Friday Full-Length: Electric Wizard, Electric Wizard

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Electric Wizard, Electric Wizard (1995)

Yeah, yeah, I know. Dopethrone. Come My Fanatics. Hell, Witchcult Today. I know. In the 30 years that Electric Wizard have been operating going back to guitarist/vocalist Jus Oborn founding the Dorset-based outfit as Lord of Putrefaction in 1988 before becoming Thy Grief Eternal a couple years later and ultimately Electric Wizard in 1993, the band has produced a couple genuine classics, and their 1995 self-titled debut, issued as catalog number nine by Lee Dorrian of Cathedral‘s Rise Above Records with the lineup of Oborn, bassist Tim Bagshaw and drummer Mark Greening, generally isn’t considered in the same tier. But I ask you, have human beings ever come closer to capturing the guitar tone of Master of Reality than Oborn does on “Black Butterfly?”

I don’t think I’m taking anything away from the accomplishments of Dopethrone in 2000 or Come My Fanatics… before it in 1997 by pointing out the foundation that the eight-song/47-minute self-titled laid, essentially allowing them to happen. Its arrival in 1995 doesn’t quite put it at the forefront of the mid-’90s stoner rock wave — recall Monster Magnet issued Spine of God in 1991, Sleep unveiled Sleep’s Holy Mountain and Kyuss had their Blues for the Red Sun both in 1992 — and certainly by the time they get down to the central rolling riff of “Electric Wizard,” they seem at least to have been affected somewhat by the rays of Sleep‘s new stoner sun rising, but Electric Wizard‘s Electric Wizard arrived roughly concurrent to Acrimony‘s 1994 debut, Hymns to the Stone, and particularly for a time before the internet went mainstream as a means of sharing music even via word of mouth let alone actual file transfer protocols, it represents a landmark in the development of what would become UK heavy. While it seems relatively simple in aesthetic 23 years later — it is stoned. forever. — its Sabbathian loyalties flew in the face of what was happening at the time. 1995? Sabbath were still three years off from reuniting with Ozzy. They released Forbidden that year; the last installment of the Tony Martin era, and were largely considered a relic. For a group like Electric Wizard to so brazenly take on their early work as a central point of influence, even with groups like the Melvins roaming the earth for however long already, was a decidedly bold statement.

And not only did Electric Wizard transpose this inspiration into a context of the stoner rock of the time, but by doing so, they bridged the gap between that style and classic doom in a way that even Orange Goblin — who got their start as Our Haunted Kingdom in 1994 and would release their debut, Frequencies from Planet Ten, in 1997 — wouldn’t seem interested in directly engaging. To listen to cuts like opener “Stone Magnet” or the suitably lumbering “Behemoth” is to find Electric Wizard‘s self-titled living up to the old adage of proper doom being as much ahead of its time as behind it; timeless by the simple and not-at-all-simple fact of its not fitting its own age. Whether it’s the drifting psych interlude “Mountains of Mars” or the nodder chug and swing of “Mourning Prayer” before it, the brazenness of the approach here not only is what allows the album to function, but it portends the fuckall that would become such a core factor of Electric Wizard‘s aesthetic contribution to doom over the next two-plus decades. Stoned, obsessed with horror, dropped out of life and generally not giving a shit about who knows it — one finds all these aspects at play to some degree throughout “Devil’s Bride,” “Electric Wizard,” “Black Butterfly” and “Mourning Prayer,” and especially given the scope of what Oborn and Electric Wizard would go on to produce in this album’s wake, it seems to me it deserves no less consideration than anything they’ve done in their time together, no matter who’s in the lineup for a given LP.

Of course, they have a new record out in the form of late 2017’s Wizard Bloody Wizard (review here), and I’ve got that in mind as well in thinking about the ongoing impact of this first outing and how their origins have led them to become the band they have. Thinking back across 2014’s Time to Die (review here), 2010’s Black Masses (review here), that lineage seems almost to have been reset by Witchcult Today (discussed here) in 2007 following the somewhat awkward but utterly filthy mid-period releases Let us Prey and We Live in 2002 and 2004, respectively, but even that album drew from the ethic of Electric Wizard in speaking to the groove and malevolent vibing that goes so far in making Electric Wizard‘s riffing seem just that much nastier than the legions they’ve now influenced. No question the self-titled has been overshadowed in the years since its release, but its place in the conversation and in the canon should be assured both by its own merits and by the catalog it began to unfurl, which is one of the richest and most pivotal in the doom of any era.

As always, I hope you enjoy, and thanks for reading.

Just came in a bit ago from doing a second round of snow shoveling. Turns out I’m brutally out of shape. Viciously so. Doesn’t help the fact that it’s a foot-plus of densely-packed, heavy snowfall that came down yesterday across the wintry hellscape of January Massachusetts, but yeah, I’d be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge there were times in my life when getting rid of it would’ve been way easier. Also I’m old.

Nothing like a solid humbling in the morning to keep the ego in check. Imagine where one might be otherwise.

I’ll go back out in a few minutes and shovel more, spread salt, move the car, etc., but yeah, it was a pretty brutal bit of weather dumped on us yesterday, and today’s supposed to be bitter cold and 50mph wind gusts, which actually makes me more nervous because I have about zero faith in the infrastructure of the electrical grid in this region. Last time a mean breeze blew we were out for like four days. The baby was three days old. He’s over two months now, but when it’s -20 out, that’s also a factor one has to consider. Blah. We’ll figure it out.

Hope you’re warm, wherever you are.

Next week is the Quarterly Review. I’ve set up at this point none of the back end, so I’m a little nervous about how that’s gonna get done, but it will. I’ll be working on it this weekend, to be sure, but it’ll be fine. We’ll get there. As of right now, that’s the only thing planned for the week, so I’m not going to list notes or anything like that, but I might work in a Six Dumb Questions along the way or some video posts or stuff like that with the usual batches of news and so on. There’s a lot to come, and then the entire week after next is already booked with premieres and streams, so there’s that. Keep an eye out.

Please have a great and safe weekend. I’m back out to do more shoveling. I hope you’re enjoying 2018. I know it’s the future and all, but please don’t forget to check out the forum and the radio stream. One more time, thanks for reading.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical


Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream


Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk


Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn


Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us


Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field


Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe


Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World


Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Vol. 1: What Your Love Tells You to Do

Posted in Reviews on November 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


I don’t remember exactly when I made the decision, but at some point, amid an unceasing insistence of YouTube recommendations, I told myself that I wasn’t going to listen to Vol. 1 by Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats until I could do so on a physical format. The likelihood of this happening? Just about nil. My understanding is that maximum 100 copies of the original Killer Candy Records self-released CDR version were pressed, and I’ve seen numbers quoted as low as 20, so barring some lightning-strike/winning-lottery-ticket-type oddsbeating or an unspeakable act of generosity, it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would ever be found, and likewise, the London-based band didn’t seem all that interested in putting it back into the public sphere — where, to the rest of the universe who probably just streamed it, it was anyway.

Listening now to the Rise Above Records reissue of Vol. 1, pressed to CD and LP in giving-proper-due form, this was unquestionably the incorrect choice on my part. Like most paths we take that lead us to willful ignorance, just the wrong way to go. I denied myself a crucial context in which to place Uncle Acid‘s subsequent three records — 2011’s landmark Blood Lust (discussed here), 2013’s Mind Control (review here) and 2015’s The Night Creeper (review here) — but more than that, I missed out on the seething rawness of “Dead Eyes of London,” the hook of opener “Crystal Spiders,” the psycho-surf of “Vampire Circus” (not to be confused with the Earthride album of the same name) and the organ-laced madhouse shuffle of “I Don’t Know.” Granted I didn’t know what I was missing, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t missing it.

More the fool I, then, because particularly for those who became Uncle Acid fans around the time of Blood Lust — which Rise Above picked up for release in 2012 following the explosive reception that sent the band almost immediately to the fore of the heavy underground before they even really began playing shows in 2013 — Vol. 1 should be considered essential. One can hear the roots of “I’ll Cut You Down” and “Death’s Door” in “Crystal Spiders” and the later ultra-fuzzed-out swinging highlight “Do What Your Love Tells You,” and more than that, these pieces and others like the eight-minute “Lonely and Strange” stand up on their own as examples of the rare level of craft that has typified Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ work throughout their tenure: memorable songs executed with a deep-running sense of vibe that, as Vol. 1 affirms, has been theirs all along.

uncle acid

Parts of the album are somewhat rudimentary compared to the more careful arrangements that would follow by the time the band — led by Kevin R. Starrs, who’s more “shadowy presence” than “frontman” here — got around to Mind Control, but that’s the idea. They’re supposed to be. The nodding “Witches Garden” buzzes its guitar alongside a running line of organ in a manner that makes character of its rough edges, and seems all the murkier for that in a way that feeds into the mood of the record overall. Of course, this is hearing it with the hindsight of the ensuing seven years and all that Uncle Acihas gone on to accomplish — not to mention a remix and master by Starrs — but while Vol. 1 isn’t shy about its flaws or moments of indulgence, it not only serves as an important documentation of the beginnings of the band’s development, but brims with the creative force that still drives them. Again, it’s as much worth hearing Vol. 1 for what it has to offer on its own as what it brings to the wider Uncle Acid discography.

For example, the aforementioned “Lonely and Strange” offers deceptive nuance at the end of side A in its blend of acoustic and electric guitar, hypnotic repetition in its rhythm, a charmingly clumsy transition at the 4:30 mark, and a long stretch of classically heavy rocking instrumental wistfulness that’s unlike anything the band would again conjure. A plotted-seeming solo is met with fervent crash cymbal before dropping to organ and noise freakout to resume with even more aplomb, and it rounds out its last minute with a dive into Sabbathian acoustics and bass.

To complement this, the band brings “Wind up Toys” to close out side B and end the record with a sense of motion that echoes the ’60s surf horrors of “Vampire Circus” but has even more of a rockabilly-style motoring to its core riff early before shifting into an acoustic bridge around two minutes in and from there departing on an extended guitar lead that carries through the remaining five-ish minutes of the track. That’s something Uncle Acid would just about never do at this point. Their approach has tightened to a degree that, unless they were brazenly breaking their own rules, it seems unlikely they’d indulge such a departure from structure once they’ve established it so clearly.

Nonetheless, it’s the kind of thing a band does early in their run when they’re figuring out who they want to be as players and as a group, and to have that moment preserved on Vol. 1 only makes this reissue more justified. Add to that the consideration that The Night Creeper seemed to be endeavoring toward a harsher bite than that of Mind Control before it, and one could further argue that Uncle Acid were at least on some level looking to come full circle in bringing the lessons they’ve learned since together with the bare-flesh authenticity of this material.

There are arguments to be made on either side of that, I suppose, but what’s more important is those arguments can be had now that Vol. 1 has seen an actual release, and that those who never had the chance to take it on before — or who did have the chance but were just too much of a dope to do so — can finally do so. In their aesthetic contribution and in their sheer level of songwriting, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats are among the most important heavy bands of their generation, and Vol. 1 provides an essential look at their origins and a killer listen besides. It is not by any means to be avoided, in whatever form.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Crystal Spiders”

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats website

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

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With the Dead, Love from With the Dead: Postcard from the Abyss

Posted in Reviews on September 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


If one thinks of the title of With the Dead‘s second LP, Love from With the Dead, in the context of early- and mid-’60s style singer-songwriter releases of collected singles put out by cynical buck-seeking record labels — something one might find at a garage sale from Patsy Cline or Nancy Sinatra — that would seem to be where the band is coming from. Trying to give that impression that the record you just bought is a personal letter to you, the listener, from whoever made it. Of course, the London-based filth doomers’ adoption of the trope is dripping with irony, and if there’s any question as to what the “love” that With the Dead are sending looks like, one needs only to examine the actual, physical decay depicted on the cover of the release, out, like their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), via frontman Lee Dorrian‘s Rise Above Records imprint.

Between that and lines like, “To love I surrendered/Thus my heart has died” from “Isolation,” “When I kiss your lips/I’m another kiss closer to death” in second cut “Egyptian Tomb” and “Life is slow death/Long, drawn process/Leave me to live with love’s cold ghost” from the subsequent “Reincarnation of Yesterday,” etc., a vivid picture emerges of just where With the Dead are coming from, though it only makes the title doubly ironic (or does it cancel out the irony, like a double negative?) that a decent portion of the lyrics Dorrian shouts out from under the abyssal slogging progressions of guitarist Tim Bagshaw (Ramesses), bassist Leo Smee (formerly a bandmate of Dorrian‘s in Cathedral) and drummer Alex Thomas (formerly of Bolt Thrower) deal directly with love as much as with death, though opener “Isolation” would seem to be the most efficient summary included of the general point of view. With the Dead‘s love is a wretched, lost thing, and as the band’s stated intention their first time out was to be as grueling and aurally disgusting as possible, one can only call their efforts in surpassing that standard successful as these seven tracks/67 minutes play out with rigor-setting-in lumber and unrelenting bleakness.

As noted, “Isolation” sets the tone at the album’s launch, and that happens both figuratively and literally — the first thing we hear as the song begins is the dirt-crusted guitar of Bagshaw, coated in noise and soon joined by the plod of Thomas‘ drumming and the deeply weighted low end from Smee, captured in raw fashion by returning producer Jaime Gomez Arellano. At just under eight minutes, “Isolation” is by no means the longest cut on Love from With the Dead — that would be closer “CV1” at 18:03 — but it does immediately convey the challenge the band are putting forth. “Embrace the shadows of endless night” goes the first lyric, and though there’s a hint of melody in the chorus and it won’t be the last as the rest of the record unfolds, its riffs spreading outward like a plague, With the Dead sound like they mean it. They could’ve just as easily have called the album ‘Sincerely Yours’ and made their point.


Though “Egyptian Tomb,” which presumably closes out side A and “Reincarnation of Yesterday,” which starts a side B concluded by the following nine-minute “Cocaine Phantoms,” are somewhat faster, the atmospheric impression is made and maintained. With the Dead offer vicious, nodding groove and darken-the-sky doom, regardless of tempo or other factors. That cohesiveness speaks to the underlying mission of the band as founded by Bagshaw and Dorrian, and it’s worth noting that as new members, Smee and Thomas — the latter of whom replaces Bagshaw‘s former Ramesses bandmate Mark Greening — fit the lineup and the mission without question, and as much as the purpose of the album is regression of sound and spirit, With the Dead do move forward from the self-titled in these tracks, if only in their ultra-downer trajectory. Each crash of “Reincarnation of Yesterday” seems to slam itself into the ear, and with mournfully echoing strains of Bagshaw‘s guitar at its core, “Cocaine Phantoms” finishes out the first of Love from With the Dead‘s two LPs in direct answer to the churn of “Isolation,” surrounded by ghosts, caked in stench and unwilling to offer letup of any sort.

To wit, the second platter. Comprised only of three songs, it pairs the 10-minute “Watching the Ward Go By” and “Anemia” on side C with the aforementioned closer “CV1” on side D and moves even further into the depths than With the Dead have already gone. “Watching the Ward Go By” spends its first five-plus minutes in ambient minimalism, some spoken word from Dorrian complementing for a sense of incantation before an explosion of volume and shouts consumes much of the remaining bulk of the piece. That would seem to make “Anemia,” at just 6:49, something of a lifeline to the audience, but the reality is it’s anything but. Instead, it plunders forth its extremity and once more underscores the point of view from which the album emerges in the lines, “No love/No joy/No hope/No life.” I’m not sure there’s a simpler way to put it than that. Once more the tones are brutal but not without a corresponding sense of atmosphere, and as they fade out and “CV1” begins it’s clear Love from With the Dead has hit a particular moment of arrival. And so it has.

The finale uses all of its 18 minutes to mete out a final, exhaustive round of punishment, and by the time its first 60 seconds are up, it’s begun its movement toward the chaotic and abrasive noise that will comprise its ending while also providing the seeming landing point for where the spiral has been leading all along. By the time the layered vocals arrive eight minutes in, the tones surrounding are duly noxious, and “CV1” isn’t much past its halfway mark before the current of caustic feedback begins to swell to prominence. First it comes from under the central riff, then eventually it takes hold and seems to swallow the entire march still ongoing until it’s the only thing left and the album has rendered itself, finally, more or less unlistenable in its last moments. Like everything With the Dead do here, that too is on purpose and true to their overarching modus, and though it might not always seem like it, one of the most impressive aspects of Love from With the Dead is that it manages to push beyond the extremity of the group’s first outing without giving up the feeling of mastery behind its concept and execution. One should probably expect no less from players who are hardly newcomers either to each other’s work or in terms of general studio experience, but that With the Dead manage to retain their cohesion while giving an atmosphere surrounded by melting, rotting flesh only speaks to the strength in their bones. May they defile into perpetuity, “yours truly” to anyone bold enough to have them.

With the Dead, “Anemia”

With the Dead on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records on Twitter

Rise Above Records website

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Beastmaker Release Coven Born Digital EP to Fund European Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan


Pretty killer European tour that Fresno, California’s Beastmaker will join Ukrainian heavyweights Stoned Jesus for this October, what with the stops being made at Up in Smoke, Desertfest Belgium, Keep it Low and other key positions in London, Paris, Hamburg, Berlin, Vienna and so on. But being awesome don’t pay the bills, and the dollar’s down against the Euro because fuck everything, so the trio — still just months out from the release of their second album, Inside the Skull (review here), through Rise Above — have released a new digital EP culled from material written around the time of their 2016 debut, Lusus Naturae (review here), that never came out.

Worth noting they say in the announcement below snagged from the social medias that they probably won’t keep the thing up for too long, so if you want it, might be the right idea to get it while the getting’s good. Behold:

beastmaker coven born

Beastmaker – Coven Born EP

Digital EP up on Heading to Europe and blood is expensive over there.

Be on the lookout we will be doing a 4 song digital ep of songs that are from the Lusus Naturae era that didn’t get recorded. This will be exclusive to digital and is going up to help support the upcoming European tour. After the tour the tracks are more than likely to disappear possibly forever. Art will be done by Branca Studio Rise Above Records was kind of enough to let us do this for the world to hear. So we’d like to give them a huge shout out for their support.

Coven Born tracklisting:
1. Coven Born 04:24
2. Killing Spree 03:16
3. Amongst The Buried 04:42
4. Whitewood 03:16

BEASTMAKER w/ Stoned Jesus European tour:
Oct 02 Stengade København N, Denmark
Oct 03 Hafenklang Hamburg, Germany
Oct 04 Underground Koln, Germany
Oct 05 Lido Berlin, Germany
Oct 07 Up In Smoke Pratteln, Switzerland
Oct 08 Le Ferrailleur Nantes, France
Oct 09 Petit Bain Paris, France
Oct 11 The Exchange St Philips, United Kingdom
Oct 12 Clwb Ifor Bach Cardiff, United Kingdom
Oct 13 Underworld London, United Kingdom
Oct 14 Desertfest Antwerp, Belgium
Oct 15 Burger Weeshuis Deventer, Netherlands
Oct 16 Westwerk Osnabrück, Germany
Oct 17 Faust Hannover, Germany
Oct 19 ShowBarlang Budapest, Hungary
Oct 20 Arena Vienna, Austria
Oct 21 Keep It Low Munich, Germany
Oct 22 PMK Innsbruck, Austria
Oct 23 Ostpol Dresden, Germany
Oct 24 Schlachtof Wiesbaden, Germany
Oct 25 Werk 2 Leipzig, Germany
Oct 26 007 Praha, Czech Republic

Beastmaker, Coven Born EP (2017)

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Friday Full-Length: Electric Wizard, Witchcult Today

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Electric Wizard, Witchcult Today (2007)

Even a decade later, it’s hard to fully assess the influence Electric Wizard‘s sixth album has had, because that influence, like the band’s witchcult itself in the lyrics of the opening title-track, is still growing. Released in 2007 on Rise Above Records, Witchcult Today was a genuine landmark moment. For the band, it was such a turnabout and such a feeling of comeback that it was hard to believe it had only been three years since the band released the prior We Live, which introduced guitarist Liz Buckingham (formerly of 13 and Sourvein) to the lineup of the already-influential Dorset doomers alongside founder Jus Oborn. Electric Wizard had by then long since established themselves as crucial to the sphere of underground doom via the unholy trinity of their first three albums — 1995’s Electric Wizard, 1997’s Come My Fanatics… and 2000’s Dopethrone (discussed here) — and perhaps part of the reason Witchcult Today was so able to blindside their listenership and so greatly add to their reputation as stylistic forerunners was because 2002’s Let us Prey and the aforementioned We Live seemed to be searching for a new direction after hitting such a peak with their initial approach, but whatever did it, Witchcult Today brought a new generation of listeners under Electric Wizard‘s droner-stoner spell and perhaps even more than Dopethrone stands as the single most important work the band has done to-date. Without it, one can only wonder if cult doom would exist as it does.

There’s not really much secret to the approach of Witchcult Today, and whatever else one might accuse Electric Wizard of being throughout their nearly 25-year tenure — preceded by Oborn‘s time in Lord of Putrefaction and Thy Grief Eternal — they’ve never been subtle. But while Let us Prey and We Live descended into weedian scummer sludge and grew more abrasive in their overall affect, the unmanageable 59-minute/eight-track Witchcult Today brought that resin-coated filth to new levels of aesthetic achievement. At least partial credit has to go to Liam Watson at Toe Rag Studios, whose recording and mixing job highlighted the absolute tonal murk of Oborn and Buckingham‘s guitars and the depths of Rob Al-Issa‘s basslines while still allowing Oborn‘s vocals and Shaun Rutter‘s drums to cut through and provide listeners a lifeline so as to not get lost in the hazy onslaught — at least until the 11-minute penultimate instrumental, “Black Magic Rituals and Perversions,” where getting listeners lost is clearly the intention — but however more resonant the tracks became through the manner in which they were recorded on vintage gear and compiled at the mixing console, one can’t discount the raw achievement of songwriting on Witchcult Today either. There simply isn’t a miss. As “Witchcult Today” marched/oozed into subsequent tracks like the shuffling “Dunwich” and the drawling “Satanic Rites of Drugula,” Electric Wizard beat their audience over the head with riff after riff, hook after hook, and created an atmosphere of such memorable craft that even as they basically reused the rhythm of “Witchcult Today” in “The Chosen Few” and seemed to answer the opener’s riff in closer “Saturnine,” the tiny differences from one to the other to the other stood out and made all three songs highlight pieces only bolstered by their redundancy. It’s supposed to be a slog. You wouldn’t die otherwise.

And whether it was the interlude “Raptus” or the sampled whispers deep into “Black Magic Rituals and Perversions,” Witchcult Today boasted an ambience to match the grab-your-brain-and-melt-it catchiness of “Torquemada ’71” — the theme for a grainy horror movie that was never made — making its aesthetic impact all the more pivotal. The darkened swirl of “Saturnine” at the end of the record affirmed the fixation on death, misanthropy and cultish thematics, but even as the four-piece pushed outward to a noisy deconstruction of the bleak, stoned and sprawling world they created, they held fast to the hypnotic sensibility that typified the album as a whole. The tie-in between that hypnosis, the catchiness of their choruses, the sheer will of repetition executed, the lyrical references to old horror flicks speaking directly to the converted, and the sense of presence that came through Watson‘s mix made Witchcult Today absolutely work on every level in a way that Electric Wizard never had before, even on their early releases, which many will still argue as the pinnacle of the band. Like I said, there just wasn’t a miss, and I think the massive influence Witchcult Today has had over the last 10 years and continues to have speaks to this achievement in aesthetic. It’s early for such proclaiming, but no question the time will come when we speak about this record as a classic in doom. Already it serves as one of the most essential LPs of the 2000s.

Its influence would prove to be as much internal as external as well. In 2010, they followed Witchcult Today with Black Masses (review here), which renewed their collaboration with Watson and with songs like “Satyr IX,” “Black Mass,” and “Crypt of Drugula” felt very much informed by what the 2007 outing had established. Likewise, their 2012 tape EP, Legalise Drugs and Murder (review here) derived its title-track from a redux on “The Chosen Few,” and it seemed that even five years later, Electric Wizard were still affected by the scope of what they’d manage to bring to bear on Witchcult Today. 2014’s Time to Die (review here) — produced again by Watson, mixed by Chris Fielding — marked a shift to Spinefarm Records after a falling out with Rise Above, was their longest offering yet at 66 minutes and dug righteousness out of its chaotic gruel, but ultimately seemed staid more like it was playing to form of the two full-lengths before it rather than pushing farther in the way that one could say even Black Masses did via its more psychedelic take.

Rumors have abounded for more than a year at this point about release dates for a ninth Electric Wizard full-length being in various stages of production and/or readiness for release, and among the most encouraging aspects of an initial announcement put out last Spring was that the band was seeking a “fresh turn of the turf” in terms of their sound. Does that mean they’ll innovate their style with the kind of freshness they brought to Witchcult Today a decade ago? Can lightning strike three times for a group who already enjoy status as having made some of the most fundamental contributions to doom? Last I heard, we might find out before the end of the year. As to what actually happens when the next Electric Wizard surfaces, or when that actually will happen, only a fool would dare to offer any prediction.

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

Well, this weekend is turning out to be much different than was initially conceived. By the time you read this, The Patient Mrs. and I will very likely already be in New Jersey, which was not at all the original intent. An ambulance took my 102-year-old maternal grandmother to the hospital yesterday afternoon, and well, there’s little more you can do than get up at 4AM and get your ass out the door as quickly as possible to be there for your family. Gotta go, gotta go.

My original intention for the day had been to go see Anathema tonight in Boston, because I so very much enjoyed their new album and would like to see them again. Had a photo pass set up and everything. Not gonna happen.

I’ve also been back and forth with the Gozu dudes about doing an in-studio with them as they track their next record in New Hampshire, currently in progress. That was supposed to be tomorrow. Up in the air right now.

Everything is pretty much pending what the situation is with my grandmother. They said she broke her hip and no one really knows how. She’s old enough that, frankly, it could’ve just happened by moving or bumping into the corner of a table or something, but old people and busted hips. You know how it goes. Apparently she’s not really awake. There’s a consult this morning with an orthopedist, after which we’ll hopefully know more. Everyone’s very upset, myself included to be honest, but it’ll be what it’ll be.

My mind is elsewhere as I’m sure you can imagine, but here’s a quick rundown of how next week may or may not shake out as per my notes:

Mon.: Kal-El album stream/review; maybe Gozu in-studio.
Tue.: Grande Royale stream/review; Vokonis vinyl giveaway.
Wed.: Queens of the Stone Age review; Six Dumb Questions with Pagan Altar.
Thu.: Blackfinger track premiere/review; maybe R.I.P. track premiere as well.
Fri.: Grigax review.

Busy busy busy, and again, all of this is subject even more to change than usual pending how the above pans out, what state I’m in mentally and geographically at what point, and so on. Sorry to be vague but there’s just a lot right now I don’t really know. That’s the basic shape I hope to give next week. We’ll see if I can make it happen.

This weekend is Psycho Las Vegas. I was supposed to go. I didn’t. Kind of a long story there, and not entirely pleasant, but if you’re there, I hope it’s a blast and that you have a great and safe time. If you’re elsewhere, I hope the same. Either way, please take a few minutes if you have them to check out the forum and radio stream, and thanks once again for reading.

The Obelisk Forum

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats to Reissue Vol. 1 Oct. 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I’ve never heard Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ first album. 2010’s Vol. 1 has been in my YouTube recommendations for years now, but I’ve blatantly refused to take it on — my position being that if I’m going to hear the super-limited, one-time-only release that started off one of the most landmark UK acts of this decade, I was going to do it right. The physical pressing. I didn’t even let it play when I grabbed the embed code to put it at the bottom of this post just now. And, well, as you can see in the PR wire info below, there were CD-Rs 30 made, and when I interviewed founding guitarist/vocalist Kevin R. Starrs back in 2015, I failed to ask him for one, so that was pretty much out. There you go. To this day, I’ve never heard Vol. 1, thinking maybe I’d run into it properly at some point or another.

Rise Above Records is about to make that much easier to do. The label that has stood behind the band since it stepped up in 2012 to issue their 2011 breakthrough, Blood Lust (discussed here), along with the subsequent offerings, 2013’s Mind Control (review here) and 2015’s The Night Creeper (review here), will oversee a first official pressing of Vol. 1 on Friday, Oct. 13, with a new mix and master by Starrs himself. It’s been kind of a quiet year for Uncle Acid so far, at least relative to the amount of touring they did in 2015/2016, and as such a perfect opportunity for the band to recount their beginnings to what’s now a vast and global audience. Myself included.

From the PR wire:


Rise Above Records To Release Uncle Acid The Deadbeats’ “Vol 1” Friday October 13th

First released on Friday February 13th, (40 years to the day after Black Sabbath’s debut LP), “Vol 1” was the first efforts of unknown songwriter, Kevin Starrs. Pressed in small numbers for a non existing fan base, the album took several months to shift all 30 CD-R copies and provided a small platform to fund its follow up, “Blood Lust” (2011).

Recorded on a tight budget of stashed dole money and with little knowledge or regard for conventional recording techniques, the chaotic results speak for themselves;

Distorted vocals, out of tune harmonies, ragged musicianship and everything pushed to the red. The clatter of mic stands falling over mid performance, the rustling of lyric papers, the missed key changes and flubbed lines. Everything you would want to avoid is here. Self-funded, self-recorded and self released to a fanfare of silence, “Vol 1” was a true D.I.Y. effort from start to finish. No great ambition, no target audience, no press support. Just a collection of songs for anyone who would listen. With it’s mix of budget horror lyrics, Everly Brothers obsessed harmonies, downer rock riffs, overly long guitar solos and bizarre high pitched vocals, “Vol 1” had very limited appeal outside a small group of underground fanatics.

In the years following, the album became something of a cult curiosity. Despite the shoddy work of bootleggers and impatient collectors, Starrs refused to re release the album until he could work on its remix and oversee the mastering. “It was a D.I.Y project from the beginning so I wasn’t going to give it up and let someone else mess with it. I also wasn’t going to cash in on something for the sake of it. I wanted it to sound the best that it possibly could. The record deserves my full attention, so with no new album to distract anyone in 2017, it was the perfect time to work on it and release it on CD and Vinyl. It can stand on its own… flaws included.”

So here it is, “Vol 1” in all its ragged glory… finally mastered and mixed for this release.


“Vol 1” Track Listing:
1. Crystal Spiders
2. Witches Garden
3. Dead Eyes of London
4. Lonely and Strange
5. Vampire Circus
6. Do What Your Love Tells You
7. I Don’t Know
8. Wind Up Toys

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Vol. 1 (2010)

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Up in Smoke 2017 Adds Troubled Horse; Lineup Complete

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 4th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

With the inclusion of Sweden’s Troubled Horse, the lineup for Up in Smoke 2017 is finished. A total of 21 bands will play the two-day festival in Pratteln, Switzerland, as part of a busy Fall festival season across Europe, and Troubled Horse join the likes of GraveyardSaint VitusBrant BjorkOrange GoblinLowrider, Church of Misery, Toner LowStoned JesusBeastmaker, Ufomammut and Radio Moscow — among others, obviously — as they step out to support their sophomore outing, Revolution on Repeat (review here), released earlier this year by the venerable Rise Above Records.

Info on how the lineup is split over the two days is due out any second now (will probably go live about two minutes after this post, which is my usual luck with such things), but here’s the announcement for Troubled Horse as posted by the fest:

up in smoke 2017 troubled horse

Happy summer to all of you “Up in Smokers” !!!

Before leaving the office for a small August break, we are happy to announce today one more great band for our event. Troubled Horse, the swedish Pioneers of Heavy-Garage-Rock are joining the UP in SMOKE indoor festival in Z7. With this last name, our line up is now complete.

The daily split of bands and the daytickets will be announced this Thursday at 6 pm /18 H.

Due to the fact that we plan improvements on the stages,the outdoor area, the line up and the general higher costs every year for staff, infrastructure, etc. we hope for your understanding that the ticket price for the 2 day pass will raise a bit from August 10 th on. So if you don´t have your 2 Days Pass yet, take your chance and grab it now for the still reduced price.

More information also for the much demanded “sleep over” situation is coming along with the posting of the day split of the bands/day tickets on thursday. Our outstanding line up will now feature 21 bands on 2 days. The bands are playing on 2 big stages ( indoor and outdoor) with no overlapping set times.

Presales for UP in SMOKE 2017 are very good, the last year edition was sold out, so don´t hesitate any longer to get your ticket and go Up In Smoke with us.
The 2 Days Passes are available here:

Troubled Horse, “Track 7”

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