The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

Notes Help With English Homework Ks2 Jobs is limited to applicants within the United States of America who can provide the required documentation as noted below. International writers will not be considered. Applicants Must: Complete our online writer application form; Submit a custom writing sample using the provided writing instructions; Submit a completed W9 tax form; Submit a copy of a valid government-issued : 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 PhD Cheapest Customized Dissertation Uk 2014. A PhD thesis is the most important piece of work that you will complete in your academic career, but it is also one of the toughest. Our professional PhD thesis writing services are designed to relieve some of the pressure and provide expert support from a specialist team of PhD writer. They will guide you through the process of writing your PhD thesis, from the Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists The Solution? Get More Info. Unlike in the recent past, do my homework for me requests are exceedingly becoming more acceptable. This trend is directly favored by rising numbers of people who are working as they study. In such cases students get overwhelmed with responsibilities that overrun their schedule. 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 Wanted to become a good lawyer? We have professional lawyers who provide http://www.lagartalodge.com/?writing-good-reports to the students for getting your desire degree. 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 College Research Papers Services. You dont have to do a lot to have your essay written for cheap here. It hardly takes a customer three to four minutes to complete the entire process. You might have seen the order link at the top of our page. When you press it, youre taken to the order form. You just have to: Fill out all its fields. Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard Where to order custom research papers? Take a look here, the recommended you read writing site will do your assignment from scratch on time. Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Search results for: Land Law Coursework Help dictionary. Click here for more information! Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

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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 Write a well-organized 4-5 paragraph narrative essay about a Click on http://www.cleode.fr/en/?buy-an-academic-essay PLEASE LEAVE THIS SHEET AT THIS COMPUTER Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Graduate Admission Essay Help 100 Colleges Online and Kiss Your Academic Problems Goodbye. Still hanging in doubts about whether to order research paper or not? Wake up and welcome to the 21st century. A century of advanced technologies and services, when anyone anywhere can buy research papers online and forget about those nasty, tiresome home tasks for at least a Lamp of the Universe‘s http://www.sonasid.ma/?glasgow-university-essay-checking-service Job Description . Job Data: Job Title: Service Writer . Department: Service Department, Pro Power Sports & Marine, Inc. Supervisor: Service 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 (RoadsawSasquatch, 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 Bjørnson (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 Sandøy, 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, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú 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 Silvåkra 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 Silvåkra 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, Lantlôs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

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

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

More to come.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 32

Posted in Radio on April 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

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Last episode, I did comfort songs the whole way through, new stuff and old, and at the risk of saying something remotely nice about myself, I thought it was the best show I’ve ever done. This time, of course, something completely different.

Yeah, the theme is still affected by the COVID-19 pandemic — how could it not be? — but it’s basically me reminding myself that when times are hard, harder, harder than that, still harder, okay-hardest-my-head’s-gonna-friggin’-explode-make-it-stop-make-it-stop, there’s still new music and new music is still awesome.

So here we are. Brand new tracks from Curse the Son, Vine Weevil, Ten Foot Wizard (who emailed me as I was putting the playlist together, as though to emphasize the point), Witchkiss, Dopelord, Nighthawk & Heavy Temple, The Mountain King, High Priestess, Wight, Marmalade Knives, Kanaan, Frozen Planet….1969 and The Swell Fellas. Some of this has been streamed here, some of it hasn’t, but it’s all new and it’s all excellent and I found that this week, at just this particular moment in time, that’s what I needed. It’s that simple, and I hope you can relate.

Thanks for listening if you do. I hope you enjoy. Or even if you just look at the list and find something new to dig on, I hope you enjoy that too. Thanks.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 04.17.20

Curse the Son Suicide by Drummer Excruciation*
Vine Weevil You are the Ocean Sun in Your Eyes*
Ten Foot Wizard Namaste Dickhead Get Out of Your Mind*
BREAK
Witchkiss Splitting Teeth Splitting Teeth*
Dopelord Doom Bastards Sign of the Devil*
Nighthawk & Heavy Temple Astral Hand VA – Women of Doom*
The Mountain King As Below, So Below Wicked Zen*
High Priestess Invocation Casting the Circle*
BREAK
Wight Motorgroove Spank the World*
Marmalade Knives Rivuleting Marmalade Knives*
Kanaan O?resund Double Sun*
Frozen Planet….1969 900 Mile Head Rush Cold Hand of a Gambling Man*
The Swell Fellas Scatterbrain The Great Play of Extension*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is May 1 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Review & Video Premiere: Wight, Spank the World

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on April 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Wight Spank The World

German heavy psych-funk rockers Wight release their new album, Spank the World, on April 24 through Kozmik Artifactz and Fat and Holy Records. Let it suffice to say that Spank the World is the funkdoobiest, trippiest, soul-drippingest apocalyptic sci-fi heavy psych epic you’re going to hear this year, and the fact that it’s likely also the only one you’re going to hear this year has very, very little to do with that. Based in Darmstadt and working as a more involved four-piece with percussionist Steffen Kirchpfening having become more ingrained as a part of the band since joining after most of the skeletal writing for 2016’s Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), Wight moves guitarist/vocalist/key-specialist and directional figurehead René Hofmann into the role of producer as well, tracking over the course of most of last year even as his Wasted Life Studio was being built to completion.

And Spank the World, though it runs a tidy 10 songs and 40 minutes, would not seem to have been a minor undertaking in terms of recording aspirations. Even putting aside the rhythmic complexities brought to bear by Kirchpfening and drummer Thomas Kurek and the shifts in prominence between Hofmann‘s guitar and various keys — organ, clavinet, synthesizers, samplers, etc. (Kirchpfening contributes in this regard as well) — and the swaps between fretted and fretless bass from Peter-Philipp Schierhorn, the guest spots of violin on post-intro opener “Hot,” sax, trombone and trumpet on “Nervous” and “Island in the Sun,” and yes, baritone oud on the three-part pre-outro closer “Bon Apocalypso,” all make for Wight‘s most sonically complex offering to-date, having grown out of the stoner-fuzz beginnings of 2011’s Wight Weedy Wight (review here) and into more psychedelic fare on 2012’s quick-turnaround follow-up, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here), before restructuring the lineup and bringing in Kirchpfening as a fourth member.

The shift in direction toward broader arrangements seemed at the time to have necessitated that move, and listening to Spank the World, it makes even more sense. Songs like “Island in the Sun,” or the disco-funk tripper “Spiritual Gangster” — a quick instrumental that follows “Hot” and nonetheless serves as more than an interlude in transitioning between the album’s first single and “Nervous” and Motorgroove,” which follow in succession — have a sonic breadth to them that, well, probably would’ve taken much longer than a year to record, even if the three of them had managed to come up with all the same ideas that having a fourth person as a part of the process allowed them to explore. That of course is to say nothing of the aforementioned guest appearances on strings and horns, or the added background vocals, elements of gang shouts, and general twists of mood that come to fruition in the songs themselves, be it the bound-to-be-a-follow-up-single “Time’s Up” on side B or the seven-minute “Bon Apocalypso” itself, which is a somewhat pieced-together freakout jam, less psych than “Motorgroove” at the end of side A, but still flowing and progressive in the finished product. One way or another, people, it all gets pretty wild.

Wight (Photo by Jan Ehlers)

And there’s no doubt left as to that being the band’s precise intent, but that doesn’t mean the songs themselves are haphazard. After “Intro” sets up the rest of what’s to come with synth and various other elements and the robot-voice spoken word of, indeed, ‘The Robot’s Sermon,’ promising a funky end of the world to come, and that’s exactly how the narrative is framed, even as “Hot” — tagged in the liner notes with the line ‘Global Warming’s Not the Only Thing Heating Me Up!’ — and “Nervous” and “Time’s Up” could be just as easily regarded as relationship pieces one way or the other, and are. But, human life being what it is, and with the traditions Wight are working toward on Spank the World, from the mid-’70s P-Funk of  Let’s Take it to the Stage to the work of groups like Afreaka!MandrillCymande and so on, those records never lacked for sex, whatever other issues they might’ve been tackling at the time, so one is inclined to roll with Wight as they accordingly play it loose on the narrative.

As they come out of the subtly jazzy “Interlude” with the spoken delivery of the album’s title line, and embark into “Island in the Sun,” with its laid-back nod tempo and waka-chawaka guitar, they even go so far as to acknowledge the departure they’re making. Again, the liner: ‘C’mon, Everybody Needs It.’ Aside from the statement of class equality inherent in that ‘everybody,’ the simple ‘c’mon’ acts not only as an invitation to the listener to join them on the trip they’re taking sound-wise, but seems to be looking to be cut some slack as well. And it’s slack well earned, because no matter where Wight venture in terms of mood or atmosphere on Spank the World, they do so with precisely as much of a sense of control as they want to convey. “Island in the Sun” shreds out a solo late. “Hot” departs into talkbox psychedelic quirk. “Motorgroove” dream-jams its way into the collection’s crunchiest riff. The minute-long “Outro” distorts electronic beats and bass to act as a bed for a quick description of the aftermath of the funky overlords’ wiping clean the slate of the earth.

But through all of this and everything else, Wight never seem to get lost, and each piece of Spank the World not only feels complete within itself — the instrumentals feel instrumental for a reason; the hooks are well placed — but feeds into the larger progression of the record as a whole. Spank the World is not at all a full-length that one might’ve guessed the band would eventually come up with nine years ago listening to Wight Weedy Wight, but finding out what they’re going to do next has always been part of what makes hearing a new Wight release such an exciting proposition, and as they take the forward steps they do with these tracks, working in and further toward continued mastery of their highly, highly individualized approach, they remain both exciting and unpredictable. This album? It’s a blast. Maybe you can get down and maybe you can’t, but if you find yourself thinking that an LP about giant alien robots coming not to make the Earth stand still, but to boogie into its oblivion is something that doesn’t appeal to you, I dare say it’s time to rethink that position. Today. Do it now.

I’m thrilled to host the premiere of the video for “Hot” below, and even more thrilled because it comes accompanied with such thorough background on the album from bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn. Thanks to the band for letting me host the clip, and to Schierhorn in particular for taking the time. Spank the World is out April 24 on Kozmik Artifactz and Fat and Holy Records.

Enjoy:

Wight, “Hot” official video premiere

Preorders here: https://lnk.to/Wight_SpanktheWorld

Peter-Philipp Schierhorn on Spank the World:

This is Peter, the bass player from Wight. Rene asked me to write a few words on our new album – right before the release, there are tonloads of stuff to do, and Rene is in charge of most of those. And maybe it’s also not the worst choice to hear the story from the personal perspective of a guy who was involved, but not from THE main guy who did almost everything the entire time.

As you may read in the “official” press text, Rene was definitely in charge of almost everything during the recording as well. At the first glance, that’s only a small change from previous releases, he was quite obviously credited as the producer or pre-producer on all our releases. Which makes sense, the guy went to college for sound engineering and has gathered quite a lot of experience as a live and studio engineer and producer over the years. “Spank the World” is however the first Wight release that didn’t involve at least some external sound engineer getting involved at some point (well, a friend mastered it in the end, but that was when everything was basically finished already).

There is of course a bit more to the story than we put in the official press text. Usually, people never read more than one page (if at all), but Rene told me you may be interested in some more background information. Lots of different things happened since we came back from the last tour in fall 2017. We haven’t been playing live all that much in the meanwhile, but as you can hear on the album we weren’t really lazy either. But we obviously didn’t spend two and a half years recording.

After “Love Is Not Only What You Know”, we were really figuring out how to work as a four piece band. Steffen wrote and recorded percussion for the album, but only got involved after the rest of the music had already been written. We then had to see how to perform live and quickly found out while percussion and synthesizers were a nice addition to our sound, they bounced us from being the easiest-to-mix rock trio in the world to being every FOH engineer’s nightmare. On top of that, we carried a full recording rig with us on one of the tour legs, which resulted in the “Fusion Rock Invasion – Live over Europe” live album. That one turned out nicely, but the tour was semi-hellish especially for our sound guy Josko (the guy who mastered our album) and Rene, who was of course supporting him besides being the front man of the band. Over time, we found a couple of solutions that made everyone’s life easier, such as having a sub-mixer on stage and only sending out a stereo signal of percussion and synths to the FOH. But that was only the beginning.

We also found out we could do a lot more musically with the additional member and a multitude of additional instruments, but that also meant that our usual approach of jamming in the rehearsal room, then playing the songs live until they were really tight, and then recording them in one go, no longer really worked. There are a few old-style jam tracks on the album, but at some point we decided to really focus on a studio recording. Finish and arrange stuff in the studio, use whatever means necessary to produce a great record, and then try and arrange those songs we wanted to play into proper live versions.

I don’t remember exactly when the decision was taken, but I remember that before the last “LINOWYK” tour in late 2017, Rene proposed a live hiatus afterwards, which we should use to help him build a studio so we could record our next album all by ourselves and take all the time we needed. He only had this tiny little studio, but the room next door in the building had just become available, he had rented it and wanted to make a proper recording room out of it.

That’s what we ended up doing, but it didn’t really go as planned. The more predictable bit was that Rene ended up doing most of the work himself, but as it was to be his workplace afterwards anyways, that wasn’t really that big of a problem (Rene may have a slightly different opinion here ;-)). Us other Wight members and many other friends helped and did some work, but of course the bulk got stuck with Rene himself, who basically spent every day in there for almost half a year.

But things didn’t end there – Thomas suddenly fucked off to the US, as he had taken a session job with an American band for four months, Rene’s wife became pregnant (ok, that one was planned I guess), my engineering job suddenly kicked into overdrive and had me flying all over the world, and on top of that, Rene and I got a bit sidetracked with Glanville, the heavy metal band we had founded as a fun little project a while earlier. The studio was usable by late 2018, but the band Wight hadn’t really played at all in the meanwhile. We had a few songs written before and started recording those right after Christmas 2018, but ended up spending most of 2019 rehearsing, writing and recording.

That actually kind of went in waves. The first couple of basic tracks went in pretty quickly, we went back to rehearsing, made a few more, back to the studio, same drill. At the same time, Rene kicked his brain into producer mode and kept layering stuff over the band tracks. There’s a new synth sitting in the studio? Let’s try that out. This sounds like we need horns – call up some friend that play sax and trombone here. Periklis Tsoukalas of Baba Zula is in town? Oh well, let’s see whether we can fit his electric oud in somewhere.

That entire process culminated somewhat in September of last year. We needed one more song for the album (as well as, of course, more overdubs), Rene had a basic structure and a few chords he had made up while lying on the beach in Thailand a few months earlier, and we took one week in the studio to make it into a song. I ended up playing the bassline one evening while high as fuck, with Rene telling me to change individual notes from time to time, but the rest of the week was basically Rene going crazy in there, calling up different guests for features, having Thomas and Steffen arrange some percussions and synths, and trying out every instrument that happened to be in the studio. Can you tell which song was the result of that?

Short story long, there were a few things more to be done, and I think Rene recorded the last bits and pieces only in December 2019 while already in the mixing process. Funnily enough, the cover artwork had been finished a long time before. Rene and our artwork guy, Ingo, hat met up God knows how long before and developed this piece with the huge intergalactic robot appearing over the Darmstadt skyline to destroy the world. That also ended up pushing the lyrical content of the album into a certain direction. Or did it? I’m still a bit surprised that basic love songs like Hot and Time’s Up actually ended up working very well in this entire apocalyptical context, but hey, sometimes things just work. And maybe Rene also knows what he’s doing a bit more than we sometimes give him credit for.

So the album was on its way, but we figured we needed a video. Not the usual live or live-ish video, but a proper music video like in the old days. We met in January 2020 to record the live scenes to the Hot music video, in one of our favorite pubs in town. The entire video was concepted by film students of Darmstadt’s University of Applied Science, with some input from Rene. One of the reasons why I’m writing this already overly long email is that Rene was just finishing the last shoots for the video this weekend… well, as you have the video or will get it very soon, I won’t lose any extra words on it, just see for yourself. And enjoy our new album – you now have the full background story, and I realize that I just made it sound like a mad journey full of “we don’t know what the hell we’re doing” and “oh shit, we didn’t see THAT coming”, but that is also kind of what happened. Does the album reflect that? I’ll let you be the judge. At least you know how it came to pass now, which may ease your confusion… or contribute to it.

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Quarterly Review: Eagle Twin, Wight, Sundrifter, Holy Mushroom, Iron and Stone, Black Capricorn, Owl Maker, Troll, Malditos, The Freak Folk of Mangrovia

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

I’m pretty sure this Quarterly Review — life eater that it is — is going to wind up being six days long. That means next Monday look for sixth installment, another batch of 10 records, which were not hard to come by among everything that’s come in lately for review. I do my best to keep up, often to little avail — some random act’s Bandcamp page starts trending and all of a sudden they’re the best band ever, which hey, they’re probably not and that’s okay too. Anyhowzer, I’m trying is the point. Hopefully another 10 records added into this Quarterly Review underscores that notion.

More coffee. More albums. Let’s rock.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn)

eagle twin the thundering heard songs of hoof and horn

Consuming tones, throat-sung blues, a wash of lumbering doom – yes, it’s quite a first three minutes on Eagle Twin’s The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn). Released by Southern Lord, it’s the Salt Lake City duo’s first outing since 2012’s The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale (discussed here), which arrived three years after their 2009 debut, The Unkindness of Crows (review here). Once again, the four-song outing finds guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley and drummer Tyler Smith exploring the natural order and the natural world the 11-minute “Quanah un Rama” and the 14-minute “Antlers of Lightning” bookend “Elk Wolfv Hymn” (8:22) and album highlight “Heavy Hood” (7:21), creating an ever-more immersive and grit-laden flow across the album’s span. It’s hard to know if Densley and Smith are the hunters or the hunted here, but the tones are massive enough to make YOB blush, the rhythms are hypnotic and the use they’re both put to is still unlike anything else out there, ending after the chaos and assault of low end on “Antlers of Lightning” with a moment of contemplative guitar lead, as if to remind us of our solitary place in imagining ourselves at the top of the food chain.

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Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion

wight fusion rock invasion

One wonders what it might’ve been like to see Wight on the 2015 tour on which the Bilocation Records-issued vinyl-only Fusion Rock Invasion: Live Over Europe was captured. Still a year out from releasing their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), the former trio had already become a four-piece with guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist René Hofmann, bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and drummer Thomas Kurek bringing in percussionist Steffen Kirchpfening and already undertaken the funkier aesthetic turn that LP would represent coming off of 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here). At least I’d think it would be something of a surprise as the band hit into “Helicopter Mama” and “The Muse & the Mule” and “Kelele,” which comprise side A of Fusion Rock Invasion, but by all appearances listening to the crowd response between songs, they seem into it. Who could argue? Wight’s groove in those songs as well as the older “Master of Nuggets” and Love is Not Only What You Know finale “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” on side B, are infectious in their grooves and the soul put into them is genuine and unmistakable. One more reason I wouldn’t have minded being there, I suppose.

Wight on Thee Facebooks

Wight at Bilocation Records

 

Sundrifer, Visitations

sundrifter visitations

Name your bet someone picks up Sundrifter’s Visitations for a proper release. The Boston three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Craig Peura, bassist Paul Gaughran and drummer Patrick Queenan impress in performance, aesthetic and craft across the nine songs and 48 minute of their for-now-self-released debut long-player, and whether it’s Queenan dipping into blastbeats on “Targeted” or Gaughran’s rumble on the Soundgarden-gone-doom “Fire in the Sky” or the fuzz that leads the charge on the Queens of the Stone Age-style “Hammerburn,” Peura doing a decent Josh Homme along the way, each member proves to add something to a whole greater than the sum of its parts and that is able to take familiar elements and use them to hone an individualized atmosphere. In the wake of melodically engaged Boston acts like Gozu, Sundrifter would seem to be a focused newcomer with a solidified mindset of who they are as a group. That said, I wouldn’t be surprised either if they kept growing their sound. Something about the psychedelic distance in “Fire in the Sky” and “I Want to Leave,” says there’s forward movement yet to be had.

Sundrifter on Thee Facebooks

Sundrifter on Bandcamp

 

Holy Mushroom, Moon

holy mushroom moon

Serenity and presence. There’s no shortage of either on the second Holy Mushroom full-length, Moon. Incorporating the prior-issued digital single “Éufrates,” the five-track/43-minute excursion is rife with natural-toned psychedelic resonance, marked out by organ/piano working alongside the guitar (see “Birdwax Blues”), as well as guest contributions of double bass and saxophone, and other sundry moments of depth-creating flourish. Their trance-effect is palpable, and Moon is an easy album to get lost in, especially as the Spanish three-piece make their way through 12:35 centerpiece “The Preacher,” moving from a dreamy opening line of guitar into funk-laden heft that only pushes forward with Hendrixian abandon through a massive jam before rounding out sweetly with vocals over background organ and sweetly-strummed guitar. “Éufrates” would seem to start the same way, but varies the structure in more of a back and forth format before closer “Grand Finale in the Blind Desert” brings both Holy Mushroom’s most patient execution and their most vibrant jam (sax included), essentially building from the one into the other to end the album in energetic fashion. To say it works for them would be underselling it.

Holy Mushroom on Thee Facebooks

Holy Mushroom on Bandcamp

 

Iron and Stone, Petrichor

iron and stone petrichor

A debut long-player of no-pretense, no-nonsense sludge-infused doom, Petrichor (on Backbite Records) shows German five-piece Iron and Stone as ready to follow where the riff will lead them. The late 2017 album is a solidly-delivered 10 tracks and 43 minutes that strikes mostly in monochrome intent, save perhaps for the acoustic “Interlude” near the midpoint. Their 2015 EP, Old Man’s Doom (review here), was similarly upfront in its purposes, but carrying across a full-length – especially a debut – is a different beast from a shorter outing. Their heavier push on “Monolith” is welcome and the break-then-chug of “Deserts” does plenty to satisfy, but Petrichor might require a couple concerted listens to really sink in on its audience, though as I’ve said time and again, if you can’t handle repetition, you can’t handle doom. Iron and Stone effectively balance traditional doom and rawer sludge groove, playing fluidly to whichever suits their purposes at a given moment.

Iron and Stone on Thee Facebooks

Backbite Records webstore

 

Black Capricorn, Omega

black capricorn omega

Sardinian doom cult Black Capricorn push well beyond the limits of the manageable with their 95-minute fourth album, Omega (released Nov. 2017 on Stone Stallion Rex), and that’s clearly the idea. The three-piece of bassist Virginia, drummer Rakela and guitarist/vocalist Kjxu offer grim ambience and tempos that sound slow regardless of their actual speed. That said, the 17-minute “Antartide” is an accomplishment as regards crawl. After a sweetly melancholic opening of guitar, it lurches and lumbers out its miserable heft until a return to that intro bookends. Even shorter tracks like “Flower of Revelation” or “Stars of Orion” hold firm to the tenet of plod, and though the results are obviously a lot to take in, the idea that it should be a slog seems all the more appropriate to Black Capricorn’s style. The band, which hits the decade mark in 2018, churn out one last bit of wretchedness in the nine-minute closing title-track before giving way to an acoustic finish, as if to remind that Omega’s sorrows are conveyed as much through atmosphere as actual sonic heft.

Black Capricorn on Thee Facebooks

Stone Stallion Rex website

 

Owl Maker, Paths of the Slain

owl maker paths of the slain

Guitarist/vocalist Simon Tuozzoli, also of malevolent doomers Vestal Claret, leads the new trio Owl Maker, and in the company of bassist Jessie May and drummer Chris Anderson, he embarks on a heavy rock push of six tracks with the debut EP, Paths of the Slain, still holding to some elements of metal, whether it’s the double-kick in opener “Ride with Aileen” or the backing vocals and guitar solo of the subsequent “99.” Songwriting is clearheaded across the EP’s 23 minutes, and in terms of first impressions, “Mashiara” shows a focus on melody that retains a metallic poise without losing its riff-driven edge. The balance shifts throughout “Freya’s Chariot” and the all-go “Witches,” the latter of which touches on black metal in its first half before turning on a dime to mid-paced heavy rock, and closer “Lady Stoneheart” nods in its back end to NWOBHM gallop, as Owl Maker seem to tip their audience to the fact that they’re just getting started on their exploration of the many interpretations of heavy.

Owl Maker on Thee Facebooks

Owl Maker on Bandcamp

 

Troll, Troll

troll troll

When one considers the multiple connotations of the word, Portland’s Troll are definitely going more for “lives under a bridge” than “meddling in elections” when it comes to their sound. Their self-titled debut EP, issued in 2017 before being picked up by respected purveyor Shadow Kingdom Records for a 2018 CD/tape release, is a highlight offering of classic-style doom worthy of Orodruin and Pilgrim comparisons and headlined by the vocal performance of John, who carries songs like opener “The Summoning” and the later, more swinging “Infinite Death” in a manner impressive in both frontman presence and melodic range. His work is only bolstered by the riffs of guitarist Lou and the consistent groove held together by bassist Wayne and drummer Ryan, whose drive in centerpiece “An Eternal Haunting” is neither overdone nor incongruous with the wall its tempo hits, and who meld shuffle and plod on closer “Savage Thunder” with naturalist ease. Potential abounds, and they reportedly already have new material in the works, so all the better.

Troll on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Kingdom Records website

 

Malditos, II

malditos ii
Some bands, you just have to accept the fact that they’re on a different wavelength and that’s all there is to it. Magma. Master Musicians of Bukkake. Circle. Enter Oakland, California’s Malditos, whose sophomore outing, II: La Réve, arrives via Svart Records. From bizarre psychedelic chants to ritualized repetitions that seems to be daring you to play them backwards on your turntable, the spiritual freakout to songs like “Azadeh” and the penultimate “Momen” is palpable. Reach out and touch it and it will ripple like water in front of you. A sense of space is filled with elements alternatingly horrifying and engrossing, and after they make their way through “Le Passage” and centerpiece “Disparu” and wind up in the title-track to close out, the journey to the final wash of noise gives the distinct impression that for neither the listener nor the band is there any coming back. High order head trippery. Will simply be too much for some, will gloriously expand the minds of others.

Malditos on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records webstore

 

The Freak Folk of Mangrovia, Sonic Meditations: Live @ Palach

the freak folk of mangrovia sonic meditations live at palach

I don’t know how much improvisation is a factor in the sound of The Freak Folk of Mangrovia, but the Croation collective bring an ultra-organic presence to their perhaps-debut release, Sonic Meditations: Live @ Palach. The group, which seems also to have gone under the names Marko Mushan & the Mangrovian Orchestra and The Free Folk of Mangrovia, was opening for Acid Mothers Temple that night, and Sonic Meditations mostly breaks down into parts – “Sonic Meditation I,” “II,” “III” and “IV” – before the band closes out with “’Mangrovian Summer,” all the while with The Freak Folk of Mangrovia making their way through progressive dreamscapes, dripping with effects and spacious enough to house an entire Mangrovian village, however big that might be. It is otherworldly and jazzy and moves with such fluidity that the entire “Sonic Meditation” becomes one overarching piece, complemented by the closing “Mangrovian Summer,” which ebbs and flows through louder, more active jamming before capping in a wash of noise.

The Freak Folk of Mangrovia on Thee Facebooks

The Freak Folk of Mangrovia on Bandcamp

 

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Wight to Release Fusion Rock Invasion: Live Over Europe Tomorrow

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Well, if I hadn’t already put Wight on my favorite covers list for their earlier-2017 single Atlas (review here), for sure they’d earn a spot with the piece by Ingo Kimalkin Lohse that adorns their new live album, Fusion Rock Invasion: Live Over Europe. The LP/DVD offering is out tomorrow, Dec. 15, and available through Bilocation Records, but there won’t be a digital edition at all, so if you want it, you gotta get the vinyl. Blamo. Decisive.

Seems a worthy endeavor, though — certainly owning that art would be no big sacrifice — since the pro-recorded outing captures Wight as they were out in Europe in 2015 heralding the funk-infused progression they’d undertaken with their then-not-yet-released third album, Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), which would surface the next year. The chance to hear Wight, only recently become a four-piece, exploring those textures on stage in front of audiences for what might’ve been the first time? Sounds pretty badass. I’d put that record on.

Info from the band and the label’s preorder page, also linked below:

wight fusion rock invasion

Sadly too late after our tour, but finally finished and a perfect christmas gift: The first Wight Live Album „Fusion Rock Invasion – Live Over Europe“.

YES there will be a live DVD together with the LP.

NO there will be no digital version available for this release! This is going to be a collectors item only. Pre-order your copy here: http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?a=58461

300 copies on white/blue/green marbled vinyl. High quality vinyl pressed by Pallas Group in Germany. Package includes LIVE DVD (FSK 0)!

In August 2015, Wight set out for another tour to present new material to European audiences. Albeit not released until almost exactly a year later, the album “Love Is Not Only What You Know” had already been recorded at this point, and Steffen Kirchpfening on percussion and keys had established himself as a permanent addition to the former power trio. Nevertheless, Wight were still treading new ground at this point, emancipating themselves from their blues and stoner rock roots while not completely discarding them.

Enriching their psychedelic sound with new found funk, jazz, prog and world music influences, the band aptly named their tour “Fusion Rock Invasion.” Carrying a full recording rig across Germany, the Netherlands, England and Switzerland in a small touring van, tour sound engineer Josko Joketovic and Wight mastermind Rene Hofmann pushed themselves to the limit to professionally record every show. The result now sees the light more than two years later in the form of the “Fusion Rock Invasion – Live Over Europe” LP.

The live album shows the band during a truly transitional period, presenting at the time unreleased tracks from “Love Is Not Only What You Know” in a four piece constellation for the first time. “Fusion Rock Invasion – Live Over Europe” includes five grooving, moving and hard rocking tracks, recorded in an intimate atmosphere in small, hot and sweaty clubs in Cologne, Munich, London, Hamburg and Tilburg.

The LP is available as a limited bundle with a bonus DVD, containing five live videos recorded during the tour as well as around the release of “Love Is Not Only What You Know.”

VINYL TRACKLIST

1. Helicopter Mama
2. The Muse & The Mule
3. Kelele
4. Master Of Nuggets
5. The Love For Life Leads To Reincarnation

DVD TRACKLIST (42 mins total):

1. The Muse & The Mule (8:48)
2. Kelele (8:56)
3. The Love For Life Leads To Reincarnation (11:02)
4. Cosmic Rhythm #2 (3:34)
5. Master Of Nuggets (9:20)

https://www.facebook.com/wightism
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https://wight.bandcamp.com/
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?a=58461

Wight, “Atlas” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: 12 of 2017’s Best Album Covers

Posted in Features, Visual Evidence on December 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The whole point of this list is that it’s not exhaustive. I feel like I say this every year, but it’s not meant to be the best covers of 2017. How would I even begin to judge that kind of thing? Appreciation for visual art is so subjective that, even in a niche within a niche within a niche like the cover pieces for heavy rock and/or doom and/or psych records, the sphere is simply too vast. I just want to have a good time looking at kickass album covers. That’s really it.

Of course, there’s always plenty of fare ready and waiting. I kept a running list all year of things that really stuck out to me, and there are some familiar names here along with some newcomers. My gripe with the proliferation of cartoon tits continues and grows even more fervent as the political climate in which this stuff happens — because even riffs don’t occur in a vacuum, sorry — becomes increasingly fraught, problematic and outright heinous, but there doesn’t seem to be any slowing that particular patriarchal train in this bizarre subculture. Dudes gotta be objectifying women and such to make up for the disaffection they feel from society at large. Weak. Grow up.

And again — I said this last year too — but I’m a fucking hypocrite because of the 14 artists listed in these 12 covers, there isn’t one woman included. Not one. I looked at my list and hung my fool head in self-disappointment. Fortunately, looking at awesome artwork is the kind of thing from which I derive emotional comfort. It’s been a real rollercoaster putting this one together, I guess.

Alright, enough delay. If you’ve got favorites that you don’t see here — and I’m sure you do because I do as well — please let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for not being a jerk.

Here goes:

Ordered alphabetically by artist

Alunah, Solennial

alunah-solennial-adrian-baxter

Cover by Adrian Baxter. Thee Facebooks.

Though it was Alunah‘s 2014 album, Awakening the Forest (review here), that found Michael Cowell introducing the framing style and color scheme used on their latest offering as well, Adrian Baxter‘s piece for the Birmingham outfit’s fourth LP and Svart Records label debut, Solennial (review here), is an utter standout. Themes of death and life and nature echo the organic feel always on display throughout Alunah‘s songwriting, and amid the highly detailed line drawing, the flashes of red evoke the richness of blood to comport with the skeletons and the vines twisted about like innards, subtly reminding of the band’s pagan and forest-canopy ethereality.

Brume, Rooster

brume-rooster-sean-beaudry

Cover by Shaun Beaudry. Artist gallery.

Shaun Beaudry does a lot of work in pen and ink and coffee stain, and like many of his pieces, the cover art for Rooster (review here), the Doom Stew/DHU Records debut album from San Francisco three-piece Brume, seems like it’s tailor-made to be a tattoo. More than that, what strikes me about it is the sense of narrative happening with the serpent-bird, the eggs, the coiling around what would seem to be an unfortunate scavenger and the dandelions and leaves surrounding. Each element looks like it’s giving messages, holding meaning, communicating ideas, and with such exquisite detail, the effect on the viewer is all the more immersive.

Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud-catcher-trails-of-kozmik-dust-adam-burke

Cover by Adam Burke. Artist website.

I imagine that, one way or another, every time I post a list like this it will feature a cover by Adam Burke. In 2017, in addition to the art for Cloud Catcher‘s Trails of Kozmic Dust (review here), the man behind Nightjar Illustration (and who did one of this site’s headers and the cover art for my book) also blasted out mention-worthy pieces topping records by Sólstafir and Spectral Haze, and his epic oil-on-canvas fantasy-art style always manages to stun. Look at the sense of scale in the Cloud Catcher cover, and the way that, as we see this cosmic battle happening, the stars seem to bleed through the two warriors, as though we’re looking at something happening across dimensions. And so we are. Beautiful.

Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

elder-reflections-of-a-floating-world-adrian-dexter

Cover by Adrian Dexter. Artist website.

A continued collaboration between Elder and Adrian Dexter yielded dividends once again with the artwork for Reflections of a Floating World (review here), released by Stickman Records and Armageddon Shop. Perhaps it’s not fair to include just the cover in this list since in my head I’m picturing the full LP’s swath of visuals, but even just in this single piece, Dexter gorgeously mirrors (get it? because “reflections?”) the band’s progressive stylizations with his own, evoking classic, stare-at-it-for-hours, poster-ready artwork and seeming to leave one wondering which end of the reflection is up and which is down in much the same way as the band’s dizzying complexity of songcraft.

The Riven, Blackbird

the-riven-blackbird-maarten-donders

Cover by Maarten Donders. Artist website.

In their video for “Killer on the Loose” (posted here), London-based heavy soul rockers The Riven play before a backdrop with the same Maarten Donders artwork on it as their debut EP, BlackbirdDonders is another repeat offender as far as appearances on this list go, and the many-time Roadburn poster collaborator’s detailed style, classic form and muted colors provide a feeling of warmth that seems almost like a goal The Riven are trying to achieve in their sound. From the moon, to the key, to the face being obliterated in smoke, the blackbird itself, the rune-laden ouroboros, the dead and hollow tree trunk, each element of the Blackbird cover holds a mystery of its own, and yet it all fits together perfectly as well, as though the art was a puzzle only Donders could piece together. I’d make a banner out of it, too.

Wight, Atlas

wight-atlas-rene-hofmann.jpg

Cover by René Hofmann. Band website.

Of the 12 covers featured on this list, René Hofmann‘s piece for Wight‘s 2017 H42 Records single, Atlas (review here), is the only one done by a member of the band itself. And I won’t lie: it’s the rainbow that sealed the deal for me. The fade from purple to yellow and sense of perspective in the rows of flowers at the bottom draw the eye toward the band’s logo, and with the mountains behind, that horizontal (angled diagonally) burst of color leads upward to the vertical color bars that seem to be holding up Planet Earth itself or are otherwise left in its path. That brazen use of color, especially with the darkness of the sky behind, was striking, hopeful and joyous in a year that seemed to need precisely as much of that as it could possibly get.

Unearthly Trance, Stalking the Ghost

unearthly-trance-stalking-the-ghost-orion-landau

Cover by Orion Landau. Artist Tumblr.

One has to wonder if, in his choice of red and purple hues, if Relapse Records in-house artist Orion Landau wasn’t specifically looking to reference Black Sabbath‘s Born Again in the artwork for Unearthly Trance‘s Stalking the Ghost (review here). Could we be looking at the devil-baby from that 1983 record all grown up in 2017? And could that reference itself be a clever manner of noting that it’s a reunion album for the band? That they’re, in essence, born again? Either way, the three hooded figures and the beast they’ve leashed are a haunting enough presence to fit with the LP’s title and the atmospherics of the group itself, while also being emblematic of the precision and detail Landau brings to the diverse range of work he does for Relapse artists across various realms of extremity and metal.

oceanwake-earthen-chris-luckhardt

Cover by Chris Luckhardt. Artist website.

The framing of the photo is a big part of the draw here, of course. The spiral of the abandoned rollercoaster. Oceanwake‘s Earthen (review here) seemed to set the goal of living up to its cover atmospherically and with the Kubrick-style framing of the abandoned rollercoaster that pulls the eye inward, almost like you’re looking down and not straight ahead, journeyman photographer Chris Luckhardt captured a murk that set a high standard indeed. The metaphor is laid on a little thick, to be sure — it isn’t subtle — but neither is the sound of Oceanwake, and the overarching greys and brooding vibe of the photo serve to genuinely affect the listening experience. Photo covers can be especially hard to pull off. This one does especially well to remain obscure even as its lines drag you in. Where does that coaster end up?

Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus-from-fields-of-fire-brad-moore

Cover by Brad Moore. Artist website.

Anyone with any level of appreciation for classic metal should by rights be an admirer of Brad Moore. The standard applies. Dude has a knack for capturing the kind of imagery you might’ve tried to emulate on the front of your high school notebook, but just ended up with an indecipherable mess of lines and half-formed monsters. Argus‘ 2017 album, From Fields of Fire (review here), with its bizarre hellscape, calls to mind doom, the NWOBHM and even some more extreme, death metal records, but the point rings true that what’s happening here is horns-up, balls-out, no-irony, no-fucking-around metal, and the most majestic Argus offering yet deserved no less. The detail of Moore‘s lines, the root influence of fantasy art, and in this case especially, the setting of theme through the use of red made this one especially arresting.

Spidergawd, IV

spidergawd-iv-emile-morel

Cover by Emile Morel. Artist website.

Easy pick. Sorry, but calling out Spidergawd art for being awesome is kind of low-hanging-fruit as far as critical assessment goes, as the fact is that’s been an essential element of what they’ve done all along across their four to-date full-lengths. The latest them, Spidergawd IV (review here), boasts the above piece by Emile Morel and inhabits the same pastel world as their past outings, but marks a turn for not having a human or semi-human figure as a part of the front cover. Instead we see an arachnid monster who may well represent the Norwegian band itself residing in a garden of fungi wonderfully rendered so that the colors almost obscure the danger lurking around. It’s very much to form, but does nothing to diminish its impact.

Process of Guilt, Black Earth

process-of-guilt-black-earth-Hugo-Santos-Pedro-Almeida

Cover by Hugo Santos and Pedro Almeida.

Granted, I said at the outset that this list wasn’t about rankings or picking favorites, and it’s not. I stand by that. However, no other album cover hit me as immediately hard as Process of Guilt‘s Black Earth (review here) with its photographed sculpture by Hugo Santos and Pedro Almeida. I don’t know who did what in terms of the division of labor in its making, but the horrific realism of the result has continued to haunt in the best way possible with its evocation of death, the spirit, the natural world and the contrast between light and dark. It seems so simple on the surface, but at the same time it’s so exacting in its position and its starkness that I can’t help but feel like it’s staring at me every time I see it, or more accurately, staring into me from someplace dark and other.

Rozamov, This Mortal Road

rozamov-this-mortal-road-andrew-weiss-matt-martinez

Cover by Andrew Weiss with layout by Matt Martinez. Artist website.

When I first saw the art for Rozamov‘s awaited Battleground Records debut long-player, This Mortal Road (review here), I was sure it had to be by Samantha Muljat. From the color wash in the sky to the otherworldly blend of photography and manipulation, to the geometric line-making overlaid, it just seemed to fit. Andrew Weiss, however, has done covers for Pelican, Spirit Adrift, and many others, and in concert with Matt Martinez‘s layout, his alien landscape is duly fraught and barren-looking while leaving the viewer to wonder if that’s a lone figure standing in the distance or just an oddly-shaped outcropping between the looming threat of the surrounding cavern walls. The message: there’s only one road ahead, only one way through it all.

A couple honorable mentions that I know I’ll add to as soon as this list goes live and I think of like 10 more records that looked awesome:

Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper
Lo-Pan, In Tensions
Godhunter, Codex Narco
Black Lung/Nap, Split 7″
Primitive Man, Caustic

So who did I miss? What were your favorite album covers of the year? Do you have a preferred style? Leave a comment with your picks and let’s get a conversation going. I know people feel strongly about this stuff, but please keep it civil so we can all have a good time.

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Wight Premiere “Atlas” Video; New Single out Tomorrow

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

wight-Photo-by-Christian-Heyse

As announced earlier this week, tomorrow is the digital release date of Atlas, the new single from German four-piece Wight. With vinyl forthcoming through H42 Records (presale starts tomorrow for that as well) sometime over the summer, the band begins quickly to move forward from their 2016 third album, Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), while keeping some of the same principals intact. You might recall that Love is Not Only What You Know was the latest in a series of three departures for Wight; each of their full-lengths to-date has marked a significant shift in sound from the one before it.

In the case of Love is Not Only What You Know, it was funk and soul elements incorporated with a classic rock feel building on the heavy psych of 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here), which likewise was a marked shift from the straightforward nod-riffing of 2011’s Wight Weedy Wight (review here) debut. Out and out they go. Where they’ll stop, nobody knows.

With Atlas, though, Wight maintain some of the flavor of their third outing while also moving it forward. The single features two versions of the song “Atlas,” one performed by the band and the other an extra-funkified redux called “Atlas (Flashbaxx Remix),” which you know is trouble from the sheer number of ‘x’s the title contains. It lives up to that standard. Even the core “Atlas” is plenty dangerous, though, with the organ and Rhodes lines of Steffen Kirchpfening intertwining with René Hofmann‘s guitar early only to step back and allow his increasingly soulful vocal delivery — coated in far-off echo here that seems to answer him back when heard through headphones — to feature even more than on the last record en route to a quick but telling bridge jam held together atop the rhythm from bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and drummer Thomas Kurek and a last run through the somewhat restrained hook.

It’s a quick listen, under five minutes, but it sees Wight bring further cohesion to the impulses that drove the material their last time out, and when the “Atlas (Flashbaxx Remix)” starts in with its Curtis Mayfield-style groove, yeah, the band lets you know they have a few more tricks up their collective sleeve yet. I’d love to hear these dudes with a full-on funky string section. It could happen. Don’t think it couldn’t.

Wight have a history of performing live in videos. They did it to lead the way into the last album with a clip for “The Love of Life Leads to Reincarnation” (posted here), and they represented Through the Woods into Deep Water by actually going to the woods and playing the title-track (posted here), so to find them digging into “Atlas” leading into the single fits their character well enough, and it’s to their credit that as they keep pushing their sound to these new places, they refuse to not draw that line of vitality in their approach. There’s some surprisingly melancholy imagery included here — for a track so colorful, the clip is awfully black and white — but Wight have very clearly come to dwell on their own wavelength, so I’m not inclined to ask questions.

Please find the video premiere for “Atlas” below, followed by the credits and the band’s upcoming live dates. My thanks to Wight and H42 Records for letting me host it.

Enjoy:

Wight, “Atlas” official video

Recorded live at Orange Box Studio, Darmstadt, January 2017

Produced by René Hofmann, Fat&Holy Records 2017

– Video Credits –
Camera & post-production: Gabriel Sahm, Johanna Amberg
Additonal Camera: Martin Kadel, Jonas Eichhorn, Fabian Weber

– Audio Credits –
Recording: Hüseyin Köroglu, Josko Koketovic
Mixing: Maurice Young
Mastering: René Hofmann

– Wight is –
Rene Hofmann: Vocals, Guitar
Peter-Philipp Schierhorn: Bass
Thomas Kurek: Drums
Steffen Kirchpfening: Organ, Rhodes

Wight live:
Mar 24 Centralstation Darmstadt, Germany w/ Colour Haze & My Sleeping Karma
Apr 01 Sputnikhalle Münster, Germany
May 05 DasBach Vienna, Austria
May 06 Zukunft Chemnitz, Germany
May 24 Schraub-BAR Bückeburg, Germany
May 26 Limes Cologne, Germany
May 26 O:M:A Karlstadt am Main, Germany

Wight on Thee Facebooks

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H42 Records website

H42 Records on Thee Facebooks

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Wight to Release New Single Atlas on March 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

On March 24, in their hometown of Darmstadt, Germany, four-piece psych-fusion rockers Wight will play one of the shows I’d most like to see in 2017. They’ll be supporting the ongoing, Obelisk-presented European tour of My Sleeping Karma and Colour Haze (dates posted here), and golly, that’s a good bill. Talk about front-to-back. Wight of course round out that stupidly-awesome trio of acts as they continue to support last year’s likewise excellent Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), but before they take the Centralstation stage, they’ll also be posting a new single called “Atlas” that finds them further digging into the funky, soul-laden sound they proffered on that 2016 album. Vinyl is due this summer on H42 Records, but one can definitely understand why they’d want the track out earlier as well. It’s quite an occasion.

Keep an eye out to0, because later this week I’ll be premiering a video for “Atlas.” Should be on Thursday if all goes according to my (not really all that evil) evil plans. The track and its remix both rules, so please, yeah, watch for it.

H42 has the WHY-IS-THIS-NOT-A-POSTER-ON-MY-WALL cover art and release details below:

wight atlas

ATLAS new Single from Wight out March 17, 2017

Wight announces new Single
Digital out on march 17th
Vinyl presale starts march 17th (release in June/July)

New year, new music. Wight give us new tunes in form of ATLAS!

The song is supposed to reflect the grey winter in Germany, as well as the topic of the titan “Atlas” our typically German mentality. Foreign people come and we are afraid of change and get angry with oracles / media, which is why we like to react very reserved. We whine a lot although 80% of our problems are complete luxury problems. We do not know hunger!

In september 2016 “Love Is Not Only What You Know”, the third album by the German band Wight, was released. The band was founded in 2008, in 2011 they released the self-produced debut “Wight Weedy Wight”. 2012 followed the second LP “Through The Woods Into Deep Water”, as well as concerts and festival performances, among others at the Stoned From The Underground and the Desertfest in Berlin.

Limited Edition up to 200 copies out on H42 Records (H42-044)
50 on GLOW IN THE DARK vinyl
50 on CLEAR vinyl
50 on PINK vinyl
100 on BLACK vinyl
+ 20x TESTPRESS Edition with different Artwork (Only from H42 Records)

Tracklist:
A1 Atlas
B1 Atlas (Flashbaxx Remix)

Wight live:
Mar 24 Centralstation Darmstadt, Germany w/ Colour Haze & My Sleeping Karma
Apr 01 Sputnikhalle Münster, Germany
May 05 DasBach Vienna, Austria
May 06 Zukunft Chemnitz, Germany
May 24 Schraub-BAR Bückeburg, Germany
May 26 Limes Cologne, Germany
May 26 O:M:A Karlstadt am Main, Germany

https://www.facebook.com/wightism
https://twitter.com/wightism
https://instagram.com/wightism/
https://wight.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/H42Records
https://twitter.com/H42Records
https://www.instagram.com/j.b.h42records/
http://www.h42records.com/

Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know (2016)

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