The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

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There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists Professional custom writing service offers http://www.ernaehrung-krebs-tzm.de/?symbiosis-assignmentss, term papers, research papers, thesis papers, reports, reviews, speeches and dissertations of High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Writing different essays is an indispensable component of the academic procedure. Topessaywriting Org In the nursing training course, you may have problems with important essays, annotated bibliographies, literary works testimonials, as well as other projects. Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for High-quality English Essay About Christmass by PhDs available 24/7 with same-day delivery option. Enago provides medical proofreading, scientific Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard http://dubhosting.co.uk/essay-writer-in-georgia/s: Over 180,000 Helping Others Essays, Helping Others Term Papers, Helping Others Research Paper, Book Reports. 184 990 ESSAYS, term Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

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27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

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26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

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

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

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

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

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

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

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

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

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

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

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

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

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

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

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

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

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

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

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

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

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

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

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

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

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

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

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

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

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

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

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

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

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

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

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

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

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

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

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

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

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

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

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

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

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

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

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

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

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

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

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

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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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

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

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

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

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to 2021

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

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

Thank You

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

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

More to come.

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Quarterly Review: Across Tundras, Motorpsycho, Dark Buddha Rising, Vine Weevil, King Chiefs, Battle Hag, Hyde, Faith in Jane, American Dharma, Hypernaut

Posted in Reviews on December 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Just to reiterate, I decided to do this Quarterly Review before making my year-end list because I felt like there was stuff I needed to hear that I hadn’t dug into. Here we are, 70 records later, and that’s still the case. My desktop is somewhat less cluttered than it was when I started out, but there’s still plenty of other albums, EPs, and so on I could and probably should be covering. It’s frustrating and encouraging at the same time, I guess. Fruscouraging. Life’s too short for the international boom of underground creativity.

Anyway, thanks for taking this ride if you did. It is always appreciated.

Quarterly Review #61-70:

Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush

Across Tundras The Last Days of a Silver Rush

Issued as part of a late-2020 splurge by Tanner Olson and Across Tundras that has also resulted in the full-length LOESS – LÖSS (review here), as well as three lost-tracks compilations called Selected Sonic Rituals, an experimental Western drone record issued under the banner of Edward Outlander, and an EP and three singles (two collaborative) from Olson solo, The Last Days of a Silver Rush offers subdued complement to the more band-oriented LOESS – LÖSS, with an acoustic-folk foundation much more reminiscent of Olson‘s solo outings than the twang-infused progressive heavy rock for which Across Tundras are known. Indeed, though arrangements are fleshed out with samples and the electrified spaciousness of “The Prodigal Children of the God of War,” the only other contributor here is Ben Schriever on vocals and there are no drums to be found tying down the sweet strums and far-off melodies present. Could well be Olson bridging the gap between one modus (the band) and another (solo), and if so, fine. One way or the other it’s a strong batch of songs in the drifting western aesthetic he’s established. There’s nothing to say the next record will be the same or will be different. That’s why it’s fun.

Across Tundras on Bandcamp

Eagle Stone Collective on Bandcamp

 

Motorpsycho, The All is One

motorpsycho the all is one

What could possibly be left to say about the brilliance of Trondheim, Norway’s Motorpsycho? One only wishes that The All is One could be blasted into place on a pressed gold vinyl so that any aliens who might encounter it could know that humanity isn’t just all cruelty, plagues and indifference. The prolific heavy prog kingpins’ latest is 84 willfully-unmanageable minutes of graceful and gracious, hyperbole-ready sprawl, tapping into dynamic changes and arrangement depth that is both classic in character and still decidedly forward-thinking. An early rocker “The Same Old Rock (One Must Imagine Sisyphus Happy)” and the shuffling “The Magpie” give way after the opener to the quiet “Delusion (The Reign of Humbug)” and the multi-stage “N.O.X.,” which unfolds in five parts, could easily have been an album on its own, and caps with a frenetic mania that is only off-putting because of how controlled it ultimately is. Then they throw in a couple experimental pieces after that between the nine-minute “Dreams of Fancy” and the mellow-vibing “Like Chrome.” Someday archaeologists will dig up the fossils of this civilization and wonder what gods this sect worshipped. Do they have three more records out yet? Probably.

Motorpsycho website

Stickman Records website

 

Dark Buddha Rising, Mathreyata

Dark Buddha Rising Mathreyata

From out of the weirdo hotbed that is Tampere, Finland, Dark Buddha Rising reemerge from the swirling ether with new lessons in black magique for anyone brave enough to be schooled. Mathreyata follows 2018’s II EP but is the band’s first full-length since 2015’s Inversum (review here), and from the initial cosmically expansive lurch of “Sunyaga” through the synth-laced atmosludge roll of “Nagathma” and the seven-minute build-to-abrasion that is “Uni” and the guess-what-now-that-abrasion-pays-off beginning of 15-minute closer “Mahatgata III,” which, yes, hits into some New Wavy guitar just before exploding just after nine minutes in, the band make a ritual pyre of expectation, genre and what one would commonly think of as psychedelia. Some acts are just on their own level, and while Dark Buddha Rising will always be too extreme for some and not everyone’s going to get it, their growing cult can only continue to be enthralled by what they accomplish here.

Dark Buddha Rising on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Vine Weevil, Sun in Your Eyes

vine weevil sun in your eyes

Together, brothers Yotam and Itamar Rubinger — guitar/vocals and drums, respectively — comprise London’s Vine Weevil. Issued early in 2020 preceded by a video for “You are the Ocean” (posted here), Sun in Your Eyes is the second album from the brothers, who are also both former members of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and in the watery title-track and the Beatles-circa-Revolver bounce of “Loose Canon” they bask in a folkish ’60s-style psychedelia, mellotron melodies adding to the classic atmosphere tipped with just an edge of Ween-style weirdness — it’s never so druggy, but that undercurrent is there. “You are the Ocean” hints toward heavy garage, but the acoustic/electric sentimentality of “My Friend” and the patient piano unfurling of “Lord of Flies” ahead of organ-led closer “The Shadow” are more indicative overall of the scope of this engaging, heartfelt and wistful 31-minute offering.

Vine Weevil on Thee Facebooks

Vine Weevil on Bandcamp

 

King Chiefs, Flying into Void

king chiefs flying into void

Since before their coronation — when they were just Chiefs — the greatest strength of San Diego heavy rockers King Chiefs has been their songwriting. They’ve never been an especially flashy band on a technical level, never over the top either direction tempo-wise, but they can write a melody, craft a feel in a three-or-four-minute track and tell any story they want to tell in that time in a way that leaves the listener satisfied. This is not a skill to be overlooked, and though on Flying into Void, the follow-up to 2018’s Blue Sonnet (review here), the album is almost entirely done by guitarist/vocalist Paul ValleJeff Podeszwik adds guitar as well — the energy, spirit and craft that typify King Chiefs‘ work is maintained. Quality heavy built on a foundation of grunge — a ’90s influence acknowledged in the cover art; dig that Super Nintendo — it comes with a full-band feel despite its mostly-solo nature and delivers 37 minutes of absolutely-pretense-free, clearheaded rock and roll. If you can’t get down with that, one seriously doubts that’ll stop King Chiefs anyhow.

King Chiefs on Thee Facebooks

King Chiefs webstore

 

Battle Hag, Celestial Tyrant

battle hag celestial tyrant

How doomed is Battle Hag‘s doom? Well, on Celestial Tyrant, it’s pretty damn doomed. The second long-player from the Sacramento, California-based outfit is comprised of three worth-calling-slabs slabs that run in succession from shortest to longest: “Eleusinian Sacrament” (12:47), “Talus” (13:12) and “Red Giant” (19:15), running a total of 45 minutes. Why yes, it is massive as fuck. The opener brings the first round of lurch and is just a little too filthy to be pure death-doom, despite the rainstorm cued in at its last minute, but “Talus” picks up gradually, hard-hit toms signaling the plod to come with the arrival of the central riff, which shows up sooner or later. Does the timestamp matter as much as the feeling of having your chest caved in? “Talus” hits into a speedier progression as it crosses over its second half, but it’s still raw vocally, and the plod returns at the end — gloriously. At 19 minutes “Red Giant” is also the most dynamic of the three cuts, dropping after its up-front lumber and faster solo section into a quiet stretch before spending the remaining eight minutes devoted to grueling extremity and devolution to low static noise. There’s just enough sludge here to position Battle Hag in a niche between microgenres, and the individuality that results is as weighted as their tones.

Battle Hag on Thee Facebooks

Transylvanian Tapes on Bandcamp

 

Hyde, Hyde

hyde hyde

It might take a few listens to sink in — and hey, it might not — but Parisian trio Hyde are up to some deceptively intricate shenanigans on their self-titled debut LP. On their face, a riff like that of second cut “Black Phillip” or “DWAGB” — on which The Big Lebowski is sampled — aren’t revolutionary, but the atmospheric purpose to which they’re being put is more brooding than the band give themselves credit for. They call it desert-influenced, but languid tempos, gruff vocals coated in echo, spacious guitar and rhythmic largesse all come together to give Hyde‘s Hyde a darker, brooding atmosphere than it might at first seem, and even opener “The Victim” and the penultimate “The Barber of Pitlochry” — the only two songs under five minutes long — manage to dig into this vibe. Of course, the 11-minute closing eponymous track — that is, “Hyde,” by Hyde, on Hyde — goes even further, finding its way into psychedelic meandering after its chugging launch rings out, only to roll heavy in its last push, ending with start-stop thud and a long fade. Worth the effort of engaging on its own level, Hyde‘s first full-length heralds even further growth going forward.

Hyde on Thee Facebooks

Hyde on Bandcamp

 

Faith in Jane, Mother to Earth

Faith in Jane Mother to Earth

Maryland’s best kept secret in heavy rock remain wildly undervalued, but that doesn’t stop power trio Faith in Jane from exploring cosmic existentialism on Mother to Earth even as they likewise broaden the expanse of their grooving, bluesy dynamic. “The Circle” opens in passionate form followed by the crawling launch of “Gone are the Days,” and whether it’s the tempest brought to bear in the instrumental “Weight of a Dream” or the light-stepping jam in the middle of the title-track, the soaring solo from guitarist/vocalist Dan Mize on the subsequent “Nature’s Daughter” or the creeper-chug on “Universal Mind,” the cello guest spot on “Lonesome” and the homage to a party unknown (Chesapeake heavy has had its losses these last few years, to say nothing of anyone’s personal experience) in closer “We’ll Be Missing You,” Mize, bassist Brendan Winston and drummer Alex Llewellyn put on a clinic in vibrancy and showcase the classic-style chemistry that’s made them a treasure of their scene. I still say they need to tour for three years and not look back, but if it’s 56 minutes of new material instead, things could be far worse.

Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks

Faith in Jane on Bandcamp

 

American Dharma, Cosmosis

American Dharma COSMOSIS

Newcomer four-piece American Dharma want nothing for ambition on their 70-minute debut, Cosmosis, bringing together progressive heavy rock, punk and doom, grunge and hardcore punk, but the Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, outfit are somewhat held back by a rawness of production pulling back from the spaces the songs might otherwise create. A bona fide preach at the outset of “Damaged Coda” is a break early on, but the guitars and bass want low end throughout much of the 14-song proceedings, and the vocals cut through with no problem but are mostly dry even when layered or show the presence of a guest, as on closer “You.” Actually, if you told me the whole thing was recorded live and intended as a live album, I’d believe it, but for a unit who do so well in pulling together elements of different styles in their songwriting and appear to have so much to say, their proggier leanings get lost when they might otherwise be highlighted. Now, it’s a self-released debut coming out during a global pandemic, so there’s context worth remembering, but for as much reach as American Dharma show in their songs, their presentation needs to move into alignment with that.

American Dharma on Thee Facebooks

American Dharma on Bandcamp

 

Hypernaut, Ozymandias

hypernaut ozymandias

Call it a burner, call it a corker, call it whatever you want, I seriously doubt Lima, Peru’s Hypernaut are sticking around to find out how you tag their debut album, Ozymandias. The nine-song/38-minute release pulls from punk with some of its forward-thrusting verses like “(This Is Where I) Draw the Line” or “Cynicism is Self-Harm,” but there’s metal there and in the closing title-cut as well that remains part of the atmosphere no matter how brash it might otherwise get. Spacey melodies, Sabbathian roll on “Multiverse… Battleworld” (“Hole in the Sky” walks by and waves), and a nigh-on-Devo quirk in the rhythm of “Atomic Breath” all bring to mind Iowan outliers Bloodcow, but that’s more likely sonic coincidence than direct influence, and one way or the other, Hypernaut‘s “Ozymandias” sets up a multifaceted push all through its span to its maddening, hypnotic finish, but the real danger of the thing is what this band might do if they continue on this trajectory for a few more records.

Hypernaut on Thee Facebooks

Hypernaut on Bandcamp

 

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Green Lung Finish Recording New Album; UK Tour Set for May

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

On to mixing for London cult heavy upstarts Green Lung, who’ll make their debut next year on Svart Records with their new LP. The awaited follow-up to their 2019 first long-player, Woodland Rites (review here), was recorded at Giant Wafer Studios and as I understand it still needs to have a completed mix and master, but all the parts are laid down and when it comes to making records that’s a pretty big deal. No sign of a release date yet, of course, but with what should’ve been a headlining UK tour for this past May rescheduled to May 2021, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that with mixing starting this week they’d be able to have it all wrapped, pressed and ready to roll by April.

And of course, who the hell knows what the world will look like come next May, but I’m willing for the moment to err on the side of optimism as a side-effect of looking forward to the album itself. Whatever it takes at this point.

The band confirmed the completed recording process on social media:

green lung (Photo by Ester Segarra Photography)

That’s a wrap! Album II is in the bag and we’re headed back to London. Eternal thanks to Bear Bites Horse Studio for doing an incredible job of recording and mixing (and somehow managing to put up with us for a fortnight), and to Ed at Giant Wafer for the use of the studio – we couldn’t imagine a more inspiring setting to record in.

Can’t wait for you all to hear it next year via Svart Records.

Green Lung tour May 2021:
21.05.21 Birmingham The Asylum Venue
22.05.21 Manchester The Bread Shed Manchester
23.05.21 Nottingham Rough Trade Nottingham
24.05.21 Sheffield Corporation Sheffield
25.05.21 Glasgow Ivory Blacks
26.05.21 Newcastle Trillians Newcastle
27.05.21 Milton Keynes The Craufurd Arms (Live Music Venue)
28.05.21 Cardiff Clwb Ifor Bach
29.05.21 Bristol Exchange
30.05.21 Norwich The Waterfront Norwich

https://www.songkick.com/artists/9178639-green-lung/calendar

GREEN LUNG is:
Tom Templar – Vocals
Scott Masson – Guitar
Andrew Cave – Bass
Matt Wiseman – Drums
John Wright – Organ

https://www.facebook.com/greenlungband
https://www.instagram.com/greenlungband/
http://www.greenlung.co.uk/
https://greenlung.bandcamp.com/
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords

Green Lung, Woodland Rites (2019)

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Dark Buddha Rising Post “Sunyaga” Video; Mathreyata out Nov. 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Like few bands out there right now, Finland’s Dark Buddha Rising actively sound like their music is trying to eat you. Their new album, Mathreyata, was hinted toward way back in March as the seams in the fabric of the world were just starting to get stretched wider, but though the original October release date has passed, Svart will have it out on Nov. 13 and that’s as good a time as any for the end of all things to meet its soundtrack. The band put out their 2018 II EP on Neurot and and Mathreyata is their first full-length since 2015’s Inversum (review here). Normally I’d call five years between LPs a long stretch, but for Dark Buddha Rising, that’s about right when it comes to needing recovery time in between.

If you’ve got 13 minutes and a soul to kill, they’re streaming a video for the lead single “Sunyaga” now that is little short of pure shamanic destruction. Partake.

Via the PR wire:

Dark Buddha Rising Mathreyata

Dark Buddha Rising unveil their seventh album, Mathreyata on Friday the 13th of November 2020 via Svart Records

Video for first single “Sunyaga” revealed.

Finnish “dark underlords of psychedelic drone” Dark Buddha Rising return with their heaviest and darkest record yet.

V. Ajomo from Dark Buddha Rising states:

“Mathreyata follows the visions that were received from Inversum’s implosion and is the accession of what we invoked with the II EP. Before completing the great circle, all cycles must be dissolved. In the end we are standing at the edge of the abyss with all our previous work as weights, impatient to dive in. We recorded the basis of the album just before the Waste of Space Orchestra project began and mostly because of that, it took a few years to get it finished. Finally the material that we have performed live for several years can be experienced as a recorded album.”

Dark Buddha Rising’s abyssic and meditative sonic-void has been opening up over the last 10 years to swallow more and more devotees in their wake. Since their inception in 2007, with their first four albums being highly-coveted, sold-out private pressings, to subsequent Svart Records reissues, to their burgeoning fifth album Dakhmandal, Dark Buddha Rising have been shining like a black diamond for those that go mining for the real thing. Embraced into Neurosis’ Neurot Records fraternity, with 2015’s critically acclaimed sixth album Inversum, Tampere-based psychonauts, Dark Buddha Rising have captivated the collective consciousness of the heavy underground and achieved cult-legend status.

2019’s climactic and highly praised Waste Of Space Orchestra collaboration with local kindred spirits Oranssi Pazuzu at Roadburn Festival, put Dark Buddha Rising’s Wastement home studio: “the asylum of eternal feedback,” firmly on the International music world map and into the hearts of the pitch-black psych-rock underworld. Gathering a throng of newly devoted adherents who worship at the altar of their churning vortex, Dark Buddha Rising’s live shows are a transformative experience that are religiously revered by audiences across Europe. To put words into what Dark Buddha Rising does to the listening audience is to describe the band surrendering fully to the intuition and primal instincts as altered states of mind.

Prepare your mind and body for an initiation into the dark arts of Mathreyata on Friday the 13th of November 2020. Dark Buddha Rising have channeled a work for dark spirits and those who seek to travel beyond the unknown.

Mathreyata features inlay artwork by Adam Burke. “Sunyaga” video by Dehn Sora.

First single “Sunyaga” drops on the 9th of October 2020. Mathreyata album on Friday the 13th of November 2020.

Pre-order here: https://svartrecords.com/product/darkbuddharising-mathreyata-album/

http://www.darkbuddharising.com
http://www.facebook.com/dbrising
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
https://www.instagram.com/svartrecords/
https://svartrecords.bandcamp.com/
www.svartrecords.com

Dark Buddha Rising, “Sunyaga” official video

Dark Buddha Rising, II EP (2018)

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Quarterly Review: The Pilgrim, Polymoon, Doctors of Space, Merlock, Sun Dial, Saturn’s Husk, Diggeth, Horizon, Limousine Beach, The Crooked Whispers

Posted in Reviews on October 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Well, the weekend’s over and it’s time to wrap up the Quarterly Review. Rest assured, I wrote the following during my copious weekend leisure time, resting on the side of a heated Olympic-size pool with a beverage nearby. It definitely wasn’t four in the morning on a Sunday or anything. If I haven’t gotten the point across yet, I hope you’ve found something amid this massive swath of records that has resonated with you. By way of a cheap plug, I’ll be featuring audio from a lot of these bands on the Gimme Metal show this Friday, 5PM Eastern, if you’re up for tuning in.

Either way, thanks for reading and for being a part of the whole thing. Let’s wrap it up.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back

the pilgrim from the earth to the sky and back

Lest he be accused of laziness, Gabriele Fiori — also of Black Rainbows, Killer Boogie and the head of the Heavy Psych Sounds label, booking agency and festival series — made his solo debut as The Pilgrim with Spring 2019’s Walking into the Forest (review here). Joined by Black Rainbows drummer Filippo Ragazzoni, Fiori ups the scale of the journey with the second The Pilgrim LP, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back. Richer in arrangement, bolder in craft and more confident in performance, the album runs 14 songs and 50 minutes still largely based around an acoustic acid rock foundation, but with a song like “Riding the Horse” tapping ’70s singer-songwriter vibes while “Cuba” touches on Latin percussion and guitar and “Space and Time” journeying out near the record’s end with waves of synthesizer, it seems The Pilgrim isn’t so willing to be pigeonholed. So much the better.

The Pilgrim on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

There is an undercurrent of extremity to the debut release from Polymoon, who hail from the psychedelic hotbed that is Tampere, Finland. The six-song/42-minute Caterpillars of Creation turns in opener “Silver Mt.” to fervent guitar push or from freaked-out cosmic prog into drifting post-universe exploration, setting the stage for the dynamic that unfolds throughout. The wash early in the second half of “Lazaward” is glorious, and it’s not the first or the last time Polymoon go to that adrenaline-pumping well, but the serenity that caps that song and seems to continue into “Malamalama” in closing side A is no less effective. “Helicaling” mounts tension in its early drumming but finally releases it later, and “Neitherworld” gives Caterpillars of Creation‘s most fervent thrust while closer “Metempsychosis” rounds out with a fitting sense of dissipation. As a first album/first release, it is particularly stunning, and to make it as plain as possible, I will think less of any list of 2020’s best debut albums that leaves out Polymoon.

Polymoon on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records website

 

Doctors of Space, First Treatment

doctors of space first treatment

The two-piece comprised of Martin Weaver (ex-Wicked Lady) and synthesist Scott “Dr. Space” Heller (Øresund Space Collective, Black Moon Circle, etc.) position First Treatment as their proper studio debut, and it certainly hits its marks in galaxial adventuring well enough to qualify as such, but the duo have been on a creative splurge throughout this year — even in lockdown — and so the six songs here are also born out of the work they’ve been doing since releasing their debut single “Ghouls ‘n’ Shit” (video premiere here) late last year. The album launches with “Journey to Enceladus,” which boasts drum programming by Weaver and though one of the movements in the 21-minute “Into the Oort Cloud” is based around beats, the bulk of First Treatment is purely a work of guitar and synth, and it basks in the freedom that being so untethered inherently brings. Running an hour long, it’s improvisational nature isn’t going to be for everyone, but Heller and Weaver make a strong argument that maybe it should be.

Doctors of Space on Thee Facebooks

Space Rock Productions website

 

Merlock, That Which Speaks

merlock that which speaks

Who’s ready for a New Wave of PNW Fuckery? That’s right folks, the NWOPNWF has arrived and it’s Spokane, Washington’s Merlock leading the sometimes-awfully-punk-sometimes-awfully-metal-but-somehow-also-always-sludge charge. Aggressive and damning in lyrics, swapping between raw screams, grows, shouts and cleaner vocals and unhinged in terms of its genre loyalties, That Which Speaks seems to find the “melt faces” setting wherever it goes, and though there’s a sense of the four-piece feeling out what works best for them stylistically, the sometimes frantic, sometimes willfully awkward transitions — as in second cut “Prolapse” — serve the overall purpose of undercutting predictability. Eight-minute opener/longest track (immediate points) “Idolon” stomps and shoves and gnashes and nasties its way through, and that’s the modus across what follows, though the scream-along headbanger “Vessel” somehow seems even rawer, and though it ends by floating into oblivion, the start of “Condemnation” heavy fuckin’ metal to me. You never know quite where Merlock are going to hit next, and that’s the joy of the thing. May they remain so cacophonous.

Merlock on Thee Facebooks

Merlock on Bandcamp

 

Sun Dial, Mind Control: The Ultimate Edition

sun dial mind control

Long-running UK psychedelic rockers Sun Dial — led by founding guitarist/vocalist Gary Ramon — released Mind Control in 2012. Sulatron Records picked it up in 2015, and now, five years after that, the same label presents Mind Control: The Ultimate Edition, a 2CD version of the original LP-plus-bonus-tracks reissue that brings the total runtime of the release to a well-beyond-manageable 98 minutes of lysergic experimentation. A full 20 tracks are included in the comprehensive-feeling offering, and from early mixes to alternative takes and lost tracks, and if this isn’t the ‘ultimate’ version of Mind Control, I’m not sure what could be, notwithstanding a complete-studio-sessions box set. Perhaps as a step toward that, Mind Control: The Ultimate Edition gives an in-depth look at a vastly underappreciated outfit and is obviously put together as much for the label as by it. That is to say, you don’t put out a reissue like this unless you really love the original record, and if Sulatron loving a record isn’t enough endorsement for you, please turn in your mushrooms on your way out the door.

Sun Dial on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records webstore

 

Saturn’s Husk, The Conduit

Saturns Husk The Conduit

Immersion is the goal of Saturn’s Husk‘s third long-player, The Conduit, and the Riga, Latvia, instrumentalist trio accomplish it quickly with the fluid riffs that emerge from the drone-based intro “Death of Imaginary Lights” and the subsequent 10-minute opener “Black Nebula.” At nine songs and 63 minutes, the album is consuming through the welcome nodder “The Heavenly Ape,” the especially-doomed “The Ritual” and the more mellow-float centerpiece “Spectral Haze,” while “Mycelium Messiah” brings more straight-ahead fuzz (for a time) and drones on either side surround the 10:35 “Sand Barrows,” the latter serving as the finale “A Shattered Visage” quoting Percy Bysshe Shelley and the former “City of the Djinn” running just a minute-plus but still doing enough to reset the brain from where “Mycelium Messiah” left it. Almost functioning as two albums side-by-side with “Spectral Haze” as the dividing point, The Conduit indeed seems to join various sides together, with a depth to coincide that invites the listener to explore along with it.

Saturn’s Husk on Thee Facebooks

Saturn’s Husk on Bandcamp

 

Diggeth, Gringos Galacticos

diggeth gringos galacticos

Landing a punch of classic metal to go along with its heavy-bottomed groove, Diggeth‘s Gringos Galacticos — one supposes the title ‘Spacecrackers’ was taken — was released by the Dutch trio in 2019 and receives a US limited vinyl edition thanks to Qumran Records. One finds some similar guitar heroics to those of Astrosoniq‘s more straightforward moments, but Diggeth‘s focus remains on hookmaking for the duration, offering hints of twang and acoustics in “In the Wake of Giants” and tipping a hat southwestward in “Three Gringos,” but “Straight-Shooter” is willfully breaks out its inner Hetfield and even as the penultimate “Unshackled” departs for a quieter break, it makes its way back in time for the big finish chorus, adding just a touch of Candlemass grandiosity for good measure before the harmonica-laced closing title-track rounds out with its dynamic spacey weirdness, the name of the album repeating itself in an answer to the Stephen Hawking sample that started the voyage on its way.

Diggeth on Thee Facebooks

Qumran Records website

 

Horizon, The White Planet Patrol

horizon the white planet patrol

Cursed Tongue Records has the vinyl here, and Three Moons the tape, and the CD will arrive through Aladeriva Records, La Rubia Producciones, Aneurisma Records, Surnia Records and Violence in the Veins — so yes, Horizon‘s third album, The White Planet Patrol is well backed. Fair enough for the Kyuss-via-BlackRainbows vibes of “End of Utopia” or the initial charge and flow of “The Backyard” that sets the Alicante, Spain, trio on their way. “King Serpent” and “Death & Teddies” bring well-crafted fuzz to bear, and “Blind World” effectively layers vocals in its chorus to coincide, but the more laid back roll of the title-cut is an unmistakable highlight. Shades of mid-paced Nebula surface in “Meet the Forest” later on, but Horizon are part of a tradition of heavy bands in Alicante and they know it. The smoothness of their tone and delivery speaks volumes on its own in that regard, never mind the actual songwriting, which also leaves nothing to be desired.

Horizon on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine + 2

Limousine Beach Stealin Wine

Debut EP from Limousine Beach out of Pittsburgh, and if the three guitars involved don’t push it over the top, certainly the vocal harmonies get that particular job done. You got six minutes for three songs? Yeah, obviously. They scorch through “Tiny Hunter” to close out, but it’s in the leadoff title-track that Stealin’ Wine + 2 sees the Dave Wheeler-fronted outfit land its most outrageous chorus, just before they go on to find a middle-ground between KISS and Thin Lizzy on “Hear You Calling.” The harmonies open and are striking from the outset, but it’s in how they’re arranged around the standalone parts from Wheeler (also Outsideinside, ex-Carousel) that the outfit’s truest potential is shown. Issued through Tee Pee Records, Stealin’ Wine + 2 is the kind of thing you’d pick up at a show in a normal year and then feel way ahead of everyone else when the LP finally hits. Not a normal year, obviously, but Limousine Beach are serving due notice just the same. In six minutes, no less.

Limousine Beach on Thee Facebooks

Tee Pee Records website

 

The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies

the crooked whispers satanic melodies

I’m sure a lot of records show up at Satan’s door with notes, like, “Dear sir, please find the enclosed submitted for your approval,” but it’s not hard to imagine Beelzebub himself getting down with the filth-coated sludge and rolling doom unfurled across The Crooked Whispers‘ debut offering, Satanic Melodies, marked by hateful, near-blackened screams from Anthony Gaglia and the plodding riffs of Chad Davis (Hour of 13, et al). The title-track is longest at 8:23 and in addition to featuring Ignacio De Tommaso‘s right-on bass tone in its midsection, it plays out early like Weedeater sold their collective soul, and drifts out where earlier pieces “Sacrifice” and “Evil Tribute” and “Profane Pleasure” held their roll for the duration. Stretches of clean-vocal cultistry add to the doomier aspects, but The Crooked Whispers seem to care way less about genre than they do about worshiping the devil, and that unshakable faith behind them, the rest seems to fall into place in accordingly biting fashion.

The Crooked Whispers on Thee Facebooks

The Crooked Whispers on Bandcamp

 

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Quarterly Review: Hum, Hymn, Atramentus, Zyclops, Kairon; IRSE!, Slow Draw, Might, Brimstone Coven, All Are to Return, Los Acidos

Posted in Reviews on October 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Day three of the Quarterly Review. Always a landmark. Today we hit the halfway point, but don’t pass it yet since I’ve decided to add the sixth day next Monday. So we’ll get to 30 of the total 60 records, and then be past half through tomorrow. Math was never my strong suit. Come to think of it, I wasn’t much for school all around. Work sucked too.

Anyway, if you haven’t found anything to dig yet — and I hope you have; I think the stuff included has been pretty good so far — you can either go back and look again or keep going. Maybe today’s your day. If not, there’s always tomorrow.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Hum, Inlet

HUM INLET

One has to wonder if, if Hum had it to do over again, they might hold back their first album in 23 years, Inlet, for release sometime when the world isn’t being ravaged by a global pandemic. As it stands, the largesse and melodic wash of the Illinois outfit’s all-growed-up heavy post-rock offers 55 minutes of comfort amid the tumult of the days, and while I won’t profess to having been a fan in the ’90s — their last studio LP was 1997’s Downward is Heavenward, and they sound like they definitely spent some time listening to Pelican since then — the overarching consumption Inlet sets forth in relatively extended tracks like “Desert Rambler” and “The Summoning” and the manner in which the album sets its own backdrop in a floating drone of effects make it an escapist joy. They hold back until closer “Shapeshifter” to go full post-rock, and while there are times at which it can seem unipolar, to listen to the crunching “Step Into You” and “Cloud City” side-by-side unveils more of the scope underlying from the outset of “Waves” onward.

Hum on Thee Facebooks

Polyvinyl Records webstore

 

Hymn, Breach Us

Hymn Breach Us

Oslo’s Hymn answer the outright crush and scathe of their 2017 debut, Perish (review here), with a more developed and lethal attack on their four-song/38-minute follow-up, Breach Us. Though they’re the kind of band who make people who’ve never heard Black Cobra wonder how two people can be so heavy — and the record has plenty of that; “Exit Through Fire”‘s sludgeshuggah chugging walks by and waves — it’s the sense of atmosphere that guitarist/bassist/vocalist Ole Rokseth and drummer Markus StĂžle bring to the proceedings that make them so engrossing. The opening title-track is also the shortest at 6:25, but as Breach Us moves across “Exit Through Fire,” “Crimson” and especially 14-minute closer “Can I Carry You,” it brings forth the sort of ominous dystopian assault that so many tried and failed to harness in the wake of NeurosisThrough Silver in Blood. Hymn do that and make it theirs in the process.

Hymn on Thee Facebooks

Fysisk Format on Bandcamp

 

Atramentus, Stygian

Atramentus stygian

Carried across with excruciating grace, Atramentus‘ three-part/44-minute debut album, Stygian, probably belongs in a post-Bell Witch category of extreme, crawling death-doom, but from the script of their logo to the dramatic piano accompanying the lurching riffs, gurgles and choral wails of “Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens
 (Descended Forth the Ceaseless Darkness)” through the five-minute interlude that is “Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream in the Doleful Embrace of the Howling Black Winds)” and into the 23-minute lurchfest that is “Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across the Perpetual Planes of Crying Frost and Steel-Eroding Blizzards)” their ultra-morose procession seems to dig further back for primary inspiration, to acts like Skepticism and even earliest Anathema (at least for that logo), and as guttural and tortured as it is as it devolves toward blackened char in its closer, Stygian‘s stretches of melody provide a contrast that gives some semblance of hope amid all the surrounding despair.

Atramentus on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin webstore

 

Zyclops, Inheritance of Ash

zyclops inheritance of ash

As it clocks in 27 minutes, the inevitable question about Zyclops‘ debut release, Inheritance of Ash, is whether it’s an EP or an LP. For what it’s worth, my bid is for the latter, and to back my case up I’ll cite the flow between each of its four component tracks. The Austin, Texas, post-metallic four-piece save their most virulent chug and deepest tonal weight for the final two cuts, “Wind” and “Ash,” but the stage is well set in “Ghost” and “Rope” as well, and even when one song falls into silence, the next picks up in complementary fashion. Shades of Isis in “Rope,” Swarm of the Lotus in the more intense moments of “Ash,” and an overarching progressive vibe that feels suited to the Pelagic Records oeuvre, one might think of Zyclops as cerebral despite their protestations otherwise, but at the very least, the push and pull at the end of “Wind” and the stretch-out that comes after the churning first half of “Rope” don’t happen by mistake, and a band making these kinds of turns on their first outing isn’t to be ignored. Also, they’re very, very heavy.

Zyclops on Thee Facebooks

Zyclops on Bandcamp

 

Kairon; IRSE!, Polysomn

Kairon IRSE Polysomn

It’s all peace and quiet until “Psionic Static” suddenly starts to speed up, and then like the rush into transwarp, Kairon; IRSE!‘s Polysomn finds its bliss by hooking up a cortical node to your left temple and turning your frontal lobe into so much floundering goo, effectively kitchen-sink kraut-ing you into oblivion while gleefully hopping from genre to cosmic genre like they’re being chased by the ghost of space rock past. They’re the ghost of space rock future. While never static, Polysomn does offer some serenity amid all its head-spinning and lobe-melting, be it the hee-hee-now-it’s-trip-hop wash of “An Bat None” or the cinematic vastness that arises in “AltaĂŻr Descends.” Too intelligent to be random noise or just a freakout, the album is nonetheless experimental, and remains committed to that all the way through the shorter “White Flies” and “Polysomn” at the end of the record. You can take it on if you have your EV suit handy, but if you don’t check the intermix ratio, your face is going to blow up. Fair warning. LLAP.

Kairon; IRSE! on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records webstore

 

Slow Draw, Quiet Joy

slow draw quiet joy

The second 2020 offering from Hurst, Texas’ Slow Draw — the one-man outfit of Mark “Derwooka” Kitchens, also of Stone Machine Electric — the four-song Quiet Joy is obviously consciously named. “Tightropes in Tandem” and closer “Sometimes Experiments Fail” offer a sweet, minimal jazziness, building on the hypnotic backwards psych drone of opener “Unexpected Suspect.” In the two-minute penultimate title-track, Kitchens is barely there, and it is as much an emphasis on the quiet space as that in which the music — a late arriving guitar stands out — might otherwise be taking place. At 18 minutes, it is intended to be a breath taken before reimmersing oneself in the unrelenting chaos that surrounds and swirls, and while it’s short, each piece also has something of its own to offer — even when it’s actively nothing — and Slow Draw brims with purpose across this short release. Sometimes experiments fail, sure. Sometimes they work.

Slow Draw on Thee Facebooks

Slow Draw on Bandcamp

 

Might, Might

might might

It took all of a week for the married duo of Ana Muhi (vocals, bass) and Sven Missullis (guitars, vocals, drums) to announce Might as their new project following the dissolution of the long-ish-running and far-punkier Deamon’s Child. Might‘s self-titled debut arrives with the significant backing of Exile on Mainstream and earns its place on the label with an atmospheric approach to noise rock that, while it inevitably shares some elements with the preceding band, forays outward into the weight of “Possession” and the acoustic-into-crush “Warlight” and the crush-into-ambience “Flight of Fancy” and the ambience-into-ambience “Mrs. Poise” and so on. From the beginning in “Intoduce Yourself” and the rushing “Pollution of Mind,” it’s clear the recorded-in-quarantine 35-minute/nine-song outing is going to go where it wants to, Muhi and Missullis sharing vocals and urging the listener deeper into doesn’t-quite-sound-like-anything-else post-fuzz heavy rock and sludge. A fun game: try to predict where it’s going, and be wrong.

Might on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream website

 

Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth

brimstone coven the woes of a mortal earth

Following a stint on Metal Blade and self-releasing 2018’s What Was and What Shall Be, West Virginia’s Brimstone Coven issue their second album as a three-piece through Ripple Music, calling to mind a more classic-minded Apostle of Solitude on the finale “Song of Whippoorwill” and finding a balance all the while between keeping their progressions moving forward and establishing a melancholy atmosphere. Some elements feel drawn from the Maryland school of doom — opener the melody and hook of “The Inferno” remind of defunct purveyors Beelzefuzz — but what comes through clearest in these songs is that guitarist/vocalist Corey Roth, bassist/vocalist Andrew D’Cagna and drummer Dave Trik have found their way forward after paring down from a four-piece following 2016’s Black Magic (review here) and the initial steps the last album took. They sound ready for whatever the growth of their craft might bring and execute songs like “When the World is Gone” and the more swinging “Secrets of the Earth” with the utmost class.

Brimstone Coven on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

All Are to Return, All Are to Return

all are to return all are to return

Take the brutal industrial doom of Author and Punisher and smash it together — presumably in some kind of stainless-steel semi-automated contraption — with the skin-peeling atmosphere and grueling tension of Khanate and you may begin to understand where All Are to Return are coming from on their debut self-titled EP. How they make a song like four-minute centerpiece “Bare Life” feel so consuming is beyond me, but I think being so utterly demolishing helps. It’s not just about the plodding electronic beat, either. There’s some of that in opener “Untrusted” and certainly “The Lie of Fellow Men” has a lumber to go with its bass rumble and NIN-sounding-hopeful guitar, but it’s the overwhelming sense of everything being tainted and cruel that comes through in the space the only-19-minutes-long release creates. Even as closer “Bellum Omnium” chips away at the last remaining vestiges of color, it casts a coherent vision of not only aesthetic purpose for the duo, but of the terrible, all-gone-wrong future in which we seem at times to live.

All Are to Return on Bandcamp

Tartarus Records website

 

Los Acidos, Los Acidos

Los Acidos Los Acidos

I saved this one for last today as a favor to myself. Originally released in 2016, Los Acidos‘ self-titled debut receives a well-deserved second look on vinyl courtesy of Necio Records, and with it comes 40 minutes of full immersion in glorious Argentinian psicodelia, spacious and ’60s-style on “Al Otro Lado” and full of freaky swing on “Blusas” ahead of the almost-shoegaze-until-it-explodes-in-sunshine float of “Perfume Fantasma.” “Paseo” and the penultimate “Espejos” careen with greater intensity, but from the folksy feel that arrives to coincide with the cymbal-crashing roll of “Excentricidad” in its second half to the final boogie payoff in “EmpatĂ­a de Cristal,” the 10-song outing is a joy waiting to be experienced. You’re experienced, right? Have you ever been? Either way, the important thing is that the voyage that, indeed, begins with “Viaje” is worth your time in melody, in craft, in its arrangements, in presence and in the soul that comes through from front to back. The four-piece had a single out in late 2019, but anytime they want to get to work on a follow-up LP, I’ll be waiting.

Los Acidos on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

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Opium Warlords Set Dec. 4 Release for Nembutal; Stream “A Heavy Heart”

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The headline that Sami Albert Hynninen, otherwise known as Albert Witchfinder of erstwhile Finnish traditionalists Reverend Bizarre, is making a “return to doom-laden heavy metal” is nothing if not compelling. And indeed, the new Opium Warlords, titled Nembutal opens with “A Heavy Heart,” which runs 19 minutes long and moves from Sabbath processionalism to some of the rawest and, frankly, best done Cathedral worship I’ve ever heard. It does not, however, speak for the entirety of the record, which still boasts plenty of the experimentalist/drone/out-of-genre-go-anywhere-free-jazz with which the project has most become associated. No complaints for the weirdness, the otherworldly ambience, or indeed, the doom that pervades. Dude’s never been interested in making it easy for anyone.

If you can’t get behind that mentality, the challenge throughout Nembutal, as through most of what Hynninen does with Opium Warlords will likely prove too much. I don’t think it matters. I’m talking to myself here anyway and I dig this, so whatever.

Here’s to “the end of pain and the end of mankind” as per the PR wire:

Opium Warlords Nembutal

Opium Warlords: “Nembutal”, new album from Albert Witchfinder (Reverend Bizarre)

Albert Witchfinder (Reverend Bizarre) returns to doom-laden heavy metal with the fifth Opium Warlords album NEMBUTAL. Whereas the first four Opium Warlords albums were a brute depiction of psychoses, their fifth offering NEMBUTAL is a sweaty return to a crystal clear existence after a most severe depression. It is a beautiful, multi-layered journey through a broken mind, inner suffering, and slow recovery; clean like a spring rain or autumn morning. It takes you on a trip that will leave you shaken, but purified.

Sami Albert ”Witchfinder” Hynninen (Reverend Bizarre, The Candles Burning Blue, The Puritan, TĂ€htiportti, KLV, Spiritus Mortis) has in his lifetime, produced hours of devastating, violent, extremely heavy, but at same time strangely serene music. NEMBUTAL is easily one of the more pure gemstones, ultimate in several different opposites; beauty, ugliness, heaviness, floating ambience, progressive structures, minimalism, light, darkness, remorse, vengeance. You have to experience it to really understand.

The record is a joyful vision of death and apocalypse. The end of love, the end of pain and the end of mankind.

On its moments NEMBUTAL is as Metal as it can get, but most of the time it goes beyond any categorization, even beyond rock music. Still, constantly remaining heavy and striking, like a horse whip in the hand of the iron master.

“This might be the best album I have produced so far
 but then again my idea of music is completely fucked up.” – Sami Hynninen

Released by Svart Records on December the 4th 2020.

Jewelcase CD
Limited to 500 on black double vinyl
with lyric/photo booklet

NEMBUTAL:
I: A Heavy Heart
II: Threshold Of Your Womb
III: The Destroyer Of Filth
IV: Sarah Was Nineteen Years Old
V: Solar Anus
VI: Early In The Morning The Body Of The Girl Was Found
VII: Perspiring Princess
VIII: Xanadu

Written, arranged, and produced by Sami Albert Hynninen
Co-produced by Jouni Leppikangas
Performed by Sami Albert Hynninen and Erkki Virta

http://www.facebook.com/OpiumWarlords
https://opiumwarlords.bandcamp.com/
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.youtube.com/svartrecords
https://www.svartrecords.com/

Opium Warlords, “A Heavy Heart”

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Onségen Ensemble Sign to Svart Records for New Album FEAR: Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 11th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

ONSEGEN ENSEMBLE

Prog as fuck and a fair shade darker than was their self-released 2018 album, Duel (review here), the new single from Oulu, Finland’s OnsĂ©gen Ensemble arrives with the formidable countryman backing of Svart Records and heralds the arrival of their third full-length, FEAR, sometime before the end of 2020. The band, as announced last December, hit the studio in February with producer Jamie Gomez Arellano at London’s famed Orgone Studios, and you can hear the results in the breadth of “Stellar,” for which there’s a video streaming at the bottom of this post. Sounds deep, and calls to mind some of Finnish psych’s more extreme fare, the quiet moments of Dark Buddha Rising stretched in another direction, perhaps.

Would you be surprised if I said I was looking forward to hearing more? Probably not if you clicked that review link above. These guys hooking up with Svart only makes sense — I said as much in that review — and if their path has taken them to someplace more grim for the LP as a whole — and there’s no guarantee it has; their sound is plenty diverse — then all the more so.

The following came down the PR wire in the reaches of morning:

ONSEGEN ENSEMBLE fear maybe cover

ONSÈGEN ENSEMBLE and SVART RECORDS announce a worldwide partnership for the band’s upcoming album. New single out!

What happens when the prog-oddity ONSÈGEN ENSEMBLE and ORGONE STUDIOS’ world-class producer JAIME GOMEZ ARELLANO huddle up in the studio to record the band’s third album FEAR? The odds are that you’ll be mesmerized. The full-length album will be released by SVART RECORDS in late 2020.

Onségen Ensemble is a group of musicians from northern Finland. Being faithful to its own purpose, the spiritual home of Onségen keeps its doors open for everyone to enter. FEAR takes you to a mystical trip with excursions into wonderfully cinematic and flamboyant landscapes.

This constantly evolving ensemble was born in 2004 followed by two mini-cd releases Hiukkavaara Sessions (2005) and HottoĂŻzzoH (2007). The debut album AwalaĂŻ was released in 2016 and the sophomore effort Duel in 2018.

New single ‘Stellar’ out now:
https://youtu.be/SKrkvaTDMp4
https://open.spotify.com/track/5IB4EtVBttj21wZyhgZyZ5?si=CJNTZM4NSha9lE4d0pvTlA
https://onsgenensemble.bandcamp.com/track/stellar

OnsĂ©gen Ensemble, generation twenty-twenty – personnel in FEAR:
Pasi Anttila, Heikki HÀkkilÀ, Esa JuujÀrvi, Merja JÀrvelin, Sami Lehtiniemi, Samuli Lindberg, Joni MÀkelÀ, Niina Vahtola and Mikko Vuorela.

https://www.facebook.com/onsegenensemble/
https://onsgenensemble.bandcamp.com/
http://www.onsegen.com/
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.youtube.com/svartrecords

OnsĂ©gen Ensemble, “Stellar” official video

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