Nuclear Blast Records
Release Date: March 16, 2018
It’s been more than four years since the last Earthless album, the mammoth double LP From the Ages, and to say things are a little different now would be an understatement. Since the 2005 release of their debut album Sonic Prayer, the San Diego power trio have built their reputation on a repertoire of expansive, instrumental psych-rock explorations, side-long, many-movement mindfucks that split the difference between Amon Düül II and Black Sabbath. Black Heaven, their latest effort (and first under the Nuclear Blast banner), is a leaner, meaner affair that’s way more James Gang than Flower Travellin’ Band. The songwriting and structures have been tightened up and whittled down (the longest song on Black Heaven is slightly less than nine minutes, which for Earthless is practically a pop single), based more on refined guitar riffs than semi-improvised rhythm section interplay and trimmed of a lot of hallucinogenic fat. Perhaps most jarring for longtime listeners will be the introduction of the human voice into the Earthless equation; four of Black Heaven’s six tracks feature guitarist Isaiah Mitchell stepping into the vocal spotlight. Doubters and worrywarts can relax and unclench, though; this is still Earthless through and through, plenty trippy, plenty heavy, and more than capable of levelling even the most hardened of psychic warriors.
Release Date: March 2, 2018
Recorded nearly four decades ago at a Texas community college and unreleased until now, Spiny Normen is a raw but robust chunk of primo psych-prog, a skunky blend of hard rock and krautrock caked in a hallucinogenic patina. Rescued from collector’s-shelf obscurity by RidingEasy label head Daniel Hall and Permanent Records owner Lance Barresi for inclusion in their ongoing (and highly recommended) Brown Acid anthology series, it stands up both as a fascinating relic of its era and as a kick-ass rock and roll record that’s both of and ahead of its time.
Clone of the Universe
At the Dojo Records
Release Date: February 9, 2018
Southern California fuzz mavens Fu Manchu may be the closest thing stoner rock has to an institution. Since 1990, honcho Scott Hill and his bandmates have been cranking out high-octane, revved-up power rock that’s served as a veritable musical template for countless heshmongers and bongrattlers that have followed in their skunky wake. And not unlike their fellow institutions The Ramones and AC/DC, since song one/side one of their debut album Fu Manchu have by and large stuck to the strengths that brought them to the dance in the first place: solid, steady grooves, razor-sharp hooks, and riff after riff after motherfucking riff, three miles thick and stacked on top of each other straight up into the sky. Their first release since 2014, Clone of the Universe (released via the band’s own At the Dojo Records), mostly hews to their tried-and-true practices, but with just enough twists and tweaks to avoid repetition and fatigue. The time signatures and song structures skew a little more prog than normal (in one instance, a lot more), and lyrically and thematically they’ve swapped out skateboards for starcruisers, but it’s really just a different picture airbrushed on the side of the tricked-out Fu Manchu custom van.
Heavy Psych Sounds
Release Date: February 9, 2018
Those who get their jollies on the classic rock path will find plenty to tickle their fancies in the grooves of Killing Tongue, the sophomore effort from Berlin power trio Wedge. The follow-up to their eponymous 2014 debut, Killing Tongue is a satisfyingly sticky chunk of retro-hesher goodness, steeped in a half-century’s worth of sonic bongwater. It’s loaded up on all the stoner essentials: churn-n’-burn riffing, swirly, trippy keys, a rhythm section that swings and cracks your sternum, and plenty of sharp, shiny hooks, all balled up and deep-fried in a batter of sweaty swagger and blacklight boogie. Guitarist/vocalist Kiryk Drewinski, bassist/keyboardist David Götz, and drummer Holger Grosser have crafted a record that proudly and unabashedly wears its influences on its sleeve, a monument carved from the precious classic rock mined in the late 60’s and early 70’s that feels exciting and fresh yet instantly familiar.
These are the best ten records I heard in 2017, and I think they prove unequivocally that despite what you may have heard, nearly seventy years on rock and roll is alive and well. You may have to do a little more legwork than you’re used to to find it, but trust me, it’s there. Bands all around the world carrying on the traditions of those who came before, while also constantly rebuilding the whole thing in their own image. Hearing the evolution is exhilarating enough to make wading through all the crap worthwhile. This list was in a constant state of flux. There were another four or five records that could’ve just as easily made the cut, and half the albums here were in the top two at one time or another. Continue reading
Mindfucker, the first studio album from New Jersey speed-scuzz icons Monster Magnet in nearly five years, will hit stores worldwide March 23, 2018 via Napalm Records. The eleventh effort from Magnet mastermind Dave Wyndorf and Company, Mindfucker promises ten up-tempo, savage tunes that draw equally from the wells of early 70’s hard rock psychedelia and tweaked-out, incendiary Detroit-style garage protopunk.
Our autumnal excursion through the Garden State concludes in Jersey City, home of the Statue of Liberty, birthplace of funk legends Kool & the Gang, and for nearly four years now, home to chromium swamp creatures Black Wail. These fuzz-faced, big-muffed purveyors of doom boogie have been plying their wares since Spring 2014, over three EP releases and countless live shows, and their forthcoming effort Chromium Homes (Rhyme & Reason Records, in stores December 15) is a raw, rip-snorting blast of sharp hooks, bludgeoning riffs, syrupy-sweet harmonies, and out-and-out heavy metal anguish.
What Does This Button Do?
Dey St. Books
Iron Maiden vocalist Bruce Dickinson was raised in a household where a strong work ethic was the most valued of all virtues, and “the only sin was not trying hard.” This minor revelation on page two of his autobiography What Does This Button Do? offers a clear and simple explanation as to how and why Dickinson became one of rock and roll’s true renaissance men. For most folks, being the multi-millionaire lead singer of a world-famous, well-respected, multi-platinum metal band would be enough; for Dickinson, it’s just one of his many pursuits (and it doesn’t even particularly seem to be his favorite). He’s also a commercial pilot, a world-class fencer, a novelist, a screenwriter, a brewer, a radio host, a motivational speaker, and an airline entrepreneur. What Does This Button Do? is a well-written and fast paced look at a few of the past adventures of The Most Interesting Man in the World of Metal.
The long-anticipated full-length debut from Welsh hard rockers Phil Campbell and the Bastard Sons, The Age of Absurdity, will see worldwide release via Nuclear Blast Records on January 26, and the band is offering fans a glimpse into the album’s creation with the first episode of their official studio diary. The brief video shows the group, led by veteran Motörhead guitarist Phil Campbell, working on drum sounds with producer Romesh Dodangoda, discussing song structure and lyrics, and tightening the songs up in rehearsal.
Monolith, the stunning third album from Seattle’s Hobosexual, is a tough beast to wrap your head around. How is it that these two guys, Jeff Silva (who plays the everloving shit out of the drums) and Ben Harwood (who does everything else), are able to make a sound this lush and full? How, exactly, were they able to get their hands on my entire music collection from 1983 to 1997? And how in the hell did they figure out how to play it all at once? I’ve listened to this record over and over and over and over in search of an answer, and all I’ve got to show for it is two throbbing eardrums, a blown mind and a thoroughly kicked ass. Monolith is a jaw-dropping genre-smasher, like grinding up and snorting everything you’ve ever like about loud n’ hard heavy rock.