Album Review: Vessel of Light, Last Ride

Posted in Reviews on November 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

vessel of light last ride

The opening verse narrative of The http://sppadbase.ipp.cnr.it/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/?1966 services providing high quality dissertation writing help for you. Any discipline within your time-frame Vessel of Light‘s third long-player in as many years,  Need professional paper writing help? Hire a highly qualified writer to hop over to here for you. All custom papers are written from scratch. Last Ride, begins with frontman paper to help with handwriting http://busemcicek.com/?dissertation-for-dummies thesis on purchase intention what format should i write my scholarship essay Nathan Opposition (né see post Forum. 914 likes. Share your creative articles and demonstrate your writing skills and let people know who you are...Write on any topic... Nathan Jochum, also of  Welcome to HomeworkForSchool.com: CPM homework service. We are provides CPM Pelicula Homework Online Espaol of any complexity: cc3, cc2. Ancient VVisdom) saying “For as long as I can remember, you’ve always been hard to forget…” and ends with “Now your body is mangled and your skull belongs to me.” This has been part and parcel for the Ohio/New Jersey-based outfit since they released their self-titled debut EP (review here) through  Write my essay problems can be stressful for students. This problem can be solved in a jiffy through professional http://www.campingsolmar.com/?write-essay-my-parentss by EssayTyper service. Argonauta Records in 2017, and subsequently followed with the first album,  http://www.comelec.telecom-paristech.fr/?thesis-on-public-service - Top reliable and trustworthy academic writing aid. Enjoy the merits of qualified writing help available here Forget about those Woodshed (review here), and second,  find this. 2.1K likes. Our team possesses sufficient knowledge with expertise to complete the needs of students by understandings their... Thy Serpent Rise (review here), in 2018 and 2019. Murder fantasy. Kidnapping, dismemberment, murder. Usually it’s implied if not explicitly stated that the victim is a woman and that the speaker in the lyrics feels as though they’ve been somehow done wrong, lied to, betrayed, etc.

It was an especially sexualized turn taken on  Topics For Research Papers In Englishs is one of the best ways to get "A+" from your teacher. That is why thousands of students buying college essay from Thy Serpent Rise, and in answering back to that,  A Little More Homework - Put aside your concerns, place your assignment here and get your quality project in a few days Get started with dissertation writing Last Ride (released through  How To Write A Business Essay. Professional application essay and personal statement editing in Austin, TX, via email, or Skype. Professional Nomad Eel Records) brings 10 tracks and 41 minutes of likewise death-obsessed fare, suitably brooding in mood and dark in a tone somewhere between straightforward heavy metal and doom.  college application essay writing service a successful find more info committee member and dissertation how to write an application letter head Last Ride is unquestionably the most realized version of  Biznes. World war 1 origins essay writing.. http://www.chacf.co.uk/essay-online-education-vs-traditional-education/. You made your man write an essay to convince you to suck his dick... headassery needs o be Vessel of Light‘s sound they’ve yet offered. With founding parties  money cant buy everything essay Dissertation Contents Page Example advertisement essays dissertation completion grant harvard gsas Opposition and guitarist  Looking to this links? We have American writers and know how to deliver essays that answer the question based on your instructions. Dan Lorenzo ( Hades) having introduced bassist Jimmy Schulman (HadesDan Lorenzo‘s solo band) and drummer Ron Lipnicki (ex-Overkill) last time around, Vessel of Light‘s complete-lineup incarnation benefits from both the familiarity of the players involved — none of the Jersey-based trio behind Opposition were strangers to each other before this grouping — and from the personality and playing styles of each. Instrumentally and in terms of production, the songs on Last Ride are varied in tempo and aggression while keeping in mind the overarching mood and progression of the record as a whole. Despite the geographic disparity, they come across as though written in a room with Opposition working out the lyrics as they went.

That in itself is a triumph for a band working with the full, oh-my-god-how-are-we-still-driving-across-this-state mass of Pennsylvania between them, but the real growth of Vessel of Light is in Opposition‘s performance here. In layered vocals that weave into and out of harmony, he recalls Dirt-era Alice in Chains in songs like “Torture King” and the side-B opener “Web of Death,” a speedier, swinging complement to Last Ride‘s nod of a leadoff title-track. Subtle shifts of arrangement in the verses of “There’s No Escape” and a burst of melody that accompanies the instrumental surge of “Voices of the Dead” feel worked on, harnessed over a period greater than the time since the last record came out, and demonstrate plainly the evolution of Vessel of Light beyond “project” and into “band.” Opposition comes across as a more patient and more dynamic vocalist, and his performance throughout turns horror-show depictions into sing-along-ready hooks.

The question is really how much one wants to sing along with these lyrics.

vessel of light

It is a testament to Vessel of Light‘s sense of craft just how little of a question it is when it comes to Last Ride. Their songwriting has grown progressively sharper as they’ve moved quickly between one batch of material and the next, mostly without a focus on live shows, but having done a few along the way, and whether it’s a roller like “Disappearing Pact” or the shout-laced closer “The Death of Innocence,” they balance atmosphere and rhythmic purpose fluidly across the record’s span. To wit, the lead-in the finale gets with “In the Silence,” which is inarguably the most spacious single piece the band has yet done; it feels like an experiment that worked. As Opposition spends much of side B periodically engaging growls and shouts — “Voices of the Dead,” “In the Silence,” “The Death of Innocence” — there’s little if any sacrifice of melody, and it comes across less like a crutch being leaned on than another tool in the singer’s malevolent arsenal being used to these bleak, unremittingly dark tales.

And I guess that’s what it ultimately comes down to with Vessel of Light. In construction and performance, they’ve done nothing but evolve, and Last Ride is the largest step forward they’ve taken in that regard. There is not a misplaced riff, an incoherent groove or a lost-seeming opportunity for melody in these songs. The band are in command of what they do, Lorenzo and Opposition come across as working together more deeply as songwriters than they yet have, and the full-lineup only brings more chances for dynamic in actually executing the material in the studio. They’ve grown in everything but the themes around which their songs are based.

A function of art, and particularly of good art, is to challenge convention, and in many instances that involves exploring the darker elements the human psyche, the more dangerous places one’s mind can go. I’m not saying Opposition is making an invalid artistic statement with his lyrics, but for an album that so much shows the band in question moving forward and challenging itself to offer a richer, more complex product to its listeners — especially, it should be noted, in the vocal department and Opposition‘s own performance — the monochromatic nature of death, death, murder, death, going from “Torture King” to “Carving Station” to “There’s No Escape” to “Web of Death,” and so on, feels almost stubborn in its refusal to branch into other ideas. Among genre fare in literature and pop culture, horror is singularly able to discomfort those who take it on, and there’s no doubt Vessel of Light are good at it at this point.

I’ll willingly confess to not being the world’s biggest horror fan or having an abiding fascination with murder, so there are questions I’m left with at the end that I don’t have easy answers for. With the point of view of the speaker in the lyrics as the perpetrator, where does the sense of the listener as complicit come in? Where’s the challenge other than in the sheer engagement with gruesome or otherwise objectionable notions? Is it really just about making the audience squirm? Perhaps, instead of overthinking it thusly, the way to go with Last Ride is just indeed to take the ride through the songs themselves and engage them for the evident progression they represent in the band’s approach on the whole. Last Ride is the best work Vessel of Light have done to-date. It is a firm statement of identity on the part of the band and an aesthetic dive into the grim, violent reaches of consciousness. There is nothing it seeks to accomplish that it does not accomplish.

Vessel of Light, Last Ride (2020)

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Vessel of Light Post Video for Last Ride Title-Track

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

vessel of light

For a band of such singular focus thematically on murder, Vessel of Light have managed to stay pretty productive when it comes to songwriting. One might expect that at some point the sheer body count of frontman/lyricist Nathan Opposition (formerly of Ancient VVisdom) would get to the point where both basement and woodshed were full, but I suppose you figure these things out as they come up. I’m not here to condone or endorse killing or violence of any kind, but it’s hard not to respect the productivity on the part of Vessel of Light‘s founding duo of Opposition and guitarist Dan Lorenzo (Hades), who, despite being based respectively in Ohio and New Jersey, have managed to offer up three full-lengths since 2018, with the forthcoming Last Ride being the fourth due out next month through Nomad Eel Records.

Now with the stage-ready lineup of LorenzoOpposition, bassist Jimmy Schulman (Hades) and drummer Ron Lipnicki (fuggin’ Overkill, dude) — but alas, no stages — Vessel of Light operate as a full band for the second time across Last Ride, and building on late-2019’s phallocentric Thy Serpent Rise (review here), they sound like a more complete band. Opposition‘s vocals recall not only Black Sabbath but something of a gruffed-up Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, and there’s a balance between heavy rock and metal inherent in the groove of the title-track that represents the four-piece’s sound well as they continue to find their space between the two.

Perhaps unsurprisingly — no, make that definitely unsurprisingly — the video for “Last Ride” takes a horror-themed approach, and yup, by “last,” they for sure mean last. Lyrics like, “Now your body is mangled/And your skull belongs to me,” don’t really leave any question as to what they’re talking about.

Album’s out in time for Halloween and more info follows the clip below.

Enjoy:

Vessel of Light, “Last Ride” official video

Cleveland’s Nathan Opposition and NJ’s Dan Lorenzo first jammed together in June of 2017. The duo released two albums for Italy’s Argonauta Records before adding former Overkill drummer Ron Lipnicki and former Hades bassist Jimmy Schulman for last years’ Thy Serpent Rise. Vessel of Light are set to release their 4th album Last Ride this October 30th on California’s Nomad Eel Records. Until then, the band gives us the video for the first single. Opposition came up with the concept. He said,” I’m a huge horror movie fan, so for me this calls upon a number of things. The faceless villain in the classic movie The Oblong Box with Vincent Price and Christopher Lee was definitely an inspiration. Calling upon the mysterious shadowy figures in horror movies like A Phantom of the Opera or the Invisible Man. I wanted to capture the fear in the shadows, fear of the dark, the things out of the corner of our eyes. I really like the concept of a faceless shadow figure, almost like in the urban legend of the Djinn, Slender Man or Hat Man, an evil entity or presence that peers into the soul and rips it to shreds.”

Jason Stewart who also edited the band’s last video, a cover of Black Sabbath’s Wasp stated, “For the Last Ride video, I tried to cut it like a police investigation show, but it’s very grungy and dirty as if I discovered all the raw footage in a dumpster behind a local police station. A lot of the lyrics are in the style of newspaper articles, random 911 calls, subtitles from an interrogation, and more. The one behind the whole story is this Shadow Man figure. It’s almost like a teaser for a made up show in the crime genre.”

Vessel of Light were playing an East Coast run in March and had planned a longer run in June including The Maryland Doom Fest before Coronavirus shut down the band’s plans.

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Vessel of Light Sign to Nomad Eel Records; Last Ride Due in Oct.

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 4th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Working quick, and they know it. Vessel of Light issued their self-titled debut EP (review here) through Argonauta Records in 2017 and followed that in 2018 with their first full-length, Woodshed (review here). That album, in turn, was followed by 2019’s horror-trash metal-of-doom sleazefest Thy Serpent Rise (review here). Here we are: it’s 2020. The world isn’t ending but it kind of feels like it all the time, and Vessel of Light have still found room to be consistent, guitarist/songwriter Dan Lorenzo putting lockdown-era inspiration to work in what has resulted in Last Ride, the band’s new album, out this October through Nomad Eel Records.

The pickup makes Vessel of Light labelmates to the likes of Zig-Zags and Imaad Wasif, and if you’re thinking a band so thoroughly entrenched in murderous themes might be an odd fit for such an outlet, well, you’re right. These things happen. Sometimes a label has varied interests. Sometimes someone knows somebody. Sometimes something just works out. The record’s happening. Be glad with that.

October release will be fitting, and if you look closely at the cover art, you’ll see it’s ‘VOL Undertakers’ on that carriage. Cute touch.

Dig:

vessel of light last ride

California’s Nomad Eel Records signs VESSEL OF LIGHT

Three years ago Cleveland’s Nathan Opposition and NJ’s Dan Lorenzo recorded their debut EP for Italy’s Argonauta Records. Vessel of Light are now about to deliver their fourth record in less than three years. The first single is Last Ride which is also the name of the new release on California’s Nomad Eel Records. Opposition and Lorenzo had previously recorded the single/video Son of Man from their Woodshed album before adding former Hades bassist Jimmy Schulman and longtime Overkill drummer Ron Lipnicki.

Vessel Of Light were in the middle of playing shows in March when Covid hit. The silver lining? Instead of releasing Last Ride in 2021 the band will now drop their opus in the early fall.

“In both Hades and Non-Fiction we kind of fell apart after the second release”, said Lorenzo. “I’ve never released four albums in less than three years for multiple reasons — one being that I’ve never been this inspired before. I had music to about ten songs written before we did our run of shows in March, but I wrote another seven during the lock-down. I was incredibly happy how smooth Ron and Jimmy came into the picture on our last release (Thy Serpent Rise) and we’ve only grown since then. Nathan never ceases to amaze me vocally. He outdid himself on our first single Last Ride. It sounds like it should be a hit — now I know and you know it’s NOT going to be a hit song, but this is next level music. Not a typical uninspired band going through the motions.”

Album art by Danny Rome. Nomad Eel will release Last Ride on CD, vinyl and cassette in October.

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Vessel of Light, “Urge to Kill”

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

Posted in Features on December 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk best of 2019

[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.]

Make no mistake, my friends. 2019 was the year it went off the rails.

Every 12-month period brings a lot of records, and they all seem overwhelming, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt quite so helpless when it came time to sit down and actually make my list. Of course, I keep running notes all year long, but even so, ordering everything, bringing it all together? What a mess.

I almost thought of breaking it down into smaller lists in addition to the big one, subgrouped by style. But then, where does doom end and sludge begin? What about psych and heavy rock? Should prog get its own list? And what the hell counts as prog?

In the end, that didn’t seem like it would be doing me any favors, so we’ll stick with the one big list and then others for debut releases and another for EPs, splits, demos and so on. You know, the usual.

Pretty sure I say this every year too, but it bears repeating: if you read any of the below — and thanks if you do — and have a response, be nice. If I’ve forgotten something — and yes, I have; I’m sure of it — that you think needs to be included, and you want to leave a comment that says so, please, by all means. But keep it civil. I know people are passionate about this stuff and so am I, but consider there are probably over 200 offerings covered here by the time you get through all the lists and honorable mentions, and I’m one person. I’m doing my best, and though I try not to, I tend to take being called a dumbass personally. So yeah, chill out and please be constructive in calling me a dumbass. Words matter.

A few hard choices here, most especially for album of the year. I was back and forth with each of the top three in the top spot for a good long while, and it might change again between now and when this post goes up. But it’s been that kind of year. In 2018, there was no question. It was Sleep all the way. The question was what came after that. This year has been different without that kind of duh, punch-in-the-face obvious pick. Relative parity isn’t a bad thing though.

Enough delay. The usual parameters apply. These are a combo of my personal listening habits and what I think are the most important records/achievements of the year, critical importance, etc.

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

50. Hazemaze, Hymns of the Damned
49. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
48. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Grandmother
47. PH, Osiris Hayden
46. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
45. Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light
44. Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport
43. Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
42. Caustic Casanova, God How I Envy the Deaf
41. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre
40. SÂVER, They Came With Sunlight
39. Ogre, Thrice as Strong
38. Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension
37. Vokonis, Grasping Time
36. Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
35. Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds
34. Duel, Valley of Shadows
33. Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity
32. Zaum, Divination
31. Inter Arma, Sulphur English

Notes: Honestly, if this had been the top 20 of the year, I’d still call 2019 a win. Aside from the fact that I somehow thought Caustic Casanova would enjoy coming in a number 42, the sheer quality of this stuff should tell you what kind of year 2019 was. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was a significant achievement in genre melding, and Orodruin’s return after more than a decade since their last LP was a masterclass in doom worship. Debut albums from SÂVER and Thunderbird Divine and Lightning Born showed marked promise of things to come — and there’s more on them below as well — while Zaum’s, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree’s and Lamp of the Universe’s meditations, Vokonis’ noise, Abrahma’s emotive progressivisim, Swallow the Sun’s melodic melancholy, Sacri Monti’s boogie, and whatever the hell PH were doing on Osiris Hayden remind just how much the word “heavy” can encompass. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Duel and Uffe Lorenzen and Hazemaze were musts here, and Ogre are perennial favorites whose work always brings a doomly grin. Don’t sleep on any of it.

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

Until they put out a complementary follow-up record of such fare, one might’ve accused Idaho three-piece Sun Blood Stories of becoming less experimentalist/droned-out/noisy on Haunt Yourself, but they seem to have met their quota one way or the other with the Oct. 2019 advent of Static Sessions Vol. 1. Still, it’s melody, heavy post-rock/psychedelic drift and emotive soul that rule the day on the crushing and enriching Haunt Yourself, and no complaints from me on that.

29. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

I don’t have to do anything more than read the name of the album to have the chorus of the title-track stuck in my head, and it’s a reminder that although the Nottingham troupe put so much into their progressive style and vocal harmonies and arrangements, and a more conceptual theme in the case of Everybody’s Going to Die — their answer to 2018’s excellent Science Fiction (review here) — their roots are in songcraft, and it’s the foundation of songcraft that lets them soar. Would be higher on the list if it weren’t so new.

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

With their sixth album, Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay collect 10 tracks of unpretentious-almost-to-a-fault of straightforward heavy rock songwriting that continues to be woefully underappreciated. They have become utterly reliable in that regard — you know, to a certain extent, what’s coming — but the vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (also Apostle of Solitude) and some more metallic turns to the riffing give Forever, Never or Whenever a subtlety that holds up all the more on repeat visits. I don’t know if Devil to Pay will ever get their due, but suffice it to say, they’re due.

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the first Playstation came out and everyone looked around at their Nintendos and Segas like, “What the hell am I messing around with Mario Golf for? I could be playing Resident Evil!” That’s kind of what Howling Giant are as compared to “regular” rock bands. They’re the Playstation of heavy: that next progressive step forward carrying an inhuman amount of swagger and personality while still delivering a stepped-up product from their would-be peers. The scariest thing about The Space Between Worlds is it’s their first LP. One looks forward to the next generation.

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

I know for a fact that bassist Pat Bruders and drummer Henry Vasquez had a hand in writing some of the material on Saint Vitus’ second self-titled LP, and yet the album so much bears the indelible mark of guitarist Dave Chandler that it’s hard not to think of it all as his. The album marked their first release with original singer Scott Reagers since 1995’s Die Healing (discussed here) and featured among their trademark low-tuned slog, an actual punk song, which showed the grinning glee that underlies all they do. Four decades on, Saint Vitus sound like they’re having fun. How is that not a win?

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

Woodsy Rocky Mountain psychedelia abounded on Boise foursome Ealdor Bealu’s second full-length, and their blend of landscape meditations and grounded heavy progressive melodicism made Spirit of the Lonely Places as much about impact as about space, though of course the real joy was the experience of the entirety. Very much a sophomore album, it learned lessons from 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here) that one only hopes the band will continue to push forward in scope as they so gracefully did here.

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

Released through Grimoire Records. Discussed Nov. 13, 2018..

Though hard- and to-date quick-working Maryland trio Yatra have already moved on and are looking ahead to releasing their second album, Blood of the Night (review here), their Grimoire-delivered debut, Death Ritual, is impossible to ignore for the impact it had on reminding listeners of the impact that primeval extreme sludge can have. Another couple tours and some bigger label — Relapse, Prosthetic, eOne, Season of Mist, whoever — will decide they’re “ready,” whatever that means, and then sign them and I won’t be cool enough to do track premieres for them anymore, but as far as accolades go, Yatra earn whatever they get and Death Ritual stands among 2019’s most landmark debuts. They’ve already outdone it, but it’s a stunner just the same.

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

Ecstatic Vision frontman Doug Sabolik has cast himself in the mold of Arthur Brown or Dave Wyndorf or probably seven or eight dudes who were in Hawkwind at some point as a manic-but-stoned space rock preacher with as he and his band behind him plunge headfirst-or-feetfirst-it-doesn’t-matter-because-your-body-is-an-illusion-man into the molten multicolor void. For the Masses. The ‘masses,’ such as they are, should be so lucky, but the double-meaning is the real tell for where the Philly unit are coming from. Their shows are the masses — gatherings of spirit and song to give praise to the willful expansion of mind. If you can’t get behind that, you might as well go get a job or something. This ain’t no lightweight party for squares and dabblers. This is a high-potency happening for werewolves on motorcycles and freaks of all stripes. Get weird stay weird. Ecstatic Vision are one mostly-mellow 15-minute “Spine of God”-style psych-epic away from perfection.

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

But for the circumstances that brought it about — i.e. Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde’s cancer — the unexpected fourth installment in the Beastwars trilogy was nothing if not welcome. An grand-feeling sense of largesse was nothing new to the New Zealand four-piece, but after breaking up and getting back together to make the album, the grim sincerity with which they presented this exploration of mortality and betrayal by one’s own body was no less palpable than the undulating riffs that threatened, as ever, to consume all in their path. I don’t know their future plans in terms of continuing to write and/or record, but there are reports of touring beyond Aus/NZ for 2020, so one way or another, stay tuned for more from them. Whether or not they do anything else, IV was a triumph in spirit and execution.

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

With the nine songs of Slow Burn Suicide, Brooklyn’s Eternal Black began to unveil the true depth of their project. Their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), was well received, and rightly so, but operated more in a straight-ahead doom sphere. The second outing, by contrast, delved into a particular vision of the style informed by the crunch of peak-era New York noise and crossover hardcore, and it succeeded not just because it did this, but because it did so around a conjuration of memorable riffs and tracks building on accomplishments carried over from its predecessor. Is this an awaited arrival of next-generation ‘New York doom’? Will theirs be a blueprint others will follow? It’s impossible to know now, and their next album will be telling either way, but the course they’ve set is significant.

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

It may have been the Tony Iommi guest appearance that got Swedish doom legends Candlemass — the world’s earliest and foremost purveyors of doom both classic and epic — their recent Grammy nomination, but it was the long-overdue reunion with original vocalist Johan Längquist that made the album as a whole as powerful as it was. Pairing Längquist’s theatrical and vital approach with founding bassist Leif Edling’s second-to-none doomcraft, The Door to Doom was a catapult not to the bygone days of the band’s landmark debut, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, but an inspired look at not just what might’ve been had Längquist remained with the band longer, but what might still be if he does this time around. Candlemass have been through their share of singers, but as fresh as The Door to Doom sounded, it’s hard not to hope for something more than a one-off with he who got there first. The songs, the spirit, the sheer heart poured into Candlemass’ doom some 35 years past the band’s start only emphasizes how special they have always been.

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

Anyone who might’ve predicted Nebula getting into the studio and making a new album was either in the room when it happened or talking out their ass. And speaking of, was Nebula’s Holy Shit named for the shock one might’ve felt at its existence, or the surprise at how good it actually sounded when you put it on? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know. It was the best title I saw all year, but more than that, it was a Nebula record, fueled by the classic riffing and unmitigated desert punk soul of founding/guitarist Eddie Glass, whose absence from the heavy underground for the last decade left a void only too many others whiffed on filling. Holy Shit showed just how singular a player Glass was and is, and how much character there is in his style, particularly in solos, but also in rhythmic changes, and so on. I won’t discount the work of bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster in making Nebula what they are in this incarnation — they’re essential, obviously — but there’s simply no denying that presence at the band’s core.

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

This was a heavy rock record that had everything. Everything. It had songs, style, ups, down, purples, greens, ins, outs, all kinds of whathaveyou. Riffs forever. Valley of the Sun should keep their eyes on Sasquatch, because if they want it, that path is theirs. I know the Cincinnati outfit have had trouble keeping lineups together, but if they can hold onto one, and maybe after their next record start touring more, domestically and abroad — not at all a minor ask, I know — then people will catch on. Old Gods is evidence of the fact that they genuinely have something to offer, and frankly, it’s not at all the first such effective case they’ve made in their career. But they’ve never put anything out that wasn’t a step forward, and yet they’ve never lost sight of the roots of their initial inspiration. And they’ve never sacrificed the song for the riff, which so many do. They’ve only ever gotten better. Let Old Gods be a step toward them getting attention they’ve long since deserved.

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

In style and production, For the Dead Travel Fast is the most vintage-sounding offering Berlin trio Kadavar have made in over a half decade, yet neither is it looking backward wistfully toward 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) or giving up the modern clarity of 2017’s Rough Times (review here) or 2015’s Berlin (review here). Instead, it strikes a balance with a more sinister edge à la Uncle Acid in songs like “Children of the Night” and “Demons in My Mind” — both singles — and makes a home for itself between proto-metal and garage doom. Whatever genre tag you want to give it — and that might vary from track to track, mind you — it’s unmistakably Kadavar, with the signature hooks and memorable craftsmanship that have made them one of the decade’s most pivotal heavy bands. The real challenge at this point in their career is not to take for granted that Kadavar will produce material of such quality, because, frankly, that’s all they’ve ever done.

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

Welsh sci-fi cosmic doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard billed Yn Ol I Annwn as the final installment of a trilogy that includes their two prior LPs, 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here) and 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), and while that may be true thematically, there’s also no question the third is a marked step forward from anything they’ve done before. They’re one foot out of the airlock and into space as their synth-laden longform riffing and melodies take them to places they’ve not yet gone, explorations of sight as much as sound, aural translation of colors humans aren’t gifted to see. Their songs across the 65-minute span unfold with the grace of a gravity spiral, pulling the listener deeper into the proceedings with each new phase that emerges until, what, obliteration? Stellar genesis? I’m not sure. They’ve reportedly got one more record to make and then they’re done. If that’s true, they’ll be missed then they’re gone.

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

They’ve found their way to die, and it’s upon an altar of classic metal and doom. And honestly, they make a pretty good case for it. Departed Souls is the third full-length from the Boston unit and their most stylistically realized work yet, with vocalist Brendan Radigan giving a standout performance alongside the guitars of Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, the bass of Justin DeTore and Michael “Q” Quartulli’s drums, as the entire band taps into vibes from mid-’70s Black Sabbath and brings them to bear with an energy that is unlike anything in Magic Circle’s history. 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) brought in NWOBHM flash in the guitar work, sure enough, but Departed Souls doesn’t so much carry the torch of classic metal as it does use it to burn down the whole village and rebuild it in the five-piece’s image. From their doomed beginnings on their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) to now, they’re an act who’ve genuinely earned cult status. If you can find a backpatch, buy it.

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

Controversy! Drama! Well, probably not, but at very least some respectful disagreement on my part. You see, Poland’s Spaceslug have stated publicly that their latest release, the late-2019 surprise Reign of the Orion is an EP. Their albums regularly top 50 minutes, and at 36 minutes, I guess relative to that, you can see where they’re coming from. However, with the flow of these five songs and the ease with which they carry the listener from front-to-back through the listening experience, I’m sticking to my guns and calling Reign of the Orion an album. Sorry guys. True, it’s shorter than the other full-lengths, but it’s got everything you could ask an album to have in terms of how tracks like “Spacerunner” and the shouty “Half-Moon Burns” play into each other, and the fluidity of the outing on the whole is inarguable. An LP by any other name? Whatever you or they want to call it, there’s no question in my mind Reign of the Orion is one of 2019’s best records. If they insist on it being an EP, then it’s the best one of the year, but I still say it belongs in another category altogether, so here it is.

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

As hyper-crowded as London is with bands at this moment in history, there continue to be acts who sneak through with an individualized and intriguing perspective on doom and heavy rock, and Green Lung are a perfect example, learning from fellow Brits like Alunah and Elephant Tree and incorporating folk and forest goth vibes to their debut album, Woodland Rites. Laced with organ and stuck-in-the-head choruses like “Let the Devil In” and the creeper “Templar Dawn,” the record also pushed into drifting verses on “Into the Wild,” setting up future experimentation with atmospheric variety and genre manipulation. If part of any first album’s appeal is the potential it represents, Green Lung’s offers plenty, but wherever their subsequent course may or may not take them, their accomplishments here shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodland Rites is nothing less than the heavy rock debut album of the year, and though they emerge from a packed field, the work they do to stand themselves out already carries their mark and an apparent will toward progression. They’re on their way.

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

My head immediately goes to the hooks of “Ten Days” and “Ascension Day” and “Savage Heart,” but the up-down surges of guitar in “Old News/New Fire” and the midtempo soulfulness in “A Thousand Miles” are no less resonant when it comes to the actual listening experience of the fifth Lo-Pan LP. Subtle, when it came to living up to its name, as much wasn’t as it was. Flourishes of harmony in the vocals of Jeff Martin, the pops in Jesse Bartz’s snare punctuating and propelling in kind, turns in Scott Thompson’s bass work twisting around the guitar of Chris Thompson, a relative newcomer to the fold making his debut with the band and showing no apparent trouble fitting in. I don’t imagine Lo-Pan is an easy band to join, especially at this point. They thrive on personality clash and, through years of touring, have a chemistry they’ve built between them that comes through even on their recordings. Nonetheless, Subtle is their clearest, sharpest-edged work yet, and as tight as their songwriting has become, they still groove and groove mightily. They are a treasure of American heavy rock and roll. Believe it.

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

While members of Roadsaw have spent the intervening years in projects like Kind, White Dynomite, Sasquatch and Murcielago, the Boston heavy rock kingpins have indeed been missed, and Tinnitus the Night works quickly to show why. It’s been well over 20 years since their first LP — hell, it’s been eight since they put out their 2011 self-titled (review here) — but their craft is at its own level, and Tinnitus the Night comes barreling through with “Shake” and “Along for the Ride” and “Final Phase” before opening up to broader fare on side B with “Find What You Need,” “Under the Devil’s Thumb” and “Midazolam” ahead of the subdued finale “Silence,” and the result is nothing less than a classic heavy rock LP structure as befitting what is itself a classic heavy rock LP. What’s Roadsaw’s future? I don’t know. It took them the better part of a decade to make this one happen, so take from that what you will, but to me, all it says is there’s even more reason to be grateful they got it done and out. To say the songs deserve that is putting it mildly.

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

I’m not doing a ‘song of the year’ post, but if I was, Worshipper’s “Coming Through” might be it. The opening track from the Boston four-piece’s second album, Light in the Wire, marries classic pop drama in its melody with careening progressive riffing, and sets the tone for a record that is of both future and past, twistingly complex and yet immediately accessible, immersive as an entirety and still comprised of standout moments. These aren’t contradictions in Worshipper’s skillful hands, but the stuff of what’s already becoming their own take on rock. Tied together through melody, skillful rhythmic intricacy and solid structural foundations, “Light in the Wires,” “Visions from Beyond,” “Wither on the Vine” and others throughout post their own triumphs en route to enhancing the album as a whole, while “Nobody Else” and closer “Arise” underscore the emotive basis from which the perspective of the whole LP emanates. There are a lot of “next-gen” heavy rock bands out there weaving prog elements and traditional riffing together to some degree or other. Few, if any, can write a song like Worshipper can. I mean it. This band is something special.

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

What is there to say about Solace? A band who, nine years after revealing the expectation-slaughtering masterpiece A.D. (review here), return with three-fifths of a swapped-out lineup and simply do it again? This band is explosive. Really. Like, they might explode at any minute. It’s a miracle The Brink ever happened. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. But Solace are a force like nothing else I’ve ever encountered in music. They take metallic aggression, hardcore’s sense of self-righteousness and heavy rock’s groove, set it all to a doomly swing and they play it in such a way as to leave you utterly dumbfounded by what you just experienced. Here’s a challenge though, for the band personally. From me to them. Do another one. Go ahead. Put out another album. You don’t even have to do it in 2020. Do it 2021. Write the songs and give me a no-holds-barred 45-minute LP of the tightest, meanest shit you’ve ever written. Because massive as the accomplishments are on The Brink, it’s the potential to build from them that resonates most here. So do it, guys. Step up and take advantage of the moment. Call me greedy if you want, I don’t care. Give me another Solace record. I dare you.

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

Released by Doom Stew Records & DHU Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

Simply a case of a band wildly outdoing themselves. Easy story, yeah? In some ways, maybe, but the truth of what Brume achieve on Rabbits. Their second long-player behind 2017’s Rooster (review here), the five-track offering sees the San Francisco three-piece of vocalist/bassist Susie McMullan, guitarist/vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis working with producer Billy Anderson to bring theatricality and emotionalism together in a flowing post-heavy context that’s neither derivative nor working at cross purposes. Instead, it is a gorgeous and blooming undertaking across its 43-minute span, working in its own light/dark spectrum and bringing not just the sense of trapped fragility evoked by the cover art, but a corresponding sureness of intent to its ascendant heavy surges. Like Rooster before it, it is loaded with potential, but in “Scurry” and “Lament” and “Despondence” and “Blue Jay and “Autocrat’s Fool,” there’s a patience and command that absolutely does not waver. So yes, a band outdoing themselves. But so much more too.

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

This may forever be known as the Mars Red Sky album they wrote in a cave, but the Bordeaux three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau nonetheless plunged forward along the progressive course they charted back on 2014’s sophomore outing, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), and continued to manifest in 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here). Their blend of melody and tonal heft has become a hallmark of their work to this stage in their career, but The Task Eternal continues to add a sense of breadth to the proceedings, giving their sound a full three-dimensional pull that feels tailor-made for headphones and is consuming in its entirety. With experiments in structure like the pairing of “Recast” and “Reacts,” and the rushing sweep of melody in “Hollow King,” Mars Red Sky’s latest is, as ever, their finest. Outdoing themselves would seem to be the task from which the record derives its title. Fine. Just keep going. Please.

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

Every time I think I understand where Kings Destroy want to go as a band, they pull the rug out. That’s what Fantasma Nera is. After their 2015 self-titled (review here) third LP seemed to declare them once and for all in a space between doom and noise rooted in their respective hardcore pasts, the Brooklynite five-piece hooked up with producer David Bottrill (Tool, etc.) and composed a rock album. A real live rock album! With progressive undertones in the guitar work and the most accomplished melodicism of their career, Kings Destroy put everything they had into making Fantasma Nera and one need look no further than the title-track to hear the result of that monumental effort. It is the realization of a band challenging themselves to go so far out of their comfort zone as to be only recognizable in the most rudimentary of ways, and to say it as plainly as I can, “Dead Before” on its own is enough of an accomplishment — and enough of a full-length, at all of 4:25 — to make this list on its own, whatever surrounds it. Song of the year. I’ll say every time I’m a Kings Destroy fan, but I’ve never been gladder to say it than I am in talking about Fantasma Nera.

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Ah come on, Colour Haze are always on the list when they put out records,” I have two answers. One, you’re right, and two, if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass. The Munich forefathers of the European heavy psychedelic underground — yup — marked their 25th anniversary this year, and did so not just by putting out an album, but by putting out We Are, which introduces a full-fledged fourth member to what’s been a three-piece since 1998. Granted, it’s not the first time guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald have worked with organist/keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender, but never has the presence of keys been so integral to their work, and never has the dynamic between players shifted in the way it does on tracks like “The Real” and “Life” and “I’m With You,” with keys fleshing out melodies and enriching the bass and guitar. Add to that the Spanish-style guitar on centerpiece “Material Drive” or the operatic flash in the penultimate “Be With Me,” and it’s one more example of one of the best bands on earth refusing to rest on their laurels. Which, as it happens, is why they’re one of the best bands on earth. So hell yes, they’re on all my lists. Fact is my lists are lucky to have them.

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

Like nothing else I heard in 2019, Veils of Winter had repeat listenability. It was the album that, most often, when I was choosing something I actually wanted to hear, I went back to time and again. Its dark, moody psychedelic and heavy vibe stands alone among the year’s releases, and is a stylistic milestone that one only hopes other artists will pick up on. Toying with pop melodies on tracks like “Death Realms” and bringing hypnosis and clarity in kind to the subtly traditionalist winding riff of “Moonlit” — would it have been out of place on the first Witchcraft LP? — the Portland, Oregon, five-piece worked on a speedy turnaround and squashed even the significant expectations I had after their self-titled debut (review here) last year. They’ve begun to tour, so I don’t know if another full-length is in the works for 2020, but their craft is enviable in its flow and their songs are shimmering in tone and cohesion alike. Given how bold a step forward Veils of Winter is, I hear nothing in their material to this point to make me think their momentum won’t continue to carry them forward. But, you know, if not, I’d also take about six or seven records just like this one. That’d be fine too. Whatever they want, really.

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Slomatics — guitarists David Marjury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey — finished a narrative trilogy with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and though the storyline was always vague throughout that and the preceding two offerings, the question of how they would proceed nonetheless hung over Canyons prior to its release. The answer is in the songs themselves. From the sci-fi majesty of lumbering, rolling groove in opener and longest track “Gears of Despair” — oh, they grind — through the mega-stomp of “Telemachus, My Son” and the righteously synth-laden wash that consumes “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” Slomatics bring together concept and execution with a readiness that highlights the fact of their 15th anniversary. They are mature in their approach, yes, but the fact is their approach is so much their own and so given to their particular mode of progression that it almost can’t help but feel fresh. How could something so utterly crushing also feel rejuvenating? As they plod through finale “Organic Caverns II” ending with more waves of synth and tectonic guitar — no bass, remember — they are as restorative as they are punishing, and they stand astride that duality with neither mercy nor pretense. Canyons, whether it’s setting up a new story, building from the old, or doing something completely different, stands on its own.

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

My anticipation for and expectations of Year of the Cobra’s second long-player were high most especially after 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here), which along with the dead, set alight the notion that the Seattle duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith were simply a heavy/doom band. With elements of post-punk, psych wash, minimalist stretches and propulsive gallop, Ash and Dust cast itself out over an aesthetic range that set a new standard not just for Year of the Cobra, but for anyone who’d dare match them at their own game — and that list will grow with time, absolutely. As their first outing through Prophecy Productions, Ash and Dust threw itself into the very melting pot of its own ambition and emerged with songs that didn’t just bring together disparate ideas, but made them flourish and engage and challenge the listener while still proving consistent in tone and underlying groove. For a two-person, two-instrument outfit (not counting voice, though I should), they proved more malleable than many with more than twice the number of hands on deck, and pushed the notion of what heavy rock is and does forward without stopping to look back or ask for permission. They just did it, and maybe Ash and Dust is the aftermath of all that burning.

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Look back over the course of this list, and you will find no shortage of bands and releases that surpassed the group in question’s past work. With Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord, it wasn’t just about No Comfort — their debut on Relapse, fourth full-length overall — being better than 2017’s Rust (review here), because that was pretty jolly gosh darn enjoyable, but about the band reaching a moment of transcendence to which Rust and all their prior work across 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2014’s Empress Rising has been leading. With the six tracks of No Comfort, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems not only overcome the influences that launched them — taking full ownership of their sound and defending that claim with the sheer quality of their songwriting — and they not only become as identifiable as those influences themselves, but they overcome themselves. No Comfort means no comfort. Monolord take the simplicity that once fueled their riffing, the willful primitivism of their earliest work, and with songs like “Larvae” and “The Bastard Son” and the closing title-track use it as the foundation it was apparently always intended to be. Monolord have toured plenty and certainly their studio output has shown an increasing complexity from one LP to the next, so progression isn’t unexpected, but the manner in which Monolord have executed that progression has been. Even on “The Last Leaf,” which is arguably the most straightforward fare on the album, one hears it as them rather than the manifestation of the acts that inspired them. The same holds for “Skywards” later on, and for the immersion that takes hold as the mournful “Alone Together” plays into “No Comfort” itself. Monolord take their place among the best bands on the planet, and deliver an Album of the Year for 2019 that, like the absolute best, will have an impact lasting much longer than any period of 12 months might convey.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

You didn’t think we’d stop at 50, did you? Come on. You know me better than that. The fact is that the list itself, humongous as it is, is just the start of the tip of an iceberg attached to a glacier that’s somewhere on an entire planet constructed of ice.

Honorable mentions, you say? Yeah, a few. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Lord Vicar, Goatess, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Zone Six, Lykantropi, Earth, White Manna, Atala, Tia Carrera, Merlin, WEEED, Híbrido, Cities of Mars, Stone Machine Electric, Bretus, Blackwolfgoat, The Black Wizards, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alunah, V, Pale Grey Lore, Leeds Point, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spidergawd, Bus, Death Hawks, BBF, Vessel of Light, Crypt Trip, The Pilgrim, Uffe Lorenzen, Brant Bjork, Doomstress, Black Lung, Kandodo3, Monkey3, Bask, Horseburner, Zed, Bright Curse, Spillage, Sigils, Papir, Dune Sea, Destroyer of Light, Mastiff, Warp, Centrum, Varego, Lord Dying, Volcano, Saint Karloff, Firebreather, High Reeper, Bible of the Devil, Obsidian Sea, Torche, Motorpsycho, Sunn O))), Deadbird, Russian Circles, El Supremo, Pyramidal, Holy Serpent, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Demon Head, Red Beard Wall, Onhou, Kamchatka, Iguana, Arrowhead, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Serial Hawk, Scissorfight, Monte Luna, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Ruff Majik, The Giraffes, High Fighter, Comacozer, Burning Gloom, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Cable, AVER, Superlynx, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Old Mexico, Skraeckoedlan, Godsleep, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle.

Seems cruel to leave it to you to sort through those, but I’m tempted to do just that. You might notice some bigger names there in bands like Earth, Russian Circles, Torche and Sunn O))). Nothing against those bands, but I think we’re seeing a moment where a different group of artists are taking point in terms of innovating heavy styles across an entire swath of microgenres. Either way it’s not a slight that something is here instead of above. And of course, there are plenty of up and coming groups here as well, with Ruff Majik, Elizabeth Colour Wheel — who I’m sure would be a top 30 if I knew the record better than I do — Pale Grey Lore, Monte Luna, Papir, Destroyer of Light, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Skraeckoedlan, and so on, but hell’s bells, there’s already a list of 50 and I’m only one man. How high is the list supposed to go and still be a list?

Bottom line: Music is as endless as space and has as much beauty in it for those willing to hear. Do more digging.

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

1. Green Lung, Woodland Rites
2. Yatra, Death Ritual
3. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds
4. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
5. SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight
6. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
7. Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo
8. The Pilgrim, Walking into the Forest
9. Sigils, You Build the Altar You Lit the Leaves
10. E-L-R, Maenad
11. Hey Zeus, X
12. Bellrope, You Must Relax
13. Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore
14. Thronehammer, Usurper of Oaken Throne
15. Inner Altar, Vol. III
16. Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember
17. Hippie Death Cult, 111
18. Faerie Ring, The Clearing
19. Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time
20. Haze Mage, Chronicles

Honorable Mention: Warp, Pelegrin, Lucy in Blue, Volcano, The Sabbathian, Red Eye Tales, Dune Sea, Dury Dava, Pharlee, Giant Dwarf, Ghost:Hello, Surya, Workshed, Children of the Sün, Burning Gloom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch.

Notes: As ever, I consider a band’s debut album something unique and separate from everything else they’ll ever do, and so worthy of highlighting in its own category. It’s a different standard in my mind, one that takes into account what a group might accomplish going forward as well as what they do on the record itself. Plus, putting out an album is hard. Getting two, three, four, five or more people to agree on anything is an accomplishment. Making a cohesive album? Come on. So yes. We see some crossover from the main list above, but I want to draw attention to Howling Giant, Thunderbird Divine and SÂVER particularly here. There’s a swath of genres represented and I feel like a couple of these releases — Sigils, Bellrope, Thronehammer, Inner Altar, Faerie Ring, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — didn’t get their due attention. It’s a busy year, I get it. But if you’re skimming through looking for stuff to check out, DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. Aside from whatever line about the best of tomorrow you want to trot out, there’s important work being done by these acts today. As somebody who’s constantly behind the times, I urge you not to

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

1. Geezer, Spiral Fires
2. Ufomammut, XX
3. All Them Witches, 1×1
4. Mount Saturn, Mount Saturn
5. Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split
6. Horehound, Weight
7. Molasses, Mourning Haze
8. Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Split
9. Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon
10. The Golden Grass, 100 Arrows
11. Mount Atlas, Mistress
12. Midas, Solid Gold Heavy Metal
13. Glory in the Shadows, Glory in the Shadows
14. Hot Breath, Hot Breath
15. Crystal Spiders, Demo
16. Red Wizard, Ogami
17. Thermic Boogie, Fracture
18. Pinto Graham, Dos
19. High Priest, Sanctum
20. Set Fire, Traya
21. Seedium, Awake

Honorable Mention: Love Gang & Smokey Mirror Split, Forebode, Land Mammal, Very Paranoia, Plague of Carcosa, Daal Dazed, Komodor, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge Split, High on Fire, Mount Soma.

Notes: This is probably the least complete of the lists, because it’s the hardest category for me to keep up with. EPs, singles, demos, splits and basically anything else that isn’t an album, all lumped together. Still, I stand by the picks here, and I don’t think anyone who takes on any of them will regret doing so, whether it’s All Them Witches’ surprisingly weighted first single as a trio, Mount Saturn’s debut release, or Geezer’s cosmic jams. Felt a little like cheating putting Ufomammut on there, since technically XX wasn’t new material so much as reworked stuff captured live, but if you want to call me out on it, my own listening habits also factor in, and I’ve spent plenty of time with those reimagined tracks. But anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that hasn’t been included here, so please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll work accordingly.

Postwax

I haven’t felt comfortable with the idea of writing about it editorially, since I’ve been involved in discussions about it since before it came together and since I did the liner notes for each of the six releases (plus one to come), but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work done on the Postwax vinyl subscription series by Blues Funeral Recordings. Label head Jadd Shickler and design specialist Peder Bergstrand (also of Lowrider) put together six offerings that came out in the span of this year and when you hold the LPs in your hand, you can feel the passion that went into making them, from the artists in question to those curating the series in the first place. I hear tell there’s going to be a Postwax Year Two, and I don’t know if I’ll be involved or not, but I’m proud of my miniscule part in the work that went into making these and wanted to bring them to your particular attention. They are something special for those who got to partake:

  • Elder, The Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Daxma, Ruins Upon Ruins
  • Besvärjelsen, Frost
  • Big Scenic Nowhere, Dying on the Mountain
  • Domkraft, Slow Fidelity
  • Lowrider, Refractions

And while we’re talking about projects I was proud to be involved with, I also did liner notes for Acrimony’s The Chronicles of Wode box set from Burning World Records and was honored to do so. Thanks to any and everyone in question for having me involved and dealing with me blowing past deadlines one after the next. It is humbling.

Looking Ahead to 2020

A few names and nothing more about what definitely is and/or might be in the works for next year. Woefully incomplete, so feel free to add to it:

1000mods, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathwhite, Mondo Drag, Drug Cult, Ocean Chief, Soldati, Sergio Ch., Mitochondrial Sun, Geezer, Mirror Queen, Mondo Generator, The Otolith, Asteroid, Yatra, Vestal Claret, Farer, Ryte, Shadow Witch, Six Organs of Admittance, Naxatras, Wolftooth, Snail, Elder, Pale Divine, Grey Skies Fallen, Ruby the Hatchet, Yuri Gagarin, Sasquatch, Godthrymm, Wo Fat, Red Mesa, CB3, Onsegen Ensemble, Insect Ark, Acid Mammoth, Ritual King, Ulls, Om.

Thank You

Thank you for reading, and please, if you have a thought or something you want to share in the comments, please remember to be kind to each other. We are all human beings behind our phones and keyboards, and while we’ll disagree, often in some ways and some cases, a basic level of respect is always appreciated. At least by me.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone might still be reading, but I want it on record how much I appreciate you being a part of this site and a part of my experience in making it. I’ve been ruminating all year since marking the 10th anniversary back in January about how much The Obelisk has become a part of who I am, and it’s utterly essential to my every day. The way I continue to think about it — and myself, as it happens — is a work in progress, and that would not be possible without you. One more time. Thank you. Always. Always thank you. Thank you.

More to come.

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Review & Track Premiere: Vessel of Light, Thy Serpent Rise

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

vessel of light thy serpent rise

[Click play above to stream Vessel of Light’s cover of Black Sabbath’s ‘Wasp.’ Their third album, Thy Serpent Rise, is out now.]

With that title and that artwork, is there any way it’s at all possible, even in the remotest of distant universes, that the “serpent” in question in Vessel of Light‘s Thy Serpent Rise isn’t a cock? Not in this genre, folks. The lines from “Rush of Blood” — you’ll never guess where the blood is going — read, “You make my serpent rise/When you stare into my eyes” before transitioning into the chorus, “I feel a rush of blood/And a rush of drugs/Coursing through my veins/The fire and the flood,” and indeed: cock. By then, the New Jersey/Ohio outfit founded by guitarist Dan Lorenzo (Hades, Non-Fiction) and vocalist Nathan Opposition (né Jochum) and now featuring Jimmy Schulman (also Hades and Dan Lorenzo‘s solo band) on bass and Ron Lipnicki (ex-Overkill) on drums have run through a tight trio of songs for a post-intro opening salvo to Thy Serpent Rise, finding a sound on an aggressive end of the spectrum of traditional doom and heavy rock and roll, Opposition‘s sometimes guttural vocals upping the metallic quotient amid mostly AA/BB rhyme scheme murder and death poetry lyrics. “Rush of Blood” is something of an aberration, if a still-kinda-violent one.

The band’s second long-player behind last year’s Woodshed (review here) and a 2017 self-titled EP (review here) — both released by Argonauta Records — Thy Serpent Rise is comprised of 12 tracks with the title-track intro at the outset and two other guitar-based interludes, titled “Skin in the Game” and “Hello Darkness” interspersed throughout, the latter appearing just before the finale duo of “Decomposing Mental Health” and “After Death.” Ending with “After Death” of course seems fair enough after opening with “Abandon Life,” as the death fetish comes to define the point of view from which the songs stem, and as Opposition leans back and forth between suicide on “After Death” and “Decomposing Mental Health” and murder on “Meet and Bone” and “Bleed into the Night” — the latter of which boasts some ’90s-era Marilyn Manson-style “hey!” shouts in its later moments — the territory should be familiar to anyone who’s followed Vessel of Light at all, walking the fine line as it does between cultish and silly-cultish.

But though the words are the kinds of things that would’ve gotten you suspended from your junior year of high school for furiously scribbling in your notebook during class — picture Vice Principal Ludwig, horrified — there’s no question that Thy Serpent Rise is a figuring-it-out point for Vessel of Light. As the band expands beyond just Lorenzo and Opposition, their songwriting seems to tighten, such that the cuts in that initial push, “Abandon Life,” Meet and Bone” and “Urge to Kill,” barely top three minutes in the longest of them, but are strikingly efficient in getting the message across and still conveying a sense of darkness in the atmosphere. As with Woodshed, hooks about, and even if Opposition is consistent in rhyme scheme, he is a singer of marked presence whose voice is a distinguishing factor here and across his entire discography.

vessel of light

As “Save My Soul” emerges in bluesy swinging fashion from “Skin in the Game,” he adjusts his approach subtly to ride the groove behind him in order to enhance it rather than contradict, working with the band and not against them with what might be the album’s most uptempo vibe, though oddly enough “After Death” might give it some competition in that regard. Contrast that either way with the slamming weight of “Eternal Sleep,” the stomping force of which is a highlight unto itself as the band drive home the more metal side of their sound in a way that feels natural and intended for the stage. Following “Hello Darkness,” “Decomposing Mental Health” has more of a rolling nod and is a welcome arrival for that, as Lorenzo‘s riff changes are telegraphed around a chorus that would seem to be a point at which Vessel of Light come into their own and establish their identity in this grim mood, a kind of exploration of troubled self lyrically accompanied by choice, straightforward motion, clear, full production and structures that are tight to a point of feeling like they’re about to snap, which as it happens only suits the lyrics all the more, since that’s basically what Opposition would seem to be shooting for as well. Nice when things work out like that.

Are Vessel of Light going to be universally appealing? Nope. Their style finds them in a place between larger genre scopes, hard to pin to one thing or the other, and their report-this-post lyrics are anything but friendly to the listener. But of course, neither are they intended to be universal. It’s now what they’re going for now and not what they’ve been going for over the last two years as they’ve worked quickly to establish themselves and develop this aesthetic. At just 34 minutes — compared to Woodshed‘s 41 — the brevity suits Thy Serpent Rise, and the down-to-business intensity toward which Lorenzo and Opposition steer the material is effective and feels hammered out on a professional level.

What’s the endgame? Who the hell knows. But as Vessel of Light explore the elements that make up their sound, they seem to have with Thy Serpent Rise to have found the balance they were looking for their last time out, which sets them up for a third album should they get there that’s all the more sure of where it stands. At least that’s the narrative I’m going with. That’s not to say the record isn’t without its drawbacks — I’ll come out and say it if it’s not already clear; the lyrics aren’t really my thing, though they’re well performed and carried through with conviction; I just have a hard time believing anyone that into murder isn’t either in jail or too busy killing people to make records about it — but the “Skin in the Game” is as much the band’s own as it is whoever’s face they’re wearing like a mask, and in putting it all on the line, they at very least offer an alternative interpretation to the sense of “rising” in the title on a meta-level, if not one directly in the song itself, which, well, yeah, is about cock.

Vessel of Light, “Meet and Bone” official video

Vessel of Light on Thee Facebooks

Vessel of Light on Instagram

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Maryland Doom Fest 2020 Announces Full Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2020 banner

In the immortal words of one Peter Steele: Happy Halloween, baby. Those playing along at home know that today means one thing to the realms of doom, and it’s that it’s time for Maryland Doom Fest to unveil next year’s lineup. Maryland Doom Fest 2020 has some significant shoes to fill in following up this year’s, which of course was held in June in Frederick, Maryland, and they’ve lined up a full four-dayer onslaught to make a go of it.

Headlining sets from Cirith UngolBlood CeremonySpeedealer and Mondo Generator, with direct killage from The SkullVictor Griffin‘s Death Row Assembly (this will be incredible, especially there), Witch Mountain and Sorcerer, the fest is pretty much blowing its own prior reach out of the water. I’ll especially look forward to Arduini/Balich and hope that this performance accompanies a new album, but return appearances from The Age of TruthBailjackEarthride (yes!), Shadow WitchSpiral GraveKnoxxville and Helgamite will be awesome as well, and I’ve no doubt the likes of Vessel of Light, Galactic Cross (with Dave Sherman of Earthride), YatraBlack LungPlainrideCavernMolasses BargeAdmiral BrowningBlack RoadPoobahOmen Stones and Crystal Spiders will be made to feel welcome into the MDDF family vibe, at least those who aren’t already a part of it. I guess particularly in the case of Admiral Browning, it’s more like family reunion.

Keeping with the festival’s no-dragged-out-staggered-announcements spirit, I’ll be up front about this: it’s gonna be a good ‘un. You should do whatever you need to do to make it happen.

Check it:

maryland doom fest 2020 poster

MARYLAND DOOM FEST Announces 2020 Lineup: June 18-21 – Feat. CIRITH UNGOL, BLOOD CEREMONY, MONDO GENERATOR, SPEEDEALER + MORE! EarlyBird Sales Start Dec. 17!

The Maryland Doom Fest celebrates its 6th anniversary next June and today brings you its confirmed roster of over 50 of today’s heaviest bands to hit its stages in 2020.

Maryland Doom Fest brings both U.S. and international artists from all over the map into Frederick, MD for a full four days of mayhem, featuring the legendary Cirith Ungol and Blood Ceremony, to Speedealer and Mondo Generator set to headline the four nights of top shelf doom metal and heavy underground sounds! This year includes more than fifty bands to cover every dark and dank corner of metal subgenres across every inch of the stage from start to finish each night.

A few words from JB Matson, founder and organizer of The Maryland Doom Fest:

“I simply could not be more excited about the fifty-plus band roster for the Maryland Doom Fest’s 6th annual show in 2020!! This will be a splendid #4daysofdoom!!!”

We invite all to become part of the family at the Maryland Doom Fest 2020 weekend events! Please support the Doom and Heavy Music scene and come share in this epic event with us. We will see you at #4daysofdoom!!

THE MARYLAND DOOM FEST 2020

CIRITH UNGOL + BLOOD CEREMONY + SPEEDEALER + MONDO GENERATOR

THE SKULL + SORCERER + DEATH ROW ASSEMBLY + WITCH MOUNTAIN

Ol’ Time Moonshine + Arduini/Balich + Dirt Eater + Switchblade Jesus
Doperider + Condenados + Cultic + Yatra + Bailjack + Poobah
Earthride + Black Lung + Jake The Hawk + Black Road + Warmask
Admiral Browning + Sourpuss + Molasses Barge + Thunderbird Divine
Dust Prophet + Wolftooth + Vessel Of Light + Wrath Of Typhon + Spiral Grave
Plainride + Mangog + Cavern + Galactic Cross + Shadow Witch + Burgan
Akris + Plague Wielder + The Age Of Truth + Knoxxville + The Astral Void
Serpents Of Secrecy + Omen Stones + Crystal Spiders + Helgamite
VRSA + Conclave + Et Mors + Strange Highways + Alms + Dyerwulf

June 18th – 21st, 2020 + Frederick, MD

www.marylanddoomfest.com

Early Bird Discount tickets are available from December 17th through 31st.

Standard ticket sales start January 2020.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/827407774319811/

https://www.facebook.com/events/827407774319811/
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.instagram.com/marylanddoomfest/
www.marylanddoomfest.com

Cirith Ungol, “I’m Alive” live at Up the Hammers Festival 2017

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New England Stoner and Doom Fest II: More Lineup Announcements; Pre-Party Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

new england stoner doom festival 2019 art

It’s time to talk about the real potential of the New England Stoner and Doom Fest. No, I don’t mean the lineup. That’s awesome. You know it and I know it. I’m talking about the acronym. That’s always huge for a festival. How is it abbreviated? Think MDDF or SHoD or any of the DFs spread around the universe. These things matter.

I’ve seen NESDF tossed around for New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and that’s cool, but it’s missing the opportunity. You could have a festival abbreviated NES! Who the hell wouldn’t buy that t-shirt? I hereby cast my vote in the imaginary referendum on festival abbreviations for New England Stoner and Doom Fest to henceforth and forthwith and withhence be known as NES fest. Second the motion?

There’s reportedly one more band to be added and reportedly several in the running for that slot, so this might not be the final update before May 3-5 gets here and NES fest kicks off (see me using the acronym already?), and the lineup for a pre-party at 33 Golden St. in New London has been announced as well, which will be headlined by Fox 45, so, you know, more of a good thing and all that.

The full lineup as has been revealed follows. Note the Wretch reunion. NES fest!

New England Stoner & Doom Fest II

The New England Stoner and Doom Festival will make its return in 2019 on May 3,4, and 5 at Altones in Jewett City, CT.

Earthride
Brimstone Coven
Wretch
Kings Destroy
+1 TBA
Foghound
Pale Divine
Vessel of Light
Spiral Grave
Solace
Black Road
Curse the Son
Shadow Witch
Hell Camino
Clamfight
Eternal Black
Thunderbird Divine
Stonecutters
When the Deadbolt Breaks
Mourn the Light
Entierro
Bone Church
Buzzard Canyon
The Age of Truth
Void King
Horseburner
Scuzzy Yeti
Witchkiss
Cortez
Benthic Realm
Faith in Jane
Conclave
Set Fire
3 Parts Dead
Insano Vision
Old Earth Analog
Pinto Graham
The Stone Eye
Sentinel Hell

Pre-party @ 33 Golden St.:
Fox 45
VRSA
Dark Ritual
Owl Maker
Feed the Beast

www.newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/1613285008788252/
https://www.facebook.com/NewEnglandStonerAndDoomFest/
https://www.saltoftheearthrecords.com/

Wretch, Bastards Born (2017)

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New England Stoner and Doom Fest II Makes First Lineup Announcement; Earthride, Brimstone Coven, Youngblood Supercult & More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

new england stoner and doom fest ii

Welp, I guess I know what I’m doin’ on May 3 and 4 next year. Calendar is marked. I was otherwise occupied during the first New England Stoner and Doom Fest earlier this year, but with the usual caveat that a piano might fall on my head between now and then, my plan is to hit New England Stoner and Doom Fest II as a priority, and the first lineup announcement has done nothing to dissuade me from that intention. Shadow Witch, Earthride, and Brimstone Coven are all vets of Maryland Doom FestEarthride are of course kingpins of that scene though release through NESDF-related Salt of the Earth Records — but Vessel of Light, Youngblood Supercult, Black Road, Set Fire and others it will be my first time seeing, so all the more reason to look forward to getting to Altones, which I hear kicks ass anyway.

And yes, I’m among the presenting media for the festival, but I don’t have the inside track or anything on who’s playing, so as the announcements come through for the bill, I’ll be just as surprised as everyone else. I’m looking forward to that too. There’s a good bit of diversity of sound already in the lineup, and any chance you get to see Brimstone Coven‘s harmonies in-person, you should do that. Bottom line is there’s a lot to like here so far, so dig in, and when I see the next round come through, that’ll get the same treatment.

For now, here’s the first poster and the list as posted on the fest event page on Thee Facebooks:

new england stoner and doom fest ii first poster

The New England Stoner and Doom Festival will make its return in 2019 on May 3 & 4 at Altones in Jewett City, CT.

Stay tuned for details!

www.newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com

Featuring:
Brimstone Coven
Earthride
Black Road
Vessel Of Light
Shadow Witch
Youngblood Supercult
Set Fire
Mourn The Light
Entierro

Many many more to be announced.

www.newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/1613285008788252/
https://www.facebook.com/NewEnglandStonerAndDoomFest/
https://www.saltoftheearthrecords.com/

Earthride, Live in Los Angeles, June 13, 2018

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