Kadavar Take to the West in “The Devil’s Master” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

kadavar the devils master

With a release date set for Oct. 11, Kadavar‘s For the Dead Travel Fast is well on its way to being the Berlin trio’s most complex and atmospheric outing to-date, and yet, at the same time, it’s also kind of a return to the vintage production style of their first two records. No question that Kadavar modernized their initial retro sound over their last couple full-lengths — 2017’s Rough Times (review here) most of all — but as their new video for “The Devil’s Master” shows, they’ve not only grown bolder as songwriters, but they’re willing to once again more fully embrace a sonic naturalism in doing so. It is, as the entirety of the album proves, a winning combination.

“The Devil’s Master,” which combines in the video below with the album-intro “The End,” brings a desert-garage-goth vibe to go with its Spaghetti Western visual thematic — an immediate departure from some of the catchy and uptempo beginnings of LPs past, but immersive just the same, and rich in tone and the vocal melodies of guitarist Christoph “Lupus” Lindemann, who plays one of the three main characters of the cinematic clip, with bassist Simon “Dragon” Bouteloup and drummer Christoph “Tiger” Bartelt filling the other roles, Bouteloup perhaps having the best part, and as usual, the best hat.

I’ll have a full review of For the Dead Travel Fast at some point in the next couple months — hell, with the delayed release, I might even get it posted before it’s out! — but suffice it to say that while “The Devil’s Master” doesn’t necessarily speak for the entirety of the album, it does capture something essential about its spirit, and that Kadavar have never pushed this kind of engagement with their audience so much to the forefront of their approach before. They succeed with the mastery one has come to expect from them.

Preorder info, tour dates — they’re at Psycho Las Vegas this week — and more background follow the video below, all courtesy of the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Kadavar, “The Devil’s Master” official video

Kadavar Release Epic Western Music Video For First Single Off For The Dead Travel Fast

Album Now Available For Pre- Order Here: nblast.de/Kadavar-FTDTF

Berlin, Germany-based rock overlords KADAVAR have released the official music video for the song “The Devil’s Master”, the opening track of the band’s highly anticipated new album, For The Dead Travel Fast. The epic western movie styled music video was shot in Fuerteventura and stars actress Lucie Aron as well as the band’s members Lupus, Tiger and Dragon.

Commented the band:

Lupus: “Fuerteventura was the perfect set for the idea to shoot a small Spaghetti Western. In the story, everyone is fighting everyone: there are cutthroats who don‘t trust each other trying to survive in the desert. They are hunted by their enemy, a violent priest who enslaves a young lady, who both of the cowboys admire. In the end, there won‘t be any winners…”

Tiger: “The song is about the worst ideas of the people, the attraction of horror and the seductive scent of the disreputable. Just as it is all too human to feel at the mercy of his fears, so comprehensible it seems to give way to the fascination of evil in the face of death.”

For The Dead Travel Fast will be released on October 11 (initially September 20), 2019 via Nuclear Blast and is now available for pre-order.

The album will be released in various formats:

Limited Box-Set including limited tri-colored vinyl, limited tri-colored bonus vinyl including 4 previously unreleased tracks, CD/Blu-Ray Digi (including the KADAVAR & THE COSMIC RIDERS OF THE BLACK SUN live show, Berlin 2019), Poster, signed photo card, patch, sticker.
CD/Blu-Ray Digi (including the KADAVAR & THE COSMIC RIDERS OF THE BLACK SUN live show, Berlin 2019)
Vinyl (black, beige, bi-colored, cornetto)

Pre-order »For The Dead Travel Fast« and/or accompanying merchandise here!

Recently the band had announced their European headlining tour in support of the album.

KADAVAR – FOR THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST EUROPEAN TOUR 2019
Special Guests: HÄLLAS & PABST
06.11. SE Copenhagen Pumpehuset
07.11. NO Oslo Bla
08.11. SE Göteborg Brewhouse
09.11. SE Stockholm Debaser
10.11. DE Hannover Capitol
12.11. FR Lyon Le CCO
13.11. FR Nantes Le Stéréolux
14.11. FR Paris L’Alhambra
15.11. FR Bordeaux BT 59
16.11. ES Madrid Mon
17.11. ES Barcelona Razzmatazz 2
19.11. FR Strasbourg La Laiterie
20.11. DE Wiesbaden Schlachthof
21.11. DE Nu?rnberg Hirsch
22.11. DE Mu?nchen Backstage Werk
23.11. AT Wien Arena
24.11. DE Dresden Beatpol
25.11. BE Brussels Orangiere at Botanique
27.11. DE Stuttgart LKA Longhorn
28.11. DE Köln Essigfabrik
29.11. DE Hamburg Große Freiheit
30.11. DE Berlin Columbiahalle

KADAVAR’s latest album, Rough Times, was released in late 2017 to global critical acclaim, including live hits like “Die Baby Die,” “Tribulation Nation” and “Into The Wormhole”.

KADAVAR live:
16.08. F St. Nolff – Motocultor Festival
17-18.08. USA Las Vegas, NV – Psycho Las Vegas

Kadavar on Thee Facebooks

Kadavar on Instagram

Nuclear Blast on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast webstore

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My Dying Bride Finish Work on New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

So the masters are with Nuclear Blast now. That’s great. You figure they’re going to want at least three months of lead-time to promote it, right? Lock down the magazine covers, special features, track reveals, maybe a video, tour announcement if that’s in the offing, etc. All that stuff takes time, and you gotta space it out with preorders to build awareness as part of any self-respecting promotional campaign. Plus this is My Dying Bride‘s first record for Nuclear Blast, so it’s a safe bet they’re going to want to make a splash. It’s an event.

Accordingly, a November release is pushing it. It could happen, but the title details, maybe album art, would have to be out like this week in order to to make that go, because it would need to be early November. By the time the holidays hit, which is always earlier, it seems, the year is done for releases of this scale. There’s always going to be stuff coming out, but something like My Dying Bride‘s label debut on Nuclear Blast? They could take the big risk and do December, but you miss out on best-of lists and not as many people are paying attention, so you probably lose some sales. January, everyone’s broke or in debt. Mid-February is when things start really picking up again, and if that’s when the My Dying Bride record happens, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Seems like a long time from now, but it’s already been four years since 2015’s Feel the Misery (review here), so a little longer won’t kill anybody. Since the band signed with Nuclear Blast in 2017, I’m just glad there’s an update about the record at all, and bonus that the update is, “it’s done.” That’s a good update to get.

So here it is. When I hear about the release date, I’ll let you know:

MY DYING BRIDE

It is complete! The new album from My Dying Bride! It has taken quite some time to put together but it is now finished and is with Nuclear Blast as I write this. There is no release date as yet but rest assured we will let you know once we find out. This album is a luxurious journey into a realm only MDB know how to create. It has the most lavish production of any of our past offerings and the sound is utterly stunning; aggressive, beautiful and layered with harmonic melancholy like never before. There is beauty here with slender moments of delicate hope enriched with violins and cello and the stunning voice of special guest Lindy-Fay Hella from Wardruna. And there is utter madness and anger with visceral death metal vocals lending a fearful edge to this dramatic opus. You will not be disappointed!! Cheers, Aaron.

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

My Dying Bride, “Feel the Misery” official video

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Kadavar Announce Euro Tour & New Album Title For the Dead Travel Fast

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

kadavar

You know, if we’re being honest, I’d probably write this post on another day and be like, “Golly, I wonder what Kadavar‘s new record’ll sound like,” or some overly-wordy equivalent speculation thereof. Truth be told, I don’t care. Not that I’m not looking forward to it or I’m not curious, but after proving their songwriting mettle over four demonstrably different records without falling flat, I think they’ve at least earned the benefit of the doubt to that degree. Wherever they want to go in terms of their sound, I’m willing to trust they know what they’re doing. They might throw in something totally unexpected, they might not. Either way, don’t you just kind of think Kadavar know what they want to do in the studio by now? Hell, it’s even their own studio.

The record, which presumably will be out this Fall in time for their newly-announced European tour, is to be titled For the Dead Travel Fast, and it will see release through the band’s continued partnership with Nuclear Blast, recently reupped.

Details from the PR wire:

kadavar tour

KADAVAR Reveal New Album’s Title & Announce European Tour

Berlin, Germany-based rock overlords KADAVAR have announced the dates of the European tour in support of the band’s forthcoming album, For The Dead Travel Fast.

KADAVAR – FOR THE DEAD TRAVEL FAST EUROPEAN TOUR 2019
Special Guests: HÄLLAS & PABST
06.11. SE Copenhagen Pumpehuset
07.11. NO Oslo Bla
08.11. SE Göteborg Brewhouse
09.11. SE Stockholm Debaser
10.11. DE Hannover Capitol
12.11. FR Lyon Le CCO
13.11. FR Nantes Le Stéréolux
14.11. FR Paris L’Alhambra
15.11. FR Bordeaux BT 59
16.11. ES Madrid Mon
17.11. ES Barcelona Razzmatazz 2
19.11. FR Strasbourg La Laiterie
20.11. DE Wiesbaden Schlachthof
21.11. DE Nu?rnberg Hirsch
22.11. DE Mu?nchen Backstage Werk
23.11. AT Wien Arena
24.11. DE Dresden Beatpol
25.11. BE Brussels Orangiere at Botanique
27.11. DE Stuttgart LKA Longhorn
28.11. DE Köln Essigfabrik
29.11. DE Hamburg Große Freiheit
30.11. DE Berlin Columbiahalle

The band recently re-signed with their long-time label Nuclear Blast after a highly successful 7 year run encompassing three studio albums during which the trio has toured the globe relentlessly.

Commented singer and guitarist Lupus: “When we signed our first deal back in 2012, all of this was just a mere idea. Since then a lot has happened and after 3 records, 2 live albums and quite a few singles, we’re a very happy to continue working with Nuclear Blast.”

The band is currently working hard on the successor to 2017’s Rough Times at their own recording studio in Berlin Neukölln.

Added drummer Tiger: “We’re very creative at the moment, writing new songs on a daily basis. Wir very much loooking forward to completing the album soon. So it’s very nice that we have this new contract!”

KADAVAR’s latest album, Rough Times, was released in late 2017 to global critical acclaim, including live hits like “Die Baby Die,” “Tribulation Nation” and “Into The Wormhole”.

KADAVAR live:
27.06. I Segrate (MI)- Magnolia Stone
29.06. D Ferropolis – Full Force
02./03.08. D Beelen – Krach am Bach
08. – 10.08. D Haldern – Pop Festival
16.08. F St. Nolff – Motocultor Festival
17./18.08. USA Las Vegas, NV – Psycho Las Vegas

https://www.facebook.com/KadavarOfficial/
https://instagram.com/kadavargram/
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa
http://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html

Kadavar, “You Found the Best in Me” official video

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Graveyard in Mexico & South America Starting This Weekend; Australian Tour Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

graveyard

For anyone who might look at the list of Graveyard dates below and wonder, hey, where’s the US tour?, well, they were just here with Uncle Acid. What more could you possibly want? Out of life? In the aftermath of that righteousness, the Swedish kingpins of heavy rock and roll are keeping plenty busy, touring Latin America starting on Friday in Guadalajara, Mexico, and wrapping May 19 in Rio de Janeiro, before heading back to Europe for festivals then returning to the US for Psycho Las Vegas — like you do — before shipping themselves out a week later to Australia for a quick run of shows there. They’ll also be at a big, commercial-type metal festival in Tennessee this October called Exit 111 that has a bunch of bands you’ve heard of. Someone actually recommended Fever 333 to me not so long ago. I should’ve been like, “Thanks brah, but I’m more of a Graveyard kind of guy.” It’s a shame sometimes the only one living in my head is me.

And The Patient Mrs., I guess. She’s all up in there.

In any case, more Graveyard touring, wherever and whenever it happens, certainly isn’t going to hurt anybody. After all, we got a taste of the world without them during their brief breakup in late 2016, and that was enough to begin a riding tide of troubling right wing populism that even their reformation hasn’t been able to stem. That’s right. I’m blaming the outcome of the last US election on Graveyard‘s breakup. Live with it.

Stay tuned for more hard-hitting political analysis:

TOUR DATES GRAVEYARD
2019-05-10 Guadalajara (Foro Independencia) MX
2019-05-11 Monterrey (Café Iguana) MX
2019-05-12 Mexico City (Foro Indie Rocks) MX
2019-05-14 Lima (C.C. Festiva) PE
2019-05-16 Santiago (Rock y Guitarras ) CL
2019-05-17 Buenos Aires (Teatro Vorterix) AR
2019-05-18 São Paulo (Fabrique Club) BR
2019-05-19 Rio de Janeiro (BCO) BR
2019-06-08 Nürnberg (Rock im Park) DE
2019-06-09 Nürburg (Rock am Ring) DE
2019-06-13 Interlaken (Greenfield Festival) CH
2019-06-14 Fuengirola (Rock The Coast) ES
2019-06-16 Donington (Download Festival) GB
2019-06-21 Clisson (Hellfest) FR
2019-07-12 Kristianstad (Rockfest) SE
2019-08-08 Moledo (Sonic Blast) PT
2019-08-16 Las Vegas, NV (Psycho Las Vegas) US
2019-08-23 Brisbane (The Brightside) AU
2019-08-24 Sydney (Crowbar) AU
2019-08-25 Melbourne (Corner Hotel) AU
2019-10-12 Manchester, TN (Exit 111) US

Graveyard:
Joakim Nilsson (vocals, guitar)
Truls Mörck (bass)
Oskar Bergenheim (drums)
Jonatan Ramm (guitar)

https://www.facebook.com/graveyardofficial
https://twitter.com/graveyard
https://instagram.com/graveyardmusic/

Graveyard, “Please Don’t” official video

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Corrosion of Conformity Announce Summer Tour with Crowbar, Lo-Pan & Quaker City Night Hawks

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

corrosion of conformity (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. I can think of fewer tour pairings less broken than Corrosion of Conformity and Crowbar, who were out together co-headlining earlier this year on what turned out to be the first leg of a tour that will continue this July. Of particular note is the addition of Lo-Pan this time around, who’ll be out supporting their new record, Subtle. That record is a beast and they’ll no doubt bring an infusion of energy to the run as they provide support and Quaker City Night Hawks open. Starland Ballroom, you say? That’ll be just about the most Jersey shit ever, methinks. See you there.

Though I wouldn’t mind catching C.O.C. at the Psycho Swim party in Vegas either. Really I’ll take what I can get.

Dates follow from the pr IWRE:

corrosion of conformity crowbar lo pan tour

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY Announces North American Summer Headlining Tour With Crowbar + Band To Headline Psycho Las Vegas Pre-Party And More!

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY will kick off the second leg of their North American headlining tour this July. The A Quest To Believe, A Call To The Void II Tour will commence on July 26th in Poughkeepsie, New York and run through August 25th in Providence, Rhode Island. Support will be provided by their comrades in Crowbar as well as Lo-Pan and Quaker City Night Hawks. Tickets go on sale this Friday at all local ticket outlets.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY will also play a special one-off show with country singer Cody Jinks next month in addition to festival appearances at Rocklahoma, Heavy MTL, KISW’s Pain In The Grass, and a headlining performance at Psycho Swim, Psycho Las Vegas’ annual pool-bound kick-off party where the band will be joined by Lucifer, Danava, ASG, Primitive Man, and more. In October, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY will appear on the inaugural MegaCruise alongside Megadeth, Anthrax, Testament, Overkill, and so many others with more shows to be announced in the months to come. See all confirmed dates below.

No Cross No Crown is available on CD, digital, vinyl, and cassette formats. Various order bundles are available at nuclearblast.com/coc-nocrossnocrown.

CORROSION OF CONFORMITY:
5/09/2019 Coyote Joe’s – Charlotte, NC w/ Cody Jinks
5/24/2019 Rocklahoma – Pryor, OK

w/ Crowbar, Lo-Pan, Quaker City Night Hawks:
7/26/2019 The Chance – Poughkeepsie, NY
7/27/2019 Westcott Theater – Syracuse, NY
7/28/2019 Heavy MTL – Montreal, QC *
7/29/2019 Dallas Nightclub – Kitchener, ON
7/31/2019 Mercury Ballroom – Louisville, KY
8/01/2019 Elevation – Grand Rapids, MI
8/02/2019 The Rave II – Milwaukee, WI
8/03/2019 KISW’s Pain In The Grass @ White River Amphitheatre – Auburn, WA *
8/05/2019 Deluxe @ Old National Centre – Indianapolis, IN
8/06/2019 Pop’s – Sauget, IL
8/07/2019 Slowdown – Omaha, NE
8/10/2019 Fox Theatre – Boulder, CO
8/11/2019 Mesa Theater – Grand Junction, CO
8/13/2019 Knitting Factory Concert House – Boise, ID
8/14/2019 The Complex – Salt Lake City, UT
8/15/2019 Psycho Swim @ Daylight Beach Club – Las Vegas, NV *
8/16/2019 Encore – Tucson, AZ
8/17/2019 Sunshine Theater – Albuquerque, NM
8/19/2019 Come And Take It Live – Austin, TX
8/21/2019 1904 Music Hall – Jacksonville, FL
8/22/2019 The Tarheel – Jacksonville, NC
8/23/2019 Elevation 27 – Virginia Beach, VA
8/24/2019 Starland Ballroom – Sayreville, NJ
8/25/2019 Fete Music Hall – Providence, RI
10/13/2019 MegaCruise 2019 – Los Angeles, CA *
* COC only

http://www.coc.com
http://www.facebook.com/corrosionofconformity
http://www.twitter.com/coccabal
http://www.nuclearblast.com
http://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa

Corrosion of Conformity, “Wolf Named Crow” official video

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Khemmis Announce July East Coast & Midwest Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

khemmis

Colorado’s Khemmis, recently signed to Nuclear Blast, will head out on tour once again in July, doing shows up and down the Eastern Seaboard before hitting into Canada and sweeping back through the Upper Midwest. They go supporting last year’s Desolation (review here), and if you’re on the West Coast and feeling left out of the party, rest easy. There’s still plenty of 2019 left, and somehow I seriously doubt they’ve forgotten California exists. Give it time, is what I’m saying. Fall, maybe, if they don’t go to Europe, or even winter. They’re bound to show up sooner or later.

And in the meantime, they’ll be joined for the upcoming trip by Cloak from Georgia, and the dates follow here, courtesy of the PR wire:

khemmis tour

KHEMMIS Announce North American Desolation 2019 Tour!

Denver, Colorado based doomed heavy metal quartet KHEMMIS are proud to announce their North American Desolation 2019 tour. The 16-date tour will kick-off on July 11th at Growlers in Memphis, Tennessee. The trek will make stops in Richmond, Philadelphia, and Detroit before concluding on July 28th at Nightspot in Bloomington, Illinois. Joining the band on the tour is Atlanta, Georgia’s metal quartet CLOAK. Prior to the main run. KHEMMIS will play a stand alone show on June 14th at Hodi’s Half Note in Fort Collins Colorado.

KHEMMIS comments, “We’re excited to hit the road for our first proper headlining tour in support of ‘Desolation.’ This trek features our first Southeastern shows as well as dates in some of our favorite cities/venues, including Saint Vitus in Brooklyn and Reggies in Chicago. If that wasn’t enough, we’re bringing black ‘n’ roll maniacs CLOAK with us! Make sure you grab your tickets early, since these are our only eastern US and Canadian shows for 2019. Brush up on the lyrics, practice your air guitar moves, and catch us on tour this summer!”

Tickets will be available for purchase on Friday, April 5th at 10AM local time. For more information visit: www.khemmisdoom.com

Confirmed dates for the North American Desolation 2019 tour are:
06/14/2019 Hodi’s Half Note – Fort Collins, CO*
07/11/2019 Growlers – Memphis, TN
07/12/2019 Masquerade – Atlanta, GA
07/13/2019 Clairvoyance Fest – Lexington, KY
07/14/2019 The End – Nashville, TN
07/16/2019 The Maywood – Raleigh, NC
07/17/2019 The Camel – Richmond, VA
07/18/2019 Songbyrd – Washington, DC
07/19/2019 Saint Vitus – Brooklyn, NY
07/20/2019 Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA
07/21/2019 Great Scott – Boston, MA
07/23/2019 Bar Le Ritz – Montreal, QC
07/24/2019 Velvet Underground – Toronto, ON
07/25/2019 The Sanctuary – Detroit, MI
07/26/2019 Reggies – Chicago, IL
07/27/2019 7th Street Entry – Minneapolis, MN
07/28/2019 Nightshop – Bloomington, IL
*=no cloak

Khemmis are:
Phil Pendergast // guitar, vocals
Ben Hutcherson // guitar, vocals
Daniel Beiers // bass
Zach Coleman // drums

http://www.facebook.com/khemmisdoom
http://khemmis.bandcamp.com
http://twitter.com/khemmisdoom
www.nuclearblast.de/
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa

Khemmis, “Isolation” official video

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Khemmis Sign to Nuclear Blast USA

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Denver doom exports Khemmis have inked a worldwide deal with Nuclear Blast. You might recall their 2018 album, the wide-lauded Desolation (review here), came out in the US via 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast in Europe, so the difference now is they’re a Nuclear Blast band all the way, as A&R legend Monte Conner continues to mine some of the underground’s finest acts and bring them into the label’s fold. Khemmis right now are labelmates with the likes of WitchcraftKadavarGraveyard, as well as a slew of landmark metallers any of whom would make just as likely tourmates for a band like Khemmis as the rock acts just mentioned.

Probably kind of inevitable, but emblematic of the surge that has been Khemmis‘ career to this point. I saw the note on the PR wire and said, “Yeah, that makes sense.”

Here’s the announcement:

khemmis

KHEMMIS SIGN TO NUCLEAR BLAST WORLDWIDE!

Nuclear Blast are proud to announce the now worldwide signing of Denver, Colorado based doomed heavy metal quartet Khemmis. Welcome to the global family! Khemmis released their third studio album Desolation in June 2018, to rapturous praise from fans and media alike. They are currently working on new material, and are planning to tour throughout 2019.

Khemmis commented on the news: “We are honored and excited to join the Nuclear Blast roster alongside so many legendary artists. Endless thanks to Monte Conner, Mark Palmer, Yorck Eysel and the rest of the amazing team at Nuclear Blast for sharing in our vision for the future. We also send our unending gratitude to Dave Adelson of 20 Buck Spin, who not only took a chance on us when he released Absolution in 2015 but also became a true friend and brother to us over the last few years. Finally, thanks to everyone who has supported us by seeing us live, snagging a shirt, and/or picking up a CD or LP. Without all of you, none of this would be possible. We’ve got some very exciting announcements about tours, festivals, and new music coming soon. Cheers!”

Khemmis’ passion for progressive and soulful heavy music is more evident than ever in 2018’s Desolation. Though undeniably influenced by doom and classic metal, to tag the quartet with those labels doesn’t do justice to what they’ve accomplished; a perfect representation of modern heavy metal that integrates the past in a way only possible with the faculty of hindsight. It’s impossible to ignore the lengths that the four piece goes to in order to master their craft and produce a highly unique form of heavy sound. Their magnificently uplifting, yet sorrowful groovy riffs weave the listener along on an unparalleled journey. Desolation is not just the best Khemmis record to date but a testament to the quality and evolution that heavy metal is still capable of.

Having worked for the third time with Dave Otero of Flatline Audio in Denver, the band and producer achieved a deep mutual understanding, able to arrive at the perfect symbiosis of song writing, arrangement, and production value.
Formed in Denver in 2012, Khemmis have released three albums to date. 2015’s Absolution and 2016’s Hunted painted a unique portrait; encompassing spiraling progressive doom, fuzz-toned stoner riffs, syrupy sludge and churning classic grooves. They transcended traditional doom forming elegant yet dramatic tracks, conveying their unique sense of melancholy edged with a sense of foreboding.

With latest record Desolation, Khemmis have finally reached a more international audience, winning over hearts and minds across the globe.

Khemmis are:
Phil Pendergast // guitar, vocals
Ben Hutcherson // guitar, vocals
Daniel Beiers // bass
Zach Coleman // drums

http://www.facebook.com/khemmisdoom
http://khemmis.bandcamp.com
http://twitter.com/khemmisdoom
www.nuclearblast.de/mydyingbride
https://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa

Khemmis, “Isolation” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-top-30-of-2018

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2018 to that, please do.

It just wouldn’t be a year if it wasn’t completely overwhelming, right?

2018 has certainly met that standard and then some. The swath of output, whether it’s a new generation adopting and adapting established methods or out and out reinventing the stylistic wheel and then pushing it uphill on a seemingly endless barrage of tours, has been staggering, and it’s still happening. There’s a little more than a week to go in the year. You think a band isn’t putting something out today? Of course they are. It’s every day. It’s all the time.

But this year wasn’t just about quantity either. I think one of my biggest struggles in writing about albums in 2018 — and with the last Quarterly Review and various premieres and video posts that were basically album reviews in disguise, let’s estimate we’re somewhere past 300 records reviewed one way or another — was in conveying just how killer so much of the stuff coming through was. How many times can you say the word “awesome?” Well, I’m sure we’ll see it a few more times before this list is over, so there you go.

I say something like this every time I do a list, but please keep in mind these are my picks and I’m one person. But I am a person. I know there’s the whole internet-anonymity thing, but I assure you, I’m a human being (more of a cave troll, really) typing these words. I’m all for everyone sharing their own picks in the comments, and all for passionate advocating, but please, let’s keep it civil and respectful. These things can spiral out of control quickly, but let’s remember that we’re all human beings and worth of basic courtesy, even if some of us are dead wrong about a good many things. You should definitely punch nazis, though.

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

[UPDATE: You’ll notice the inclusion of an ’18a.’ I had Stoned Jesus in my notes as number 18 initially and they got dropped as I was adjusting things along the way. I’ve added them back in, but it didn’t seem fair to bump everyone else down after the post had already been published. That was the best I could come up with for a solution. If you’re pissed about one more killer record being added, please feel free to email me and tell me all about it.]

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) — let alone living up to their pedigree — but their second album demonstrated a creative growth that sacrificed nothing of memorability when it came to songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “All that Remains (Is True).” They got down to work and got the job done, which is what a working band does. 2018 was by any measure a fantastic year for doom, and The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it. Foghound, who were in the midst of making Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features Forrester‘s last recorded performance, but pays respect to his memory while the wound is still raw and manages to kick ass all the while. It’s a record that can’t ever be divorced from its circumstances — just can’t — and so it can be a heavy listen in more than just its tones, but it’s basically Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Orange Goblin? Come forward an be judged. I mean, really. Nine records deep, the London sceneforgers are nothing less than an institution, beloved by boozehounds, riffhounds, doomhounds, and really, a wide variety of hounds the world over. Also dudes. With its essential title-track hook and highlight cuts in “Ghosts of the Primitives” and “Burn the Ships” — or, you know, any of them — they added to one of heavy’s most unshakable legacies with an album as furious as it is welcoming to its generations-spanning fanbase.

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

fu manchu clone of the universe
Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Fu Manchu fans. Clone of the Universe turned heads with a guest appearance from Rush‘s Alex Lifeson on the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Il Mostro Atomico,” but really to focus on that instead of “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” etc., is only seeing half the point of the album in the first place. The long-running lords of fuzz hit a new stride with 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), and Clone of the Universe was in every way a worthy successor.

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain
Released by Svart Records. Reviewed May 16.

It was an unenviable task before Witch Mountain in replacing vocalist Uta Plotkin, but founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson found the right voice in Kayla Dixon and solidified the lineup with her and bassist Justin Brown enough to make a declarative statement in Witch Mountain‘s self-titled LP. That’s the story of it. They pulled it off. Met with what was unquestionably a bummer circumstance, they pushed through and moved their sound forward through a new beginning — and not their first one. Watch out when their next record hits.

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Richmond, Virginia, doomers Windhand‘s second collaboration with producer Jack Endino produced a marked and purposeful expansion of their sound, encompassing classic grunge influences and a heavy psychedelic swirl that added color their previously-greyscale sonic haze. Resonant in tone and emotionalism, Eternal Return readjusted Windhand‘s trajectory in such a manner that, where one might’ve thought they knew where the band were headed in terms of their progression, they’ve made themselves a less predictable outfit on the whole. For that alone, it’s a triumph. Then you have the songs.

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

I don’t even want to admit how long I was waiting for Sun Voyager‘s first long-player to show up, but when it finally did, the New York trio did not disappoint. Catchy, energetic, fuzzed-out tunes with driving rhythms and a heavy psych flourish, they tapped into shoegaze and desert vibes without losing any sense of themselves in the process, and if the extra wait was so they could be so remarkably coherent in their expression on their full-length, then I wouldn’t want it to have shown up any sooner. An easy pick to stand among 2018’s best debut albums. Now to wait for the next one.

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

It should tell you something that after working quickly to produce three albums, Louisiana’s Forming the Void are still defined by their potential. If I had my druthers, I’d put the recent Ripple signees on tour for the bulk of 2019, across the US and in Europe for festivals and support-slot club shows, really give them an opportunity to hammer out who they are as a band and then hit the studio for LP four. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but they’d only be doing the universe a favor by kicking into that gear. As it stands, their progression is palpable in their material and they stand absolutely ready for whatever the next level might be for them.

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

Released by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed June 29.

Aside from the speed at which Spaceslug have turned around offerings — with Eye the Tide following 2017’s Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and Time Travel Dilemma (review here) full-length and their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) — the Polish outfit have undertaken significant progression in their sound, moving from pure heavy psychedelic warmth to incorporating elements out of extreme metal as they did on Eye the Tide. Adding to the latest record’s accomplishment is the smoothness with which they brought seemingly opposing sides together, only adding depth to an approach already worthy of oceanic comparison.

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

Conan Existential Void Guardian
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Conan‘s reign of terror has been unfolding for more than a decade now, and each of their albums has become a kind of step along a path of incremental growth. Consider the melody creeping into the shouts of founding guitarist Jon Davis, or the emergence of bassist Chris Fielding as a vocal presence alongside, the two sharing a frontman role more than ever before while welcoming drummer Johnny King to the fold of destructive tonality and doomly extremism. Existential Void Guardian may end up just being another stomp-print on their way to the next thing, but it affirmed the fact that as much as Conan grow each time out, their central violence continues to hold sway.

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

PALE DIVINE S/T
Released by Shadow Kingdom Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

Look. A new Pale Divine record doesn’t come along every day, so yeah, their self-titled was probably going to be on my list one way or the other, but it definitely helps that not only was it their first outing in six years since 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), but it had the songs to live up to a half-decade-plus of anticipation. It marked the first studio appearance from bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis alongside guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey — now both of Beelzefuzz as well — and made a strong argument for how much Pale Divine deserve more than 20 years on from their initial demo to be considered classic American doom.

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

mos generator shadowlands
Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed May 11.

The return and rise to prominence of Washington pure heavy rockers Mos Generator might be the underground’s feelgood story of the decade, but it hasn’t by any means been easily won. In addition to rebuilding the band however many albums ago, guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed has put in innumerable hours on tour and worked to actually develop the group creatively in addition to in terms of stage presence. This is shown throughout some of the classic prog elements making their way onto Shadowlands, and perhaps some of the collection’s moodier aspects are born of the aforementioned road time as well. Hard for that kind of thing not to be a slog after a while, but at least they have killer tunes to play.

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

The only safe bet about Stoned Jesus‘ fourth long-player, Pilgrims, was that it was going to sound different than the third. That 2015 outing, The Harvest (review here), preceded the band touring to celebrate the fifth anniversary and after-the-fact success of 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but Pilgrims defied narrative in that instead of incorporating elements from the second record in more of a heavy psych or jam sound, Stoned Jesus instead showcased a tighter, more sureheaded sense of craft than they’ve ever displayed before, and arrived on Napalm Records with a collection of songs that demonstrated the growth and sense of creative will that drives them. While one can take a look at their moniker and think immediately they know what’s coming, Stoned Jesus have made themselves one of the least predictable bands in heavy rock.

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

“Pirate Smile.” “Lines.” “Whatever.” “It Ain’t Right.” “Threes.” “Cinderella.” “Generals.” “Big Enough.” “Alone.” “Lucky. Mike Cummings, Jessica Baker, Erik Larson. Every player, every song, every minute. If you want to know what heart-on-sleeve sounds like, it fucking sounds like Backwoods Payback. In their line from hardcore punk to grunge to heavy rock, they encompass experiences and emotionalism that are both shown in raw form throughout Future Slum, and build all the while on the chemistry they set out in developing with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), when they welcomed Larson to the lineup on drums and revitalized their mission. Also worth noting, they were the best live band I saw this year. Anywhere.

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

No question the excitement of C.O.C. putting out their first record with frontman Pepper Keenan involved since 2005’s In the Arms of God was one of this year’s top stories in heavy. And No Cross No Crown tapped directly into the spirit of 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) and 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) in terms of direction, while updating the band’s style with a four-part 2LP in mind. In some ways, it’ll be their next album that really gives listeners a sense of where they’re at and where they might be headed, but as welcome returns go, having Keenan alongside Mike DeanWoody Weatherman and Reed Mullin is in no way to be understated, and neither is the quality of their output together, then and now.

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It is no simple feat to hypnotize an audience and convey serenity while at the same time holding attention with songcraft, so that the listener isn’t actually so much unconscious as malleable of mood and spirit in such a direction as the band suggests. Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to become experts at this, and their third full-length fosters tonal warmth and jammy progressions with an overarching naturalism that finds them so committed to analog recording that one can buy direct transfers of the tape master of III. Some acts take classic-style practices as an aesthetic choice. With Naxatras, it seems to be the stuff of life, yet their sound is only vibrant and human in a way that, at least one hopes, is even more representative of the future than the past.

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

It was time for Clutch to make a change in producers, and the Maryland overlords of groove seemed to know it. Known as a live band, they went with Vance Powell, who’s known a live band producer. The results on Book of Bad Decisions might not have been so earth-shatteringly different from 2015’s Psychic Warfare (review here), which was the too-soon follow-up to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — both helmed by Machine — but the inimitable four-piece indeed succeeded in capturing the electricity of their stage performance and, as ever, treated fans to a collection of songs bearing Clutch‘s unmistakable hallmarks of quirky lyrics, funky rhythms and heavy roll. They may always be a live band, but Clutch‘s studio work is in no way to be discounted, ever, as this record reaffirmed. Plus, crab cakes.

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

After 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), I wasn’t sure Ancestors were going to put out another record. They kicked around word of one for a while, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that it really seemed to congeal into a possibility. And by then, who the hell knew what they might get up to on a full-length? With Suspended in Reflections, in some says, they picked up where they left off in terms of finding a niche for themselves in progressive and melodic heavy, but I think the time showed in the poise of their execution and the control of the material. Suspended in Reflections can’t help but be six years more mature than its predecessor, and that suits its contemplative feel. In tracks like “Gone,” and “The Warm Glow,” they tempered their expansive sound with an efficiency that can only be had with time.

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

The narrative here was hard to beat. Matt Pike spending an album cycle talking about Lemmy Kilmister and paying homage to his dirt-rock forebear and the gods of old? It doesn’t get much more perfect than that. Electric Messiah was the third collaboration between High on Fire and producer Kurt Ballou behind 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), and while it seemed after the last record that the formula might be getting stale, the band only sounded more and more lethal throughout the latest offering. Even putting aside their contributions to underground heavy, they’ve become one of the most essential metal bands of their generation. Metal, period. Doesn’t matter what subgenre you’re talking about it. If you’re listening to High on Fire, you know it. Usually because you’ve just been decapitated.

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

You know, if you take the time to separate Yawning Man from their 30-plus-year history and their legacy as one of the foundational acts of what later became desert rock, and you listen to The Revolt Against Tired Noises, you’re still left with basically a dream of an album. Mostly instrumental, as is their wont, they nonetheless had bassist Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) sing this time around on a version of the previously-unreleased “Catamaran,” which Kyuss covered once upon a whenever although Yawning Man had never officially put it to tape. But really, that and all other novelty aside, guitarist Gary Arce, Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson are a chemistry unto themselves. I don’t know if they’ll ever be as huge as they should be, but every bit of acclaim they get, they’ve earned, and if The Revolt Against Tired Noises helps them get it, all the more so.

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

Swedish heavy rock mavens Greenleaf have become an entirely different band than they once were. No longer a Dozer side-project from guitarist Tommi Holappa with a rotating cast of players, they’re a solidified, road-tested, powerhouse unit, and Hear the Rivers bleeds soul as a result. Holappa, frontman Arvid Hällagård, bassist Hans Fröhlich and drummer Sebastian Olsson sound like they’re absolutely on fire in the album’s tracks, and far from being staid or formulaic as one might expect a sixth long-player to be, Hear the Rivers built on what the band accomplished with 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) and came across as all the more vital and nearly frenetic in their energy. I won’t say Greenleaf has seen their last lineup change, because one never knows, but the band as they are today is the realization of potential I don’t think even Greenleaf knew was there.

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 4.

Five records deep into a career into its second decade, Gozu haven’t had a miss yet. Admittedly, some of their early work can seem formative considering where they are now, but still. And after the 2016 rager, Revival (review here), to have the band return to the same studio — Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where strides producer Dean Baltulonis — for the follow-up allows for the four-piece to directly show how their sound has grown more encompassing in the last couple years. And it has. Equilibrium is a rich and varied listen that holds true to Gozu‘s well-established penchant for soulful vibes and crunching, hard-hitting riffs and groove, but while it shares the directness of approach with Revival, it makes moves that a band could only make moving from one record to the next. I expect nothing less their next time out as well, because a decade later, that’s Gozu‘s proven track record.

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

monster magnet mindfucker
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 23.

The battle for the best album title of 2018 ended early when New Jersey everything-rockers Monster Magnet announced the release of Mindfucker. And what else to call a Monster Magnet LP at this point? They’ve stopped writing to genre. They’re driven by the creative mania of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf, and they’ve seen psychedelic expanses and commercial success the likes of which would serve the tenure of four lesser bands. What’s left to do but whatever the hell you want? So that’s what Monster Magnet are doing. It just so happens that while they’re doing it, they’re still basically outclassing the entirety of the former planet earth as songwriters. As Monster Magnet fan in 2018, there was nothing more I could’ve asked than what Mindfucker delivered. And if you’re still trying to get your brain around it however many months later, you’re not alone. I think that’s the idea.

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Best doom album of 2018. The combination of craft and passion behind the delivery. The way the dark tones fed into the emotions so clearly on display and sheer presence of it in listening to songs like “Keeping the Lighthouse,” “Ruination by Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here.” Apostle of Solitude never seem to be the highest profile band out there, but their work seems never to be anything less than outstanding, and I refuse to accept them as anything less than among the most pivotal American acts out there making traditional doom. And not just making it, but making it their own, with a sense of new pursuits and individualism that extends to playing style as well as atmosphere. I know doom isn’t exactly in short supply these days — figuratively or literally — but if you miss out on what Apostle of Solitude are doing with it, you’ll only regret it later. I’ll say it one more time: Best doom album of 2018.

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

holy grove ii
Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 31.

Every now and again, anticipating the crap of an album really pays off, and such was the case with Holy Grove II, the Ripple Music debut from the Portland outfit whose 2016 self-titled (review here) seemed like such a herald of excellence to come while also, you know, being killer. Holy Grove II brought the four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis to entirely new levels of composition and execution. In songs like “Blade Born,” the shorter, sharper “Aurora,” the patiently rolling “Valley of the Mystics,” “Solaris” and closer “Cosmos,” which boasted a not-really-necessary-but-definitely-welcome guest vocal appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, — and oh wait, that’s all of the tracks — Holy Grove entered a different echelon. Anticipation will likewise be high for Holy Grove III, but it’ll be hard to complain with this record to keep company in the meantime.

6. All Them Witches, ATW

all them witches atw
Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Over five All Them Witches albums, the Nashville four-piece have gone from a nascent heavy Americana jam band to one of the most distinct acts in the US underground. Their development in sound is chemistry-driven, so it was a risk when the founding trio of bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod (who also produced) and drummer Robby Staebler welcomed new keyboardist Jonathan Draper into the lineup to take the place of Allan van Cleave. Amid a more naturalist production than that of 2017’s Sleeping Through the War (review here), the revamped four-piece flourished in terms of songwriting and conveying their stage-born sonic personae. From the gleeful fuckery of opener “Fishbelly 86 Onions” to the memorable moodiness of “Diamond” and the back-end jam “Harvest Feast” en route to the stretched-out end of “Rob’s Dream,” All Them Witches essentially confirmed they could do whatever they wanted and make it work.

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

yob our raw heart
Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed June 7.

Actually, if you want a sample of YOB‘s raw heart, the place to go is probably 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), but whatever the Eugene, Oregon, shapers of cosmic doom might’ve lacked in titular accuracy on their eighth long-player, they made up for in a new, statesman-like posture. Their approach was mature, hammered out to a professionalism working completely on its own terms, and they never sounded so sure of who they are as a band or as confident of their direction. In extended cuts “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “Our Raw Heart,” they explored new and progressive textures and melodies, and managed to reaffirm their core aspects while finding room for conveying emotion that came across as nothing but ultimately sincere. They have been and still are one of a kind, and as they continue to move forward, they remain a band that makes one feel lucky to be alive to witness their work. Our Raw Heart was perhaps more refined than it let on, but the heart was there for sure, as always.

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan of the (relatively) harder-hitting approach Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band took on 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), but Mankind Woman brought in some more of his soul influences, and whether it was the subtly subversive funk of “Chocolatize” and “Brand New Old Times” or the callout “1968” and laid back vibes of the title-track and “Swagger and Sway,” Bjork — working with guitarist Bubba DuPree on songwriting and production — offered a definitive look at what has made his 20-year solo career so special and demonstrates not only his longevity and his legacy, but his will to continue to progress as an artist honing his craft. His discography is well populated by now to be sure, but Mankind Woman represents a turn from the last couple records, and if it’s in any way portentous of things to come, it bodes well. Bjork is right at home nestled into classic-style grooves, and his legacy as one of the principal architects of desert rock is continually reaffirmed.

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

They’ve been great, not just good, for a long time now, and as forerunners of the San Diego heavy scene, they’re godfathers to an up and coming generation of bands taking their influence — let alone acts from the rest of the world — but Black Heaven is a special moment for them because of its departure. No, it wasn’t not the first time guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sang on an Earthless recording, but it did represent a tip of the balance in that direction for the band on a studio full-length, and that resulted in a special moment. Album opener “Gifted by the Wind” was one of the best songs I heard this year, and while “End to End” and the all-thrust “Volt Rush” affirmed that more traditional songwriting was well within the grasp of Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they still found space for a sprawling jam or two, keeping their claim on the instrumentalism that’s (largely) fueled their tenure to date. Earthless don’t want for acclaim, but every bit of it is earned, and while their primary impact has always been live, Black Heaven saw them construct a traditional-style LP that still bore the hallmarks of their collective personality. It was the best of all worlds.

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

king buffalo longing to be the mountain
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed Sept. 27.

In the dark early hours of 2018, the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson issued the Repeater EP (review here) as a follow-up to their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), so Longing to Be the Mountain didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but even with Repeater preceding its arrival, I don’t think anyone necessary expected King Buffalo‘s second album to have such a scope or to be so engrossing with it. In its melody, patience, atmosphere and heft, it was an absolute joy to behold. Its songs were memorable at the same time they were far-reaching, and while Orion was already my pick for the best debut of 2016, Longing to Be the Mountain realized even more potential than that record had hinted toward. It could be intimate or majestic at its whim, and its dynamic set an individual characterization of heavy psychedelia and blues-style sprawl that the band wholly owned. With production by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches behind them, they worked to serve notice of a progression undertaken the results of which are already staggering and still seem to be looking ahead to the next stage, literally and figuratively. One of the principal standards I use in constructing this list every year is what I listen to most. That’s this record.

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

Obviously, right? To some extent, when Sleep surprise-announced on April 19 they’d release their first album in 15 years the next day, and then did, they took ownership of 2018. Even with records still to come at that point from YOB and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike‘s own High on Fire, there was no way that when the end of the year came around, it wasn’t going to be defined by the advent of a new Sleep record. And even if it sucked, it would probably still be Album of the Year, but fortunately, as Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) took their long-running stage reunion to the studio, they brought material that highlighted the best elements from all players. Pike‘s wild soloing, Cisneros‘ meditative vocals and Roeder‘s intricate but smooth style of roll all came together in older pieces like “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” and newer highlights “Giza Butler” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” and aside from the excitement at their existence, they showed the mastery of form that Sleep had been demonstrating live since 2009 and which they hinted toward in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here). A new Sleep full-length was something long-discussed, long-rumored and long-considered, but when it finally happened, I think the results vaporized expectation in a way no one could’ve anticipated. There’s a reason Sleep are Sleep. Having The Sciences as a reminder of that brought about the defining moment of 2018.

The Next 20

Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a Top 30 at all if it didn’t go to 50. Don’t try to make sense of it, just look at the records.

31. Atavismo, Valdeinfierno
32. Grayceon, IV
33. Clamfight, III
34. Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique
35. Megaton Leviathan, Mage
36. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland
37. Arcadian Child, Superfonica
38. Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains
39. The Machine, Faceshift
40. Messa, Feast for Water
41. Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium
42. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction
43. Domkraft, Flood
44. Träden, Träden
45. Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
46. Samavayo, Vatan
47. Foehammer, Second Sight
48. Bongripper, Terminal
49. Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran
50. Sunnata, Outlands
51. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Come and Chutney

Believe me when I tell you, I sweated over this section more than I did the actual top 30. Mansion should be higher. So should Chubby Thunderous, though something in me thought they might like being #50 on a list of 30. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Clamfight, Black Rainbows, Foehammer, Seedy Jeezus, Messa, Domkraft. All of these were fucking awesome. And there are more (we’ll get there). Eventually numbers add up. I won’t say a bad word about any of these. That’s it.

Honorable Mention

This section always winds up expanded as other people point out things I missed and so on, but here’s what I’ve got in the immediate, alphabetically:

  • Alms, Act One
  • Ape Machine, Darker Seas
  • Belzebong, Light the Dankness
  • Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord
  • Blackwater Holylight, Blackwater Holylight
  • Bong, Thought and Existence
  • Carpet, About Rooms and Elephants
  • Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery
  • Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree
  • Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need
  • Death Alley, Superbia
  • Drug Cult, Drug Cult
  • Dunbarrow, II
  • Electric Citizen, Helltown
  • Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn
  • Evoken, Hypnagogia
  • Funeral Horse, Psalms for the Mourning
  • Fuzz Evil, High on You
  • Graven, Heirs of Discord
  • Graveyard, Peace
  • Green Dragon, Green Dragon
  • Green Druid, Ashen Blood
  • Here Lies Man, You Will Know Nothing
  • High Priestess, High Priestess
  • Horehound, Holocene
  • IAH, II
  • JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis
  • Killer Boogie, Acid Cream
  • Lonely Kamel, Death’s Head Hawkmoth
  • MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure
  • Moab, Trough
  • Mountain Dust, Seven Storms
  • Mouth, Floating
  • Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence
  • T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid
  • Onségen Ensemble, Duel
  • Orango, Evergreen
  • Owl, Nights in Distortion
  • Pushy, Hard Wish
  • Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
  • River Cult, Halcyon Daze
  • Rotor, Sechs
  • Somali Yacht Club, The Sea
  • Sumac, Love in Shadow
  • Sundrifter, Visitations
  • Svvamp, Svvamp II
  • Thou, Magus
  • Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse
  • Weedpecker, III

Special Note

Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to include these in the list proper because they’re not really underground releases, but there were two more records I especially wanted to highlight for their quality:

  • Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
  • Judas Priest, Firepower

Best Short Release of the Year

Normally I’d do this as a separate post, but as a result of being robbed earlier this year, I feel like my list is woefully incomplete. If you have any demos, EPs, splits, singles, etc., to add to it, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Still, the top pick was clear:

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Rarely do two bands work in such coherent tandem to their mutual benefit. Here are a few other essential short releases for 2018, alphabetically:

  • All Them Witches, Lost and Found
  • Alunah, Amber & Gold
  • Canyon, Mk II
  • Demon Head, The Resistence
  • Destroyer of Light, Hopeless
  • Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence
  • Godmaker & Somnuri, Split
  • Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul
  • King Buffalo, Repeater
  • Minsk & Zatokrev, Split
  • Sleep, Leagues Beneath
  • Stonus, Lunar Eclipse
  • Sundecay, Gale

Looking Forward

A good many albums have already been announced or hinted at for 2019. I in no way claim this to be a complete roundup of what’s coming, but here’s what I have in my notes so far, in absolutely no order:

Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Cities of Mars, Heavy Temple, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan (LP), Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Om.

Okay, That’s It

Yeah, no, I’m serious. List is done. Everybody go back to your lives. Your families miss you.

Really though, while this is by no means my last post of 2018, I can’t let it pass without saying thank you so much to everyone for checking out the site this year, or for just digging into this, or for sending me music, or hitting me up on social media, sharing a link, anything. Thank you. Thank you. I could never have imagined when it started out where it would be now. Or that I’d still be doing it. Your support means more to me than I can say, and I thank you so much for being a part of this with me.

So thanks.

If you have something to add to the list, please do so by leaving a comment below, but keep in mind as well the above note requesting civility. Please don’t make me feel stupid because I forgot your favorite record. I forgot a lot of people’s favorite records. I’m one dude. I’m doing my best.

And please keep in mind if you’ve got a list together that the Year-End Poll is open and results will be out Jan. 1.

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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