Saturday, 22 February 2014

The Best Vinyl Releases of 2013 (that I own) Pat Harrington - Electric Beard Of Doom

Written by Pat Harrington

So here's my first shot at doing a "Best Of" list, as a result, it comes to you about a month too late and a way too long. I wanted to do something different so I focused on albums that were released on vinyl in 2013. More specifically, I focused on albums that I have on vinyl... therefore, you may find this list to be incomplete, subjective, irrelevant or just a waste of time, this all may be true. 

Frankly, this was also my way of whittling down the field. The good news is that this underground doom/stoner/psych/retro/sludge world (whatever ya wanna call it) unleashed a flurry of excellent music in 2013. There is so much good heavy shit coming out nowadays it is nearly impossible to keep track or keep up. For me to try and cover all that is out there and worth listening to would be an exercise in futility. However, I did include a few albums that have not yet been released on vinyl because they were just too amazing to ignore. 

In addition to focusing on the music contained on these albums, I also evaluated artwork and design. I've become a bit of a vinyl junkie over the last year or so and I believe a big part of that has to do with the fact that so many of the bands and/or labels out there are doing such great work with packaging. Surprisingly, the cutting edge seems to be coming from the DIY labels and independent bands. Come to think of it, that's not surprising at all. Accordingly, I have included photos from the "Bearded Turntable Of Doom" feature on my Facebook/Instagram pages for these albums to help illustrate why they are just so damn cool!

Through my podcast, the Electric Beard Of Doom, I have become exposed to a plethora of great music, great bands... blogs... labels… and people. I am truly grateful to all of you who help make this such a vibrant and important "scene". As a result, I've become more excited about music than I've been in a very long time. Additionally, it's all been hugely inspiring to me as a musician. Every album on this list has affected me as a musician, they've inspired me in more ways than I can really say. 

So to all the bands out there making such great music, I say thank you! This is a labor of love for all of us and together, we are truly making something special! 

Thanks to Lucas and the Paranoid Hitsophrenic for agreeing to host this feature. I've been a contributor to the "Super Doom Charts" since it's inception and Lucas is doing excellent and important work in helping bring all this great music to light. 

Special thanks to Grip Of Delusion Radio and Core Of Destruction Radio for bringing The Beard to the masses! I have been on hiatus for the last few months, but will be back with a brand new episode on Saturday... The Best Of The Beard 2013!

You can check out Electric Beard Of Doom every Saturday...

10AM EST on Core Of Destruction Radio - www.coreofdestructionradio.com
5PM EST on Grip Of Delusion Radio - www.gripofdelusion.com 

You can also listen to any episode, anytime on Mixcloud! 

Finally, thanks to all of you who listen, like, tweet, post, repost, gram or whatever... it is all of you that make all this worth it and I am forever grateful for your continued support.

Enjoy, dig it and get down people!


Top 12 Vinyl Releases (LP’s) – Alphabetical Order

Ancient Warlocks: Ancient Warlocks

Music:
This album takes the art of the riff and boils it down to a science. Eight songs deep and clocking in at a mere 33 minutes and change, not a second is wasted and every note, beat and vocal inflection is accounted for. Stoner rock, riff rock, whatever you wanna call it, these guys have fashioned a perfect representation of the best underground heavy music has to offer. At the same time, the precision in the way the songs are crafted and executed sets them apart from many of their “stoner rock” brethren. In addition, Superwizard is one of the best songs of the year.

Album Design:
This is only the second release from Lay Bare Recordings (distributed by Burning World Records) and they are already making their mark for the quality of their releases and artistic vision. Simple black and white, hand numbered, reverseboard jacket and a gatefold with an excellent color depiction of an Ancient Warlock by Adam Burke, this album jacket is simple but bold. The two tone (black and white) side A and Side B reverse smoke thingy vinyl (i’m trying people!) completes what is and excellent all around artistic expression. Without a doubt one of the best albums of the year visually as well as musically.


Borracho: Oculus

Music:
Borracho also bring precision to their songcraft, although they do it for much longer periods of time. Believers of slow, menacing, monolithic riffs, the songs of Oculus take their time to sink in. Enough time to let one wallow in the fantastic fuzzy tone of the guitars, the wonderfully stoney grooves along with the thunderous low-end that they are becoming known for. Now a three piece, Borracho bring a laser focus to Oculus and the result is five songs filled with knuckledraggin’ riffs and some of the best grooves around! Devoid of spooky stuff, overt drug references and bullshit, Oculus is workingman's rock and it’s some of the best music this year has to offer!

Album Design:
Technically (and unbelievably) an independent release, Oculus is distributed through No Balls Records, Strange Magic Records and AM Records. Depending on which release you buy, the color of the vinyl is different for each label. I have the Strange Magic version, which comes with transparent blue/green vinyl. Fitting, as it makes it look like a big eye. The jacket is hand numbered and designed by the bassist Tim (I think) and the artwork is very cool indeed. All in all, Borracho’s no frills approach is very effective and old school, much like the band themselves. Labels need to take note of Borracho immediately!


Brutus: Behind The Mountains

Music: Review originally appeared in the September 1st Super Doom Charts at the Paranoid Hitsophrenic

Great guitar tones, great blues riffs, good time rock in roll!  This album sounds great too, one of the best sounding albums of all the retro-Scandinavian-type bands out there... Listening to the song "Reflections", the guitar tone is immaculate!  Jimmy Page would be proud to put out an album that sounds this good!

This album is retro rock for the regular guy! I dig bands that don't take themselves too seriously and Brutus are self aware enough to know that they are the big silly bastard on the bus.  Even though much of the lyrics are (kind of) dark, there is an air of goofiness that weaves it's way through the album.  They stay away from a lot of the trappings that many of the recent flock of retro-occulty bands get stuck in.  There's even a song about dudes big ass square headed dog!  This makes Brutus a breath of fresh air among a genre that is in danger of becoming a cliche of itself.

I want to hang out with these guys.  I want to drink multitudes of beer with them.  I want to prowl the cobblestone streets of Northern Europe with Brutus late at night, get stoned out of my mind and eat pizza with salami on it while wiping the grease on my already dirty denim vest with the sick Brutus patch on the back.

Yeah I do ... 

Album Design: Not sure which pressing I got or how many there are, but it’s on Svart Records. A reverseboard jacket displays incredible artwork by Maarten Donders. Donders has a way of creating alternate universes with his cover design that is both beautiful and trippy as hell! The gatefold features a black and white photo of the bands gear and set-up. For us gearheads, it might as well be a centerfold! An Orange rack, Marshall thighs and an ass by Acoustic! An insert is also included, complete with lyrics and a collage of road/studio/silly band photos. Rounding out the classic feel to this classic album is 180 grams of pure black, shiny vinyl. Dig in!


Egypt: Become The Sun

Music: Man, I fuckin love Egypt. From the first notes of the first riff of the first song Matterhorn, I fuckin fell in love with Egypt. This is not only one of the best albums of the year, it may be one of the best heavy rock albums ever! Everything about this album totally rules. The production, guitar work and overall sound that Neal Stein brings to the table, the steady, laid back (yet thunderous) grooves of Chad Heille or the shear power and presence that is Aaron Esterby, Egypt brings riffs upon riffs upon riffs! I always found the name of the band curious, especially considering the fact that they are from Fargo, ND. Then it occurred to me that Egypt, with it’s arid, hot climate, endless deserts and ancient culture is about as far away from North Dakota as one can get... maybe that’s the whole point. Become The Sun has a way of taking the listener on a journey, a journey I’ve taken dozens of times over the last year. Each time, I always find something new, something that makes the journey better than it was before. Is there a higher compliment to give an album?

Album Design: This double LP, released on Doomentia Records, was a limited run of 500 units and is sold out. 100 were made with gold vinyl, which is the one I have. The cover art is a brilliant, blistering design by Brian Koschak and nicely complimented with gatefold artwork by Mistelle Stein. So fitting to the title and the music, the sun burns the travelers alive as these songs sear to our brains. Definitely one of the finest and most completely designed and packaged releases of the year, stunning in every way.


In The Company Of Serpents: Of The Flock

Music: Everyone seemed to be waiting on this one, and it’s release on Halloween proved to be quite fitting. Yes, that almost seems trite when it comes to this kind of music, but there is a menacing undercurrent to ITCOS that makes them seem more authentic than most. The album is more bombastic than the last, but it’s also blusier. If their first album sounded as if it was recorded in the back of a closet, Of The Flock sounds like it was recorded on the top of a mountain, also a fitting image for the Doom Duo from Denver. Makes sense, as it was mixed and mastered by Billy Anderson. The baritone guitar of Grant Netzorg is much more dynamic this time around, the bombastic blast beats of Joseph Weller Myer also bring a different dynamic to their sound. First time I listened to this album, I listened to it three times in a row. It’s definitely sludgier than most of the stuff I dig on these days, but there is something about this album that I just can’t leave it alone for long. Like walking into a dark woods on a moonless night, you fear what’s in there, but something keeps drawing you in. This album gets me hooked every time.

Album Design: Black and white are the only colors you’ll find here. This independent release (standard version) outdoes most of the major label “Die Hard” releases I’ve seen this year! As described on their Bandcamp page, “Limited edition virgin vinyl pressing on clouded black/white vinyl. Artwork by Mike Lawrence Illustration. The album and sleeve will come in a custom black-on-black envelope hand sealed with signet wax.” The album also comes with an insert complete with lyrics and liner notes. The design of this album perfectly represents the music that comes out of the speakers and it’s all disturbingly beautiful.


Kadavar; Abra Kadavar

Music: It took me a minute with this album. Frankly it kinda freaked me out at first. The opening track Come Back Life, drew me in right away. I mean how could it not? I’ll be humming that guitar line to my grave. What freaked me out was, first of all, there ain’t an overdub on this whole song! Then, in the middle of a dramatic guitar solo crescendo, there’s a big ole clam left hangin out there for all to hear! Who the fuck does that?!? It’s the first song on the album... the single! It’s not a wrong note, it was just picked in a way that it came out sideways. As a guitar player, as a songwriter and as a producer, this drove me friggin nuts! Right there is what Kadavar is all about, their albums are how they sound... that’s it! I had the chance to see them live and they were one of the best live bands I’ve seen in a very long time, nicest dudes too! Kadavar is the real deal, don’t let their magical clothes, long beards and major label deal fool ya, they are one of the best rock and roll bands out there and they prove it every night they hit the stage!

Album Design: Released on Nuclear Blast Records, There are probably numerous pressings with many variations. A simple cover with a photo of the band, the design of the album is very understated. A sepia feel throughout that includes a gatefold with a photo of a skull with some feathers ‘n stuff, the fun part of this album is the vinyl itself! I believe the color was marketed as “beer splatter” and it sure does look fun when it spins around, like the head of a fine German beer rising to the surface.


Monomyth: Monomyth

Music: Review originally appeared in the December 1st Super Doom Charts at the Paranoid Hitsophrenic

Monomyth’s self-titled debut is a creeper. While some releases start high on the doom charts and quickly disappear, Monomyth has been steadily crawling it’s way up the charts for going on 4 months now. I recently got the LP from Roadburn/Burning World Records (check the incredible artwork from Maarten Donders) and even though I personally have been recommending this album to anyone who would listen since September, I still can’t listen to it enough. It’s instrumental “groove rock” to the highest order (you see what I did there); the best of the good ole (pre-Dark Side) Pink Floyd mixed with a heavy dose of stoney fuzz to keep ‘em honest. It is without a doubt one of the best albums of the year and has changed the way I look at/listen to/think about instrumental rock music... a game changer indeed.

Album Design: Quite possibly the best album design of the year, the artwork by Maarten Donders is absolutely incredible! The world he creates on this album jacket is somehow exactly how I envision this music. An alien world, beautiful yet haunting, industrial yet natural, yet you feel like you can just sit right in the middle of it and have a cup of coffee. Speaking of natural, you can see the goddamn pencil marks where he erased mistakes! The imperfections of the piece only add to the wonderment of the art itself. A double LP in gold vinyl, I will treasure this album for a very long time.


Mothership: Mothership

Music: Mothership is another album that took a minute to grow on me. Maybe I just wasn’t listening to it with the right ears, maybe I was into other shit at the time, maybe it was my thrash/hardcore upbringing that at times makes me very suspicious of good time rock n roll. Initially, the sound of the album kept bringing me back. Produced, recorded and mixed by Kent Stump (Wo Fat), you’d be hard pressed to find a better sounding album this year. Then I realized what an incredible guitar player Kelley Juett is! A technician for sure, however his playing is all soul and none of the science that usually turns me off the guitar hero types. He’s one of the best out there. Backed up by as solid a rhythm section as you’ll ever find with Judge Smith on drums and fronted by brother, Kyle (bass, vocals), Mothership is the classic Texas-sized power trio! Part ZZ Top, part Pantera, these Dallas boys are “here to stay”! I also had the pleasure of seeing them live at St Vitus Bar in Brooklyn and had a good hang as well. They were incredible live! Heavier than expected and true to their road-dog pedigree, they were total pros on and off the stage as well as fine Texas gentlemen. Very excited to see what’s next for the Mothership, I’m up for the ride!

Album Design: Released on Ripple Music, I have the second pressing which comes with dark purple semi-transparent vinyl. Artwork and layout by Shelby Hohl, the cover is very reminiscent of them great old 70’s rock albums that your cool uncle used to come over and roll joints on. Also included, a band poster insert... 1978 indeed!

Orchid: Mouths Of Madness

Music: Review originally appeared in the June Super Doom Charts at the Paranoid Hitsophrenic

So forget about the comparisons and controversies surrounding Orchid. Are they derivative? Yes. Do they sound dangerously close to the “band-that-cannot-be-named”? Yes.

So what?

Here’s the thing about Mouths Of Madness...
The songs are great. The songwriting is great. The performances are great. The sound of the album is great. It sounds like it was recorded in 1973! This is the kind of shit that made me fall in love with hard rock/heavy metal! Orchid somehow makes me feel like I did the first time I heard “Master Of Reality”.

Based on it’s own merits, this album kicks ass on virtually every level, for my money, that’s all you need to know.

Dig!

Album Design: One of the initial pressings, the double LP is dark purple with a black haze in the middle. Side 4 is blank and sports an etching of the classic Orchid skull logo... very cool! The gatefold contains artwork by singer Theo Mindell. The cover is reminiscent of the old Sabbath albums in that it feels like it was made by a graphic designer as opposed to an artist, very simple. The sleeves also include all the lyrics, so this is the kind of album you can dig in and experience it visually and audibly at the same time.


Shooting Guns: Brotherhood Of The Ram

Music: I think the Monomyth album and Shooting Guns’ Brotherhood Of The Ram will always be linked in my brain. Mainly because they came out around the same time and are both instrumental “groove rock” bands, but they also have other similarities. Unlike some other instrumental bands like Earthless and It’s Not Night: It’s Space, who rely heavily on performance based improvisation, Shooting Guns are a more exacting bunch, borrowing as much from the repetitive nature of Krautrock as anything else.

Side A takes you on a ride of fuzzy riffs, heavy grooves and fast paced rock; while Side B, almost schizophrenically, flips into two of the coolest, mellow, stoney jams this dude has ever had the pleasure of zoning out to. Throw in the chaotic finish that is No Fans, and voila! a masterpiece is born!

Easyrider Records seems to pluck these obscure acts out of the ether, in my mind Shooting Guns may be the best one yet! Although, I did just start diggin’ on Salem’s Pot....

PS: If John Carpenter and Kurt Russell ever get together to make another movie, Brotherhood Of The Ram should be the soundtrack. Actually, they should make a movie based on this album... now THAT would be cool!

Album Design: Released (distributed?) on Easyrider Records, the “Standard Edition” came with a clear vinyl LP. A dark photo of a lone truck outrunning a storm dons the front and back covers and the insert brings more truck related graphics. One must listen to understand how perfectly this fits with the accompanying musical journey. A very cinematic release on all fronts!


Spelljammer: Vol. II

Music: Proper fuckin Swedish Doom man! Slow, spacey and slightly evil, these guys actually seem too stoned to be scary. The riffs are outta sight! The fuzz is all encompassing! This is the kinda stuff that makes you wanna lay in the floor and sink in the ground like Obi Wan Kenobi in Trainspotting. Seriously, I don’t know how else to describe it. It’s nameless.. it’s faceless... it’s always been there... it will always be there... the sound of a collapsing star... the hum of a black hole... your mind is bending and your soul weeps. Fuckin Spelljammer man!

Album Design: Released on STB Records, “This is a limited edition to the already limited pressing of Spelljammer's Vol II. The Die Hard Edition will boast the standard edition vinyl record and gritty reverse board jacket as well as an extra special hand screened, hand numbered silver mirror card cover all packed inside another hand screened tinted mylar bag for the ultimate "end of time space" package!!” My first Die Hard Edition from STB, I absolutely love what they’re doing with their releases. This album set a precedent that continues today as STB has a way of raising the bar with every new release.

Yes my band Geezer will be releasing an album on STB in 2014... Yes I’m biased... No I don’t care if you think that’s unfair... It’s my Beard Of Doom, I can do what I want!


Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats: Mind Control

Music: The riffs of Black Sabbath, the vocal arrangements of The Beatles, the lyrics of Charles Manson and cinematography by Russ Meyer. These comparisons are oversimplifications and may even be off the mark, however, you get my point. There is almost something romantic about Uncle Acid’s evil; it’s the kind of evil that will lure you up a mountaintop, make you spend 40 days in the desert and ultimately entice you to kill at the very utterance of the word. Evil Love, as the song proclaims. This album has been on many a “Best Of” list this year and rightly deserved. It may be the best album of the year!

Album Design: As amazing as this this album is, the design is also fantastic and gives Monomyth a run for their money as the very best. Released on Rise Above Records, the double LP came with many vinyl color options. I opted for the opaque silver 180 gram vinyl that feels thicker than most. Inside the gatefold, the lyrics are meticulously handwritten to visually capture the essence of each song. Every photo, every drawing, every ounce of this album contains a clue into the overall concept. I don’t go for concept albums much, but this one can be made into a film that would be much friggin better than that Sgt. Peppers movie with The BeeGees! Unless of course, they try and do Uncle Acid, starring One Direction! Ok, that’s it... time for me to go, I’ve done enough damage here.

PS: I think getting killed by Uncle Acid could be pretty cool, I guess that’s the point.





Best Vinyl Ep’s


Black Pussy / biblical proof of UFO’s: Galaxies Split

Music: One riff, one melody, 22 minutes...

I just can’t say enough about the epic transcendence that is the song Galaxies. Actually, I don’t think I know the words to describe how it has affected me. This is the kind of musical experience that I’m looking for, this is why I dig this “genre” of music, this is why I do what I do!

To break the song down into it’s parts does a disservice to the song, the band and the listener. Take the riff by itself, very basic. The melody, not much there. The lyrics, nothing mindblowing... but put them all together... put them together man and you have one of the most brilliant pieces of music to come out this year! I had the pleasure of discussing writing and recording techniques with the brain behind Black Pussy, Dustin Hill. He told me that when the band writes, they write at full volume; the tones of the instruments, the sound of the amplifiers, the dynamics of the drums... these are the things that dictate the direction of the songs. Nowhere is this more apparent than with Galaxies because it could never happen any other way. Additionally, it’s got my vote for best song of the year.

Orbitals (I, II, III) by biblical proof of UFO’s holds up pretty damn well in it’s own right. An almost spaghetti western riff starts us off, which also reminds me of Echoes, by Pink Floyd. A slow build until we change into the double time crush of chaos and we’re off! The fun keeps up for 18+ minutes and these guys definitely hold up their end of the deal. I will seek out more from these guys.

Album Design: A pressing of 500 released on Made In China Records and only available in shiny black 180 gram vinyl (and still available!). No fancy stuff here. Basic. Old School. Cool.

It’s full of stars.


DoctoR DooM: DoomO

Music: Tons of retro shit came out this year, a lot of the occult-y type stuff too. The offspring of bands like Witchcraft, Graveyard and the more distant relatives of bands like Coven. A lot of it is cool, but I can only take so much of the Dungeons & Dragons shit before I wanna start stabbing people in the throat with a pencil.

Doctor Doom is different.

Once I heard the upstroke-blues-John-Lee-Hooker-riff in The Sun I knew I was gonna like these French doom mavens. Even though they are beholden to some of these dark motifs, they aren’t afraid to have fun. This is what sets their music apart from the rest. Not to mention some seriously excellent guitar work. Only three songs deep, this EP definitely leaves me wanting more and I look forward to see what these dudes do next!

Album Design: One cannot discuss this album without talking about the vinyl release from STB Records. Limited to 100 copies, 40 of which were Die Hard Editions, from a design perspective, there was not a better album released this year. No labels, no cover, all clear vinyl, the sleeve is hand stamped with the STB Records logo and hand numbered. According to the website, “Clear Vinyl, ‘A’ side only, no labels. Glow in the dark ink, hand screened ‘B’ side. Inserted into a high quality glow in the dark ink, hand screened, hand numbered, picture disk clear sleeve.... Custom "Coven Tribute" art work by the great Barla Horn”. The Standard Edition was the same, sans the glow in the dark ink, which was replaced with basic black. I couldn’t believe my eyes when it showed up at my door. I may not be the most avid vinyl collector and I certainly won’t pretend to know everything about the scope of the product out there, but to me, it is the coolest fuckin record I’ve ever seen.


Salem’s Pot: Sweeden

Music: Yeah man, Salem’s Pot... get into it! Fuckin late night horror movie shit. Get high, get slow, fuzz out, flip out! Bring your fuzziest pedal, your gnarliest delay and your loudest amps... set up in an abandoned insane asylum and freak the fuck out! This is the kind of music that reminds me of what it was like when I just wanted to go out into the night, get fucked up and wreak havoc! Wake up face down in the street with a cops boot on your back and a gun to your head... work your way outta that shit... or don’t!

Those days are long gone for me now, but it’s nice to know that when I get the itch and the family is all tucked away in their midnight slumber, I can still break out the Salem’s Pot and get fuckin twisted... nihilistically evil!

Album Design: Released on Easyrider Records, Sweeden is one song, 2 parts over 35 minutes on deep orange or purple vinyl (I got the orange), the Standard Edition is still available but the Die Hard Edition is long gone. The Die Hard Edition came complete with 3D glasses and was a bona fide 3D release! How fucking cool is that?!?

I boast a lot about STB Records, but Easyrider is right there as well, raising the bar and redefining what is possible when it comes to releasing independent records. As far as creativity and artistic value, STB and Easyrider are the cutting edge!


Steak: Corned Beef Colossus

Music: Coned Beef Colossus hits ya with a sledgehammer (Glanshammar?) right off the bat with the one two punch that is Black Milk and Liquid Gold. The impact of the opening riff is instant and immediate and it continues for the extent of the EP. We know this sound, it’s a familiar taste... but this time it’s different... stronger, more powerful, even more addictive than it was before. Recorded in Sweden with and at Truckfighters studio in Örebro, the production quality has been taken up multiple notches and the end result is a better Steak, thicker and juicier! I just can’t seem to get through a sentence without trying to make some corny (corned beef?) reference to the obvious puns flying all around this EP...

Anyway, all kidding aside, this EP bleeds riffs, sweats fuzz and is an all around good time. This is a concept album, a follow up to their first EP Disastronaught, where Steak are fighting intergalactic battles to save us from the evil slave baron, Lazarus. The drummer even dies (gets replaced)! It’s right there in the gatefold comic. This band could deliver its music in a brown paper bag, it would still fuckin rule!

Somewhere along the way, the sounds of the desert brought the sand to far away places like Sweden, where the fuzz seems to rise out of the ground like a dewy moss in springtime. This time, from the sweaty backroom of the Crobar, Steak are building their own desert rock oasis right in the heart of London.

Album Design: Both EP’s were released this year on vinyl through their new label, Napalm Records. Corned Beef Colossus comes in a transparent red and is limited to 100 copies. The gatefold opens to reveal the latest installment of the comic epic that is the story of Steak. They even introduce the new drummer in the last frame. The artwork on both EP’s, done by Eduardo Ferigato, is absolutely stunning and make this album set one of the must haves of the year!


Wo Fat / Egypt: Cyclopean Riffs

Music: The first time I put this album on the turntable, there was a hailstorm... no shit! Ain’t like I live in the Great Plains either, I live in the fuckin Catskill Mountains! The name Cyclopean Riffs is a fitting title for this split because both bands crank out monster riffage, brutal fuzz and crank up the EPIC knob to 11.

Anyone who listens to The Beard knows how much I dig on Wo Fat and I professed my admiration for Egypt just a few paragraphs ago. When I heard that these two were getting together for a split, I thanked the Cyclopean Gods for bringing such good graces upon my clan. This album is almost like a victory lap for both bands. With Wo Fat coming off their amazing album The Black Code (2012) and Egypt still drowning in ink from all the great reviews for their release Become The Sun, both bands seem to be brimming with a confidence that allows them to go for broke with these tunes. The results speak for themselves; it brings a fucking hailstorm upon your house!

What else can I say, shut your windows, lock your doors and put the car in the garage, it’s time to wrestle with the Cyclops... and that motherfucker is pissed off! The vinyl is long gone, but you can find the tunes on both bands Bandcamp pages.

Album Design: Released on double grey transparent/opaque vinyl through Totem Cat Records, Cyclopean Riffs is as stunning to the eyes as it is to the ears. Boasting incredibly insidious artwork by Flog Diver, it’s got the kind of cover you can get lost in for the full 40 minutes. Where some splits naturally tend to be schizophrenic in either sound or design, this is one of the most cohesive presentations I’ve seen.


Honorable Mention (Non-Vinyl Releases)


All Them Witches: Lightning At The Door

Fuckin stoned-out-heavy-desert-psych-blues man, dig it!

All Them Witches beckon us to a gathering... a moment suspended in time... a shared experience. A Funeral... a Wedding... life... death... God Bless our Mother the Mountain! Some of the sickest straight blues intertwined with molten desert fuzz and drenched in window pane acid that stares into the very depths of our souls.

I know next to nothing about All Them Witches, but I do know I need to see them live. I want to hear this music firsthand, to experience the vibes, to feel the heavy bass-laden air rumble against my chest and feel the razor sharp slide guitar pierce my eardrums. This album ain’t about putting a few songs together, it’s about creating an experience through music and these guys do it... they do it their way and they do it better than anyone else right now.

The musicianship on this album is astounding, the depth of the songwriting awe inspiring. It’s proper drug music... it’s American music... it’s fuckin heavy as hell and as sweet as sugar.

I can’t seem to form a complete thought when trying to describe this album... it’s all random non sequitur. The album itself at first seemed as such, incomplete musical ideas strung together on a whim. However, once it grabbed hold the intentions became clear. This was a storytelling, a beginning to an end... it’s linear, not cyclical.. and it doesn’t always move in chronological order. But when you get to the end, the understanding is there. Much like that window pane acid, you’ve now opened a new door of perception and there’s Lightning At The Door.


Curse The Son: Psychache

Review originally appeared in the October 1st Super Doom Charts at the Paranoid Hitsophrenic

First it was the album cover that creeped me out, then the tone of the guitars freaked me out. By the time the first verse was over I was already sold.

After living with the menacing stoner/doom that is Curse The Son’s Psychache for a few months now, I still go back to it often. It still kinda creeps me out when I listen to it while walking my dog late at night. I’ve even looked over my shoulder a few times to make sure that little bastard from the cover isn’t sneaking up on me to bludgeon my skull.

Some albums grab people’s attention based on aesthetic alone. Psychache definitely turned heads through the high production value and overall package... rightfully so!
However, the only reason we’re still talking about it all this time later is because the songs fuckin rule! They stand out on their own, they hold up over time and those riffs are still ringing endlessly in our brains.

Recently it was announced that Psychache is going to be released on vinyl though STB Records... considering the power of this album and the stellar reputation STB is gaining for the quality of their vinyl packages and Die Hard Editions; I, for one, can’t wait to see and hear this album reach it’s full potential. The best is yet to come for Curse The Son, enjoy the ride folks!


Gozu: The Fury Of A Patient Man

Review originally appeared in the Best Albums of 2013: Super Doom Charts at the Paranoid Hitsophrenic

When it comes to Gozu, expect the unexpected...

I got The Fury Of A Patient Man the day Small Stone Records released it on Bandcamp. A huge fan of their SS debut, Locust Season, I was expecting more of them heavy, booty shaking grooves and sweet soulful serenades by the incomparable Marc Gaffney.

Then I heard Bald Bull...

Heavy as fuck, more in line with High On Fire than QOTSA, Gozu proved right away that they are more than a one trick pony. We quickly get back to those great grooves with Signed, Epstein’s Mom, but the speed comes back with a vengeance with Charles Bronson Pinchot. On and on it goes...

This album has it all, this band has it all. I’ve seen them live, they are heavier than you could ever imagine. Now with the addition of a third guitar, I can’t wait to see what they have in store for us. This album came out in April; I still go back to it on the regular and eagerly await the release on vinyl, which will include 3 bonus tracks!

Whether it’s the irreverent song titles, the incredibly diverse musical elements that formulate their sound, the surprisingly insightful lyrics of Marc Gaffney or the fretboard mastery of Doug Sherman, when it comes to Gozu, expect the unexpected. In fact, only one thing is certain, Gozu kicks ass... every time!


Sasquatch: IV

When I stumbled upon the Small Stone Records Bandcamp page, one of the first bands to jump out at me was Sasquatch. The first album I checked out was II, bought it right away... then III...

To say that I was looking forward to IV would be an understatement, Sasquatch is one of the underground “stoner” bands that baffles my mind... how the hell are these guys not on every rock radio station in the country!?!? The songs are infectious, the tones are pure grit and Keith Gibbs voice is as good as anybody out there! Think of your favorite rock n roll singer... Gibbs is just as good... maybe better. The songs on this album are heavy, but still sexy enough for the broads to enjoy. However, there’s an attitude running through this album that maybe we haven’t seen so consistently before. This album seems to get better as it goes, every song bringing that Sasquatch sound to another level of brilliance. From start to finish, one of the finest releases of the year. Not a bad tune in the bunch. As the emotional climax and finale that is Drawing Flies comes and goes, we can’t believe it’s over... what the fuck happened?!? Put that back! Play that again, man... shit!

And oh yah, Money is not only one of the best songs of the year, it’s got one of the best riffs/grooves ever... period.


(the) Melvins: Tres Cabrones

Ok maybe this isn’t technically the right order alphabetically, but what better place to end than with the latest offering from the mighty, MIGHTY MELVINS! Now while it is true that I am a loyal subject of King Buzzo and Company and I would never speak ill of the Gods Of All That Is Heavy, I was really surprised with how great (yes great) this album is.

With some of the best songs the Melvins have released in years, this album almost harkens back to a bygone era. A stripped down sound, and perhaps a more straight forward approach due to the fact that original drummer Mike Dillard is behind the drums, it’s almost reminiscent of the early 2000’s line-up that brought us albums like Maggot and Hostile Ambient Takeover. The other big difference is Buzz is back to being the only singer, more or less, and although I LOVE the Big Business line-up complete with 4 man vocal parts, it’s refreshing to hear Buzz’s lone voice again, his lyrics and inflections as vicious ever.


I was also pessimistic when I saw the tracklist include songs like Tie My Pecker To A Tree and 99 Bottles Of Beer, but despite the silliness this album still flows incredibly well. These tunes are often short and well crafted so the comic relief actually becomes a welcome change of pace as opposed to a tedious exercise in tolerance. There are many excellent songs on this album and it boasts one of the finest 3 song intros of the year, but the shining, brilliant nugget of light has got to be Dogs And Cattle Prods. Clocking in at just under 9 minutes and broken up in 3 sections, each section is pretty much a different version of the same song. From the initial bass-line groove to the half time breakdown riff to the emotional acoustic interlude (acoustic?!?), this song takes us to many places, each one cooler than the last. The vocals are quintessential Buzz, where the rhythm and cadence of the words outweigh the words themselves.... one of the best songs of the year people! Fuck it man, I could go on and on, just go listen to the thing... it’s amazing!

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