Rifflord: 26 Mean and Heavy Remaster Preorders Go Live Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

rifflord preorders

Even as Rifflord made a triumphant debut on STB Records last year with their 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation LP (review here), the band not only acknowledged it had been a long time since their debut — as evidenced as well by the fact that it was a totally different lineup around founding guitarist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett — but that the first record was a hell of a legacy to live up to. Well, 26 Mean and Heavy is out there if you want to and can afford to chase it down, but STB Records is standing behind a one-time reissue of the album with preorders going up tomorrow and that seems to me to be a much more convenient option on the whole. The imprint based in my beloved Garden State has a knack for turning on-sale dates into events, and this one, it would seem, is no exception. Hey, good record, new master. I get it.

I was asked to write the PR for it, and yeah, I did. You’ll find that press release I wrote, some exclusive Rifflord pics from the era courtesy of the band, and a teaser video below:

RIFFLORD – 26 Mean & Heavy Preorders On Sale Dec. 7 @ 12PM EST

Mark your calendar, set your alarm — do whatever you have to do to be ready for Dec. 7 at 12PM EST, because once these are gone, they’re gone. New Jersey-based STB Records and Sioux Falls, South Dakota, amplifier worshipers Rifflord have aligned to remaster and reissue a one-time-only vinyl pressing of the band’s 2010 debut album, 26 Mean and Heavy.

And they mean it. It’s happening once.

Preorder here: https://smarturl.it/26-mean-and-heavy

Founding guitarist/vocalist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett brought in Mike Dresch of Cathouse Studios on the new master, and those who’ve tried for years to chase down original copies of 26 Mean and Heavy will find the sound refreshed and all the more vibrant in its delivery of weighted Southern-style groove, classic in form and gorgeous in its purpose.

“What’s interesting about this remaster is that the original audio files were a mix that wasn’t released on vinyl or digitally,” informs Bartlett. “It was supposed to be released and our guitarist and founding member Tom Davoux did a last-minute remix and master to it. So these haven’t been heard. Vocals and instruments are leveled out differently throughout the album. We had it remastered by Mike Dresch of Cathouse Studios specifically for vinyl.”

STB’s vinyl treatments have become the stuff of legend, and 26 Mean and Heavy will be given a full multi-edition run:

Die Hard Edition –
Limited Edition of 75 Units
Opaque Gold Vinyl
Remastered, Repackaged and comes with Chapter 1 of the RIFFLORD Story in book form.

Pinwheel Edition –
Limited Edition of 100
Black and Gold pinwheel style vinyl variant.
Remastered, Repackaged and comes with Chapter 1 of the RIFFLORD Story in book form.

Not So Standard Edition –
Limited Edition – 125
Black and Gold vinyl swirl variant
Remastered, Repackaged and comes with Chapter 1 of the RIFFLORD Story in book form.
25 Will be available via Kozmik Artifactz and 25 will be available via All That Is Heavy

As to the Rifflord story, Bartlett doesn’t give away too many details, but admits, “As people we were young, naive and pretty wild during this era. It was the Salad Days of RIFFLORD and I feel that rawness and sincerity really comes through on this record. It was recorded in a basement and took us over a year to record and mix it with primitive tools.

“The band has changed a lot over the years and continues to do so. The core idea though has always remained the same. Guitar worship, big amps, heavy organ and loud drums. We’ve been at this since 2007. On “26 mean and heavy” we had a truly special line up. Dan Nissen our drummer was a power house behind the kit and his brother Mike Nissen was a classically trained pianist on the organ. Dave Duffet was our bassist with somewhat of a legendary persona among the Midwest circle. Lastly Tom Davoux was the guitarist, producer, mixer and tracker of the album, truly a phenom.”

Rifflord followed 26 Mean and Heavy with the long-awaited 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation in 2018 (also on STB Records), but their debut has remained a sought-after piece for collectors and fans of righteous fuzz alike. With the album about to hit 10 years since its first release, this may be the last chance to get it, and rest assured, they’ll go in no time.

Dec. 7. Noon EST.

Rifflord is now:
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

https://www.facebook.com/rifflordusa/
https://www.instagram.com/rifflord/
https://rifflord.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/
https://www.instagram.com/stbrecords/
https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com/
https://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/

Rifflord, 26 Mean and Heavy reissue teaser

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Yatra Begin Next Round of US Tour Dates on Halloween

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

yatra (photo by JJ Koczan)

At this point, Baltimorean extreme-ish sludge three-piece Yatra tour with a frequency that makes one only hope they really get along as human beings in addition to, you know, being a good band. Otherwise, that’s an awful lot of time to spend together. With a new album in some stage of completion — mixed? mastered? in the can? at the press? promo just came down the PR wire? wouldn’t that be a fun coincidence of timing if it were true (it isn’t)? — and recently signed to STB Records for its release, the trio just wrapped a European stint that included stops at Desertfest Belgium, Into the Void, and Høstsabbat (review here), where both they and their tourmates in Polish prog-heavies Sunnata properly killed.

Not a group to rest on laurels or rest, period, Yatra will embark next week on a new round of touring, this time playing dates with — among others — StonecuttersDestroyer of Light and Black Tusk as they cut a pretty broad swath across the Midwest and Southeast. The tour isn’t actually all that long by the standard of some they’ve done, but looks like a pretty fair bit of geographical ground to cover in less than two weeks of every-night shows — a Nov. 4 TBD notwithstanding; someone better call Vegas Rock Revolution and get them on the case — while still saying South-centric. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were back out in January either, or if they snuck in a couple shows around the coming holidays. Because that’s how they do.

Hoping for actual release news soon about their record, but till then, here are the dates:

yatra tour

Alright ‘merica we are back inside you!…..

This lil U.S. tour starts next week! Playing with some rad bands in awesome places! Stoked to get back in the van again!

YATRA needs to fill one date on this tour! November 4th! Somewhere between SLC and Pheonix (thinking Vegas or Flagstaff)! Any booking help or info on shows we could hop on would be rad! Thanx!

Check it…..!

YATRA live:
10/31 Louisville KY Magbar
11/01 Witchita KS Barleycorns
11/02 Denver CO 7th Circle
11/03 Salt Lake City UH Urban Lounge
11/04 TBD
11/05 Phoenix AZ Yucca Tap Room
11/06 Taos NM Taos Mesa Brewery
11/07 Austin TX The Lost Well
11/08 Memphis TN B-Sides
11/09 Greenville SC Gottrocks
11/10 Baltimore MD Metro Gallery

YATRA:
Dana Helmuth – guitars/vocals
Maria Geisbert – bass
Mike Tull – drums

http://www.facebook.com/yatradoom
https://www.instagram.com/yatra_doom
https://yatradoom.bandcamp.com
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/

Yatra, Death Ritual (2019)

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Yatra Sign to STB Records for New Album Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

So, new Yatra in November, maybe? Feels late, but if they’re dead set on making two LPs happen in 2019 — their first, Death Ritual (discussed here), came out in January on Grimoire Records — it’s certainly plausible provided the vinyl is in production. Maybe even October? That feels like a run, as it’s already almost August, but that would align with Yatra‘s Obelisk-presented European tour with Sunnata starting Oct. 2, so that might make sense too. I’ll be curious to find out when an exact date surfaces. So far what we’ve got to go on is “before the end of the year.” Okeydokey.

Now then, it was pretty apparent given the response Yatra have thus far gotten from their studio work and their live show that someone was going to pick up their next release, and the only real question was who it would be. STB Records would seem to have won out this time around, and I’ve no doubt that the fanbase Yatra have quickly set about building will dig into the label’s “red carpet treatment,” as it’s called below, with an array of vinyl editions pressed, Obi strips, deluxe versions, test pressings and all that kind of good stuff. I’d be happy just to hear the thing for now, but given the hit-it-really-fucking-hard factor Yatra have put into play throughout 2019 to-date, they’ve earned that “treatment” and then some.

Kudos to the band and the label. Here’s the announcement and their currently scheduled shows:

yatra

YATRA – New Band Signing!!

STB Records is proud to announce and welcome YATRA to the STB Family! We are very excited to work together and we can not wait to release this new banger of an album to the fans, old and new!

If you have not checked Yatra out yet, click the link below and have your mind blown. Expect the full STB Records red carpet treatment for the new album expected to be released before the end of the year.

YATRA – “Death Ritual”

Next Yatra shows!!!:
8/10 – El Cortez – Brooklyn, NYC
8/29 – The Ottobar – Baltimore, MD
8/31 – Atlas – Washington, D.C.

SUNNATA & YATRA European tour:
02.10 – Dresden (DE) HD
03.10 – Copenhagen (DK) Stengade
04.10 – Oslo (NO) Hostsabbat Festival
06.10 – Uppsala (SE) Ungdomens Hus
09.10 – Cologne (DE) MTC
10.10 – Colmar (FR) Grillen
11.10 – Ilmenau (DE) Baracke 5
12.10 – Berlin (DE) Setalight Festival
16.10 – Munich (DE) Backstage
17.10 – Paris (FR) L’International
18.10 – Antwerp (BE) Desertfest Belgium
19.10 – Leeuwarden (NL) Into The Void

YATRA:
Dana Helmuth – guitars/vocals
Maria Geisbert – bass
Mike Tull – drums

http://www.facebook.com/yatradoom
https://www.instagram.com/yatra_doom
https://yatradoom.bandcamp.com
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/

Yatra, Death Ritual (2019)

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Rifflord Release 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation on CD Through Salt of the Earth Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rifflord

Just a quick plug here for a cool band doing good stuff. Rifflord from South Dakota released their second album, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation (review here), on vinyl this month through STB Records, and they’ve also signed to Salt of the Earth Records for the CD issue, which, as it happens, is also out now. Nothing like efficiency. If you’re really the pick-your-media or the gotta-catch-’em-all type, there are also tapes available from Tescio Dischi in ultra-limited fashion, the deluxe edition long since gone. But for those of us who enjoy a straightforward piece of plastic, there’s still nothing quite like a compact disc to get the job done, and as I know I’m not the only loyalist to the format — nothing against vinyl — I figured it was worth sharing the news.

You’ll note Salt of the Earth says below that it’s signed the band. I’m not sure if that means for future releases as well, but I guess we’ll find out. Either way, good record, good fit, so all the better. From the PR wire:

rifflord salt of the earth

SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS is proud as all hell to announce the signing of the mighty RIFFLORD.

In an unholy alliance between STB Records and Salt Of The Earth Records,

RIFFLORD “7 Cremation Ground / Meditation” is now available in all glorious formats. So twist a fatty… and burn, burn, burn!

And do you know what makes this announcement all the sweeter?!

The RIFFLORD “7 Cremation Ground / Meditation” cds are in stock NOW!!

No wait.

We are psyched to be offering up RIFFLORDs brand new collection of heavy ass tunes on Compact Disc… thus making it very easy to blast RIFFLORD “7 Cremation Ground / Meditation“ very loudly in Vans, Camaros, El Caminos and in most underground lairs.

Seriously though, you HAVE to check this RIFFLORD album out, it’s a collection of songs that are very easy to lose yourself in…This is one hell of an infectious album.

Rifflord is:
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

https://www.facebook.com/rifflordusa/
https://www.instagram.com/rifflord/
https://rifflord.com/
www.facebook.com/SaltOfTheEarthRec
www.saltoftheearthrecords.com
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/
https://teschiodischi.bandcamp.com/

Rifflord, “The Other Side” official video

Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation (2018)

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Rifflord Premiere “The Other Side” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rifflord

Playing before a monolithic wall of citrus-hued amps and cabinets, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, five-piece Rifflord give a taste of their tonal-worship vibes and catchy songcraft in their new video for “The Other Side,” an early cut from their forthcoming second album, 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation, which is no less at home tapping into David Eugene Edwards-style Americana than it is digging into High on Fire gallop or Electric Wizard riffing with Fu Manchu-esque vocals. By the time “Seven” has made its way into “Dead Flower Child” — note the veer into Sabbath‘s “Hand of Doom” in the latter — and “The Other Side” itself, there’s no question why STB Records would pick them up for the vinyl. Shit, somebody was bound to do it.

Rifflord work quickly across the album, almost deceptively so. To wit, “The Other Side” is one of only three out of the total 13 tracks to top four minutes in runtime, and other pieces like the 2:16 “BB Gun” is a sharp boogie that takes the murderousness out of its Rifflord 7 Cremation Ground-Meditationunderlying prairie feel, while “Lucid Trip” brings together acoustic guitar and underlying keyboard/voice drones that lead into the charging second half of the album with the immediacy of “Poison Mother,” a vocal change bringing keyboardist Tory Jean Stoddard into the foreground with guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett stepping back after the more aggro chug of album centerpiece “Transcendental Medication.” Momentum is swiftly built and rigorously maintained throughout, but the songs themselves don’t feel rushed in either their composition or delivery. The keys help flesh out the melodic presence of the vocals and Bartlett and Paul Pinos‘ guitars, while bassist Matthew Mcfarland and drummer Tommy Middlen carry through the molasses-thick tones with a sense of movement that continues even into the lumbering “Electric Grave” — as opposed to, yes, an “Electric Funeral” — or the aptly-named “The Riffman Cometh,” which is a cold-ending celebration of all things heavy rock, doom and otherwise Iommic.

The blend of Western and heavy principles on “Dead Flower Child” or “Coyote Fodder” and “Holy Roller” early on adds depth to the personality of 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation — the number in the title is still something of a mystery and I suspect that’s intentional — and as the closing pair of “Hou Dou Vou Dou” and “Thunder Rider” present the record’s most fervent boogie and a corresponding shove to respond to that of “Transcendental Medication” earlier, the variety in Rifflord‘s songwriting would seem to undercut their moniker. That is, they’re by no means simply a “riff band.” Certainly riffs are a factor, but the roles they play throughout the material run in different if still cohesive directions, and the organ and other key sounds throughout come off as no less of a focus. ‘Keylord’ or ‘Choruslord’ wouldn’t necessarily make for a great band name, but the point is don’t go into “The Other Side” thinking it’s just about the riffs, because there’s a lot more to Rifflord, and a lot more to 7 Cremation Chant / Meditation, than might at first be implied.

PR wire with vinyl info, preorder link, etc., follows the video below.

Please enjoy:

Rifflord, “The Other Side” official video premiere

Battle-scarred heavy rockers RIFFLORD are set to release their second album, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, via STB Records in the coming weeks. This follow-up to their self-released 2010 debut 26 Mean and Heavy is the product of mushroom-induced brawls, dashed expectations, and a band that’s coming back stronger than it ever was before.

RIFFLORD was founded in 2007 by vocalist/guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett and guitarist Tom Davoux after discovering a love affair the two had with vintage tube amps, Hammond organs, and tinnitus-inducing volume. Today RIFFLORD is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reanimated by Bronc and a wall of Orange amps. Bronc says of the band’s music and journey:

Some things are the result of calculated decision making. Other things drag you face down through the dirt by virtue of their own momenta. RIFFLORD, for me, has been a combination of both. The album […] is a visceral product of struggle, mottled with the fingerprints of both terrible and glorious human beings. It is the sound of countless trips across rural South Dakota and hours of refinement in one studio session after another. The album was mixed five separate times, and remastered three. It is the true and living testament of the Riff. Thank you for waiting.

7 Cremation Ground / Meditation will be released digitally on November 27th, 2018 with a variety of personalized vinyl options coming out on December 1st.

https://stbrecords.bandcamp.com/album/7-cremation-ground-meditation

Vinyl Pressing Information
-Test Press: Limited to 15. Comes with a Handmade leather LP jacket hand whip stitched and branded by Wyatt Bronc Bartlett of RIFFLORD
-Die Hard Edition: Limited to 100 units on black smoke and transparent brown vinyl comes with a special high-density high-quality LP jacket that is foil stamped with “die hard edition” as well as some other foil stamping and Spot UV upgrades on the jacket. Each die hard edition also comes with Special edition band specific tarot cards exclusive only to the die hard pressing. Exclusive booklet with “The Story Of Rifflord” and Picture outtakes.
-OBI Series: Limited to 100 units hand numbered alternate art work spine wrapped OBI strip. Vinyl is a clear base with silver center and brown and white splatter. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.
-Not So Standard Edition: Limited to 150 units on white and brown swirl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.
-Band Edition / Distro: Limited to 150 Units on Cloudy White vinyl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Rifflord is:
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

Rifflord on Thee Facebooks

Rifflord on Instagram

Rifflord website

STB Records BigCartel store

STB Records on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records website

Salt of the Earth Records on Bandcamp

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Rifflord to Release 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation Dec. 1 on STB Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

rifflord

I was trying to think about why South Dakota’s Rifflord might have such a thing for numbers in their titles. Their 2015 debut was 26 Mean and Heavy, and 26 is two times 13, a number with a long connection to weed culture, ‘m’ being the 13th letter of the alphabet, etc. So either they’re twice stoned or they’re doubling down on their dedication. Maybe it works out to be the same. Their new album, which will be released on Dec. 1 through respected purveyor STB Records, is 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, is a little harder to figure out. Seven is a prime number, which in itself is something special, and the band was founded in 2007, but if there’s some mysticism at work, it’s too obscure for my unresearching ass.

Either way, the band’s focus seems way more on gear, so maybe that’s how many tubes they blew out while recording. Whatever the motivation, I doubt much of anything will distract them from their main riffy purposes, so while it might be a point of curiosity, it’s ultimately tertiary to the album itself, which is fuzzed to the hilt and rolling forth with a digital release later this month.

The PR wire has details:

Rifflord-7-Cremation-Ground-Meditation

RIFFLORD – 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation – STB Records

1 December 2018

Battle-scarred stoner rockers RIFFLORD are set to release their second album, 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation, via STB Records in the coming weeks. This follow-up to their self-released 2010 debut 26 Mean and Heavy is the product of mushroom-induced brawls, dashed expectations, and a band that’s coming back stronger than it ever was before.

RIFFLORD was founded in 2007 by vocalist and guitarist Wyatt Bronc Bartlett and his friend Mike Hutchins, known as “Hutch” in the band’s lore, after they accidentally snorted meth at a basement party. Over the course of a decade, the band’s location, priorities, and lineup changed many times. One thing, however, remained constant: the love of the all mighty RIFF.

Today RIFFLORD is based in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, reanimated by Bronc and a wall of Orange amps. Bronc says of the band’s music and journey:

Some things are the result of calculated decision making. Other things drag you face down through the dirt by virtue of their own momenta. RIFFLORD, for me, has been a combination of both. The album 7 Cremation Ground / Meditation is a visceral product of struggle, mottled with the fingerprints of both terrible and glorious human beings. It is the sound of countless trips across rural South Dakota and hours of refinement in one studio session after another. The album was mixed five separate times, and remastered three. It is the true and living testament of the Riff. Thank you for waiting.

7 Cremation Ground / Meditation will be released digitally on November 27th, 2018 with a variety of personalized vinyl options coming out on December 1st.

Vinyl Pressing Information

Test Press: Limited to 15. Comes with a Handmade leather LP jacket hand whip stitched and branded by Wyatt Bronc Bartlett of RIFFLORD

Die Hard Edition: Limited to 100 units on black smoke and transparent brown vinyl comes with a special high-density high-quality LP jacket that is foil stamped with “die hard edition” as well as some other foil stamping and Spot UV upgrades on the jacket. Each die hard edition also comes with Special edition band specific tarot cards exclusive only to the die hard pressing. Exclusive booklet with “The Story Of Rifflord” and Picture outtakes.

OBI Series: Limited to 100 units hand numbered alternate art work spine wrapped OBI strip. Vinyl is a clear base with silver center and brown and white splatter. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Not So Standard Edition: Limited to 150 units on white and brown swirl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Band Edition / Distro: Limited to 150 Units on Cloudy White vinyl. Jacket comes with floor UV effects.

Band Members
Lead Guitar and Vocals: Wyatt Bronc Bartlett
Guitar: Paul Pinos
Bass: Matthew Mcfarland
Keys: Tory Jean Stoddard
Drums: Tommy Middlen

https://www.facebook.com/rifflordusa/
https://www.instagram.com/rifflord/
https://rifflord.com/
http://stbrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/STB-Records-471228012921184/

Rifflord, 26 Mean & Heavy (2015)

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Geezer Working on New Album; Announce Drummer Change

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

One tries not to read omens at the start of a year, but doesn’t the prospect of a new Geezer record in 2018 sound pretty awesome? The New York-based heavy psych blues trio made it almost too easy to get greedy after issuing Psychoriffadelia (review here) last year on such a quick turnaround from their 2016 self-titled (review here), so how can I really be blamed if I take the word from guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington below that new material is in the works as a sign that something new could be out before 2018 is done. He floats the second half of the year as a possibility. That’s good enough for me.

Whenever it arrives, the next Geezer will mark the debut of new drummer Steve Markota alongside Harrington and bassist Richie Touseull. Markota hit the road with the band last Fall and they’ve been putting new songs together since. Hopefully by the time they get around to playing Maryland Doom Fest in June — which I’m very much hoping to attend this year — they’ll have some stuff ready for the stage. Fingers crossed on that one. In the meantime, they’ve got an Obelisk-presented gig Jan. 10 at Saint Vitus Bar with Sun VoyagerThe Hazytones and Heavy Traffic. Damn that’s a good lineup.

Here’s what the band has to say:

geezer

We hooked up with local heavy hitting drummer and all around cool cat, Steve Markota (Grape and the Grain, Nightmares for a Week) a few months ago to do the Doomed & Stoned Festival and September’s Ode To Doom in NYC. The three of us gelled pretty quickly. Once our gigging commitments were over, we started jamming and eventually songs started to take shape. Currently, we have three songs that we are actively working on and it feels like we are just scratching the surface to what this lineup can do. The music is what I would call “bombastically heavy & groovy” and we are really taking our time to flush out arrangements, fine tune riffs, etc. The process is shaping up to be much like what we did with the self-titled album.

We are playing a bunch of US festivals next year (Maryland Doom Festival, Descendants of Crom, and other as-yet-to-be-announced festivals), so we want to have new material up and running in time for these gigs. I have no idea what shape any future releases will take, however, knowing us, I’ll guess we’ll have something out during the second half of 2018.

In the meantime, we are stoked to be jumping onto The Hazytones tour for a gig on January 10th with Sun Voyager and Heavy Traffic at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, as well as playing the local CD release party for our brothers in Shadow Witch at The Anchor in Kingston on January 27th.

Geezer is:
Pat Harrington – Guitar, Vocals
Richie Touseull – Bass
Steve Markota – Drums

Live photo by Johnny Hubbard.

https://igg.me/at/xxo6XcM2mD4/x/16460786
https://www.facebook.com/geezerNY/
http://geezertown.bandcamp.com/

Geezer, Psychoriffadelia (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

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

top-30-of-2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

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

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

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

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

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

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

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

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

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

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

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

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

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

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

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

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

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

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

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

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

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

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

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

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

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

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

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

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

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

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

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

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

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

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

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

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

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

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

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

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

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

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

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

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

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

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

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

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

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

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

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

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

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

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

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

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

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

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

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

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

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

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

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

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

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You

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

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

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

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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