The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 34

Posted in Radio on May 15th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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I did the voice tracks for this episode yesterday sitting on the wood edge of a large sandbox in a closed public park in Morris Plains, NJ, while my son played with the various digger trucks that adorn the place. Fitting that I should be here now too, writing this. He loves it here. Did last summer too, but is now capable of a bunch more imaginative play than he was a few months ago. Pandemic boredom and being stuck at home has expanded his capacity in that regard notably.

That’s life I guess.

While I’m thinking about it, I don’t really explore it in the show, but I’m continually fascinated by the perceived dichotomy between art and “real life,” as though the function of your day should be menial and any creative endeavor hidden away like a secret masturbatory fetish. No. The art is life. They go together. If you need the one, you need to make it part of the other or you’re sunk. Even if you create alone, you don’t do it in a vacuum and to pretend otherwise is just dumb.

Anyway, the show. It’s good and you should check it out. Will you? Probably not, but if you like lists of bands, here’s one. If you do listen, I kind of go on about music as an escapist trance in the second voice break. Again, while my son digs in the sand. That’s life.

Thanks for listening if you do.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at http://gimmeradio.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 05.15.20

Faith in Jane The Well Mother to Earth*
Geezer Groovy Groovy*
Red Mesa Desert Moon The Path to the Deathless*
Kryptograf The Veil Kryptograf*
BREAK
Snail Nothing Left for You Nothing Left for You / Fearless*
Frank Sabbath Les Trois Petits Pochons Compendium*
Vestjysk Ørken Forbidden Planet Full Dark No Stars*
Tia Carrera Layback Tried & True*
Daisychain How Can I Love You? Daisychain*
Alain Johannes Hum Hum*
BREAK
Comacozer Sun of Hyperion Here & Beyond Split w/ Vinnum Sabbathi*
The Shell Collector Raw, Improvised and Live from a Studio in Nalepastrasse Raw, Improvised and Live from a Studio in Nalepastrasse*

The Obelisk Show on Seeking a professional Writing Os X Services service? You've found the best online solution! Hire a thesis proofreading expert at a reasonable cost. Gimme Radio airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is May 29 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Snail Post “Nothing Left for You” Video; New Single out Now

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

snail

New ? Are you a student who works a full time job? Don't have the time to write your thesis or dissertation? Try an online A Good Thesis Statement For A Research Paper. With Snail video, you say? Don’t mind if I do, thanks. The timing certainly works, as the Pacific Coast — Seattle-ish and Los Angeles — three-piece have newly issued the single Online custom essays, term papers, research papers, reports, reviews and homework assignments. Professional Jason Lee Bronkema Phd Thesis offers high quality and Nothing Left for You/Fearless, with the second cut being a cover of personal statement for college samples http://www.healthlink.cz/?help-with-my-thesis-statement Plagiarism Free essay of friendship thesis and dissertation addis ababa university Meddle-era No matter how complicated your task is our essays for sale will impress any teacher. Hurry up to get premium-quality Music Homework Helper in all Pink Floyd and the first cut being their first recording since later-2015’s  customer retention in e commerce research papers Pay be admission as creative writing coursework personal statement medical school application Feral (review here). They hit the studio in January to get going on their next long-player, and while “Nothing Left for You” will feature on that album, it’s hard to know how representative it might be of the upcoming-at-some-point batch of material either way, but it does find them making some interesting turns in sound, with some of the raw buzz one might find in their 1993 self-titled debut (review here) resurfacing along with the speedier groove than one has come to expect. It’s also catchy as hell, so if I haven’t said this before about it — and I’m pretty sure I have — I’m glad to take it as it comes.

They are right at home in “Fearless” as well, with guitarist  Company http://ensino.favale.edu.br/electronics-homework-help/ Support. Trusted By 3000+ Corporate Clients. Start in 30min. 12 hours delivery. From 29 $/hr. Mark Johnson‘s dreamy vocal melody floating out over his own watery effects, backed by bassist/recording engineer  Vampire Research Paper - counterculturalschool.com Matt Lynch with drummer  Order http://www.hotelbiser.com.mk/?research-paper-for-abortions from WritingSharks.net Choose from Professional Academic, ESL & Business Proofreading Services Marty Dodson keeping the groove grounded and rolling forward. As much as “Nothing Left for You” is about shove — and particularly ‘shove-away,’ in terms of its lyrical theme — The ultimate place to my link. Enjoy impeccable quality, affordable prices, a range of discounts and PhD-level writers Snail make “Fearless” into a deep-dive melodic showcase, emphasizing not only the influence of Dissertations Online Free Help With College Essays - Title Ebooks : Help With College Essays - Category : Kindle and eBooks PDF - Author : ~ unidentified Pink Floyd, but the grittier, and weightier edge they bring to what was already there. Both songs end with a fadeout, and the underlying message of the release is clearly that there’s more to follow, and as a fan of the band, I can only look forward to the next album whenever it might arrive. Everyone’s plans being shot as they are this year, I wouldn’t hazard a guess as to when something might manifest, but in the interim, the video for “Nothing Left for You” has some fun with being stuck at home during quarantine, and again, I’ll take it as it comes.

And it bears mentioning that  write a great essay Personal Essay For Scholarship Help homework schools helpful best research proposal writing service Lynch mixed and mastered Is Homework Necessary Persuasive Speech. Essay and Resume Service provides professional writing services for students, executive, management and entry level Nothing Left for You/Fearless at his  purchase essays online Evacuation Plan For Business Economics air fact help homework pollution nursing essays online uk Mysterious Mammal Recordings in L.A. (they tracked at Triangular Kendrick best essay writing service uk sensationally coagulate your panders enrobed? Wallop attrite that shopping window wrongly? ineffable All Welcome Records) and as discussed in his days of rona, he’s up for mixing whatever you’ve got and is looking for remote clients. When I finally get to recording that spoken word/keyboard drone album, I’ll definitely be sending it to him to edit out the burps.

Enjoy the video:

Snail, “Nothing Left for You” official video

From the single Nothing Left For You / Fearless released 5/1/2020. Get your copy here: https://snailhq.bandcamp.com/

Video edited and produced by Matt Lynch. Music by Snail (Mark Johnson, Matt Lynch, Marty Dodson)

Recorded by Matt Lynch at All Welcome Records, Los Angeles USA. Mixed and mastered by Matt Lynch at Mysterious Mammal Recordings Los Angeles. Additional recording by Mark Johnson at home in Seattle. Engineered by Jennifer Hendrix.

Snail is:
Matt Lynch (Bass/Vocals)
Marty Dodson (Drums)
Mark Johnson (Lead Vocals/Guitar)

Snail, Nothing Left for You / Fearless (2020)

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Snail to Issue Nothing Left for You / Fearless Single This Friday

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

snail

The new original track buzzes with a neo-psych edge that  Snail‘s never quite shown in this way before, and the B-side is a take on Meddle-era Pink Floyd, so yes, the first new music from Snail in a whopping half-decade is welcome. Nothing Left for You / Fearless comes topped off with artwork by Sean “Skillit” McEleny and is intended as something of a precursor to the next Snail long-player, which the band reports is already mostly done. That’s good news too, frankly, since it’s going on five years since 2015’s Feral (review here) and that means they’re certainly due. “Nothing Left for You” bodes well of what that album might portend tonally — it doesn’t quite drift, but the guitars seem to have loosed some heft in favor of shimmer and that’s interesting to hear from a band whose trade has been psych-through-lumber for so long.

Fascinating, as Spock would say.

He’d also say you should check it out on Friday when it’s released. No, I don’t know what day it is, but I know it’s not Friday because the song isn’t on their Bandcamp yet. That’s all I’ve got to go on.

Well, that and this from the PR wire:

snail nothing left for you fearless

Snail to Release First New Music in Six Years

Snail will release their first new music since 2014’s Feral on May 1, 2020. “Nothing Left For You,” the advanced single from their forthcoming as-yet-untitled LP, will be accompanied by a cover of Pink Floyd’s “Fearless”. This is only the second time Snail has recorded a cover song in its 27-year existence. The two songs will be available as a digital-only download from Bandcamp. “Nothing Left For You” will appear on the LP in physical form in the future, but “Fearless” will be an exclusive digital release.

“Nothing Left For You” is a particularly vicious rant against an unnamed entity. It’s fuzzy, driving, and pissed off.

Says Snail: “We’ve all had someone or something in our lives that were just toxic, and no amount of expended energy could turn that around. This song is a final kiss-off; a cathartic, scathing take down that is sometimes necessary to move past a relationship and regain a sense of self and power.”

Why cover “Fearless”? “Having been Floyd fans forever, we have been talking about doing that tune for 25 years. It’s a great song, and seemed open for a heavy interpretation. When writing “Nothing Left For You,” I actually used some characters from “Fearless” in the lyrics, so it only made sense to pair these two and finally realize the vision,” says Matt Lynch, bassist/producer.

Snail’s full length LP is currently in the overdub and mixing stage, and should be ready for release in the summer. The band recorded enough material back in January to complete an EP as well, so watch the newswire for updates.

SNAIL:
Marty Dodson – Drums and Percussion
Mark Johnson – Guitar and Lead Vocals
Matt Lynch – Bass, Keys and Vocals

Artwork by Skillit.

www.snailhq.com
www.facebook.com/snailhq
https://www.instagram.com/snail_hq/
https://snailhq.bandcamp.com/

Snail, “Nothing Left for You” drum recording

Snail, Feral (2015)

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Days of Rona: Matt Lynch of Snail & Mysterious Mammal Recording

Posted in Features on April 8th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

snail matt lynch

Days of Rona: Matt Lynch of Snail & Mysterious Mammal Recording (Los Angeles, California)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

So far everyone’s health is good. Mark is convinced that he and his wife had it in late January in Seattle. Of course, this is conjecture but the symptoms matched up. This was before it was even on our radar and no testing but Seattle was the first place it showed up in the States. They are okay now though. I’m in Los Angeles, Mark is in Seattle and Marty is in San Diego, so we don’t play live that often and didn’t have any tour plans yet. We were already in the middle of recording our record and Mark is in the overdub phase up in Seattle so fortunately we are in a good place there. I edit and mix and overdub once Mark is done, so luckily this is something we can continue to do in isolation. I am going to have more time to do this now because I have been laid off from my day job at a travel marketing agency. Not a lot of work going on there, so I’m freed up for mixing and mastering the Snail stuff and finishing Collyn’s Diesel Boots record as well as projects for other artists.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

We are in a shelter-in-place here in Los Angeles. We go out for groceries and to walk our dogs. All non-essential businesses are closed, which means everything except medical, grocery, and media. All the beaches and parks are shut down, including bike and walking paths. They tried to keep them open but there are just too many people here in general and we aren’t great at following rules apparently.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

Everything is closed except to get groceries. My job is gone, at least for the time being. Gigs are all cancelled. There have been a lot of cool live streams happening with music though, and the time to enjoy them. A lot of people are coming together virtually in my community, sharing information, helping each other with groceries and where to find them, trading food items among neighbors for recipes. People are cooking more again, playing music as a family – a bit of the old ways are creeping back in, which is a nice positive. It seems that musicians, or the musicians I know anyway, are generally into cooking. I think there is a parallel there of putting individual elements together to make a whole that is stronger than its parts that appeals to musicians.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

I think the most important takeaway from this for me is that this has proven just how fast society can change. We are going to come out on the other side of this to a new normal — it won’t be the same — so now is the time to take stock and decide for yourself what you want that new normal to look like, and work towards making it happen.

https://mysteriousmammal.com/
www.snailhq.com
www.facebook.com/snailhq
https://www.instagram.com/snail_hq/
www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.bandcamp.com

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Friday Full-Length: Snail, Blood

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

snail blood

At the core of the album, the lessons of Snail‘s Blood (review here) are relatively straightforward: rhythm and melody. The mostly languid grooves and the overlaid stoner drift from the originally-Seattle-based then-four-piece came across as revelatory in 2009, but their roots of course went back much further in that Blood was the first Snail record in 16 years. That time differential, and the fact that most the 11 songs on the 57-minute offering dated back that far — only opener “Mental Models,” “Underwater” and “Via/Penny Dreadful” don’t appear on Snail‘s The ’93-’94 Blood Demos collection released in 2012 (the band talk about their demo process here) — are important for understanding where the album was coming from at the time of its release. Indeed, 16 years before 2009 was 1993, and that was when Snail issued their self-titled debut (review here), following the next year with the All Channels are Open EP (review here) before the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson called it quits, leaving the demos for what would’ve been Blood at the time unrealized.

When they came back and finally recorded the album proper, JohnsonLynch and Dodson recruited second guitarist Eric Clausen, who fleshed out the riffs and leads fluidly, meshing well with the founding members. Really though, the overarching atmosphere of Blood is so laid back that, even 11 years after its release, it still feels like all are welcome. True, Blood‘s just-under-an-hour runtime feels honest to its CD-era origins and borders on unmanageable by today’s standards, but they use the vast majority of that time well, setting up immersive tonality and an underlying psych-grunge atmosphere that permeates “Relief” and the speedier, hookier second track “Sleep” — originally “Sleepshit” on the demos — as well as the later push of “Cleanliness” and the nonetheless-airy “Not for Me” which appears ahead of the predominantly-mellow-but-still-volatile eight-minute closer “Blacklight,” itself a testament to Snail‘s ability to change up their songwriting approach while staying united by tone and general sonic resonance, the use of effects and so on. Even now, the depth of mix Blood conjures draws the listener in, and the strength of the underlying structures in place — the verses and choruses to songs like “Underwater” or the especially-blissed “Relief” — gave Snail the ground on which to build this towering sound. The initial surge and chug of “Mental Models,” following a quick intro, is righteous, but doesn’t by any means tell the whole story of the album. It really does require the time it takes to flesh out.

And the patience of Snail‘s tempos when they’re not meting out punkish rush is especially noteworthy. Dodson sets a march in “Mental Models” and a push in “Sleep” and a crash and thud and shuffle in “Underwater” and a pull-back, in-pocket riff-surfing progression in “Committed” that could easily serve as a clinic in heavy rock drumming, and while Johnson‘s vocals and riffs, Clausen‘s leads and Lynch‘s oh-hell-yes bass tone are of course no less crucial, the drums are somewhat understated but accomplished in their versatility and able to find just what the song most needs at any given time, whether it’s the rim hits in “Cleanliness” like a ticking clock counting down to the next explosion of soloing and Johnson repeatedly urging “get high! get high!” or the masterful roll in “Via/Penny Dreadful” and “Screen” that becomes a defining element of Blood as a whole. With the shifts in tempo and style, it’s the tone and songwriting that bring cohesion, and Snail‘s consistency in that regard is at a high level from front to back, and they use that diversity in their approach as an asset in shifts like those between the nodder “Blood” and the more upbeat “Cleanliness,” which on vinyl would probably be side C of a 2LP version that, frankly, feels like it’s ripe for some label to get behind.

Blood appeared during an era of rebirth for MeteorCity after original owners Jadd Shickler (now of Blues Funeral Recordings) and Aaron Emmel sold it, Stonerrock.com and the All That is Heavy webstore to Dan Beland and Melanie Streko (now of Hellmistress Records). Along with Snail, releases from Let the Night RoarLeeches of LoreHumo del CairoFreedom Hawk — not to mention the first Elder record — helped reestablish the label’s presence in the heavy underground, so in that regard, Blood was all the more a good fit for the label, given that it was essentially a rebirth for the band as well.

It’s worth noting in listening to Johnson‘s wailing on “Screen” just how dated Blood doesn’t sound. To give some context to revisiting the album, I went back and listened again to the self-titled as well as The ’93-’94 Blood Demos and it’s kind of astonishing how much the songs hadn’t changed when one considers the modern feel of Blood as a whole. The production is more fleshed out, certainly clearer, etc., but the underlying method is largely intact. Its grunge-era origins aren’t forgotten — Seattle? yup. early ’90s? yup. — but the band succeeded in drawing a line to the past while representing a forward potential as well, and one that, thankfully, they’d go on to realize on subsequent offerings.

By the time Clausen left the band in 2013, they had already put out the follow-up CD, Terminus (review here), and they signed to Small Stone for Feral (review here) in 2015, which subsequently saw them come to the East Coast for the first time in 2016 to play The Obelisk All-Dayer in Brooklyn and other shows around that, as well as do Psycho Las Vegas and more besides. They’ve never been a heavily touring band whether a four-piece or trio, but they bring a chemistry to the stage just the same that, from my own experience as a fan of their work, adds another layer of enjoyment to the proceedings. Some bands work together. Snail come across more like a family, eyes rolling at each other and all.

They reportedly have a new album in the works — they’re recording — that will see release this year, and that’s only good news as far as I’m concerned. Feral was their best work to-date, and five years after that and some 27 years after their debut, it’ll be exciting to hear where they take what has become their signature style. You can dig on Snail or don’t, but if you don’t, you’re missing out.

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

New episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio today. 1PM. It’s moving to 5PM and will be on every week at that time with new episodes every other week. That’s starts Valentine’s Day. Because love.

Next week is totally full. I can’t talk about some of it yet, but holy shit it’s gonna be awesome. Cool streams, cool announcements. Couple good reviews thrown in. Really, stay tuned.

The week after already has reviews and premieres booked too. And the Monday and Wednesday after that. And shit is happening today like Elder announcing their record and Candlemass announcing an EP. What’s a boy to do about trying to keep up? Even if I had a staff of 20 writers they’d look at my notes and tell me to kiss my ass.

Oh my poor notes.

I went to the doctor this morning, got a flu shot. I needed to update my prescriptions since I ran out of refills from my primary care doctor in Massachusetts, and hell, Boston’s a long way to go for pills. There was a whole hullabaloo with switching insurance plans. I take 40mg of Citalopram a day for depression, and I have off and on for the better part of a decade. At this point it’s been at least the last three years? Something like that. When I think about it I find it amazing I still manage to be such a miserable bastard on the regular. Nothing like overachieving.

There was a lag of about 10 days between running out of one supply of pills though and convincing our insurance to give us the month we were still owed — I’d be totally lost without The Patient Mrs.; imagine a human being, but like, actually competent; she’s like a higher lifeform — and in that time, if I’m totally honest, I could feel it. The first couple days were fine, but there’s a kind of severity that emerges in my framing of myself and what’s around me. I can feel it. It’s hard to explain, but I know when it’s there. They call it a weight — that’s a whole different issue for me, of course — and that’s fair, but it’s like if your blood got more viscous.

I also mentioned the doc some trouble I’ve been having with anxiety, and contrary to my being anxious about mentioning it — dude knows my history; he was my doctor when we lived in NJ previously and treats most of my family — and I thought maybe it was time to do something about it. The way I’ve seen it manifest is big-time reticence to go to shows at unknown venues. I’ve been to Saint Vitus Bar a few times, and Ode to Doom at Arlene’s Grocery in Manhattan, but social anxiety and the thought of being in a new place and a strange place, even at a gig, right now already I can feel the hair on my arms stand on end. I’ve missed several good gigs. I didn’t go see Om in New York.

So yeah. Try something out to help. We’ll see how it goes.

Maybe I’ll be a little easier to live with.

I am going out tomorrow though. It’s Warhorse at Saint Vitus Bar with Yatra and Green Dragon. I’ve never seen Green Dragon and I like their recorded stuff a lot, so that’s a bonus, and I know Yatra and Warhorse will destroy. I expect it to be crowded. Hydration, as ever, will be key. As will earplugs.

Review of that on Monday.

The Pecan started preschool this week, which I’ll note mostly for self-posterity — I might happen upon this post years from now writing about Snail and appreciate seeing the memory; to that end, I was also reminded of feeding him off my finger when he was super-little. He’ll go Wednesday and Thursday to a place about 10 minutes from my ancestral homestead for four hours each day. He apparently got frustrated and tried to bite another kid (or two, ugh) on his first day, but he sat at the table for lunch, which he never does with me. You take the bad with the good. Some you win, some you lose.

Alright, this post has already gone on longer than I’ve intended. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, be kind. Please don’t forget The Obelisk Show is on at 1PM Eastern (which is coming right up). Thanks if you check it out.

FRM: Forum, Radio, Merch at MiBK.

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Snail Recording Pink Floyd Cover “Fearless”; New LP in the Works

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

snail in studio

As 2019 starts to wind down, it’s time to start looking ahead at some of what next year will offer, and I can pretty much tell you right now that if a new Snail full-length actually materializes, there’s just about no damn way I’m not going to spend a lot of time telling you to listen to it. Now then, the three-piece based in Los Angeles and Seattle aren’t quite recording the LP yet — that starts next month. But they’re currently tracking a take on Pink Floyd‘s “Fearless” as well as a new song called “Nothing Left for You” that will feature alongside it on a precursor single. Digital release seems to be how it’s going to happen, given the timing, but of course they’re open to a 7″, because why wouldn’t they be, should someone be up for releasing. Can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a taker there.

So we’re not to titles or release dates for the album yet. Hold your horses and I’ll do the best to do the same, but realizing it will have been five years since 2015’s Feral (review here) was released by the time the new one arrives, well, I think you’re almost justified in letting the anticipation run wild. It’s officially “a while in the making” as far as I’m concerned.

Bassist/vocalist/recording engineer Matt Lynch — pictured above with drummer/vocalist Marty Dodson this past weekend, while vocalist/guitarist Mark Johnson will track his parts in the Pacific Northwest — was kind enough to give an update on the proceedings:

We are recording Pink Floyd’s Fearless and a song I wrote that has lyrics partially inspired by Fearless [“Nothing Left for You”]. We have been wanting to cover Fearless for over 20 years now and feel the time is finally right. This will be released as an advanced digital single for the coming LP. Unless of course someone wants to put it out on a 7”, which would rule.

Currently no working title for the LP. We want to release this advance single for the new year, so early January. We are recording the rest of the basic tracks for the LP the second week of January. The material’s direction is similar to Feral in that it is varied with a wide range of sound and influences. There is melodic psych and heavy doom. Straight up Camaro stoner rock to galloping metal.

These two [tracks] Mark will do his parts from home in Seattle. The rest of the LP we will all do together at [Mysterious Mammal Recording/All Welcome Records] as much as possible with continued overdubs for Mark’s parts at home as usual.

SNAIL IS
Mark Johnson – Guitars, lead vocals, keys
Matt Lynch – Bass, keys, vocals
Marty Dodson – Drums, percussion, vocals

www.snailhq.com
www.facebook.com/snailhq
https://www.instagram.com/snail_hq/
www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.bandcamp.com

Snail, “Nothing Left for You” drum recording

Snail, Feral (2015)

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 08

Posted in Radio on January 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

This was my 2019 preview… of sorts. By which I mean that it in no way encompassed everything coming out this year and that some of it was basically me being like, “golly, it sure would be nice if BAND X put out a record in the next 12 months.” Still fun, but I think definitely well earning that “of sorts” tag.

I keep notes with a running list of things like albums coming out and best records of the year, artwork, EPs, etc., and in my notes for what’s coming out in 2019 I have over 50 bands listed so far. Here they are, cut and paste-style:

Cities of Mars, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, No Man’s Valley, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan, Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Samsara Blues Experiment, Papir, Conan, Green Lung, BUS, Worshipper, Volcano, Mos Generator, Earth, Nebula Drag, Elder, Daxma, Besvärjelsen, Bellrope, The Sabbathian,

Some of that has been officially announced, some hasn’t, and some is rampant speculation, but many of these, and there’s always the contingency that expected releases can be delayed owing to recording and tour schedules, pressing concerns, pianos falling on heads, and so on, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find a bunch of those records on my year-end list in December. Whoopee.

What’s more important to stress, however, is that this is by no means the be-all-end-all list of things coming out. It’s a long year, and it’s January right now. There will be offerings in September and October that no one knows now are even in the works, and still more that aren’t. That’s why the list ends with a comma and a space instead of a period. There’s more to be added.

That said, this is a damn good show and I stand by it. Some of the inclusions could/would/will be among the year’s best albums — the new Worshipper is fantastic, and the new Kings Destroy owns my soul — but I wanted to put some stuff in here that the Gimme audience, which I tend to think of as being more metal though I have absolutely nothing to base that on, isn’t familiar with. Curse the Son, Snail, Sun Blood Stories.

It’s fun to talk about new albums coming out — I had a particular blast mentioning how annoyed I am at the universe for there being a new Sun Blood Stories album and I haven’t heard it yet — and even if some of it is speculative, that’s a good time too.

If you missed the show last night, it’s on tomorrow at 9AM at: http://gimmeradio.com.

The Obelisk Show Ep. 08 – 01.20.19

 

Lowrider Lameneshma Ode to Io (Deluxe Edition) 0:04:57
Kings Destroy Smokey Robinson Kings Destroy 0:04:03
BREAK
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard The Master and His Emissary Totems (Split w/Slomatics) 0:12:02
Snail Born in Captivity Feral 0:05:00
Motorpsycho The Tower The Tower 0:08:41
Mars Red Sky Friendly Fire Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) 0:04:51
BREAK
Sun Blood Stories Step Softly Ghost It Runs Around the Room with Us 0:04:48
Elephant Tree Dawn Elephant Tree 0:04:12
Curse the Son Aislamiento Isolator 0:07:13
Alunah Awn Amber & Gold* 0:05:50
Worshipper Night Child (The Oath cover) Mirage Daze 0:04:19
Hexvessel Old Tree All Tree* 0:03:40
Vokonis Rapturous The Sunken Djinn 0:06:09
Mr. Peter Hayden We Fly High Eternal Hayden 0:07:13
BREAK
Kind Rabbit Astronaut Rocket Science 0:03:49
Om Haqq al-Yaqin Advaitic Songs 0:11:29
Samsara Blues Experiment One with the Universe One with the Universe 0:15:07

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is Feb. 3. Thanks for listening if you do.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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