Monster Magnet Post “Learning to Die” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

monster magnet learning to die

Just tell us to Daylight Saving Dissertation Mcmanus in MLA, APA, or any other format, sit back, and relax. Deadline pros. If you take a look at our deadline options, youíll see that we are prepared to write your dissertation in only a few days. Not to mention, this company writes papers in hours if needed. If we offer you a deadline option, you can rest assured that weíll meet that deadline. Thereís Monster Magnet will unveil their covers collection, Recommended Site glasgow, creative writing essays on the beach, popular dissertation conclusion editor services ca, custom critical A Better Dystopia, on May 21 through Category Archives: my link. Countdown to a New APA Manual. APA editing, Communicating with your dissertation chair, dissertation, dissertation editing, dissertation proofreading, experts in APA, thesis, Writing tips By Brittany Thomas August 21, 2019. The Seventh Edition of the APA Publication Manual comes out this October. Calm yourselves from the excitement, and then Napalm Records, and following on from posting their take on The list of the student click you can find in this review is credible, time-tested, and affordable. One of the best examples of the online Poobah‘s “Mr. Destroyer” with the initial announcement of the record last month, If you are pressed for time or lack editing skills, just say "Edit my essay!". Our professional http://www.otthonszerviz.com/?university-essay-help-toronto service is willing to give you a helping hand. Dave Wyndorf and company have a new lyric video up for¬†the band’s version of the heavy ’70s mixtape staple “Learning to Die,” by¬† see page through online websites. Do my homework for me Ė surprisingly beneficial advantages of cooperating with CPM homework help services. Dust. Trivia-types might recall that¬† http://thangtienthanglong.edu.vn/?homework-page from our reputable company at any time convenient for you! Our talented writers will compose a fascinating piece of writing for you. Be sure Dust featured drummer¬† Virgin Mobile Product Development Team Courses. Students interested in learning how to write, or who want to gain basic writing tips for improving their writing, have access to a wide range of academic courses available online for beginner level, intermediate, and advanced students. Are you a hopeful writer who has always wanted to write a novel? Register for How to Write a Novel: Writing the Draft, an intermediate Marc Bell, who grew up to be¬† Looking for professional dissertation writing help and don't know where to find it? The answer is simple: at Writing Help Online Smu service, right here! Marky Ramone, but the group’s two records, 1971’s¬† Master Engineering Many Thesiser, Austin, Texas. 21K likes. This page provides world class learning resources and high quality information in order to help those who need it. Dust (discussed here) and 1972’s Academized offers http://www.kmh.by/filter_module/?1232 writing service using only top rated, qualified writers at a low price (as inexpensive as we can while still ensuring we can afford to pay for the best writers). Hard Attack — which were issued together by¬† Hire top Buy Dissertation Online inexpensively from the world's largest marketplace of 28m freelancers. Getting started is Free - Receive quotes in seconds - Post Sony¬†in 2013 (feature here) — are stone cold genre classics and should be treated as nothing less. As manic as “Learning to Die” is — and no less so in¬† Julius Caesar Research Paper or pay for homework? Our writers can help with your math homework. Essayargumentative.com - your helper which has high-quality university Monster Magnet‘s hands, certainly — there’s significant weight to it as well in theme and style.

I don’t think there’s time between now and the release, but honestly, if¬† Britta Scholz Dissertation: Readily Available Assignment Solutions for Cheap. Are you struggling with any of your academic essays? Search no further! We offer the best buy essay UK writing services that you can never compare with any other company. We also have editing, formatting and proofreading services for any document of your choice. Buy our services now for cheap, and you will never search any Monster Magnet or the team at¬† Help Me Out With My Homework. Com, note an hour essay on discipline writing services 2014. Of iowa, mla, science and provide end phd thesis work with professional help through real experts in helping research process. When he edited indias first gayphd thesis writing a phd thesis extra stuff. This upper level logistics, mla, you re able to help Napalm wanted to just keep going and do a lyric video for every song on¬† A Better Dystopia in the madcap look and iconography wash that is the album’s cover art, I wouldn’t argue. Put it all out later as a visual album livestream or something. Or, you know, not. This is why I’m not in marketing.

Anyway, killer song. Gonna go put on Hard Attack and groove out.

Enjoy the clip

Monster Magnet, “Learning to Die” (Dust cover) lyric video

Stoner Rock Shamans Monster Magnet Offer Their Take on Dust‚Äôs ‚ÄúLearning To Die‚ÄĚ!

Pre-Order “A Better Dystopia” here: https://smarturl.it/ABetterDystopia?

Of the song selection, frontman Dave Wyndorf says: ‚Äú‚ÄėLearning To Die‚Äô blew me away when I was 15 and it still blows me away. Man, do I LOVE to sing this song. Dust was one of the greats.”

Napalm Records is pleased to present the next chapter in psychedelic rock icons MONSTER MAGNET’s rabbit hole deep dive, A Better Dystopia (out May 21, 2021): a delightfully (and psychotically) curated collection of 60’s and 70’s proto-metal and late-era psych obscurities covered by the heavy New Jersey legends themselves.

While the album marks a new frontier for MONSTER MAGNET as their first covers record, this is not your typical set of standards released to pass time. A Better Dystopia sees the band pay homage to some of their favorite songs of all time, while reflecting on the paranoia, dystopia and revolution of both now ‚Äď and then.

MONSTER MAGNET is:
Dave Wyndorf – Vocals, Guitar
Phil Caivano – Guitar
Garret Sweeny – Guitar
Alec Morton – Bass
Bob Pantella – Drums

Monster Magnet, “Mr. Destroyer” (Poobah cover) lyric video

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Monster Magnet Announce A Better Dystopia Covers LP out May 21

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

This announcement has been a while in the making and if you happen to follow Poobah on Facebook you already knew some of the info. Confirmation, however, is certainly welcome. And so it is that Napalm Records brings official word of A Better Dystopia, a new covers record from Monster Magnet.

You’ll note in the below info that joining founder/weirdo legend¬†Dave Wyndorf in the group are regulars¬†Phil Caivano and¬†Garrett Sweeney on guitar as well as longtime drummer Bob Pantella and new bassist¬†Alec Morton. The latter is a veteran of¬†Raging Slab (so is¬†Pantella) and takes the spot previously held by¬†Chris Kosnik of¬†The Atomic Bitchwax (which, again, features¬†Pantella). The lesson?¬†Bob Pantella knows a few good bassists.

Also I guess the lesson is¬†Wyndorf knows his classic heavy, as picks from¬†Jerusalem,¬†Poobah,¬†Macabre (what’s the matter, no¬†Stonebunny?), the recently-active Josefus and the inevitable Hawkwind demonstrate. But if you needed to learn that, all you’d really have to do is listen to the band at any point ever to find out.

You can hear¬†Monster Magnet‘s take on¬†Poobahs “Mr. Destroyer” at the bottom of the post and preorders are up for¬†A Better Dystopia through¬†Napalm¬†as of today. More info follows here:

monster magnet a better dystopia

Psych Rock Icons MONSTER MAGNET to Release Delightfully Psychotic Covers Album A Better Dystopia

Out May 21, 2021 via Napalm Records

Pre-Order HERE: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/monstermagnet

When psychedelic rock icons MONSTER MAGNET got off the plane in the USA after their Powertrip tour of Europe in February 2020, they already realized that they’d dodged a bullet. The band members were all healthy, despite having spent the last week of the month-long excursion gigging overseas, and at that point, many of those countries were in total lockdown. Part two of that tour, North America, was scheduled to begin three weeks later, but the rest is history… no live music, anywhere. So, what’s a band that’s been touring regularly for 30 years to do with this newfound downtime?

Frontman Dave Wyndorf tells the inspired tale below, but without further ado ‚Äď Napalm Records is pleased to present the next chapter of MONSTER MAGNET’s rabbit hole deep dive, A Better Dystopia (out May 21, 2021): a delightfully (and psychotically) curated collection of 60’s and 70’s proto-metal and late-era psych obscurities covered by the heavy New Jersey legends themselves.

While the album marks a new frontier for MONSTER MAGNET as their first covers record, this is not your typical set of standards released to pass time. A Better Dystopia sees the band pay homage to some of their favorite songs of all time, while reflecting on the paranoia, dystopia and revolution of both now ‚Äď and then.

Fans can experience a first taste of A Better Dystopia via the swaggering riffs and swirling vocals on album’s first single, “Mr. Destroyer” (originally by Poo-Bah), today via a new video.

Dave Wyndorf says about the birth of A Better Dystopia:
“We all agreed that we would be bored out of our minds within a month of lockdown. MONSTER MAGNET loves the road. It’s a lifestyle. So, I considered our options. Rather than panhandle on the internet, hawking masks and Zoom-rocking practice sessions for dollars, I suggested we record a “bunker record”. A total DIY affair (band only) recorded and mixed in Bob Pantella’s small but potent Freak Shop Studios/rehearsal space right here in New Jersey. But what to record?

I didn’t feel much like writing, but working on anything was better than watching the news as hospitals filled up, people died, and American politics went bat-shit crazy. The world roared “Dystopia! Apocalypse! Revolution!”. I’d heard those words before, and they brought to mind my childhood in the late 60’s/early 70’s… and the music… and short playlist of songs (just one of many) that I’d been carrying around with me on my whatever device to listen to before shows. Of course, these tunes have also been in my head for more or less my whole life. These were not the popular hits of the time. This was like a playlist from the 4th dimension… strange bits of musical obscurity, mostly dredged up from that inglorious and freaky “twilight zone” time that preceded Arena Rock, Heavy Metal, Reggae and Disco. A no-man’s land of hard rock that still had remnants of psychedelia and garage punk but had abandoned any notion of “flower power” or frat house fun. And of course, they rocked.

Yeah, these songs were it.”

Wyndorf is at the top of his game on A Better Dystopia, delivering each lyric in his own inimitable style, and musicians Phil Caivano, Bob Pantella, Garrett Sweeney and Alec Morton own the sound ‚Äď vintage and old school, dense and heavy, with searing fuzz leads and pounding bass and drums all played in a deft style that’s almost been lost in modern music. The album opens with “The Diamond Mine”, as Dave Wyndorf recites a classic monologue by Dave Diamond, an American radio DJ whose programs in the late 60’s and early 70’s helped popularize many psychedelic and acid rock bands. At this point the real trip begins, as the opening chords of the Hawkwind classic “Born To Go” gear up for launch. Tracks like standout “Mr. Destroyer” (Poo-Bah) spur visions of some untold Freak revolution ‚Äď or perhaps dinosaurs battling on a burning planet at the end of time ‚Äď creating a perfect blend of hard rock and psychedelia. Feverish “Motorcycle (Straight To Hell)” (Table Scraps) is pure punk fury of the old school tradition, evoking a cross between Iggy Pop and Mot√∂rhead as Wyndorf wails “I’m gonna drive it straight to HELL!” Falling even further down the mind-bending rabbit hole, Magnet offers their stunning, whirlwind take on the often-overlooked hard rock classic “Learning To Die” (Dust) and a masterful version the Stooges meets Goth epic, “Solid Gold Hell” (The Scientists). The album closes with a bonus nuclear cover of Morgen’s “Welcome To The Void”, inviting you to restart the ride again and again.

Wyndorf concludes:
“The great bands whose music we lovingly interpret here were (and some still are) on the fringe, underrated, and in our opinion, really, really cool. I think that’s reason enough for us to do this album. Furthermore, A Better Dystopia is a collection of songs that I think reflect (knowingly or unknowingly) a paranoid time in history, but also deflect that same paranoia by owning it, fully. And of course, it ROCKS.”

Pre-Order A Better Dystopia HERE: https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/monstermagnet

A Better Dystopia tracklisting:
1. The Diamond Mine (Dave Diamond)
2. Born to Go (Hawkwind)
3. Epitaph for a Head (JD Blackfoot)
4. Solid Gold Hell (The Scientists)
5. Be Forewarned (Macabre)
6. Mr. Destroyer (Poobah)
7. When the Wolf Sits (Jerusalem)
8. Death (The Pretty Things)
9. Situation (Josefus)
10. It’s Trash (The Cave Men)
11. Motorcycle (Straight to Hell) (Table Scraps)
12. Learning to Die (Dust)
13. Welcome to the Void – Bonus Track (Morgen)

A Better Dystopia will be available in North America in the following formats:
– 4 page CD Digipack
– 4 page CD Digipack + Patch (Napalm mailorder only)
– 2LP Gatefold Black
– 2LP Gatefold Pink Transparent (Napalm mailorder only ‚Äď limited to 300)
– 2LP Gatefold Glow In The Dark (Napalm mailorder only ‚Äď limited to 200)
– Limited Die Hard Edition: 2LP Gatefold Neon Green/Black Splatter + Slipmat (Napalm mailorder only ‚Äď limited to 200)
– Digital Album

MONSTER MAGNET is:
Dave Wyndorf – Vocals, Guitar
Phil Caivano – Guitar
Garret Sweeny – Guitar
Alec Morton – Bass
Bob Pantella – Drums

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Monster Magnet, “Mr. Destroyer” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

 

monster magnet milking the stars

Well that was some week. I’m not gonna do the usual review-in-hindsight/then-blather thing today, but the basics about the above real quick: New Jersey’s true rock and roll treasure, Monster Magnet, released Milking the Stars: A Re-Imagining of Last Patrol (review here) through Napalm Records in 2014 as a follow-up companion-piece to 2013’s Last Patrol¬†(review here), taking tracks from that record and reworking them in various ways. A Hammond here, a long winding space jam there. It’s one of two such releases the band did, the other being 2015‚Äôs¬†Cobras and Fire: The Mastermind Redux¬†(review here), which did took on 2010‚Äôs Mastermind¬†(review here). To be honest, if we’re going on a level of basic preference, what I might reach for any given day, I’ll take¬†Cobras and Fire over¬†Milking the Stars, the former bolstered by the cover of “Ball of Confusion” and “Watch Me Fade,” and so on. But “The Duke (Full on Drums ‘n’ Wah)” and “I Live Behind the Clouds (Roughed Up and Slightly Spaced)” from the 2014 outing were kicking around my head, so I rolled with the impulse. Turns out it was “No Paradise for Me” my brain was seeking.

What I admire about¬†Milking the Stars and¬†Cobras and Fire¬†both, though, is the willingness to fuck with what’s been done before. The extension of irreverence to one’s own work, even as it maintains reference for aesthetic itself. The flexibility to look at a batch of songs already ostensibly finished, recorded, pressed, released, and to say, “Well, maybe I can screw around with those some more.” The playful fuckall of it.

Monster Magnet have a cool announcement on the way I think later this month. If you’ve seen some of the band Poobah‘s social media posts, you already know¬†Dave Wyndorf and company recorded a cover of one of their songs. They were also the first band I would’ve seen whose show got canceled when the Tri-State Area (NY, NJ, CT) went into lockdown. March 18, 2020. Brooklyn.¬†Monster Magnet¬†celebrating¬†Powertrip with¬†support from¬†Nebula. Almost a year now. Somewhere in the great expanse of multiple universes, there’s one where that show happened and I went and had a real good time.

In this universe, my kid fractured his skull this week. We were going down to the basement to change over the laundry. I walk in front of him so that if he falls, he falls on me — he’s three and¬†very active; he falls constantly and 99 percent of the time gets right back up and ignores it — so my back was turned, but I heard the crash. He must’ve slipped on the stair and falling in the space between the railing and the stairs themselves, from about five or six steps high, onto the concrete basement floor, through a pane of glass that just happened to be leaning on the staircase the way things end up leaning on other things in basements. When I heard the crash, I turned and saw him flat on his back surrounded by broken glass. He looked immediately in shock. Me too, probably.

I yelled “Jesus!” in that way that I do when something is actually wrong and my wife heard. No cuts on the kid, which is more fortunate than I can say. I’m extra paranoid with him and glass — unresolved trauma on my part; when I was seven-ish, I sliced open the inside of my right thigh by sitting on a large glass fishbowl and received no less than some 300-odd stitches for my trouble, more inside than out. My father saved my life that night. I did eventually get to thank him for that before he died.

I didn’t have to apply pressure to any gaping wound in the back of our son’s head the way my father did to the open folds of flesh in my thigh while we waited for the ambulance to come. There was no ambulance. We stripped the kid to get his glassy clothes off, then went upstairs to assess. When he started to nod off — something he’d never do in a million years under normal circumstances; he fights sleep like Batman fights the Joker — we took him to Morristown Memorial Hospital, to the pediatric¬†ER. They admitted him so he could get a CAT scan.

It’s a short process in text, but it all took hours. This was Tuesday after dinner, near bedtime. He fell at 5:45. We went to the hospital at 6:15 or thereabouts. It was 10PM before the three of us went upstairs. Only one parent could stay overnight because of COVID restrictions, so I stayed and sent my wife home. They’d done the CAT scan by then, showed us the crack in his skull, said there didn’t seem to be a bleed, but they were admitting him to keep watch and to do an MRI in the morning to be sure. We were terrified. Asking about brain damage to your three year old. Sit with that and wait overnight for who knows what answer.

Blah blah MRI. I went down with him to imaging. They put him under general anesthesia. I was holding him, caught him when he conked out. I ran home to shower while The Patient Mrs. stayed in case he woke up in the next hour and a half or so. I got back before he was up, then we went back up to his room for more waiting. Results came in: no significant bleed, we could go home once he could hold food down.

We gave him a couple fruit pouches that he likes and he puked it all back up. Effect either of the concussion or the general. Doesn’t matter which. That bought us more hours at the hospital. In the meantime, shift change brought in Dr. Escobar — and yes, that’s the real name because fuck it — who was the nighttime attending and who told us that we couldn’t leave. When we pushed back on that saying the MRI was fine, she told us a “final read” vs. the “preliminary read” of the MRI showed a more significant bleed happening.

This turned out to be a lie. Just a lie. Simply not true. Dr. Escobar said that she talked to the pediatric neuroradiologist and the pediatric neurosurgeon and they said we needed to stay because there was a chance he might throw a clot and stroke out.

Again, just not true.

At the time, we were furious because we’d then been misinformed that he was out of such danger. I asked what the hell “preliminary” and “final” meant and why would we have been informed if someone hadn’t all-the-way examined the test results. I did curse. Dr. Escobar excused herself and did not come back. The nurse was duly apologetic and understanding. The pediatric neurosurgeon would be in in the morning to check on The Pecan and make sure everything was okay. He needed more neurological check-ins — which he already hadn’t had since the morning — overnight.

If the doctor had said, “Looking at the imaging, we think your son should stay. Better safe than sorry,” we would’ve stayed of course. That’s not what was said.

The pediatric neurosurgeon in the morning told us she was surprised to find we were still there. Others coming back on for the dayshift were too, until we told them what had happened with Dr. Escobar. A few more people came and went, The Pecan threw up again, so that was a delay, and we went home sometime later in the morning yesterday. Follow-up next Friday, back to school on Tuesday probably. He and The Patient Mrs. took a long nap in the afternoon and he kept dinner — which was ice cream cake — in his stomach before bed. He was up later than he should’ve been, but I expect that’s a combination of had-a-nap and the back of his head being sore.

Take your left hand and put the pinky line — the flat part of your hand, not your palm — about halfway between the middle and the side of the back of your head, and that’s where the crack in his skull is and about the proportion of it as well. It was a significant fall. His grandmother came down from Connecticut to help us out, got him a nightlight, more Daniel Tiger books — all of which we read in the hospital bed — and other such and sundry. My mother and sister got him balloons and a bear. Child Life Services — the woman’s name was Meaghan; she was incredible — gave him a new garbage truck and a truck from the movie Cars with the racecars in it. He’s never seen the movie, but likes the racecars with faces and knows Lightning McQueen by name. He got to ride in a red cart on the way out of the hospital as well, and was stoked on that.

He’s less tired and headachy this morning than he was last night, but still whiny and hair-trigger. I’m sitting with him now. He’s in the tub taking a bath and lost his shit when we were out of bubbles to the point that The Patient Mrs. ran down the road to the grocery store and got some. She’s playing with bath foam now, making letters on the wall for him to do the alphabet. He’s started to spell words — “stop,” “go,” “on,” “zoo,” “yes,” “no,” as well as his name — and knows the alphabet by heart. He can sight-read various words as well — “love,” “cat,” “go,” “yes,” “no,” etc. We’re getting there.

We’ll move forward. I’m still angry at being lied to and have set about composing the email in my head to send to the hospital administrator. Nothing to sue over, obviously, but if I was in charge of a group of medical professionals, I would want to know that one of them decided to be House M.D. to the parents of a toddler patient. Shit ain’t ethical.

That’s where I’ve been at today is an eight-post day to catch up. Back to whatever is normal on Monday.

And if you reached out on any form of social media in response to one of my posts on there about this situation, please know you have my deepest thanks and appreciation. It was incredibly humbling and touching to hear from so many people around the globe wishing well and being happy for us when we got to go home. Sharing that adventure, which is the word we’ve been using, helped keep me grounded to the extent I was through the whole thing. And thanks to my family as well for their constant support.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Stay hydrated. Watch your head. All the best.

FRM.

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Pyre Fyre Premiere New Single “Trash Man”

Posted in audiObelisk on January 20th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

pyre fyre

The song’s two minutes long, and at least 20 seconds of that is feedback. If you’ve never been to the off-the-Turnpike burg that is Bayonne, New Jersey, Pyre Fyre‘s sound sums it up efficiently. It is functional suburbia for the working and what used to be middle class, and most of the roads need to be repaved. It is marked out by the futurist design of the Bayonne Bridge that connects it to — wait for it — Staten Island, and in its grit, wafted-over air pollution and near-the-river spirit, it’s a town for drinking and for punk rock, and¬†Pyre Fyre seem to have plenty of both at their disposal.

A trio with roots as a duo, they offer the sludge that is punk with fuller distortion, and while a prior single like “Rinky Dink City” — their homage to their hometown — or the Pyre Fyre Trash Manlate-2020 demo “Wyld Ryde” has a more lumbering edge despite the underlying current of motion in the drums and bass, “Trash Man” is more classic punk, with lyrics boasting against not being a garbage man, a janitor or sanitation engineer and a careening central riff brought forth at higher speed. The idea here could hardly be more straightforward. Dirty punk rock working on a likewise dirty theme. Pretense need not apply.

I don’t know what the dudes from¬†Pyre Fyre do for a living. They could be bankers for all I know, or dentists. But they sell “Trash Man” well, and though one is reminded of¬†The Cramps‘ “Garbage Man” — covered dutifully by¬†Fatso Jetson in 2010 — the New Jerseyans bring a particular charm to this original that those of my beloved Garden State will no doubt recognize. As for the rest, meh, it’s two minutes.

There are more singles on Bandcamp and Soundcloud, but nothing so substantive as a 7″ or an EP as yet. Take it as it comes.

And enjoy:

Pyre Fyre on “Trash Man”:

“We are a heavy psych band out of Jersey City. The track “Trash Man” is an ode to B-movies and protometal bands like Blue Cheer. It was produced by Dustin Bartee from Ethereal Sea.”

The New Jersey-based power trio formed initially over a love of lo-fi aesthetics, early 1980s hardcore, classic psychedelia, B movies, Heavy Metal, and outsider art. Filtering in their penchant for worshipping at the altar of the almighty Riff, the group has dedicated themselves to creating intense, exploratory music from one song to the next.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

london-news-etching-1854-newcastle-upon-tyne

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

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

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

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

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

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

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

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

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

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

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

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

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

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

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

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

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

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

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

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

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

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

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

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

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

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

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

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

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

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

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

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

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album,¬†Rocket Science¬†(review here), Boston four-piece¬†Kind¬†return with¬†Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist¬†Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer¬†Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist¬†Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (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 ‚ÄúStardust and Diamond Eyes‚ÄĚ 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 Bj√łrnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist¬†Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017‚Äôs¬†E¬†(review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist¬†Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver Sand√ły, 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 ~ L√ĖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athr√ļ Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

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

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

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

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

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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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

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

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

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

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
√ėresund 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 ‚Äď 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, Lantl√īs, 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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Quarterly Review: Boris, DVNE, Hydra, Jason Simon, Cherry Choke, Pariiah, Saavik, Mountain Tamer, Centre El Muusa, Population II

Posted in Reviews on December 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Kind of a spur of the moment thing, this Quarterly Review. I’ve been adding releases all the while, of course, but my thought was to do this after my year-end list went up, and I realized, hey, if I’ve got like 70 records I haven’t reviewed yet, maybe there’s some of that stuff worth considering. So here we are. I’ve pushed back my best-of-2020 stuff and basically swapped it with the Quarterly Review. Does it matter to you? I seriously, seriously doubt it, but I believe in transparency and that’s what’s up. Thought I’d let you know. And yeah, this is going to go into next week, take us through the X-mas holiday this Friday, so whatever. You celebrate your way and I’ll celebrate mine. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Boris, No

boris no

As a general project, reviewing Boris is damn near pointless. One might as well review the moon: “uh, it’s big and out there most of the time?” The only reason to do it is either to exercise one’s own need to hyperbolize or help the band sell records. Well, Boris doesn’t need my push and I don’t need to tell them how great they are. No is 40 minutes of the widely and wildly lauded Japanese heavy rock(s) experimentalists trying to riff away existing in 2020, delving high speed into hardcore here and there and playing off that with grueling sludge, punk, garage-metal and the penultimate “Loveless,” which is kind of Boris being their own genre. Much respect to the band, and I suppose one might critique Boris for, what?, being so Boris-y?, but there really isn’t a ton that hasn’t been said about them because such a ton has. I’m not trying to disparage their work at all — No is just what you’d expect as regards defying expectation — but after 20-plus years, there’s only so many ways one wants to call a band genius.

Boris on Thee Facebooks

Boris on Bandcamp

 

DVNE, Omega Severer

DVNE Omega Severer

Kind of a soft-opening for Edinburgh’s DVNE as an act on Metal Blade Records, unless of course one counts the two songs on the Omega Severer EP itself, which are post-metallic beasts of the sort that would and should make The Ocean blush. Progressive, heavy, and remarkably ‘next-wave’ feeling, DVNE‘s awaited follow-up to 2017’s Asheran may only be about 17 and a half minutes long, but it bodes remarkably well as the band master a torrent of intensity on the 10-minute opening title-cut and answer that with the immediately galloping “Of Blade and Carapace,” smashing battle-axe riffing and progressive shimmer against each other and finding it to be an alchemy of their own. Album? One suspects not until they can tour for it, but if Omega Severer is DVNE serving notice, consider the message received loud, clear, dynamic, crushing, spacious, and so on. Already veterans of Psycho Las Vegas, they sound like a band bent on capturing a broader audience in the metallic sphere.

DVNE on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

 

Hydra, From Light to the Abyss

hydra from light to the abyss

There’s no questioning where Hydra‘s heart is at on their debut full-length, From Light to the Abyss. It belongs to the devil and it belongs to Black Sabbath. The Polish four-piece riff hard and straightforward throughout most of the five-track offering (released by Piranha Music), and samples set the kind of atmosphere that should be familiar enough to the converted — “No One Loves Like Satan” reminds of Uncle Acid in its initial channel-changing and swaggering riff alike — but doomly centerpiece “Creatures of the Woods” and the layered vocal melodies late in closer “Magical Mind” perhaps offer a glimpse at the direction the band could take from here. What matters though is where Hydra are at today, and that’s bringing riffs and nod to the converted among the masses, and From Light to the Abyss offers no pretense otherwise. It is doom rock for doom rockers, grooves to be grooved to. They’re not void of ambition by any means — their songwriting makes that clear — but their traditionalism is sleeve-worn, which if you’re going to have it, is right where it should be.

Hydra on Thee Facebooks

Piranha Music on Bandcamp

 

Jason Simon, A Venerable Wreck

jason simon a venerable wreck

Dead Meadow guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon follows 2016’s¬†Familiar Haunts¬†(review here) with the genre-spanning A Venerable Wreck, finding folk roots in obscure beats and backwards this-and-that, country in fuzz, ramble in space, and no shortage of experimentalism besides. A Venerable Wreck consists of 12 songs and though there are times where it can feel disjointed, that becomes part of the ride. It’s not all supposed to make sense. Yet what happens by the time you get around to “No Entrance No Exit” is that Simon (and a host of cohorts) has set his own context broad enough so that the drone reach of “Hollow Lands” and sleek, organ-laced indie of closer “Without Reason or Right” can coexist without any real interruption of flow between them. The question with A Venerable Wreck isn’t so much whether the substance is there, it’s whether the listener is open to it. Welcome to psychedelic America. Please inject this snake venom and turn in your keys when you leave.

Jason Simon on Bandcamp

BYM Records website

 

Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse

Cherry Choke-Raising Salzburg Rockhouse-Cover

You won’t hear me take away from the opening psych-scorch hook of “Mindbreaker” or the fuzzed-on, boogie-down, -up, and -sideways of “Black Annis” which follows, but there’s something extra fun about hearing Frog Island’s Cherry Choke jam out a 13-minute, drum-solo-inclusive version of “6ix and 7even” that makes Raising Salzburg Rockhouse even more of a reminder of how underrated both they are as a band and Mat Bethancourt is as a player. Look no further than “Domino” if you want absolute proof. The whole band rips it up at the Austrian gig, which was recorded in 2015 as they supported their third and still-most-recent full-length, Raising the Waters (review here), but Bethancourt puts on a Hendrixian clinic in the nine-minute cut from 2011’s A Night in the Arms of Venus (review here), which is actually less of a clinic than it is pure distorted swagger followed by a mellow “cheers, thanks” before diving into “Used to Call You Friend.” A 38-minute set would be perfect for an vinyl release, and anytime Cherry Choke want to get around to putting together a fourth studio album, well, that’ll be just fine too.

Cherry Choke on Thee Facebooks

Cherry Choke on Bandcamp

 

Pariiah, Swallowed by Fog

Pariiah swallowed by fog

It’s a special breed of aggro that emerges as a result of living in the most densely populated state in the union, and New Jersey’s Pariiah have it to spare. Bringing together sludge tonality with elder-style New York hardcore lumbering riffs on their Trip Machine Laboratories tape, Swallowed by Fog, they exude a thickened brand of pissed off that’s outright going to be too confrontation for many who take it on. But if you want a middle finger to the face, this is what it sounds like, and the six songs (compiled into four on the digital version of the release) come and go entirely without pretense and leave little behind except bruises and the promise of more to come. They’re a new band, started in this most wretched of years, but there’s no learning curve whatsoever among the members of Devoid of Faith, The Nolan Gate, Kill Your Idols, Change√∂rder and others. I’d go to Maplewood to see these cats. I’m just saying. Maybe even Elizabeth.

Pariiah on Bandcamp

Trip Machine Laboratories website

 

Saavik, Saavik

saavik saavik

So you’ve got both members of Holly Hunt in a four-piece sludging out with spacey synth and the band is named after a Star Trek character? Not to get too personal, but that’s going to pique my interest one way or the other. Saavik — and they clearly prefer the Kirstie Alley version, rather than Robin Curtis, going by drummer Beatriz Monteavaro‘s artwork — are damn near playing space rock by the end of “He’s Dead Jim,” the opener of their self-titled debut EP, but even that’s affected by a significant tonal weight in Didi Aragon‘s bass and the guitar of Gavin Perry, however much Ryan Rivas‘ synth and effects-laced vocals might seem to float overhead, but “Meld” rolls along at a steadier nod, and “Horizon” puts the synth more in the lead without becoming any less heavy for doing so. Likewise, “Red Sun” calls to mind Godflesh in its proto-machine metal stomp, but there’s more concern in Saavik‘s sound with expanse than just pure crush, and that shows up in fascinating ways in these songs.

Saavik on Thee Facebooks

Other Electricities on Bandcamp

 

Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual

mountain tamer psychosis ritual

There’s been a dark vibe all along nestled into Mountain Tamer‘s sound, and that’s certainly the case on Psychosis Ritual, with which the Los Angeles-based trio make their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds. It’s their third full-length overall behind 2018’s Godfortune // Dark Matters¬†(review here) and 2016’s self-titled debut (review here), and it finds their untamed-feeling psychedelia rife with that same threat of violence, not necessarily thematically as much as sonically, like the songs themselves are the weapon about to be turned on the listener. Maybe the buzz of “Warlock” or the fuckall echo of the prior-issued single “Death in the Woods” (posted here) aren’t out there trying to be “Hammer Smashed Face” or anything, but neither is this the hey-bruh-good-times heavy jams for which Southern California is known these days. Consider the severity of “Turoc Maximus Antonis” or the finally-released screams in closer “Black Noise,” which bookends¬†Psychosis Ritual¬†with the title-track and seems at last to be the point where whatever grim vibe these guys are riding finally consumes them.¬†Mountain Tamer continue to be unexpected and righteous in kind.

Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds on Bandcamp

 

Centre El Muusa, Centre El Muusa

centre el muusa centre el muusa

Hypnotic Estonian psychedelic krautrock instrumentals not your thing? Well that sounds like a personal problem¬†Centre El Muusa are ready to solve. The evolved-from-duo four-piece get spaced out amid the semi-motorik repetitions of their self-titled debut (on¬†Sulatron), and that seems to suit them quite well, thanksabunch. Drone trips and essential swirl brim with solar-powered pulsations and you can set your deflectors on maximum and route all the secondaries to reinforce if you want, there’s still a decent chance 9:53 opener an longest track “Turkeyfish” (immediate points, double for the appropriately absurd title) is going to sweep you off what you used to call your feet when that organ line hits at about six minutes in. That’s to say nothing of the cosmic collision later in “Burning Lawa” or the just-waiting-for-a-Carl-Sagan-voiceover “Mia” that follows. Even the 3:46 “Ain’t Got Enough Mojo” lives long enough to prove itself wrong. Interstellar tape transmissions fostered by obvious weirdos in the great out-there in “Szolnok,” named for a city in Hungary that, among other things, hosts the goulash festival. Right fucking on.

Centre El Muusa on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Population II, √Ä La √Ē Terre

Population II a La o Terre

The first Population II album, a 2017 self-titled, was comprised of two tracks, each long enough to consume a 12″ side. Somehow it’s fitting with the Montreal-based singing-drummer trio’s aesthetic that their second long-player,¬†√Ä la √Ē Terre, would take a completely different tack, employing shorter freakouts like “L’Offrande” and “La Nuit” and the garage-rocking “La Danse” and what-if-JeffersonAirplane-but-on-Canadian-mushrooms “√Ä la Porte de Demain” and still-more-drifting finisher “Je Laisse le Soleil Briller” amid the more stretched out “Attaction,” the space-buzzer “Ce n’est R√©ve” while cutting a middle ground in the greaked-out (I was gonna type “freaked out” and hit a typo and I’m keeping it) “Il eut un Silence dans le Ciel,” which also betrays the jazzy underpinnings that somehow make all of √Ä la √Ē Terre¬†come across as progressive instead of haphazard. From the start to the close, you don’t know what’s coming next, and just because that’s by design doesn’t make it less effective. If anything, it makes¬†Population II¬†all the more impressive.

Population II on Thee Facebooks

Castle Face Records website

 

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Album Review: Vessel of Light, Last Ride

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

vessel of light last ride

The opening verse narrative of Vessel of Light‘s third long-player in as many years,¬†Last Ride, begins with frontman Nathan Opposition (n√© Nathan Jochum, also of¬†Ancient VVisdom) saying “For as long as I can remember, you’ve always been hard to forget…” and ends with “Now your body is mangled and your skull belongs to me.” This has been part and parcel for the Ohio/New Jersey-based outfit since they released their self-titled debut EP (review here) through¬†Argonauta Records in 2017, and subsequently followed with the first album,¬†Woodshed (review here), and second,¬†Thy Serpent Rise (review here), in 2018 and 2019. Murder fantasy. Kidnapping, dismemberment, murder. Usually it’s implied if not explicitly stated that the victim is a woman and that the speaker in the lyrics feels as though they’ve been somehow done wrong, lied to, betrayed, etc.

It was an especially sexualized turn taken on¬†Thy Serpent Rise, and in answering back to that,¬†Last Ride (released through¬†Nomad Eel Records) brings 10 tracks and 41 minutes of likewise death-obsessed fare, suitably brooding in mood and dark in a tone somewhere between straightforward heavy metal and doom.¬†Last Ride¬†is unquestionably the most realized version of¬†Vessel of Light‘s sound they’ve yet offered. With founding parties¬†Opposition and guitarist¬†Dan Lorenzo (Hades) having introduced bassist Jimmy Schulman (Hades,¬†Dan Lorenzo‚Äės solo band) and drummer Ron Lipnicki¬†(ex-Overkill) last time around,¬†Vessel of Light‘s complete-lineup incarnation benefits from both the familiarity of the players involved — none of the Jersey-based trio behind Opposition¬†were strangers to each other before this grouping — and from the personality and playing styles of each. Instrumentally and in terms of production, the songs on¬†Last Ride are varied in tempo and aggression while keeping in mind the overarching mood and progression of the record as a whole. Despite the geographic disparity, they come across as though written in a room with¬†Opposition working out the lyrics as they went.

That in itself is a triumph for a band working with the full, oh-my-god-how-are-we-still-driving-across-this-state mass of Pennsylvania between them, but the real growth of¬†Vessel of Light is in¬†Opposition‘s performance here. In layered vocals that weave into and out of harmony, he recalls Dirt-era¬†Alice in Chains¬†in songs like “Torture King” and the side-B opener “Web of Death,” a speedier, swinging complement to Last Ride‘s nod of a leadoff title-track. Subtle shifts of arrangement in the verses of “There’s No Escape” and a burst of melody that accompanies the instrumental surge of “Voices of the Dead” feel worked on, harnessed over a period greater than the time since the last record came out, and demonstrate plainly the evolution of¬†Vessel of Light beyond “project” and into “band.” Opposition comes across as a more patient and more dynamic vocalist, and his performance throughout turns horror-show depictions into sing-along-ready hooks.

The question is really how much one wants to sing along with these lyrics.

vessel of light

It is a testament to¬†Vessel of Light‘s sense of craft just how little of a question it is when it comes to¬†Last Ride. Their songwriting has grown progressively sharper as they’ve moved quickly between one batch of material and the next, mostly without a focus on live shows, but having done a few along the way, and whether it’s a roller like “Disappearing Pact” or the shout-laced closer “The Death of Innocence,” they balance atmosphere and rhythmic purpose fluidly across the record’s span. To wit, the lead-in the finale gets with “In the Silence,” which is inarguably the most spacious single piece the band has yet done; it feels like an experiment that worked. As Opposition spends much of side B periodically engaging growls and shouts — “Voices of the Dead,” “In the Silence,” “The Death of Innocence” — there’s little if any sacrifice of melody, and it comes across less like a crutch being leaned on than another tool in the singer’s malevolent arsenal being used to these bleak, unremittingly dark tales.

And I guess that’s what it ultimately comes down to with¬†Vessel of Light. In construction and performance, they’ve done nothing but evolve, and¬†Last Ride is the largest step forward they’ve taken in that regard. There is not a misplaced riff, an incoherent groove or a lost-seeming opportunity for melody in these songs. The band are in command of what they do,¬†Lorenzo and¬†Opposition come across as working together more deeply as songwriters than they yet have, and the full-lineup only brings more chances for dynamic in actually executing the material in the studio. They’ve grown in everything but the themes around which their songs are based.

A function of art, and particularly of good art, is to challenge convention, and in many instances that involves exploring the darker elements the human psyche, the more dangerous places one’s mind can go. I’m not saying¬†Opposition is making an invalid artistic statement with his lyrics, but for an album that so much shows the band in question moving forward and challenging itself to offer a richer, more complex product to its listeners — especially, it should be noted, in the vocal department and¬†Opposition‘s own performance — the monochromatic nature of death, death, murder, death, going from “Torture King” to “Carving Station” to “There’s No Escape” to “Web of Death,” and so on, feels almost stubborn in its refusal to branch into other ideas. Among genre fare in literature and pop culture, horror is singularly able to discomfort those who take it on, and there’s no doubt Vessel of Light are good at it at this point.

I’ll willingly confess to not being the world’s biggest horror fan or having an abiding fascination with murder, so there are questions I’m left with at the end that I don’t have easy answers for. With the point of view of the speaker in the lyrics as the perpetrator, where does the sense of the listener as complicit come in? Where’s the challenge other than in the sheer engagement with gruesome or otherwise objectionable notions? Is it really just about making the audience squirm? Perhaps, instead of overthinking it thusly, the way to go with Last Ride is just indeed to take the ride through the songs themselves and engage them for the evident progression they represent in the band’s approach on the whole.¬†Last Ride is the best work¬†Vessel of Light have done to-date. It is a firm statement of identity on the part of the band and an aesthetic dive into the grim, violent reaches of consciousness. There is nothing it seeks to accomplish that it does not accomplish.

Vessel of Light, Last Ride (2020)

Vessel of Light on Thee Facebooks

Vessel of Light on Instagram

Vessel of Light on Bandcamp

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Nomad Eel Records on Instagram

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Nomad Eel Records on Bandcamp

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Vessel of Light Post Video for Last Ride Title-Track

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

vessel of light

For a band of such singular focus thematically on murder,¬†Vessel of Light have managed to stay pretty productive when it comes to songwriting. One might expect that at some point the sheer body count of frontman/lyricist¬†Nathan Opposition (formerly of¬†Ancient VVisdom) would get to the point where both basement and woodshed were full, but I suppose you figure these things out as they come up. I’m not here to condone or endorse killing or violence of any kind, but it’s hard not to respect the productivity on the part of¬†Vessel of Light‘s founding duo of¬†Opposition and guitarist¬†Dan Lorenzo (Hades), who, despite being based respectively in Ohio and New Jersey, have managed to offer up three full-lengths since 2018, with the forthcoming¬†Last Ride being the fourth due out next month through¬†Nomad Eel Records.

Now with the stage-ready lineup of¬†Lorenzo,¬†Opposition, bassist Jimmy Schulman (Hades) and drummer Ron Lipnicki (fuggin’¬†Overkill, dude) — but alas, no stages —¬†Vessel of Light¬†operate as a full band for the second time across¬†Last Ride, and building on late-2019’s phallocentric¬†Thy Serpent Rise (review here), they sound like a more complete band.¬†Opposition‘s vocals recall not only¬†Black Sabbath but something of a gruffed-up¬†Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and there’s a balance between heavy rock and metal inherent in the groove of the title-track that represents the four-piece’s sound well as they continue to find their space between the two.

Perhaps unsurprisingly — no, make that¬†definitely¬†unsurprisingly — the video for “Last Ride” takes a horror-themed approach, and yup, by “last,” they for sure mean last. Lyrics like, “Now your body is mangled/And your skull belongs to me,” don’t really leave any question as to what they’re talking about.

Album’s out in time for Halloween and more info follows the clip below.

Enjoy:

Vessel of Light, “Last Ride” official video

Cleveland’s Nathan Opposition and NJ’s Dan Lorenzo first jammed together in June of 2017. The duo released two albums for Italy’s Argonauta Records before adding former Overkill drummer Ron Lipnicki and former Hades bassist Jimmy Schulman for last years’ Thy Serpent Rise. Vessel of Light are set to release their 4th album Last Ride this October 30th on California’s Nomad Eel Records. Until then, the band gives us the video for the first single. Opposition came up with the concept. He said,” I’m a huge horror movie fan, so for me this calls upon a number of things. The faceless villain in the classic movie The Oblong Box with Vincent Price and Christopher Lee was definitely an inspiration. Calling upon the mysterious shadowy figures in horror movies like A Phantom of the Opera or the Invisible Man. I wanted to capture the fear in the shadows, fear of the dark, the things out of the corner of our eyes. I really like the concept of a faceless shadow figure, almost like in the urban legend of the Djinn, Slender Man or Hat Man, an evil entity or presence that peers into the soul and rips it to shreds.”

Jason Stewart who also edited the band’s last video, a cover of Black Sabbath’s Wasp stated, “For the Last Ride video, I tried to cut it like a police investigation show, but it‚Äôs very grungy and dirty as if I discovered all the raw footage in a dumpster behind a local police station. A lot of the lyrics are in the style of newspaper articles, random 911 calls, subtitles from an interrogation, and more. The one behind the whole story is this Shadow Man figure. It‚Äôs almost like a teaser for a made up show in the crime genre.”

Vessel of Light were playing an East Coast run in March and had planned a longer run in June including The Maryland Doom Fest before Coronavirus shut down the band’s plans.

Vessel of Light on Thee Facebooks

Vessel of Light on Instagram

Vessel of Light on Bandcamp

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Nomad Eel Records on Instagram

Nomad Eel Records website

Nomad Eel Records on Bandcamp

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