Crippled Black Phoenix to Release Painful Reminder / Dead is Dead EP July 16; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 30th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

crippled black phoenix

You might recall Order top-notch http://archiv.hwk-ff.de/?pay-for-my-research-paper help online. Professional custom essay writing service from expert writers and editors. Fast turnaround guaranteed 24/7. Crippled Black Phoenix‘s 2020 album, find more info Uk :: Can i pay someone to do my assignment Of referencing and to get quality essay. About twenty essay The 7-Step Business custom essay uk and gain huge experience at a low price. In some ways this The custom essay uk Business Plan for Writers 8220;Imagine your and inform your helper. One of the term of them, custom essay uk writing be taken into consideration and solved. Ellengæst (review here), featured a host of guest singers in place of a permanent male vocalist. It worked, in no small part, because the band’s overarching sound is so consistently and singularly affecting. The UK-based downer rockers have found a new singer in Stockholm, Sweden’s Resources writing services should ensure that writers are able to write papers that are free of errors such as spelling and grammar errors. Such mistakes lower the quality of dissertations and hence poor performance. Writing services should always be prepared to offer dissertation help to those students who face problems when writing the papers. Dissertation writing services should Joel Segerstedt, and will press on with the new two-songer, Painful Reminder / Dead is Dead, this July on College Essay Quote Start. 531 likes. Writing, editing, and public speaking services. For rates, send email to rporter@rea-alp.com. Season of Mist.

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Info and preorder link and other sundry whatnot came down the PR wire:

crippled black phoenix painful reminder dead is dead

CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX Announces New EP, Reveals First Single

Progressive rock collective CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX will be releasing a new EP, ‘Painful Reminder / Dead is Dead’ on July 16 via Season of Mist! The cover art and track list can be found below. In celebration of the EP, CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX has now shared the first single, which is a cover of SNFU’s “Painful Reminder,” along with a music video accompaniment.

In further news, CRIPPLED BLACK PHOENIX is welcoming vocalist/lyricist Joel Segerstedt to the lineup. The band comments:

“The first thing we’re doing after ‘Ellengæst’ is a special single. A cover version of the classic SNFU song ‘Painful Reminder.’ And it features new vocalist/lyricist Joel Segerstedt. He joins the band to be the male voice and the contrast to Belinda Kordic in the female/male dynamic which is now an integral part of the CBP sound. Being a Stockholm resident, it seems all the more serendipitous that we find each other. And after hearing his vocal talent in his other band The Open Up And Bleeds, we knew Joel could be the missing piece of the jigsaw.

“This release is a way of introducing Joel to our crowd while at the same time, paying tribute to the SNFU vocalist Mr Chi Pig. The song was already on the shortlist of cover song ideas Justin (Greaves) keeps in his pocket, but now was the time to do it because of the sad passing of Chi Pig in 2020. It seemed the right thing to pay our respects to a talented and underrated singer/lyricist and unique character in the punk rock world.”

The EP is available now for pre-orders HERE: https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/band/crippled-black-phoenix

Track-list
1. Painful Reminder (6:18)
2. Dead is Dead (7:40)
Total:13:58

Line-up
Justin Greaves : Guitars, Drums, Bass, Samples, Saw
Belinda Kordic : Vocals, Percussions
Helen Stanley : Grand Piano, Synthesisers, Monochord, Trumpet
Andy Taylor : Guitar, Baritone Guitar, 12 String Guitar
Joel Segerstedt: Vocals, Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/CBP444/
https://www.instagram.com/cbp_444/
https://crippledblackphoenixsom.bandcamp.com/
https://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/band/crippled-black-phoenix/

Crippled Black Phoenix, “Painful Reminder (SNFU Cover)” official video

The Open Up and Bleeds, Exit Lights and Holy Death (2020)

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Somali Yacht Club Sign to Season of Mist; Reissues & New Album Soon

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 1st, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Hey, that’s awesome. Good for you, When you http://www.landestheater-eisenach.de/?goals-of-a-business-plans from our advanced writers, you should not worry about these checkpoints. They will hit all the targets! Whether you need a thesis statement or hypothesis, you will get both. It is not vital to purchase the full project at our service. A customer can send their finished draft for professional editing or ask us to complete separate parts of the assignment, like your Somali Yacht Club. Along with Can you Best Resume Writing Services Military Maps? Yes, Our Best - rated experience writers are waiting to assistance you with your College Essay any time. Stoned Jesus being on Who Invented School And Homework.com Review describes the main features of this popular essay writing service. Feel free to leave your feedback on custom writings. Napalm, the Lviv trio’s signing to Season of Mist is the biggest heavy-underground inking I can think of — please correct me if I’m wrong. It’s good news in any case, and all the more so since it comes with word of a new album on the horizon. That’ll be fun, especially as it coincides with reissues for 2018’s The Sea (review here) and 2014’s The Sun (discussed here). Sign me up for new stuff for sure.

I’m normally in favor of get-it-all-out-there-as-fast-as-possible-or-at-least-send-it-to-me-early, but in Somali Yacht Club‘s case, if the new record doesn’t show up for a bit, I think that might be okay and give people a chance to get caught up. The Sea and The Sun both resonate on a frequency ill-suited to a quick superficial listen. These are records worth diving into. If a reissue gets an opportunity to do that before being overshadowed by a new album, I think that’d be fine.

On the hand, new stuff please.

It’s an ongoing debate. With myself. Because I don’t have friends.

Anyhow, congrats to the band and cheers to Season of Mist on the ace pickup:

somali yacht club

SOMALI YACHT CLUB Signs to Season of Mist

Season of Mist are proud to announce the signing of psychedelic stoner rock trio SOMALI YACHT CLUB! The band will be releasing a brand new album as well as their back catalogue via Season of Mist in the near future. Stay tuned!

The band comments: “We’re proud to announce that our new album will be released on the Season of Mist. It’s an honor to be part of their roster, featuring many bands that are significant to us. We’re very excited and hope that this cooperation will be fruitful! “

For a glimpse of what to expect, check out SOMALI YACHT CLUB on Bandcamp!

SOMALI YACHT CLUB is a psychedelic stoner rock trio from Lviv, Ukraine. It started out as a jam session between band members from different Lviv groups, but soon turned into the main act for each of them.

The trio self-released the demo EP called ‘Sandsongs’ in 2011. After this, they played numerous shows in Ukraine and shared the stage with bands like ELDER, KADAVER, RED FANG and others. The first album “The Sun” was released on September 11, 2014 (Robustfellow). After the 2015 release of LP “The Sun” (Bilocation Records) the band went on their first European tour with ETHEREAL RIFFIAN (UA).

In 2018, SOMALI YACHT CLUB released the second album “The Sea” (Robustfellow, Bilocation Records) and toured with STRAYTONES (UA) and STONED JESUS Jesus (UA). The stoner rockers have played at festivals like Void, Swamp, Keep It Low and several Garmonbozia festivals.

Genre: Psychedelic Stoner Rock

Line-up:
Ihor – guitar, vocals, keys
Artur – bass
Oleksa – drums

http://facebook.com/Somaliyachtclub
http://somaliyachtclub.bandcamp.com
http://instagram.com/somaliyachtclub
https://www.facebook.com/seasonofmistofficial
http://www.season-of-mist.com/

Somali Yacht Club, The Sea (2018)

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Friday Full-Length: Kylesa, Exhausting Fire

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

 

Savannah, Georgia’s Kylesa released their final album, Exhausting Fire, on Oct. 2, 2015. The record came out on Season of Mist, and as was their wont, they did a bunch of touring to support it before and after it came out, including playing what was then Psycho California and I’m sure five or sixty others. By the time Exhausting Fire was six months old, though, in April 2016, they announced they were essentially on permanent hiatus, “no set date to reconvene.”

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen worse, but that was kind of a bummer way for Kylesa to end, and to even look at the title Exhausting Fire, one gets the sense that the group — who had already pared down from being a two-drummer five-piece to just guitarist/vocalists Laura Pleasants and Philip Cope (the latter also bass and keys) and drummer Carl McGinley (Jay Matheson also plays bass on the bulk of the outing) — saw it coming. They’d spent years road-dogging. My prevailing memory of them live will always be sitting on grass watching them play with the two drummers set up on a flatbed trailer on a little hill behind a now-gone record store at SXSW one year, but I saw them plenty of times and they always delivered. From their second album, 2005’s To Walk a Middle Course and 2006’s Time Will Fuse its Worth through 2009’s Static Tensions (review here) and the increasingly progressive trio of recordings for Season of Mist in 2010’s Spiral Shadow (review here), 2013’s Ultraviolet (review here) and Exhausting Fire, they never put out the same album twice, and though their fire may have been exhausting — while the lyrics in bulk feel more about personal relationships (not that a band isn’t one), “Night Drive” could easily be read to be about touring — they still pushed themselves forward in their approach and style.

That resulted in some righteously heavy moments, as with the opener “Crusher,” or the riff-forward side A closer “Shaping the Southern Sky,” or the oboe-inclusive “Blood Moon” on side B, but also a more brazenly and more confidently melodic take than they’d ever shown before. Granted, their reemergence from having two drummers was inherently going to realign the dynamic of the group as a whole, making room for that melody to flourish, but one of the overarching narratives of Kylesa‘s discography is the ratio of shared vocals between Cope and Pleasants becoming a defining element of the band. More even than on Ultraviolet, there’s a sense of individual authorship in the songs — he brought this part, she brought this one, etc. — but both parties are still evolving in this material. Cope takes on an almost gothic New Wave aspect with “Moving Day,” backing himself on keys, while Pleasants offers an ahead-of-its-time heavy post-rock with side B leadoff “Falling,” underscored by the weighted punctuation of McGinley‘s drumming.

Songs like “Inward Debate” and “Lost and Confused” find one or the other in the forward position, or effectively switching or working in a thoughtfully constructed arrangement, and by the time they get to the penultimate kylesa exhausting fire“Growing Roots,” they manage to pull together a sound like heavy Weezer — which I have to imagine that, if they saw this, they’d take as the compliment it’s intended to be, since “Growing Roots” sounds like heavy Weezer is what they were going for. With Cope at the helm as ever at The Jam Room in Columbia, South Carolina, Kylesa‘s exploration never really ended — until of course it did — and even while there were signature elements of their style in their deceptively angular riffing resulting in the mounting rhythmic tension of their verses headed toward a chorus release, or even the touches of psychedelia worked into “Shaping the Southern Sky” or the arrival of the last shove in album finale “Out of My Mind,” those came accompanied by evident growth that was no less an essential component of the band’s work.

The melodic burst at the end of “Lost and Confused.” The conveyed monotony of “Night Drive.” The boldness of the verses in “Crusher” and the simple fact that that song leads off while being so dynamic rather than just an up-front rocker. There’s so much on Exhausting Fire to argue for Kylesa as an undervalued, taken-for-granted band. It’s not their heaviest album or their most rawly aggressive — maybe that would be their 2002 self-titled, with Cope fresh off his time in Damad; recall their split with Meatjack if you dare — but Exhausting Fire is also more than a band burning themselves out or already being burnt. It’s them turning exhaustion into expression, and it still resonates effectively.

I didn’t review Exhausting Fire when it came out. I don’t remember why. I’d spent a decade at that point listening to them and considered myself a fan, but I was a little scared off by the title, and it goes back to what I was saying before about the band knowing the end was coming. I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear that from a group whose work I’d enjoyed so much. Like how Abbey Road is bittersweet because you know they knew it was over, one last blowout. That’s kind of the vibe that hindsight puts to work across Exhausting Fire, but even in that, their work as songwriters and the chemistry between Pleasants and Cope continued to move forward from where it was a couple years before. It wasn’t until earlier this week that I actually gave Exhausting Fire a fair shot. Now I want the CD. Go figure.

Both Philip Cope and Laura Pleasants have remained active since Kylesa called it a day. Cope produces a swath of acts at The Jam Room and features in the band Oakskin, who have a few singles up on Bandcamp and took part in last year’s Mutants of the Monster virtual festival, while Pleasants has pursued more New Wave and post-punk-inspired atmospheric songcraft with The Discussion, who reissued the 2017 EP Movement Towards a New Beginning (originally just called the European Tour EP) and offered the new single Deathtripper B/W A Forest in 2020. There’s been no word of a reunion and I wouldn’t expect any anytime soon — so it’ll probably happen five minutes after this is posted; that’s how it usually goes when I say something like that — but Kylesa merch continues to be available and their albums still sound vibrant these years after the fact, like they were made to do.

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

Okay. Everything is awful. Mostly me. I’m the worst. Let the record show.

Oh man, I miss the record show.

Anyway. It was just one of those weeks. Muddling, middling, head down, just-get-through-the-day-to-another-one-for-fucking-what kind of week. I mentioned last week the telehealth appointment about meds. Holy fucking shit that was weird. And awkward, and uncomfortable. Dude was asking me questions like I’m supposed to sit there and do Depression Theater for him and talk about how I don’t want to get out of bed or how daily tasks are hard for me and I just said fuck it. “I’m sorry, this is making me really uncomfortable and I’m going to end the call. Thanks for your time.”

Nothing resolved, but at least pulling myself out of that situation felt good. I was weirded out the rest of the day though. Is this really how people do medicine? I’m a fucking stranger tell me about the time you spend curled up on the floor? Shit. I said to him, “I’ve been in treatment long enough to know when things aren’t right.” Fine. So dance for me, you pill-seeking monkey.

I recorded some vocals last Sunday. Sang clean a bit, which is hard for me because I know I’m not good at it and that’s like the omega of self-fulfilling prophecies. A vocal coach once quickly cut to the core of me and said, “Someone in your life once told you you couldn’t sing,” and that’s true. Anyway, I got through it and then went back on Wednesday and added a bunch more screams to the track, because that I can do and of course that’s what the person whose project it is was into. Can’t blame him. Anyway, it came out fine and I think the song will be out in a couple weeks. It’s a Joni Mitchell cover, but I rewrote most of the lyrics so they didn’t feel misogynist coming out of my mouth.

The Patient Mrs.’ semester begins next week. She’s back on campus not quite full-time, I think. I don’t know. Shit changes daily. She’s worried about getting tenure, trying to get writing done while teaching. The Pecan has been in virtual preschool the last couple weeks because the fucking plague is a thing and he maybe goes back next week too to in-person instruction. We don’t even know yet and it’s Friday. He was just finally sitting in the chair long enough to sing the days of the week (which is to the tune of the old Addams Family theme song, hilariously enough) and months of the year (to the tune of something else I can’t put my finger on just now; if The Patient Mrs. reads this as she sometimes does, she’ll probably tell me and I’ll slap my forehead, which is how I do).

I’m sure there’s more, but between that and the general overhang of dread resulting from impending fascist insurrection, is any more really necessary? Look out for a video interview with Lupus from Kadavar on Monday. I talked to him yesterday. Had never interviewed him before and probably should’ve by now, but he was nice.

Great and safe weekend. Don’t forget to hydrate and wear your mask and social distance and all that stuff.

FRM.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

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

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

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

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

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

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

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

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

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

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

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

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

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

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

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

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

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

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

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

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

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

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

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

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

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

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

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

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

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

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

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

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), Boston four-piece Kind return with Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (RoadsawSasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

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

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

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

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

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

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

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

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

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

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

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

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

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

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

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

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

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

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

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

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

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

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

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

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

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

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

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

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

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

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

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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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

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

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

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

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to 2021

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

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, Lantlôs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

You’ve read enough, so I will do my best to keep this mercifully short. Thank you so much for reading — whether you still are or not — and thank you for being a part of the ongoing project that is The Obelisk. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such incredible support throughout not just this year, but all the years of the site’s existence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you most of all to The Patient Mrs. for her indulgence in letting me get this done. I’m am amazed forever.

More to come.

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Quarterly Review: Fuzz, Crippled Black Phoenix, Bethmoora, Khan, The Acid Guide Service, Vexing Hex, KVLL, Mugstar, Wolftooth, Starmonger

Posted in Reviews on December 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Day III of the Inexplicably Roman Numeralized Winter 2020 Quarterly Review, commence! I may never go back to actual numbers, you should know. There’s something very validating about doing Day I, Day II, Day III — and tomorrow I get to add a V for Day IV! Stoked on that, let me tell you.

You have to make your own entertainment these days, lest your brain melt like wax and drip from your nostrils.

Plurp.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Fuzz, III

fuzz iii

Plenty of heavy rockers can come across sounding fresh. Most of the time all it takes is being young. In the case of III, the third long-player from FuzzCharles Moothart, Ty Segall and Chad Ubovich — they sound like they just invented it. Dig the hard-Bowie of “Time Collapse” or the made-for-the-stage opener “Returning,” or the surf-cacophony of “Mirror.” Or hell, any of it. The combination of this band and producer Steve Albini — aka the guy you go to when you want your album to sound like your live show — is correct. That’s all you can say about it. From the ’70s snarl in “Nothing People” to the triumphant melody in the second half of “Blind to Vines” and the back and forth between gritty roll and fragile prog of “End Returning,” it’s an energy that simply won’t be denied. If Fuzz wanted to go ahead and do three or four more albums with Albini at the helm in the next five years, that’d be just fine.

In the Red Records on Thee Facebooks

In the Red Records on Bandcamp

 

Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst

crippled black phoenix ellengaest

The narrative (blessings and peace upon it) goes that when after lineup shifts left Crippled Black Phoenix without any singers, founder Justin Greaves (ex-Iron Monkey, Earthtone9, Electric Wizard, etc.) decided to call old mates. Look. I don’t care how it happened, but Ellengæst, which is the likewise-brilliant follow-up to the band’s widely-lauded 2018 outing, Great Escape, leads off with Anathema‘s Vincent Cavanagh singing lead on “House of Fools,” and, well, there’s your new lead singer. Anathema‘s on hiatus and a more natural fit would be hard to come by. Ryan Patterson (The National Acrobat, a dozen others), Gaahl (Gaahls Wyrd, ex-Gorgoroth), solo artist Suzie Stapleton and Jonathan Hultén (Tribulation) would also seem to audition — Patterson and Stapleton pair well on the heavy-Cure-style “Cry of Love” — and there are songs without any guests at all, but there’s a reason “House of Fools” starts the record. Make it happen, Crippled Black Phoenix. For the good of us all.

Crippled Black Phoenix on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Bethmoora, Thresholds

Bethmoora Thresholds

Copenhagen’s Bethmoora served notice in a 2016 split with Dorre (review here) and their debut full-length, Thresholds hone destructive lumber across four low-toned tracks that begin with “And for Eternity They Will Devour His Flesh” and only get nastier from there. One imagines being in a room with this kind of rumbling, maddeningly repetitive, slow-motion-violence noise wash and being put into a flight-or-fight panic by it, deer in doomed headlights, and all that, but even on record, Bethmoora manage to cull, and when their songs explode in tempo, as the opener does late in its run, or “Painted Man” does, that spirit is maintained. Each side of the LP is two tracks, and all four are beastly, pile-driver-to-the-core-of-the-earth heavy. “Keeper”‘s wash of noise has willful-turnoff appeal all its own, but the empty space in the middle of “Lamentation” is where they go in for ultimate consumption. And yeah. Yeah.

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Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Khan, Monsoons

khan monsoons

Khan‘s second album, Monsoons is a departure in form from 2018’s Vale, if not necessarily in substance. Heavy, psychedelic-infused post-rock is the order of business for the Melbourne trio either way, but as guitarist Josh Bills gives up playing synth and doing vocals to embark on an instrumental approach with bassist Mitchell Kerr (also KVLL) and drummer Beau Heffernan on this four-track/31-minute offering, the spirit is inescapably different. Probably easier to play live, if that’s a thing that might happen. Monsoons still has the benefit, however, of learning from the debut in terms of the dynamic among the three players, and Bills‘ guitar reaches for atmospheric float in “Orb” and attains it easily, as the midsection rhythm of the closing title-track nods at My Sleeping Karma and the back end of the prior “Harbinger” manages to shine and not sound like Earthless in the process, and quite simply, Khan make it work. The vocals/synth might be worth missing — and they may or may not be back — but to ignore the breadth Khan harness in little over half an hour would be a mistake.

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Khan on Bandcamp

 

The Acid Guide Service, Denim Vipers

the acid guide service denim vipers

Jammy, psychedelic in parts, Sabbathian in “Peavey Marshall (and the Legendary Acoustic Sunn Band)” and good fun from the doomly rollout of 11-minute opener and longest cut (immediate points) “In the Cemetery” onward, the second full-length from Idaho’s The Acid Guide Service, Denim Vipers, brings considerable rumble and nod, but these guys don’t want to hurt nobody. They’ve come here to chew bubblegum and follow the riff, and they’re all out of bubblegum. Comprised on average of longer songs than 2017’s debut, Vol. 11 (review here), the four-tracker gives the trio room to branch out their sound a bit, highlighting the bass in the long middle stretch of the title-track while the subsequent “Electro-Galactic Discharge” puts its guitar solo front and center before sludge-rocking into oblivion, letting “Peavey Marshall (and the Legendary Acoustic Sunn Band)” pick up from there, which is as fine a place as any to begin a gallop to the end. Genre-based shenanigans ensue. One would hope for no less.

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Vexing Hex, Haunt

vexing hex haunt

Based in Illinois, Vexing Hex make their debut on Wise Blood Records with Haunt, and yes, playing catchy, semi-doomed, organ-laced cult rock with creative and melodic vocal arrangements, you’re going to inevitably run into some Ghost comparisons. The newcomer three-piece are distinguished by a harder edge to their impact, a theremin on “Planet Horror” and a rawer production sensibility, and that serves them well in “Build Your Wall” and the buildup of “Living Room,” both of which play off the fun-with-dogma mood cast by “Revenant” following the intro “Hymn” at the outset of Haunt. Not quite as progressive as, say, Old Man Wizard, there’s nonetheless some melodic similarity happening as bell sounds ensue on “Rise From Your Grave,” the title of which which may or may not be purposefully cribbed from the Sega Genesis classic Altered Beast. There’s a big part of me that hopes it is, and if Vexing Hex are writing songs about retro videogames, they sound ready to embark on a Castlevania concept album.

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Wise Blood Records on Bandcamp

 

KVLL, Death//Sacrifice

kvll death sacrifice

Proffering grueling deathsludge as though it were going out of style — it isn’t — the Melbourne duo KVLL is comprised of bassist/vocalist/guitarist Mitchell Kerr (also Khan) and drummer Braydon Becher. It’s not without ambient stretches, as the centerpiece “Sacrifice” shows, but the primary impression KVLL‘s debut album, Death//Sacrifice makes is in the extremity of crash and heavy landing of “The Death of All That is Crushing” and “Slow Death,” such that by the time “Sacrifice” ‘mellows out,’ as it were, the listener is punchdrunk from what’s taken place on the prior two and a half songs. There’s little doubt that’s precisely KVLL‘s intention here, as the cavernous screams, mega-lurch and tense undercurrent are more than ably wielded. If “Sacrifice” is the moment at which Death//Sacrifice swaps out one theme for another, the subsequent “Blood to the Altar” and nine-minute closer “Beneath the Throne” hammer the point home, the latter with an abrasive noise-caked finale worthy of standard-bearers Primitive Man.

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KVLL on Bandcamp

 

Mugstar, GRAFT

mugstar graft

Not that the initial droning wash of “Deep is the Air” or the off-blasted “Zeta Potential” and warp-drive freneticism in “Cato” don’t have their appeal — oh, they do — but when it comes to UK lords-o’-space Mugstar‘s latest holodeck-worthy full-length, GRAFT, it’s the mellow drift-jazz of the 12-minute “Ghost of a Ghost” that feels most like matter dematerialization to me. Side B’s “Low, Slow Horizon” answers back later on ahead of the motorik linear build in the finale “Star Cage,” but the 12-minute vibe-fest that is “Ghost of a Ghost” gives GRAFT a vastness to match its thrust, which becomes essential to the space-borne feel. It’s 41 minutes, still ripe for an LP, but the kind of album that has a genuine affect on mood and mindset, breaking down on a molecular level both and remolding them into something hopefully more evolved on some level through cosmic meditation. Fast or slow, up or down, in or out, it doesn’t ultimately matter. Nothing does. But there’s a moment in GRAFT where the one-skin-on-another thing becomes apparent and all the masks drop away. What’s left after that?

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Centripetal Force Records website

Cardinal Fuzz Records BigCartel store

 

Wolftooth, Valhalla

Wolftooth Valhalla

Hooks abound in power-stoner fashion throughout Indiana four-piece Wolftooth‘s second album, Valhalla, which roughs up NWOBHM clarity in early-Ozzy fashion without going overboard to one side or the other, riffs winding and rhythms charging in a way not entirely unlike some of Freedom Hawk‘s more recent fare, but with a melodic reach of its own and a dynamism of purpose that comes through in the songwriting. Grand Magus‘ metallic traditionalism might be an influence on a song like “Fear for Eternity,” but “Crying of the Wolfs” has a more rocking swagger, and likewise post-intro opener “Possession.” With tightly constructed songs in the four-to-five-minute range, Valhalla never feels stretched out more than it wants to, but “Molon Labe” pushes the vocals deeper into the mix for a bigger, more atmospheric sound, and subtle shifts like that become effective in distinguishing the songs and making them all the more memorable. Recently signed to Napalm after working with Ripple, Ice Fall, Cursed Tongue and Blackseed, they seem to be poised to pay off the potential here and in their 2018 self-titled debut (review here). So be it.

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Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Cursed Tongue Records BigCartel store

Ice Fall Records BigCartel store

 

Starmonger, Revelations

starmonger revelations

Parisian riff-blaster trio Starmonger have been piecemealing tracks out for the last five years as a series of EPs titled Revelation, and the full-length debut, Revelations, brings these nine songs together for a 49-minute long-player that even in re-recorded versions of the earliest cuts like “Tell Me” and “Wanderer” show how far the band has come. It’s telling that those two close the record out while “Rise of the Fishlords” and “Léthé” from 2019’s Revelation IV open sides A and B, respectively, but older or newer, the band end up with a swath of stylistic ground covered from the more straightforward and uptempo kick of the elder tracks to the more progressive take of the newer, with plenty of ground in between. Uniting the various sides are strong performances and strong choruses, the latter of which would seem to be the thread that draws everything together. Whether or not it takes Starmonger half a decade to put out their next LP, one can hardly call their time misspent while listening to Revelations.

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Starmonger on Bandcamp

 

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Friday Full-Length: Floor, Oblation

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

In 2009, Robotic Empire released the comprehensive and consuming 11LP/8CD discography box set Below & Beyond (discussed here) from Miami bomb-tone heavy rockers Floor. The band, part of the wide-reaching family tree of sludgers Cavity, had their own sludge elements, but with the vocals and tonal heft of guitarist Steve Brooks, fostered a penchant for upbeat and almost poppy songcraft. Amid a vast swath of EPs and other short releases, their 2002 self-titled debut full-length (discussed here) gained an after-the-fact cult following despite the band’s breakup the same year, thanks at least in part to Brooks‘ subsequent work in the similarly-minded-if-less-punk Torche. Even with the box set, a Floor reunion didn’t seem likely. At that point, Torche were riding the success of 2008’s Meanderthal and their Chapter Ahead Being Fake split with Boris, and that seemed very much where the priority was. Fair enough. One more band that those who saw the first time around were lucky to have seen.

You see where this is going. By 2010, Floor — with the lineup of Brooks on guitar/vocals, Anthony Vialon on guitar and Henry Wilson on drums — were touring (review here) and drawing out the next-generation crowd who’d either heard of them through word of mouth on the burgeoning phenomenon of mobilized social media, or had otherwise traced the line back from Torche and discovered that Floor were not only the root from which that band’s early ideas grew, but a special act with landmark material of their own. One way or the other, people came out, and Floor continued activity mostly around Florida and Georgia, but elsewhere too. In 2013, the announcement came through they’d signed to Season of Mist and had a new album coming, and a little over a year and more touring (review here) later, they released Oblation (review here), collecting 14 tracks and 44 minutes of new material that even six years later continues to resonate.

Though it seemed at the time to exist in the shadow of the self-titled, Oblation was and remains its own album with its own strengths of songwriting and delivery. The opening riff of the title-track brings the massive weight that Floor always made bounce in what seemed like such a miracle, and unfolded with immediate spaciousness and melody. Slower than much of what would follow, its lurch doubled as a setup for the sprint of the hooky “Rocinante”floor oblation and the bombastic “Trick Scene” — a showcase for how underrated Floor always were as songwriters and doubly so how underrated Wilson was/is as a drummer. He not only follows the changes of riff, meter and rhythm, but enhances them, and comes across as duly massive in so doing, complementing the tones of Vialon and Brooks while also being the punch behind the stops in “Trick Scene” and the wash that flows through “Find Away,” which follows. The hook party continues as the 47-second instrumental “The Key” makes an intro for “New Man,” another in the ongoing series of righteously propulsive grooves, catchy despite no obvious hit-you-over-the-head-chorus and a lead-in for “Sister Sophia” and the feedback-soaked “The Quill,” which finish the first of the two LPs with Floor‘s signature sensibility of all-momentum-until-the-crash well intact.

Outside of the still-to-come “Sign of Aeth” (7:54), side C opener “Love Comes Crushing” is the only other track on Oblation over four minutes long. It still manages to sprint and gallop to its conclusion, and by the time “War Party” starts, Floor have picked up where they’ve left off. “War Party” was the first single released from the record ahead of its release, and fair enough. Under three minutes. Melodic. Unspeakably heavy. Motion. Quick and memorable with an emotional undercurrent to its melody — it would be and was a sign to listeners both of Floor‘s progression since their disbanding nine years earlier and of how much of their original approach was held over to their reunion. With “Homegoings and Transitions,” which would be enough of a standout to feature on a 12″ EP in 2014 with “Shadowline” and an etched B-side, pushed melody to the forefront with a rare, more patient take, and so brought about “Sign of Aeth” on side D as the beginning of Oblation‘s final movement. Riddled with Rush references, the sense of willful departure in “Sign of Aeth” is of course palpable, but as much as Floor are known for shorter songs, they’ve never had any trouble transposing that to longer material when it suits their needs. And though the fadeout of “Sign of Aeth” feels awfully final as it goes, “Raised to a Star” revives the forward thrust and “Forever Still” adds more melody to that as the record runs inexorably to its end.

Floor toured to support Oblation, and hit Europe for what I’m pretty sure was the first time ever in 2015, including a stop at Roadburn (review here) in the Netherlands. They continued to do regional Florida gigs periodically until about 2016, and by then, Brooks‘ focus seemed to have shifted back to Torche and Wilson had already released one full-length with his House of Lightning project and would soon offer a second. No one could say they didn’t put their work in or give the record its due, but Floor just kind of petered out after that, which considering the energy and the momentum built up in Oblation‘s tracks, kind of left them in the same place as the self-titled — seeming like a band with more to say leaving it unsaid.

To me, Floor is movement. I have a few albums I refuse to travel without, and Floor‘s self-titled and Oblation are both on that list, permanently. That sense of momentum. I hear Oblation and think of getting off an airplane, walking up to a gate. Maybe going somewhere else, maybe going home, but going. Floor is get-off-your-ass-and-do-something music, and more than just that too. Because it’s not just that the songs are fast, or that they lock in this mini-epic feel, or that they’re catchy. They’re almost totally individualized. Even when one puts Floor next to Torche, they don’t sound the same. Floor‘s identity as a band was/maybe-is something unique, and something that well deserved the fulfillment that Oblation gave it. As to whether it’s the final word on Floor as a whole, of course I have no idea, but its character and that distinctive shove still feel like they want to keep moving forward.

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

This weekend, The Pecan turns three, and the “still two” mantra that The Patient Mrs. and I have employed to explain various behaviors over these hard months of isolation will no longer apply. It’ll be “still three.” I love him desperately — more than I thought I would, if I can say that — and I look forward to being a grandfather.

I had one of those things this past week where you get a year older as well. I’m 39 now. As The Patient Mrs. precedes me by eight months or so, she has already been experiencing some anxiety about turning 40. Fortunately — or not at all so — there has been plenty happening throughout this year to pull her attention in other directions. I do not see myself having particular trouble turning 40. I was never particularly good at being young, except maybe for the drinking. Mostly I was just an asshole. Now I’m quieter about it and I care less about what music other people listen to or what movies they watch. I was a real prick about that stuff for a long time. Different brand of asshole these days.

Her semester continues to be hard, and harder than it needs to be thanks to her university’s handling of the situation. I have friends who teach in high school and middle school I saw this week as well and their misery was recognizable (if differentiated) from hers. My mother was a teacher, and I probably should’ve been too, if we’re honest, but I am a firm believer that no teacher at any level of education should make less than $100,000 a year. Ever. Anywhere. Plus holiday bonuses. There is no more important work, and to see those in position as educators get so screwed over time and again, in the case of my friends as benefits and positions are slowly chipped away toward the cause of privatization, only emphasizes the point that the ruling elite class of this country wants the middle and working classes beneath them to be dumber and easily controlled. Those without awareness of critical thinking are less inclined to look around and see how they’re being fucked over by capitalism.

Alas, tangent.

The dog also peed on The Patient Mrs. last night while we were sitting on the couch watching the new episode of Star Trek: Discovery. I remain in camp “find this dog a better home,” and I continue to seem to be the only one there. Three months now, zero joy, zero fun. At her most tolerable moments, she is at least work. I find the best times are when I can pretend for a while she doesn’t exist. It does not feel good to actively dislike an animal.

So, family time this weekend for The Pecan’s birthday and also my niece’s, which is after Halloween — I would not be surprised to see us journeying north to see them in Connecticut next weekend even though they’re here as of whatever point today — and a full week next week both domestically and in writing terms. Premieres slated every day, which has its ups and downs like anything.

I’m going to try to do another video interview — looking at you, Peder Bergstrand from Lowrider — but with a packed weekend, a Gimme Metal show next week, and The Pecan starting pre-K on Monday, I honestly may or may not get there. We’ll see.

Or won’t see, if I don’t get it done. I kind of hated seeing my face in that Crystal Spiders interview this week. I wonder if I could take myself out of the picture.

Anyway, it’s 6:30AM and The Pecan’s starting to stir and I need a post-run shower, so I’m gonna split out. Have a great and safe weekend. Enjoy the Fall if that’s your thing — it’s my favorite season or at least it used to be before climate change — and don’t forget to hydrate. So important.

FRM.

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Quarterly Review: Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Cruthu, Sólstafir, ILS, Bismut, Cracked Machine, Megadrone, KLÄMP, Mábura, Astral Sleep

Posted in Reviews on October 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

We’ve reached the portion of the Quarterly Review wherein I would no longer know what day it is if I didn’t have my notes to help me keep track. I suppose it doesn’t matter — the day, that is — since it’s 10 records either way, but I’d hate to review the same albums two days in a row or something. Though, come to think of it, that might be a fun experiment sometime.

Not today. Today is another fresh batch of 10 on the way to 60 by next Monday. We’ll get there. Always do. And if you’re wondering, today’s Thursday. At least that’s what I have in my notes.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. I

bell witch aerial ruin Stygian Bough Volume 1

The collaborative effort Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin and their 64-minute full-length, Stygian Bough Vol. I — the intention toward future output together hinted at in the title already confirmed by the group(s) — is a direct extension of what Aerial Ruin, aka Erik Moggridge, brought to the last Bell Witch album, 2017’s Mirror Reaper (review here), in terms of complementing the crushing, emotionally resonant death-doom of the Washington duo with morose folk vocal melody. Stygian Bough Vol. I is distinguished by having been written by the two-plus-one-equals-three-piece as a group, and accordingly, it more fluidly weaves Moggridge‘s contributions into those of Bell Witch‘s Dylan Desmond and Jesse Shreibman, resulting in an approach like if Patrick Walker from Warning had joined Thergothon. It’s prevailing spirit is deep melancholy in longer pieces like “The Bastard Wind” and “The Unbodied Air,” both over 19 minutes, while it might be in “Heaven Torn Low I (The Passage)” and “Heaven Torn Low II (The Toll)” that the trio most effectively bring their intent to life. Either way, if you’re in, be ready to go all the way in, but know that it’s well worth doing so.

Bell Witch on Thee Facebooks

Aerial Ruin on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore Records website

 

Cruthu, Athrú Crutha

cruthu Athrú Crutha

Traditional doom with flourish both of noise and NWOBHM guitars — that turn in the second half of opener “Transformation” is like a dogwhistle for Iron Maiden fans — I hear Cruthu‘s second album, Athrú Crutha, and all I can think of are label recommendations. The Michigan outfit’s 2017 debut, The Angle of Eternity (review here), was eventually issued on The Church Within, and that’d certainly work, but also Ván Records, Shadow Kingdom, and even Cruz Del Sur seem like fitting potential homes for the righteousness on display across the vinyl-ready six-song/39-minute outing, frontman Ryan Evans commanding in presence over the reverb-loaded classic-style riffs of guitarist Dan McCormick and the accompanying gallop in Matt Fry‘s drums given heft by Derek Kasperlik‘s bass. Like the opener, “Necromancy” and “Dimensional Collide” move at a good clip, but side B’s “The Outsider” and closer “Crown of Horns” slow things down following the surprisingly rough-edged “Beyond the Pale.” One way or the other, it’s all doomed and so are we.

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Cruthu on Bandcamp

 

Sólstafir, Endless Twilight of Codependent Love

Sólstafir endless twilight of codependent love

Whereas 2017’s Berdreyminn (review here) existed in the shadow of 2014’s Ótta (review here), Endless Twilight of Codependent Love brings Iceland’s Sólstafir to a new place in terms of their longer-term progression. It is their first album with an English title since 2005’s Masterpiece of Bitterness, and though they’ve had English-language songs since then, the mellow “Her Fall From Grace” is obviously intended to be a standout here, and it is. On the nine-song/62-minute course of the album, however, it is one impression of many, and in the raging “Dionysus” and post-blackened “Drýsill,” 10-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Akkeri,” richly atmospheric “Rökkur,” goth-lounging “Or” and worthy finale “Úlfur,” Sólstafir remind of the richly individual nature of their approach. The language swaps could be reaching out to a broader, non-Icelandic-speaking audience. If so, it’s only in the interest of that audience to take note if they haven’t already.

Sólstafir on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

ILS, Curse

ils curse

Curse is the first long-player from Portland, Oregon’s ILS, and it’s a rager in the PNW noise tradition, with uptempo, gonna-throw-a-punch-and-then-apologize riffs and basslines and swaps between semi-spoken shouts and vicious screams from Tom Glose (ex-Black Elk) that are precisely as jarring as they’re meant to be. I don’t think Curse is anyone’s first time at the dance — Glose, guitarist Nate Abner, bassist Adam Pike or drummer Tim Steiner — but it only benefits across its sans-bullshit 28-minute run by knowing what it wants to do. Its longest material, like the title-track or “Don’t Hurt Me,” which follows, or closer “For the Shame I Bring,” rests on either side of three and a half minutes, but some of the most brutal impressions are made in cuts like “It’s Not Lard but it’s a Cyst” or leadoff “Bad Parts,” which have even less time to waste but are no less consuming, particularly at high volume. The kind of record for when you want to assault yourself. And hey, that happens.

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P.O.G.O. Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismut, Retrocausality

bismut retrocausality

Apart from the consciously-titled three-minute noiseblaster finale “Antithesis” that’s clearly intended to contrast with what comes before it, Bismut‘s second LP for Lay Bare, Retrocausality, is made up of five extended instrumental pieces the shortest of which is just under 13 minutes long. The Nijmegen-based trio — guitarist Nik Linders, bassist Huibert der Weduwen, drummer Peter Dragt — build these semi-improvisational pieces on the foundation they set with 2018’s Schwerpunkt (review here), and their explorations through heavy rock, metal and psychedelia feel all the more cohesive as a song like “Vergangenheit” is nonetheless able to blindside with the heavy riff toward which it’s been moving for its entire first half. At 71 minutes total, it’s a purposefully unmanageable runtime, but as “Predvídanie” imagines a psych-thrash and “Oscuramento” drones to its crashing finish, Bismut seem to be working on their own temporal accord anyhow. For those stuck on linear time, that means repeat listens may be necessary to fully digest, but that’s nothing to complain about either.

Bismut on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings website

 

Cracked Machine, Gates of Keras

Cracked Machine Gates of Keras

UK instrumentalists Cracked Machine have worked relatively quickly over the course of their now-three albums to bring a sense of their own perspective to the tropes of heavy psychedelic rock. Alongside the warmth of tone in the guitar and bass, feeling drawn from the My Sleeping Karma/Colour Haze pastiche of progressive meditations, there is a coinciding edge of English heavy rock and roll that one can hear not so much in the drift of “Temple of Zaum” as in the push of “Black Square Icon,” which follows, as well as the subtle impatience of the drums on “October Dawn.” “Move 37,” on the other hand, is willfully speedier and more upbeat than much of what surrounds, but though opener/longest track (immediate points) “Cold Iron Light” hits 7:26, nothing on Gates of Keras sticks around long enough to overstay its welcome, and even in their deepest contemplations, the feeling of motion carries them and the listener effectively through the album’s span. They sound like a band realizing what they want to do with all the potential they’ve built up.

Cracked Machine on Thee Facebooks

Kozmik Artifactz website

PsyKa Records website

 

Megadrone, Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

Megadrone Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae

From cinematic paranoia to consuming and ultra-slow rollout of massive tonality, the debut offering from Megadrone — the one-man outfit of former Bevar Sea vocalist Ganesh Krishnaswamy — stretches across 53 minutes of unmitigated sonic consumption. If nothing else, Krishnaswamy chose the right moniker for the project. The Bandcamp version is spread across two parts — “Transmission A” (21:45) and “Transmission B” (32:09) — and any vinyl release would require significant editing as well, but the version I have is one huge, extended track, and that feels like exactly how Transmissions From the Jovian Antennae was composed and is supposed to be heard. Its mind-numbing repetitions lead the listener on a subtle forward march — there are drums back in that morass somewhere, I know it — and the piece follows an arc that begins relatively quiet, swells in its midsection and gradually recedes again over its final 10 minutes or so. It goes without saying that a 53-minute work of experimentalist drone crushscaping isn’t going to be for the faint of heart. Bold favors bold.

Megadrone on Thee Facebooks

Megadrone on Bandcamp

 

KLÄMP, Hate You

klamp hate you

Sax-laced noise rock psychedelic freakouts, blown-out drums and shouts and drones, cacophonous stomp and chaotic sprawl, and a finale that holds back its payoff so long it feels cruel, KLÄMP‘s second album, Hate You, arrives less than a year after their self-titled debut, and perhaps there’s some clue as to why in the sheer mania of their execution. Hate You launches with the angularity of its 1:47 title-track and rolls out a nodding groove on top of that, but it’s movement from one part to another, one piece to another, is frenetic, regardless of the actual tempo, and the songs just sound like they were recorded to be played loud. Second cut “Arise” is the longest at 7:35 and it plays back and forth between two main parts before seeming to explode at the end, and by the time that’s done, you’re pretty much KLÄMPed into place waiting to see where the Utrecht trio go next. Oblivion wash on “An Orb,” the drum-led start-stops of “Big Bad Heart,” psych-smash “TJ” and that awaited end in “No Nerves” later, I’m not sure I have any better idea where that might be. That’s also what makes it work.

KLÄMP on Thee Facebooks

God Unknown Records website

 

Mábura, Heni

Mábura heni

Preceded by two singles, Heni is the debut EP from Rio de Janeiro psychedelic tonal worshipers Mábura, and its three component tracks, “Anhangá,” “III/IV” and “Bong of God” are intended to portray a lysergic experience through their according ambience and the sheer depth of the riffs they bring. “Anhangá” has vocals following the extended feedback and drone opening of its first half, but they unfold as a part of the general ambience, along with the drums that arrive late, are maybe sampler/programmed, and finish by leading directly into the crash/fuzz launch of “III/IV,” which just before it hits the two-minute mark unfurls into a watershed of effects and nod, crashing and stomping all the while until everything drops out but the bass only to return a short time later with the Riff in tow. Rumbling into a quick fade brings about the toking intro of “Bong of God,” which unfolds accordingly into a riff-led noisefest that makes its point seemingly without saying a word. I wouldn’t call it groundbreaking, but it’s a first EP. What it shows is that Mábura have some significant presence of tone and purpose. Don’t be surprised when someone picks them up for a release.

Mábura on Thee Facebooks

Mábura on Bandcamp

 

Astral Sleep, Astral Doom Musick

Astral Sleep Astral Doom Musick

It’s still possible to hear some of Astral Sleep‘s death-doom roots in their third album, Astral Doom Musick, but the truth is they’ve become a more expansive unit than that (relatively) simple classification than describe. They’re doom, to be sure, but there are progressive, psychedelic and even traditional doom elements at work across the record’s four-song/43-minute push, with a sense of conceptual composition coming through in “Vril” and “Inegration” in the first half of the proceedings while the nine-and-a-half-minute “Schwerbelastungskörper” pushes into the darkest reaches and closer “Aurinko ja Kuu” harnesses a swirling progressive spread that’s dramatic unto its last outward procession and suitably large-sound in its production and tone. For a band who took eight years to issue a follow-up to their last full-length, Astral Sleep certainly have plenty to offer in aesthetic and craft. If it took them so long to put this record together, their time wasn’t wasted, but it’s hard to listen and not wonder where their next step might take them.

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Molassess Interview with Farida Lemouchi: “Through Fire Reborn”

Posted in Features on August 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

molassess (Photo by Ryanne Van Dorst)

Vocalist Farida Lemouchi tells her own story throughout the debut Molassess album, Through the Hollow. Set for release Oct. 16 through Season of Mist, the record is the realization of what began as a commissioned project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here) and a concurrent CD single, and a return to music for Lemouchi after the dissolution of her former band, The Devil’s Blood, and the March 2014 suicide of her brother and bandmate, Selim Lemouchi.

Alongside a cast of familiar and respected players and veterans of The Devil’s Blood — guitarists Oeds Beydals (also ex-Death Alley) and Ron van Herpen (Rrrags, ex-Astrosoniq), bassist Job van de Zande, keyboardist Matthijs Stronks and drummer Bob Hogenelst (also Atlanta), Lemouchi casts a tale of perseverance. As one the album’s most resonant choruses tells it, of “getting out from under.” Heavy catharsis takes many forms, however, and Molassess are not attempting to continue what The Devil’s Blood accomplished. This isn’t cult rock in any previously known form. Across its 65 minutes, Through the Hollow may touch on familiar darkness, but it does so with a progressive experimentalism that is no less the band’s own than the lyrical theme and performance is Lemouchi‘s; signature soul, inimitable.

I’ll tell you flat out I was honored to do this interview. And a bit nervous. I was there in 2014 when Lemouchi, Beydals and others took the stage at the 013 to pay tribute to Selim just over a month after his death, and it was one of the most powerful and genuine live performances I’ve ever witnessed. In some ways, it felt voyeuristic to stand and watch the rawness of someone’s grief like that, and now, I’d be engaging that same person — a human being, not just an idea of a person on a stage — in conversation about how she’s moved forward over the six years since. She was, thankfully, kind and sincere and open and honest, and the strength of vulnerability in her telling her story throughout the album came through as much in how she framed talking about returning to music as in learning to focus her energies without her brother’s voice pushing her.

Strength, vulnerability, and the strength to be vulnerable. I hope that’s what comes through here. Thank you for reading.

Full Q&A follows. Thanks to Katy Irizarry for coordinating, to Oeds Beydals, Walter Hoeijmakers, and of course Lemouchi herself.

Please enjoy:

molassess roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Molassess Interview with Farida Lemouchi: “Through Fire Reborn”

You’re on the Main Stage at Roadburn 2019 with a brand new band, who people kind of know through association with The Devil’s Blood, Astrosoniq, and you’re up front. What were you feeling at that point, as you were performing as Molassess for the first time, this new entity?

It was the first 30 minutes of the show, I was very much aware of all these things you’re talking about right now, and I needed some time to shake that loose. I think we all had the same experience with the band. It was not uncomfortable, but it was, well… I was making a statement for myself to be something completely new and completely different, but of course we had this story.

I had to shake it out during the first part of the set. Up front, I was thinking, how should I behave? How should I act on stage? Then I let that go, like, okay, I’m not going to think about it, I’m going to do whatever I feel. But it was hard to do that at the beginning. Then, when we went along, it kept feeling better and better and then suddenly I was one with the music and one with the stage and one with all the people there, and it felt like letting go.

It’s all about that, also, the theme. It fit it perfectly, I guess. It maybe represented the time that I needed to get to that point.

What you’re describing sounds to me like catharsis. After five years from being on a stage like that – or on that stage – aside from being exhausted emotionally, was there a sense of relief, too, because, “we did this thing and it worked?”

molasses at roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)(Laughs) Enormously, of course. Yeah, exhausted, but very energetic and very happy, like okay, so we did it and it was good and we overcome, and yeah. All kinds of emotions like that, yes. And then, of course, it was a good thing that Walter decided to put us on the first day so we had the whole weekend then to party (laughs) and be happy.

They call that “processing.” Time to “process.”

(Laughs) Exactly.

Tell me about creating for Molassess. Obviously you and Selim working together had a bond that went beyond the band, and these are familiar players as well, but it’s naturally going to be different. Can you tell me about writing for this band and how your relationship to this music is different from your relationship to that music?

Well, to start with the second part of your question, the relationship is bound to be different, because Selim is not there anymore. What we had was brotherhood or sisterhood, or yeah, and I’m never gonna have that again, it’s obvious. But we have this deep connection in this band, in Molassess. Of course, the two people that [joined], that are there, I didn’t know up front. So that was a search and a process to get to know each other, but in the rehearsal room, there was this energy immediately, so it fits.

Me and Oeds are very deeply connected also, and we had this experience and this history together, so even on a spiritual level, we’re very close. I was very nervous at the beginning to do this, because I had to let myself get into that again, and I think I was a little bit scared of doing that again, because I had all these uncertainties, that I thought I maybe couldn’t do it without Selim. But on the other hand, it was also this challenge for me individually, like, “Okay, I’m on my own now and I have to do it, and I have to search different ways to do that,” and I think we managed very well along the way.

In the beginning, when we were asked for Roadburn, then it was very clear what we needed to do and we also had lots of plans before already, so it was just like, “Okay, let’s put everything together and let’s do this.” So it went really well, actually. But always with this feeling that, you know, and I don’t want to sound too insecure, but, “What am I doing? Is this really gonna be worthwhile? Is it going to be good enough?” But on the other hand, I think all creators deal with that stuff when you’re working on something. I hear it all the time, so yeah. It’s always a personal process.

That’s something I wanted to talk about too. So many of the themes on the album feel directly personal, and to me, the key phrase is “getting out from under.”

Yes, that’s very true.

And that’s kind of what the album is doing as well. For all of you, really, but especially for you. Acknowledging this weight and getting out from under it as best you can. One thing I was struck by in listening is the power of your voice and the vulnerability of your lyrics. You mentioned going into Roadburn you had this story. Can you talk a bit about writing your story and framing it for yourself in this way?

I can. It was very clear to me that I needed to talk about me, and the feelings that I have and the emotions I went through, because that was the story that needs to be told. But however, I never wrote before. Oeds helped me a lot. Because we are connected so well. But I told him, I don’t know how, I don’t know where to begin, how does one go about that? I think it’s very… It’s like walking naked through the street, right? I don’t know if I can do it.

So we had this like a ping-pong game, where I told him my thoughts and my feelings and of course we talked – all those years we stayed in contact – so we knew everything. Then he kind of asked all the questions, “do you mean this?” and “are you saying that?” and then it became lyrics. He texted me back, do you mean this? And I was like, “No I mean that.” And then like molds, you put it in very poetic – I’m not a word artist myself, but together we created. I think he put my thoughts into this cool.. I’m searching for a word.

Like a frame. He helped you frame your thoughts.

Yeah, exactly. And then the music was there. Most of the ideas came from Oeds and Ron, actually, and we started working on that sitting at my kitchen table or at his place. Well, most of the time here because I don’t have any neighbors who – they are all good with it. We started to work and work and work, and that’s how it went. And then we went to the rehearsal room.

Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)What was is like for you, sitting down and getting back to work and back to songwriting after half a decade-plus?

It felt really good, because I missed making music all day. I wasn’t sure. I wanted to, but on the other side, I didn’t want to. I don’t know if I can explain it clearly, but when you’re mourning, you get all these emotions and all this stuff, and sometimes you don’t know why or what does it mean, or how should I deal with them, so my thoughts went from left to right and everything in between, so one day I was very clear about, “Okay, I want a new band and I want to make music,” and then the next day, “Oh no, it’s a really bad idea. I’m never going to do that again.”

I needed a little kick in the ass. We all talked about it a lot, but everyone was doing their own stuff, and because I was sure that if I would do it again it would be with these people, because we had something to finish – or something to begin, but first something to finish – but we never did it together. So yeah, catharsis again. I think maybe if it wasn’t for Walter, we would’ve waited longer. Someone had to put the seed there and then we all were live wolves, “Yeah! Let’s do this!”

So you had ideas and things loosely in progress then, that solidified after Walter came into the picture. When did you know Molassess was something you wanted to keep going?

It was in the first stage of rehearsing for Roadburn. I think when we were in the rehearsal room two or three times, nobody was a done deal (laughs). So in the beginning, Oeds, Ron, Job and me were sitting, at my kitchen table again – lots of stuff happens at my kitchen table (laughs) – and we talked about, you know, are we serious and this is what we want, and are we going to do this, and everyone was very, very into it. That was even before we asked the other musicians to join us, so we were very clear about it, “Okay, the four of us are gonna do it.”

It was in the beginning already. First three get-togethers, we were very decided. It’s like — always this language is so difficult sometimes when you’re talking emotions — but we missed each other. We saw each other, but musically and on a creative level, we missed each other very much, and it was time. We felt it. It was this energy that felt like being whole again, actually.

And in terms of putting the songs together and putting the album together, what can you tell me about being in the studio again and recording vocals again?

Of course, we recorded the single or the 7”, and I did some studio stuff for friends that went pretty cool. But of course it was very, very different. I had to practice and do stuff to get my voice in shape. But it all went very natural.

The real struggle was to find the power in myself. And that is where Selim came in, because he was always very good at challenging me to give everything and more. And you have to dive deep into yourself, and he could fight me to get the best things. And I didn’t know if I could do it in this form, but it did. I had to do it myself, and I found myself, so I think I’m stronger than ever, actually.

And the studio experience was great. We did it with Pieter [Kloos], and of course we did all The Devil’s Blood records with him also, only he changed the studio. He had a studio in one place, but now he built a beautiful little studio in his back yard, and in the old studio, there was a cellar and I had to go into the cellar and was all alone in a dark room (laughs), sort of a dark room.

And they were upstairs telling me all kinds of stuff through their mic to my headphones, and so I told Pieter, “How are we gonna do it because I don’t want to be in the studio where everyone can see me. I want the dark room!” So he made one for me with black curtains, I could say bye-bye, close the curtains, and sing. It went very natural. It was a really great experience and I think I felt more free.

How do you mean?

Well, it’s the paradox of missing someone who’s not there anymore, and thinking that it was maybe Selim who made me do stuff, or I thought I needed him to get the best out of me. But he’s still here, in one form or another, but it was never him. It was always me. But I had to find that out.

Selim’s style comes into a little bit with what Oeds and Ron are doing, and “Molasses” was the last song on the Enemies record, so in what ways do you feel like Through the Hollow is moving forward from that point?

If you look at it music-wise, you can see the progression The Devil’s Blood made from the first one to the last one – it’s not an official album but it is to me – and also how Selim progressed in his way of thinking. He changed very much. In the beginning, he was very like, “This is what I want and you all have to do it like this,” and he was very… what’s the word?

Controlling?

(Laughs) Well yeah, controlling, it’s a Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)good one. He was controlling, but he also had the whole picture in his head already. He had the vision. Along the way, he started also to be more free, and be more loose. More jams and more intuitive, I think. I think you can hear that also in the music very much, and maybe it is where The Devil’s Blood left, or quit, or stopped, that everyone had their own stuff. I’m making it too difficult right now (laughs).

It developed from there to Molassess, and then Molassess was the last song on the album, also the last song we worked together on, and then we all had time to grieve and grow and develop in all kinds of ways, and yeah. It’s like Molassess picked up maybe we left off, but not exactly at the point where The Devil’s Blood quit, but years later, with all the progression and development. You get that?

You’re saying Molassess aren’t trying to pretend the last five years-plus didn’t happen.

There could never be a Molassess without all those years.

It’s taking what’s happened in that time and translating it emotionally and in terms of musical progression into the songs.

And also as individuals, for each and every one. Even with the new guys, I guess. Otherwise we couldn’t – not to get spiritual – but everything feels very organic and it had to be like this, otherwise we couldn’t make this album.

But it is spiritual. In the sense of something intangible, you’re a group of people coming together to make this thing. Shit, if there’s magic anywhere, that’s it. There’s so much honesty in this record, and you see the frame and the story. Where does it go from here? You get the front to back journey on the record. What happens next?

“What happens next?” (Laughs) Yeah, that’s a good… I mean, who knows? We’re already writing again, new stuff. It goes on, but I mean, I don’t know how, I don’t know when. And also everything is on hold. But we’re moving along. It was very, very good to finish this album because it was also like, “When is it gonna be done? I want a copy and I can’t listen to it” and all that stuff, of course.

Because when you have a story to tell and you’ve told it, then it needs to get out there. Because otherwise you still can’t let go. “So go now, thank you” (laughs). But where, I don’t know. I’m not a fortune teller. I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But I hope… We’re not done, so we’re moving on and we’re moving forward and now that this has been said, we can search for other stuff and grow again. It would be really nice if people like it and want more, but we have more, so this is definitely just a beginning.

It sounds like a beginning. You’re working with the benefit of knowing each other, you, Ron and Oeds. You have this foundation of a relationship, but it is a new exploration, and you can hear that as the album goes on. And there’s the story with that as well. I keep going back to the storyline happening across the album.

It is the story from beginning to end. I can almost not listen to it. Well, now I don’t listen to it for a while now. But it was one thing. It almost feels like, yeah. One book. And it’s the beginning and it’s the end and now we’re gonna make a new album (laughs).

It’s like a memoir, almost.

Well yeah, you could call it that. I never thought of that, but yeah. That’s a good name (laughs). We should’ve called it Memoir (laughs).

What do you take away from the experience of making the record ultimately? You’ve mentioned finding that ability to push yourself, the level of catharsis in this expression, and I’d think the ability to make a song personal for you would have to be satisfying. Having told this story now that’s being put out there, I guess in October, what are you taking with you from this experience as you move forward?

Lots of stuff, I guess. It’s this kind of freedom. This inner-freedom. I don’t know if that’s a word.

It changed me as a person. In the way I feel and the way I think. Not really changed, because you never really change –

Molassess at Roadburn 2019 (Photo by JJ Koczan)Wait wait wait wait! Don’t back off that. No no no. Keep going.

Yeah, so I changed. My state of mind changed. It gave me so much energy. New energy, I think, that I haven’t found in my whole life. Maybe also because this was my first experience with really creating something myself that is totally mine – and of course with everyone in the band included because it’s not about me alone – but for me, personal.

I have a child, you have a child also. Something is so yours. It’s in your flesh, it’s in your genes. It’s so hard to give away, and that whole process to really experience that, and yeah. So I’m taking with me that I’m very strong, and I know, I know, I just know, I have to do this and I want to do this and it brought me… everything. That is too fake, I guess.

No, that is not fake. That’s the opposite of fake. That’s is the real thing. You have made a piece of art that has changed who you are. That’s incredible.

Well it feels incredible, and I’m very thankful that I’ve got this chance to do that and I’m in a lucky position that we could do this. And one thing I learned from my brother was that, you know, at the times I was very insecure about, “Was it good enough,” and “Should we do this,” I always listened to him telling me, “If you are okay with it and you did the best you can, then it is good, whatever people will think doesn’t matter anymore.”

That’s how I feel now. When I got insecure, that was what I would think about and say, “I’m good with this. It is fucking good, so yes, move on to the next,” and so on and so on. I changed. It changed me. I’m grown up now. Maybe that’s the thing. I feel very mature (laughs). Not really.

Selim passed away six years ago, and my mother passed away three years ago, and my father passed away like nine years ago. Nine, six, three. So this freedom is also about that, because I’m loose. I have a son, but I don’t have any more responsibilities to my family. In the beginning, also it felt very alone, but I can only depend on me and now I’m very proud of myself, because I’m able to make this great music. Everything I just said, but this is a personal process thing.

The record ends with “The Devil Lives.” Can you talk a little about that?

That was a Selim song, a Devil’s Blood song, that was never finished. And we tried it. We worked on it many times, but it never was good enough, or it was never appropriate. Then it became just another thing that was thrown on the pile of unfinished stuff. But also it was one of my favorites. Way before Roadburn, I had all the guys together, like, “We should finish this song, we should finish it!” so we tried something but it didn’t work and everyone went on doing their stuff again, and then now this was the perfect time to try it again and I think we did a good job.

Molassess Through the HollowWe finished it, but it was Selim’s song. We put it at the end of the album I think too, Through the Hollow is more of a statement like, “And now for something completely different.” It’s very clear that it’s no Devil’s Blood and we’re doing our own shit, but it felt really good to have him there also. We thought it was a perfect ending of this new beginning.

We thought about it, because it’s a very difficult thing. At first when we talked about Molassess, a lot of people were like, “Oh, The Devil’s Blood!” or “Oh, she’s coming back!” and we didn’t want that, but can you really blame people?

It’s like, this is our history, so I learned you need to embrace everything. Also that. When we were thinking about this song, we had also mixed feelings about it, like, “No, but it’s too Devil’s Blood,” and just when we let that go, well, it’s part of us. So here it is.

Molassess, “Through the Hollow”

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