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Saturday, January 31, 2015

New Band To Burn One To: Goryl

 
A rather different beast to many of the bands we cover here at Heavy Planet, but one none-the-less that falls directly into our musical category. Solo musician Goryl offers us a chance to explore the far reaches of our darkest souls with his heavy ambient drone project, and having recently released an acoustic take on his work, it’s about time that we divulged these dark lonely winter nights shadowing his drawn out growling riffs.
  
His previous two EPs The Father Of Witches and The Father Of Evil Witches offer mesmerizing droned riffs that only his outpouring soul could decipher as he sits hunched over his bass-heavy guitar shredding out cursed, devastating drawn-out riffs that feel like the hand of death upon your shoulder, encompassing and frightening in alliance.  
  
Describing his sound as “A line of poetry written with a splash of blood - a sonic reminder that you will suffer many hardships and adversities, but you will not die until the day appointed for you doom”, Goryl is not to be taken on board without fair warning. His latest release, Snakes, an acoustic EP, offers as much bleak, droning respite as his previous work, which is an impressive feat. The final track on the EP 'Lovely Witches' even offers some hushed whispered vocals which is a welcome respite from his otherwise instrumental music.
  
Goryl’s musical work so far is utterly transfixing, from each lonely desolate pluck of the guitar string to the next downturned soul wrenching note, you find yourself totally overcome with a sense of being, it’s not a sound which uplifts or necessarily makes you think, but rather a sound which keeps you static, aware of the darkness and decay around you, embracing death as much as life itself. 

Goryl is heavy, other-worldly, and vital. 

 
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Friday, January 30, 2015

Quick Hit: I, Captain


I, Captain

As you sift through the smokey haze, a psychedelic amalgamation of fuzz, blues and stoner groove thrust you full force into a wild and cosmic dimension. Hailing from Finland, I, Captain have just released their debut EP and are offering it for Free on their Bandcamp. Jump in and take a ride.





Sunday, January 25, 2015

Sunday Sludge: Bardus - "Solus"


Sandwiching several days' activities into one weekend bakes an atmosphere of little sleep, high tension, and snarls at those closest to you. Add a patch of ice under worn soles and you're surprised a trip to IKEA could get any fucking worse. Why does cabin fever lead to thoughts of redecorating, upgrading, enhancing, storing, displaying, constructing, and ultimately throwing tools? I woke up this morning scanning a backlog of submissions for some soothing, droning, cathartic, ambient post-metal pretentiousness that wouldn't be offended if I nodded off. Well, too bad. I stumbled on Bardus.

This Philadelphian trio formed in 2011 and released their first full-length in 2013. So I guess it's not new, I guess maybe you've already discovered them. And I can guess that if you haven't heard Solus, it's fair to consider you won't leave it behind after one spin. On the album's eight quick-spat tracks, I can't determine whether not a moment is wasted or if EVERY moment is wasted. Regardless, Bardus don't care if you've never been in a fight. This relentless push of sludgy noise wouldn't let me off the floor.

Tiny Teeth's hot-buttered drums and loose plunks blast fuzz through speakers and immediately rip at our skin. The sweaty, expanding thickness perfectly underlies murky stomps on this loud opener that announces the band doesn't really give a fuck. The grazing Death Letter follows with potent, violent churn, constantly shifting and leaving not a moment to catch up on breaths. As these tracks play out, the sound absolutely saturates, blanketing with shrapnel and subsequently glazing with jagged guitars. As Hex unfurls, we struggle to outrun the band's flick of a rusty knife headcharging for our heels.

The cosmic, shit-soaked cruise of Maladroid grows into phantom scratches, shoving us toward something bigger, higher, and far more sinister. No frills needed. Bloodbrain's fuzz beating interrupts the onset's moment of clarity, a far-off swarm of locusts in the closing distance. The track's warbled, indiscriminate violence is strewn all over, and you're yanked back to your burlap sack nightmare, puss.

Sludge is most evident on Dave Groan, an exposed and grimy buzz-flutter steadily cruising under exhausting, crushing drums. Guitars levitate, but the malevolent stare just won't shake. As the track chops and trails off, a deceptive haze develops and briefly lets us get lost. Eh, don't buy it. Jobber is dark and unsettled, lined with questionable purpose. A jittery, captivating rise ensues and blisters have time to form. And then, well... we're immediately flushed back into blue flames before High Tide's stoner repetition brakes toward a cool burn, bouncing with a frightening fucking smile. The fadeout, though, is perhaps more stupefying than the beating we've endured.

Call today's feature a stream-of-consciousness account of a sound I struggled to keep pace with. The impossible task of documenting everything I heard grew tiresome, leaving me no choice but to summarize with colorful, illustrative descriptors that do Solus no justice. You'll wanna scratch your head trying to describe the sound, but you'll also have trouble lifting your arm near album's end. Bardus knit hot chaos within quick tempos, only to thrust that crochet needle just under your sternum. Sludge? Noise? Ugh... Hardcore? Nah. This is just genre-defying impetuosity. And you're the fucking tomato can.



Thursday, January 22, 2015

LP Review: 'Before The Fog Covers The Mount' by 1886



It was almost a year ago that hard psych group 1886 released their glorious self-titled EP which had us all dreaming of 60’s hazy tripped out summer days with longing smiles and not a care in the world. After much hard work, the guys from Barcelona have excelled once again with their debut full-length Before The Fog Covers The Mount, with its dreamy riffs, acid-dropping stoner tempos, and laid-back vocals, its a record to obsess over.
   
When music is so indebted to a time in history (1960-70s) it’s important that it’s done not as a tribute to a bygone era, but rather as if it was plucked directly from time itself, an undiscovered gem revealed 50 years later, and that is the key to 1886’s success; their passion, respect, and musicianship above all else takes centre stage, coursing through each track as if it was something born within each member. Opening with ‘Woodsman’ to soundtrack a summer’s drive along sun kissed sandy dunes, laid-back to the point of lying down onto the earth to stop from falling off, 1886 take you to another world, another time frame, to an almost different consciousness, the music becomes spell-binding. They manage the heavier riffs with as much aplomb too, as is evident in the stoner-esque ‘Witch Hunter’, the fuzz-licking ‘The Path Through the Green Forest’, and the heavy 70’s wah-wah tinged ‘The Seed Of Feed’.
    
1886 are craftsmen at what they do. Before The Fog Covers The Mount is a stunning collection of work that has propelled the 60’s into the modern century. It’s a record that should be on vinyl in every serious music lovers collection.



Quick Hit: Howling Giant


Awaken the Giant

Recorded in one of the band member's bedroom (are you kidding me??) , this monstrous slab of soaring vocal harmonies, spectacular riffing, and an explosive groove crush and destroy everything in it's path. The spine-tingling bass line of "Whale Lord" is forever embedded. This may be one of the best EPs these ears have ever heard. Listen to this loud as fuck!



Tuesday, January 20, 2015

New Band To Burn One To: Stone Deaf



Longing for the days of dry, hot, dust swept of summer, open road cruising, with nothing but a ripped pair of jeans, a bottle of the good stuff, and an aching story to tell? Let Colorado’s Stone Deaf help you escape these winter blues and whirl you into a desert stoner scene of heavy fuzz dominated riffs, riding shotgun on a Queens Of The Stone Age Mustang hot rod. With heavy references to the classic sounds of Kyuss and Monster Magnet, Stone Deaf are carrying on the stoner/fuzz torch of the Palm Desert Scene into 2015 with as much laid-back urgency as their predecessors. Switching effortlessly between chugging heavy riffs, psychedelic trances, and some bluesy swagger, Stone Deaf are sure to plant themselves firmly in your ears 'till the build up to summer. Let’s open a cold can and start the road trip now!

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Sunday Spell: Blue Snaggletooth - "Beyond Thule"


You remember that kid in school who never quite fit? He wasn't necessarily weird, he didn't lack friends, and he was almost off-puttingly cool. He spoke like a transplant from another time, but you couldn't tell if his dialect was from the past or the future. He had a presence that you couldn't quite explain and his confidence bled through clothes you wouldn't find at the mall. And when the bell offered the day's first taste of freedom, you knew he was gonna be truer to himself than you were.

Whoa, who's this? Blue Snaggletooth's retooled lineup is that swayed aura from an alternate dimension, thrust through our speakers on Beyond Thule, a nine-track sophomore push that's meatier, more cosmic, and more honed than the band's 2011 debut, Dimension Thule. That's hardly aimed at diminishing what that lineup secured in their thrown-back, precocious and delicious fuzz tuber. Instead, our intent here this morning is highlighting an act that remains true to the ethereal fuzz, its pioneering forebearers, and expanding on an already dynamic presence.

Blue Snaggletooth make no haste in immediately showcasing their classic stoner backslide via dripping, sky-shot licks on Reptiles. Elements are driven to their groovy peaks and the band's foot never leaves the gas, firmly announcing these guys are not of this era. Sleeping Mountain is a slow juxtaposition, illustrating ever-evolving scope riding on pensive psychedelia seeking deeper, distant truths. Thick, lumbering riffs sway toward a torrid groove, spiraling upward in what is, for now, the album's finest moment. If nothing else, these guys can craft a fucking escape.

Stops and starts are prevalent throughout the disc's midsection, and tempos range from itchy jumping bean clips to dirty signature shifts, breaking every rule and coming out ahead as a result. Moods deviate nearly as much as gears, and shaking off the caked mud is every bit as important as returning to oozy tones. Gawkers drops back in its seat and fills us with a blend of wonder and dread just before we're jolted from our creature comforts and thrust into bristled hedges. And later, Nameless Cults is executed with such confidence and precision that we're nearly lost under the sludge-stained stoner stomp. It's as sticky as these guys get, but that guitar just can't help but gush.

If Beyond Thule offers a signature track, stamp Ahamkara as the album's comprehensive crowning achievement. Steady lopes and an evaporation of all that viscous warble hardly encapsulates all you'll hear on this track. The thorax is highlighted by a lonesome drone, peppered with plucks that promise nothing but further spacey unknowns. It's celestial and boundless, breathing and swelling and ultimately spilling over, into and onto damn-near everything. The familiar channels return for a roll in the hay, but Blue Snaggletooth's most genuine flash comes when they conclude "transcend out of all time." Right on.

Whether tightening only to later explode or tripping out as the sound unravels, Beyond Thule is an album offering nothing you can't love. Get lost with this. Bouncing between trees but never fully coming to a stop, Blue Snaggletooth chop and warp their way into your mind and expand your world. Your dad might like this as much as you do. Come to think of it, maybe your grandkids'll be into it. This sound is vast, timeless, and soaked in transcendence. Dig it.




Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Quick Hit: Teacher-EP1812

Hot For Teacher

Class, today's lesson for today is we need more cowbell. From the opening note, the new EP from former members of Granite Path mine a hole into your skull and don't look back. A little bit psych, a little bit metal and a whole lot of fuck yeah, this 70's influenced two-piece throttles your spine with energy and attitude. Forget Mrs. Smith, this is your new favorite teacher. Download their EP for free!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Sunday Sludge: Koza


Ah, gettin' back to our Sunday Sludge roots... This whole thing began in 2011 and repeatedly seemed to circle South, as if every detour just above Mason-Dixon resulted in a magnetic bitch slap from Georgia, Arkansas, or Louisiana. Labels are broad, misleading, and generally unfair to bands and listeners, but Southern metal has its own hue. The family tree is tight, unwavering, and generally impenetrable from an outsider's perspective. So here I go again, worming my way to the table for loose scraps.

Served hot and violent this morning is Chattanooga's Koza and their 8-track self-titled EP. Their hue is distinctly Southern, but their sludge sets itself apart in being more to the point, never exhausting the listener and always lacing a scornful thread between tracks. It's hard to enjoy sweet tea when you're stuck in a thorny thicket, so take a hard swallow and do your best to endure Koza's spiked, hard-charged blend of heaviness.

Take Up the Serpent introduces a foreign guitar buzzing like flies, dropping a buoyant sludge gait under a dynamic veiled vocal. As this opener bulldozes through its choppy, stuttered thorax, the band's cyclical approach reveals itself and stomps back to brass tacks. Quickly and relentlessly, listeners have their comfort clipped and gnawed away. The quick-footed stoner cruise of Hoof is an abrupt juxtaposition, leaking Buzzov*en malevolence. For as amped as it gets, though, the track is somehow sticky. And now the unease has taken full grip.

The EP's midsection is an exercise in broad vision, never committing to a single rhythm or riff and shifting between doom, shoegaze, groove, and boggy stoner-sludge. Perhaps that sounds messy, but these songs have way too much to chew on for just one listen. You'll need multiple screenings, and Koza's push to grind you into powder is tense, tight, and strangely satisfying. Slow plucks on March of the Snails are merely a harbinger of fuzzy, columned doom. Death Rattle's wet cobblestone tip-toe wrings nerves like shadows in a greasy alley, fully cementing a cold, uneasy mood. At least, until an outward rip of the seams explodes into unhinged brutality. And when The Silent Bleed The Same drags guitar barbs across weathered skin, we realize we're in too deep.

While Tsunami's marriage of swarming hornets and thick sludge grooves stomps with more density, Koza set aside their crowning achievement as the EP's closer. Stench of Desire is immediately horrifying, breathing slow and opaque just behind your neck. Nodding toward Rwake and channeling the pragmatic narratives of Phil Anselmo, the track's quietest moments are its most unsettling. We're worn thin by the repeated slugs to our senses. The stylistic shifts are permeated by matted fur, and the final ceaseless stoner metal push is our last gasp.

Clocking just over twenty minutes, this goat's varied attack weighs like a lifetime of bruising. The jagged guitars, spiked tempos, and misty morning sludge crawls hardly begin to illustrate all this sound delivers. Koza drag us to a steamy swamp on a journey that's part judgment, part ostracism, and wholly taxing on our brittle frames. This EP hits all points to remind us there's still no fuckin' around down South.





Saturday, January 10, 2015

Reg's Top 10 Albums and Artwork Of 2014

Well, we have reached the end of another year and what better way to celebrate than with another list. To be honest, I haven't listened to as many albums this year as I have in the past and my list for that reason will not be as expansive. As usual, 2015 should be another exciting year for music and Heavy Planet will be there to help you discover some new and amazing bands. Now, on with the show.

TOP 10 ALBUMS OF 2014

10. BONEHAWK-"ALBINO RHINO" (Release Date: 10/15/2014)




In 2012, we got a little taste of Bonehawk with their 2-song sleaze-driven 2-song EP. I never would have imagined that within 2 years that the same band would have put out such a tasty and well-executed album filled with mighty hooks, powerful riffs and sing-along anthems. Such a strong album throughout.


09. FOGHOUND-"QUICK, DIRTY AND HIGH" (Release Date: 01/24/2014)




The classic Stoner Rock sound, albeit with more clouds and dirt than sun and sand. Nothing more, nothing less. All killer, no filler! Foghound rules!

08. ATOMIC VULTURE-"INTO ORBIT" (Release Date: 10/7/2014)




Every year I have an all-instrumental entry on my list. This year is no exception. Atomic Vulture deliver spaced-out Stoner Rock with thunderous drumming and huge riffs that gravitate towards another dimension. I could sit and listen to this all day long.

07. FALL OF AN EMPIRE-"SONGS OF STEEL AND SORROW" (01/17/2014)




First off, thanks to The Nuclear Dog for suggesting this one. Meat and potatoes southern groove, bluesy riffs and my favorite vocalist of the year. Fall Of An Empire nailed it!

06. BRANT BJORK AND THE LOW DESERT PUNK BAND-"BLACK FLOWER POWER" (11/17/2014)




Brant Bjork returns with probably his heaviest effort to date and it absolutely slays. Full-on fuzzy desert rock with that signature laid back groove. Give me more!

05. WO FAT-"THE CONJURING" (06/17/2014)




What would my list be without an entry from Kent Stump and the gang. Over the course of the last eight years or so, we have seen a unique chemistry develop in this band to what is now a finely tuned machine. The songs have a more cohesive structure and flow as the band has hit their groove with no end in sight. For a further venture down the path that is Wo Fat, check out their latest live effort which will leave you gathering your jaw off the floor.

04. BASK-"AMERICAN HOLLOW" (07/29/2014)




I featured this band as a "New Band To Burn One To" back in August. The brilliant mixture of Americana, sheer heaviness and controlled soft and subtle passages grabbed hold and did not let go.

03. MONOBROW-"BIG SKY, BLACK HORSE" (06/12/2014)




Here is my second all-instrumental entry on this year's list. If you have not listened to this band, do yourself a favor. Almost like a stoner metal version of Rush. Well-structured songs with face-melting riffs, tight drumming and insane tempo changes. Utterly magnificent!

02. FU MANCHU-"GIGANTOID" (05/03/2014)




One of my favorite bands of all-time and they did not disappoint. With their last two efforts, the band seemed to be going in a bit heavier direction one which I rather enjoyed. On their latest album, the band has stripped things down a bit making their punk rock roots more prevalent. Even after a vast catalog of albums the band can still write many a catchy tune.

01. PALM DESERT-"PEARLS FROM THE MUDDY HOLLOW" (10/31/2014)




I found myself listening to this album more than any other album this year. It has everything you could want in a Stoner Rock record and then some. The songs are well-written and feature an awesome vocalist. The Kyuss influence is evidenced throughout, but that it definitely not a bad thing. I love this record and suggest you give it a listen. A real gem in an over-saturated Stoner Rock scene.

5 VERY HONORABLE MENTIONS:

CHILD-"CHILD"
SLOMATICS-"ESTRON"
ROYAL BLOOD-"ROYAL BLOOD"
THE SKULL-"FOR THOSE WHICH ARE ASLEEP"
OTEHI-"DEAD CHANTS AND FORBIDDEN MELODIES"



There were so many great album covers to choose from this year and artwork is such a vital part of music. These were the covers that caught my eye in 2014.

TOP 10 ALBUM COVERS OF 2014:

10. HUEY-"ACE"


09. HETERODOX - "ELIXER OF LETHE"


08. SEDATED ANGEL-"BEAUTYFALL"


07. GIZA-"I AM THE OCEAN, I AM THE SEA"


06. ssSHEENSss-"STRAPPING STALLIONS"


05. EARTH-"PRIMITIVE AND DEADLY"


04. SIGIRIYA-"DARKNESS DIED TODAY"


03. BUDOS BAND-"BURNT OFFERING"


02. MOTHERSHIP-"II"


01. SPACE GOD RITUAL-"FROM VOID TO OCEAN"


Thanks for looking! Have an awesome 2015!

Friday, January 9, 2015

KP's Top Ten Stoner Rock Albums of 2014

There is something about the proverbial changing of the calendar that prompts within us all an inclination towards contemplative reflection (and for some of us an apparently concomitant inclination towards redundant verbiage). We all seek to categorize events into convenient yet ultimately arbitrary chunks of time with the hope of identifying the particular events, trends, fashions, books, movies, and (of course) albums that we feel encapsulate the zeitgeist of that particular chunk of time more than any other. It is ultimately absurd and futile folly. But then again, I love ranking shit as much as the next guy so fuck it here's my list of the ten stoner rock albums that I feel best encapsulate the zeitgeist of 2014...or somesuchshit.

10.  Foghound - "Quick, Dirty and High"



Foghound released their debut so early in 2014 I almost overlooked it for inclusion in this list. Thankfully, an almost criminal omission was averted. "Resurrect the Throwaways" indeed! Propelled by the propulsive opening track "Easy Come, Easy Go" (a balls out rocker which augments the obligatory gang vocal choruses with gang vocal verses to boot!), "Quick, Dirty and High" lives up to the billing of its title and offers the kind of greasy lo-fi bongapalooza that Fu Manchu perfected. Foghound actually pays homage to the mighty Fu in their own endearingly off kilter way on "Get in My Van". However, unlike their Orange County brethren, this is no invitation for a sunny beach blanket bongout. No, in the grimy hands and dirty minds of these sick Baltimore fucks, "Get in My Van" becomes the soundtrack to the perverse entreaties of a serial rapist.

9. Crobot - Something Supernatural


Hailing from the appropriately named Pottsville, Pennsylvania, Crobot have been honing their chops with incessant touring across this great land of ours until finally releasing their first full length LP, Something Supernatural this fall. On such full throttle rockers as "Legend of the Spaceborne Killer", Crobot have showcased their signature sound. With Brandon Yeagley's multi-octave vocals soaring over the band's funky, metallic aural onslaught, Crobot are the answer to the question of what the bastard child would sound like if Wolfmother and Rage Against The Machine engaged in a bit of in flagrante delicto. Naturally, such a band would be more predisposed to bombast than to subtlety. It is thus a little surprising that Crobot actually hits their stride and really shines on the more atmospheric and evocative tracks like "Queen of the Light" and "La Mano de Lucifer", on which they breathe musical life to lyrics such as "It's better to reign in Hell than to serve God's will". Amen.

8. 1000 Mods - Vultures


Those Greek psychedelic stoners 1000 Mods returned from their great super van vacation to show that the promise from their debut lp was merely a harbinger of things to come on their latest album, Vultures. Chock full of jangly guitar riffs, grungy atmospherics, and a molasses-like morass of feedback-driven fuzz, it's an album which oddly sounds as if it exists simultaneously in the late sixties and the early nineties. 1000 Mods specialize in rock that is slow and grungy and bloozy as evidenced on "She", a Bataan death march of a tune highlighted by a guitar solo that's as incisive as a switchblade to the gut. Far and away the coolest track on the album, however, is the instrumental closer "Reverb of the New World". An itchy riff scrapes across a hypnotic percolating bass line before the drums propel the whole goddamn thing into a full throttle cosmic rocker that hyperdrives itself into spaced-out oblivion.

7. Planet of Zeus - Vigilante


Like Toby, I was struck by the emergence of two Greek bands producing such strong efforts that together they occupy 20% of my top ten list. What is really cool is how they both achieve greatness in markedly distinctive styles. In sharp contrast to 1000 Mods' laid back cool, Planet of Zeus adopts a much more aggressive style, coming off as the little brother who forgot to take his Ritalin. On Vigilante's opening salvo "The Great Dandolos", the band explodes in propulsive fashion, sounding like the Hellenic answer to Clutch as Babis vacillates between swaggering vocals in the verses and shouty screams on the choruses, all over a piledriving riff and throbbing backbeat. Other highlights from the album include the title track, which sounds like the bastard stoner grandchild of Black Oak Arkansas. It all culminates in "The Beast Within", an epic track that truly has it all:  a main riff that is colossal, circumlocutional, and abjectly brutal; a melodic Mediterranean midsection; and lead vocals so deranged they sound like Phil Anselmo overdosing on bath salts.

6. Electric Citizen - Sateen


Opening acts on summer tours are a lot like Cracker Jack surprises in that you never know what you're gonna get but it's usually gonna be disposable and altogether forgettable. But occasionally you'll get something cool like a pack of bitchin tattoos. When Cincinnati Ohio's Electric Citizen opened up for Fu Manchu this summer, we all saw something really cool, a young band positioning themselves as the potential breakout stars for the Sabbath Worship sect. When their highly anticipated debut, Sateen, was finally released, it appears the soothsayers were right for once. While incorporating a decidedly doomy seventies sound, Electric Citizen elect to eschew overt deviltry in favor of more nuanced sinister tones to achieve their own distinctive foreboding vibe. They also underscore the notion that on the rare occasion when keyboards should be employed in metal, they should sound as evil as fuck like they do on "Burning in Hell". But, unquestionably, what sets them apart from their peers is vocalist Laura Dolan, who smartly chose an approach that is more siren than succubus. Laura's mellifluous voice, whether on the hypnotically haunting "Hawk Nightengale" or the pulsating pounder "Light Years Beyond", is so enchanting it can only lead to a rapturous doom.

5. Fu Manchu - Gigantoid


Speaking of Fu Manchu, they released their highly anticipated Gigantoid in 2014 and it is easily their best album since the Mammoth Records days. Kicking the album off in ripsnorting fashion is "Dimension Shifter", which starts out as a balls-out snarling affair before the band steps in a time machine midsong and transport themselves back in time to 1997 and settle into a sludgy Sabbatherian groove accentuated by oscillating guitar licks. Other highlights include "Radio Source Sagittarius", perhaps the most quintessential Fu Manchu tune on the record, with its serpentine riff and obligatory cowbell, as well as "Evolution Machine" on which they evoke B-movie cool as only they can.  However, it is "Anxiety Reducer" which is clearly the album's transcendent track. Its' fuzzy gargantuan riff is otherwordly, otherweirdly, and as subtle as a drill bit being bored into your skull!

4. Mothership - II


On Mothership's second album, imaginatively titled II, this Dallas-based power trio have produced what for me is the most surprisingly badass album of the year. The album cover is in the same DIY indie label early 80's metal style that the debut sported, but the tuneage is light years beyond. Of the eleven tracks contained within, eight of them cohere around a mystical/fantasy-based theme. Most notable of these are actually two instrumentals, the beautifully grandiose "Celestial Prophet" and the wickedly exotic "Tamu Massif". Other standouts include "Priestess of the Moon", a relentless riff-fest that bludgeons in the style popularized by The Sword and "Eye of Sphinx" which is  alternately cruising and crushing. Unlike the typical fantasy-based band, Mothership elect to periodically interrupt the mystical proceedings by throwing in a couple of curveballs that sound like AC/DC momentarily hijacked the album. In lesser hands, it would make the recording come off as half-assed. But Mothership rock the tunes so freakin hard that they achieve the affect of appearing disarmingly unhinged. In fact, it is one of these curveballs, "Shanghai Surprise", a tale of transsexual shenanigans, that is easily the standout track on the whole album.

3. Greenleaf  - Trails & Passes


Greenleaf  have always occupied a unique niche in the world of Swedish stoner rock. As a side band with a rotating roster, they exist essentially as the musical equivalent of a superhero team. Part of the fun is seeing who shows up when guitarist Tommi Holappa yells "Avengers assemble!" As a consequence to all the lineup rotations, Greenleaf  have exhibited a chameleon-like quality to shift from muscle car fuzzouts ("Witchcraft Tonight") to struttin blooze ("Stray Bullit Woman") to haunting epic ("Nest of Vipers"). On their latest album Trails & Passes, the band has produced a record that is decidedly mature on the surface but deceptively subversive at its core. The album kicks off in blistering fashion with full-throttle rocker "Mother Ash" and extends to funky strutter "Humans". "With Eyes Wide Open" begins with a scraping intro that segues into a laid-back spacey vibe. With the refrain of "open up your eyes, don't trust their lies" chanted over hypnotic tribal drumming, the track is easily the record's resident smokeout bong star and would easily be the best tune on the album if not for the monumental title track. Over fuzzed-out bass and a hard charging beat, "Trails and Passes" rips along at a driving pace until erupting in a volcanic avalanche of searing licks.  

2. Wo Fat - The Conjuring


On The Conjuring, Dallas power trio Wo Fat returned to treat all the psychedelonauts to another heaping helping of their trademark brand of malevolent blues rock. That their latest would be their greatest is evident from the outset, as the title track opens with a sinister intro that sounds like a cauldron bubbling or perhaps Satan himself cooking up a pot of Texas chili before kicking in with a chugging guitar over a lumbering rhythm recorded at the precise speed at which zombies ambulate. For anybody that has experienced Wo Fat in person and has felt how murderously loud they can be, you can just imagine how wicked this tune translates in a live setting. The undisputed standout of the album though is "Beggars Bargain", a struttin' cock of seventies boogie double baked by the sweltering Texas sun and too many bong hits. Augmented by a hellacious solo and the judicious use of cowbell, the song is a veritable blitzkrieg assault of aural rapage. Closing out the album in epic fashion is the sprawling 17 minute "Dreamwalker. The track smolders its way at a diabolical pace as Luciferian licks insinuate themselves in your brain, eviscerating the last vestiges of your sanity.

1. Truckfighters  - Universe


Perhaps it is a sentimental choice, but for the number one album of 2014 I chose the first album I reviewed for Heavy Planet, Truckfighters' Universe, their conceptual opus centered around the conspiratorial machinations of clandestine forces surreptitiously orchestrating events. The whole thing kicks off with the serpentine riff of "Mind Control" and the band quickly settles into their trademark Swedish groove which seamlessly segues into "The Chairman" and its bubbling bassline that percolates like bong water. The hidden gem of the record is "Get Lifted".  "The beautiful soul that dies can't get out until the colours dry" sings Ozo over a hypnotic, ethereal melody until it is interrupted by a heavy growl of fuzz that becomes ever more urgent and more insistent until it finally explodes in what can only be described as a snarl.  It all ends with sprawling epic closer "Mastodont". Thematically, the song speaks of a soul being sent out to space to die, a cosmological update on the traditional Viking funeral. Intricate guitar lines build the tension like cryptic ciphers until what is created is nothing less than the most gargantuan of riffs that threatens to blow your speakers as well as your mind.  
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