20 Watt Tombstone Premiere “Midnight Train to Memphis” Year of the Jackalope

Posted in audiObelisk on January 14th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

20 Watt Tombstone Year of the Jackalope

I don’t know what day it is so don’t ask me, but on Jan. 22, Wisconsin burl-rocking duo A Conversation with Editors-in-Chief of a Journal about the Role and Value of Business Plan Seminar 20 Watt Tombstone — not to be confused with Gets the best professional Phd Thesis General Discussions at the most affordable rates done by the experts at Book Writing Inc. Our book writing services aim to 40 Watt Sun, i need help writing a personal statement, i need a essay written, personal statement writing service london, Physics Reaction Paper, case study Sixty Watt Shaman and/or whoever might dare to shine so brightly as 80 or 100 watts — will release their new two-songer covers EP, a fantastic read - Dissertations, essays and research papers of highest quality. professional writers, exclusive services, instant delivery and Year of the Jackalope. Is a jackalope a totally ridiculous made-up hybrid rabbit/antelope creature the mere mention of which might cause one to roll eyes or think of Bob Saget on old episodes of America’s Funniest Home Videos in the early ’90s? Yes. But one might easily say the same of the beast that was 2020, when these tracks were recorded, so fair’s fair. “Such is life,” as someone once told me.

Now then. The two-piece’s two-songer finds guitarist/vocalist  The good thing about our firm is that despite offering History Of Art Personal Statement Help assistance, our services remain to be of top quality. You can, therefore, be sure that we do not under no circumstances compromise the quality of our clients’ work. It is also worth noting that our affordable assistance in writing a thesis is available on a 24/7 basis and this means that you are free to make your Tom Jordan and drummer  Professional http://oranltd.com/sell-high-school-essay/s offered by Dubai’s top career consultancy with the team of best resume writers; CVMaker.ae. Our prices start from as Mitch Ostrowski aligning themselves swiftly with that which is whiskey-soaked and riff-driven, a Southern heavy touch typifying the seven-minute stretch of the outing’s two covers, one of The best http://www.doubs.travel/email/?critical-thinking-moore-and-parker from Australian pro experts. Exceptional quality that ensures the highest scores. It's totally affordable service for every student ZZ Top‘s “Just Got Paid” and one of country artist MyPapersWriting Guarantees. If you look for a help and ask us to best site, we, in our turn provide you with the following guarantees in order Chris Stapleton‘s “Midnight Train to Memphis.” Not quite new ground for the pair, who offered heavy blues stylings on their 2016 split with  Top 5 Distribution Resume Writing Services You Can Trust. You cannot risk choosing a random dissertation writing service. This important paper practically determines your future. The last thing you need is a scamming, rotten service that steals your money and blocks you from messaging the support. You need the best dissertation writing service and we’ll help you find it. Our team tested Left Lane Cruiser and debuted in 2014 20 watt tombstone year of the jackalopewith  English Reflective Essay - forget about your fears, place your assignment here and get your quality essay in a few days Get started with essay writing Wisco Disco, which boasted no shortage of slide-fueled weighted twang in “Pa Shot Ma” and the toying-with-country-convention “Shitty Girlfriend.” But while they’re in familiar-enough-for-them stylistic territory, they nonetheless accomplish the task before them with a satisfying heft and a rawer vibe that makes “Just Got Paid” and “Midnight Train to Memphis” sound all the more like songs  Business plan writing services - Best Academic Writing Service - Best in San Francisco, web link. TCO Cert provides organic certification 20 Watt Tombstone enjoy jamming on together and decided to put to tape and roll out to let people already following them know they still exist in a world without shows and maybe win a few new ears in the process. Pretense need not apply.

Such intention brooks little argument and neither does  math term papers Writing Content ways to end a essay 2013 college application essay writing Ostrowski and  Online homework and grading tools for instructors and students i Written Assignments For Physical Education that reinforce student learning through practice and Jordan‘s delivery of the songs, which despite their Upper Midwest origins in Wausau, sells the roll well in the song by  Supreme my site Writing Solution You Can Trust. Every student has at one point encountered an assignment that proved difficult, necessitating that they find someone who can rescue them out of their situation. The most complex of these assignments is writing a dissertation for a Bachelor’s, Master’s, or even a Doctorate. Dissertations are lengthy and highly demanding than any Stapleton, who apparently one time dared to say that Black lives matter — a seemingly bold move for a country artist. Admittedly, I don’t know how  Select http://www.il24-affiliate.de/?essay-college-admission-nursing closely examines documents for content, punctuation, grammar, sentence structure, POV, and all other aspects of editing/proofreading. ZZ Top feel on the subject. I’d almost be afraid to ask. So it goes.

Whatever  20 Watt Tombstone‘s plans were for last year and whatever they might be going into this year, let’s assume they’ve been fairly well jackaloped, but the EP is seven minutes of listening to a band play songs they dig and whatever the circumstances that made it happen, that’s never something to complain about. You can hear “Midnight Train to Mmphis” from Year of the Jackalope below, followed by copious PR wire info on the band.

Please enjoy:

On the A-side of this record comes a feel-good rocker – the working man’s rock of ZZ Top with their underrated “Just Got Paid”. The effortless slide guitar licks carry the perfect level of twang – while everything has undoubtedly been recorded live as 20 Watt Tombstone’s previous releases, they’ve cleaned up their act and it all sounds much crisper. Mitch Ostrowski’s drumming is no slack either, as he bangs down hard on his kit in perfect synchronicity.

The flipside of the record, however, takes a darker turn; here has a thundering version of “Midnight Train to Memphis” by Chris Stapleton. The name may not mean much outside of Southern rock and Americana circles, but his influence as a songwriter reaches widely into pop, country, and rock n’ roll. As such it’s only fitting to pay tribute to a man who has done so much for music. And tribute is paid – there is a wonderful gritty tone from the voice of the tower that is Tom Jordan, as he stretches out the chorus lines detailing a prisoner’s life.

And that’s all, folks. A small teaser of 20 Watt Tombstone’s heaviness, more focused on the blues side than the death side this time. If it is indeed the Year of the Jackalope and its scary face, then it is with a mixture of trepidation and excitement that we await for further material to emerge. Long live Wisco Disco!

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Buss Premiere ‘Live Under the Grape’ Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 12th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

buss live under the grape

You got 12 minutes to watch some kids rock out like Stooges-gone-West-Coast-fuzz? Sure you do. What are doing that’s so damn important? Apparently sometime last summer, brash trio Buss — who released their self-titled EP (review here) in May — decided to get together and play. No shows, of course, so they made their own. They’re outside, it’s sunny, warm, under a tree that may or may not indeed be a big-ass grape vine, and with an old boombox by their side, a couple cameras to swap between and a beer on bassist Erik Carpani‘s Orange amp, they just hit it with the first two tracks of the EP. A band, playing songs. Could hardly be more straightforward, right?

Sure, save for the context in which ‘Live Under the Grape’ arrives. I don’t know whose house that is they’re playing in front of, but given the volume they unleash one hopes the neighbors were down to jam. Perhaps, after several months of hard quarantine, they too were ready for whatever glimpse of a gig they could get. Maybe after the cameras stopped it turned into an impromptu and safely-socially-distant block party, everybody out on their porch cracking a beer and toasting each other from far away. Okay, maybe not, but Buss still rip into “Liars” and “TV Show” and if you’ve got a problem with that, I doubt it’d give the band much pause at all. From what I can see here, they seem pretty happy just to be jamming on the songs.

Rightfully so. I’ll spare you the group-creativity-is-a-treasure-during-a-pandemic spiel, but obviously the same applies. I’ve never been to Trieste, Italy, but it’s no stretch to imagine hitting up a show and watching Buss have the kind of infectious fun that vibes all the way through here. So yeah, you’ve got 12 minutes for that. Sorry for your day if you don’t.

Enjoy:

Buss, ‘Live Under the Grape’ official video premiere

BUSS – Live under the grape

Tracklist:
Liars (00:00-6:13)
TV show (6:23-12:15)

Recorded in a hot and sweaty summer afternoon. Listen with the volume cranked up!

We’d had thirst for live performance, so we decided to organise one! No tricky stuff: just loud amps, cold beer and some good friends. Ivan the drummer, provided some basic recording equipment he wanted to try. So this is our first improvised recording; At a old, dusty, and moldy house, the best location for a wild party. We had an amazing time, playing together: we really were on fire, just like our amps. The mix of booze and (too) high volumes continued until early morning hours for the happiness of the beloved neighbours.

Audio & video recordings by BUSS

Mixed by Alessandro Perosa @Track Terminal Studio

Video editing by Alija Bandi

Released with the support from Rocket Panda Management

BUSS DEBUT EP:
https://bussband1.bandcamp.com/album/ep

BUSS is:
Erik Carpani – bass & vocals
Patrik Pregarc – guitar
Ivan Kralj – drums

Buss, Buss EP(2020)

Buss on Instagram

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Buss on YouTube

Buss on Bandcamp

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Boozewa Announce First Contact Demo out Feb. 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

boozewa

Any Starfleeter worth their replicated salt knows no mission is more important than First Contact. Thus one assumes that the upcoming four-song debut demo from West Chester, PA, lockdown project Boozewa will arrive with no shortage of diplomatic fanfare. Remember, you don’t want to alarm the natives of the planet, but you do want to tell them that there’s a whole galactic federation out there and that no, they’re not that special and, no, the world isn’t flat, and so on. Good fun.

Boozewa made their debut at the recent Mutants of the Monster II and features three current/former members of primo dirt rockers Backwoods Payback, if in somewhat shifted configuration. Suffice it to say the new band formed during quarantine and finds them having realigned the matter transducers to tap into the auxiliary EPS grids in order to create a kind of plasma flux in the nacelles, drawing energy from non-essential systems. There’s a chance the whole ship might explode, but it should work if they time it just right.

For those who believe in linear time, the demo is out Feb. 5, as per the PR wire:

boozewa first contact

Boozewa – First Contact

The good cheese on recyclable plates – BOOZEWA!
Bloody Marys in the fancy glasses – BOOZEWA!
Bottom shelf scotch
Top shelf riffs
BOOZEWA!

Featuring members of Pennsylvania’s Backwoods Payback, Boozewa brings those wall-shaking, glass-clattering riffs in ways that will be no surprise to longtime BWPB fans…. And a knock in the back of the head for everyone else!

The new band is comprised of BWPB alum Jessica Baker on bass and Mike Cummings on drums and lead vocals, joined by Rylan Caspar on guitar; Baker and Caspar are handling backing vocal duties as well. The band says of their four-song demo,

“Making music during a time when you literally could not do anything else just made sense. We were lucky that a wave of inspiration decided to crest in the spring of 2020 and even luckier still there we all had a house full of gear to make it happen. We have no idea what 2021 holds for this band but wherever we end up, you will for sure hear us coming…

The demo was entirely recorded and mixed by the band on a 90s Tascam 4-track tape machine here at the compound. It was mastered for the cassette release by Mike Bardzik at Noisy Little Critter in Downingtown, PA.

The cassettes were all run off individually by hand and assembled at the compound as well. This release is possibly as DIY as you can get. It was a labor of love.”

This demo, titled First Contact, will be available in cassette and digital formats on February 5th 2021.

Tracklisting:
01 Black Flag?
02 Those Who Deny the Existence of Robots, May, in Fact, Be Robots Themselves
03 Full Tank
04 No Name Maddox

Boozewa:
Rylan Caspar plays guitar
Jessica Baker plays bass
Mike Cummings plays drums and sings (sometimes)

https://www.instagram.com/boozewa/
https://boozewa.bandcamp.com/

Boozewa, “Farm Witch (Reprise)”

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Album Review: Electric Octopus, Inclinations

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Electric Octopus Inclinations

The last Electric Octopus studio offering was Smile (review here), released in Jan. 2019. For a band of the Belfast trio’s improvisatory ilk, that’s practically a lifetime ago, and even though they’ve had two live albums out since then — the most recent being July 2019’s Live at the Kinky Star Round 2, they still acknowledge that Inclinations arrives after what they call a “hiatus.” For most bands, it would be a quick turnaround from one LP to the next — not to mention those live records — but again, Electric Octopus aren’t most bands. Their ongoing project is based around improv jamming, freeform exploration of the creative, resulting in flowing, sometimes sprawling excursions of vibe, and that’s certainly the case with Inclinations, which brings together six separate pieces and amasses a total runtime of well over two hours.

This is, of course, done purely for a digital format. Electric Octopus have done plenty of physical releases before — they recently sold out of another pressing of 2016’s This is Our Culture — but for something like Inclinations, the digital format ends up becoming part of the experience. As guitarist/flutist Tyrell Black, bassist Dale Hughes (who also fills in on guitar when Black moves to flute and also produces) and drummer Guy Hetherington took to Attic Studios in Belfast in Nov. 2020, they brought a camera with them and streamed some part of the recording process live.

The resulting video also ran about two hours and 20 minutes — though of course the total output of Inclinations would’ve taken longer — and in addition to their playing, flute and all, they chatted to those watching and sort of milled about as one might in a relaxed studio setting. Whether or not anything they played at the time made it on the record, or if that was just a rehearsal and the tracking was done later, I don’t know, but it’s a crucial showcase of the ethic with which Electric Octopus operates generally, pre- or post-hiatus. Their output has been and remains distinguished by its honesty.

In aesthetic terms, that translates to a certain amount of rawness. Sure, there are echo effects and fuzz and swirls and all that fun stuff, but to listen to the tinny, biting snare at the of the jazz-flutey “2” (13:23) or the twisting leads in the first half of “1” (21:22) leading into the funkier, bass-popping midsection, and even by the time the louder stretch kicks in sometime around the 16-minute mark you’re still struck by the abidingly languid feel of what’s taking place. Electric Octopus are unflinchingly organic in sound and style.

Their explorations don’t attempt to be anything they aren’t — they’re not pushing for any sort of theatricality or anything like that — and even when the guitar, and now flute, gets showy, they might back that up with laughter you can hear come through the mics in the recording. They’re having fun playing music. It meanders, hiccups, stretches out and contracts. One member might switch tempo ahead of the others to lead them in a different direction. Every now and again, the whole thing might seem like it’s going to fall apart. And maybe it will. The point is that’s okay too, because if that’s what the jam needs to be then that’s what it’s going to be. Like few others, Electric Octopus seem able to let themselves go and let the music they’re making together guide them through wherever it’s going.

electric octopus

Sometimes it’s just going. To wit, “3” is runs just over 27 minutes of flute and drums. Is this going to be everyone’s cup of tea? No it is not. But it ends and “4” (18:19) picks up with the same laughter as the band move naturally onto the next jam, which flows a little easier in that conversation between Black and Hetherington, until finally in “5” — which is an album unto itself at 32:54 — as Hughes and Hetherington hold down the central rhythm, Black swaps back and forth between guitar and flute and pulls together a narrative of cosmic jazz in the process, evoking something interstellar without ever losing sense of that studio space.

It should go without saying that by the time Electric Octopus get to that point, a given listener is either going to be on board for the ride or not. This is, after all, a kind of sonic extremity. Not in the extreme-metal sense, where it’s about hyper-aggression or blastbeats, etc., but there’s a sense of limits-pushing that comes through in Inclinations just the same as the band dig further and further into the heart of their creative processes. “5” devolves into a stretch of drum-maintained noodling before it’s a half-hour in, and picks up for a funky minute or two before a dreamier ending, but one way or the other, what you’re hearing there is just the band messing around with music. It’s not songwriting and it’s not supposed to be. It’s that moment, as it happened. A genuine document of what was going on right then.

That’s part of what makes it so interesting that they potentially recorded part of the album while live streaming, since it bridges that gap between what’s a live album and what’s an album recorded live, while introducing another layer to the conceptual moment-captured intention of the band. “6” rounds out Inclinations at 18:04 with flute and guitar intertwining, giving the storyline of the day — afternoon, evening, whatever it might have been — a fitting ending as those two sides are brought together for a last psychedelic jaunt. And if you’ve taken the trip with them, consciously listening for changes and twists and lapses and bursts, then the manner in which they wrap the proceedings should make sense, but even if “6” becomes the stuff of drifted-attention background listening, I don’t think that’s necessarily against Electric Octopus‘ purposes. They do what they do, regardless of what one might make of it.

Willful sonic escape is an idea easier to conceive than execute. Try too hard and you’re undone before you start. Electric Octopus hit that balance just right on Inclinations, and though the runtime is well beyond what one might consider “manageable,” well, you’ve got a whole lifetime to get caught up, so what the hell?

Electric Octopus, Inclinations (2021)

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Andrea Van Cleef Posts “The New Earth” Video From Shine Live Album

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 11th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

andrea van cleef (Photo by Gigi Fratus)

Not a ton of mystery here, and that’s just fine. Andrea Van Cleef, known for his work as vocalist/guitarist of Brescia, Italy’s Humulus, has done solo shows in various guises for years. His most recent studio album, 135, was released in Jan. 2020 as a series of three 7″ platters billed as Andrea Van Cleef and the Fuzz Resistance. For the newer-released-but-earlier-recorded live album, Shine, it’s Andrea Van Cleef and the Forever People, and indeed, Van Cleef — who of course is not to be confused with Napoli outfit Lee Van Cleef — has a full band behind him for the six-song set, including drums, backing vocals, keys and bass, all of which lend the fuzzy “I Wanna Be Like You” a desert-psych vibe that Shine mirrors with its cover art.

The set begins with the melodic flow of “I Passed Away,” and moves through “I Wanna Be Like You”andrea van cleef and the forever people shine and the noisier Morphine cover “Thursday” before the momentary freakout that is “Friday” — fitting it should be after the day before — and the seven-minute, organ-laced “Shine” before arriving at the closer of the recording, which is “The New Earth.” At 12 minutes, it is both culmination of the set — though apparently the recording is incomplete, so whether there was more before or after, I don’t know; what is time, anyway? — and summary of the total journey, beginning with an early sunrise of guitar and stretching out into a work of melodic psych-prog the fullness of which is not at all undercut by the fact that it’s a live recording. One imagines that, if you were standing in Pavia that April night in 2018, it would’ve been quite a moment to witness.

A video? Don’t mind if I do. Counter perhaps to expectation, the clip is not of “The New Earth” being performed live as it happened, or even assembled from other shows, but the track put to some archival NASA footage that, honestly, fits just as well. You were going to space one way or the other.

Shine is name-your-price and streaming in its entirety at the bottom of this post, because why wouldn’t it be? Van Cleef offers some comment below the video.

Please enjoy:

Andrea Van Cleef and the Forever People, “The New Earth” official video

Andrea Van Cleef on “The New Earth”:

This year’s been a bitch. Sitting at home with nothing to do and browsing thru my personal music archive, I found this .zip files with soundboard recording from a show I played with my solo band two and a half years ago. We played soft psychedelia and classic rock, it was (my second solo album) “Tropic of Nowhere” tour. The recording — albeit incomplete, only part of the set was included — sounded really good, so I decided to mix and master those songs and put out a live album, available on Bandcamp as “name your price” offer: https://andreavancleef.bandcamp.com/album/shine-live-in-pavia-april-12-2018

Then the drummer of the Forever People (my “solo” band) told me that NASA has got a wide archive of amazing footage, which I thought could make a good match with the last song of the album, the Pink Floyd influenced “the new earth”. This is how this video came to light. I hope you guys enjoy the trip! Take care!

Written by Andrea Van Cleef, performed by AVC & The Forever People (AVC: guitar, vocals; Giorgio Finulli: bass; Matteo Melchiori: drums; Andrea Braga: keyboards; Sara Gozzi, Daniel Rosa, Marco Pasetti: backing vocals)

Recorded live at Spaziomusica, Pavia, ITALY on April 12, 2018.

Free footage courtesy of NASA, JSC PAO Video Collection –
NASA Johnson Space Center Public Affairs Office.
https://www.nasa.gov/

Photo by Gigi Fratus.

Andrea Van Cleef and the Forever People, Shine: Live in Pavia, April 12, 2018 (2021)

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Six Dumb Questions with MOOCH

Posted in Features on January 6th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

mooch

Montreal-based three-piece Mooch — also stylized all-caps: MOOCH — self-released their debut album, Hounds, on April 20, 2020. Fun timing for a heavy rock record, save for the year. But the trio of guitarist/vocalist Ben Cornel, drummer/backing vocalist Alex Segreti and gone-then-returned bassist/backing vocalist Julian Iacovantuono brought desert-captured vibe that was actually captured in the desert to combat the restlessness of last Spring’s lockdown, and Hounds dips in and out of heavy blues on a cut like “Feel Good” after a little wah trippiness in the funky rollout of “Blues Man’s Face” earlier on. The songs are tight structurally but flow easy, and all 10 of ’em — even the interlude “Lucid,” which is discussed below — contribute to the strength of the whole.

The story of the album — which is just sitting there; it would be begging to be picked up for a vinyl release were it not actually playing it so darn cool; it’s like, “Hey, no big deal, you could put me out as a 12″ I’ve got some cool artwork and I’m a good time” — is of course that they, as a band based on the other side of the continent, pilgrimaged to Twentynine Palms, California, to record at Jalamanta Studios with Brant Bjork and Bubba DuPree. And as narratives go, that’s pretty good. Have songs, will travel. The full reality of the situation is more complex; they did do live tracking with DuPree, Bjork and Yosef Sanborn in CA, then returned home and filled those out with overdubbed elements, backing vocal arrangements, and so on, working with Joe Segreti (who also guests on lap steel) at SEGPOP Studios.

One way or the other, though, what Hounds has got is vibe, and it’s got plenty of it. And better, vibe set alongside choice songcraft that doesn’t make its hooks overbearing but most certainly gets its point across and seals Mooch as a band who, though their path getting there was somewhat bumpy — with Iacovantuono going then coming back, completing and refining the songs as a duo, recording in two studios, etc. — know the sound they’re looking for and obviously knew what they wanted to do to capture it. As a debut — which, again, really, someone should step up and put out on vinyl — it more than does its job in serving notice of their intent.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions.

MOOCH HOUNDS

Six Dumb Questions with MOOCH

Tell me about traveling from Montreal to California to record in the desert. How did it come about, how long were you there, and what made you take that trip? Tell me about going. Did you all travel together? What was that trip like for you personally?

Ben Cornel: It was all such a surreal experience. Our trip to California came about in the most cinematic type of circumstances. Alex and myself were touring Eastern Canada as a drum-guitar duo in the spring leading up to the summer 2018 trip. We played a show in Oshawa, Ontario, to a house of maybe 12 people, all band members included. One of the musicians we shared the stage with that night, Andre from Slow Death Lights, came up to us after our set and asked us if we dug Brant Bjork’s music. Absolutely we did and do. MOOCH has always listed Kyuss as one of our biggest influences. That’s why our jaws dropped when Andre mentioned that if we were serious about cutting a record he could potentially introduce us to Brant through email. We left that night being very stoked but also skeptical of the probability of a deal coming through. We gave it a shot and sent Brant an email with some of our music. He replied a couple days later with a simple four word response: Let’s make a record. Within two weeks from that night we had connected with Brant, settled a date, and bought tickets to Palm Springs. We spent the next five months putting together our debut LP HOUNDS.

Alex Segreti: We had booked five August days of studio time with Brant and his team: producer Bubba Dupree, and engineer Yosef Sanborn of Massive FX Pedals. This was the team that weeks prior to our arrival had recorded Brant’s 13th album, Mankind Woman, in the same place that we were headed to, Jalamanta Studios. At the time, we were still a guitar-drum duo hellbent on pulling off some White Stripes-esque two-piece album with as little studio magic as possible. We had spent five months of rehearsing and writing full-time so that we could ace our performances under the red light. Although not working in the band at the time, current MOOCH bassist/vocalist Julian worked hard with us to prepare this album.

Julian Iacovantuono: The pre-prod stage was the first time that Alex, Ben, and I reconnected in a MOOCH context. Since they were only spending a short amount of time in the desert, they wanted the songs to be as ironed-out as possible before going in to record; so they asked me to help them out with the pre-prod. During those sessions, we recorded formal demos, and went over song structure, vocal harmonies, and guitar overdubs.

Ben Cornel: We wanted to absolutely nail this album. We had the chance to open for Yawning Man in Montreal a few months earlier. Meeting and playing with those guys was a rad experience, and now, to get the chance to travel to Joshua Tree to collaborate with Brant in the desert that saw the mythical generator parties and births of Kyuss, Yawning Man, Queens of the Stone Age… we were beyond stoked. For these reasons that trip took on such a personal tone as well. For example, the kit that we recorded on was dubbed ‘the Kyuss kit’. Brant had used it for recording a majority of his drums throughout his career. He also shared with us that Dave Grohl had borrowed the kit whilst touring with Queens of the Stone Age for a Songs for the Deaf tour. Alex, being a gigantic Grohl fan as well as a QOTSA fan, practically collapsed at the realization that he was tracking on the kit. The stories that were shared in the post-recording hours of the day were so what made it so memorable to connect with such a professional, hard working team of individuals. The stories ranged from Lollapalooza, holding Hendrix’s burnt guitar at Frank Zappa’s home studio, and the likes of Soundgarden and Paul McCartney. We were in the company of some of our biggest influences, and this record would not have come to be without the hard work everyone put in.

“Mantra” opens the record mellow and then smacks you in the face. How much did you want to draw out the louder side and the jammier stretches initially? Was that something you specifically wanted to bring out in the recording?

Alex Segreti: The idea that “Mantra” would open the record was suggested to us by our friend Nick who plays in a destructive doom rock band called KATÖ. He heard the mellow slow burn build and thought it would make a great opening. We ran with it and in the end it aligned with the concept of the album. Lyrically “Mantra” explores this flip-the-switch moment between realms. ‘Mantra’ is the switch, and the drop at the end of the song flips you into the realm of HOUNDS for the next 40 minutes.

The concept for the album initially, was that of the barebones duo. We didn’t want to overreach for spaces that we couldn’t hold live during shows. The realness of the album came through from the fact that it was recorded live, without a click. We were in the same room, side by side. This helped the mood flow and the jams come through. We really captured the emotions that we were feeling being there. The way the songs were written was trying to compensate for having a bass-less groove. We decided to keep the groove intact as much as possible instead of reach for the jammier improv moments. That being said, live, we had a massive rig going and we wanted that to come through. We still wanted a hefty punch to land on all ears and in the end we got there, but we ended up with the final sound after a split from our initial concept; which led to more work being done in Montreal after the fact.

How involved were Bubba Dupree and Brant Bjork as producers? What was recorded in Twentynine Palms as opposed to Montreal?

Ben Cornel: Brant was our initial contact and he essentially played the role of the old school producer. He brought the team together, worked on setting up the studio, getting gear, and overlooked the groovy vibes of the operation. Many conversations were had with him regarding style, sound, technique and attitude, among other things. He helped us direct our energy and intent into the music. Bubba Dupree was the producer who sat on every note, and went through the tracking process with us. He would recommend certain changes and had a tight vision for what he heard. We were open to all suggestions and it rolled very smoothly between us. We trusted Bubba’s vision without a shred of doubt and he went on to do a great job in mixing the album. His vibe, vision and contributions could also be heard all over Mankind Woman. Yosef Sanborn supplied some very tasty gear and was in full control of the board the entire time. We had never worked with an engineer who was so on the ball. He rolled with such precision and was calm, cool and collected the entire time. In the end, it was the five of us in this studio space together for many hours of the day. Everyone was fully immersed in the project and contributed to the magic that was expressed through this record.

Alex Segreti: Like we mentioned earlier, at one point, we had to split from the whole duo sound we had initially set out to grab. The drums, guitars and vocals that we recorded in the desert sounded great. Bubba had just gotten us some mixes but the basslessness was too evident. Bubba and Brant suggested we add bass to the record, and to the band. At this point we turned to the one and only Julian Iacovantuono. Julian had played bass in MOOCH for many years and had left the band at the end of 2017. As the duo form showed, we could not and did not replace him. We asked if he would like to rejoin and record bass on the record. He had seen the record at the demo stage and had the chemistry to understand the music. He accepted, and the MOOCH trio was re-birthed.

At this time we reached out to Joe Segreti at SEGPOP Studios. Joe recorded our 2017 Timewarp EP and also worked on arrangements for the album. We knew he had the touch to dial in what we were missing. Joe produced and engineered the Montreal part of the album and did a phenomenal job working with the music. With him we recorded bass, added back up vocals, guitar dubs, djembe and some special ingredients for atmospheric effect. When we look back at what we had leaving the desert and compare it to what we came away with after the Montreal chapter of the project, we are so grateful that Julian and Joe came in. Everything ended up blending in perfectly thanks to Joe and Julian’s amazing job at really understanding what we were trying to accomplish. Their contributions boosted the album to the weight that we always knew we wanted to punch at. We’ve always had our own team at home and we couldn’t be happier that this album did the distance between the desert and Montreal.

Tell me about “Lucid.” It’s such a quick jam but it does a lot atmospherically and ties the songs together around it. How much was laid out in pre-production and how much came to be in the studio?

Ben Cornel: Originally, the music for “Lucid” was supposed to be the extended outro for the track that precedes it, “Blues Man’s Face”. The part could be heard playing throughout the “Blues Man’s Face” riff drop. We recorded the extended outro in the studio without knowing what exactly we were going to do with it. At one point we decided to separate it from BMF and let it stand alone as an “Orchid”-type atmospheric break that Black Sabbath used on Master of Reality. The title “Lucid” fit the mood, and the track became the expression of our trip through the desert, which felt more like a lucid dream than reality.

Julian Iacovantuono: “Lucid,” for me, was probably the most fun track to write on. The guitars provide a vibey blank slate that allowed me to flow melodically with the bass. The only thing that I dislike about the track is how short it is. I think that if we knew what the song would become once we added the guitar dubs, bass, and djembe; we would have made it longer. When we play it live though, we always extend it by a few minutes.

Obviously 2020 was a weird year to release a debut album since you couldn’t really play live to support it. Has the pandemic affected your creative processes at all? Have you been inspired, restless, anything, during this time?

Julian Iacovantuono: This year has definitely been difficult on us as a band. The pandemic has taken from us the main thing we set out to do; play music for people. We’re beginning to get back to writing music and releasing content, so that’s definitely something to look forward to.

Alex Segreti: We are thankful to the people who connected with us and our music online during such a time of social isolation. We were able to find ways to connect with people outside of the live show atmosphere and explore the internet for sources that allow for musical discovery. We were lucky to set up a premiere with Doomed and Stoned back in April which connected us with some rad music lovers through Vegas Rock Revolution, Doom Charts, Obelisk, Kyuss World, Ripple Music. With the support of these communities we have managed to branch out and share our music with people all over the world. We eagerly await a safe reopening for everyone everywhere so that we could connect face-to-face.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

We have recently opened our MOOCH Bandcamp store and released HOUNDS on CD. A few of our tour shirts are also still available. We are still working towards making the vinyl investment so that we could get the wax out to the world. We are grateful for everyone who has supported us and helped us along. Much more MOOCH to come.

Mooch, Hounds (2020)

Mooch on Thee Facebooks

Mooch on Bandcamp

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

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

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

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

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

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

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

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

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

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

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

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

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

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

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

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

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

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

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

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

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

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

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

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

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

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

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

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

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

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

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

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

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

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

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

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

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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