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.

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by College Paralegal Business Plan Sample - Let specialists do their responsibilities: order the needed report here and expect for the best score Dissertations and Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists Just tell us, "I need to a fantastic read today!" - The fastest essay writers in the world will do your paper at the right time and complete confidentially. 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 PhD Resume Writing Services Vancouver Island: Thesis Clinic PhD Thesis editing includes a review of the PhD thesis, understanding the content and making changes to eliminate redundancies and repetition, as well as making changes in the language to improve the argumentative aspect of the research. 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 see url service providing professionally written dissertations. You will graduate this year! Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard pay to do my homework - 100% non-plagiarism guarantee of exclusive essays & papers. Proofreading and proofediting aid from best specialists. put out a 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

Released by Best custom essay writing service UK & USA undertaking Write My Essay order and offering custom essays, dissertations, research A Research Paper On Tornados. Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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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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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 38

Posted in Radio on July 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Good show. As of this writing, I haven’t cut the voice tracks yet for the breaks, but there’s really only so much I can do to screw it up, though I’m sure one way or the other I’ll try. My head’s been pretty deep in longer-form stuff lately — really pushing for that mental-escape aspect of listening — so there’s not a lot here that departs from that, new cuts from The Atomic Bitchwax and All Souls notwithstanding, as they were both too killer not to include.

But last time around I played “Dopesmoker,” so I guess I don’t need to tell you my head’s into longer songs. Still, with the doomly start this one gets from Dopelord, Malsten and Pale Divine, and the sheer out-there vibe of OZO after the heavy post-rock of Dystopian Future Movies, and the culmination from the shape-of-metal-to-come brought to bear by Forlesen and the gloriously shapeless psychedelia of Temple Fang right after, I dig this one. I dig all of them, yeah, but this one too.

And as per usual, I hope you do as well.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 07.10.20

Dopelord Doom Bastards Sign of the Devil
Malsten Torsion The Haunting of SilvÄkra Mill
Pale Divine Consequence of Time Consequence of Time
BREAK
The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio Scorpio
Familiars Barn Burning All in Good Time
Dystopian Future Movies Ten Years Inviolate
OZO Pluto Pluto
Spiral Galaxy Machine D Spiral Galaxy
All Souls Death Becomes Us Songs for the End of the World
BREAK
Forlesen Nightbridge Hierophant Violent
Temple Fang Gemini/Silky Servants Live at Merleyn

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is July 24 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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Temple Fang Stream Live at Merleyn in Full

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 23rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

temple fang

This Saturday, June 27, Amsterdam’s Temple Fang will release their debut long-player, Live at Merleyn on vinyl. Whether you know or not, you’ve been waiting for it. It is the first release of any kind from the four-piece spacious psych resonators, and the decision for it to be a live outing comes as a marked signal of aesthetic intent.

Regardless of the de rigeur nostalgia that has taken hold in the first half of 2020 for live shows owing to a season-plus of limited social gathering due to a global pandemic, a concert recording is a notion inherently defined by — and in some ways, working in defiance of — ephemera. It is a fleeting moment. True, some live albums draw from an entire tour or even a span of years, but for an offering like Live at Merleyn — which arrives as a bootleg-style stamped LP cover and three or four tracks (depending on what counts) consuming two sides of a 40-minute set — it’s one night. They took the stage, played on the stage, and left the stage. Maybe had some beers or something afterward, I don’t know.

But the point of Live at Merleyn isn’t that Temple Fang isn’t just that the band recorded a show, it’s that they’re using this particular show as a first statement of who they are as a band. That whole thing about first impressions? Well, consider that Temple Fang are not arriving as an entirely unknown entity. I was lucky enough to see them twice at Roadburn last year (review here and here) and I can definitely confirm I wasn’t alone in either room. They also played Desertfest Belgium last Fall and a swath of temple fang live at merleynothers, and this Spring alone they would’ve been at Freak Valley and Desertfest Berlin in Germany, and no doubt more. No doubt a pedigree that includes Dennis Duijnhouwer‘s tenure on bass in Death Alley doesn’t hurt, but if he, guitarist/vocalist Jevin de Groot, guitarist Ivy van der Veer and drummer Jasper van den Broeke couldn’t meet the demand of establishing their own presence, the entire project would fall flat. And as Live at Merleyn proves in raw fashion, Temple Fang do anything but.

De Groot and Duijnhouwer are both members of the much-underappreciated cosmic doom outfit MĂŒhr, so to find them exploring such vast sonic reaches throughout “Gemini/Silky Servants” on side A and the two-part “Not the Skull” on side B of Live at Merleyn isn’t necessarily such a surprise, and de Groot and van der Veer offer a distinct chemistry as well on guitar, pushing into a sound that’s as progressive as it is organic. There are verses and parts plotted out, but Temple Fang don’t sound restricted as the show plays out by form. Maybe on another night “Gemini/Silky Servants” would sound different. Maybe it would lean on different progressions, tip its balance one way or the other. Not knowing is part of what makes it an adventure in the listening. There are soundscapes being created that are unquestionably formative, and more likely than not that’s precisely Temple Fang‘s intention. As much as the atmosphere of both sides of the long-player brims with psychedelic shimmer, the two guitars winding into and out of harmonized leads over a languid rolling rhythm in side B as de Groot‘s vocals come and go like so much consciousness itself, more than that, what Live at Merleyn captures is the spirit of creativity at work beneath, driving each of the changes in the linear build of “Not the Skull Pt. 1” and its coinciding second installment, which picks up after 12 minutes in with a heavy kraut riff and points itself in the direction of FAR OUT at a steady churn and gallop.

You can mourn for what’s been lost in live music. Over these last several months. Or what will continue to be lost for however long it is. You’re not wrong to do so, and in some ways, Live at Merleyn is a reminder of that too. But as van der Veer, de Groot, van den Broeke and Duijnhouwer all seem to align in the final thrust of “Not the Skull Pt. 2,” it’s not so much the nebulousness of Temple Fang‘s creativity that comes across as it is the progressive intention; the idea that not every night will be the same because the band will learn, adapt and grow as players and as a unit in conversation with itself. Live at Merleyn, a show from last October in the Netherlands — just another night in Nijmegen — is something special precisely for that. It’s one night, of many, preserved. It calls the listener to realize that Temple Fang were not this thing before and may not be this thing again, but right then, they were. Whatever comes next, this has been said, upfront and without pretense. It can’t and won’t be denied. Reality audio.

Below you’ll find the full stream of Temple Fang‘s Live at Merleyn. They’ll be taking orders through Bandcamp while the pressing lasts. The band tells their story under the player here:

In February of 2018, at the request of Tee Pee Records owner Kenny Sehgal, ex-Death Alley bassist Dennis Duijnhouwer put together a band for a one-off show at Little Devil in Tilburg, a day before the kickoff of Roadburn Festival in that same town.

He recruited his former MĂŒhr bandmate Jevin de Groot to join him on guitar and vocals and pulled in two brand new friends, guitarist Ivy van der Veer and drummer Jasper van den Broeke. And thus Temple Fang was born. After this show the band was asked to open two shows for Coven and after doing those, the band decided to be just that, a band.

A long string of shows followed, that took the band to Roadburn, Sonic Whip, Desertfest Antwerp, Void Fest, Stick and Stone and many other heavy psych fest. All based on word of mouth, since the band hadn’t released any music.

As the band pondered their future and considered offer from various labels, they weren’t quite sure if they were ready to enter the music-biz game of album cycles and thus decided to focus on being a live-band and made no plans on releasing anything for a while, if ever.

But their roadcrew decided otherwise and hatched a plan of their own to secretly start recording the live shows and release them as bootlegs, with or without permission of the band.

The first show they clandestinely recorded was on Oct. 24th at Merleyn, Nijmegen (NL), a sold out night in a small club where the the bill was shared with their good friends of Ecstatic Vision.

When the band heard the result, they decided it to put it out, warts-and-all, with minimal artwork and no promo, only to be available at shows.

And then corona happened


So here it is, a vinyl document of a Temple Fang show on their first run, an honest representation of what this band was at that moment in time.

Temple Fang on Thee Facebooks

Temple Fang on Bandcamp

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Desertfest Berlin 2020: Lowrider, Puta Volcano, Big Business & Temple Fang Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

desertfest berlin 2020 banner

Five new names out of the Desertfest Berlin 2020 camp, and they’re good ‘uns at that. Seeing Lowrider get tapped for a return to the Desertfest stage makes sense, since it’s kind of where the reunion really kicked off, and Big Business always seem to make themselves welcome wherever they end up, so right on there too.

Those two and MaidaVale will be shared with Berlin’s sister festival in London, which nine years later remains an amazing cooperation between the two events, but I’m also stoked to see Greek rockers Puta Volcano getting the nod here, as their new album most definitely earns it. And likewise, having been fortunate enough to catch Temple Fang live in addition to appreciating their lineage through MĂŒhr and Death Alley, it’s only good news as far as I’m concerned they’re starting to get out of their home turf. I’m dying for that band to put out a record.

So not that you or anyone asked, but it’s a thumbs up from me on this one, I guess. Again, no one asked. I know this.

From the PR wire:

desertfest berlin 2020 poster

DESERTFEST BERLIN CONFIRMS BIG BUSINESS, LOWRIDER, MAIDAVALE, TEMPLE FANG & PUTA VOLCANO FOR 2020!

Kicking off into the new year in glorious style, DESERTFEST BERLIN has announced 5 new names for their 2020- edition, taking place between May 1st – 3rd at the Arena Berlin. The leading cult, fuzz and all that is heavy sounds festival will be celebrating their 9th year with high class acts such as the already announced WITCHCRAFT, MASTERS OF REALITY, BRANT BJORK, AMENRA, 1000MODS, ORANGE GOBLIN, CORROSION OF CONFORMITY, THE VINTAGE CARAVAN aside many more, and has just confirmed to welcome BIG BUSINESS, LOWRIDER, MAIDAVALE, TEMPLE FANG as well as PUTA VOLCANO to their eclectic line-up in May 2020.

There’s plenty of volume and feelings for party screaming, solo screaming, or just getting through what you’re going through. Desertfest means business, so they will bring you Big Business! The two-piece rock band from Los Angeles, CA, is known for their bombastic and frantic low end attack, marked by a signature vocal delivery. The creative duo, longtime friends and touring mates of The Melvins, began in Seattle, WA in 2003, and released 6 full length albums to date. Their latest output, The Beast You Are, was released in the Spring of 2019, and what a beast of a record it is! Big Business are currently writing new music, touring the world, and will be coming for YOU at Desertfest Berlin 2020!

This year will also see the long awaited return of Sweden’s Lowrider! Blues Funeral Recordings releases the searing new album “Refractions” in February 2020 – the band’s first in 20 years!

Lowrider’s debut EP and seminal album “Ode to Io” were foundational slabs at the dawn of stoner rock, which grew into a worldwide phenomenon with Lowrider clearly established as one of its trailblazers. Their new record will explode with all the churning fuzz and expansive riff-heaviness for which the band is known and loved for, shot through with a re-energized purpose and maturity. The grooves swing, the bottom end rumbles, and the melodies growl and soar, delivering at long last on Lowrider’s longing-to-be-fulfilled promise. Finally, the undisputed kings of the Swedish fuzz rock scene are back to deliver on their undeniably deserve mythic status, live at Desertfest Berlin 2020!

As one of the most prominent acts in the new generation of psych music, Swedish four piece MaidaVale create a reckless and experimental rock that keeps diverging from what’s expected. After first emerging on the live rock scene in 2014, followed by two highly acclaimed albums, MaidaVale currently belong to one of the most promising new bands of the scene. The band is exstensively touring Europe, and known for their musicality and the electric connection between both musicians and audience, their reputation has grown with each show. MaidaVale are showcasing their experimental and dynamic sound in a very special way, that confirmed their place in the psych rock scene. Aside mesmerizing festival appearances at such as Freak Valley or Duna Jam, Desertfest Berlin is psyched to welcome them again!

Rising from the ashes of Death Alley, bassist Dennis Duijnhouwer and guitarist Jevin de Groot put together their new band, Temple Fang, with guitarist Ivy van der Veer and drummer Jasper van den Broeke, combining the wild rock-abandon of their former outfit but with deeper, more cosmic leanings. Rock n’ Roll as a means to attaining spiritual freedom, but one is sure, this will be a wild ride!

Amidst the continuous and enjoyable struggle the survivor of an indie rock n’ roll band has become, Puta Volcano are building up their legacy and fanbase, one gig, one album, one song at the time. Being a significant cog in the acknowledged machine that Greek heavy rock is, they keep pushing forward what was set in motion back in 2012, when their debut EP was released.

2017 was the year that Puta Volcano planted their feet firmly to the ground and today, the band has a new album titled ‘Amma’ ready, a ton of confident excitement for it and a series of plans to back it up among which a 25-dates European tour mapped out, which will include Desertfest Berlin in May 2020!

DESERTFEST BERLIN is known for the best band line- ups of the entire heavy psych underground as well as its unique atmosphere and surroundings visited by desert rock fans from all over the globe, directly located at the riverside in the heart of Berlin, the Arena. After last year’s changes of a new sound system, the ‘Black Box’, that got high praise from both guests and critics alike finding themselves back at an intimate, high-energy underground club show, the festival will provide many more specials, space, and again a chill- party – AND live zone on the popular Hoppetosse boat! Don’t miss the fuzz and haze rock party of the year, at the capitol of the almighty riffs: The 9th edition of DESERTFEST BERLIN 2020, presented by Greyzone Concerts and cult live institution Sound of Liberation, who will be celebrating their 15th anniversary at the same year, is ready to take over Berlin this May!

https://www.facebook.com/events/520164272080736/
www.desertfest.de
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin
www.instagram.com/desertfest_berlin

Puta Volcano, “Primitive Data”

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Freak Valley 2020 First Announcement: Fu Manchu, Endless Boogie, Slomatics, Monomyth and Temple Fang

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

All I know is this: 2020 is my year for Freak Valley. I’ve been invited for years. In 2020 I’m going. And further, I’m saying it now. Normally I don’t commit really to anything that involves even a modicum of traveling until after all the plans are locked in and I’ve checked in at the airport, but Jens Heide at the fest passed along the invite once again, as he’s patiently done for a while now, and unless a piano falls on my head between now and then or my flight to Siegen crashes into the Atlantic, I’m gonna be there. Hell or high water, as it were.

I wrote the lineup announcement below, as I’ve done for the fest for a couple years now, and happily. It’s a great first round showing international reach and a range of styles, but of course look out for much more still to come. Freak Valley over the last few editions has begun to branch out in some fascinating ways, and I’d expect that to continue while also retaining its heavy core.

I can’t wait to get over there for it.

freak valley 2020 fu manchu

Freaks, the time is nigh!

Did you miss us? We missed you. Tickets go on sale TOMORROW (10/18) for Freak Valley 2020 and we couldn’t be more excited to bring you the first lineup announcement for next year’s fest! Get your calendar marked for 11-13 June and remember this is just the beginning and over the next couple months we’ll have so much more to come in terms of bands and other happenings for you. 2019 was our best year yet and we’re looking forward to topping it once again!

Tickets are officially on sale at our Freak Sabbath Vol.5 // Freak Valley Ticket Sale Kick Off, with Church of Misery and many more, but it’s time to dig into the first bands for Freak Valley Festival 2020 and we think you’ll agree it’s a great way to start.

FU MANCHU (30th Anniversary)

30 years of the Fu! Fuzz legends and heavy rock mainstays Fu Manchu are one of the most influential riff purveyors of all time. From the original stoner rock era in the ’90s through their modern takes on punk and spacey groove, Fu Manchu are, simply put, one of the most essential live bands you’ll ever see. They’ll mark three full decades of rock in 2020, and bringing them to Freak Valley was an absolute must. Of course we’re all huge fans and to have them on our stage is an honor no matter what the occasion, but this one is even more special considering their celebration. Happy birthday, Fu Manchu! Welcome to Freak Valley!

SLOMATICS

It was something of a tragedy in 2019 when our plan to bring Northern Ireland’s Slomatics over to play was cut short because of airline difficulties. That’s no way to go. We knew immediately we’d invite them back for 2020 and try it again and we’re glad to report that the band is on board as well. They’ll still be supporting their 2019 album, ‘Canyons,’ but where it was going to be brand new when they played this year, we’ve all had a little time to digest the massive riffs and wide-sprawling vibes that make their sound so distinctive. 2020 is the year! We can’t wait to finally see this band.

ENDLESS BOOGIE

There’s nothing better than a band with the perfect name, and New York-based mellow jammers Endless Boogie most certainly have that. The band are masters of hypnotic and class-style jams brought to life not with a wash of effects, but through sheer repetition and builds that are subtle in their dynamic but seem able to cover an infinity of ground that goes however far they choose at any given moment. Even among heavy and psychedelic rock, there’s nothing quite like them in terms of the character they bring to how they play. With onstage charisma, periodic improv vocals, and righteous jams, they’ll come to Freak Valley 2020 as one of our most anticipated acts.

MONOMYTH

From Den Haag in The Netherlands, Monomyth are a beacon of heavy progadelic instrumentalism. Their latest opus is ‘Orbis Quadrantis’ on Suburban Records, and its lush melodies and exploratory vibe carry the listener across its span with all the grace of masters of the form. They’ve been kicking around Europe and the festival scene for the last six years since their self-titled debut came out, and it feels only overdue to have them at Freak Valley as part of our 2020 lineup. Just look for the sea of nodding heads in front of the stage and you’ll know you’re in the right place. They are one not to miss.

TEMPLE FANG

Space, as ever, is the place, and Amsterdam’s Temple Fang are sure to take us there as they come to Freak Valley for the first of what we hope will be many happy returns. With former members of Death Alley and the vastly underrated MĂŒhr, Temple Fang set out on a new voyage of their own last year, and while we anxiously await a debut release, the chance to bring them to Siegen to play was too good to pass up. Maybe you’ve heard them yet and maybe you haven’t, but trust us when we tell you that these guys are up to something special and this is a band you want to see or you’ll regret it later. We promise.

Many more to come!

Tickets will be available at these booking offices by Monday morning Oct 21st: Die Tintenpatrone & Siegener Zeitung

Online Tickets (print at home and Hardtickets) will be available Wednesday Oct 23rd 6pm cet

Ticketprice will be €95 for all 3 dayz incl. camping.
Camping will be possible from Wednesday June 10th next year!

FREAK VALLEY 2020
No Fillers – Just Killers

https://www.facebook.com/events/2434350453469407/
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley/

Temple Fang, “Not the Skull!” live in Haarlem, March 2019

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Desertfest Belgium 2019: Sleep, Truckfighters, Temple Fang, Monomyth and 30,000 Monkies to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

desertfest belgium 2019 banner

Even as the first-ever Desertfest New York gets ready to roll out next week and Desertfest London and Berlin prepare to follow soon thereafter, the autumnal incarnation, Desertfest Belgium 2019, has begun to unveil its lineup for this October. They had their work cut out for them in topping the 2018 lineup, but let’s face it, if you’re going to do that, announcing Sleep as a headliner right out of the gate is probably the way to go. It’s like, “Oh, well, that settles that, then. This’ll rule.” Not that the reunited Truckfighters, Monomyth, Temple Fang or even 30,000 Monkies are anything to sneeze at, but let’s face it, you don’t announce Sleep first unless you’re trying to make an impression. Mission accomplished. Impression made.

This of course will be the first of many Desertfest Belgium 2019 announcements, and I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if by the time October gets here, Desertfest London and Berlin are back revealing their respective lineups for 2020. The cycle is ongoing. Cyclical, you might say.

Here’s word from Antwerp:

desertfest belgium 2019 first poster

The moment you have all been waiting for! The first thing we can tell you about DFBE ’19 is that YES, your prayers have been answered. The Mighty Sleep will be headlining our Fest this year!

Of course, that’s just the first of many names. We are equally delighted to welcome back Truckfighters and the cosmic Monomyth to our stage. For more Northern heavy pysch grooves, look no further than Temple Fang. And finally, we want to introduce you to the first Belgian homebrew act for this year’s Fest: 30,000 Monkies.

And with that, the ticket sale is ON! Reduced Combi Tickets are available for a limited time only for €100, all costs included. We have also brought back the Hotel Accommodation deal, find the details on our website. Be swift to avoid disappointment, go get them tickets!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/2260579413999993/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

Sleep, “Sonic Titan” live at Roadburn 2019

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Live Review: ROADBURN 2019 Day Three, 04.13.19

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Roadburn 2019 banner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.14.19 – 02.15 CET – Saturday night – Hotel

It snowed today. That was a first. Hail too. I wasn’t outside for it, but unless European snow bounces, it was hail, followed by snow. 11 Roadburns later, Tilburg still holds a few surprises. And no, I don’t just mean the secret Thou set where they did the Misfits covers and Emma Ruth Rundle got in on the action, though that too.

ROADBURN 2019 WEATHERThe weather wasn’t a hardship or anything — the joke was that Sumac were so heavy they made it hail, and fair enough — since apart from a short walk here or there I spent very nearly the entire day inside. I was bumming hard after finding out about a brutal fuckup on my part with today’s issue of the daily ‘zine, the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch. Basically I left out an important piece and we’ll run it tomorrow anyway, but I still felt very, very much like shit about it. Like, “I don’t deserve to be here” beating myself up. I went and found the writer in question and damn near broke out into tears apologizing.

I know it’s a festival fanzine and all, but that shit is important to me, and it was squarely my mistake that dropped the article. It won’t be as timely tomorrow when it goes in the issue. I know it’s not the end of the world, ultimately, but this fest puts its faith in me not to screw up doing this one thing, and I screwed it up. I’d already seen Temple Fang and Wolvennest and a couple seconds of Confusion Master by then, and I thought long and hard about just coming back to the hotel and going to bed, but eventually got it together. It sucks being bad at, like, everything you do.

Like I said, I saw Temple Fang again. They opened up the pre-show on Wednesday (review here), and they opened up today in a kind of super-early showcase slot at 1:30PM in an especially foggy Hall of Fame, up by the Koepelhal and the Ladybird Skatepark, which is very quickly becoming another Roadburn venue. Launching with “Gemini,” Temple Fang were this time around a little less Temple Fang (Photo by JJ Koczan)tense — maybe just waking up — and a little more locked into an overarching groove that still highlighted their progressive take on space rock and psychedelia, but seemed to give the songs a little more space to breathe. I’m not sure I can speak to exactly what the difference was. It might’ve been just as simple as playing a little more relaxed. But both sets showed the serious potential on the part of the band and my only problem with seeing them play a second time was that it meant they did not immediately on Thursday morning enter the studio to record their debut album, which had been my hope after their first show. Oh well. Always tomorrow, guys.

Wolvennest opened the Main Stage, with theremin, incense and a few skulls here and there amid their darkened cult rock atmospherics. The Brussels-based outfit are celebrating the release this month of their new EP, Vortex, which came out last week through the ever-tasteful VĂĄn Records, and I have no doubt they persuaded a few heads with their murky vibe and swirling, obscure but still progressive heaviness. Fronted by Sharon Shazzula, who’s done work over the years with Aqua Nebula Oscillator, Kadavar, Farflung and a host of others — in addition to having founded Swamp Booking — and she and the full band alongside her brought a consuming wash of noise to the big room at the 013, and once I got back from my Wolvennest (Photo by JJ Koczan)Beto-esque apology tour (except I meant it), I found I was even more into it near the finish. It was somewhere between black metal, psychedelia and lurch, and wherever that was, that seemed definitely like the place to be. I’m sure someone cleverer than me has already invented a genre tag for it. To me it just sounded awesome.

Today was Maalstroom — a massive celebration of Dutch black metal held at Het Patronaat and given the added poignancy of also serving as an ad hoc tribute to former Dodecahedron frontman Michiel Eikenaar, who passed away yesterday after a long illness. Malstroom itself is the third of Roadburn 2019’s commissioned projects, and like last year’s VĂĄnagandr formed of Icelandic black metallers, Maalstroom drew/draws from various projects working together on a new piece as a new entity. The whole day at the church was dedicated to it, and though my own adventure would take me on a different path, it would be hard not to admire the vision in putting that kind of thing together with Witte Wieven, Turia, Laster, Terzij de Horde, the aforementioned Dodecahedron and then Maalstroom itself to close out. One way or the other, it was going to be a special day.

Sumac (Photo by JJ Koczan)There were also more acts today from Tomas Lindberg‘s curation, including Uran, The Exorcist GBG, and Orchestra of Constant Distress, and it was the Exile on Mainstream Records 20th anniversary celebration. Oh, and Sleep played Sleep’s Holy Mountain (2009 reissue review here) in its entirety. You know, because why not. I wound up flitting back and forth between 013 and the Koepelhal complex for the day, as I think a lot of people did who didn’t otherwise camp out at the Patronaat. Sumac absolutely floored me playing the Main Stage. What’s been my hesitation with those guys? I have no idea. I’ve dug both their records — last year’s Love in Shadow (review here) and 2016’s What One Becomes (review here) — but I still never really considered myself a fan. It’s Aaron Turner (ex-Isis, etc.), Bryan Cook (Russian Circles) and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists), and their tone was probably the heaviest I’d heard this weekend up to that point. I don’t know what my hangup was with that band, but yeah, I’ll go ahead and credit the universe with being right on that one. More records to buy: just what I need.

Mythic Sunship had added another set at the Skatepark — they wound up playing three times, so I’m extra glad I caught them at least once — so I made my way up there and stopped in Koepelhal first to see Boston’s Morne, who were casting death across that packed and massive space. Couldn’t help but notice guitarist/vocalist Milosz Gassan wearingMorne (Photo by JJ Koczan) a t-shirt for Armageddon Shop (or Armageddon Boston, to be more specific) on the stage. Today was apparently Record Store Day, so fair enough. Roadburn never seems to lack for commerce, as the merch area just outside the Koepelhal proper shows, but I’m sure plenty of people also made it over to Sounds, which is the local shop down the road a little ways. I went once. It was cool. This year, however, my feet were glued in place for Morne, who issued their To the Night Unknown LP through that same Armageddon Shop label last year. No regrets. Their sound has the classic emotional crux of death-doom but toys with that balance effectively and still holds a pervasive sense of atmosphere.

It was almost time for that Mythic Sunship show, and I was looking forward to it, but Treedeon in the Hall of Fame for the Exile on Mainstream 20th anniversary was too good to pass up. The German trio’s bizarre noise rock is so emblematic of that label, and while I don’t think my tastes and those of Andreas Kohl, who runs imprint, always line up — though we’re both big Wino fans — it’s a fair bet that something on Exile on Mainstream is going to at very least be interesting. In the case of Treedeon, it was interestingTreedeon (Photo by JJ Koczan) like a fucking boot to the throat. Even their recorded work — the latest LP was 2018’s Under the Manchineel (review here) — doesn’t quite capture the density of their approach to noise rock, and golly it was loud in the Hall of Fame. It’s a low ceiling, so the sound just feels like it’s collapsing on you, and that suited Treedeon well in portraying another vision of extremity after Morne.

Among other things, it was about the polar opposite of seeing Mythic Sunship in a skate park, so that was fun. Indeed, dudes were skating on the ramps and rails and whatnot and looking annoyed as people started filing in for the show. Sorry. The Copenhagen four-piece have been on tour since April 4 supporting their excellent 2018 offering, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music (review here), and though they didn’t have the sax with them today as they apparently did yesterday, they still tore it up ferociously, by which I mean they played a smoothly progressive jam-based kraut-psych-rock and their chemistry was out in full force. Their drummer ate a banana right before they went on, which I’m sure helped keep his energy up, and the Ladybird filled up well for them. They’re the kind of band I’d probably never get to see if I wasn’t here, let alone see in such a context, so I was stoked on the opportunity and the outcome of it. I don’t think they will, but if they played another set tomorrow, I doubt anyone would complain, Mythic Sunship (Photo by JJ Koczan)except maybe those skateboarders.

Dinner was chicken in peanut sauce. I had a few quick bites and then went back to the Main Stage to watch the end of Cave In‘s set. I gotta say, I haven’t listened to Cave In actively in a long time, and I still knew just about every word to everything they were playing. That band can write a song. They had Nate Newton (Converge) on bass in the place of Caleb Scofield, who passed away and was memorialized with an acoustic set last year by his bandmates Steve Brodsky and Adam McGrath that’s since been released by Roadburn Records, and while I didn’t see the full set, what I caught was dead on. They’ve always occupied a space between punk, metal and rock, but they’ve also always made that space their own, and to see them do that in front of a crowd so into it as that at Roadburn was affirming even if I only caught a couple songs.

It was time for Sleep. There was the requisite changeover after Cave In, and fair enough for the mighty stacks of amps and cabinets brought out, as well as Jason Roeder‘s drum riser. I mean, Sleep playing Sleep’s Holy Mountain. In full. Sleep (Photo by JJ Koczan)Front-to-back. As the first of two nights of sets. What the hell more could you want? If your answer was, “maybe a shortened version of ‘Dopesmoker’ and ‘The Clarity,'” they did those too, but obviously the highlight was seeing Al Cisneros, Matt Pike and Roeder run through those Holy Mountain tracks. Pike even switched to an acoustic guitar for an extended take on “Some Grass” ahead of “Aquarian.” The Main Stage hall was packed to the point that the upstairs balcony looked like it was about to spill over, and the whole room just became a sea of nodding heads to each riff. Everyone kept up with the changes. Everyone knew where they were going. It was yet another of those Roadburn things that make you feel so stupid lucky to be here to see. Funny how those keep popping up all weekend. Every year. All weekend. They’re back tomorrow doing The Sciences in full. Again, Roadburn.

There was still plenty of Roadburn day three to go, but I was (un)fairly beat. Still, there was one more thing I had to, had to, had to see, and it was Bellrope. They were closing out the Exile on Mainstream celebration at Hall of Fame, and though the hike up there felt daunting to my riffed-out legs, I did it anyway and got up there before the two-bass-one-guitar-all-smash German foursome got started. Their debut album, You Must Relax (review here), is on my list of 2019’s best despite (because of?) its initial feedback assault to weed out the Bellrope (Photo by JJ Koczan)weak-hearted among its listenership. They did similar on stage, by the way, but shorter, and with a mammoth and punishing low end push to fill out that feedback, it was brutal in the best way possible. They brought up two members of Treedeon for a guest vocal spot and the sort of sludge ensued that you should need a prescription to get, which should explain the line that went out the door.

Despite the day’s rough start with my stupid, stupid, stupid, unprofessional bullshit error in the ‘zine, it was still a day that was as fantastic as it was busy. Tomorrow is the end of Roadburn 2019, and it’s always bittersweet, so while I’m plenty exhausted, like At the Gates before me, I’m going to try to drink from the night itself and let adrenaline carry me through as, hopefully, it will.

Thanks for reading. More pics after the jump.

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Live Review: ROADBURN 2019 – Ignition, 04.10.19

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2019 banner (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.11.19 – 00.23 CET – Wednesday night – Hotel

Just like that, Planet Roadburn aligned to the hew-mon visible spectrum with the newly-relocated and rebranded pre-show, Ignition. Once upon a Roadburn or three ago, the Sunday was called the Afterburner. Now it’s just another day of the fest. Next year, maybe Ignition will be two stages. Then four. Then six. Then Roadburn will just be a week long. Then a month. Until, at last, three centuries from now, it will always be Roadburn and Roadburn will never not happen, and if our shitheel species is lucky enough to witness it, it’s as close to utopia as we’d ever be likely to get.

Spilled beer on the camera bag. The wafting smell of dudefart. Volume the likes of which vibrates the shirt you’re wearing. Pro-shop everything. It’s fucking Roadburn, children. Get on your goddamned feet. Yes. This.

Three bands held sway at the 013 — there’s construction at Cul de Sac; a revamp, but it will reportedly return — and it was Temple Fang, Great Grief and Hellripper to cast a spectrum of light, dark and blood across the Green Room for the faithful in attendance to bear witness. Was that you? It probably should’ve been.

Boogie oogie oogie:

Temple Fang

Temple Fang (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I was as impatient to see Temple Fang live as I am now for them to put out an album. The Amsterdam four-piece of bassist/vocalist Dennis Duijnhouwer and guitarist/sometimes-vocalist Jevin de Groot, guitarist Ivy van der Veer and drummer Jasper van den Broeke collided kraut and space rock visions with an even-heavier underpinning thanks to Duijnhouwer‘s formidable Rickenbacker tone. He and de Groot shared a tenure in hyper-underappreciated cosmic doomers MĂŒhr, and Duijnhouwer featured in Death Alley as well, so there’s pedigree there as far as I’m concerned, but if Temple Fang had eyes for anything, it was only the silveriest of futures. I don’t know the name of a single song they played, but woof, they held it down in glorious fashion for the assembled masses. By the time they were done, I wanted to shout at the stage for them to immediately get in the studio and get something together. I’ll hope that while they do that, they also mix and master this live set so I can relive the magic in smug ground-floor fashion. They were the first band who played, and there’s no doubt in my mind that by the end of this weekend, I’ll still consider them a highlight. And sadly, they won’t have an album out by Monday either, so I’ll probably still be complaining about that too.

Great Grief

Great Grief (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Good grief, Great Grief. Roadburn‘s years-since-established fetish for the Icelandic underground in its many forms — yet seemingly not all that many people in the actual bands — continued with the heart-on-sleeve hardcore four-piece, who brought issues of diversity and coping with mental health struggles to the fore in their set, even as frontman Finnbogi Örn batted some dude’s beer out of his hand, and subsequently broke a beer bottle on stage (which was swept up afterward) and cut up his forehead with the shards. I’ve never been huge on hardcore, but I’m not about to take away from the fact that Örn, guitarist Gunnar ÁgĂșst, bassist Fannar MĂĄr and drummer Leifur Örn were unreal in how tight they were despite also putting on a show energetic enough to be called visceral. They even had a little mosh going in the Green Room, which thankfully involved no kicking that I saw or felt. It wasn’t even until after their set that some dude dumped his beer on me trying to get a drumstick from Leifur, who was packing away his gear at the time. Up to that point, they very simply put everything they had into their material and the delivery thereof, and while I wouldn’t call myself a convert to the style, I readily acknowledge the convincing argument Great Grief made.

Hellripper

Hellripper (Photo by JJ Koczan)

For as long as Roadburn has had a pre-show, there’s been thrash. Hellripper, from Scotland, might’ve been the youngest dudes in the room, but the kind of no-nonsense, balls-out thrash. fucking. metal. they played is best meted out as a beating from a young person. They stripped the genre to its two-guitar essentials and charred it with an edge of rudimentary black metal and were nothing less than a total blast. Through such family-friendly hits as “Vomit on the Cross” and “All Hail the Goat,” which opens their newly-issued EP, Black Arts and Alchemy, the Aberdeen extremists lost none of their ferocity for also being a really good time, and they were a reminder that although Roadburn-proper over the next four days will unfold in a manner bound to no creative limits and celebrate artistry in multiple media sonic and otherwise, sometimes it really does just need to be about losing your mind and headbanging to a killer speed metal attack. Hellripper were only right to make the point, and their message was well received. By the time they were halfway through the set, Ignition was achieved, and it was Roadburn all the way. Let the vibe begin.

Usually, I’d get to the hotel, put my stuff down and sleep for a bit before the pre-show. Not this year. I’m jetlagged like a bastard and the alarm is set for a sadly few hours from now to get up tomorrow and put the finishing touches on the first issue of the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, so with photos after the jump, I’m going to punch out and get every second of sleep I possibly can. Tomorrow is Roadburn. Let me take a second and breathe that in.

Thanks for reading.

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