The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Purchasing custom writing service online should not be overwhelming even though they are numerous custom writing services cheap research paper writers Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists Choose Enhanced How Write A Narrative Essay when you need an expert not only to eliminate language errors but also to help you polish your writing so it is fluent and clear and maximises the impact of your work. This option is ideal if English is not your first language. p. Dissertation, thesis, PhD? In the UK and Europe, a dissertation is usually part of a bachelor’s or master’s degree, and 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 cambridge essay editing service Purchase Thesis Typing help writing essay college application matts masters thesis 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 Professional Writing Tone online to get the best paper. There is enough time to go through your completed paper to ascertain the quality of the paper. Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard see - If you are striving to know how to compose a perfect research paper, you are to study this forget about your fears, place Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Anyone can get thesis help, and hiring a Writing A Science Paper from a capable professional writer can help you avoid most writing challenges. For one, you may be pressed on time. The thing is that writing a thesis needs time, which most college students do not have. Today, the majority of students have to work part-time just to get by while at school. Such a job takes several hours of your free time Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

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27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Pay someone to Military Pay Essay Help. If you are thinking to pay someone to do my Programming Homework then you definitely find worth paying us. Our Broad range of Programming Help Services and the team of experts programmers make us pretty unique. And make us best service provider. Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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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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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 48

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

the obelisk show banner

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

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

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

Thanks for listening and reading.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 12.11.20

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

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

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My Dying Bride to Release Macabre Cabaret EP Nov. 20; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

By way of a bit of a mishap, the original promo version of My Dying Bride‘s 2020 album, The Ghost of Orion (review here), that went out not-cool-enough-to-get-it-when-the-print-mags-do press such as myself contained three extra tracks, and those three, “Macabre Cabaret,” “A Secret Kiss” and “A Purse of Gold and Stars,” happen to be the three songs now listed on the forthcoming Macabre Cabaret EP. As someone who’s heard them, I’ll say there’s no real dip in quality from the album. The songs shift arrangements, but the record was just too long with everything on there and they (whether it was band or label) were right to hold some of it back for a release such as this.

And not that My Dying Bride were about to hit the road for an 18-month touring cycle anyway, but in a year with virtually no touring — also the advent of “virtual touring,” just ask Nuclear Blast labelmates Enslaved — a roughly concurrent outing makes sense to keep momentum from the full-length going as year-end whatnot begins to be considered.

The cover below is for the single “A Secret Kiss,” which you can hear in the lyric video below. For what it’s worth, I have no idea what the “hidden gem” might be on the physical editions that the PR wire discusses. Live track, maybe? Another holdover? Acoustic version? The possibilities are as limitless as My Dying Bride‘s own melancholy.

Info follows:

my dying bride a secret kiss

MY DYING BRIDE ANNOUNCE NEW EP “MACABRE CABARET,” OUT ON NOVEMBER 20TH

WATCH LYRIC VIDEO FOR NEW SINGLE “A SECRET KISS”

No rest for one of Britain’s most melancholic exports: Just half a year after MY DYING BRIDE returned from their break with their haunting and successful (German Album Charts #12) masterpiece “The Ghost Of Orion”, the kindred of Yorkshire raise the curtains to the “Macabre Cabaret” – their new MLP that will be released on November 20th via Nuclear Blast.

The new EP of the band offers three new songs (plus a hidden gem on the physical editions) – dark luscious Death Doom ear candies that will dive their victim into a sensual world of darkness and temptation and conceal the borders between sweet pain and destructive illusion.

Order “Macabre Cabaret” here:
http://nblast.de/MDB-MacabreCabaret

Singer Aaron Stainthorpe states:
“’Macabre Cabaret’ delves into the shadow empire of dark love and the consequences of unchecked sexuality. The deep passion of physical desire and its all-conquering rage over pure love is written bleakly here. A destructive essence within the soul can’t help but rear its ugly head.

‘A Secret Kiss’ is the final and lasting mark on the soul any human will feel when the lights have dulled and nothing meaningful remains for them. All religion features a shadow creature who arrives at the point of extinction and the release of the human soul, to either guide them to majesty or allow them do fall eternally into the ether.

‘A Purse of Gold and Stars’ is where we keep our hopes and desires and affection, perhaps in a dreamlike state, unattainable yet we still reach out for them. The trinkets and shiny baubles we call happiness and love are what we try so hard to keep close and protect. But it is never quite like that in real life and is often a struggle tainted with sadness but still, we hold the purse close and in tight cold hands.”

The EP was produced mixed and mastered by maestro Mark Mynett and crowned with a beautiful and sinister artwork from Bunker Artworks.

It comes as:
– Jewelcase CD, digital version
– Black Gatefold LP, Black And Blue Splatter LP [US exclusive – limited to 300 p.]
– Blue Sparkle LP [Mailorder Exclusive – limited to 300 p.]
– White and Grey Splatter [Mailorder and Wholesale Exclusive – limited to 300 p.]
– Marigold LP [EMP Exclusive – limited to 300 p]
– White LP [US – Revolver Magazine Exclusive – limited to 300 p].

www.mydyingbride.net
https://www.facebook.com/MyDyingBrideOfficial/
https://www.instagram.com/mydyingbride_official/
www.nuclearblast.de/mydyingbride
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa

My Dying Bride, “A Secret Kiss” lyric video

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My Dying Bride Post “To Outlive the Gods” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride

The new clip for ‘To Outlive the Gods’ is the third song-based video to come from My Dying Bride‘s newly-issued The Ghost of Orion (review here) — their first for Nuclear Blast after spending nearly 30 years as a flagship act for Peaceville — arriving as it does behind a lyric video for “Tired of Tears” (posted here) and the mud-covered clip for album opener “Your Broken Shore” (posted here). That seems like plenty in and of itself, but there have been a host of other videos as well that would seem to be culled from an interview with band founders Aaron Stainthorpe (vocals) and Andrew Craighan (guitar) talking about various aspects of making the record, constructing the band, and so on. As these have basically arrived piecemeal, one question at a time — because attention spans — it’s safe to say that both band and label are laying it on fairly thick when it comes to promotion.

Reasonably so. The Ghost of Orion earns it, both in emotional weight and in the quality of its songwriting and of course in the masterful poise with which My Dying Bride present their particular take on doom, once groundbreaking and still affecting. With much of its material based around the horror of Stainthorpe‘s then-five-year-old daughter being diagnosed with cancer, it’s the kind of work you’d have to be a sociopath not to feel on some level, but melodically and in terms of its brutal moments, the band don’t lose sight of songcraft either, as tracks like “To Outlive the Gods” showcase well. If “Your Broken Shore” told the audience there were gonna be death growls on the record and “Tired of Tears” was a gut-wrencher of a single, then “To Outlive the Gods” is the string-laced flowing melodic side of The Ghost of Orion coming to bear. Still based around a memorable chorus, the song unfolds across eight minutes or so of My Dying Bride‘s signature melancholy.

My only question at this point is when they’re going to hit the road, where, and for how long.

Guess we’ll see.

You can check out the video below — it’s got acting! — followed by more from the PR wire.

Enjoy:

My Dying Bride, “To Outlive the Gods” official video

Doom legends MY DYING BRIDE unleashed their new album The Ghost Of Orion last week and today the band are releasing the official video for ‘To Outlive The Gods’. Directed by Hal Sinden, the video features frontman Aaron Stainthorpe and tells the tale of a doomed love story.

Aaron commented on the track: “When passion is so strong and so driven, even the Gods will be put to shame.”

Order The Ghost Of Orion on CD, black 2LP Gatefold, white 2LP Gatefold, red 2LP Gatefold and picture disc 2LP Gatefold here: nblast.de/TheGhostOfOrion

My Dying Bride’s three decades of misery almost came to an end several years ago. Following 2015’s universally lauded Feel the Misery album, vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe’s daughter, just five years old at the time, was diagnosed with cancer. Shocked and heartbroken, Stainthorpe put all band activities on hold while he, his immediate family, and My Dying Bride put their collective energies into eradicating what Stainthorpe called, “the cruellest of God’s bitter and loveless creations.” The high hurdles, however, didn’t stop with cancer. In 2018, returning original member and guitarist Calvin Robertshaw texted his departure, effective immediately. No reason was given or explanation provided to anyone.

Then, just as My Dying Bride had regrouped after positive news that his daughter was effectively cancer free, returning drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels departed right before the band were slated to enter Mark Mynett’s studio, Mynetaur Productions. Down two members but feeling right as rain, My Dying Bride moved on, mastered the doldrums, recording magnificent new album, The Ghost of Orion, to the joyful tears of fans across the globe, in the process.

My Dying Bride website

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My Dying Bride at Nuclear Blast website

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My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion: Mending Shores

Posted in Reviews on February 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride the ghost of orion

While it’s true that The Ghost of Orion is My Dying Bride‘s 14th album in a career that hits the 30-year mark in 2020, it’s also their first in a half-decade. That is a longer break between full-lengths than they’ve ever had, and in addition to signing to Nuclear Blast after issuing 2015’s Feel the Misery (review here) and each of its predecessors through Peaceville Records, the distance from one LP to the next might be found in vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe dealing with an illness in his family. More specifically, his child, and even more specifically, his five-year-old daughter got cancer. This is something addressed directly in the material itself, and as the eight-song/58-minute offering passes between the opener “Your Broken Shore” and its brief choral counterpart, the finale “Your Woven Shore,” the theme is writ large throughout, perhaps most directly in “Tired of Tears,” which remains an exceptionally beautiful work of songcraft despite its tragic lyrical origin — it is also equal parts sorrowful and catchy — and a piece like “The Solace,” where Wardruna‘s Linda Fay-Hella steps in on lead vocal joined only by the guitar of Stainthorpe‘s fellow My Dying Bride founder Andrew Craighan. Fay-Hella is one of two guests alongside cellist Jo Quail, and as Lena AbĂ©‘s bass and Jeff Singer‘s drums and Shaun MacGowan‘s keyboards and violins flesh out arrangements, the encompassing whole remains characteristic with the particular style of emotive death-doom that Craighan and Stainthorpe helped pioneer in the band’s landmark early work. The Ghost of Orion, to put it as simply as possible, is the work of masters.

That’s evident from the first strains of guitar and the first thuds of drums that introduce “Your Broken Shore,” and as that track unfolds with its blended death-growl chorus and melodic-vocal verse, its string accompaniment and its unadulterated feeling of rhythmic force, there’s no mistaking My Dying Bride for anyone else among the minimum-two generations of acts they’ve influenced and no doubt will continue to influence, not the least because of the work they do here. As gutturalism and melody come together in the crescendo, “Your Broken Shore” gives way to strings in a fluid transition to the quick keys at the outset of “To Outlive the Gods,” which will return in both the midsection and at the finish, while in between, what plays out is an immersive shift between the leadoff and “Tired of Tears,” of which the immediacy is not at all dulled by the fact that it’s nearly nine minutes long. It is a signature hook for The Ghost of Orion, more so even than “Your Broken Shore,” while and seems very much intended to standout from what surrounds. The fact that it comes situated next to “The Solace” might have something to do with that as well, since that at-least-partial-departure-from-form is also a chance to digest the proceedings up to that point even as they progress through a new stage, but that only adds another level of consideration to how effective The Ghost of Orion is on the whole. Again, the work of masters.

my dying bride

“The Solace” also functions as a transition into the remaining tracks, which take a somewhat different approach than the album up to that point, though perhaps one might look at the structure of “To Outlive the Gods,” with its breaks into clearly-defined sections, as something of a precursor. Positioned as the final cut on side B, “The Solace” itself is stark for its lack of drums and inherently folkish with Fay-Hella‘s vocals standing alone overtop the layers of guitar leads, and what it lends to The Ghost of Orion in terms of atmosphere isn’t out of character certainly with what’s come before, but is definitely built upon in what comes after, as the shape of the second LP moves between the most extreme moments in “The Long Black Land” and the penultimate “The Old Earth” — both of which top 10 minutes long — and the shorter pieces that accompany in the tense but ultimately quiet piano/guitar interlude title-track and the aforementioned closer “Your Woven Shore,” which shifts smoothly in its two-minute stretch between a choir of voices either organic or synthesized and a movement of strings that seems to represent the resolution so much of the album has been begging for — its second half doing so in especially visceral fashion. Though neither wants for overarching lushness or dynamic, they nonetheless represent the darkest reaches of The Ghost of Orion, and even as Stainthorpe self-harmonizes in an especially mournful lower register in the later portion of “The Long Black Hand,” the emotional weight is no less grueling than that of the tone or rhythm surrounding.

Likewise, after “The Ghost of Orion” leaves off its brief passage, the quiet introduction of “The Old Earth,” subtly building to a cymbal-wash-and-stop as the full-thickness riff joins in, the ensuing roll is a setup for the punishment of the record’s harshest, sound-like-they-physically-hurt-to-deliver-in-the-studio growls. Stainthorpe plays back and forth almost in a call and response as “The Old Earth” lumbers through its midsection, and it’s not until after six and a half minutes into the total 10:52 that the tempo picks up to a more kinetic chug. The drums also join that build, and thus drive it, and it seems like My Dying Bride will ride that chug to the song’s finish, but they turn to a more angular section derived from earlier, the strings and guitar continuing to mount tension before finally letting go somewhere just before the final minute begins, Craighan holding on through the last fade from which “Your Woven Shore” emerges to underscore the death-and-life-from-death-and-life thematic that all of The Ghost of Orion has been working through on at least one level for its duration, and usually more than that. Taken individually, its initial salvo feels poised to capture the listener and engage the beginning of the story the band are telling, while everything thereafter answers that by deepening and enriching the plot as it unfurls. An interchange between beauty and pain is not by any means new aesthetic territory for My Dying Bride, and one must allow for the context in such a consideration here perhaps more than one otherwise might, but rarely has their turmoil ever sounded so genuine, and rarely has their triumph through it felt so resonant.

My Dying Bride, “Tired of Tears” lyric video

My Dying Bride, “Your Broken Shore” official video

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My Dying Bride Post “Tired of Tears” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride

It seems strange to think of My Dying Bride — a band who’ve been around for 30 years as of 2020 — as prospects, but I really look at their new album, The Ghost of Orion, as one that is particularly rife with potential to be one of this year’s best doom records. And it’s not just excitement for an LP from a good band. It’s different. With their signing to Nuclear Blast, they’ve got a chance to capitalize on new focus and energy and reach different listeners than they otherwise might in a way that could turn new heads in their direction. I’m going to be interested in how it all plays out when The Ghost of Orion arrives on March 6.

“Tired of Tears” is the second bit of audio unveiled from the release behind the single “Your Broken Shore” (video posted here), and it comes in the form of a new lyric video, which highlights what seems to be the emotional core from which The Ghost of Orion stems, in the despair and horror felt by founding vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe in relation to his daughter — his only child, as he says below — having her life threatened by illness. It is this raw cosmic wrongness, the child passing before the parent, that “Tired of Tears” puts into poetry and a flowing song structure, and though it’s totally incongruous with the theme, the track itself is damn near a sing-along for its catchiness and the effectiveness which which Stainthorpe self-harmonizes atop the sorrowful riffs of his fellow founder, guitarist Andrew Craighan.

I have not yet heard the entirety of The Ghost of Orion, which means I probably won’t until it’s out, largely I expect because I’m not cool enough, but even if I have to wait for the CD as opposed to a link down the PR wire, the mastery on display here only makes me want to dig in more.

And not at all on a side note, I hope exploring this situation through lyrics at least brought Stainthorpe some strength or clarity or resolve, because it’s one thing to perform despair — and certainly My Dying Bride are no strangers to that — and another thing to live it to the kind of degree he talks about below.

Video follows:

My Dying Bride, “Tired of Tears” lyric video

The cold fingers of “The Ghost Of Orion” reach out for the world to wrap it in desperate misery, heavy melodies and hopeless misery: MY DYING BRIDE release their new album on March 6th via Nuclear Blast.

The track has a particularly special meaning for frontman Aaron Stainthorpe, as he explains:

“The track touches upon the most terrifying, stressful and harrowing period of my entire life – the near death of my only child. I have been down before but it never hurt like this. This was true darkness and I was not sure my mind could take it. My entire world looked like it was going to implode but I was determined to fight all the way. Tired of tears was exactly how I felt. They had been flowing freely from me for months and I was a shadow of my former self. It is sad that this will continue for many others. Innocent people. so very tired of tears.”

Pre-order “The Ghost Of Orion” here:
https://nblast.de/TheGhostOfOrion

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My Dying Bride Post “Your Broken Shore” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 14th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride

As threatened when My Dying Bride released the song as a digital single and announced the March 6 landing of their first album in five years, The Ghost of Orion, there’s now an accompanying video for “Your Broken Shore.” The big difference here, of course, is that it means those without a Spotify account — I actually re-signed up for one (had one, but seem to have lost it somewhere along the way) just for the song — or who don’t feel like shelling out the 99 cents for Apple Music or Amazon or whoever can hear the track, but the video is well-produced and directed as well, so it’s not like it’s a hardship to watch. I kind of like the dueling Aaron Stainthorpes, one lurking in black water or dressed in a monk’s robes screaming at the sky and the other brooding melancholically with a furrowed brow at the microphone, and the rest of the band appear in front of a wall of Marshall stacks that I imagine are just kind of around in founding guitarist Andrew Craighan‘s living room. “Oh that? That’s just my 35th guitar cab. More tea?” and so on. A splendid afternoon had by all.

So if the song was already out there to some extent, why am I posting the video? Well, the democratization of the track and the atmosphere inherent to a visual representation aside — though either of those would be reason enough, or just the fact that it’s My Dying Bride and I felt like it — it reinforces two key points about The Ghost of Orion I put forth when the release date was announced. First, I think the record’s going to be really good. I haven’t heard it yet (tear), so I’m only going on “Your Broken Shore” and my own anticipation, but it’s been half a decade and the band have now signed to Nuclear Blast, so they’ve got a whole new reason to bring their top-level game to the proceedings. Second point, the label’s going to really give this album a push. It’s kind of a risk because while My Dying Bride are legends in doom and hugely influential, I don’t think they’ve ever been a break-the-bank commercial band with mass appeal, but just from the fact that they’ve spaced out the track and video releases over two separate announcements means Nuclear Blast are looking to build momentum going into the arrival of The Ghost of Orion, and with preorders up now, I’d only expect that to continue.

That is to say, more to come.

Enjoy “Your Broken Shore”:

My Dying Bride, “Your Broken Shore” official video

After returning with a giant strike and announcing their new album, the British doom death legend underlines its words with stunning pictures: MY DYING BRIDE release the video for”Your Broken Shore” today, taken from the upcoming album “The Ghost Of Orion” which will be out on 6th March.

The new record of MY DYING BRIDE is the product of a vibrantly creative band that is more than willing to build on their successes in the past. Singer Aaron Stainthorpe about “Your Broken Shore”:

“The first song from MY DYING BRIDE for five years comes laced with passion, power and their unyielding desire to create the most thoughtful and heavy music possible.

‘Your Broken Shore’ is recognizably theirs despite an evolution spanning 30 years, it’s new and fresh but with unmistakable provenance and production surpassing anything they have previously released.

This track represents just a taster of things to come as the new LP “The Ghost of Orion” is upon the horizon containing seven further compositions of deliciously crushing gothic doom/death metal.”

Pre-order “The Ghost Of Orion” here:
https://nblast.de/TheGhostOfOrion

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My Dying Bride to Release The Ghost of Orion March 6; New Single Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

my dying bride

Coming up on five years since My Dying Bride‘s last record, Feel the Misery (review here), came out in 2015, and when it was announced that the UK doom legends’ awaited Nuclear Blast debut was done back last August, I posited a mid-February release date. Well, first week of March isn’t that far off, so I’m gonna take a second and feel alright about that. Look at me, noticing how stuff works sometimes.

More importantly than the I-told-you-so that I just told, well, myself despite a lack of actual accuracy on the matter in question, My Dying Bride‘s new full-length, dubbed The Ghost of Orion, will be out March 6 and there’s a new single on the Spotifies and other streaming services of the digital universe that’ll be followed by a video later this week. If I may be so bold as to make another prediction? I think this album is going to be one of 2020’s best doom releases. Think about it. They’re touting death metal vocals in the single, which is something longtime fans have wanted, and hinting at more accessible material overall, which seems primed to grab the attention of a waiting new generation of listeners who maybe caught onto Paradise Lost with their Medusa outing a few years ago — also on Nuclear Blast, it’s worth noting — and are hungry for more from the grim masters of the style. Well folks, here come My Dying Bride. Keep an eye out for that video and we can go from there and see if I’m right. It’s not the kind of call I’m totally comfortable making less than 10 days into January, but I’ll put it out nonetheless: I’m betting this record is going to smoke.

From the PR wire:

my dying bride the ghost of orion

MY DYING BRIDE ANNOUNCE NEW ALBUM, “THE GHOST OF ORION” FOR MARCH 2020

MUSIC VIDEO FOR “YOUR BROKEN SHORE” TO BE RELEASED ON JANUARY 10TH

Like a phoenix from the ashes, a legend rises again in 2020: MY DYING BRIDE went through tough some times in last years and fought many struggles along their way, but now the British doom metal band are proud to announce their new studio album “The Ghost Of Orion” for 6th March, 2020.

The new record of MY DYING BRIDE is the product of a vibrantly creative band that is more than willing to build on their successes in the past.

Singer Aaron Stainthorpe about”The Ghost Of Orion”:

“A new album for a new era of MY DYING BRIDE with fresh faces and a more accessible style compared to some of their past, highly technical releases. ‘The Ghost of Orion’ features compositions not only of epic proportions but of intimate quality too, from death metal vocals to the pained cries of a vocalist in longing, the L.P. will raise and fall like the beautiful landscape of Yorkshire in which it was recorded. With layer upon layer of guitars both heavy and harmonic, Andrew Craighan has created a rich soundscape that is beautifully epic, enhanced with violins and keys from Shaun MacGowan along with the ominous murmur of cello from acclaimed cellist Jo Quail. And speaking of guest artists, the wondrous voice of Lindy-Fay Hella (WARDRUNA) adds an ethereal beauty to the album. Adding his particular style of drumming this time round is Jeff Singer whose percussion exploits have elevated the bands’ rhythm section to another level aided by the effortlessly stylish Lena Abe on bass guitar. Aaron Stainthorpe delivers a compelling and often disturbing performance with his own particular style of vocals offering sincere eulogies along with the visceral carnage of a soul in pain, with poetic lyrics of a quality not often seen in this genre. This collection of songs is the band’s most brilliant yet, honing 30 years of experience into the well crafted offering that is ‘The Ghost of Orion’.”

Pre-order “The Ghost Of Orion” here:
https://nblast.de/TheGhostOfOrion

Today, “The Ghost Of Orion” will be targeting our souls in form of the first single “Your Broken Shore” – a haunting, gloomy piece driven by melancholy and deep, dark emotions. A music video for this stunning masterpiece will be released on 10th January.

Check out the single here:
https://nblast.de/MDB-YourBrokenShore

The album will be available as CD, black 2LP in Gatefold, white 2LP in Gatefold, red 2LP in Gatefold and picture 2LP in Gatefold.

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