The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

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

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

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

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

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

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

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

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

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” and the acoustic closer “Been So Long.” With Bjork recording all the instruments himself, a due feeling of intimacy resulted, and yet he still found a way to make it rock. How could it be otherwise?

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

Why do I feel the immediate need to defend this pick? I’m not sure. Norway’s Enslaved are an institution, not just of black metal, but of bringing an ideology of creative growth to that style that often willfully resists it. They are iconoclastic even unto their own work. Utgard was released as the band stood on the precipice of 30 years together and yet it stood as their most forward-looking offering yet, as co-founders Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals) and Ivar Bjørnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017’s E (review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver Sandøy, who doubles as a vocalist (and triples as a producer). The “new blood” made all the difference on Utgard, allowing Enslaved to piece together new ranges of melody in their work and offset instrumental shifts into and out of krautrock-derived progressions. Simply the work of a band outdoing itself from a band who does so at nearly every opportunity.

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 3, 2019.

Every year I allow myself one addendum pick, and this is it. We Are was on last year’s list because it was digitally released, but the vinyl came out this year and it received its North American release this year as well, so it seemed only right to acknowledge that. So here it is in its proper place.

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

This is a band controlling their own narrative. Instead of Nothing as the Ideal being ‘the one they made as a three-piece,’ the Nashville outfit decided to make it ‘the one they recorded at Abbey Road.’ Were they thinking of it on those terms? Yeah, likely not, but it goes to demonstrate all the same just how much of themselves All Them Witches put into what they do musically, since not only are they continuing to refine and define and undefine their approach, but they’re setting the terms on which they do it. Each of their records has been a response to the one prior, but that conversation has never been so direct as to make them predictable. So what are they chasing? Apparently nothing. I’m not entirely sure I buy that as a complete answer, but I am sure I love these songs and the experiments with tape loops and other sounds that fill these spaces. Whatever they do next — or even if nothing — their run has been incredible and exciting and one only hopes their influence continues to spread over the next however many years.

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

There was a high standard set by Elephant Tree‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but their second LP, Habits, surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. With vocals centered around harmonies from guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the former trio completed by drummer Sam Hart brought in guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery (also sometimes vocals), and the resultant breadth gave the material on Habits spaciousness beyond even what the first album promised. Drifting, rolling, unflinchingly melodic and somehow present even in its own escapism, Habits was not just an early highlight for a rough 2020, but a comforting presence throughout, and the further one dug into tracks like “Sails,” “Exit the Soul,” “Faceless,” “Wasted” and the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the more there was to find — let alone “Bird,” which I’ll happily put against anything else one might propose for song of the year. As their former UK label crumbled, Habits emerged unscathed and Elephant Tree‘s future continues to shine with ever more hope for things to come. Being able to say that about anything feels like a relief.

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Twenty years ago, Sweden’s Lowrider put out what would become a heavy rock landmark in their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here). A follow-up years in the making even after the band got back together to play Desertfest in London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, Refractions first saw limited release in 2019 as part of Blues Funeral‘s PostWax series (discussed here), but its proper arrival was in early 2020, and there was really no looking back after that. It wasn’t just the novelty of a new Lowrider album that made Refractions such a joy, but the manner in which the band went about its work. There was no pretending that 20 years didn’t happen. There was no attempt to recapture the bottled lightning that was the first record, and Lowrider did not sound like a band “making a comeback” rife with expectations and fan-service. Refractions acknowledged the legacy of Ode to Io, sure enough, but as a step toward adding to it in meaningful and engaging ways. The songs — “Red River,” “Ode to Ganymede,” “Sernanders Krog,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe,” “Sun Devil/M87” and the 11-minute finale “Pipe Rider” — were fashioned without pretense and came across as the organic output of a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They made it their own. In a wretched year, Lowrider shined.

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

Yeah, okay. There are a lot of these, so buckle in. Last year I just threw out a list of bands. This year I’m a little more organized, so here are bands and records alphabetically.

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú 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
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Notes: In this wretched year (mostly) void of live music, marked by canceled tours and festivals, the live album arguably played a more central role than it ever has, whether it was a band trying to keep momentum up following or leading into a studio release, taking advantage of the emergence of the Bandcamp Friday phenomenon or just trying to maintain some connection to their fans and the process of taking a stage. Or even playing in a room together. Or not a room. Anything. What was once a tossoff, maybe an afterthought companion piece became an essential worker of the listening experience.

You might accuse desert rock progenitors Yawning Man of playing to their base with Live at Giant Rock (featured here), and if so, fine. At no point in the last 50 years has that base more needed playing-to. And in the absence of shows, being able to hear (and watch, in the case of the accompanying video) Yawning Man go out to the landscape that spawned them and engage with their music was a beautiful moment of reconciliation. An exhale for the converted that didn’t fill one with empty promises of better tomorrows or tours to come, but served to remind what’s so worth preserving about the spirit of live music in the first place. The fact that anything can happen. A replaced note here, a tuning change there — these things can make not just an evening, but memories that go beyond shows, tours, to touch our lives.

There were a ton of live records this year. Some were benefits for worthy causes between saving venues, Black Lives Matter, voting rights organizations, and so on. And whether these were new performances from captured livestreams (Monte Luna, Kadavar) or older gigs that had been sitting around waiting for release at some point (Sumac, Dead Meadow), this, very much, was that point, and these live offerings kept burning a fire that felt at times very much in danger of being extinguished.

Looking Ahead to 2021

A list of bands. Some confirmed releases, some not. Here goes:

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, Lantlôs, 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: Pallbearer, Fulanno, Spirit Mother, Gevaudan, El Rojo, Witchwood, Gary Lee Conner, Tomorr, Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Karkara

Posted in Reviews on December 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

There isn’t enough caffeine in the universe to properly sustain a Quarterly Review, and yet here we are. I’ve been doing this for six years now, and once started I’ve always managed to get through it. This seven-day spectacular hits its halfway point today, which is okay by me. I decided to do this because there was a bunch of stuff I still wanted to consider for my year-end list, which I’d normally post this week. And sure enough, a few more have managed to make the cut from each day. I’ll hope to put the list together in the coming days and get it all posted next week, before the poll results at least. I’m not sure why that matters, but yeah.

Thanks for following along if you have been. Hope you’ve found something worth digging into.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Their best record. I don’t want to hear anymore about their demo, or about 2012’s Sorrow and Extinction (review here) or anything else. This is the album Pallbearer have been driving toward since their outset. It is an amalgam of emotive melody and tonal weight that makes epics of both the 12-minute “Silver Wings” and the four-minute “The Quicksand of Existing” that immediately follows, that hits a morose exploration of self in opener “Forgotten Days” and “Stasis” while engaging in metallic storytelling on “Vengeance and Ruination” and “Rite of Passage,” the latter incorporating classic metal melody in perhaps the broadest reach the band has ever had in that regard. So yeah. Pallbearer don’t have a ‘bad’ record. 2017’s Heartless (review here) was a step forward, to be sure. But Forgotten Days, ironically enough, is the kind of offering on which legacies are built and a touchstone for whatever Pallbearer do from here on out.

Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks

Nuclear Blast website

 

Fulanno, Nadie Está a Salvo del Mal

fulanno Nadie está a salvo del mal

The fog rolls in thick on Argentinian doomers Fulanno‘s second full-length, Nadie Está a Salvo del Mal. The seven-track/42-minute outing launches in post-Electric Wizard fashion, and indeed, the drawling lumber of the Dorset legends is an influence throughout, but by no means the only one the trio of guitarist/vocalist Fila Frutos, bassist Mauro Carosela and drummer Jose A. are under. They cast a doom-for-doomers vibe almost immediately, but as “Fuego en la Cruz” gives way to “Los Elegidos” and “Hombre Muerto,” the sense of going deeper is palpable. Crunching, raw tonality comes across as the clean vocals cut through, and the abiding rawness becomes a part of the aesthetic on “Los Colmillos de Satan,” a turning point ahead of the interlude “Señores de la Necrópolis,” the eight-minute “El Desierto de los Caídos” and the surprisingly resonant closing instrumental “El Libro de los Muertos.” Fulanno are plenty atmospheric when they want to be, and one wonders if that won’t come further forward as their progression continues. Either way, they’ve staked their claim in doom and sound ready to die for the cause.

Fulanno on Thee Facebooks

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp

Interstellar Smoke Records on Bandcamp

 

Spirit Mother, Cadets

spirit mother cadets

Preceded by a series of singles over the last couple years, Cadets is the full-length debut from Los Angeles four-piece Spirit Mother, and it packs expanse into deceptively efficient songs, seeming to loll this way and that even as it keeps an underlying forward push. The near-shoegaze vocals do a lot of the work in affecting a mellow-psych vibe, but there’s weight to Spirit Mother‘s “Ether” as well, violin, woven vocal layers, and periodic tempo kicks making songs standout from each other even as “Go Getter” keeps an experimentalist feel and “Premonitions” aces its cosmic-garage driver’s test with absolutely perfect pacing. The ultra-spacey “Shape Shifter I” and more boogie-fied “Shape Shifter II” are clear focal points, but Cadets as a whole is a marked accomplishment, particularly for a first LP, and in style, substance and atmosphere, it brings together rich textures with a laissez-faire spontaneity. The closing instrumental “Bajorek” is only one example among the 10 included tracks of Spirit Mother‘s potential, which is writ large throughout.

Spirit Mother on Thee Facebooks

Spirit Mother on Bandcamp

 

Gévaudan, Iter

gevaudan iter

UK four-piece Gévaudan made their debut in 2019 with Iter, and though I’m late to the party as ever, the five-song/53-minute offering is of marked scope and dynamic. Its soft stretches are barely there, melancholic and searching, and its surges of volume in opener “Dawntreader” are expressive without being overwrought. Not without modern influence from Pallbearer or YOB, etc., Gévaudan‘s honing in on atmospherics helps stand out Iter as the band plod-marches with “The Great Heathen Army” — the most active of inclusions and the centerpiece — en route to “Saints of Blood” (11:54) and closer “Duskwalker” (15:16), the patient dip into extremity of the latter sealing the record’s triumph; those screams feel not like a trick the band kept up their collective sleeve, but a transition earned through the grueling plunge of all the material prior. It’s one for which I’d much rather be late than never.

Gévaudan on Thee Facebooks

Gévaudan website

 

El Rojo, El Diablo Rojo

el rojo el diablo rojo

The burly heavy rock of “South” at the outset of Italian heavy rockers El Rojo‘s El Diablo Rojo doesn’t quite tell the whole tale of the band’s style, but it gives essential clues to their songwriting and abiding burl. Later pieces like the slower-rolling “Ascension” (initially, anyhow) and acoustic-inclusive “Cactus Bloom” effectively build on the foundation of bruiser riffs and vocals, branching out desert-influenced melody and spaciousness instrumentalism even as the not-at-all-slowed-down “When I Slow Down” keeps affairs grounded in their purpose and structure. Riffs are thick and lead the charge on the more straightforward pieces and the seven-minute “Colors” alike as El Rojo attempt not to reinvent heavy or stoner rocks but to find room for themselves within the established tenets of genre. They’ve been around a few years at this point, and there’s still growing to be done, but El Diablo Rojo sounds like the starting point of an engaging progression.

El Rojo on Thee Facebooks

Karma Conspiracy Records website

 

Witchwood, Before the Winter

witchwood before the winter

Deep Purple, Uriah Heep, Jethro Tull, some Led Zeppelin in “Crazy Little Lover” and a touch of opera on “Nasrid” for good measure, Witchwood‘s 62-minute Before the Winter 2LP may be well on the other side of unmanageable in terms of length, but at least it’s not wasting anyone’s time. Instead, early rockers like “Anthem for a Child” and “A Taste of Winter” and the wah-funked “Feelin'” introduce the elements that will serve as the band’s colorful palette across the whole of the album. And a piece like “No Reason to Cry” becomes a straight-ahead complement to airier material like the not-coincidentally-named “A Crimson Moon” and the winding and woodsy “Hesperus,” which caps the first LP as the 10-minute epic “Slow Colours of Shade” does likewise for the record as a whole, followed by a bonus Marc Bolan cover on the vinyl edition, to really hammer home the band’s love of the heavy ’70s, which is already readily on display in their originals.

Witchwood on Thee Facebooks

Jolly Roger Records website

 

Gary Lee Conner, Revelations in Fuzz

gary lee conner revelations in fuzz

If nothing else, Gary Lee Conner sounds like he probably has an enviable collection of 45s. The delightfully weird former Screaming Trees guitarist offers up 10 fresh delights of ’60s-style garage-psych solo works on the follow-up to 2018’s Unicorn Curry, as Revelations in Fuzz lives up to its title in tone even as cascades of organ and electric piano, sitar and acoustic guitar weave in and out of the proceedings. How no one has paired Conner with Baby Woodrose frontman Uffe Lorenzen for a collaboration is a mystery I can’t hope to solve, but in the swirling and stops of “Cheshire Cat Claws” and the descent of six-minute closer “Colonel Tangerine’s Sapphire Sunshine Dreams,” Conner reaffirms his love of that which is hypnotic and lysergic while hewing to a traditionalism of songwriting that makes cuts like “Vicious and Pretty” as catchy as they are far out. And trust me, they’re plenty far out. Conner is a master of acid rock, pure and simple. And he’s already got a follow-up to this one released, so there.

Gary Lee Conner on Thee Facebooks

Vincebus Eruptum Recordings website

 

Tomorr, Tomorr

tomorr tomorr

Formed in Italy with Albanian roots, Tomorr position themselves as rural doom, which to an American reader will sound like ‘country,’ but that’s not what’s happening here. Instead, three-piece are attempting to capture a raw, village-minded sound, with purposeful homage to the places outside the cities of Europe made into sludge riffing and the significant, angular lumber of “Grazing Land.” I’m not sure it works all the time — the riff in the second half of “Varr” calls to mind “Dopesmoker” more than anti-urbane sensibilities, and wants nothing for crush — but as it’s their debut, Tomorr deserve credit for approaching doom from an individualized mindset, and the bulk of the six-song/48-minute offering does boast a sound that is on the way to being the band’s own, if not already there. There’s room for incorporating folk progressions and instrumentation if Tomorr want to go that route, but something about the raw approach they have on their self-titled is satisfying on its own level — a meeting of impulses creative and destructive at some lost dirt crossroads.

Tomorr on Thee Facebooks

Acid Cosmonaut Records on Bandcamp

 

Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide

temple of the fuzz witch red tide

Well what the hell do you think Temple of the Fuzz Witch sounds like? They’re heavy as shit. Of course they are. The Detroiters heralded doomly procession on their 2019 self-titled demo/EP (review here), and the subsequent debut full-length Red Tide, is righteously plodding riffery, Sabbathian without just being the riff to “Electric Funeral” and oblivion-bound nod that’s so filled with smoke it’s practically coughing. What goes on behind the doors of the Temple? Volume, kid. Give me the chug of “The Others” any and every day of the week, I don’t give a fuck if Temple of the Fuzz Witch are reinventing the wheel or not. All I wanna do is put on “Ungoliant” and nod out to the riff that sounds like “The Chosen Few” and be left in peace. Fuck you man. I ain’t bothering anyone. You’re the one with the problem, not me. This guy knows what I’m talking about. Side B of this record will eat your fucking soul, but only after side A has tenderized the meat. Hyperbole? Fuck you.

Temple of the Fuzz Witch on Thee Facebooks

Interstellar Smoke Records webstore

 

Karkara, Nowhere Land

karkara nowhere land

Rife with adventurous and Middle Eastern-inflected heavy psychedelia, Nowhere Land is the follow-up to Toulouse, France-based Karkara‘s 2019 debut, Crystal Gazer (review here), and it finds the three-piece pushing accordingly into broader spaces of guitar-led freakery. Would you imagine a song called “Space Caravan” has an open vibe? You’d be correct. Same goes for “People of Nowhere Land,” which even unto its drum beat feels like some kind of folk dance turned fuzz-drenched lysergic excursion. The closing pair of “Cards” and “Witch” feel purposefully teamed up to round out the 36-minute outing, but maybe that’s just the overarching ethereal nature of the release as a whole coming through as Karkara manage to transport their listener from this place to somewhere far more liquid, languid, and encompassing, full of winding motion in “Falling Gods” and graceful post-grunge drift in “Setting Sun.”

Karkara on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records website

 

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Friday Full-Length: Meshuggah, Chaosphere

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

Immediately before I started writing this sentence — just now — I clicked through the back end of this site to filter out a couple spam comments. They always throw something random in the text, then link to I don’t even know what because there’s no way I’m clicking to find out. Sometimes it’s like “ur sitez teh best omg how you blog” or whatever. This morning all it said was “where to find neurosurgeon.” I can hardly think of a more appropriate question to lead into a discussion about Meshuggah‘s Chaosphere.

Based in Umeå, Sweden, and dating back to the thrashy beginnings of the late 1980s, they’re a long-standing flagship band of Nuclear Blast Records and unquestionably among the most influential bands of their generation. Their 1991 debut, Contradictions Collapse — which wound up repackaged with the 1994 EP None — led to 1995’s landmark Destroy, Erase, Improve, which in songs like “Soul Burn,” “Suffer in Truth” and “Future Breed Machine” became the skull from which what was later known as “djent” sprang. Not the best descriptor, but a more efficient encapsulation than astoundingly-progressive-and-technically-focused-time-signature-fuckery And yeah, “djent” has been maligned since like every trend that arises in heavy metal eventually is, but that wouldn’t be the case if band’s weren’t doing it. And they were and are.

Chaosphere, which followed the 1997 EP The True Human Design and coincided with the also-’97 release of Sol Niger Within, a debut album from guitarist Fredrik Thordendal‘s side-project, Fredrik Thordendal’s Special Defects, is inarguably pinnacle Meshuggah. Its largely, willfully amelodic refinement of the crunch, crush and inhuman style that emerged on the prior record makes its 47-minute run breathtakingly intense even more than two decades later. The subtleties of spacious guitar leads and mechanized — industrial, really, without the keyboards — rhythms between Thordendal and Mårten Hagström, the punch of bass at the outset of “Neurotica” from Gustaf Hielm, the lifeline of Tomas Haake‘s okay-now-make-it-all-make-sense drums thrown to the listener as though if we just all find the snare pattern it’ll be fine, along with the largely unipolar bark of vocalist Jens Kidman, all work together to bring metal to a place it had never gone on songs like “Concatenation” and “Corridor of Chameleons,” while still somehow staying catchy on “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” and “The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled.”

It was an album that demanded nothing less than memorization. It tasked the listener in a way that ran counter to the bulk of what was being produced through even bigger underground labels at that point, whether it was the nü-metal and rap-crossover dominating radio and MTV or the death or black metal and stoner rock that began to take shape elsewhere. At the dawn of the age of file-sharing, Meshuggah were a band speaking from a post-apocalyptic future, Meshuggah Chaosphereand even at low volumes their work astounded, but loud, it was like being churned through gears in an old Looney Tunes cartoon, winding your way seemingly at random through the inner workings, springs and chunking pieces of metal of a clock keeping its own time. If you could get your head around it at all, it felt like an win. The sheer severity.

And yet somehow, Chaosphere also seems spare. Neither “The Mouth Licking What You’ve Bled” nor “Sane” and “The Exquisite Machinery of Torture” top four minutes — though they’re all close — and the only reason the runtime hits 47 minutes is because after closer “Elastic” finishes at around six minutes in, there’s five-plus minutes of noise and then the band piles four songs on top of each other for a final four minutes of absolute noise punishment, making the ‘track’ a total of 15 minutes long. But even if you can listen to that unnerving drone — and really, you can, but only if you really feel the need to prove that to yourself — and the appropriate ball of chaos that follows, which is interesting if completely overwhelming, it’s the forcefulness of purpose in the earlier proceedings that so much stands out.

I won’t get into debating Chaosphere versus others in Meshuggah‘s discography either before or after. Destroy, Erase, Improve was a step along the path and crucial in its own right, but its follow-up stands alone among the band’s output, and even aside from the fact that it inspired an entire generation — probably two at this point — to explore more complexity in their own songwriting for better and/or worse as well as a ton of lunkhead mosh parts, its own victory still stands up 22 years later in the cathartic listening experience. From the raging shove of “Concatenation” through the start-stop breakdown late in “New Millennium Cyanide Christ” and the violence that seems to accompany every fitful smash of “Corridor of Chameleons,” it is a masterpiece of its own particular kind of brutality, and the stuff of which legacies — specifically Meshuggah‘s — are rightly made.

They made the most of it, sort of, by touring. A compilation, Rare Trax, would be their next release in 2001, though, and I recall that feeling like a long time. When the band did emerge with new output, it was the 2002 LP Nothing, which would get a subsequent redux in 2006, and the 2004 I EP, a single-song 20-minute track that stands as one of Meshuggah‘s greatest achievements. Along with the 2005 LP Catch Thirty-Three and 2008’s obZen, this stands as the most productive period in the band’s history, with the album Koloss following in 2012 and offering up a few singles but little new to the mix. By contrast, 2016’s The Violent Sleep of Reason found the group recording live and trying to capture a more natural feel counter to popular conception of what they do, and while raw-sounding at times, it was clear their restlessness was leading them to try something else.

Now statesmen of metal some eight or nine records deep into a tenure of 30-plus years, that they’d even bother speaks to the enduring creative and progressive spirit that led to the accomplishment that was and is Chaosphere. It continues to stun and likely will do so into perpetuity.

In the parlance of our times, “current mood:” and “MFW.”

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

6:01AM. I tried to go for a run after finishing the above. Got running clothes on, my new brown Carhartt hat that’s like the one I had in high school — I guess between that and the Meshuggah I’m regressing; maybe I’ll replay Final Fantasy VIII next — and barely made it out of the driveway before my left heel offered a swift correction. Feels like plantar fasciitis, which is familiar enough, but I’ve been having trouble with that ankle of late as well. This is a familiar pattern. I start to work out, hurt myself, stop, “compensate” through negative eating habits, feel like shit, feel like shit, and in the end, feel like shit.

I also haven’t had any form of nut butter in like a month now, because, really, it was getting out of hand, and I don’t know if I’ve lost any weight as a result, but I’ve definitely lost some of my sense of joy in life. So that’s good. Because enjoying things is bad.

I guess that feeling like shit part going to happen one way or the other, then. Maybe I really should break out the PlayStation. Would be something to give now-three-year-old The Pecan his first real 100 hours of screen time watching me get Squall and company up to level 85 and then just wreck everybody. My time-tested method for such things.

Ah.

The Meshuggah choice, if it needs to be said, was born of frustration with the uncertainty of the American political situation, the presidential election, various dictatorial rantings on the part of the White House — which really should be torn down and replaced by something not built by slaves, just for the optics if not the actual morality of it — and so on. How many times can you refresh the New York Times frontpage in a single day? I’m on a quest to find out. Fuck the electoral college, the senate and other such bastions of American anti-democracy. Chaosphere has been a welcome cathartic burst even if the unspoken companion message there is my own impotency to enact any sort of change to any of it. At least music still sounds good.

Not that Joe Biden is going to fix everything, you understand. Like because he was Obama’s VP structural racism will end and cops will stop killing black people and economic inequality will disappear and we’ll all have healthcare and student loan forgiveness and blah blah blah godless socialist paradise that everyone actually wants but doesn’t happen because CAPITALISM. He’s a mediocre candidate and that was the point behind his getting the nomination — the Democratic party wanted a safe choice to counteract the president’s off-rails consumption of the media sphere, otherwise they wouldn’t have undercut Bernie Sanders as brutally as they did — but how much worse can he possibly make anything? Two days in a row of 100,000-plus new cases of COVID-19, and a dude standing in front of a mic in the press briefing room just lying about shit. Biden’s mediocre but at least he’s human. The president is like Nomad after Kirk tells him he’s not the crea-tor, all spouting nonsense with smoke coming out of his ears and so on.

Well, the kid’s up and looking out his window. He’s been up earlier all week with the time change, though we’re starting to get back on track. He’s also been biting again, and hitting, and kicking. Comes and goes. He bites himself. He bites me. He grabs now, kind of a proto-pinch. Frustrating. Shitty. After a year of occupational therapy, kind of backslid going into preschool. I’m hoping it’s the change in schedule/physical activity. I’m hoping it doesn’t last. I’m hoping he doesn’t bite another kid, though last time he did the kid scratched his face all to hell and I kind of thought that was a win on a lesson-learned level. Apparently not, though it’s not like I’m going to bite him back, as much as I’ve been given that advice in the past.

Everything’s a fight though. The good news is the dog hasn’t really been around to make it worse. She’s been spending days up the road at my sister and mother’s house, where there’s a big fenced-in back yard to run around, other dogs to play with, and a toddler factor of zero. Frankly, it seems like a better existence for her there on every level, and the photos of the dog relaxed and sprawled on their couch snuggling their other dogs that my sister has been sending me all week bear that out. Apparently one of their dogs, Rey, whines now when Omi leaves. Omi was also despondent last time I picked her up. We’ll see how that plays out over time, but I’m not at all opposed to sharing the dog in the interim. My sister’s son, 10, apparently likes her as well. So yeah.

We’re thinking of going to Connecticut today to see The Patient Mrs.’ mother before her place at the beach closes for the season so the pipes don’t freeze. It’s always kind of stressful with The Pecan, since there’s no real “proofing” that small space for him, but we might just suck it up and go. We’re up that way tomorrow anyhow for great-grandma’s 90-somethingth birthday. Outside. Maybe masks? I don’t know. We’re all in the pod anyway.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Next week is packed. Today is Bandcamp Friday. No Gimme show, but I’ll be kicking around a few recommendations on Facebook for how to spend your money, if you feel like keeping an eye out. If you don’t, I get that too. Times are tough. My Facebook likes thing is broken (you have to click to the post from the frontpage, then look at the bottom one to see how many likes there are; I have no idea why and I can’t seem to fix it). So it goes. Make sure to hydrate.

FRM.

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Paradise Lost Live Stream Airs Today

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 5th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

UK gothic death-doom forebears Paradise Lost are hosting a special streaming event later today in support of their new album, Obsidian (review here). I can’t help but wonder if the band knew then what they know now about how this year would play out of they’d have released it at all, but it’s out there now, and it’s good enough that it’s damn near a tragedy they’re not able to tour it on some 18-month cycle across various continents. But like everyone, they’re working with what they’ve got.

Some day, live music will return. Will it be the same? I doubt it. But as streams have become a go-to gap-filler for so many bands, I don’t think streaming is going away. What I’d love is for pay-per-view videos like this to become part of the pastiche of record promotion. A thing bands do, to do along with live shows, recording, touring, interviews, etc. One way or the other, there’s a lot that needs to shake out culturally before we get there.

And while I’m thinking of it, fuck Boris Johnson too.

The stream info from the PR wire:

paradise lost

Remember remember the 5th of November with PARADISE LOST!

Following on from the release of their new album ‘Obsidian’ in May, British gothic metal legends PARADISE LOST have announced a special live streaming performance and alternative to Bonfire Night on November 5th.

Vocalist Nick Holmes comments,
“Greetings, I hope everyone is well! Just a quick few words to thank everyone for the ongoing great response to our latest album, ‘Obsidian’, and to announce that as there are still no stages for us to play on, we have decided to perform live from our rehearsal studio at ‘The Mill’ In Bradford, West Yorkshire. The stream is due to be aired on 5th November at 20:00 GMT via Stageit.com. We sincerely hope you can all join us in a brief respite from these dark days! Thank you, Nick”

This one time live event will feature a regular set from the band alongside a VIP option, which includes three extra songs plus a pre-recorded interview with the band. The regular set will include the world premiere of 2 new songs from Obsidian, and the VIP set will feature 3. Besides the live stream experience at 12:00 PM PT/3:00PM ET, the band ‘replays’ the performance for their fans in the US at 6:00 PM PT/9:00 PM ET. You can either purchase for the European viewing, the US viewing or buy a ticket to both.

Tickets are on sale now via StageIT on October 20th via Stageit.com

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Paradise Lost, Obsidian (2020)

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Stream Review: Enslaved, Utgard – The Journey Within

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

enslaved

One day ahead of its release date — which is today for those of you not confined in a temporal loop — Enslaved‘s 15th full-length, Utgard (review here), received an airing as the final installment of what was billed as the Norwegian progressive black metallers’ ‘Cinematic Summer Tour.’ Such as it was — and it was more “cinematic” than it was “tour,” of course owing to circumstances outside the band’s control — the tour consisted of three filmed shows. A fan-picked setlist titled ‘Chronicles of the Northbound’ (review here) was streamed at the end of July. A set playing 2003’s Below the Lights in full followed, and finally, the album to which it all was leading, Utgard, got its due. Sort of.

As new album celebrations go, Utgard – The Journey Within was somewhat brief. The press info for the stream used the language, “they’ll be performing several tracks [from Utgard] for the first time ever,” so I wasn’t necessarily expecting them to play the entire record front to back, though that might’ve been feasible, time-wise; it’s 44 minutes long and the whole stream here ended up being 45. But the performance itself, which true to the others was impeccably directed and shot — foggy at the start, but dramatic with a hooded and spoken intro and professional lights, sound and editing; very much a concert film, complete with title cards before each song — ran about 23 minutes and featured just four songs in “Jettegryta,” “Homebound,” “Urjotun” and “Flight of Thought and Memory.”

enslaved 2

Look. I ain’t complaining. The stuff sounded great. I think I liked the balance of the mix in “Homebound” between the keys and guitars even better than on the album, and I got a new appreciation for how much bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson actually sings clean on “Jettegryta” alongside keyboardist Håkon Vinje, never mind VinjeKjellson and drummer Iver Sandøy coming together to all sing on “Flight of Thought and Memory.” The krautrock aspects of “Urjotun” came through all the more in the “live” setting, and with the LP fresh in mind, I felt fortunate to be as close as that to actually experiencing the material on stage. And it was free. Bands out there are charging fans far more and delivering far less.

They did justice to what they played, but album opener “Fires in the Dark,” “Sequence,” “Storms of Utgard” and the rousing finale “Distant Seasons” felt missing — especially the opener and the closer. Even if the band hadn’t wanted to delve further into the atmospheric parts of “Fires in the Dark” or the spoken LP-centerpiece “Utgardr,” there was plenty more to work from. Maybe they didn’t want to give everything away ahead of the actual release. Maybe between the pandemic and the sundry other manifestations of chaos this brutal year has wrought the band hasn’t even had the opportunity to get the other songs ready for the stage. Certainly possible. Maybe they figured by the third streaming show everyone would be tired of them? I don’t know.

Iver Sandøy

But either way, Enslaved have 15 records, so it’s not like they couldn’t have filled out the set if they chose to do so. As it was, they wrapped up playing and the camera followed as they adjourned upstairs for some conversation (in Norwegian) and cake and champagne to celebrate the release. KjellsonVinje, Sandøy, guitarists Ivar Bjørnson and Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal all shook hands and tossed back some wine, and then the camera cut to Bjørnson on his own, who revealed the band were planning something for the winter solstice — Dec. 20 — and thanked everyone for their support. After that, they capped with encore airings of “The Crossing” from the Below the Lights stream and “Fenris” from 1994’s Frost as played in ‘Chronicles of the Northbound.’

Welcome enough, if a little anticlimactic despite the news-drop that they’ve got something else in the works. It was hard not to come away from ‘Utgard – The Journey Within’ wanting more, and now that I say that outright, perhaps that was the idea all along. Less of a celebration of the release than a teaser, maybe. Highlighting the tracks that have been released as singles — “Jettegryta,” “Homebound” and “Urjotun” all have videos out (posted here) — and giving just a glimpse of a deeper dive into the album with “Flight of Thought and Memory.” If that’s what they were going for, then fair enough. One way or the other, it’s hard not to long for the day Enslaved can be experienced live again in a concert setting — 2021? 2022? ever? — and the vital force of their stage presence and command of their creativity was reaffirmed. Was it ever in doubt? Nope, but like I said, I ain’t complaining.

enslaved handshakes

I watched this with my son, The Pecan, who turns three next month. He knows “quiet songs” and “loud songs” and generally prefers the latter when we’re driving, and he’s interested in seeing guitars and drums on tv and whatnot. My wife, The Patient Mrs., was teaching a college class in other room, working remotely. I changed a poopy diaper during “Urjotun” and he played with trucks for a while as he will these days when blowing off what used to be afternoon naptime. The point of telling you this? It goes to the running theme of life-reorganization that one has found without the actual going-to-a-show ritual.

Perhaps the crucial insight that there’s a big difference between putting something on the television and entering a venue to see a band live isn’t particularly deep, but if anything, the advent of streaming shows like this and the multitudes now happening from around the world demonstrate how important to the core of people’s being creativity is and needs to be. If you’re passionate about something, you find a way. It’s not easy, and always ideal, and sometimes it doesn’t turn out to be what you thought it was going to be when you started. Welcome to existence. But you find a way. This is the way for now. Fine.

Enslaved are participating in a follow-up Q&A session at 2PM Eastern today on their YouTube channel, linked below. Utgard is available now on Nuclear Blast.

Thanks for reading.

Enslaved, ‘Utagard – The Journey Within’ limited-time stream

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Album Review: Enslaved, Utgard

Posted in Reviews on September 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

enslaved utgard

Few bands last. Fewer still last while maintaining their commitment to creative progression, and Bergen, Norway’s Enslaved have pushed themselves forward once again with Utgard in broad-reaching and exciting ways. The album is their sixth to be delivered through Nuclear Blast, and as the band approach their 30th anniversary in 2021, they seem to enter an entirely new era of their sound, more boldly engaging with the krautrock and prog influences they’ve touted for years and bringing them into their long-established extreme metal context.

The founding duo of bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson and guitarist/sometimes backing vocalist Ivar Bjørnson, along with Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal, who joined in 2002, have set the band on a trajectory over the course of their career, and Utgard — which runs nine songs and 44 minutes, making it the shortest full-length they’ve put out since 1998’s Blodhemn — is a fitting next step along their path. At the same time, from the choral vocals that start opener “Fires in the Dark” and running through the additional percussion in “Jettegryta,” the almost poppy melody in the hook of “Sequence” offset delightfully by Kjellson‘s rasp, the darkened space rock thrust of “Homebound” and the galloping culmination to which it leads, on and on across the clearly-delineated two sides of the LP, Utgard also sees Enslaved more committed to embodying “progressive black metal” as an ideal than they would ever have seemed to be, and it toys with the balance between the progressive and the charred with grace and an electrifying sense of creativity.

On 2017’s E (review here), the group introduced keyboardist Håkon Vinje, and in taking up the clean-vocal role formerly occupied by Herbrand Larsen, Vinje soared. He does so again throughout Utgard, but Enslaved have made another pivotal change in personnel, bidding farewell to drummer Cato Bekkevold after 15 years and bringing aboard Iver Sandøy, who also adds clean vocals to complement those of Vinje. Sandøy — who has worked with Ivar Bjørnson in other projects like his Skuggsjá collaboration with Einar Selvik — is also a noted producer in Bergen and has engineered on Enslaved albums going back a decade to 2010’s Axioma Ethica Odini (review here), but again, by bringing him into the band as well as having him helm the recording, it is one more way in which Enslaved are adjusting the balance of what they do in order to discover new breadth in their aesthetic.

As the “new guys,” Vinje and Sandøy make formidable contributions to Utgard‘s songs, and from the lushness in the momentary atmospheric break of “Sequence” and the harmonies that follow to the unabashed kraut-ness of the electronica fusion at the outset of side B’s “Urjotun,” they are crucial in Enslaved‘s success across the record’s span.

It is worth underscoring that, even with the shifts in lineup that recent years have brought, and with the movement toward prog in their sound, Utgard is still very much an Enslaved record. Kjellson stakes his claim to the forefront early following the Viking chants at the outset of “Fires in the Dark” — one imagines them playing that song in open air to stirring effect to begin a set at the 2020 Fire in the Mountains festival in Wyoming, which Bjørnson was to have curated — and themes of heritage, mythology, and even the symbolism of the crow in Truls Espedal‘s cover art feel like a part of the longer narrative the band has been conveying at some level for nearly the last 20 years.

enslaved

What Utgard shows, however, is just how vast the idea of being “an Enslaved record” can be nearly 30 years into the band’s career. The droning, spoken-word semi-title-track “Utgardr” carries an experimental feel that builds into “Urjotun” and reminds of Bjørnson‘s Bardspec project, and just two songs later, the furious double-kick and harsh vocals in the verse of “Flight of Thought and Memory” offer one of Utgard‘s most pummeling moments. That’s soon offset by Vinje‘s extended chorus, but the point and the contrast holds true, and even as they move toward that highlight cut’s crescendo, they do so with exacting propulsion, leading to a quieter finish and silence ahead of “Storms of Utgard” and the finale “Distant Seasons,” the former marked out by its straight-ahead structural approach as well as its tambourine and the latter something of a hidden gem that seals the band’s ultimate triumph in a mere four and a half minutes.

“Distant Seasons” finishes not so much summarizing Enslaved‘s achievements across the preceding tracks, but using them as a preface to go even further into a wash of melody and thereby leave their listenership with the clear message that the journey — that undertaken by the band and joined by the audience — isn’t over yet. And indeed, it might not be. The ideal Enslaved are chasing on Utgard is not a static target. It is an evolving notion of creativity, and as much as these songs are able to do in setting themselves as a landmark, “Distant Seasons” leaves one assured that Enslaved have yet more exploring to do.

The advent of Vinje in the band was a significant distinguishing factor of E from recent predecessors like 2015’s In Times (review here) and 2012’s Riitiir (review here), as he bolstered the tenets of their sound and helped bring new ideas to the fore. Sandøy, as a drummer, backing vocalist and presence in the production, would seem to have no less of an effect throughout Utgard, and as a result, continue to sound refreshed. It would be hyperbole to say they come across like a new band — because, come on, it’s their 15th record; also one wouldn’t want to belittle either their experience as songwriters or the overarching nature of their progression — but as resonant and masterful as Utgard is, it’s also brimming with possibilities for how the new ideas it presents might flourish in works to come.

Few bands last. Fewer still last while growing. Almost nobody can look back on 30 years of breaking ground and still leave a listener with the notion that the best may be yet to come. Enslaved have been around long enough that their audience can pick and choose favorite albums from along the way, but Utgard is a singular accomplishment, and thinking of the band as a life’s work for Kjellson and Bjørnson, all the more worthy of that designation. Recommended.

Enslaved, “Urjotun” official video

Enslaved, “Jettegryta” official video

Enslaved, “Homebound” official video

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

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

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

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

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

Info follows:

my dying bride a secret kiss

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

WATCH LYRIC VIDEO FOR NEW SINGLE “A SECRET KISS”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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My Dying Bride, “A Secret Kiss” lyric video

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Enslaved Change Date for Utgard – The Journey Within Streaming Event

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 18th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

enslaved

I’m listening to the new Enslaved album for the first time as I write this and they’re barely three minutes into it before they reaffirm both the brutality and the progressivism at heart on their sound. Seriously, I’m on track one and they sound like they wilfully constructed the lineup to bring the most out of this material. I’m impatient to hear more even as I’m hearing it.

The band has rescheduled the final date of their virtual tour to Oct. 1, the day before the album comes out on Nuclear Blast. Fair enough. They’ll play songs from the record to herald its arrival. Whatever dudes, just take my money.

Check out the preview video with bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson and the prominently displayed vinyl of the second Lennon-Claypool Delirium album. That record ruled.

From the PR wire:

ENSLAVED VIRTUAL TOUR UPDATE

ENSLAVED ANNOUNCE NEW DATE FOR SUMMER BREEZE ‘UTGARD – THE JOURNEY WITHIN’ RELEASE EVENT + LIVE Q&A

NEW ALBUM, UTGARD, OUT OCTOBER 2ND

RELEASE EVENT: OCTOBER 1ST @ 11AM PT/2PM ET
Q&A: OCTOBER 2ND @ 11AM PT/2PM ET

Enslaved are preparing for the final act of their Cinematic Summer Tour – now due to take place on Thursday 1st of October at 7pm BST / 8pm CEST. This virtual release event ‘Utgard – The Journey Within’ is named after their upcoming studio album Utgard (out on the 2nd of October), from which they’ll be performing several tracks for the first time ever.

The show is a collaboration with respected Dinkelsbühl, Germany metal festival Summer Breeze who have been long-time friends and supporters of the band. The performance will be presented by Louder alongside their sister sites Prog and Metal Hammer, who will also be hosting an exclusive Facebook Q&A with the band the following day also at 7pm BST / 8pm CEST – the day Utgard is revealed to the world.

Enslaved launched an exclusive merchandise range to accompany the Cinematic Summer Tour, with designs viewable below inc. more information. To give everyone the chance to be part of this completely novum in music, all three shows will be free of charge, however Enslaved have launched a donation link if fans wish to make a contribution towards the costs of putting the shows on.
Donation link: paypal.me/enslavedofficial

Purchase exclusive Cinematic Summer Tour merch here:
US store enslaved.aisamerch.com / EU store enslaved.aisamerch.de

For this forward-thinking concept, ENSLAVED joined forces with three festivals, to present fans with three different shows:

July 30th – in cooperation with Roadburn, the tour launched with a “Chronicles Of The Northbound” show.
August 20th – this second show was a “Below The Lights” set, presented by Beyond The Gates festival.
October 1st – the band will end their virtual tour at Summer Breeze festival with a presentation of some new songs, for their release event “Utgard – The Journey Within“. Presented by Louder.

Enslaved is:
Ivar Bjørnson – guitar
Grutle Kjellson – vocals/bass
Ice Dale – guitar
Håkon Vinje – keys/vocals
Iver Sandøy – drums

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Enslaved, Utgard virtual release preview

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