list, and taken as a whole, the record affirmed the trio as pivotal heavy metal marauders, an act whose devastation is undulled by the wear they’ve put on it touring the world over and again.

29. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns

chrch unanswered hymns

Released by Battleground Records. Reviewed June 30.

Undaunted by a name change from Church to CHRCH, the Sacramento five-piece unleashed rare doom extremity on their debut album, but peppered that with a stylistic nuance that many in the pummel-pummel-pummel game cast off, whether it was psychedelic flourish in the guitar or some eerie atmospheric. Among the post potential-filled debut offerings of the year, that’s not a guarantee they’ll find future success on the same level, but it does mean that if you didn’t hear the 19-minute “Dawning,” you missed out.

28. Golden Void, Berkana

golden void berkana

Released by Thrill Jockey Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

Coherent bliss. The second full-length from the four-piece Golden Void was a logical step forward from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but that was precisely what it needed to be. With an emerging dynamic of dual vocals between guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Earthless) and keyboardist Camilla Saufley-Mitchell on cuts like “Astral Plane” and “Silent Season,” Berkana was less adherent to space rock overall than its predecessor, but gave a more individualized take and was all the richer for it.

27. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Probably should have a higher number. Part of the enduring appeal for The Harvest for me is not only how Ukrainian three-piece Stoned Jesus so absolutely pushed back from the album before it, 2012’s sophomore outing, Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but how much reasoning they put behind the moves they made on the six included tracks. Each song had its purpose and place in the overarching flow, and The Harvest continues to deliver something new on thoroughly-earned repeat listens. Perhaps most encouraging of all, I have no idea what they’ll do next.

26. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence

graveyard innocence and decadence

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 7.

Swedish retro forerunners are hands-down one of the most influential European heavy rock acts of their generation. The ’70s revivalism they helped spearhead on their first, second and third LPs has given them rich ground to develop, and they still managed to bring something new to their sound with the soulfulness of Innocence and Decadence, as well as increasing command and diversity in the vocals. Drummer Axel Sjöberg turned in a career performance, and although there are heaps upon heaps of bands out there indulging in post-Graveyard boogie, they showed once again that they’re able to stand both out from the crowd and well above it. Plus, any swing-rocking album that dares to break out soul-singer backing vocals and blastbeats, and pull both off without blinking deserves respect, no matter what else it might have going on.

25. Death Hawks, Sun Future Moon

death hawks sun future moon

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Nov. 3

It felt so good to put on Death HawksSun Future Moon for the first time and be completely blindsided by its serene psychedelic ritualizing. The Finnish four-piece reveled in classic progressive methods, and where it would’ve been so easy for songs like “Hey Ya Sun Ra” or “Dream Life, Waking Life” to come across as pretentious, the naturalism in the recording gave the band’s third album such a liquefied flow that it was impossible not to be swept up by it until, at last, “Friend of Joy” launched into and beyond a peaceful stratosphere in spaced-out ambience. My first exposure to the group and their first outing for Svart, it’s a record so textural and so graceful that it seems to unfurl itself more each time through.

24. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Released by Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records. Reviewed Jan. 5.

A quick and strong turnaround from this Norwegian sax-inclusive foursome, who might seem to come out of nowhere were it not for the pedigree of Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther in long-running progressives Motorpsycho. Together with Per Borten and Rolf Martin Snustad, Spidergawd spoke to more primal rock instincts — their two LPs to-date and soon to be three are testaments to the ability of music to move, to shove, and to shake; or as they put it, “Get Physical” — but as there is breadth as well, as the psychedelic “Caereulean Caribou” demonstrated. Anchored by the hook of “Fixing to Die Blues,” Spidergawd‘s second wandered far and wide, but welcomed listeners along for each step of the journey.

23. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 26.

As the title promised, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third offering and Napalm Records debut delivered harsh truths. They came at breakneck speed and delivered with stage-hewn chemistry by the Midwestern power trio, whose years of road-dogging were brought to bear in the gruff, gravel-throated voice of guitarist Steve Moss, who led drummer Brandon Burghart and newcomer bassist Mike Boyne across nigh-unparalled riff torrents, with all the boogie of any number of ’70s-style sidewinders, but also with a tonal thickness that seemed a miracle it could move at all. Not without its adventurous side in the quieter “The Little Sparrow,” Cold was the Ground brimmed with intensity that brought the band to new levels in every conceivable fashion.

22. Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity

leeches of lore motel of infinity

Released by Lorchestral Recording Company. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Blessed art the weirdos, whose records might be few and far between, who might not tour, but whose bold fits and starts span genres easily and whose work truly stands alone. Leeches of Lore‘s Toshi Kasai-produced Motel of Infinity was a godsend in the enduring battle against normality. It was a grinding, grooving anti-punk stampede, at times frenetic and at other times whatever the opposite of frenetic is, and to-date, it’s the Albuquirky outit’s masterpiece, from the low-end buzzsaw, gang-shout and falsetto of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” through the bass and organ bounce of “Noah’s Soul (is Burning).” They have been and still are a band unto themselves, and the we-do-this-every-day confidence of their execution across Motel of Infinity‘s run only emphasizes how utterly necessary they are.

21. With the Dead, With the Dead

with the dead self titled

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

With the Dead vocalist Lee Dorrian (also head of Rise Above Records, also ex-Cathedral) basically laid it all out there in the interview here when he said, “We wanted to make the most skull-crushing record we possibly could.” That’s precisely what With the Dead‘s self-titled debut is. It’s as heavy as possible, as filthy as possible, all the way through. In some ways very much the sum of its elements with Dorrian on vocals, Tim Bagshaw on guitar/bass and Mark Greening on drums (both ex-Ramesses), it was also of course more than just that, and while so much of their story has yet to be told as they move into their initial live appearances in 2016, their opening salvo was nothing if not as destructive as its intent.

20. Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch psychic warfare

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

How could anyone possibly have even remotely reasonable expectations for a Clutch record after 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here). I won’t say the Maryland stalwarts didn’t deliver with Psychic Warfare, and I doubt any fan of the band who’s dug into “X-Ray Visions,” “A Quick Death in Texas” or “Noble Savage” would, but their returning to producer Machine for the second time in a row made it almost too easy to compare Clutch‘s 10th and 11th long-players. Four years between albums was shortened to just two, and that may have had something to do with it as well, but while the songs were there and I’ve no doubt that Psychic Warfare will endure over the long term — ask me sometime how long it took me to get into Pure Rock Fury — in the moment of its release, Psychic Warfare seemed to stand in the shadow of its predecessor rather than in its own light.

19. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self-titled

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Jan. 8.

An awaited return for Midwestern-turned-West-Coast psychedelic rockers Mondo Drag, their self-titled sophomore outing had three years between its recording and release, and was made in 2012 with a shortlived incarnation of the band with bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow and then-soon to be of Blues Pills. Unsurprisingly, the grooves were tight, but even better, Mondo Drag blew past the peaceful headtrippery of their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), toward more expansive and proggy fare. They’ll look to continue that thread on their third outing, The Occultation of Light, in 2016, but the self-titled captured a special moment worthy of celebration, still rife with the classic-minded ethereal spirit of the first outing, but clearly bent on defining its own sonic dogma in hooks and synthy vibes.

18. Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

Released by Clostridium Records and Astral Projection. Reviewed April 27.

At the risk of sounding biased, just about any new release from New Zealand tantric psych outfit Lamp of the Universe is going to be welcome by me. Comprised solely of Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), the long-running project nonetheless casts out gorgeously textured meditative psychedelia, at times delving into drone or Eastern folk, but always marking out its own sonic space, whether in the more rock-minded groove of “God of One” or the drumless acoustic swirl of “Ancient Path.” Lamp of the Universe is a rare band — as much as it is a band — that covers a swath of ground stylistically and manages to sound like nothing but itself as it does so, and Williamson‘s commitment to his cosmic mantras remains firm and creatively fertile as the seeds he planted early on continue to bear fruit in complex arrangements that never distract from the central, spiritual purpose of the music.

17. Mammatus, Sparkling Waters

mammatus sparkling waters

Released by Spiritual Pajamas. Reviewed Nov. 9.

Even with its title-track broken into two 20-plus-minute side-consuming halves, it was abundantly plain to hear that Sparkling Waters was the most realized Mammatus outing yet. The four-song, 75-minute offering brimmed with a clarity that even their late-2013 third album, Heady Mental (review here), could only partially claim, leaving behind the fuzz and fog of their earlier work almost entirely while remaining open to employing sonic heft when suitable to their more complex motives. Most effective about Mammatus at this stage was the way they eased into and through varied parts while tying together a coherent whole piece, the builds and cascades of “Sparkling Waters Part One” setting up an expectation of fluidity that held firm even through the more jagged buzz in the early going of closer “Ornia,” the grand finale of which resonates as a cacophony without letting itself actually lose control.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper

uncle acid the night creeper

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

UK ladykillers Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have emerged as one of the most essential bands of the ’10s. The Night Creeper is their fourth album and it takes the defining eeriness of their melodies and roughs it up with a mostly-live recording job — something which, now that they’re a touring act, they can do — for their grittiest, dirtiest-sounding offering yet. Songs like “Melody Lane,” “Pusher Man” and opener “Waiting for Blood” speak to what’s let their methodology spread so widely in the first place, the VHS grain of their guitars and vocals resting over classic swing and proliferating maddening hooks with lethal intent. Between the nine-minute gruel of “Slow Death” and the hidden acoustic track “Black Motorcade,” The Night Creeper wasn’t without its element of sonic progress, but with Uncle Acid, it’s still the combination of threat, swing and memorable songwriting that brings listeners back to their dark alleyways for another taste.

15. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

Easily one of 2015’s most encouraging debuts. Making its opening salvo with the propulsion of Motörhead-derived heavy rock in songs like “Over Under” and “Black Magick Boogieland,” the first outing from Amsterdam-based foursome Death Alley touched on classic ideals without going retro on “Bewildered Eyes,” nodded toward psychedelic melodicism and more patient intentions in “Golden Fields of Love,” and portrayed its punker roots in “Dead Man’s Bones” — all before the 12:40 space rock extravaganza that took hold with closer “Supernatural Predator.” It was a lot of territory to cover, but Death Alley not only made it sound cohesive, they made it rock and they made it a good time. In just about 41 minutes, Black Magick Boogieland was not only a voyage well worth taking, it was a potential-filled, headbang-worthy ripper of an album from an outfit who deserves every bit of attention they seem to be shouting for. Hope they don’t wait long for a follow-up.

14. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

Five records in, Dutch trio The Machine have found a niche for themselves between heavy psych rock, desert fuzz and exploratory jamming. Offblast!, with a title that seemed more reminiscent of Europunker speed rock, was as spacious as it was driving, and whether it was the more structured material like “Dry End” or “Coda Sun” or the two extended cuts, 16-minute opener ““Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and 12-minute closer “Come to Light,” their dynamic remained natural and held firm to a spontaneous sensibility, like at any turn, any part might take off for an eight-minute ride to who knows where. That that didn’t always happen only made Offblast! a richer listening experience, its varied ideas coming through consistent tonality to affect a more than satisfying front-to-back flow that toyed with momentum even as it built more and more of it. Was a while in the making, coming three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here), but easily worth the wait.

13. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

There were moments where the self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was almost too much to take in one sitting. By the time the Tad Doyle-led trio got around to the 11-minute “La Mano Poderosa,” sometimes I felt like I needed a second to catch my breath before diving further, always further, into the smoldering abyss their tones, growls and lurch seemed to create. Six years after their demo (review here) served notice like a tectonic rumble in the distance, the album arrived with comet-into-planet heft, and its oppression was as much about atmosphere as it was sheer aural assault. Imagine an arm reaching down your throat, grabbing your lungs, and forcibly deflating them one at a time. Is that hyperbole? Absolutely, and well earned. Every bit the debut of the year.

12. Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 2.

No, Boston supergroup Kind aren’t so high on this list just because they called a song “Pastrami Blaster.” Granted, that didn’t hurt, but ultimately it was the blend of cavernous psychedelics and heavy rumble that made Rocket Science so infectious. Comprised of vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Elder), Kind earned immediate interest for their pedigree, but it was more the breadth of jams like “Hordeolum” and “The Angry Undertaker” that defined their first outing, various impulses toward structure and open-endedness not so much pushing against each other as working in tandem to craft something that drew from the best of both mindsets. Obviously these are busy guys, but hopefully Kind doesn’t all by the wayside for other ongoing projects. Rocket Science was unmistakable in its demonstration that they have much to offer.

11. Bloodcow, Crystals and Lasers

bloodcow crystals and lasers

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 4.

Iowa five-piece Bloodcow hadn’t put out a record since 2007’s Bloodcow III: Hail Xenu, but that didn’t stop Crystals and Lasers from being their best work yet. As much punk as metal as heavy rock, it wasn’t for everybody, but it was most definitely for me. With a constant thread of satire in songs like “Ultra Super Sexual,” “Sock,” “Dick for Days” and the oh-shit-I’m-middle-aged-how-the-fuck-did-this-happen (not saying I relate or anything, but holy shit I can relate) “After Party,” it was nonetheless a stylistically varied and universally professional-sounding 13-track collection, offering weirdo quirk in “Blood and Guts,” “Exploding Head” and “Little Chromosome” and finding room for a bit of scathing social commentary in its title-track and “HIVampyre.” If they’re working at an eight-year pace, I don’t know that we’ll get another Bloodcow record, but they very clearly put everything they had into Crystals and Lasers and the result was a defining statement.

10. Kadavar, Berlin

kadavar berlin

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed July 7.

After two wallops in the form of 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here), German trio Kadavar continued to prove the effectiveness of their songwriting on Berlin, a return that front-to-back brimmed with vitality and bounce rare enough for heavy rock generally more content to be downtrodden or attempting to feign bluesy substance. Unabashedly poppy at times, Berlin was the party that brought everyone along who was up for taking the ride, and whether it was the hook of “Lord of the Sky” showing how just a tiny melodic turn could make a track infectious or cuts like “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” “Filthy Illusion,” “Stolen Dreams,” “Spanish Wild Rose,” “See the World with Your Own Eyes” — all of them, really — working their way into the consciousness, Berlin felt like it was primed to be the soundtrack of many summers to come. They moved away from the retro style of their first two outings, but in so doing took fuller command of their sound and put it to remarkable use.

9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed May 19.

Picking up right where Flower of Disease closer “The River” left off with “Another River to Cross,” Goatsnake‘s third full-length arrived a full 15 years after its predecessor, and as one might expect that brought some considerable changes in the band’s sound. Oh, they still rolled the hell out of a riff, guitarist Greg Anderson (he of SunnO))) and Southern Lord Recordings) very much at the fore tonally, but a bluesy inflection from vocalist Pete Stahl (also earthlings?) and some well-placed backing vocals added personality in a daring and unexpected fashion. Songs like “Jimi’s Gone,” “Elevated Man” and “Grandpa Jones” sat comfortably in the band’s influential pantheon of heft, but it was how Black Age Blues pushed beyond what Goatsnake did in their initial run that made it so satisfying. For a record that arrived five years after they got back together, it could have easily been disaster, but Black Age Blues built on what Goatsnake was without detracting from the legacy that has influenced a generation of heavy rock.

8. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

I’m proud to call the members of Kings Destroy friends and I won’t attempt to feign impartiality when it comes to considering their work as a band, but I felt in listening to their self-titled third LP that they had finally gotten to the point where they were bringing the onstage confrontationalism of their live show to the studio. Yeah, “Mr. O” was upbeat and catchy and gave side A some thrust, but even in chugging opener “Smokey Robinson” or the moody “Mytho” and “Embers,” Kings Destroy not only came further into their own in terms of style, building on the anti-genre defiant stance of 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), but did so with a clearheaded progressivism, a better sense of who they are musically and what they want the band to be. I wouldn’t trade seeing them play “Embers” or “W2” as many times as I have for anything, but even unto the gang-shout half-speed hardcore of “Time for War,” Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy made no bones about how it wound up with the eponymous title. It’s them through and through.

7. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

It may never be possible to listen to the self-titled debut from Cigale outside the context of the death of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (ex-Sungrazer). That loss casts a dark shadow over a collection that otherwise radiates colorful sweetness and serenity, the peaceful depth beginning with “Grey Owl” and only broadening as it turns and weaves through “Steeplechase,” “Feel the Heat,” “Harvest Begun” and so on, but the record remains a gorgeous, engrossing wash of resonant melody and underlying presence. Not without its moments of melancholy, the more overarching impression was of beauty not tied to any notion of playing to genre or style, and while I don’t know what the future will hold for the band, if they’ll keep moving forward or not or if they’re even in a place yet to consider such things, they helped broaden the context of European heavy psychedelia with their first album, and that is no minor achievement.

6. Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning

sun blood stories twilight midnight morning

Self-released. Reviewed June 19.

Another one that just kind of smacked me in the face. Idahoan heavy psych explorers Sun Blood Stories‘ second album, Twilight Midnight Morning was soaked in vibe and moved fluidly between experimentalist noisemaking and patient, memorable songwriting. Tracks like “West the Sun,” “Witch Wind” and “Found Reasons Found Out” never raged, exactly, but had enough weight to their rhythm to let you know they were there and interested in groove, while later pieces “Time Like Smoke,” “Moon Song: Waxing” and “Misery is Nebulous” drew exponentially from earlier freakout impulses and shifted into a dronier and more ambient approach. The combination of the two — semi-structure up front, open expansion in the back — made the three-part Twilight Midnight Morning engaging and hypnotic in kind, and though I hope they get weirder and experiment and develop the atmospheric side of their sound, I’ve also got my fingers crossed they hold firm to their more grounded aspects, since its the range between the two that gives their sophomore outing its defining fluidity.

5a. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I’ll cite precedent in last year’s list for including a “5a.” The intent in doing so is to convey the idea that Colour Haze‘s latest outing, To the Highest Gods We Know, is worthy of top five consideration, but its release date was split between 2014 (CD) and 2015 (LP), so it was a little unclear where to put it. As the album is basically a year old at this point, it seems fair to say it’s held up, drawing back from the grandiose vision of 2012’s She Said (review here) without losing sight of the progressive elements that have taken root in the German trio’s sound. Their work has been and remains essential to the development of heavy psychedelic rock in Europe and beyond, and even though To the Highest Gods We Know felt like something of a reset — a stripping down of arrangements in places and getting back to a trio-in-a-room feel — it still stepped forward in its title-track and in songs like “Überall” and “Call” and showed that even when it seems Colour Haze have pushed their approach as far as it can go, there’s always new ground to explore, and their pull to do so is undiminished.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

Doesn’t exactly seem like giving away state secrets to note that a record with songs like “Sexecutioner” and “Fuck Face” is aggressive, but it’s particularly interesting in light of the past work of New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax, who I don’t think sounded as barn-burning as they do on Gravitron even in their earliest going. The trio of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella kept their signature winding riff style intact — demonstrated most expansively over 2011’s single-song full-length instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) — but while their turns were as blinding as ever, their tones were more pointed and Pantella‘s snare more upfront on the beat, which gave Gravitron a newfound sense of urgency. It worked. Even poppier songs like “Roseland” or the closing “Ice Age Hey Baby” benefited from the additional thrust, and the album overall felt lean, mean and ready to be taken on the road, which of course is exactly what they did with it. Six albums in, The Atomic Bitchwax were at their most vital yet.

4. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

all them witches dying surfer meets his maker

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Nashville four-piece All Them Witches probably could’ve gone into the studio, churned out a record of crunchy riffs with a quiet part or two for flavor and positioned themselves at the forefront of American heavy rock with their New West Records debut and third full-length overall, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Instead, they defied expectation boldly and brought their growing audience into the room with them and producer Mikey Allred as they captured the album, which finds its most affecting moments not in tonal weight, but emotional resonance, the melody at the midpoint of “Talisman” or the string arrangement gracefully tucked into “Open Passageways.” There’s still the push of “Dirt Preachers,” and entrancing closer “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” has its heft as well, but All Them Witches‘ success ultimately came from being the album they wanted to make, built from the dynamic that’s developed on stage between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeodAllan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes/strings, and drummer Robby Staebler, and alive in its feeling of exploration. I won’t predict what they might do from here, but I’m willing to say outright it’ll be worth hearing one way or another.

3. Snail, Feral

snail feral

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Oct. 13.

My expectations for Snail‘s third post-reunion full-length and Small Stone label debut, Feral, were pretty high. Not unreasonably so, though. Their 2012 outing, Terminus (review here), built on the blend of heavy psych riffs, laid back roll and melodicism that 2009’s Blood (review here) established as the band’s working modus, but Feral was going to be a different beast from the start because it was the West Coast outfit’s first full-length as a trio since they made their self-titled debut (reissue review here) in 1993 before splitting up the next year. Whatever my expectations were, however, Snail shattered them almost immediately. In the progression of their songwriting as shown across the strong opening salvo of “Building a Haunted House,” “Smoke the Deathless” and “A Mustard Seed” through one of the year’s best songs in the expansive and crushing “Thou Art That,” the three-piece showcased a breadth unlike anything they’d conjured before, and it only continued through “Born in Captivity,” the catchy “Derail,” “Psilocybe” and the soul-infused wah leads that peppered the pleading closer “Come Home.” Where Terminus offered intensity, Feral offered patience in its execution, and the atmosphere it created suited the band’s sound as well as the Seldon Hunt cover art seemed to summarize the alternate reality in which the music took place. Everything about how it came together worked just right, and even as a fan of the band’s work since they got together again, I was taken aback by the unflinching quality of Feral front to back.

2. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

Ten years is a long, long time. Especially in music. The prospect of a fourth Acid King record has been tossed around for at least the last six of those 10 years, but to finally have it realized was something else entirely. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was without a doubt my most-listened-to album of the year, and its combination of tonal haze, low-end heft and spacious atmosphere was perfect. There’s just no other way to say it. It was perfect. From “Silent Pictures” and “Coming down from Outer Space” through “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and the sprawling “Center of Everywhere” itself, guitarist/vocalist Lori S., bassist Mark Lamb and drummer Joey Osbourne crafted an absolutely perfect heavy psych record. How many bands walking the earth could even get away with calling a track “Laser Headlights,” let alone make it kick ass? Yeah, Goatsnake came back this year, and that was great, but for me, the return of Acid King to their throne of nod was even more the story of the year. Together with producer Billy Anderson, they offered a depth of tone that was simply unmatched, and without an ounce of pretense, they unveiled a roll that continues to resound. I’m a big fan of getting lost in a record, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere eased the listener in with its “Intro,” pulled reality apart from with “Silent Pictures” and set about doing the universe a favor by remaking the cosmos as the kind of place where one might find a wizard riding a tiger past the craters of the moon, until, at last, it deposited you back where you started. Best trip of 2015, no question.

1. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

Make no mistake, 2015 was Elder‘s year. We were all just living in it. Truth be told, I’ve been back and forth between Elder and Acid King in the top spot for the last couple months (you might recall in July they were reversed), but when it finally came to it, there was no way I could feasibly call anything other than Lore the album of the year. From the gorgeous Adrian Dexter artwork (discussed here), through the progressive clarion of “Compendium”‘s noodling guitar line and into the massive scope of the title-track (discussed here), Lore was the moment in which Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — tore down the walls of genre, whether it was heavy rock, psychedelia or anything else, and emerged with their own approach and complex, varied modus of songwriting. They’ve been turning heads since their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, but with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), they began to demonstrate the potential for really adding something to the patchwork of underground heavy. In moving forward by making clarity a hallmark both of their sound and of their purpose, Elder came into their own with these five tracks, and do not at all be surprised a couple years from now when bands start showing up aping DiSalvo‘s style of riffing, since such a bold and successful foray of individualism can only be influential in the longer run. At nearly an hour long, Lore was not a minor undertaking, but each song seemed to set up its own atmosphere, feeding not only its own singular focus, but that of the album overall. Its turns blinding, its impact forceful and its affect drawing from the best of the sonic personalities of all three players, Elder‘s Lore reaped wide acclaim and earned it every step of the way. Its progressive vision has only begun to be digested.

Honorable Mention

Killer Boogie, Detroit – Impressive debut from the retro-minded offshoot of Black Rainbows brought ’70s boogie to Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a quick turnaround, but either way, their first outing knew its audience and spoke directly to it.

My Sleeping Karma, Moksha – This one was on various incarnations of the list. Very interested to see where the German heavy prog outfit wind up in terms of expanding their arrangements, but Moksha was a satisfying step forward in that process.

Egypt, Endless Flight – Should probably have a number, but the fact is it’s only been out for like two weeks, so it hasn’t really been given the test of time at this point. Still, Egypt always deliver and this was no exception.

Valkyrie, Shadows – An awaited third full-length from Virginia’s Valkyrie and also their Relapse Records debut offered enough blazing guitar work to meet any quota, and was a welcome return after a long absence.

Magic Circle, Journey’s End – The second LP from this Massachusetts outfit pushed beyond doomly confines into more traditional metallurgy but held its eerie atmospherics intact, and the combination suited them remarkably well.

Monolord, Vænir – This was my go-to for 2015 when nothing else seemed quite crushing enough. The Swedish trio have very quickly stomped their way into the hearts and minds of the international underground, and rightfully so.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind – After making a transition from a four-piece to a trio, this Virginian outfit proceeded to take a few stylistic risks on their second Small Stone long-player, and they paid off.

TombstonesVargariis – Fourth full-length from this Norwegian trio pushed them outside of doom’s confines into a darker and more extreme version of heaviness that pulled from death and black metals in addition to its sludgy underpinnings. The meld was punishing and lost nothing of its groove, wherever it went at any given moment.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and Dust Have no Dominion – I guess my only hesitation with including Faces of Bayon‘s second outing in any kind of year-end fare is I’m not sure if the album has actually been released yet. Even if not, they’re easily worth a mention.

Ice Dragon, A Beacon on the Barrow – Kind of a down year from Ice Dragon in terms of overall productivity, but if the quantity was down compared to some, A Beacon on the Barrow was quality enough to carry them through. In a way, I think the album actually benefited from the band giving listeners time to take it in.

Arenna, Given to Emptiness – Ah, so good. The Spanish heavy psych troupe dug in deep on Given to Emptiness and conjured sonic and emotional resonance on their second full-length. It’s one that still gets repeat listens.

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire – The long-running New Jersey outfit’s reworking of their 2010 album Mastermind was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem fair to list it when they’re working mostly from already-released source material. But still, if you haven’t heard it, go find it.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] – Even if the results hadn’t been so spectacular, Electric Ladyland [Redux] would deserve a mention for the sheer scope and logistical nightmare that the project must have been. Kudos to Magnetic Eye Records all around.

There are so many others: Abrahma, GoyaSun and Sail Club, DevilleSacri MontiDirty StreetsUfomammutWo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, PentagramTorcheSumacGarden of WormBlack RainbowsHoly SerpentMinskBaronWeedpeckerElectric MoonFuzzBell WitchWindhand, Niche, We Lost the SeaSeremoniaSunderDomovoyd, The Heavy EyesDemon HeadFoggStars that MoveEnslavedRuby the Hatchet, on and on and on. That’s not even to mention the stuff I didn’t hear — Baroness will be on many people’s lists, no doubt, as well as Mutoid Man, Ghost and Kylesa — so yeah, I could pretty much keep going ad infinitum.

I, however, cannot. It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to keep up with 2015’s barrage the last 12 months, and I expect 2016 will only bring more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading or that you’re able to get some use out of this post, whatever that might mean, and I thank you deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for your time and for reading. It means more to me than I can say that you might check out even any portion of this site or be involved, whether it’s sharing a link, leaving a comment to let me know who I forgot to mention or correct my spelling, signing up for the forum, listening to the radio, whatever it might be.

Thank you for an amazing 2015. And please stay tuned, because of course, there’s much more to come.

 

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Stream & Download Mondo Drag’s “Plumajilla” from Self-Titled LP

Posted in audiObelisk on May 1st, 2015 by JJ Koczan

mondo drag

Though the album from which it stems is rife with organically captured progressive wash, “Plumajilla” is a singularly resonant stretch on Mondo Drag‘s self-titled sophomore full-length. Based at the time it was recorded in Iowa and currently in Oakland, California, the trio recorded Mondo Drag (review here) in 2012 as the one-time-only lineup of vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, guitarists Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley, bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, shortly after the latter two moved home to the Midwest following their departure from Radio Moscow. They’d leave soon for Europe to launch Blues Pills and GaminoGirard and Sheley would make for the coast, where they’d hook up with bassist Andrew O’Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia in the current incarnation of the band, but the recordings for the self-titled remained, and RidingEasy Records has stepped in to release the album on CD and vinyl on May 12.

Which brings us to “Plumajilla.” The centerpiece of the seven-song outing, it gets underway with a straightforward enough organ-laced swing, but soon shifts into psychedelic guitar layering and begins to build to a head as it moves toward the midsection. Now pay attention, because the three-minute mark is where it all turns. Keys take centerstage and set the foundation for a gorgeously melodic progression that, almost in a mirror of the beginning mondo drag mondo dragof the song, start a build of their own, gradually incorporating guitar, bass and drums along a subtle but immersive course. Again, Mondo Drag‘s Mondo Drag isn’t short on krautrock-minded exploration, but “Plumajilla” is one of those songs that lets you know just how special a record actually is. And I won’t take anything away from the swagger of the opening section either just because the second half is so glorious. Later cuts like “Pillars of the Sky” and attitude-heavy closer “Snakeskin” have their own sense of classic heavy proggery, but the marriage of both sides in “Plumajilla” is one that simply begs to be experienced.

And like the record itself, it’s a there-and-gone moment. For Mondo Drag, the album represents a fleeting time in the band’s existence after their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and before whatever they do next, but it’s given a landmark feel for the lineup it boasts and for the material itself. It will reportedly be the first of three Mondo Drag releases through RidingEasy — worth noting Kozmik Artifactz also had a European issue in January — and I’d be hard pressed to think of a better way for the band to kick off a series than with this as their first installment.

Dig into “Plumajilla” below with volume aplenty and an open mind. PR wire info follows:

Mondo Drag recently signed to L.A. label RidingEasy Records to release the band’s sophomore album, a culmination of many journeys: sonic, physical and temporal.

The creatures known as Mondo Drag originally hailed from deep along the banks of the wild Mississippi River where they created ominous, spiritual, savage psychedelic revival sounds. Under the spiritual guidance of the forefathers of heavy psych, prog, and proto-metal, Mondo Drag has created an amalgamation of sounds the likes of which have not been heard for decades. The band’s unique sound, and rare cohesion probably stems from the fact that core members John Gamino (keyboards, vocals), Nolan Girard, (guitar, synth) and Jake Sheley (guitar) grew up together and have been playing music with each other for 15 years.

Their debut, New Rituals was released by Alive Records in 2010 and for the next fourteen months the band hit the road hard, headlining a half a dozen tours in the US and appearing at numerous psych fests along the way. In the Winter of 2011-2012, the band returned to the studio with new rhythm section, Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, also intermittently involved with popular Swedish band Blues Pills. Shortly after the album’s completion, the pair left to pursue Blues Pills, which was taking off in Europe. Mondo Drag soon replaced them with current drummer Ventura Garcia and bassist Andrew O’Neil upon relocating to Oakland.

Now settled in Oakland, CA the ensemble continues to create cosmically proportioned, churning jams evocative of a rainbow of inspirations such as Blue Cheer, Black Sabbath, Can, Atomic Rooster, Hawkwind, Budgie, Uriah Heep, Deep Purple, Italian prog, Krautrock in general, and heavy space-outs.

Mondo Drag will be available on LP, CD and download via RidingEasy Records on May 12th, 2015.

MONDO DRAG LIVE:
05/21 San Francisco, CA @ Great American Music Hall w/ Mammatus

Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks

Mondo Drag on Bandcamp

Mondo Drag on Twitter

Mondo Drag at RidingEasy Records

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Mondo Drag Post “Zephyr” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 19th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

mondo drag zephyr video

It’s the shortest track on the album, but “Zephyr” is a pretty efficient summary of what Oakland-based Mondo Drag have going on their self-titled offering (review here), newly released as of Jan. 16 on Kozmik Artifactz. The keys-laden shuffle and resonant psychedelic boogie that fades in to start the record continues as a running theme throughout, and though it’s just a snippet of the fleshed-out and expansive whole, “Zephyr” serves well along with the trippy imagery, animated cover art and stellar photography that get interlaced along with the video itself, the whole thing feeding into a space rock thick on vibe and progressive in tone. So like I say, an efficient summary of the album.

Recorded in Iowa before the band relocated to the West Coast, Mondo Drag features the rhythm section of Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow, who would go on to found Blues Pills after recording with Mondo Drag guitarists Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley and vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, who have continued on in Oakland, bringing in bassist Ventura Garcia and drummer Andrew O’Neil to help forge the next stage of the five-piece. When output might arrive from Mondo Drag as they are now, I don’t know, but for being the result of a brief period in the band’s history, the self-titled offers a glimpse at something special. So think of the new clip as a glimpse at the glimpse, if that makes any sense. Either way, those must have been some jams that birthed these songs.

Video for “Zephyr” below, followed by the album release announcement and live dates off the PR wire:

Mondo Drag, “Zephyr” official video

HEAVY PSYCH ROCKERS MONDO DRAG RELEASE NEW ALBUM; OFFER FIRST VIDEO SINGLE

Heavy psych / prog band MONDO DRAG has just released their Self-Titled LP and a music video for the single, ‘Zephyr’. The Oakland, CA-based outfit’s heavy-hitting Self-Titled LP has been released via Kozmik Artifactz – on CD and vinyl (180-gram, gatefold LP).

Mondo Drag
“Zephyr”
Album: Mondo Drag
Label: Kozmik Artifactz
Artwork by: Robert Beatty
Video: Matt Robeson

This album features the lineup of John Gamino (vocals / keyboards), Nolan Girard (guitar), Jake Sheley (guitar), and the rhythm section of Zack Anderson (bass), and Cory Berry (drums), both formerly of Radio Moscow and founding members of Blues Pills.

UPCOMING LIVE DATES
January 25 – San Francisco, CA – Brick And Mortar Music Hall
February 13 – Oakland, CA – Leo’s Music Club (RECORD RELEASE SHOW)
February 27 – San Francisco, CA – Brick And Mortar Music Hall (NOISE POP)

Mondo Drag’s website

Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz store

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Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag: A Rare Moment

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

mondo-drag-mondo-drag

The story gets kind of complicated, so stick with me. In 2010, then-Iowa-based psych/prog five-piece Mondo Drag released their Alive Naturalsound debut, New Rituals (review here), which was full of ’70s-style lysergic serenity, open spaced guitars and heady vibes. It was, in short, a winner. The next year, Mondo Drag‘s labelmates Radio Moscow — who also have their roots in Iowa — imploded. It was the stuff of viral video. Radio Moscow bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry moved home shortly thereafter, to Iowa, and got together with Mondo Drag vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, guitarist Nolan Girard (also synth), and guitarist Jake Sheley. At the same time they were recording as the new rhythm section of Mondo Drag, Anderson and Berry were also putting together Blues Pills with Swedish vocalist Elin Larsson. That band took off, and the bass player and drummer moved to Sweden as a result, but not before Mondo Drag had recorded — mostly live — the seven tracks of their self-titled sophomore outing, which also found Gamino taking the vocalist role, using a host of vintage gear and analog tape to further play into a classic feel. After the departure of the rhythm section, the remaining three members of Mondo Drag picked up and headed for the West Coast, where swing-drummers and warm-toned bassists looking for psych rock acts to join rule the land, and in Oakland, California, they met up with bassist Ventura Garcia and drummer Andrew O’Neil, who along with Gamino, Girard and Sheley, comprise the current lineup of the band.

Got all that?

When you whittle down all the complexities of comings, goings and relocatings, what you’re left with is the fact that Mondo Drag‘s Mondo Drag (released on wax by Bilocation Records) captures a very special moment in the life of the group. It’s a credit to Mondo Drag that it exists at all, and not just because Anderson and Berry would go on to attain a higher profile in Blues Pills (Berry has since left that band as well), but also for the cohesion they managed to make out of all that flux. With ultra-organic atmosphere across the board — guitar, bass, keys, drums, vocals — the seven-song/35-minute run of Mondo Drag is gripping on side A, hypnotic on side B and wonderfully progressive throughout. Later moments like the penultimate instrumental “Pillars of the Sky” call to mind a wash of keys Astra might be able to conjure, but the analog spirit of the recording is relentless, and the album winds up with its own character, warm and welcoming. No need for pretense here, whether it’s the key-led fade-in and shuffle of “Zephyr” or the organ-soaked build of side A closer “Plumajilla,” which comes brilliantly to an instrumental head after swinging verses and choruses that foreshadow the sleazier side B finale “Snakeskin,” the guitars providing a highlight solo to transition into the quiet start of the build. Second cut “Crystal Visions Open Eyes” brings Gamino‘s vocals forward to create an immediately memorable impression, moving quickly through verses of subtle intricacy toward a descending instrumental finish in an early showing of how well the guitar and synth work together throughout, and of course how well that work rests atop the rhythmic foundation of the bass and drums.

mondo-drag

Some jabbing starts and stops pervade the three-minute “The Dawn,” but nothing about its garage psych roll is abrasive or interrupting the overarching flow, a boogie solo and run emerging in the midsection to help ease the way into “Plumajilla”‘s two-movement run, which in linear form — i.e. digital — makes a fitting centerpiece solid transition into the second half of the record, which slips into more exploratory material with the tense undercurrent of synth and bass on “Shifting Sands” and the interwoven lines of keys and synth on “Pillars of the Sky,” which follows, taking the best of pre-noodling progressive heavy psych and topping it with a bluesy-but-not-overdone plotted guitar lead. A peaceful mood emerges, the song in conversation with the back half of “Plumajilla,” and the richness of Mondo Drag‘s layering becomes a hook unto itself, despite no actual chorus present. Closer “Snakeskin” arrives quietly but unfolds a Doors-style throb given bluesy fervor not unlike the echoing output of Maryland’s The Flying Eyes, but perhaps more atmospherically dense. A final reaffirmation of swagger at the heart of Mondo Drag‘s Mondo Drag only makes the album more impressive, both in the actual listening experience and in context when one considers how quickly such fluid chemistry emerged between the five players involved, two of whom would soon enough be gone. As Mondo Drag was recorded in 2011/2012, and since the band has moved to the fertile psych ground of the West Coast, one can’t help but wonder what conjurations they may have come up with since these songs were written, and when those might appear and follow-up the lush but humble resonance of this self-titled. More important right now, however, is the achievement Mondo Drag managed in capturing this fleeting incarnation of the band, which will be plainly evident to any among the converted whose ears it reaches.

Mondo Drag, “Crystal Visions Open Eyes”

Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks

Mondo Drag’s website

Bilocation Records

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Mondo Drag Self-Titled LP Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

mondo drag

The tones are warm, the vibe is free and the vinyl is limited. Oakland heavy psych outfit Mondo Drag‘s forthcoming self-titled sophomore outing is set to release in January on Bilocation Records. The cover is a triptych, but the album itself seems to break up nicely into two sides of the LP, which will arrive in gatefold form in an edition of 500 copies as the follow-up to 2010’s New Rituals (review here) debut, recorded in 2011/2012 with Blues Pills‘ Cory Berry and Zack Anderson as the rhythm section. A pretty special moment to bring to light, even if that’s not the current lineup of the band, which features vocalist/keyboardist John Gamino, guitarists Jake Sheley and Nolan Girard (also synth), bassist Andrew O’Neil and drummer Ventura Garcia.

Bilocation sends details and preorder linage down the PR wire:

mondo drag self titled

MONDO DRAG to release new album on 16/01/15. Pre-sale started!

The highly anticipated second album by Oakland’s finest heavy-psych-rockers MONDO DRAG will see the light of day through Kozmik Artifactz on January 16th, 2015. It contains seven analogue recorded tracks. To be released on CD & high performance 180g vinyl!

Under the spiritual guidance of the forefathers of heavy psych, prog, and proto-metal, Mondo Drag has created an amalgamation of sounds the likes of which have not resounded through the atmosphere for decades. The band’s unique sound, and rare cohesion probably stem from the fact that core members John Gamino, Nolan Girard, and Jake Sheley actually grew up within a one mile radius from each other, attended the same schools, were a part of the same scene, and have played music with each other for 15 years.

Produced, engineered & mixed by Mondo Drag and Patrick Stolley. Mastered by Jim Brick. Artwork by Robert Beatty.

Available as CD & limited Vinyl

VINYL FACTZ
– 100x marbled (EXCLUSIVE MAILORDER version)
– 200x yellow
– 200x black
– Plated & pressed on high performance vinyl in Germany
– Matt laquered 300gsm gatefold cover
– Handnumbered
– Mastered for vinyl

TRACKS
A1. Zephyr 2:34
A2. Crystal Visions
Open Eyes 4:36
A3. The Dawn 3:04
A4. Plumajilla 6:40

B1. Shifting Sands 5:24
B2. Pillars Of The Sky 6:45
B3. Snakeskin 6:10

http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/navi.php?suche=mondo+drag+zephyr&lang=eng
https://www.facebook.com/mondodrag/
http://www.mondodrag.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/bilocationrecords
https://soundcloud.com/bilocation-rec-berlin

Mondo Drag, “Crystal Visions Open Eyes”

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Mondo Drag to Release Self-Titled Album on Kozmik Artifactz

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 5th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

mondo drag

Now located in Oakland, California, after first coming together in the Midwest, Mondo Drag are preparing to issue their sophomore long-player. Self-titled and due out this winter through Kozmik Artifactz, the record features the rhythm section of Cory Berry and Zack Anderson, both now out of the band and better known as the now-former drummer and bassist for Blues Pills and Radio MoscowMondo Drag was recorded right around the time Blues Pills were getting going, and though Berry and Anderson would soon split for Sweden, their presence on the album, especially at what was a pretty tumultuous time coming off their unceremonious departure from Radio Moscow, makes the follow-up to Mondo Drag‘s 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), an even more enticing prospect.

The PR wire brings a look at the cover art and tells the whole story:

mondo drag cover

MONDO DRAG sign for new album with Kozmik Artifactz

Heavy psych / prog band MONDO DRAG is proud to announce the release of their second full-length LP which is Self-Titled. The Oakland, CA-based outfit’s heavy-hitting new record will be released this Winter – on CD and vinyl (180-gram, gatefold LP) — via Kozmik Artifactz.

Under the spiritual guidance of the forefathers of heavy psych, prog, and proto-metal, MONDO DRAG has created an amalgamation of sounds the likes of which have not resounded through the atmosphere for decades. The bands unique sound, and rare cohesion probably stem from the fact that core members John Gamino, Nolan Girard, and Jake Sheley actually grew up within a one mile radius from each other, attended the same schools, were part of the same music scene, and have played in bands with each other for 15 years.

The release of New Rituals (Alive Records)in 2010, saw the band headlining numerous U.S tours, appearing at many high-profile fests around the country including several official showcases at SXSW (and a dozen more unofficial ones), and headlining slots at both the Chicago Pysch Fest and the Cincy Psych Fest. You can also find them on the Austin Psych Fest 3 DVD (w/ The Black Angels, The Warlocks, Warpaint, et al.).

After a tumultuous tour in March 2011, Johnnie (drums, vocals) and Dennis (bass) left the band. After looking high and low for a new rhythm section, the band caught a break when Cory Berry and Zack Anderson moved back to Iowa after quitting Radio Moscow. The two came to live with the band, while rehearsing and preparing material for the new album. This transitional period also saw John assume the role of vocalist for the band.

In the Winter of 2011-2012, the band returned to Future Appletree Studios Too (New Rituals was recorded here also) to record with friend and gear guru, Patrick Stolley. Zack and Cory came to stay with the band again, but this time they also brought along with them Elin Larsson. While Zack and Cory were recording with Mondo Drag they were also forming Blues Pills and recording their Bliss EP for Crusher Records.

Utilizing Stolley’s extensive vintage gear library and his expansive knowledge of analog recording, they were able to capture full-band live performances recorded to analog tape. Most of the live tracking was recorded with 1940’s and 50’s RCA ribbon mics and everything recorded on the album ran through tube pre-amps and transformers of the same era.

Shortly after the album was recorded, Zack moved to Sweden and Cory soon followed to pursue their new group, Blues Pills, which was really taking off in Europe. This left the band with still no rhythm section. After much thought, the band decided it was time to move and reform the group so in 2013 they caravanned to Oakland, CA with all of their records and gear.

Since then, the band has picked up a new rhythm section and has quickly become a staple of the bay area’s psych/prog scene playing with bands like Hot Lunch, Lecherous Gaze, Wild Eyes, Once and Future Band, and Hedersleben.

This album features the lineup of John Gamino (vocals / keyboards), Nolan Girard (guitar), Jake Sheley (guitar), and the rhythym section of Zack Anderson (bass), and Cory Berry (drums), both formerly of Radio Moscow and founding members of Blues Pills.

Upcoming shows:
12/12 at Bottom of the Hill, San Francisco W/ Older Sun, Banquet

www.mondodrag.com
www.kozmik-artifactz.com

Mondo Drag, Live in Oakland, CA, May 31, 2014

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