Album Review

Top 20 Metal Records Of 2016

I did it! I made another list. I didn’t think it would happen, but it happened. No more lists, though. This is the last one for 2016.

Lots of black metal this year. And I mean lots. But it’s all A+ Amazing. I didn’t hear too much doom (or rather too much premium doom) this year, but, again the doom that was good was really fucking good. There’s tons of weird shit in here that pushes the limits of metal that you should come to expect from my metal lists. Also, I gotta say I’m surprised at the amount of color found on these album covers. 10 of them feature full multi-colored artwork and even more toss in some non-greyscale-but-still-monochromatic flair.

I did something that some of you may find treasonous. I have 2 records tied for first place. So, technically, this is a Top 21 list, but whatever. I spent way too long (like, weeks, maybe even months?) trying to decide which of the two I loved more and just couldn’t settle on one answer for more than a few days. And when I was putting this post together I realized “fuck it, there’s no reason I need to choose one over the other” and thus the Tied For Number 1 spot was born. I’m happy about it and you should be too.

As usual, I try to keep the big names/labels off the list because I’m definitely not a metal blog and I’m sure you all know that The Body, Ash Borer, SubRosa, Cough, ColdWorld, and Primitive Man put out truly outstanding records this year. You don’t need another site to tell you how good they are.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.

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Album Review

Top 30 Drone Records Of 2016

I did it! I made a list. I didn’t think it would happen being a new dad and all, but it happened. I’m going to try to make a Top Metal list too, but no promises.

At 30 entries, this is the longest Top Drone list I’ve made. But I’ve been eschewing reviews lately and focusing on AGB Radio and A Thick Mist, so I figure 30 is acceptable if you count how many records I’ve directly recommended over the past year.

I seem to continually expand my definition of what a Drone Record is, which means there’s probably a few on here that are stretching the confines of that label, but I still did my best to try to keep it as Drone as possible.

There’s plenty of reoccurring themes in here. Namely, lots of voices/singing (11 have vocals present at least somewhere on the record) and lots of organs & harmoniums. Neither of those are all that surprising, though. But there’s two solo records from drummers, so that’s kinda cool. There’s also two heavily inspired by traditional Indian music, also kinda cool.

I had fun with this one. I changed a few things up this year. First, I decided to exclude any artist that’s been on any previous list. This meant no Saåad, Roly Porter, Andrew Weathers, Sarah Davachi, Mamiffer, Ian William Craig, Danny Paul Grody, Jefre Cantu-Ledesma, etc. (Seriously though go listen to the new Saåad and Mamiffer records.) No one likes to see the same people on such a niche list over and over again, so this was a good way to keep things new and exciting.

The other thing I decided to do was not rank this in the traditional way. Instead, I put the records in positions 7-30 into four groups of six, and the records within each group aren’t ranked. So that means the records in group 7-12 aren’t ranked, aside from me liking them more than the previous 13-30 drone records. I did this except for the top 6, which are ranked traditionally. I hope it’s not too confusing.

As usual, I try to keep the Big Droners off this list because anyone who’s a fan of drone probably already knows that Eluvium and Tim Hecker put out records this year and while their music is A+ Amazing, they don’t really need a little DIY blog to help them out.

Thanks for reading. Thanks for listening. Thanks for making incredible music.

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Song Review

SONG PREMIERE: Oikos – “Menace And Portent” (Envelope Collective / Knockturne)

oikos-the-great-upheaval-album-cover

 

Dusty guitar droner Oikos (Rafael Femiano) has a new full length (and his vinyl debut), The Great Upheaval, dropping in January courtesy of Envelope Collective and Knockturne, his first stuff since 2013. It features Felipe Pavón on drums, plus some other folks like extra percussion via John Kolodij (High Aura’d, Ph.D.), Marco Serrato (Jacob, Orthodox) on upright bass, and various members of Ürsula, Pylar, and Blooming Látigo. I’ve got the premiere of the first single, “Menace And Portent,” down below, and it’s a fuckin doozy, a slow burning apocalyptic dream where you watch the black clouds roll in from over the plains spelling D-R-E-A-D across the sky, you can’t listen to this and not feel like the world is about to end, a total fuckin doom jammer once Pavón comes in and pummels the song into a bottomless pit, it’s heavy and foreboding living right between Earth in their drone & country psych phases, nothing short of excellent. Pre-orders for The Great Upheaval opened up today so you can and should go take care of business, like, now.

 

Video

VIDEO PREMIERE: Joe Clark – Sleeptalker

 

 

You might not have heard of Joe Clark yet, nor even the label releasing his new tape, Throw Me In The Susquehanna on Glowing Window Recordings, but that’s probably all gonna change real quick because Joe is that fucking good and Glowing Window has already put out some insanely awesome tapes. Joe Clark is out of Rochester, NY, he’s been messing around as the guitarist in post-hardcore band Druse, but this is (as far as I can tell) his first solo release, and it’s absolutely fucking glorious, a dreamy guitar drone that fills every corner of the room, either with its delicate delayed whispers or its euphoric wall of static, lifting you up off the sodden floorboards and sending you straight through the roof to unnameable places, acting like a Babylon Candle for when you can only feel the place you want to be even if you can’t imagine it. Joe’s got an incredible talent for working with the loud/quiet dynamic without making it obvious or clichéd, for evoking melancholy and decay without resorting to the crumbling tape loop sound, and for nailing it 100-fucking-percent every moment of Susquehanna‘s painfully short life.

This video for “Sleeptalker” (the lead single from the tape) is a surreal haunted look into a retro-future full of half-forgotten memories and buried emotions making exquisite use of found footage that includes NASA stress tests, young lovers, missing teeth, the ocean, sky, sun, trees, and a humungous fire. Beautiful in every way.

Throw Me In The Susquehanna is coming out super soon, like, hopefully within days. There’s only 50 copies and it’s dirt cheap ($6) considering it was professionally dubbed and has pro-printed j-cards. It’s currently available for preorder on Planning For Burial’s Big Cartel page, because the man behind PFB, Thom, is the man behind Glowing Window, although I’m pretty confident you’ll be able to grab it on GW’s Bandcamp page soon enough. Speaking of which, head over there and grab the two other releases GW has available, they’re fucking AMAZZZING and you can name your own price.

Album Review

STREAM PREMIERE: Shovels Beat The Sun – Sky Wires (Bitrot, 2016)

Shovels Beat The Sun - Sky Wires album cover
 

I’m so so fucking psyched about this. This record was going to be on my Top Drone list last year, but they had to delay the release date… UNTIL NOW.

Shovels Beat The Sun is the duo of two of my favorite droners: Björn Granzow (aka The End Of The World Championship) and Steve Fors (aka Aeronaut, The Golden Sores) and this monolithic slab-o-static Sky Wires is their debut of jaw-dropping, face-slapping, brain-smashing drone. This is The Shit. Heavy, heavy shit, that weighs on your soul as much as your eardrums, an angsty sadness that flips off climaxes and is just solid hypnobliss right from the start, sounding like amplifier worship that forgoes the amps and takes the distorted scorch to a whole new level, absolutely fucking gorgeous, impenetrable and otherworldly, this is every perfect drone record rolled together and tangled up in a masterful meditative mindmelt.

Shovels Beat The Sun get the honor of being the first physical release from Siavash Amini’s Bitrot label. Limited to 100 hand-numbered CDs, each with a generative unique machine-cut pattern, this is essential Drone in every sense. Officially released this upcoming Friday, September 9, you can knab a copy over at Bitrot and stream the whole thing below.

 

Video

Video Premier: Oikos & High Aura’d – Eveningstar

 

 

You may have heard about And Suddenly Everything, Absolutely Everything, Was There, the Utech benefit compilation, this thing’s been makin the rounds this week, and rightfully so. Kim Utech, wife of Keith Utech, of the inimitable Utech Records, recently lost her battle with breast cancer, leaving Keith and their two children to mourn and deal with life sans an integral part of it.

Artist and all around awesome dude Chris Elmore pulled together this monumental 4.5 hour compilation in a matter of weeks. It features brand new and exclusive music from the noise/drone/metal/etc scene’s greatest, who also happen to have benefited in some way or another from Keith and his label. The comp is a digital pay what you want thing on Bandcamp and every bit of it goes to the Utech Family Fund.

This video, as you might’ve guessed, is for a song on the comp, and Mr. Kolodij allowed me to premier it. It’s a fuckin killer song, as is everything Oikos & High Aura’d do, “Eveningstar” a blissful walk through the drones of heaven, and the video by Omar Mashaal is a beautifully blurry slow-mo dream that I’m fairly certain is footage of someone washing the cover to Halfway To A Threeway.

Amazing work by amazing people for an amazing reason. Love to everyone involved with this, and especially to the Utechs. Support.

Album Review

PREMIERE STREAM: Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC – Music For Snowdrifts (Ba Da Bing, 2015)

Jenks Miller - Music For Snowdrifts album cover
 

 
 
I’m not really the kind of site that does premieres or news or anything “breaking,” which should be pretty obvious to regular readers. But when Jenks Miller contacted me asking if I wanted to premiere the stream of his new project’s debut record, I fucking jumped at the chance. So, thanks x10000 for this, Jenks.

Jenks is the main dude behind Horseback, the drone turned black psych band that’s now on Relapse, and he’s done plenty of other shit too, like Mount Moriah and various solo things and collaborations. This new one, Jenks Miller & Rose Cross NC, is “kind of a semi-solo project,” having performed live in his hometown North Carolina area with an assortment of helping hands. But on this debut, it’s just Jenks and his partner Elysse Thebner making a holy transcendent sound. Music For Snowdrifts is some megachill drone psych folk that’s hazy as fuck, sounding like the musical embodiment of a daydream, mostly just a wobbly guitar accompanied by some tender percussion, subtle synths, and soft vocals. Jenks is always upping his game, even when he’s shifting gears, and Snowdrifts is no different, it’s just absolutely fucking killer, zoning out into the shimmering golden sky, a sweet serene bliss obscured by gauze & fuzz, more or less a straightforward sound that’s executed perfectly, I can’t recommend this one enough, regardless of your familiarity with Jenks’ previous material or your fondness towards psych, this is fucking magnificent on every level.

So stream the whole thing here and then stop by Ba Da Bing because this is available as of today. Get on it.

Album Review

Gareth Flowers & Josh Mason – Silent Period (Sunshine Ltd, 2015)

gareth flowers and josh mason - silent period album cover
Gareth Flowers & Josh MasonThe Resignation (Sunshine Ltd)

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Gareth Flowers is a new name to me, but that’s only because I haven’t been paying attention, he’s got a few releases under his belt, both solo and with Josh Frank as The Batteries Duo, so, short history lesson, Flowers is a classically trained trumpeter (trumpeteer?) gone rouge, and he’s teamed up with minimal master Josh Mason to unleash some hauntingly beautiful creep drone. Silent Period has a story to it, following a mystery dude after having gone through some mysterious circumstances and his overnight journey into self-exile, going from “The Awareness,” to “The Confusion,” to “The Fear,” to “The Resignation,” all four of which are the four songs on here, drifting in between states of fog & clarity, although there’s little in the way of dynamics, with the exception of some clicky rhythmic tapping and looped alarms on “The Confusion,” this is all slow-mo tonal & texture shifts, with Flowers’ trumpet taking lead most of the time, droning high & weird, the unsettled nerves that aim to drive you mad, and Mason’s subtle ambient that all but disappears into the early morning mist, acting as the tender voice of reason that balances the dramatic and emotional trumpet, I never would have paired these two guys, but the output here is just fucking astounding, a small slice of sound mixed together in unimaginable ways, the melancholic urgency into the hypnotic shimmer, the silk smooth high end alongside the finest, most delicate grit, I can’t recommend this one enough, and, disclaimer, I don’t even usually like the trumpet, so believe me when I say this one’s special, only 250 copies, available next week, definitely not to be slept on.

Album Review

William Cody Watson – Seafoam (self released / No Kings, 2014)

william cody watson - seafoam album cover
William Cody WatsonSeafoam (self released / No Kings)

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William Cody Watson is easily one of the most underrated and underrepresented bliss droners, and Seafoam is his final release, not as in he’s going on to make music using another moniker, he’s just done, no more music as WCW or Pink Priest or Gremlynz or Malibu Wands or any other name, but he’s going out on the fucking top with this one and he corralled thee High Aura’d to contribute some field recordings and piano, so this is a fuckin brilliant piece of sound, with gorgeous cascading harmonies and slow shifting tones that glow like angel choirs descending from a cracked open Cecil B. DeMille sky, the light of the world shining straight into your heart, and low sober minimalism, pulled out from your deep aching core and rapt in endless sorrows, melancholic & resigned, not admitting defeat but acknowledging reality, with long stretches of unsteadiness, the trembling anxiety before plunging into the unknown, and hoping it turns out ok, this is tender and glorious and just absolutely fucking magnificent, and you get your choice of digital, which Watson released back in January, or tape, which No Kings just dropped.

Album Review

Pascal Savy – Adrift (Eilean, 2014)

pascal savy - adrift album cover
Pascal SavyGhost Echoes (Eilean)

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While Pascal Savy has a few releases under his belt, this is the first I’ve heard of him, and holy shit am I glad I finally did, this record is fucking outstanding, a slab of dark drone “mythical seascapes,” using foreboding static swells and washes of minimal thrum to evoke images of desolate fog-cloaked seamen lost in the middle of an oceanic world (yeah that album artwork is fucking spot on for this one), super bleak, super beautiful, this is all about the taste of salty air and the serenity of calm waters while slowly suffocating under the impenetrable gloom above, slow & meditative with moments of overwhelming squalls, I feel myself drowning and it’s a welcome respite.

Album Review

Siavash Amini – What Wind Whispered To The Trees (Futuresequence, 2014)

siavash amini - what wind whispered to the trees album cover
Siavash AminiThe Wind (Futuresequence)

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This Iranian dude has only a handful of releases to his name (although he’s been making music for a while with other bands and such) but from the sound of What Wind Whispered To The Trees I’m pretty sure he’s already at the top of his game, this record is jaw droppingly beautiful, full of overwhelming moody drone accompanied by a tender & sincere violin by Nima Aghiani, from the moment the opening track starts swirling in a dark & stormy cloud of gorgeous melancholy, you know you’ve chosen the right path, and it just gets better & better, walls of hissing static and long stretches of gloom, this is full of heartache, the brooding drone and a crying violin bringing back all the grief you’ve experienced all at once, a slow rush of pain to the head, smooth but devastating, the kind of sounds that I live for, this is just absolutely fucking fantastic work, I can’t wait to see where Amini goes next.

Album Review

Skullflower – Draconis (Cold Spring, 2014)

skullflower - draconis album cover
SkullflowerSunset Dreams (Cold Spring)

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The masters of chaotic drone are back with their first solo full length since 2011’s Fucked On A Pile Of Corpses, and this time it’s a double CD overstuffed with a total fucking maelstrom of gloriously harsh drone, and some might balk at the drone label here but make no mistake, this has all the makings of the most perfect fucking drone, overwhelmingly loud with a thousand layers going at once, each seeming like they’re totally independent from each other, doing their own thing, but they work in a discordant unison and form a cohesive slab of destruction, at a distance, this sounds like an impenetrable waterfall of noise, but the closer you get, the clearer it becomes, patterns emerge and harmonies rise from the static, this is an unequaled transcendent experience, and I know I’ve been throwing around “transcendent” a lot lately, but it’s always been appropriate, and here even more so, Draconis takes drone to new heights, this is a spiritual rite, the majestic mess of sounds conjured are not only the conduit to a greater truth, but themselves are an element of the Holiness that Skullflower embrace, they’ve created an altar of tumultuous bliss and call you forth to take part in the worship, you can’t fucking deny this.

Album Review

Northumbria – Bring Down The Sky (Consouling Sounds, 2014)

northumbria - bring down the sky album cover
NorthumbriaThe Ocean Calls Us Home (Consouling Sounds)

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Mega doom drone from these two Toronto dudes, and on their second full length they make it seem like they’ve been doing this forever, a timeless maximal minimalism that carves new neural pathways in your mind and tears rifts in the fabric of the sky, shifting feedback & reverb as supreme as it gets, a wall of drone that demands only that you bask in its majesty, this is the call of gods, truly epic revelations with overwhelming buzz and toothy crackle, the kind of scorching bliss that turns amps white hot and parts oceans with its limitless power, this is absolutely fucking gorgeous, not black and occult like that other doom drone band you’re thinking of, more drone, less doom, Northumbria journey down their own righteous path of monolithic euphoria and leave us with tragically perfect records such as this. A fucking plus.

Album Review

Billy Gomberg – Certain Words Again And Again (Sunshine Ltd, 2014)

billy gomberg - certain words again and again album cover
Billy GombergThe Present Until It’s Tangible (Sunshine Ltd)

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This is one of those instances where I know the artist, I’ve listened to him before, I’ve even reviewed a record of his before (Waiting In Poor Lighting), and while the name has stuck with me, I was never really hooked or anything. So if you’re maybe in the same boat as me in regards to Mr. Billy Gomberg, do yourself a favor and put this one on the top of your listening pile. Certain Words Again And Again is 40 minutes (45 if you’re listening to the digital version) of brilliantly beautiful minimal tender drone that effortlessly floats in the air, light & delicate, yet substantial enough to completely wrap your senses in a cloud of bliss, glowing shades of warmth that shift oh so slowly in a gorgeous display of silent transcendence brought to life, a stunning presentation of restraint and precision perfectly balanced between overworked and underdeveloped that can be so hard to achieve in minimalism, Gomberg has made something truly fucking exquisite, I just want it to swallow me whole and not have to care about anything else. And back to that time difference thing I mentioned before, the track listing differs between physical & digital versions, the physical has 2 long and 2 short songs, the digital drops the 2 short songs and adds another long one, so you’re actually treated to almost an hour of music here, wholly worth the $7 price tag.

Album Review

Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The Dead – Starving The Fires (Pt. 1) (Malignant, 2014)

teeth engraved with the names of the dead - starving the fires part 1 album cover
Teeth Engraved With The Names Of The DeadLacerate (Malignant)

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Total fucking depravity. These two dudes, who only have one other physical release to their name, the Kosmiche Deathworship tape on Sol Y Nieve (the first five copies came with deer teeth), put out this 70 minute long death drone monstrosity that delves deep into necro nihilism, full of slow churning bestial static, demonic hypnothrum vaporizing your bones, garbled samples spitting filth at humanity, this travels to some very dark places, a hideous doomed ambient that screams of abandoned hope, at times boiling up to a full on black industrial noise, reaching monolithic fucking heights of caustic horror that knock you on your ass and eat you alive, this is pure fucking evil and every painful, prolonged moment is worthwhile, and something tells me these guys are just getting started. Make sure to snag Cold Ashes, the free companion EP which clocks in around 35 minutes.