Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Stonerhound's 15 most memorable albums of 2013

1. Noothgrush/Coffins - Split(Southern Lord)

Noothgrush triumphantly puts out their first recording in 14 years while Coffins deliver the goods as always, this just may be the best combo of bands to be pressed to a split since ever. Although it arrived late in the year, it immediately rose to the highlight of anything new I have listened to this year. While the entire album is immaculate to my senses, the standout track would have to be Thoth from the Noothgrush side and The Wretched Path from the Coffins side. This album was accompanied by blasting volumes and a fast drive with the lady to solidify it as one of the best albums I have ever experienced for the first time.

Available as 12" or Digital Download:

2. Windhand - Soma(Relapse)

As a long-time Black Sabbath worshipper, this album; let alone Windhand in general, is a gift from the beyond. Cottrell's vocals are among a select few that come anything close to sounding as good for this style as Ozzy did, it also has a tinge of Layne Staley at times which works to great effect. This album is very easy to get lost in, especially considering the 30 minute epic Boleskine which is perfectly structured for such purposes. The tonality and riffs take me to a land where I am travelling with a caravan of Hash Priests riding Wooly Mammoth's through hyperborean tundras on an endless nomadic errand of misery.

Available as 2xLP, CD and Digital Download:

3. Kongh - Sole Creation(Agonia)

In my eyes, Sweden's Kongh can do no wrong, this years release proves my theory strong. Much more clean vocals utilized in this release than on those past, always apt usage and still a healthy presence of grated vocals, no over the top ego stroking here just whatever fits the experience of the part at hand. This album makes Kongh sound like Gojira's evil cousin. If I were introducing someone new to heavier music, I would probably show them a song like The Portals as it starts off with some accessible cleans and smoothly transitions into some sickening sounding screams, has catchy chorus part and explodes into some bitchin' solos just before bringing you in for a landing.

Digital Download and links to order Vinyl and CD:

4. Blaak Heat Shujaa - The Edge of an Era(Tee Pee)

A friend(and possible future reviewer for The Doom Review) threw Blaak Heat Shujaa on a few hours after a group of us had shaken hands with good ol Psil O'Cybe and damn was I glad to learn of this uniquely diverse band. Little more than a month or so later they put this release out to my delight and played a last minute show only an hour and a half away that much to my dismay I just could not get wind in the sails to attend. Everything about this album sounds incredible, while exploring many different dynamics and timbres there is always a core sound that ties everything together. There is honestly not one album or band I can really compare this band or album to, they are their own brand of psyched out fuzz rock especially with the unique vocal tones. This is a band for (non-elitist)fans of anything, one of my go to albums for rehab after overdosing on volume.

Stream and buy CD or LP:

5. Kayo Dot - Hubardo(Self-Released)

This well established band managed to release not only what is the best tonality they have achieved to date, also their longest and most diverse. Try and think of the most obscure extreme music sub-genre you can and Kayo Dot portrays some facet of it within this album in a manner that not only shows you how much further it can be taken, but also reveals the creative stifling that occurs when one commits themselves to one singular sound. This album has the potential to make any musician ask themselves "what the fuck am I even doing?".

Stream and Buy 3xLP:

6. Kylesa - Ultraviolet(Season of Mist)

While I have enjoyed every other Kylesa release, this one immediately stood out to me for being the most experimental by far. So many great guitar and bass tones all over this thing and the range of voices utilized serve their riffs so well it should be illegal. Unspoken and We're Taking This have been stuck in my head for the better part of the year.

Stream, Digital Download, CD and Vinyl:

7. Before the Eyewall - S/T(Self-Released)

Between the memories I was left with from the live performance and the experiences this album implanted into my subconscious, Columbus Ohio's Before The Eyewall are an unstoppable force of atmospheric doom. Leaving the vocal canvas empty was a very wise decision for this album as it allows the progressive path of the songs to really take root and imply the emotion through the tonality and structure of the notes. For my feature review on this album click here.

Stream and Buy:

8. Author & Punisher - Women & Children(Seventh Rule)

Author & Punisher is the only 100% Electronic artist to make it to one of my end of the year lists other than Squarepusher. 2012's Ursus Americanus was nowhere near forgotten in my mind and Shone went and spoiled us with an incredible follow up. Shone engineers and fabricates his own mechanical midi controllers to control every aspect of his performance down to vocals. In comparison to Ursus, W&C has a wider field of vision representing a wider spectrum of just how Shone can utilize his technology as well as interesting new arrangements in how electronic music can be constructed and created. A true ground-breaking visionary that projects a sound something like Nine Inch Nails 1000 years in the future on steroids.

Stream and buy CD or LP:

9. The Body - Master, We Perish(At A Loss)

Not surprising that one of the heaviest bands I have ever witnessed live released yet another two of the heaviest things I have ever heard. This album just sounds filthy, and while The Body gifted us 2 releases this year, the main reason I chose this over Christs Redeemers is the arc of the song The Blessed Lay Down and Writhe in Agony, the moment where the cocking shotgun sample was followed by one of the most crushing chords ever struck was one of the most magic moments in my listening this year.


10. Grayceon - Pearl and the End of Days(The Flenser)

Grayceon always has my attention, All We Destroy was on my list for 2011 and here they are yet again in 2013 with another superbly written and engineered album. With this album they have taken their signature progressive sound defined by electric cello usage and finger picked distorted guitars just a little bit further beyond the standard they had set with All We Destroy. This album also contains my favorite lyrical part of this year: "Play your song and play it loudly for all the world to hear, longhairs united what's left to fear? So synchronize, harmonize, find some peace in our demise as the rock rolls closer lets turn up louder". Enough said.

Stream and Buy:

11. Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats - Mind Control(Metal Blade)

Despite the fact that Uncle Acid is a time machine straight back to the saturated tube fuzz of the 70s, instead of using their powers of time travel to try and sound like musicians of times past they use it to command their own. Every song on this album has the potential to embed itself in your mind forever after just one listen, coincidence that the album is titled Mind Control? Or Deadbeat Acid Wizardry...

Stream and Buy:

12. Corrections House - Last City Zero(Neurot)

Some of my own as well as many others favorite musicians got together and released a conceptual collective project that is too badass on every level. One part performance art, one part industrial post-punk, one part these elements combined Corrections House are one of the most intriguing bands to surface in 2013.

Stream and Buy:

13. Lumbar - The First and Last Days of Unwelcome(Southern Lord)

A conceptual album based on the sole instrumentalists experience of life in the wake of a diagnosis for Multiple Sclerosis...would you expect anything less than crushing weight from an album on those terms? Lumbar's riffs and vocals portray a kind of pain you don't normally encounter in sludge like this, instead of trying to convince you of a non-existent pain, you can hear the disease in these recordings crawling through the speakers and invading your mind. With Yob's . Mike Scheidt manning vocals and the Legendary Tad Doyle engineering, this mighty collaboration of minds has become one of the most emotional releases I have ever experienced right up there with Green Carnation's Light of Day, Day of Darkness.

Stream and Buy:

14. SubRosa - More Constant than the Gods(Profound Lore)

If Sleep was the heavier 90s version of Black Sabbath, SubRosa is the heavier millenial version of Jethro Tull. Coupling doom and folk with the inclusion of violins as a staple this entire album weaves in and out of itself like an immaculately coreographed masquerade. The distorted tones are absolutely unreal, very huge fuzz with enough headroom to breathe. Other instruments to be found include Harpsichord, Flute and piano. This is the kind of album I would listen to if I needed to pick myself up out of a depressed hole. Fuck whoever stole their shit two days before they played my city, beyond the shittiness of their loss that was one performance I was really looking forward to this year.

Stream and Buy:

15. Russian Circles - Memorial(Sargent House)

The virtuosos have done it yet again with their heaviest leaning album to date. With every album, Russian Circles makes strides in the possibilities of what can be done within music as a whole, with Memorial they have done the same yet again while also taking strides in what they themselves are capable of accomplishing via Russian Circles.

Stream and Buy:

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Badblood - End Me(2013)

Earlier this year, Simi Valley's Badblood put out their 4th release to date, "End Me". This EP is 12 minutes of pure angry, disgustingly depressed self and world hatred to rip you straight the fuck down from cloud 9 and assure you that nothing is ok and the fact that you ever thought it was is a fucking problem ok?

The vocals are incredibly grating, Tamayo continually breathes misanthropic fire in your face for the length of the EP. The vocal tone is a quite apt amalgamation of both old school black metal and early hardcore vocals much like the rest of the tones and composition relate to these genres. If Nails were a little less Death/Grind and a bit more Punk/Black, they would probably sound similar to Badblood.

Reject opens with some bass slides that immediately have my head bobbing along, lips pursed in reverance. The shortest of the three, this is the most crusty sounding song on the album. Fall comes in as a bit more Sludgy, which leads into the final track Pale which still retains the sludgery found in Fall while adding a few more elements one would describe as Black Metal. For their sound this is the perfect arc for a 3-track album, proving that while Badblood respects those that laid the ground for their sound they are still going to do it their own damn way, I sure am glad that they do because they do it damn well.

Pale is my favorite song on this EP...its like a harder old school Metallica at times and like a sludgy Xasthur in others. At 1:53 Tamayo screams the album title in an eerily convincing manner which brings me to another thing I love about Badblood: the lyrics.

I have become a bit bored with the mass overflow of angry hate the world lyrics...yes shit sucks, and a lot of people agree...but anyone can stand there and yell "SHIT SUCKS!" at you, but Badblood offers insight into their hatred and disgust within their lyrics making the anger portrayed in the songs seem all the more real. To put it simply, they aren't trying to prove anything which adds a hefty dose of purity to their sound.

This album is what its all about for me: loud, heavy, raw no fucks given Sludge & Roll. The tonality of the guitar adds the perfect wrapper of dirt around the blasting bass, coupled with the hardcore leaning kick and snare tone and these guys are unstoppable. I have had the pleasure to see them live twice in the past year and trust me it only gets better when you are wholly enveloped by their blasts of beyond.

I have been keeping an eye on the release details for the 7" version of End Me of which there is a pre-order somewhere...and they are also currently writing a full-length for 2014 so you should probably keep up to date on that, but at this point if you want any merch, in their own words: "Go to shows. Don't be a bo-zo"


Monday, December 2, 2013

Boreal - The Sarcophagus Demos(2013)

If traditional black metal is a slow, painful, misanthropic death, Boreal is a descent into an introspective coma after succumbing to the throes of hypothermia. A one man drone act from Tacoma Washington, Boreal creates cinematically ambient layers of drone using but a guitar and his voice.

The album starts off with waves of distorted drone washing over you as bits crush and disintegrate in an etherial fire. Wretched, distant wails begin to poke their head through the funeral fog, a spectre that is one with the drone instead of seperate and above. This song makes me feel as if I had comitted some unspeakable evil across dimensions and have been locked away in a celestial prison, everything is grey and bleak, I am but a sketch shifting in sprectrum between hate and disgust gazing into a solitary hole in the floor that is forever a reminder of a time and life past. Despair fills me until the walls and floor disintegrate into floods of water rushing in.

It is on Intermission that I start slowly dropping to the furthest depths of this strange dimension. The sound of glaciers is accented by distant birds calling, birds that I know full well are of a realm that will always be too close to touch. Just when I am finding solace in these familiar sounds, the rug is swept out and I have been dragged even further beneath the ice where the comforting calls of nature are replaced with the uncomfortable whispers from beyond.

By the third track I am released from my icy prison as it dissipates into a vapor that carries me through eternal nothingness while the faint reminders of the past life lurk in the spaces between. The pattern of my fall could best be described as an outwardly arcing, eliptical spiral creating the illusion that I am suspended in a cosmic field of energy on which I could float peacefully forever.

This album is one of the most poignant sonic journeys I have ever been taken on, the clear bell like ambiance with intermittent cracks and peels of distortion dance together to create an audial landscape limitless in mental and visual possibilities. It seems to me that what is being projected is pure, honest and flowing projection of its conduit...something I find can be lost easy when trying to force the ritual experience. I get the sense that for Boreal it really is a ritual, one that if not performed would bring dire consequences not only for himself but for all.

If you have ever wondered to yourself what an even mixture of Earth, Sunn O))) and Xasthur would sound like, this might be the closest you are going to get. Boreal will be releasing a split in the near future, stay up to date at the links above.

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