Tuesday, December 17, 2013

My top releases/shows of the year

Before Thanksgiving I submitted my votes for Top 5 releases of 2013 to About.com Heavy Metal. They should be posted, along picks from other writers for the site, later this month. I'll post a link to that article (which also includes things like my pick for most overrated album and best show experience) when it goes online. 

But because I'm impatient, I decided to go ahead and post my list of the top 20 releases this year. This is the list I submitted to The Obelisk's readers poll, and of course, after I did, I thought about several other releases that I would have liked to include in some way. Among these are three that really deserve some attention: Seidr's cosmic doom opus "Ginnungagap," Satan's Satyrs' fuzzy freakout "Killing for Satan," and Wolvserpent's dramatic "Perigea Antahkarana."

I will say that I listened to (and saw) a lot of music this year, and still feel like I only scratched the surface of what's out there. That's why I would never call this list a "Best of," and why I really appreciate when folks email or message me regarding bands they think I would be into, because there's a good chance I actually don't know about them. 

Show-wise, I was thrilled to go to my first Maryland Deathfest, where I saw too many great performances to list. I wouldn't have expected Pelican to be a fitting coda to the mighty Carcass, but they certainly were. Or maybe I was glad to finally be huddled in a tent after standing in the misty chill all day. Pelican also put on a great show in November at Local 506, after which I found out first hand that running over a stray traffic cone while doing 80 MPH on I-40 can really screw up your car. 

This year I also managed to see Inter Arma four times, and would have seen them a fifth if I could have gotten my compadre to skip the Melvins at the Deathfest and head over early to the Baroness show. Twice they played with openers who made the show worth it on their own (with Earthling at Slim's in April and with Windhand at Slim's in June). But I think they put on their best performance at Local 506 opening for KEN Mode. 

Then there was Hopscotch, where I got to see Isaiah Mitchell and Golden Void shred at Deep South (regrettably had to miss Earthling for that one), got day-drunk while watching Valeint Thorr at CAM, and saw Sleep rule at Lincoln Theatre. I was so terrified of missing Sleep that I was literally the first person in the door at Lincoln. Literally. I walked up and they just waved me on in as if they thought I worked for Hopscotch. About 10 minutes later someone came and grabbed me (standing by myself completely bored in an empty club) to make sure I actually had a pass. 

As for the Pig Destroyer/Gorguts show at Slim's, I'm of two minds on that one. There's no denying it was a great show, and one that everyone who experienced it will be talking about forever, but it would have been great to be there without feeling like I was in imminent danger. 

Take a look at some of my photos from all three days of Hopscotch here: Day 1, Day 2, Day 3.

As for 2014, I am already looking forward to the Deathfest (especially for Ulver, Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats and Triptykon) and seeing Carcass once again (with Gorguts, Black Dahlia Murder and Noisem) in Atlanta. In the meantime, here's my list of albums that dominated my iPod in 2013. 

20. Lumbar -- "The First and Last Days of Unwelcome" (Southern Lord)
Teeth-rattling heaviness with Mike Scheidt, Tad Doyle and Aaron Edge. Check out "Day Six."

19. Ramming Speed -- "Doomed to Destroy, Destined to Die" (Prosthetic)
"A breakneck romp through thrash, hardcore and NWOBHM, gleefully high-fiving d-beat and grind along the way." About.com review.

18. True Widow -- "Circumambulation" (Relapse)
"True Widow’s Texan “stonegaze” (combining the dusty, desert droning of stoner with the shimmer of shoegaze) carries the same sense of dark foreboding as a Jim Jarmusch film or Cormac McCarthy novel." About.com review

17. ASG -- "Blood Drive" (Relapse)
"ASG has perfected a heavy, but summery vibe that brings to mind driving with the top down, hair blowing in the wind, on a hot summer day." About.com review

16. Mourning Cloak -- "No Visible Light" (Headfirst Records)
Sludgy, crushing doom from Greensboro. Thanks to this Cvlt Nation article for letting me know what was in my own backyard.

15. Sinister Haze -- Demo (Unholy Anarchy)
Bongwater-soaked blues-doom from RVA: Dark, evil, slow and smoky. About.com review. See photos from their show last week at Slim's.

14. Occultist -- "Death Sigils" (Primitive Ways)
"A sucker punch to the throat, propelled mostly by vocalist Kerry Zylstra’s crusty shriek." About.com review

13. Earthling -- "Dark Path"(Forcefield Records)
"Hailing from Harrisonburg, Va., Earthling’s first full length album gallops at break-neck speed through a crusty, blackened, desolate musical landscape. " About.com review

12. Gorguts --"Colored Sands" (Season of Mist)
The year's second greatest comeback album, released just prior to their crazy Hopscotch performance. Looking forward to seeing them again now that I've had a chance to actually listen to the album.

11. Cough/Windhand -- "Reflection of the Negative" split (Relapse)
Double dose of Richmond doom. This release foretold great things from Windhand. Still waiting for the new Cough release. About.com review.

10. Uzala  -- "Tales of Blood & Fire" (King of the Monsters)
"Uzala is expansive and atmospheric, while still conjuring a witchy, vintage spirit." About.com review.

9. In Solitude --"Sister" (Metal Blade)
I admit to being late to the party regarding "In Solitude," but the song "Sister" helped me realize just how good this band is.

8. Skeletonwitch -- "Serpents Unleashed" (Prosthetic)
Skeletonwitch is metal's true workhorse band. You won't year anything truly mind-expanding on "Serpents Unleased," but you will have your fist in the air while listening.

7. Kadavar --"Abra Kadavar" (Nuclear Blast)
Well-done Old Man retro rock from Germany. Check out the trippy "Rhythm for Endless Minds" and the funky "Doomsday Machine."

6. Oranssi Pazuzu --"Valonielu" (Svart/20 Buck Spin)
This confounding Finnish blackened psychedelic band seemed to come out of nowhere this fall, with a sound that's as difficult to categorize as their name is to pronounce.

5. Windhand -- "Soma" (Relapse)
On "Soma," Richmond's Windhand transcends the vintage chalice-and-black-candles doomy sound and moves the initiation ceremony outdoors to create an atmosphere that’s natural, cold and forbidding. You get a visual sense of that sound from the album’s cover artwork: a stark, black and white photo of a lonely, hillside barn. Even when punching you in the throat with a groovy, wah-drenched double guitar attack, the music evokes that same sense of isolation, coldness and collapse. About.com review.

4. Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats -- "Mind Control" (Metal Blade)
Like their previous release, "Blood Lust," "Mind Control" album is a loose concept, this time involving death cults, motorcycle gangs and quests for enlightenment. The album kicks off with the slow, chugging “Mt. Abraxas,” which introduces our protagonist (antagonist?) as he escapes from the eponymous mountain after murdering his fellow cult members.

 The story goes literally downhill from there, but is relayed with such fuzzy, sickeningly sweet harmonies, and thick slabs of riffage, that it sounds like the most wonderful story ever told. Uncle Acid’s double-tracked vocals sound like Alice Cooper, John Lennon and Ozzy are all fighting for his soul. About.com review. Mann's World interview with Uncle Acid.

3. Toxic Holocaust -- "Chemistry of Consciousness" (Relapse)
Full-on thrash attack. Check out the scathing "Rat Eater" and "Deny the Truth."

2. Inter Arma -- "Sky Burial"(Relapse)
In addition to seeing Inter Arma live more than any other band in the last year, I probably listened to this album more than all the others on this list combined. From the very first second of "The Survival Fires," "Sky Burial" essentially grabbed me by the throat and never let go. Live, Inter Arma is a serious force, and seeing them as many times as I did undoubtedly made me love this album as much as I do. There's no link, but I wrote a profile of the band, which appeared in the March edition of Decibel.

1. Carcass -- "Surgical Steel" (Nuclear Blast)
No surprise here, considering how many accolades "Surgical Steel" has received since its release. This album is not only, in my opinion, the best release of the  year, it's the definitive album of Carcass' entire career.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Photos of Demon Eye, Sinister Haze and Corpse Mountain

 (Demon Eye)

(Sinister Haze)

(Corpse Mountain)

Demon Eye has been playing like crazy lately, leading up to the release of their debut album, which will be out early next year on  Soulseller Records. I was pretty stoked to find out that one of my images (the Instagram from a show with Sinister Haze at the Maywood) will actually be on the inside cover. 

Like that Maywood show, Demon Eye teamed up with Sinister Haze on Wednesday for a show at Slim's. Actually they played at least three shows together during Sinister Haze's swing through North Carolina on their tour. I was very interested to see Sinister Haze again now that they are a trio. I liked the vocal interplay they had between the guitarist and singer. I've also been listening to their just-released demo, which will be on my top 20 releases of the year (I'll have that list out next week). With the singer no longer in the band, the bass player took over many of the vocal duties, and honestly they were even better than before. They still have a few more dates on their tour, including tonight in Asheville, so check them out live if you can. 

The night's big surprise was the new local band Corpse Mountain, which includes members of Church of Wolves. They describe themselves as "aggressive sludge/doom," which pretty much sums it up, especially the aggressive part. Looking forward to hearing them again. See more photos here

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Bedowyn, Black Thai and Devil to Pay

This week, believe it or not, I managed to go out twice -- both times to the Maywood. Monday I was out to see Black Thai, a band of really awesome dudes from Boston who have just released a really great album. It's always good to see these guys, and I wish they could make it down here more often. I also really got into the opener, Minneapolis' Indianapolis' Devil to Pay, who were part of last weekend's Stoner Hands of Doom lineup with Black Thai in Richmond, and the headliner, local band Bedowyn who have a new release of their own. Looking forward to seeing them again. More photos below. Full photo set here.


Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Black Skies preview 2 new songs from upcoming album!

I was VERY excited to get this email today: Chapel Hill's Black Skies -- who have been quiet way too long -- are previewing two new songs from their upcoming release, Circadian Meditations. You can pre-order the album and listen to a preview of the song "Time Lord" on their Bandcamp page. And you can see a video for a second song, "Celestial Coronation," above. That video seriously makes me want to go hiking.

Also, the band is releasing a digital single featuring an unreleased track, "Echoes In The Void" b/w "Dead Batteries" (previously released on a Digguptapes limited edition split cassingle with Caltrop). Bass player Michelle Temple says: "Both songs were recorded with Nick Petersen at Track & Field Recording Studio and feature Tim Herzog (Godspeed You! Black Emperor, Milemarker, DesArk) on drums. As an added bonus to our fans who purchase the download of Circadian Meditations, we will include a free download of this single. You can listen to these songs here.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

New Black Thai streaming on The Obelisk

Lots of good shows coming up in the next few weeks, not the least of which is Black Thai with Bedowyn on Nov. 11 at the Maywood. I've been listening to "Seasons of Might," the band's new release, which will be out on Nov. 6, and it's good stuff. The Obelisk has a full dissection, and a stream of "Start a War," here. These guys put on two great shows at the Dive Bar a couple of years ago, so I'm really excited for this show. Also, FYI, if you're going to the Stoner Hands of Doom fest in Richmond, Black Thai is playing on Sunday, Nov. 10. 

Photos of Windhand, Mourning Cloak and Satan's Satyrs on Invisible Oranges

Last Saturday (Oct. 19) I checked out Windhand, Mourning Cloak and Satan's Satyrs at Legitimate Business in Greensboro. Since I lived in Greensboro for five years, you would think I could easily find my way around that town. Evidently Legitimate Business (the recording studio/show space owned by the guitarist of Mourning Cloak) is in a part of town I never visited because nothing about that space, street or neighborhood looked familiar. Anyway, it's a cool spot, and I'll be on the lookout for more shows happening there now that I know where it is. 

Windhand and Mourning Cloak were great, as expected, but I was most impressed with Satan's Satyrs, a young Hellacopters-ish band from Virginia. Looking forward to seeing them again. Check out the photos on Invisible Oranges. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Catching up: Hopscotch and Windhand

(Sleep at Lincoln Theatre)

What a weekend! I am still recovering from seeing some great shows, and I am very grateful that all those great shows were concentrated together. Last year I spent Hopscotch Thursday wandering from club to club because there was nothing in particular I wanted to see, and ended up discovering some great new bands. This year I knew exactly where I wanted to be on each night. 

It was a hectic weekend because I was shooting for Invisible Oranges, and by extension, for Brooklyn Vegan. I am very happy that they published my photos of ASG and Golden Void (best band of the weekend BY FAR) here; photos of Pig Destroyer/Gorguts/Vattnet Viskar/Sannhet here; and Sleep/Evoken/Inter Arma/Solar Halos here. I also have a set from Bitter Resolve (who opened for Golden Void) here. I was very excited to be shooting for IO, and hope to shoot more for them in the future. 

Also, today my review of Windhand's new album, Soma, was published on About.com Heavy Metal. My interview with guitarist Garrett Morris will be published later this week. If you haven't checked out Soma, please go here and take a listen. Then buy the album and support this awesome band. These guys have worked really hard on this album, and have truly created something special.