Rezn Add August Headlining Dates to Burden Tour Plans

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 29th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

rezn

Chicago molten-psychbringers Rezn are drawing nearer to the June 14 release date for their new album, Burden, through Sargent House, and you’ll note that by the time it arrives they’ll already be on the road. They’re set to stay that way for some time — a few weeks between tours notwithstanding — as they cover the East and West Coasts of the US and points between, alternately supporting Pallbearer and headlining with company from Mute Duo, each run with a couple Canadian dates for good measure.

The ascendant masters of drift and heady melody will in October embark on a festival-laden European tour in the company of Russian Circles, and that also feels like a big deal as they work from a quick turnaround following 2023’s Solace (review here) and head in working-band fashion to cover the geography. I haven’t heard Burden yet, but it’s a no-brainer to look forward to where the the band’s ongoing journey might lead, however foreboding the title they’ve given it, and certainly the early singles “Chasm” and “Collapse” hold promise for Rezn‘s textured tones and exploratory spaces. It’s an easy bet, if you’re the type to preorder, I guess is what I’m saying.

So maybe I should do that and get myself a CD, because I turned 12 in the ’90s and so am loyal to little plastic discs forever even though every time I buy one at this point all I can think about is how when I’m dead no one will want the collection that I’ve so carefully curated and treasured despite the fact that three quarters of it — the old stuff — is in storage.

What were we talking about? I’m sorry, I seem to have gone on a tangent and made myself sad. Surely won’t be the last time that happens.

You like VIBES? Here be tour dates:

REZN BURDEN TOUR

Fresh headlining US tour dates added with support from the mesmerizing @mute_duo. Full dates below:

Supporting @pallbearerdoom
June 11: Durham, NC – The Fruit
June 12: Asheville, NC – Eulogy
June 13: Virginia Beach, VA – The Bunker
June 14: Baltimore, MD – Metro
June 15: Lancaster, PA – Tellus 360
June 16: Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
June 18: Hamden, CT – Space Ballroom
June 20: Brooklyn, NY – Music Hall of Williamsburg
June 21: Boston, MA – The Sinclair
June 22: Montreal, QC – Theatre Fairmount
June 23: Toronto, ON – Velvet Underground
June 25: Milwaukee, WI – Vivarium
June 26: Chicago, IL – Thalia Hall
June 27: St Paul, MN – Turf Club
June 28: Lawrence, KS – The Bottleneck
June 29: Little Rock, AR – The Hall

July 26: Indianapolis, IN – Post. Festival (only REZN)

w/ Mute Duo
Aug 9: Iowa City, IA – Gabe’s
Aug 10: Kansas City, MO – MiniBar
Aug 13: Denver, CO – Hi-Dive
Aug 14: Salt Lake City, UT – Aces High Saloon
Aug 16: Portland, OR – Dante’s
Aug 17: Vancouver, BC – Green Auto
Aug 18: Seattle, WA – Substation
Aug 20: Sacramento, CA – Cafe Colonial
Aug 21: Oakland, CA – Stork Club
Aug 22: Los Angeles, CA – Lodge Room
Aug 23: Palmdale, CA – Transplants Brewing
Aug 24: Mesa, AZ – The Nile Underground
Aug 25: Albuquerque, NM – Sister Bar
Aug 27: Fort Worth, TX – Tulips
Aug 28: Austin, TX – The Lost Well

With @russiancircles
Oct 9 – Berlin, DE @ Astra
Oct 10 – Koln, DE @ Kantine
Oct 11 – Munich, DE @ Keep It Low Festival
Oct 12 – Prague, CZ @ Archa
Oct 14 – Vienna, AT @ Arena
Oct 15 – Bologna, IT @ Estragon
Oct 17 – Metz, FR @ La Bam
Oct 18 – Antwerp, BE @ Desertfest
Oct 20 – Gothenburg, SE @ Monument
Oct 21 – Oslo, NO @ Parkteatret
Oct 22 – Stockholm, SE @ Slaktkyrkan
Oct 24 – Copenhagen, DK @ Vega
Oct 25 – Aalborg, DK @ Lasher Fest
Oct 26 – Hamburg, DE @ Uebel & Gefaehrlich
Oct 29 – Birmingham, UK @ O2 Institute2
Oct 30 – Glasgow, UK @ Slay
Oct 31 – Belfast, N-IRE @ Limelight 2
Nov 1 – Dublin, IRE @ Button Factory
Nov 2 – Manchester, UK @ Damnation Fest
Nov 3 – London, UK @ EartH
Nov 5 – Paris, FR @ Le Trianon
Nov 6 – Rennes, FR @ L’Antipode
Nov 7 – Bordeaux, FR @ Krakatoa
Nov 10 – Madrid, ES @ Nazca
Nov 11 – Barcelona, ES @ Salamandra

🎟️: rezn.band/shows

REZN:
Rob McWilliams: guitar and vocals
Phil Cangelosi: bass and rainstick
Patrick Dunn: drums and percussion
Spencer Ouellette: synths, sax, lapsteel, flute, and piano

facebook.com/reznhits
instagram.com/rezzzn
rezzzn.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/sargenthouse/
https://www.instagram.com/sargenthouse/
http://www.sargenthouse.com/

Rezn, “Chasm” official video

Rezn, Burden (2024)

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Rezn to Release Burden June 14; First Single “Chasm” Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 4th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Rezn (Photo by Alec Basse)

Shit man. New Rezn coming. That’s really good news. I don’t know how much more of this my heart can take. And guess what? The fucking single rules. A little meaner in the tone on first impression, but not so much as to give up the atmosphere, and I know you know vibe is everything here. The record is called Burden. It’s coming out through Sargent House on June 14. I hope it turns out I’m cool enough to hear it before then. Pretty much anytime after I finish typing this sentence would work.

Anything?

No?

Moving on.

Rezn — who I was lucky enough to see live on stage in Norway that one time, and whose 2023 album, Solace (review here), I still feel like I’m just getting to know, let alone be somehow over — will hit the road alongside Pallbearer and frickin’ The Keening, because if you’re going to do a tour, I guess make it a landmark. That’s a good-ass show. New Pallbearer also smokes, and The Keening is heavy regardless of volume. Killer. Then Europe in Fall with Russian Circles. Gracious me.

Info, links and whatnot headed your way.

Have a great whatever:

Rezn burden

REZN – Burden

Our new album ‘Burden’ is out June 14 via Sargent House. The first single “Chasm” is streaming now alongside the official video release. Prepare for the descent.
rezn.band/burden

Recorded in August of 2021 at Earth Analog in Tolono, IL
Engineered, mixed, produced, and reduced by Matt Russell
Mastered by Zach Weeks at God City Studio in Salem, MA

Mike Sullivan: guitar solo on “Chasm”

Album art by Adam Burke / Nightjar Illustration
Layout design by Spencer Ouellette and Future Wisdom

Pre-order / pre-save “Burden” here: https://found.ee/rezn-burden
Stream “Chasm” now: https://found.ee/rezn-chasm

Tracklist:
1. Indigo
2. Instinct
3. Descent of Sinuous Corridors
4. Bleak Patterns
5. Collapse
6. Soft Prey
7. Chasm

In honor of their new album ‘Mind Burns Alive’, we will be joining @pallbearerdoom on select dates of their upcoming US tour.

May 11 – Oslo, NO @ Desertfest Oslo

With @pallbearerdoom
Jun 11 – Durham, NC @ The Fruit
Jun 12 – Asheville, NC @ Eulogy
Jun 13 – Virginia Beach, VA @ The Bunker Brewpub
Jun 14 – Baltimore, MD @ Metro Baltimore
Jun 15 – Lancaster, PA @ Tellus360
Jun 16 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
Jun 18 – Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom
Jun 20 – Brooklyn , NY @ Music Hall of Williamsburg
Jun 21 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
Jun 22 – Montreal, QC @ Theatre Fairmount
Jun 23 – Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground
Jun 25 – Milwaukee, WI @ Vivarium
Jun 26 – Chicago, IL @ Thalia Hall
Jun 27 – St. Paul, MN @ Turf Club
Jun 28 – Lawrence, KS @ Bottleneck
Jun 29 – Little Rock, AR @ The Hall

Jul 26  – Indianapolis, IN @ Post Festival

With @russiancircles
Oct 9 – Berlin, DE @ Astra
Oct 10 – Koln, DE @ Kantine
Oct 11 – Munich, DE @ Keep It Low Festival
Oct 12 – Prague, CZ @ Archa
Oct 14 – Vienna, AT @ Arena
Oct 15 – Bologna, IT @ Estragon
Oct 17 – Metz, FR @ La Bam
Oct 18 – Antwerp, BE @ Desertfest
Oct 20 – Gothenburg, SE @ Monument
Oct 21 – Oslo, NO @ Parkteatret
Oct 22 – Stockholm, SE @ Slaktkyrkan
Oct 24 – Copenhagen, DK @ Vega
Oct 25 – Aalborg, DK @ Lasher Fest
Oct 26 – Hamburg, DE @ Uebel & Gefaehrlich
Oct 29 – Birmingham, UK @ O2 Institute2
Oct 30 – Glasgow, UK @ Slay
Oct 31 – Belfast, N-IRE @ Limelight 2
Nov 1 – Dublin, IRE @ Button Factory
Nov 2 – Manchester, UK @ Damnation Fest
Nov 3 – London, UK @ EartH
Nov 5 – Paris, FR @ Le Trianon
Nov 6 – Rennes, FR @ L’Antipode
Nov 7 – Bordeaux, FR @ Krakatoa
Nov 10 – Madrid, ES @ Nazca
Nov 11 – Barcelona, ES @ Salamandra

🎟️ rezn.band/shows 🎟️

REZN:
Rob McWilliams: guitar and vocals
Phil Cangelosi: bass and rainstick
Patrick Dunn: drums and percussion
Spencer Ouellette: synths, sax, lapsteel, flute, and piano

facebook.com/reznhits
instagram.com/rezzzn
rezzzn.bandcamp.com

https://www.facebook.com/sargenthouse/
https://www.instagram.com/sargenthouse/
http://www.sargenthouse.com/

Rezn, “Chasm” official video

Rezn, Burden (2024)

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Desertfest Belgium 2024 Announces Initial Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 18th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Set for the weekend of Oct. 18-20 and (I think?) celebrating the 10th anniversary of the first Desertfest Belgium, which was held in 2014, the 2024 edition of the Antwerp-based Desertfest has made its first lineup announcement, anchored by Fu Manchu and Russian Circles and featuring a host of others ranging in both geography and style. From the fluid textures of REZN and classic melodic prog rock of Mondo Drag to the reunited Scorpion ChildBongzilla‘s singularly stoned crust and the expansive riffery of Stoned Jesus, whose Mother Dark complement to early-2023’s Father Light (review here) is awaited, it’s a well-rounded bill even before you account for heavy psych rockers Seedy Jeezus and bluesy ’70s traditionalists Child making the trip from Australia, the latter on the heels of Heavy Psych Sounds reissuing their catalog, the expansive sounds of Messa, and so on.

That it looks like a cool time isn’t really a surprise. Desertfest Belgium has developed a character of its own as the flagship Fall Desertfest in Europe, and while I’ve never been, I always look forward to seeing what it brings to the seasonal cohort of heavy festivals. Already we know REZN will be on tour with Russian Circles, as that was announced last week too, but it’s likely more tours will come from Mondo DragRitual King and others below that haven’t been revealed yet if they’re even at this point finalized. In addition to the usual daydreaming-about-travel, I find thinking about these things and imagining tours and who might have new records out by the time October gets here to be a particular kind of nerdy joy.

The announcement, as per social media:

Desertfest Belgium 2024 starter

It’s that time of year again! It’s with great pride and excitement that we announce the first names for DF24! 👁️

Confirmed for Desertfest ANTWERP are:
Fu Manchu Russian Circles Stoned Jesus Bongzilla Scorpion Child MESSA Wolvennest Mondo Drag Seedy Jeezus CHILD REZN Ritual King The Abbey Lethvm RRRags Crouch Kara Delik

Three days of delirium and heavy delight are surely awaiting us all in Antwerp!

https://www.desertfest.be/antwerp/information/ticketing/

We’ll be back with more names very soon…🤘

http://www.desertfest.be/
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_belgium/

Mondo Drag, Through the Hourglass (2023)

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Desertfest Oslo 2024 Completes Lineup and Announces Day Splits

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 6th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Over the last several weeks, the inaugural Desertfest Oslo has piece-by-piece announced the remainder of the lineup for May 10 and 11, and the list is substantial. Wolves in the Throne Room, Weedpecker, Kadabra, Steak, Crippled Black Phoenix, Earth Tongue, Apostle of Solitude, Orsak:Oslo, Margarita Witch Cult, REZN, Bongzilla and Slomosa joined the bill one at a time, broadening the scope exponentially in terms of style from searing black metal thrust to sad post-goth to stoner rock of progressive and willfully unprogressive strains and outright ambience, older and newer bands, and geographical range. It’s kind of stunning how commonplace this standard has become for the Desertfest brand over the last decade-plus.

Tickets for each day are also on sale now — in case, what you want to see Acid King and not REZN? it’s okay, I’m not judging; I know people have lives and things to do — but it’s pretty clear looking at the full roster of who’ll play that Desertfest Oslo 2024 is all-in on the thing. And with KadavarMonolordCrippled Black Phoenix and Eyehategod headlining, they’ll rely on a multifaceted draw from the top down through the entire lineup. This feels both like a festival brand reaching into new territory and new collaborations — which it is, absolutely — and a righteous start to what could become a staple of the Spring touring circuit. Do I really need to go on about Norway’s underground boom? Probably not when a hand-picked selection of those responsible are present below to remind you.

Bottom line here is I look forward to seeing how this unfolds even from a distance, but whatever Desertfest Oslo does in the longer term, this is a monster. Behold:

desertfest oslo 2024 final poster

Finally the day splits are here!

As well as day splits we’ve also made single day tickets available from february 29th.

See you may!

Find single day tickets and festivaltickets here: https://www.ticketmaster.no/artist/desertfest-oslo-billetter/1277694

Full lineup:

Friday:
KADAVAR
Monolord
Wolves In The Throne Room
Acid King
Slomosa
Weedpecker
Håndgemeng
Orsak:Oslo
Kadabra
Earth Tongue
Bismarck
Karavan
Superlynx

Saturday:
CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX
Brant Bjork
EYEHATEGOD
REZN
The Devil And The Almighty Blues
Bongzilla
Full Earth
Margarita Witch Cult
Steak
Agabas
Saint Karloff
Apostle of Solitude
Suncraft

https://www.facebook.com/desertfestoslo
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_oslo
https://www.desertfest.no/

Slomosa, “Rice”

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Friday Full-Length: REZN & Vinnum Sabbathi, Silent Future

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 22nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

This was a PostWax release. The vinyl subscription service put forth by Blues Funeral Recordings has produced a string of stellar, genuinely special records in its second volume — Acid King were my pick for album of the year this year, and Dozer and Dopelord, which were in my top 10, both came out in PostWax editions; deluxe vinyl, exclusive tracks, artwork and layout that’s so gorgeous I don’t even want to touch it with my greasy fingers, etc. — and as with all of them, I was fortunate enough to do liner notes for this special collaboration between Chicago fog rockers REZN and Mexico City conceptual plodders Vinnum Sabbathi, titled Silent Future.

I always feel a little weird when it comes to covering PostWax stuff here on the site, and that’s precisely because I also work behind the scenes (in a limited but capacity, of course) on the releases as well, and I was compensated monetarily for doing that writing. I say so every time, but even with full disclosure I’m not trying to give an impression I’m doing promo. It’s not my job to sell you records. But the stuff is undeniable at this point, and what, I’m going to let 2023 end without talking about the exploratory textures of Silent Future, the album’s narrative foundation and the meld of climate anxiety, cosmic pulse and futurism that makes it such a hypnotically immersive listening experience? Come on.

REZN also had their fourth long-player, Solace (review here), out this year, but Silent Future is its own thing and has its own intention. For the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Rob McWilliams (also lyrics), synthesist/saxophonist/flutist Spencer Ouellette, bassist Phil Cangelosi and drummer Patrick Dunn (who also had the monumental task of mixing), it was a self-recorded affair, done late in 2021 DIY in their own spot, and their basic tracks were sent to Vinnum Sabbathi — the lineup of guitarist/synthesist Juan Tamayo, effects specialist Roman Tamayo, bassist Samuel Lopez and Gerardo Arias on drums and lead guitar, with more guitar from Victor “KB” Velazquez — who also wrote the script for the storytelling monologue in intro “Born into Catatonia” and the likewise keyboardy side B complement, “Clusters,” delivered by the voice of Manuel Wohlrab, also of Yanos and Zone Six in Germany.

So, multinational, multicontinental collaboration across seven songs and a somehow-digestible 32 minutes of progressive, soulful, and at times very, very heavy music. While the record isrezn vinnum sabbathi silent future patient in the subdued flow it sets up as “Born into Catatonia” shifts into “Unknown Ancestor” (the continuing monologue also helps), the sense of texture is immediate and is a luminescent drone that hints at a feeling of discovery. On some level, that’s what’s happening throughout Silent Future as Vinnum Sabbathi and REZN reveal to themselves and to their respective audiences alike — and let’s assume there’s crossover there, because genre — what happens when they fuse their methodologies. I talked to both bands about this release (granted it was a while ago) to do the liner notes, and I’m still not sure anyone knew going into it what would come out, or how they possibly could, but that adventurous spirit is to be commended and I honestly believe the world is a better place with the crushing roll that emerges in “Unknown Ancestor” than without it, never mind the rest of the slow-swirling and entrancing sway that surrounds, periodically channeling high impact in low gravity.

If you’re a synthesist or keyboardist in a heavy band, there’s plenty to learn here in the work of Ouellette and the Tamayo brothers (who I met this year in Germany and are sweethearts), from the New Age-y throb in behind the deceptively catchy hook of “The Cultigen” meditating lyrically as it does on a black chrysanthemum before the lumber-chuck of centerpiece “Hypersurreal” brings back Wohlrab with talk about multisensory alien contact and a verse that’s quiet but tense in its rhythm in no small part because of the riff that just receded. It comes back, that riff, of course, as McWilliams swaps to a more projected voice for another memorable, this-time-belted-out chorus, “Parallel universe/Parallel universe/The eye reflects itself/Into another realm/Am I the writer or the character?” before the verse repeats in a building cycle.

And when that cycle hits its payoff, the synth/effects are right there as well, and so even at its apex-heaviest, Silent Future remains true to its mood. “Clusters” fades in from silence as a reset, but both “Morphing” and the finale “Obliterating Mists” dig into the procession, and whether or not it was intentional, the two become a representative mini-monolith for the LP as a whole, with earworms revealed through multiple visits to their temporal dimension and a culmination in the latter that rises and ebbs with a fluidity and poise that emphasizes the consciousness at the center of the haze. There’s an episode of Star Trek: The Animated Series where the cartoon-Enterprise gets trapped in a giant thinking cloud. Listening to Silent Future kind of feels like that, or at least one imagines.

But either angle you want to take it from — whether it’s the creative bravery and ego-eschew of the collaboration in the first place or the righteousness of the end result in the material itself — Silent Future is a standout release for 2023 (and beyond) and I didn’t want to let the year end without some proper recognition of that. It’s not the kind of offering every band or pairing of bands could make, and it’s not a pairing that is immediately intuitive because Vinnum Sabbathi and REZN have so much in common in sound, but what they do share is an openness to new ideas and ways of working, and the success of that in these songs I think is inarguable once you hear it.

Which I hope you do. Thanks for reading, and thanks to Jadd Shickler of Blues FuneralMagnetic Eye Records, for making me a footnote part of the PostWax thing in the first place. Dude had the year of a lifetime between those two labels, and it was only because he made it happen.

Please enjoy, and once again, thank you for reading. I appreciate your time and attention. If you can go with this one, do. I admit it’s not the most intuitive of releases, but that’s also part of what makes it special. Might take a couple listens to sink in, but trust, and let it do its thing, and you’ll be set. Safe travels, wherever it takes you.

Monday is Xmas. Happy Xmas if you celebrate. We do, in our pointedly secular fashion, and accordingly I’m taking Monday (which is the weekend’s writing) and Tuesday (which is Monday’s writing) off. I’m going to do my damnedest not to post at all in that time, but if there’s something I feel warrants immediacy — and anything can happen, of course — I’ll roll with it. Let us not forget that Lemmy was born on Dec. 24, died Dec. 27 and that he, more than the favorite fanfic of hateful/genocidal psychopaths and state-sponsored rape cabals, is the true reason for the season.

When I pick up Wednesday, it’ll probably also be pretty mellow. The Pecan is off from school next week and I’m sure that’ll be busy because, well, yes. We’re about to undertake the process of remaking bedtime — current system’s effectiveness has expired; a necessary pivot — and I expect that will result in a few bumpy nights. Almost always the case when transitioning from one thing to the other. Certainly was the story of my summer and fall.

To that. While I am not thrilled to know that my six-year-old goes to school every day on medication, I cannot deny the clear shift said meds have wrought in her day-to-day. I would not call her ‘easy’ or ‘easygoing’ as a personality-type — there is much she has learned from me, including how to be a prick, and there are times where she’s a few grades ahead of kindergarten in that regard — but from what I think everybody who observes her has seen, and that’s the rest of our family, her teacher, aide, other aide at school and therapist, we’ve had movement in a better direction. Between the wreck that was this summer’s kicked-out-of-camp marathon, the stress of her transition (which also has allowed a flourishing not to be denied; I’ve heard reports of another trans kindergartener on the planet, but The Patient Mrs. and I are already joking about the book we’ll write some day), and getting her to a point of being able to get through a school day without hurting someone else or herself is progress visible even in the trenches. By which I mean her mother and I can see it. She remains willful, just flat out ignores me when I ask her to do something most of the time and is ready with an argument for why one should fuck off on a daily if not hourly basis — less when she’s hungry — but she’s growing and she’s strong, which is a thing she is going to very much need to be.

That progress doesn’t mean I didn’t basically chase her back to bed at 10PM last night, but as I said, different methods are being put in place. She might get to sleep with the puppy. We’ll see. The Patient Mrs. is the spearhead of that project; I’ll confess reticence and a general lack of desire to clean up dog piss in my kid’s bed, on her floor, or really anywhere else. We’ve got a good thing going with the crate at night, and the dog is only six months old. I could go on and logic logic logic myself through this. Build reasoned arguments to never say out loud. Lay out a grand case. Clutch once told us “you can’t stop progress,” and so here I am, rolling with it to the limited extent I am able, even as my brain has that catch-fire feeling thinking about getting up at 5AM or earlier, going upstairs to get the dog out of her room, waking her up and then having to both deal with the dog needing to go out and the kid who just might want to tag along with as little light on as possible, as quiet as possible, and then try to sit down and write. A million ways to go wrong, fewer to go right.

Whatever you’re feeling anxious about, I wish you relief. I hope you have a great and safe weekend, and I’ll be back on Wednesday (I can hold off! I can do it!) with maybe a Dr. Space review or something else fun and more of the ol’ blah blah blah. Thanks for reading it.

FRM.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2023 — Year in Review

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-best-of-2023-year-in-review

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which ends in January. If you haven’t contributed your picks yet, please do so here.]

It is encouraging in the extreme to see heavy music, as both concept and practical reality, growing more diverse. For all its rebellious airs, rock and roll has always been predominantly white and male, and its heavy underground form is no different. But for any artform to survive let alone evolve, it has to be open to new ideas and perspectives, and I firmly believe that the underground is becoming a more inclusive community. It has a distance to go that can only be measured in light years, but progress is progress.

2023 was a stunner from the start, with early highlights that stuck around and were joined by more as the months progressed. And while we’re speaking about it in past tense and it’s wrap-up time and so on, there are still new releases coming out every day and week. All over the planet, the heavy underground represents a vibrant subculture, rife with creativity and purpose, speaking inside genre and out, and all the time looking to grow artistically and in terms of listenership. As a result, the work being released holds itself to a high standard.

And yes, that’s true even if it’s about bongs.

Actually, that such willful primitivism is taking place at the same as doom forays into goth, psych forays into mania and tone-worshipping stoner rock seems intent to both double-down on simplicity while expanding into increasingly progressive territory is emblematic of that very standard and the diversity among practitioners of these styles in the current and up and coming generation.

One could go on here, speculate on future directions and so forth, but frankly there isn’t time just now. The list you see below is mine. I made it. It’s informed by my listening habits — what I had on most — by what I see as the greatest level of achievement by the band in question, and in some cases by critical import. It’s a weird mix, but let’s face it, you don’t care. The bottom line is all I’m claiming to represent here is myself and this site.

Accordingly, as with every year, I’ll ask you to please be mindful of the feelings and opinions and others if and as you proffer your own. I love comments here, I love discussions on this post most of any throughout any year, every year, but that can’t happen if somebody’s being a jerk, so don’t. If you disagree with me or someone else, I don’t care if you have a 40-page treatise on your opinion or if you just don’t dig a thing, but if you’re seeing these words, it is our responsibility to each other to be respectful and kind.

Beyond that, in advance of what’s about to unfurl below, please know that I thank you for reading.

**NOTE**: If you’re looking for something specific, try a text search.

The Top 60 Albums of 2023

For the last two years (2022 and 2021, linked for reference), I’ve done my own list as a countdown from 60, and since it feels both like way too much, over-the-top, totally unnecessary, and like a completely inadequate sampling of what was worth hearing this year, I guess it’s the way to go once again. Right now is the first of three times I’ll encourage you not to skip this list.

This is the second. Here we go:

60. Codex Serafini, The Imprecation of Anima (review here)
59. Strider, Midnight Zen (review here)
58. Black Helium, Um (review here)
57. Humulus, Flowers of Death (review here)
56. Fuzz Evil, New Blood (review here)
55. Blood Lightning, Blood Lightning (review here)
54. Rotor, Sieben (review here)
53. Cleõphüzz, Mystic Vulture (review here)
52. Black Sky Giant, Primigenian (review here)
51. Khan, Creatures (discussed here)
50. Slumbering Sun, The Ever-Living Fire (review here)
49. Massive Hassle, Number One (review here)
48. Búho Ermitaño, Implosiones (review here)
47. Black Moon Circle, Leave the Ghost Behind (review here)
46. Oldest Sea, A Birdsong, a Ghost (review here)
45. Edena Gardens, Dens (discussed here)
44. Merlock, Onward Strides Colossus (review here)
43. Obelyskkh, The Ultimate Grace of God (review here)
42. Lord Mountain, The Oath (review here)
41. Dorthia Cottrell, Death Folk Country (review here)
40. Yawning Balch, Volume One / Volume Two (reviews here and here)
39. The Golden Grass, Life is Much Stranger (review here)
38. Somnuri, Desiderium (review here)
37. Haurun, Wilting Within (review here)
36. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Aion (review here)
35. Stinking Lizaveta, Anthems and Phantoms (review here)
34. Black Rainbows, Superskull (review here)
33. Polymoon, Chrysalis (review here)
32. Fuzz Sagrado, Luz e Sombra (review here)
31. Yawning Man, Long Walk of the Navajo (review here)

Notes:

This is the third time I’m telling you not to skip this list. Linking to more on these is new. I haven’t done that before for this part of the list, but I hope it helps if you want to dig in.

That Khan stands out to me as needing to be higher given the quality of the work itself, but I got there late. But if you sent this into the year-end poll as your top 30, I feel like you wouldn’t be ‘wrong’ with some of the showings here, whether that’s the blinding shimmerprog of Polymoon, Merlock’s axe-swing sludge or Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand’s acoustic-based solo work.

Strong debut full-lengths from Haurun, Oldest Sea, Boston supergroup Blood Lightning, Cleõphüzz who already broke up, the aforementioned Merlock, mega-weirdos Codex Serafini, Slumbering Sun (kin to Monte Luna and Destroyer of Light), Church of the Cosmic Skull offshoot Massive Hassle, Turkish heavy rockers Strider and Californian metal traditionalists Lord Mountain. Established outfits like Yawning Man, Stinking Lizaveta, Cottrell, Black Rainbows, The Golden Grass, and Rotor continue to explore new avenues of their sound.

In the meantime, the respective progressions displayed by the likes of Black Helium, Fuzz Sagrado, Somnuri and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, the e’er-listenable Fuzz Evil and Argentinian instrumentalists Black Sky Giant offered thrills anticipated and not. Humulus bringing in Stefan Koglek from Colour Haze was a nice touch, and though I haven’t even reviewed it yet, the third and maybe-last Edena Gardens LP completes that collaborative trilogy with members of Causa Sui and Papir as fluidly as one could ask, which is only saying something because of the personnel involved.

There are a ton of others I wanted to put on this list, but numbers are cruel and if I get into decimals or fractions or something like that I’m going to end up huddled in a ball crying. But please know that because something’s not here doesn’t mean it sucked even just in my own opinion or whatever. At the end of the list come the honorable mentions and rarely have they been so honorable.

30. Moodoom, Desde el Bosque

Moodoom Desde el Bosque

Self-released. Reviewed April 13.

Buenos Aires trio Moodoom nailed a classic, ’70s-style Sabbathian blues rock with a non-cornball vintage feel better than anyone else I heard who tried in 2023. Their Desde el Bosque didn’t top half an hour, but you can almost feel the heat from the tubes of the amplifiers behind it, and it’s such an organic flow that it’s undeniable as an LP. Dig that creeper riff in “El Ente,” man. Proh. Toh. Doom.

29. Negative Reaction, Zero Minus Infinity
Negative Reaction Zero Minus Infinity

Self-released. Reviewed Nov. 27.

The eighth full-length in a career that goes back 33 years, Zero Minus Infinity is the second Negative Reaction album since guitarist/vocalist Kenny Bones moved himself and the band from Long Island to West Virginia and revamped the lineup, and it’s a beast. It’d be here for “I’ll Have Another” alone with that crush of distortion and Bones raw-throating “It’s you I need,” on repeat, perhaps to alcohol, but that’s just one example of the disaffected delights on offer from the kings of anxiety sludge.

28. Kanaan, Downpour

Kanaan Downpour

Released by Jansen Records. Reviewed May 12.

Downpour is one of two 2023 outings from upstart progressive Norwegian instrumentalists Kanaan, as they answered its Spring release with the jammy Diversions Vol. 2: Enter the Astral Plane. Any way you go, composed or improvised, this is a band with a special chemistry. In addition to the nodder highlight “Amazon,” which brought a collaboration with Hedwig Mollestad and the dense boogie riff-push of “Black Time Fuzz” at the start, they proceeded on an evolutionary path that looks now like it will go as long as they do. For now, in its urgency and space both, Downpour is a pinnacle achievement. How long that lasts depends on what comes next.

27. Mathew’s Hidden Museum, Mathew’s Hidden Museum

mathew's hidden museum self titled

Released by Interstellar Smoke Records. Reviewed Feb. 3.

Some records make a world. Mathew Bethancourt of Josiah, Cherry Choke, etc., put at least a solar system into the self-titled debut from his solo-project Mathew’s Hidden Museum. Melding lysergic experimentalism and off-kilter vibing with classic boogie, acoustic grunge, the piano quirk of “Golden” and more, it drew lines connecting disparate ideas and ended up making its own kind of sense, with depth enough in its layers that when I close out a week with it half a decade from now (inshallah), I’ll probably still be talking about it. Go get swallowed.

26. Borracho, Blurring the Lines of Reality

borracho blurring the lines of reality

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Aug. 17.

Recorded in Winter 2021/2022, Borracho‘s Blurring the Lines of Reality carried its where-did-we-go-wrong head-scratching sensibility into 2023, where to be sure it remained relevant. The Washington D.C. riffer trio know who they are and what they’re about, and their songwriting, groove and total lack of pretense continue to satisfy five records later even as the band pushes themselves further in structure and craft. And if you’d hold the social comment of their lyrics against them, first, grow up, second, your loss. Give me that smooth jam at the end of “Burning the Goddess” every time.

25. Khanate, To Be Cruel

Khanate To Be Cruel

Released by Sacred Bones Records. Reviewed July 19.

It was a total shock when superlatively-filth-encrusted sludgers Khanate not only returned with the surprise release of their first LP in 14 years, but that they pulled off such a remarkable change of style, abandoning their former miseries in favor of a more upbeat, uptempo outlook and poppier structures. What’s that you say? That didn’t happen? The record was just so completely, engrossingly wretched that my unconscious mind actually replaced it with something more palatable because Khanate stretch the limits of what punishment human beings can absorb in sound? Well fucking right on. That sounds like Khanate.

24. Saint Karloff, Paleolithic War Crimes

Saint Karloff Paleolithic War Crimes

Released by Majestic Mountain Records. Reviewed April 18.

Oslo-based doom rockers Saint Karloff harnessed an energy that 25 years ago or so propelled the very beginnings of modern Scandinavian heavy rock and roll, and they did it as a duo paying tribute to bassist Ole Sletner as well. Rife with familiar genre elements, stoner riffing, and band-in-room vibes, and even a little cosmic prog in closer “Supralux Voyager,” Paleolithic War Crimes had its emotional crux in its celebration of song and style, and so became the successful rebound after a terrible loss. If you call yourself a fan of heavy rock, chances are there’s something for you in it.

23. Child, Soul Murder

child soul murder

Self-released. Reviewed March 6.

Though they released the single-song I EP (review here) in 2018, the severely-titled Soul Murder is their first full-length since late-2016’s Blueside (review here). It puts the heavy blues frontmanship of guitarist/vocalist Mathias Northway at the fore as he, bassist Danny Smith and drummer Michael Lowe offer the most live-sounding studio effort I heard this year. Even if you go beyond the songwriting, the soul in the performances, the emotionalism and the believability of their blues, the classic warmth in their tones, the epic oil painting from Nick Keller that adorns its cover, you still have vitality (yes, even in slow parts) and the instrumental conversation happening between the members of the band. The degree of that alone warrants inclusion here.

22. Enslaved, Heimdal

Enslaved Heimdal

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It can be a challenge to keep up with the ongoing progression of Bergen, Norway, progressive black metal innovators Enslaved, but these 32 years on from their founding it remains worth the effort. Heimdal followed tumultuous but busy years for the band, who mostly supported 2020’s Utgard (review here) digitally for obvious reasons, and was perhaps that much freer in its experimentation as a result of the period of less live activity. However they got to the keyboard part sticking out of “Congelia,” it is only fortunate that they did, since certainly in another couple decades the rest of us might actually be on Enslaved‘s wavelength, and we’ll be glad for it. Until then, they outclass just about everyone’s everything across the board. One of the world’s best bands, outdoing themselves as ever.

21. Mondo Drag, Through the Hourglass

mondo drag through the hourglass

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 19.

Mondo Drag‘s fourth album was also their first in eight years, and with it the Oakland outfit put the lie to the stereotype that prog music is staid. Indeed, the crux of Through the Hourglass came with the passing of founding keyboardist/vocalist John Gamiño mother, in whose honor the Days of Our Lives reference in the title was made. That personal exploration of loss became a classic melancholy progressive psychedelic rocK, bolstered by a partially revamped lineup that includes bassist Conor Riley (Birth, ex-Astra) and drummer Jimmy Perez alongside the established character in the guitars of Nolan Girard and Jake Sheley (both also founding members). Likewise beautiful and sad, songs like “Passages” and “Death in Spring” resonated with the universal experience of mourning as filtered through a rich breadth of influences, memorable movements and entrancing melody. One hopes it was a comfort to Gamiño as surely it has been to others.

20. Slomatics, Strontium Fields

Slomatics Strontium Fields

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

With shorter, tightly composed songs, Northern Ireland trio Slomatics managed to make the most atmospheric record of their career to-date. Their seventh LP, it used its time in songs like “Time Capture” and “Zodiac Arts Lab” to underscore the melody that’s been in their sound all the while but has never as much been the focus when set next to the abiding crush of David Majury and Chris Couzens‘ guitars, and though he’s behind the kit, drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey seemed all the more a frontman as his voice soared when called upon to do so. Of course, there was still plenty of time in the 36-minute run for Slomatics‘ crushall in “Wooden Satellites,” “I, Neanderthal,” later in “Voidians,” and so on, but it’s clear their range and reach have grown and their gradual evolution has brought a new level of complexity to their approach. If they keep this up, they risk feeling compelled to stop calling themselves Neanderthals, and while that would be a bummer, one very much hopes they keep it up anyway.

19. Dead Shrine, The Eightfold Path

Dead Shrine the eightfold path

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Feb. 23.

A new solo incarnation of Hamilton, New Zealand’s Craig Williamson — who is best known for his other one-man operation, Lamp of the Universe — the full-band-style heavy roller riffs throughout Dead Shrine‘s The Eightfold Path scratched what must have been a pretty fervent itch for heavy groove, classic swing, and fuzz, fuzz, fuzz, which cuts like “The Formless Soul,” “As Pharaohs Rise,” and side-ending self-jammers “Enshrined” and “Incantation’s Call” fortunately also have a mix spacious enough to hold. Williamson has rocked plenty since the turn of the century when he was in the heavy rock trio Datura, and around 2010 when he had the trio Arc of Ascent going. That band and this one have a lot in common, but Williamson has proven his most sustainable and seemingly preferred way of working is solo, and as one, Dead Shrine stands alongside Lamp of the Universe (wait for it…) in a way that feels like it could be longer term, even as Williamson seemed to blur the lines between the two sides on Lamp of the Universe‘s own 2023 outing…

19a. Lamp of the Universe, Kaleidoscope Mind

Lamp of the Universe Kaleidoscope Mind

Released by Sound Effect Records. Reviewed Dec. 4.

Although they’re certainly distinct enough to be separate from each other at this point, Dead Shrine and Lamp of the Universe obviously share a lot in common and it felt right to pair them like this. Every year I give myself one ‘#a’ pick, so this is it for 2023 and I’ll just use it to say how incredibly vast Lamp of the Universe has become. While remaining loyal to its beginnings in acid folk and meditative psychedelia, Williamson‘s multi-instrumentalism, the scope of his production, and the absolute care he puts into the project have brought it beyond what reasonable expectations might’ve been. And in part, by that I mean Kaleidoscope Mind rocks. That wah solo in “Golden Dawn?” The blowout drums behind nine-minute opener “Ritual of Innerlight?” Goodness gracious, yes. Even “Immortal Rites,” which is about as close as Williamson gets to Lamp‘s beginnings here, has evolved. But it’s also still the same thing in the root. I don’t know. If you don’t stretch reality to get there, try again later. The most honest thing I can say about it is I feel lucky to be a fan.

18. Sherpa, Land of Corals

sherpa land of corals

Released by Subsound Records. Reviewed Nov. 29.

It was the feeling that at any given point they might just go anywhere that made Sherpa‘s Land of Corals a surprise as the Italian practitioners of the psychedelic arts have thrown open the doors of both perception and microgenre and come across as thoroughly willful in their krautrock-minded ethereality, and just because the listener doesn’t know what might be next doesn’t mean the band aren’t working with a plan regardless. The follow-up to 2018’s Tigris and Euphrates (review here), the six-song/39-minute collection seemed to be fearless in what it took on, and though much of it was less serene than either of their first two outings, the divergences and the complexities in mood, ambience and arrangement render Land of Corals unto itself. Are we post-heavy here? Maybe. Still heavy as the drums behind “High Walls” show, however, though Sherpa‘s take on what that means and how that manifests is no less individualized than anything else in these tracks. Not something everyone is going to get — I’m not convinced I get it myself at this point — but an act whose creativity has yet to get its due.

17. Gozu, Remedy

GOZU REMEDY

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed May 18.

The Boston riff factory known as Gozu have only gotten more vicious, more pointed with time, and yet, tucked at the end of their 2023 outing, Remedy, which has them as veterans at 14 years’ tenure, are “Ash” and “The Handler” and it just goes from sweet to sweeter. Yeah, it’s a ripper into its blood with “CLDZ,” “Tom Cruise Control,” and GozuMarc Gaffney (vocals/guitar), Doug Sherman (guitar), Joe Grotto (bass) and Seth Botos (drums), working with producer Dean Baltulonis for a threepeat — have a brand of melody in Gaffney‘s vocals that’s all their own, and fast or slow, loud or quiet, ’80s movie reference or ’70s movie reference, Gozu have been around long enough to know what they’re about. But, after 2018’s Equilibrium (review here) and 2016’s Revival (review here), Remedy feels one step heavier. Revival was a great sharpening of sound. Equilibrium brought refinement to that. Remedy comes across with a little of a sense of letting go, of the band digging in where it’s more about what they can do together than the response it’ll get afterward. It suits them.

16. The Machine, Wave Cannon

The Machine Wave Cannon

Released by Majestic Mountain Records. Reviewed Feb. 14.

Oh, The Machine. Seven records deep and still in your 30s. That’s the advantage of starting early, which the Netherlands-based trio most definitely did. Wave Cannon, accordingly, is both masterful in its conjurations of warm heavy psychedelic fuzz, and energetic in its delivery, with founding guitarist/vocalist David Eering bid welcome to bassist Chris Both and farewell to original drummer Davy Boogaard. And where 2018’s Faceshift (review here) tipped a balance in their style toward more of a punker push, Wave Cannon led off with “Reversion” and seemed all the more purposeful in its mature heavy psychedelic delve for that. It could be Wave Cannon will be the blueprint for a settled-in aesthetic the trio now more than ever driven by Eering, or it could be the beginning of a whole new evolution of sound from the revamped three-piece recommitted to trippy sounds and warm nod. Either way, it’s not that often you talk about a band’s forward potential after seven full-lengths, so The Machine are in a pretty special place circa 2023 and Wave Cannon, whatever it leads to, is a special moment of transition captured.

15. REZN, Solace

Rezn solace

Self-released. Reviewed March 7.

Similar to how trees live in an experience of time separate from ours and the way an earth year is laughably tiny set against the scale of the universe, Chicago heavy psych rockers REZN seem to operate on their own temporal wavelength throughout their fourth album, Solace. Able to crush at will, as at the end of “Possession,” or the early going of “Stasis,” in the trades of “Reversal,” et al, Solace found REZN more confident in their dives through melody and atmosphere than even they were on 2020’s Chaotic Divine (review here), they created a space and dimensionality of sound that belongs solely to them in the style. Quieter stretches in “Webbed Roots” enthralled with their depth, and the ethereal vocals brought human presence while furthering the smoke-swirls and incense mystique. On their own terms, and yes, very much at their own pace, REZN have made themselves one of America’s most essential heavy psych bands, and Solace — joined in 2023 by REZN‘s collaboration with Mexico’s Vinnum Sabbathi, Silent Future (discussed here) — crowns their to-date discography.

14. Church of Misery, Born Under a Mad Sign

Church of Misery Born Under a Mad Sign

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed June 23.

I’m not saying I think it’s cool to write songs about serial killers, but if you’re going to listen to a Church of Misery release almost 30 years after bassist Tatsu Mikami started the band, chances are you know their stated theme is nothing if not consistent. Born Under a Mad Sign delivered on its promise of memorable doom riffs, and as the songwriter and figurehead for arguably Japan’s most influential doom export, Mikami acted as ringmaster while returning vocalist Kazuhiro Asaeda brought mapcap intensity (and fun) to the grooves fostered through Yukito Okazaki‘s guitar, Tatsu‘s bass and Toshiaki Umemura‘s swinging drums. As ever, loyalty and reverence to Black Sabbath are at the core of Church of Misery‘s everything, and in that sphere, there are very, very few humans walking the planet who can do the thing as well as Tatsu. Like, maybe four going on five. As such, regardless of the subject matter (something I can say because I don’t know anyone who’s been murdered) and some eight years after their preceding long-player, Church of Misery are essential as the vehicle for that.

13. Kind, Close Encounters

kind close encounters

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Aug. 9.

I’m not sure if in 2015 when Boston’s Kind released their first album, Rocket Science (review here), anyone would have guessed there would even be a third full-length from them, let alone one that so much typifies the personality the band has built for itself. Comprised of the otherwise-plenty-busy lineup of vocalist Craig Riggs (also Sasquatch‘s drummer and so constantly touring), guitarist Darryl Shepherd (ex-MilligramBlackwolfgoatTest Meat, scores of others), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Aural Hallucinations, ex-Elder), Kind have found a sound that is separate from what its component members have done on their own, and become a genuinely more-than-sum-of-parts grouping. Whether it’s the rush of “Power Grab” or the way the rhythm of “What it is to Be Free” seemed to gain so much extra punch, or “Massive” at the record’s center earning its name in tone and swing alike. The “whoa baby come on” at 1:56 into that song is of course the reason Close Encounters made this list, but rest assured that across the span Kind are at what is a thus-far peak of their powers.

12. Iron Jinn, Iron Jinn

iron jinn iron jinn

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed April 3.

Stay with me here, because as you scroll further down this post, you’re going to see that Iron Jinn‘s hour-long 2LP first offering, declaratively-titled Iron Jinn, is my pick for debut album of 2023. Born out of an initial onstage collaboration at Roadburn 2018 (review here), the Arnheim, Netherlands-based four-piece brings together guitarist/vocalists Oeds Beydals (Molassess, ex-Death Alley, ex-The Devil’s Blood) and Wout Kemkens (Shaking Godspeed) with the labyrinth-constructing rhythm section of bassist Gerben Bielderman (Pronk, etc.) and drummer Bob Hogenelst, and from the late pointed lead lines of “Truth is Your Dagger” acting in duly jabbing fashion to the heady ambient drama of “Bread and Games” and the dark-prog atmospheres fleshed out as a backdrop to the melodies of “Soft Healers” and “Blood Moon Horizon,” the all-corners turns of “Lick it or Kick It,” on and on and on, the album resounds with both scope and ambition. What the long-term story of this project will be, I have no idea, but Iron Jinn is a record that brings new ideas to a sphere that very much needs them, and if there’s any luck, it will prove influential in the coming years.

11. Green Lung, This Heathen Land

green lung this heathen land

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Nov. 3.

Let the record show that when tasked with the biggest moment of their career to this point, Green Lung absolutely stepped up to meet it. This Heathen Land, as their first full-length with Nuclear Blast‘s backing (and third overall), will be the point of introduction for what will gradually become the bulk of their audience, and in its occult lyrics, sweeping, unironic, all-in grandiosity, weight of tone and craft of hooks, it tells you everything you need to know about why and how Green Lung got to where they are (save perhaps touring). Their task from here will be to find and refine the balance between metal and rock in their sound, but for a band whose clear intention from the outset was to take on the world to bring themselves to a point where they’re arguably doing so at least as regards the heavy underground is an accomplishment in itself. Then you get to songs like “Maxine (Witch Queen)” and the over-the-top finale “Oceans of Time,” and if you can let yourself have a little fun every now and again with your doom and witches and whatnot, this one was just about irresistible.

10. Dopelord, Songs for Satan

Dopelord Songs for Satan

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Dec. 11.

The album that boldly asked if it needed to be a wizard to earn your love, the fifth long-player from volume/tone/devil-worshiping (and perhaps in that order) Polish doomcrafters Dopelord was not at all the first heavy record to use Satan as a political statement — specifically in this case about social oppression in their home country and the political power of the catholic church there — but they wielded their rebel-angel argument with already-in-your-head songs like “Night of the Witch,” “The Chosen One,” “One Billion Skulls,” “Evil Spell” and the upped nastiness of “Worms,” in other words each and every of the non-intro/outro tracks, with emergent mastery and a plod that was as clear and infectious a call to praise as I heard in 2023, no less for its melodicism than its heft or the crispness of its delivery, the guttural rasps of “Worms” aside, which swapped in vitriol at just the right time. Songs for Satan was a new level for Dopelord‘s approach and as much an epistemological fuckoff to fundamentalism as it was consuming nod, and there was none more righteous in their cause. At the risk of saying the quiet part loud, dudes are going to be copping riffs from it for years.

9. Domkraft, Sonic Moons

Domkraft Sonic Moons

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Returning with their fourth long-player, Swedish trio Domkraft have found the style they’ve been working toward all along. As with some of the others on this list, it’s not that Sonic Moons was such a radical departure. It wasn’t. They worked with the same production team that helmed their 2022 Ascend/Descend (review here) split with Slomatics as well as 2021’s Seeds (discussed here). Björn Atldax‘s cover art was on point and in keeping with their visual aesthetic. But there’s a spaciousness on Sonic Moons in “Downpour” and amid the intensity of crash in “Stellar Winds,” and their sound has grown to become dynamic enough that as nine-minute leadoff “Whispers” pushed through its crescendo it seemed to get more and more physically forceful as part of the process. Couple that with assured writing and performances from bassist/vocalist Martin Wegeland, guitarist Martin Widholm and drummer Anders Dahlgren, and Domkraft honed in on an evolved cosmic noise rock and were unafraid to incorporate elements of psychedelia, space and classic stoner riffing into a definitive statement of their purpose.

8. Stoned Jesus, Father Light

stoned jesus father light

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 2.

Ukrainian progressive heavy rockers Stoned Jesus released a career album this year. Did you catch it? Restricted from touring as their home country continues to struggle against a Russian invasion that’s been ongoing for, well, a decade, but more intensely for the better part of the last two years, Stoned Jesus offered something different across each of Father Light‘s six tracks. From the catchy strums of “CON” to the only-timely-but-written-earlier “Thoughts and Prayers” and the you-want-riff-here’s-your-riff 11-minute neckroll of “Season of the Witch,” they proved once again to be a more diverse and thoughtful act than they’re almost ever given credit for being. Expanded stylistically from 2018’s Pilgrims (review here), Stoned Jesus — guitarist/vocalist Igor Sydorenko, bassist/backing vocalist Sergii Sliusar and drummer Dmytro Zinchenko — toyed with retroism on “Thoughts and Prayers” while the late solo in “Get What You Deserve” underscores the sentiment in that climate-change-themed finisher, all the while standing astride their own material, solid, confident, still looking forward. It’s the world that’s the problem, not the band.

7. Kadabra, Umbra

Kadabra Umbra

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 6.

First of all, I stand by the review. To expand on that (and the review itself was expanded on here), it was the songwriting that kept me coming back to the second album from Washington trio Kadabra, who progressed on all fronts from their already-impressive 2021 debut, Ultra (review here). They made hooks like “The Serpent” and “The Devil” feel like landmarks in a record-long horror feature that’s told as much in riffs as lyrics, but at the same time there’s nothing fancy happening in terms of sound. Some organ in “Mountain Tamer,” plenty of fuzz throughout, and the songs. It’s the songs. The songs. The fucking songs. That uplift in “Midnight Hour.” The feeling of oh-shit-we’ve-arrived in “The Serpent.” Playing toward some of Uncle Acid‘s lyrical creep with tight-knit grooves and sharp turns, Umbra not only showed the preceding LP wasn’t a fluke, it conveyed mood and atmosphere without giving up momentum or structure, and every move it made, from the shimmer opening “White Willows” to the last strains underscoring the chorus of “The Serpent” in the concluding acoustic reprise “The Serpent II,” Kadabra‘s sophomore outing communed with genre with a perspective becoming increasingly its own. And again, the songs.

6. Dozer, Drifting in the Endless Void

Dozer Drifting in the Endless Void

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed April 20.

There was a while there where I honestly didn’t think Dozer were ever going to do another record, so Drifting in the Endless Void is a life event as far as I’m concerned. The trailblazing Swedish heavy rockers have been playing live periodically for the last decade, and word has been kicking around of studio work, new songs following what was until this year their most recent album in 2008’s Beyond Colossal (featured here), but to actually have such a thing manifest and take the form it did made it a reinvigoration of Dozer‘s sound and what seemed to be a chance to try both new and old methods of working. In the raging “Ex-Human, Now Beast” and the breadth of “Missing 13,” Dozer reminded older heads. and showed a generation that’s come up since, why they’ve had the influence they have over the last quarter-century, including in their absence. Realize you’re lucky to be on the planet with it.

5. Mars Red Sky, Dawn of the Dusk

Mars Red Sky Dawn of the Dusk

Released by Vicious Circle Records and Mrs Red Sound. Reviewed Dec. 7.

A fifth full-length brought fresh ideas and new perspectives to the established progressive, melodic heavy psychedelic rock methodology of Bordeaux’s Mars Red Sky, who’ve greeted their maturity as a band with creative openness rather than stagnation. To be sure, guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — each crucial to the group as they are — have plenty of recognizable aspects for longtime fans. Indeed, their signature blend of warm but remarkably heavy tonality and floating melodic vocals remains unflinching, but what they do with it has changed. And that’s not just set up for mentioning the Queen of the Meadow collaboration either (more below), glorious as Helen Ferguson‘s contributions to “Maps of Inferno” are (she’s also on the closing reprise “Heavenly Bodies”), or that Jimmmy takes a lead vocal on “The Final Round.” You can hear the progression in “Break Even,” in the expanses of “Carnival Man,” that groove in “Slow Attack,” and even the spaciousness around the lurch of “A Choir of Ghosts.” Fast or slow, loud or quiet, even the interludes here shine with a sense of purpose, and if e’er forward is to be the course of Mars Red Sky for hopefully a long time to come, so much the better.

4. Sandrider, Enveletration

Sandrider Enveletration

Released by Satanik Royalty Records. Reviewed March 1.

I will not mince words. This has been a difficult, taxing year for me personally and emotionally, and anytime I felt like I wanted to beat my head into the wall — which has been A LOT — Seattle bringers of chicanery-laced heavy punk-metal Sandrider were ready to go along for the ride. Working as ever with producer Matt Bayles (Mastodon, Isis, a small city’s worth of others), guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski (who also released a killer record this year with his experimental grind/weirdo project Nuclear Dudes; don’t skip), bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts and drummer Nat Damm wound at mostly high speed through energy summoned from a place I’ve clearly never been with songs that, while they were smashing all your favorite everything to tiny bits, left a memorable impression behind as bruises in the shape of themselves and ended up with enough bounce so that cuts like “Alia,” “Weasel” (the delivery of, “Here comes the mouth/Look at all its teeth”) the their-version-of-epic-and-that’s-pretty-epic “Ixion,” “Circles,” “Grouper,” the title-track, were fun in doing so. It’s their fourth record and I don’t know if there are a ton of surprises, but I sure was happy when it came along and kicked so much ass in such a specific and, for me, helpful way. A catharsis record, but don’t take that to mean it’s just angry. There’s a lot of humor here as well and the songs are a blast. Hard to imagine this isn’t what Sandrider had in mind when they set out over a decade ago.

3. Ruff Majik, Elektrik Ram

ruff majik elektrik ram

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed April 27.

A breakthrough in craft and style, and immaculate in its turns, tight-but-not-choked arrangements, and willingness to go and be in unexpected spaces, Elektrik Ram was for South African heavy rockers Ruff Majik — comprised of guitarist/vocalist Johni Holiday, bassist Jimmy Glass, guitarist/backing vocalist Cowboy Bez and drummer Steven Bosman — a rare realization of potential. I said as much in the review. Not every band gets to make a record like this. From the charge of its title-track and “Hillbilly Fight Song” and the unspeakable catchiness that begins there and threads throughout the stylistic shifts of “She’s Still a Goth,” “Cement Brain,” “Delirium Tremors” — on the 15th anniversary reissue, maybe bring the triangle down in the mix? (kidding; it’s painful and should be) — and into the broader grooves of its ending section with “A Song About Drugs (With a Clever Title),” “Shangrilah Inc.” and the raw-emotive “Chemically Humanized,” which when set against the oh-look-I-just-beat-your-ass thematic of “Hillbilly Fight Song” feels duly brought low. This is a great — yes, great — album, and I don’t think I listened to anything as much this year as I listened to it. They’ve already started work on their next LP, reportedly, and I worry it’s soon, but with the kind of control over their approach that they demonstrate here, there’s really no choice but to trust they know what they’re doing, since that is so much the underlying message in the material, even if its lyrical themes were by and large much darker.

2. Howling Giant, Glass Future

Howling Giant Glass Future

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

It wasn’t exactly a secret that Howling Giant had momentum and progression on their side. They’ve toured hard the last couple years, offered the instrumental Alteration EP (review here) in 2021 following their oh-shit-these-guys-are-for-real split with Sergeant ThunderhoofMasamune/Muramasa (review here), and back to their debut LP, 2019’s The Space Between Worlds (review here), and have worked so diligently to engage their audience that a sense of reachout has become part of their sound. You knew that when they next set themselves to making a long-player, there was a real chance for them to sculpt something special, but Glass Future was still a surprise. Unflinching in its construction, mixed for brightness as well as weight, and cutting through that with clearly-schooled harmonies between guitarist Tom Polzine, drummer Zach Wheeler and bassist Sebastian “Seabass” Baltes to give a pop-ish sensibility to progressive sounds that in other hands would serve far more self-indulgent ends. Received as a whole work with its timely endtimes lyrical foundation, it exuded welcome in the hooks of “Siren Song,” “Hawk in a Hurricane,” “Glass Future,” “Sunken City,” “Juggernaut” and the periodic slowdowns through “Aluminum Crown,” “Tempest, and the Liar’s Gateway” and the closer “There’s Time Now,” which called back to the Twilight Zone reference (Simpsons did it) in intro “Hourglass” while fleshing out a brilliantly melodic comedown for the human species. As with the finest of any year’s releases, it will hold its relevance far past the coming January, and for Howling Giant, it sets them on a path of fresh ideas and expansive sound, filtered through a cohesive process to be the engaging good-time apocalypse they’ve become. Glass Future makes Howling Giant one of America’s most essential heavy rock bands and figureheads for a generation still on the rise.

2023 Album of the Year

1. Acid King, Beyond Vision

Acid King Beyond Vision

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed March 23.

There was never another choice, and not much choice to start with. The manner in which founding guitarist/vocalist Lori S. revamped her band, bringing in bassist/synthesist Bryce Shelton (Nik Turner’s Hawkwind) and drummer Jason Willer (Jello Biafra’s Guantanamo School of Medicine) as the rhythm section supporting the band’s trademark rolling fuzz, and collaborating with Black Cobra‘s Jason Landrian, who added guitar and synth to the tracks, was an expansion and redirection of sound that simply wasn’t anticipated from a band closing in on three decades of activity. But after 2015’s still-undervalued Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (discussed herereview here), saw Lori and her then-lineup explore more heavy psychedelic sounds, Beyond Vision expanded on that with atmospheres never before conjured by any incarnation of Acid King, and Billy Anderson‘s production, as ever, allowed for scope and claustrophobia to exist in the same aural space. Hypnotic in the riffs of year-highlight “Mind’s Eye” and its penultimate title-track, Beyond Vision freely incorporated an influence from Author and Punisher into the slow plods of “Electro Magnetic” and the huge-in-a-new-way-for-them “90 Seconds,” tripped out easy on the roundly immersive opener “One Light Second Away” and galloped to a (again, surprisingly) rousing finish in “Color Trails.” A band you thought was a known quantity, whose sound you thought was set, showing that creativity doesn’t have to stop just because you have an established sound or are known for doing one thing. Acid King are still Acid King on Beyond Vision, but the boldness with which the album is realized and the sheer bravery of taking the risks it takes in pushing beyond (oh!) what were the parameters of Acid King‘s trailblazing, mellow-psych-informed stoner riffing — always possible it would fall flat in ways it obviously very much doesn’t — came together on a level that was simply unmatched in 2023. Acid King have perhaps never been more royal, more regal as they unfurl these seven cosmic triumphs, but somehow underneath they’re still punk rock. One way or the other, that the on-paper concept of Beyond Vision — all the changes, growth, shifts — winds up secondary to the strength and listening experience of the songs themselves makes it undeniable as the album of the year. It was a no-doubter.

The Top 60 Albums of 2023: Honorable Mention

I could very easily do another top 60 with these, and then some. Alphabetically:

1782, Abanamat, Acid Magus, Ahab, Albinö Rhino, Ananda Mida, Astral Sleep, Bell Witch, Benthic Realm, Bismut, Black Helium, Black Rainbows, Blood Ceremony, Blood Lightning, Bong Corleone, Bongzilla, Bridge Farmers, Cavern Deep, Cleõphüzz, Cloud Catcher, Clouds Taste Satanic, Danava, Darsombra, Dead Feathers, Deadpeach, Delco Detention, Desert Storm, Dommengang, Doom Lab, Dr. Space, Earthbong, Ecstatic Vision, David Eugene Edwards, End of Hope, Avi C. Engel, Fin del Mundo, Fire Down Below, The Fizz Fuzz, Formula 400, Fuzz Evil, Gévaudan, Ghorot, Giöbia, Godflesh, Godsleep, Graveyard, The Gray Goo, Green Yeti, Hail the Void, Haurun, Healthyliving, Hexvessel, Hope Hole, Humulus, IAH, Iron Void, JAAW, Jack Harlon & the Dead Crows, Katatonia, La Chinga, Lamassu, Larman Clamor, L’Ira del Baccano, Love Gang, Lucid Void, Maggot Heart, The Magpie, Mammatus, Mammoth Caravan, Mansion, Margarita Witch Cult, Masheena, Melody Fields, Melt Motif, Merlock, Minnesota Pete Campbell, Mizmor, Moon Coven, Moonstone, Morag Tong, Morass of Molasses, Morne, The Moth, Mountain of Misery, Mouth, Mudness, Mud Spencer, Los Mundos, Mutoid Man, Natskygge, Nebula Drag, Nuclear Dudes, Obelyskkh, Conny Ochs, Øresund Space Collective, Orsak:Oslo, Patriarchs in Black, Plainride, Primordial, Restless Spirit, Ritual King, The River, Robots of the Ancient World, Rocky’s Pride & Joy, Royal Thunder, Runway, Sadus The Smoking Community, SÂVER, Seum, Siena Root, Slowenya, Smokey Mirror, Evert Snyman, Sonic Moon, Sorcia, Spidergawd, Spotlights, Surya Kris Peters, Swan Valley Heights, These Beasts, Thousand Vision Mist, Thunder Horse, Tidal Wave, Tortuga, Travo, Treedeon, Trevor’s Head, Unsafe Space Garden, Vlimmer, Warp, Westing, Wet Cactus, Witch Ripper, WyndRider, Yakuza, Zone Six, and apparently frickin’ everything that Dr. Space touches.

Notes:

Certainly a landmark year for Blues Funeral and Magnetic Eye, while Ripple Music, Heavy Psych Sounds, Small Stone, Kozmik Artifactz, Napalm, Sound Effect, Spinda, Mongrel Records and Exile on Mainstream fostered a deeply admirable swath of sounds. If you’re not following these however you do your following — email lists, social media, Bandcamp, etc. — I suggest in a spirit of friendship that you consider doing so.

A couple thoughts before we wrap the big list. First, I harbor no delusions that it’s complete. There always are and always will be records that slip by me. I’m one person running this site. I’ll never be able to hear everything, appreciate everything I do hear to the utmost as everyone else might, or even want to. This is my list, my listening habits for the year and what I thought were 2023’s best full-length releases. If you’d put more in it than that, go look at the headline again. It’s a list. I take it seriously, of course, but if you had Swan Valley Heights or Godflesh or La Chinga at number three on your list — all of which are totally valid picks, just like the rest — and I didn’t, that’s okay.

In fact, it’s beautiful, but it doesn’t always come out that way in the discussion. I’m asking as I do every year to please keep opinions and conversations civil in their presentation. I know arguing on the internet is fun but I’d rather not have the drama and rest assured, I take it all personally.

So, about the honorable mentions: where do you even start? While the balance of the main list, the top 60, is toward established and even veteran acts, it’s encouraging to see so many up and coming groups forcing their way into consideration. From the ambient evocations of Orsak:Oslo to Sorcia’s thick sludge and Melt Motif’s sultry industrializations, Mountain of Misery branching off from Spaceslug, outfits like IAH and Swan Valley Heights finding new maturity, Mammoth Caravan bring aggro edge to huge tones, Healthyliving, Merlock, Morag Tong, Godsleep, These Beasts, Margarita Witch Cult, Warp, Earthbong, Abanamat, Runway, WyndRider, Trevor’s Head, Fire Down Below, High Priest, Nebula Drag, The Magpie, Love Gang, Jack Harlon and others, a slew of impressive debuts and second albums, the generational evolution of sound is ongoing, vibrant, bands establishing themselves and claiming their aesthetic place and respective audiences as we speak. I would urgently encourage you to engage with these artists now, both for immediate satisfaction and as investment in the shape of heavy music to come, which they will make.

The bottom line is this: I believe deeply in the power of art to affect your life, to make it richer, fuller, better. There are mornings when The Obelisk is the reason I’m getting out of bed, and I thank you for reading, for being a part of this. I’ll say more later. We still have a ways to go.

Debut Album of the Year 2023

Iron Jinn, Iron Jinn

iron jinn iron jinn

Other notable debuts (alphabetical):

Altered States, Survival
Astral Hand, Lords of Data
Benthic Realm, Vessel
Blood Lightning, Blood Lightning
Bog Monkey, Hollow
Bong Corleoone, Bong Corleone
Cleõphüzz, Dune Altar
Codex Serafini, The Imprecation of Anima
Daevar, Delirious Rights
Dead Shrine, The Eightfold Path
Deer Lord, Dark Matter Pt. 1
Dread Witch, Tower of the Severed Serpent
Ego Planet, Ego Planet
Embargo, High Seas
From the Ages, II
Fuzzy Grapes, Volume 1
Haurun, Wilting Within
Hibernaut, Ingress
HIGH LEAF, Vision Quest
High Priest, Invocation
Inherus, Beholden
JAAW, Supercluster
The Keening, Little Bird
King Potenaz, Goat Rider
Lord Mountain, The Oath
Margarita Witch Cult, Margarita Witch Cult
Massive Hassle, Massive Hassle
Mammoth Caravan, Ice Cold Oblivion
Medicine Horse, Medicine Horse
Merlock, Onward Strides Colossus
Milana, Milvus
Mountain of Misery, In Roundness
Ockra, Gratitude
Oldest Sea, A Birdsong, a Ghost
Pyre Fyre, Pyre Fyre
Runway, Runway
Slow Wake, Falling Fathoms
Strider, Midnight Zen
WyndRider, WyndRider
Slumbering Sun, The Ever-Living Fire
Sonic Moon, Return Without Any Memory
Tō Yō, Stray Birds From the Far East
Tribunal, The Weight of Remembrance
Weite, Assemblage

Notes:

Tell your friends. I think what I like most about that glut of names just above is that there’s a full spectrum of sounds there. Yeah, it’s all under an umbrella of expanded-definition heavy, but that’s the point too. A creative boom is happening that’s seeing the post-Gen X and the earlier end of the Millennials making room for newer acts with new ideas and perspectives.

Why did I pick Iron Jinn as debut of the year, when there was obviously so much otherwise to choose from? Easy. It was the most its own thing out of any of these releases. I love Dead Shrine, Blood Lightning’s intensity speaks to my brain in a way not everything can, Margarita Witch Cult have been building buzz all year. Oldest Sea’s debut is a melancholic declaration of arrival. I was not short on choices, and I’ll probably keep adding to this list as the next week or so goes on.

Dark, heavy, progressive in its approach and complex enough that I still feel like I’m getting to know it, Iron Jinn‘s self-titled so much brimmed with purpose that it seemed to go beyond a first record. My hope, honestly, is that Oeds Beydals and Wout Kemkens spend the next 30 years or so refining that collaboration and exploring where it can go, because if this is the starting point, it’s got enough to it to be the beginning of a lifetime’s exploring. One never knows how things will work out when songwriters work together, but clearly Iron Jinn drew from the strengths of all its members. Records like this, on the unlikely occasion they happen at all, don’t happen by accident.

And yes, Iron Jinn are a new band not necessarily comprised of inexperienced players, but most bands start from members of other bands. Blood Lightning, Slumbering Sun, Weite, Mountain of Misery, JAAW, Ego Planet, Massive Hassle, all the way back up to Benthic Realm and Altered States. New bands, new sounds, new ideas all coming to the fore. Couple that with acts like WyndRider, Daevar, Lord Mountain, Hibernaut, Oldest Sea, Mammoth Caravan, Sonic Moon, Tō Yō, Medicine Horse, High Priest and others here whose members haven’t necessarily appeared in an Obelisk year-end post before, and you get a more complete picture of the churning magma that is the potential for the heavy underground over the rest of the 2020s and hopefully beyond.

Short Release of the Year 2023

Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow, Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow

Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, Singles, etc.

Aawks, Luna EP
Aawks & Aiwass, The Eastern Scrolls Split LP
Apollo80 & Dimartis, Reverberations Vol. 1: Tales of Dust and Winds Split LP
Beastwars, Tyranny of Distance EP
Black Glow, Black Glow EP
Bloodsports, Bloodsports EP
Book of Wyrms, Storm Warning Single
Borracho, Kozmic Safari Single
The Bridesmaid, Come on People Now Smile on Your Brother
Burning Sister, Get Your Head Right EP
Cervus, Shifting Sands
Familiars, Keep the Good Times Rolling EP
The Freqs, Poacher
Grin, Black Nothingness EP
Guided Meditation Doomjazz, Expect EP
High Desert Queen & Blue Heron, Turned to Stone Ch. 8: The Wake Split LP
The Holy Nothing, Volume I: A Profound and Nameless Fear EP
Iress, Solace EP
Josiah, rehctaW EP
Kal-El, Moon People EP
Kombynat Robotron & DUNDDW, Split LP
Lammping, Better Know Better EP
Monolord, It’s All the Same EP
Mordor Truckers, Nowhere
Nerver & Chat Pile, Brothers in Christ Split
Night Fishing, Live Bait EP
Oxblood Forge, Cult of Oblivion
Zack Oakley, Demon Run / Funkier Than a Mosquito’s Tweeter EP
Severed Satellites, Aphelion EP
Space Queen, Nebula EP
Speck & Interkosmos, Split LP
Stöner, Boogie to Baja EP
Suspiriorium, Suspiriorum EP
Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Destination Ceres Station: Reefersleep EP
Ufomammut, Crookhead EP
Vokonis, Exist Within Light EP
Weedevil & Electric Cult, Cult of Devil Sounds Split LP
The Whims of the Great Magnet, Same New Single

Notes:

In keeping with their history of releasing EPs ahead of their LPs, Mars Red Sky this Spring offered the Mars Red Sky & Queen of the Meadow short outing as a preface to Dawn of the Dusk (number five on the big list), but with just three songs it became one of the releases I listened to most this year. I had “Maps of Inferno” on repeat to a degree that was kind of embarrassing to me even in front of family, and since the EP was basically that, the companion “Out at Large,” which isn’t on the full-length, and an edit that cuts out most of the trippy midsection of “Maps of Inferno” so that it all the more hammers groove into your head in what drummer Matgaz very kindly explained to me was 4/4 timing with three extra beats. Good luck following along to his kick on what seems like such a straightforward nod. What a band. I’m not doing a separate section for it, but “Maps of Inferno” was also hands-down my song of the year.

You can see above, it’s a pretty broad mix, both of release types, of new and older acts, and of styles. I’ve been hailing Vokonis’ better-future queer prog-doom on the regular, and Josiah, Monolord and Ufomammut’s EPs were nothing if not listenable. I dug the first outing from Suspiriorum (mems. Destroyer of Light and more) and hope they continue to flesh out their cult-horror ambience, and Severed Satellites’ (mems. Sixty Watt Shaman, etc.) jams set just right in their Marylander groove. Lammping will likely be on some list of mine until they break up — I’m hooked — and Zack Oakley’s funk also resonated. From the warm heavy psych of Cervus to The Bridesmaid’s all-in-on-far-out experimentalism, a victory lap from Stöner after two quality LPs and the High Desert Queen and Blue Heron split that’s another landmark in Ripple’s ongoing ‘Turned to Stone’ series, it’s been a good year if you’re willing to be distracted bouncing from one thing immediately to the next, which apparently I am.

It’s no coincidence Aawks are on the list twice, and I haven’t reviewed that Black Glow EP yet (it’s in the next Quarterly Review), but it’s a gem as well. Also very interested to see where The Freqs go as a new voice in heavy rock from Boston, and Night Fishing (mems. Abrams) feel like they’re just starting to find what they’re looking for, but this year was also their first and second releases, so they’re on their way. Grin’s assault was furious, and Beastwars always tick that box as well. I continue to dig the vibe of Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships and look forward to more from them, and same goes for both DUNDDW and Bloodsports here, as well as both Apollo80 and Dimartis on that split. Burning Sister took advantage of an opportunity to expand on their sound, and their take on Mudhoney’s “When Tomorrow Comes” was overflowing with love for the source material. If you can’t get behind a band being fans, I’m not sure what we’re doing here.

Because a ‘short release’ can be so much, I won’t call this list complete. If you have a single you loved, or an EP or split or anything else of the sort, and you don’t see it above, please just leave a comment. Maybe I left off something crucial. Maybe you can put me onto something awesome I didn’t hear. I’ll take it either way, and only ask again please be kind.

Live Album of the Year

Ecstatic Vision, Live at Duna Jam

Ecstatic Vision Live at Duna Jam

Other notable live albums:

The Atomic Bitchwax, Live at Freak Valley
Causa Sui, Loppen 2021
Dool, Visions of Summerland
Duel, Live at Hellfest
Edena Gardens, Live Momentum
King Buffalo, Live at Burning Man
Messa, Live at Roadburn
Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Live in NY
Rainbows Are Free, Heavy Petal Music
Sacri Monti, Live at Sonic Whip
Temple Fang, Live at Freak Valley
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Slaughter on First Avenue
Villagers of Ioannina City, Through Space and Time

Notes:

This isn’t a huge list, but it’s burners front to back, and in that regard there’s little in the heavy underground, certainly toward the maddened-space-psych end of it, that can touch Ecstatic Vision’s intense performance ethic. If they’re not yet, I firmly believe the Philadelphia outfit led by guitarist/vocalist Doug Sabolick (also guitar for Author & Punisher) are on their way to having their reputation as a live band precede them, and Live at Duna Jam is further evidence that it should. Issued through Heavy Psych Sounds, it both captured the four-piece’s ultra-dead-on cosmic blast, but it paired that with the theatre-of-the-mind romance of Duna Jam itself; the best-kept-secret-in-heavy week-long unofficial festival held each year in Sardinia is the ultimate escapist daydream. That combination was just too powerful to ignore.

King Buffalo’s surprise Live at Burning Man release will do well to hold over till their next full-length, and I’ll just tell you flat out that no home should be without Causa Sui’s Loppen 2021. Uncle Acid’s first live outing was somewhat obligatory but welcome, and Messa’s Live at Roadburn celebrated the emergence of that genre-blending Italian unit as one of the most essential up and coming bands in Europe. They also made their first appearance on North American shores this year. One suspects it won’t be their last.

I’ll be very much anticipating what’s next from Sacri Monti, Duel, Causa Sui (of course), Temple Fang and actually the rest on this list, which leads us to…

Looking Ahead to 2024

You’re almost there. Just keep going. Special thanks to the folks in The Obelisk Collective on Facebook for the help on rounding up this hopefully-alphabetized list of names:

10,000 Years, Acid Mammoth, Apostle of Solitude, Big Scenic Nowhere, Bismarck, Blue Heron, Castle Rat, Coogans Bluff, Crystal Spiders, Curse the Son, Deer Creek, DVNE, Foot, Full Earth, Fu Manchu, Greenleaf, Hashtronaut, Heavy Temple, High on Fire, Horseburner, Iota, Ironrat, King Buffalo, Kungens Män, Lamassu, Mammoth Caravan, Mammoth Volume, Maragda, Mario Lalli & The Rubber Snake Charmers, Monarch, Monkey3, Moura, My Diligence, The Obsessed, Orange Goblin, Psychlona, Red Mesa, Rhino, Ruff Majik, Sacri Monti, Sasquatch, Sleepytime Gorilla Museum, Slift, Slomosa, Spirit Mother, Stonebride, Troy the Band, Ufomammut, Unida, Vitskär Süden, Vokonis, Weedpecker, and just because they should probably be on this list every year until a new record comes out if one ever actually does: Om.

If you’ve got names here too, the more the merrier, comment button is below.

THANK YOU

This has not been a minor undertaking, whether or not you count the fact that I started keeping notes for 2023 in 2022, just like right now I’ve already got notes going for 2024. It never stops. But every year, I feel like this is among the most important things this site puts out and I use these lists all the time for reference, looking back on what was happening where and when, what came out when, etc. I hope you also find something useful here. I don’t have an exact count, but just by estimate there are at least somewhere between 200-300 bands talked above above. It’s a lot. It’s overwhelming. But I hope you can find something that sounds like it’s speaking directly to you, because I know that I have several times over. Any one of my top five picks I consider an ‘album of the year,’ if that’s a decent place to start.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for her support, love and inexplicable willingness to put up with my crap. Right this second, she is keeping our daughter hooked into a going-late morning loaf in bed I think specifically until I get up from the couch, go in the other room, and declare I’m about to start The Pecan’s breakfast, which I probably should’ve done like an hour ago. I am luckier than I am able most days to realize, and I’m working on that, and it is the beauty and flat-out amazing nature of the two people with whom I share our home that is the reason why it’s worth that effort.

I’m sure I said as much above, but I believe in art. I believe in creativity. I believe these things are a path to fulfillment that lives without them do not experience. There are ups and downs to everything, and any glorious creative individual is just as likely to be their own worst critic, but isn’t that still worth it too? Don’t we move forward anyway, because what’s the other choice?

I thank you for reading a lot. I’ll do it again now: Thanks for reading. Your support is the reason this site is still here. It’s why it’s worth it to me to take hours from days stretched across the better part of a week (I actually finished early, thanks again to The Patient Mrs.) to do this in the first place, let alone entertain the notion of doing so again next December and on into some unknown measure of perpetuity.

Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. If you’re seeing these words, I wish you and yours the best of everything for fucking ever, and cannot begin to tell you how much I value your time and willingness to spend it here.

Taking tomorrow off, but after that, we go as ever: onward.

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REZN & Vinnum Sabbathi Unite for Silent Future LP out Aug. 11

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 2nd, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Okay, this is super-complicated, so stay with me. It’s REZN and Vinnum Sabbathi together.

Okay, so maybe not actually that complicated. One might throw darts at band names on a wall for eternity and never come up with pairing the Chicago and Mexico City-based outfits for a split, let alone a collaborative LP, both bands working together on a single batch of songs in a one-time megaband, but every now and then actual-reality has a way of offering surprises and this was one of those. I was fortunate enough to do the liner notes for the release, to talk to the bands and get the story behind what they’re going for, how it came together, and so on, and if you’re a PostWax subscriber and up for some reading, that’s a thing that exists. The downloads of the album, which is called Silent Future, have gone out to PostWax folks — I know because I got mine — and the keys to getting into it are atmosphere and expanse. Do not approach with set expectations, do open your mind to immersive heavy psychedelic possibilities.

The non-PostWax general release for Silent Future is Aug. 11 and they’re streaming the centerpiece “Hypersurreal” now. The PR wire has preorder links and more background:

rezn vinnum sabbathi silent future

REZN and VINNUM SABBATHI to release collaborative album “Silent Future” on August 11th via Blues Funeral Recordings; stream first single!

Blues Funeral Recordings present the next chapter of their acclaimed PostWax series, with a fully collaborative album between Chicago avant-garde doom outfit REZN and Mexico City instrumental cosmic metallers Vinnum Sabbathi. “Silent Future” will be released worldwide on August 11th, with preorders and the first single available right now!

Listen to REZN and Vinnum Sabbathi’s new track “Hypersurreal”: https://lnk.to/hypersurreal

On Silent Future, Chicago atmospheric psych-doom outfit REZN teams up with Mexico City cosmic conceptualists Vinnum Sabbathi for a true union of heavy exploration. Allowing themselves a fluid, open canvas to experiment, members of both bands contribute equally to create an album of lush, hypnotic and frequently megalithic ambiance, yielding an utterly cohesive trip into the riff-drenched astral reaches.

About this collaborative album, REZN comments: “Ever since we played a show in Mexico City with Vinnum Sabbathi, we knew we wanted to find an opportunity to incorporate their cinematic style within the REZN soundscape. The Postwax creative concept helped guide us into making an album that stands out from the rest of our catalog, which was a really refreshing challenge for us. After the songwriting flowed freely, we intentionally left space so we could collaborate together on each song and explore the many shades of psychological cosmic horror.”

Vinnum Sabbathi adds: “We feel honored to be part of the Postwax series with this special collaboration with our Friends Rezn, the creation of “Silent Future” gave us the opportunity of experimenting with new ways of composing and recording, but also adding our own touch to the concept with the use of samples and this is very well represented in the first single “Hypersurreal”.

The fluidity with which REZN and Vinnum Sabbathi collaborate is unlikely, yet inarguable. Strong nuclear forces conjoin sections as alternatingly ethereal as celestial light and dense as a black hole collapse. Ultimately, the endeavor is never limited to being one thing for long, any more than it is limited to being the work of a single band. More than a listening experience, Silent Future’s vitality extends beyond the aural. This is the work of two groups pushing themselves further than they’ve gone before, each answering the other’s question of how far they can ultimately go. As heavy as Silent Future gets, as distant as it may range, one cannot regard this righteously thick, molten-tempo journey into the unknown as anything but breathtaking.

“Silent Future” will be released worldwide on August 11th in various vinyl formats, limited digipak CD and digital. The ultra-limited deluxe vinyl edition will be shipped in June to PostWax Vol. II subscribers. Preorders are available now on Blues Funeral Recordings.

REZN & VINNUM SABBATHI “Silent Future”
Out August 11th on Blues Funeral Recordings
Preorder now on BFR website – https://www.bluesfuneral.com/search?q=silent+future
Bandcamp – https://rezzzn.bandcamp.com/album/silent-future
EU store – https://en.bluesfuneral.spkr.media/en/Artists/REZN-and-Vinnum-Sabbathi/REZN-and-Vinnum-Sabbathi-Silent-Future.html

TRACKLIST:
1. Born Into Catatonia
2. Unknown Ancestor
3. The Cultigen
4. Hypersurreal
5. Clusters
7. Morphing
8. Obliterating Mists

Album lineup:
Gerardo Arias: Drums, Percussion, Lead Guitars
Phil Cangelosi: Bass
Patrick Dunn: Drums
Samuel Lopez: Bass
Rob McWilliams: Guitars, Vocals
Spencer Ouellette: Synths, Sax, Flute
Juan Tamayo: Heavy guitars, Synths
Roman Tamayo: Additional FX
Victor “KB” Velazquez: Additional Guitars
Manuel Wohlrab: Spoken Word

facebook.com/reznhits
instagram.com/rezzzn
rezzzn.bandcamp.com

www.facebook.com/VinnumSabbathi/
https://www.instagram.com/vinnumsabbathiband/
https://vinnumsabbathi.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
https://www.instagram.com/blues.funeral/
https://bluesfuneralrecordings.bandcamp.com/
bluesfuneral.com

REZN & Vinnum Sabbathi, Silent Future (2023)

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Into the Void Leeuwarden Makes First Lineup Announcement

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 20th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

If you’re thinking, “Hey wait, wasn’t Into the Void just in January?” then first of all, kudos on keeping up, and yes, it was. That was Eindhoven, this is Leeuwarden, and if these Netherlands cities aren’t familiar, if these festivals keep happening almost certainly they will be. Into the Void Leeuwarden 2023 is set for Sept. 30 — all-dayer; nice — and has just announced its first 12 bands.

Yeah, crazy right? First 12 bands? It’s one day! How many more bands can there be? The headliner is still TBA, but with Alabama Thunderpussy leading the charge, they’ve brought on The Atomic BitchwaxYawning ManREZNSamavayoThe MachineHowling GiantFire Down BelowHeavy TempleRrragsOnhou and Moan, and that looks like a hell of a day to me. Shit, pick any four and that’s a good night alone.

I wanna know if Howling Giant and Heavy Temple are going to tour Europe together. It’d be the most adorable heavy rock export package of the year, hands down. For that alone I want it to be true. Charm offensive.

Anyhoozle, it’s another one for the Alabama Thunderpussy reunion, and a return trip for the Bitchwax that I think is TBA. Shit, put them on tour together too! Man, I’m booking gigs all over the place today. While we’re at it? I’d pair Samavayo and The Machine for a run too. And you don’t think Yawning Man and REZN wouldn’t be a good show? Come on.

I guess the underlying message is this lineup looks pretty good. Here it is as per socials:

into the void leewarden 2023 first poster

Alabama Thunderpussy exclusive reunion show at Into the Void Leeuwarden

The first 11 names for Into the Void Leeuwarden are known. On September 30th Alabama Thunderpussy will host an exclusive Dutch reunion show at Into the Void. It’s the first time since 2008 that the band is back on tour, and despite their death, the Americans are still loved for their legendary live shows.

The Americans are taking Into the Void because as many as seven of the twelve are from the United States. Next to Alabama Thunderpussy that’s the atomic bitchwax, yawning man, REZN, heavy temple, and howling giant.

The (legendary) headliner is also from the US of A and we will announce it soon.

The Machine and Rrrags and the Groninger bands Onhou and Moan are from home. The Germans of Samavayo and the Belgians of Fire Down Below complete the line up for now.

Tickets are now on sale and cost 49 euros each.

Tickets https://www.intothevoid.nl/tickets

https://www.facebook.com/gointothevoid/
https://www.instagram.com/intothevoidfestival/
https://www.intothevoid.nl/

Rezn, Solace (2023)

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