The Electric Highway 2020: Full Lineup & Pre-Party Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the electric highway poster

Last time, when The Electric Highway 2020 called out its preliminary lineup, I decided to roll with calling it the inaugural-ish edition of the Calgary-based festival, as it’s grown out of the 420 Music & Arts Festival of years prior, but still, there’s no question they’re doing it up for the occasion of the new name and presentation. Poster art by none other than David Paul Seymour has been unveiled, Mothership have joined on with Sasquatch, Wo Fat and Duel near the top of a Texas-dominant lineup — Sasquatch being the outlier geographically — and a pre-show has been announced with Seattle’s Year of the Cobra crossing the border to headline. These updates would seem to complete the proceedings as they’ll proceed, but of course April’s still a couple months out and you know, subject to change and all that. Still, it looks like a pretty badass time if you can make it.

Info came down the PR wire:

Festival Line-Up Announced! All Roads Lead To The Electric Highway In Calgary, AB, Canada!

Buckle up for The Electric Highway Festival, two days of killer bands, rad artists and fuzzy vibes April 17 & 18, 2020 at the historic Royal Canadian Legion #1 in downtown Calgary, Alberta, Canada.

The Electric Highway Festival has completed its lineup with the addition of the mighty Mothership from Dallas, Texas. The Supersonic Intergalactic Heavy Rock trio’s goal from the beginning has been to carry on the tradition of the classic rock style of the ’70s, updated and amped up for the modern-day. Mothership have created a unique sound that satisfies like a steaming hot stew of UFO and Iron Maiden, blended with the southern swagger of Molly Hatchet and ZZ Top, paired with a deadly chalice of Black Sabbath. Do not miss this chance to hop on board and join Mothership as they tear across the Universal Cosmos!

The Electric Highway Festival has also added Vancouver’s Empress to the lineup. Both Mothership and Empress will be performing at the festival on Saturday, April 18, 2020. That brings the total number of bands performing during the festival to 22.

The Electric Highway Festival is excited to release its official artwork created by the renowned dark surreal artist David Paul Seymour. David Paul Seymour is an internationally known illustrator based in Minneapolis, MN who has created artwork for Municipal Waste, Conan, Mastodon as well as Shadow Weaver and Wo Fat who are both performing at The Electric Highway Festival in 2020. David Paul Seymour is also a driving force behind The Planet of Doom, an Animated Tale of Metal and Art and the creator of the Kumasan comic series.

The rest of the 2020 lineup brings an electric offering of North American bands featuring headliners Sasquatch and Wo Fat laying down their brand of fuzzy, kick-ass Desert Rock & Heavy Psych. Duel from Austin, Texas will be playing Canada for the 1st time at The Electric Highway Festival along with Hippie Death Cult & LáGoon both from Portland, Oregon. Festival favorites La Chinga return from Vancouver for their 4th appearance and Calgary’s Gone Cosmic & Buzzard from Victoria, BC are just a few more of the wicked bands that will be playing on two stages over the two days of The Electric Highway Festival, the full lineup below.

The Electric Highway Official Lineup:
Sasquatch (Los Angeles, CA)
Wo Fat (Dallas, TX)
Mothership (Dallas, TX)
Duel (Austin, TX)
La Chinga (Vancouver, BC)
Gone Cosmic (Calgary, AB)
Hippie Death Cult (Portland, OR)
LáGoon (Portland, OR)
Buzzard (Victoria, BC)
Chunkasaurus (Victoria, BC)
Bazaraba (Calgary, AB)
Shadow Weaver (Calgary, AB)
Father Moon (Calgary, AB)
Set & Stoned (Crossfield, AB)
Row of Giants (Calgary, AB)
Hemptress (Kamloops, BC)
Pink Cocoon (Montreal, QC)
The Sleeping Legion (Winnipeg, MB)
The Basement Paintings (Saskatoon, SK)
Empress (Vancouver, BC)
Locutus (Calgary, AB)
The Worst (Calgary, AB)

The Electric Highway Festival is also getting the whole thing started with a Kick-Off Party on Thursday, April 16th, 2020 at The Palomino Smokehouse & Social Club. This killer line up features Seattle powerhouse psychedelic doom duo Year of the Cobra as they return to Calgary. They will be joined by Calgary’s Bloated Pig, Outlaws of Ravenhurst, and newcomers Falcotron along with Red Deer’s Smoothsayer.

2 Day Festival Pass holders can pick up their wristbands a day early at The Electric Highway Festival Kick-Off Party. This event will be free for festival pass holders or $13 at the door for non-pass holders. (Space is limited so make sure to get their early!) Pre-order merch sales will also be available for pick up at this event too. Beat the lineup and come for some bands, beer & BBQ at the Pal!

The Electric Highway 2020 —> www.facebook.com/events/1346173098884903/
The Electric Highway Kickoff Party—> www.facebook.com/events/809469542830729/
The Electric Highway Pinball Tournament —> www.facebook.com/events/2408742202725992/
The Electric Highway Arts Expo & Market —> www.facebook.com/events/476224713238363/

“All Roads Lead to the Electric Highway”

www.facebook.com/ElectricHighwayFestival/
www.instagram.com/TheElectricHighway
www.TheElectricHighway.ca

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 26

Posted in Radio on January 3rd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Nothing says ‘welcome to a new year and new decade’ like playing a bunch of songs from the one that just ended, right? Right? I knew I should’ve gone into marketing.

Still, I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the lack of how much ground was left uncovered by last month’s edition of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. It was an awesome playlist, which I’ll gladly say as the guy who made it, but two hours is just two hours. I could’ve easily gone 10. Dedicating another show to the cause, even just with one a month, seemed like a worthy endeavor. And so it was.

As I write this I’m still waiting to cut voice tracks, but you’ll notice there are only two breaks. I didn’t want to take the extra couple minutes away from music, so I thought one for each hour of the show was fair. Ain’t nobody listening for my “duh, this record’s good” level of insight, and I refuse to fool myself into thinking otherwise. But some of this stuff — Uncle Woe, Stones of Babylon — is new to me. Those two were just sent my way in the last week or so, and they’ll both be covered in the Quarterly Review next week — at least I think they will; should check that list — so I thought to get them a look here as well would be cool. You’ll also notice Zone Six was reviewed this morning. Trying to keep current, at least with myself.

But in with those of course are more 2019 essentials, and I won’t list them twice when you can just read the below. All of these (the newer-to-me stuff notwithstanding) were included in the Best of 2019 feature, so I was thinking of this a little bit as a complement to that. Either way, I hope you dig it.

The Obelisk Show airs 1PM today at http://gimmeradio.com

Thanks if you get to listen.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 01.03.20

Stones of Babylon Hanging Gardens Hanging Gardens*
Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybody’s Going to Die Everybody’s Going to Die*
Year of the Cobra Into the Fray Ash & Dust
Beastwars Raise the Sword IV
Solace The Light is a Lie The Brink*
Kings Destroy Dead Before Fantasma Nera
SÂVER How They Envisioned Life They Came with Sunlight
BREAK
Green Lung Let the Devil In Woodland Rites
Magic Circle I’ve Found My Way to Die Departed Souls
Spaceslug Half-Moon Burns Reign of the Orion*
Valley of the Sun All We Are Old Gods
Worshipper Coming Through Light in the Wire
Hazemaze Lobotomy Hymns of the Damned*
Uffe Lorenzen If You Have Ghosts If You Have Ghosts
BREAK
Uncle Woe Push the Blood Back In Our Unworn Limbs
Zone Six Song for Richie Kozmik Koon

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every first Friday of the month at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Feb. 7. Thanks for checking it out if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monolith on the Mesa 2020 Lineup Update: Khemmis, Mondo Drag, Heavy Temple & More Added

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

I’ll be 100 percent honest with you and say I don’t know how recent the lineup additions are here, but I’m trying basically to keep up with Monolith on the Mesa 2020 and there are names listed below that weren’t included in the last lineup update I got from the PR wire, so if I’m a month behind, I’m sorry. It’s been a busy month. Some of those additions are significant as well, from Warhorse, Heavy Temple and Yatra making the trek from the East Coast to Mondo Drag coming from San Diego, Khemmis from Denver and Distances from the relatively nearby Albuquerque. All these and the others listed below will convene at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership for what’s the second Monolith on the Mesa Festival, which I have very little doubt is precisely the kind of party it looks like on paper. To wit, it looks like quite a party.

I went to the fest’s website and cut and pasted the lineup. That’s what I did. Swiped the logo while I was there too. Full confession.

With dreams of the desert in Springtime:

 

MONOLITH ON THE MESA 2020 logo

Monolith on the Mesa 2020

May 28-30, 2020 at Taos Mesa Brewing

Monolith on the Mesa, a “High” Desert Experience, is an independent three-day festival entering its second year in 2020. The festival takes place at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, and on the grounds of Hotel Luna Mystica, just outside of Taos, New Mexico. The festival is focused on heavy riff-rock acts from across multiple sub-genres including stoner rock, heavy psych, doom metal, sludge, drone, and retro rock. The festival includes interactive art installations and visual projections throughout the grounds to compliment the mind bending sounds of the bands. Festival capacity is limited to 1,500 to provide an intimate experience. Bands perform on the club-style indoor stage, and the scenic “earthship” outdoor amphitheater stage.

Bands Playing at Monolith on the Mesa:
Black Maria
Destroyer of Light
distances
Duel
Earthride
Fatso Jetson
Great Electric Quest
Heavy Temple
Khemmis
Love Gang
Magic Castles
Mark Deutrom
Mars Red Sky
Mondo Drag
Mondo Generator
Mountain of Smoke
Nebula
Prism Bitch
Ruby the Hatchet
Sons of Otis
Sun Dog
Warhorse
Wo Fat
Yatra
Yawning Man
Year of the Cobra

DATES AND TIMES:
Box office opens at 9 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
May 28th doors at 4 pm til 1:30 am
May 29th doors at 12 noon; outside stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am
May 30th doors at 12 noon; outdoor stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am

VENUE INFORMATION:
Taos Mesa Brewing: The Mothership
20 ABC Mesa Rd.
El Prado, New Mexico 89529
https://www.taosmesabrewing.com/

TICKET INFORMATION:
Rain or shine event! No refunds!
https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/tickets/344140

https://www.monolithonthemesa.com
https://www.facebook.com/monolithonthemesa
https://www.instagram.com/monolithonthemesa

Monolith on the Mesa 2020 promo

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

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

the obelisk best of 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

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

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

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

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

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

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

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

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

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

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

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

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

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

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

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

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

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

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

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

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

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

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

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

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

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

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

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

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

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

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

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

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

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

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

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

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

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

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

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

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

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

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

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

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

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

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

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

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

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

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

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

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

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

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

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

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

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

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

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

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

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

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

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

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

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

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

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

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

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

Postwax

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to 2020

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

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

Thank You

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

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

More to come.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monolith on the Mesa: Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Wo Fat, Earthride, Magic Castles & Great Electric Quest Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Monolith on the Mesa, which kind of came out of the gate in full-fledged upstart fashion this year and put Taos, New Mexico, on the map as a destination for heavyheads from all over, continues to announce acts for its follow-up edition in 2020. The fest is set for May 28-30 at Taos Mesa Brewing, same spot it was held this Spring, and is $99 for the weekend, which doesn’t sound cheap, but uh, is, considering what you get. Not exactly slumming it as regards the whole experience of the thing. To wit, the photo below looks like something I would most definitely shell out a hundred bucks to stand in front of for three days and have my ass handed to me by awesome bands. If you disagree, I suggest you take the next few months to reassess your priorities.

But speaking of awesome bands, a bunch more have just joined the lineup, including Maryland’s favorite sons Earthride. They’ll make the trip west and give a bit of East Coast representation out in the desert that I can only imagine will go over like groove-rolling gangbusters. That alone would be worth the $99 in my book, let alone the likes of Yawning Man (always great) and Fatso Jetson (always great) and Wo Fat (always great), who, for those of you who don’t read parentheticals (why not?) are always great, as well as Magic Castles and Great Electric Quest, whom I’ve not yet seen, but whose sounds are most certainly readily diggable.

Cool fest, man. These guys got something going out there in the desert.

From the PR wire:

monolith on the mesa 2019 (Photo by Mike Goodwin)

Monolith On The Mesa prepares for second year bands include Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Earthride, Sons of Otis, Ruby the Hatchet, Mondo Generator, Year of the Cobra and more

MONOLITH ON THE MESA OFFERS A “HIGH” DESERT EXPERIENCE THAT DRAWS ROCK FANS FROM ACROSS THE NATION

THE MUSIC FESTIVAL PREPARES FOR ITS SECOND YEAR AND ANNOUNCES SIX MORE BANDS IN THE LINE-UP: Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Earthride, Wo Fat, Magic Castles, Great Electric Quest

300 early bird tickets on sale now through Black Friday

May 28-30, 2020 at Taos Mesa Brewing

Monolith on the Mesa, a “High” Desert Experience, is an independent three-day festival entering its second year in 2020. The festival takes place at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, and on the grounds of Hotel Luna Mystica, just outside of Taos, New Mexico. The festival is focused on heavy riff-rock acts from across multiple sub-genres including stoner rock, heavy psych, doom metal, sludge, drone, and retro rock. The festival includes interactive art installations and visual projections throughout the grounds to compliment the mind bending sounds of the bands. Festival capacity is limited to 1,500 to provide an intimate experience. Bands perform on the club-style indoor stage, and the scenic “earthship” outdoor amphitheater stage.

A total of 35 bands will play over three days from May 28-30, 2020. Festival promoters Dano Sanchez and Roman Barham are excited to reveal the names of five more bands today including Yawning Man; Fatso Jetson; Earthride; Wo Fat; Magic Castles; Great Electric Quest. The thirteen bands already made public online include: Sons of Otis; Ruby the Hatchet; Mondo Generator; Duel; Mark Deutrom; Year of the Cobra; Mountain of Smoke; Destroyer of Light; Love Gang; Black Maria; Prism Bitch and Sun Dog. Tickets cost $150 for three-day passes. A limited release of 300 early bird tickets for $99.99 are on sale now through Black Friday (midnight on November 29, 2019).

Dano Sanchez says “We are inspired to continue on our path with Monolith II. We want fans to come to Taos and let go of technology and constraints of urban living for three days. Let your soul breathe! What we offer is unique but still linked musically to festivals like Psycho Las Vegas, Levitation and Stoned and Dusted. We think festival goers will appreciate what we are doing here.”

Monolith on the Mesa is produced as a “destination” festival offering attendees music as well as the unique and mystical Taos experience which includes crisp, clean air on the high desert mesa, surrounded by unobstructed views of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. The festival is located adjacent to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. This enables festival goers to enjoy activities such as hiking, river rafting, bike trails, natural and resort hot springs — all making for an immersive experience unlike any other music festival.

DATES AND TIMES:
Box office opens at 9 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
May 28th doors at 4 pm til 1:30 am
May 29th doors at 12 noon; outside stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am
May 30th doors at 12 noon; outdoor stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am

VENUE INFORMATION:
Taos Mesa Brewing: The Mothership
20 ABC Mesa Rd.
El Prado, New Mexico 89529
https://www.taosmesabrewing.com/

TICKET INFORMATION:
Rain or shine event! No refunds!
https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/tickets/344140

https://www.monolithonthemesa.com
https://www.facebook.com/monolithonthemesa
https://www.instagram.com/monolithonthemesa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Year of the Cobra, Ash & Dust: Dark Shadows Dance

Posted in Reviews on October 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

year of the cobra ash and dust

To some degree or other, every generation carries the fear that it will be the last. Some have better cases in that regard than others — world wars, the Black Plague, environmental catastrophe, etc. — but apocalypse-ism is a historical consistency in the way few things can claim to be, and Year of the Cobra‘s second album, Ash & Dust, seems not so much to proliferate this concern, but to dwell in the aftermath of it. Also their debut on Prophecy Productions, it is a deeply human offering that communes with old gods in “The Divine,” surveys oblivion, finds love amid a devastated landscape in the ultra-moody “Demons” and gives itself a road-weary pep talk on “Into the Fray,” the hook of which shows a new pinnacle of the Seattle duo’s songcraft. That was already a proven commodity, frankly, on 2016’s …In the Shadows Below (review here) debut LP as well as 2015’s The Black Sun EP (review here) before it and most especially 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here) after, which worked directly to expand the sonic palette of the full-length in a way that the Jack Endino-produced Ash & Dust very much furthers, basking in heft and melodic drift alike, as well as a varied approach that’s no less at home in the rumble-punk of its early title-track as the airy pop evocations of “At the Edge” and the atmospheric, vocal-centric minimalism of closer “In Despair.”

The duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith altogether offer eight tracks and 41 minutes for their sophomore outing, and their ability to trade back and forth between rawness and fullness of sound becomes a crucial asset to their approach, making the most or the least of their two-piece configuration depending on for what a given song is calling, and from seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Battle of White Mountain” — which may or may not be about the slaughter of the Bohemians in 1620 in what’s now the Czech Republic — through the subtle nuance in the central verse progression of the penultimate “Dark Swan” and the ambience of the finale that follows, Ash & Dust is nothing less than the manifestation of what Year of the Cobra‘s earliest potential held the promise of them being.

They come by it honestly, and one can hear that as they begin to venture toward influences beyond the heavy rock standard — pop, punk, grunge; maybe even a bit of modern hip-hop’s rhythmic intricacy on “Demons” — and embrace a broader aesthetic on the whole. It’s easy enough to put this to a narrative of Year of the Cobra as a hard-touring band building confidence in their approach, to hear the sureness in Amy Tung Barrysmith‘s voice and the instrumental chemistry and inherent same-pageness of her bass and Jon‘s drums and understand that as something born of time on the road. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but they have toured a lot over the last few years domestically with increasing incursions abroad, and one seriously doubts that will cease with Ash & Dust and Prophecy‘s greater European reach. So be it, but at the same time, these songs are more than just pieces for the stage.

year of the cobra

From the very first measures of “The Battle of White Mountain,” glorious in their fuzz and only enhanced when the drums and “ooh” vocals join in, the songs offer depth for listener immersion, and even as Year of the Cobra contradict themselves, turning from the rolling “The Divine” into the outright raw insistence of “Ash & Dust” itself and finish out side A with “Demons” — each one bringing a different aspect of who they are to the forefront — they’re able to make these changes fluid in such a way as to bring the listener along with them on that journey. Hooks help. “The Divine” is an early highlight in that regard, as well as “Demons,” and in leading off side B, “Into the Fray” lumbers out perhaps the single most memorable chorus on the album, settling in on the lines of its last intonation, “Go slow/Stay low/In strength/We go.” It is difficult to read this as being about anything other than the band itself.

Of course, they don’t always go slow, and they don’t always stay low, but wherever Year of the Cobra go on Ash & Dust, they certainly go in strength and “face it head-on,” as an earlier verse says. Continuing the dynamic of side A, the subsequent “At the Edge” is grimmer lyrically, but the momentum of side B’s opening carries through nonetheless, and a subtle build of tension pays off in the song’s second-half melody, bringing about the drum start of “Dark Swan” and the patient and atmospheric build thereof, a background filled out by swirling drone touching on psychedelic impulses while ultimately remaining grounded by the drums and accompanying bassline. It never quite explodes, but neither does it seem to want to, and it does hit a peak in its final minute that serves the function well enough without being overstated, giving “In Despair” a smooth lead-in from silence from out of which the quiet bass and vocals emerge to hold sway for most of the duration. They’re five minutes in before sudden last crashes and feedback signal the end of the proceedings, and in that time, they never lost sight of the primacy of mood in the piece, making it all the more a standout finish.

What seems to remain for Year of the Cobra in terms of stylistic growth is to draw the different sides of their sound together, so that a track might carry the brooding vibe of “In Despair” and the push of Ash & Dust‘s title-track, but even if they went that route, I’m not sure it’d be worth the trade off in terms of how their output functions to interact here. Would they lose as much as they gained, in other words? I don’t have an answer for that, and I certainly wouldn’t speculate on where else the two-piece’s exploration outside genre confines might take them, but perhaps most of all, Ash & Dust finds Year of the Cobra earning the trust that they’ll figure it out when they get there, and that, yeah, one way or the other, they will indeed get there. This is a band interested in moving forward, in writing quality material with an engaging presentation and a cohesive, progressive underlying statement to make. From their first EP to now, they’ve yet to deliver anything that wasn’t a marked step forward from what they’d done prior. One doesn’t expect that would change anytime soon, and certainly hopes it doesn’t, in any case.

Year of the Cobra, Ash & Dust (2019)

Year of the Cobra on Thee Facebooks

Year of the Cobra on Instagram

Year of the Cobra on Bandcamp

Prophecy Productions on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

Prophecy Productions website

Tags: , , , , ,

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 23

Posted in Radio on September 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Got into some longer tracks this time around on The Obelisk Show, and that was very much on purpose. Last episode was the Kyuss special, and that was a lot of fun, but when I started this show I guess over a year ago now, I was thinking of it specifically as something a little bit against the grain of what Gimme Radio usually does, so yeah, I definitely consider playing like 15-minute tracks and in this case, a 23-minute track, as counter to the general consideration of where “radio” — even in its interwebular iteration — generally goes. At least I like to imagine it being that way.

So yes. A lot of new music around here, and some longer tracks from the likes of Taras BulbaJesus the Snake (get jazzy, y’all), Ireland’s Coroza and Swedes V and Goatess. Also the new single from Blackwater Holylight because it’s so good that I had to play it, new stuff from Here Lies ManYear of the CobraOgreLamassu and the Alunah track that was premiered here this week, basically just as a brag on my part. And for the classic track? Oh, it’s only “Catharsis” by YOB. If you can think of a better way to spend the aforementioned 23 minutes of your life than listening to that, I’d love to hear it.

I haven’t cut the voice tracks yet as I write this (I’ll do them this afternoon), so I don’t know how much of a dork I sound like, but I’m sure I’ll sound like plenty of a dork when I get there. But thanks for listening if you do in just a couple hours, and thanks for your ongoing support generally, because it’s what lets me do crazy stuff like a radio show on the station that has Dave Mustaine and the dude from Amon Amarth as DJs. These are wacky times.

Listen at: http://www.gimmeradio.com

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 09.13.19

 

Year of the Cobra Into the Fray Ash & Dust*
Jesus the Snake Karma Black Acid, Pink Rain*
BREAK
Here Lies Man Iron Rattles No Ground to Walk Upon*
Taras Bulba The Yo-Yo Man One*
Blackwater Holylight Death Realms Veils of Winter*
V Led into Exile Led into Exile*
Goatess What Lies Beneath Blood and Wine*
Lamassu I Die Into the Empty*
BREAK
YOB Catharsis Catharsis
Alunah Hunt Violet Hour*
Ogre The Future Thrice as Strong*
BREAK
Coroza The Plutonian Drug Chaliceburner*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Sept. 27. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Women of Doom Compilation Beats Kickstarter; Set to Feature SubRosa, Year of the Cobra Members and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

The basic mission of Women of Doom — celebrating women as a traditionally in recognition of being a marginalized group both within bands and as groundbreaking artists in general — is noble enough, but I have to think it was the personnel involved in this particular project from Desert Records and Blues Funeral Recordings that led to it trouncing the Kickstarter funding goal well ahead of the end date. New music from ex-SubRosa members, from Year of the Cobra‘s Amy Tung Barrysmith, but Frayle and others — hell, I just saw on Thee Facebooks a bit ago that Laura Pleasants (ex-Kylesa) had finished recording a new song for a yet-to-be-revealed compilation with her band The Discussion; that could easily fit here — and more announcements to come seems like an excellent start and I’ve no doubt the end result will be a comp that’s forward thinking in more than just its approach to issues of gender.

And whatever the inherent politics of the thing, I’m looking forward to seeing who else gets confirmed and how the songs sound when it’s all put together. There’s certainly a wide enough aesthetic sphere to draw from.

Info from the PR wire:

avarice

Ambitious WOMEN OF DOOM Project Announced, feat. Members of SUBROSA, YEAR OF THE COBRA, FRAYLE, DOOMSTRESS and DEATHBELL

Kickstarter for project celebrating female heavy artists surpasses goal easily, with more artist announcements to come during last 12 days

Albuquerque, New Mexico’s Desert Records, in collaboration with Blues Funeral Recordings, has announced the concept for its forthcoming Women of Doom album project.

The carefully-curated release will feature new songs from female heavy/stoner/doom/riff/psych solo artists and bands with prominent female members, with the specific goal of spotlighting their immense talent and massive artistic contributions to all things heavy.

Women of Doom was announced via Kickstarter and social media on July 26th, and, after being singled out by Kickstarter as a project it loves, has already surpassed the initial funding goal with about half of the campaign duration left to go.

Some of the artists announced as participating with brand-new performances are:

Kim Cordray and Sarah Pendleton of the renowned and recently laid-to-rest SubRosa, collaborating with their new experimental project Avarice
Amy Tung of Year of the Cobra with a solo composition
Deathbell, featuring Irish doom siren Lauren Gaynor
Rebecca Vernon, also of SubRosa, with the first appearance of her new project The Keening
Alexis Hollada of Texas metal institution Doomstress
Frayle, featuring the spellbinding vocals of Gwyn Strang
More to come

Discussing the project’s genesis, Desert Records founder Brad Frye says:

“I started Women of Doom with the idea to highlight and celebrate the heavy music that female artists have brought us through the years. These are some of my favorite musicians, and I hope that heavy music fans around the world will discover their own new favorite musicians and bands through this one-of-kind project!”

With support and advisement from female music industry empowerment group Women in Vinyl, Desert Records and Blues Funeral will finalize the lineup on the project by end of Summer, with finished songs submissions already starting to come in.

The collaborative release is planned for arrival early next year, with a possible Women of Doom stage at a May 2020 festival being considered as well.

Further info and background on the project as well as personal video clips from some of the participating artists can be viewed on the Kickstarter, which runs through August 25th at this location: kck.st/2Y4RdE3

facebook.com/desertrecordslabel/
instagram.com/desertrecords/
facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
instagram.com/blues.funeral/
facebook.com/womeninvinyl/
instagram.com/womeninvinyl/

Deathbell, With the Beyond (2018)

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,