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Friday, January 6, 2017

Nuclear Dog's 2016 Favorites





I know I'm late. Schedules are hectic and excuses are thick. Not to mention choices are numerous. There is always such a plethora of great new music released worldwide each year.  That's a great thing, wouldn't you agree?

My favorites are, and have always been, albums with key characteristics, namely lots of guitar, most of it of the fuzzy variety, decent to great vocals, melody in song structure, and either memorable songs or a memorable sound, or both. I am not musically technical, unfortunately, so what I mean by melody in song structure simply means old fashioned song arrangements with rhyme scheme stanzas, choruses, solos, bridges, etc. at a 'fun' tempo, whatever that may mean.  Vocals to me are of utmost importance. A great vocalist can make or break what is otherwise a great album. When it comes to rating an album I often find that if there are a number of songs I put in my top playlist then, obviously, the album gets 'starred' as well. But sometimes there may not be a standout song so much as all the songs resonate greatly for an overall quality of awesomeness. The best example of that might be Nuclear Dog's favorite album of 2014, ¡Pendejo!'s "Atacames", or The Phuss' "On the Prowl", both of which are replete with great sounding songs, each as awesome as the last. And, of course, topping the list of prerequisites, the reason we all listen to these genres, the reason thousands of musicians worldwide generate this music despite the paucity of fortune or fame, is the guitar - BIG juicy, powerful guitars, generally tuned toward the low end with only the occasional foray into high falutin' solos - this is what drives us, artist and listener alike.

As usual, there were too many great releases this past year to have a conclusive 'best of' list. Any list may be missing an incredible album that simply escaped the notice of the lister. It's happened to me each year, usually at the hands of our HeavyPlanet guru, Reg, who always uncovers an album that would easily slot into my own list, if only I had known of it, if only I had been paying attention. But that's the fun of having so many lists, there is always something new and great to discover.

At HeavyPlanet.net and www.facebook.com/HeavyPlanet we strive to introduce the world to great music, most of it newly released, much of it from bands who've yet to 'make it', and all of it simply musically, heavily, fuzzily awesome. My list will have a paucity of 'known' bands or albums, keeping to the HeavyPlanet tradition and intent, but this is primarily a coincidence. Out of the thousands of worldwide releases in 2016 these simply are my favorites, no other agenda present, starting with #20 and working up to numero ichi.

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20. Stone Cream - "Rust"

Pure stoner goodness out of Greece. Not much is known yet of this band. They released this album via bandcamp in December and then another full LP in January of 2017. I suspect we'll learn more of who they are in the coming year, but in the meantime we have this magnificent music.

Release date - December 7, 2016

Favorite track - "Haunted Train"

Hometown: Somewhere in Greece


19. Stone House on Fire - "Neverending Cycle"

Sophisticated, clean, psychedelic, and deep. This is the third album from this Brazilian four piece.

Release date - June 14, 2016

Favorite track - "Anger"

Volta Redondo, Brazil




18. Wreck Plus - "Dark Constructor"

Tight and imaginative retro-fuzz from this gifted quartet that rocks hard and fast with relish and rigor.

Release date - December 11, 2016

Favorite track - "Starcrossed Lovers"

Hometown: Paris, France

bandcamp ||  facebook || youtube




17. Black Doldrums - "Exit City Lights"

Moody, mysterious, and deliciously dark psychedelia from this warrior isles duo.

Release date - August 12, 2016 & December 29, 2016

Favorite track - "It's a Dandy Massacre"

Hometown: London, England

bandcamp || facebook || twitter || tumblr || bandcamp



16. Wasted Theory - "Defenders of the Riff"

Lots to love here. Big, bold, and brash sound. Hot, swampy vocals. Crude, honest, rock n' roll lyrics. A full ten song LP of great butt-kick fuzz from this gnarly quartet.

Release date - October 30, 2016

Favorite track - "Belly Fulla Whiskey"

Hometown: Somewhere in Maryland and Delaware

bandcamp || facebook

15. The Freeks - "Shattered"

This band can be classified as somewhat of a supergroup, with founding members of Fu Manchu, Nebula, Backbiter, and others, but really the supergroup status lends itself more to the music that to anyone's CV. This is an album swollen with high energy music that runs roughshod through punk, funk, stoner, grunge, psychedelic, and seventies sounds. It's edgy, jagged, melodic, and quite brilliantly a riotous, romping lot of fun.

Release date - November 11, 2016

Favorite track - "Ivana"

Hometown: Rome, Italy

bandcamp || facebook || website 

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It probably goes without saying that any of the top 15 albums in my list could just as easily have been in the top spot. They're all exceptional and have made 2016 another incredible year for the fuzz.



14. Geezer - "Geezer"

Geezer have a mammoth sound, including perfectly tinged vocals, driving drumwork, massive bass, and monstrous guitar. They continue to deliver some of the most intoxifying music of the stoner/blues/metal genre. This album is replete with deep, tightly woven psychotropic threads of brilliance. Now part of the Ripple Music label, Geezer continue to grow, expand, and deliver. Bravo.

Release date - November 18, 2016

Favorite track - "Sun Gods"

Hometown: Kingston, New York

bandcamp || facebook || label



13. Cybernetic Witch Cult - "Spaceous Cretaceous"

This album is fun, enjoyable, unique, and chock full of knock yer block off rock woven around stories of fantasy and science fiction. While the theme is imaginative and quixotic, fun and exhilarating, rendering tales of deep space, mythical beasts and beings, mesmerizing magic, as well as the frontiers and power of science, the underlying structure of musical magnificence is what carries the day with deft musicianship and elegant melodies steeped in soaring blues rock, a pitch perfect vocalist with both edge and range, and supremely spellbinding guitar mastery.

Release date - May 28, 2016

Favorite track - "Enchantress"

Hometown: Cornwell, England

bandcamp || facebook || website



12. Deep Aeon - "The Devil's Vision"

Well, fuck! This one is both a celebration and a fare thee well, of sorts. After releasing some of the juiciest stoner rock over the course of three short years (too little of it for my covetous desires) Deep Aeon have called it kaput. Before disbanding they had begun production on a new album, and this EP is what they were able to record before the fateful fuzzy fission.

I realize this is only two songs and probably shouldn't be considered, but..........but, these two songs are simply magnificent. Well structured melodies of memorable scope and quality are bound on all sides by deep musical skill and deft delivery. The music is brooding and intense, the vocals penetrating, the melodies wonderful and memorable, and the guitars offer intricate tapestries of fatal, cold-blooded amplifications of doomsday steel.

The good news is that three of the four Deep Aeon members will remain together, forming soon a new band under the cognomen of Heavy Beam, having already recruited a new vocalist. This is exciting news. We extend to this coalescing stoner fuzzcraft, consisting of the aforementioned new singer as well as members Nickolaj Marfels, Alexander Weber, and Axel Meyer, all the hope and good will we can muster, which is a purely self-serving bestowment....BECAUSE WE WANT MORE!!

Release date - July 4, 2016

Favorite tracks - "The Vision", "Devils"

Hometown: Düsseldorf, Germany

bandcamp || facebook



11. Youngblood Supercult - "High Plains"

The evocative atmosphere wrought by this flatlander quartet is one of a piercing, keening young love lost, of heightened senses in bitter cold darkness, one of despair and desperation in bleak and lonely places. That's the incredible haunting sense of mystery and nostalgia fashioned by the twin engines of Youngblood's psycho-blues guitar sound and nimbly ardent vocalist.

Release date - February 19, 2016

Favorite track - "Monolith"

Hometown: Topeka, Kansas

bandcamp || facebook || website

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10. Desert Colossus - "Desert Colossus"

Fun and athletic is the atmosphere for most of this LP of initial release and signal quality from this exciting new quartet. There is fuzz galore and a sound that is smack dab in the middle of stoner/desert/fuzz rock. They do not so much as sound like Kyuss, but sound like a perfect fit for whatever exact genre Kyuss slots into. Melodic, upbeat, and deeply intriguing melodies are matched by twin guitar energy, powerful rock vocals, deftly driving drums, and a bass that'll cause you to bob and weave in ecstatic splendor.

Release date - January 3, 2016

Favorite track - "Fat Chicks"

Hometown: Zaandam, Netherlands

bandcamp || facebook



9. Slumber Dust - "Slumber Dust"

Another initial release from gifted artists striking out with deftly crafted songs of deep reverberations and mighty fuzztone fabrics of sound. Intriguing melodies intertwine seamlessly with psychedelic stretches of mind expansion and tribal intrusion.

Release date - October 22, 2016

Favorite track - "Pyramids"

Hometown: Saint Catharines, Ontario, Canada

bandcamp || facebook || soundcloud



8. Samba Cemetary - "The Bushgate"

This music is at once powerful and intelligent, driving hard ahead with white hot fierceness just as it slips smoothly into the icy coldness of psychedelic underfuzz. The riffs pummel and penetrate, drawing little blood in their sharpness while inflicting maximum metal carnage. Song structure is nimble and enduring, drawing in the listener over and again to consume the heady, quixotic experience. The vocals are unique and intriguing, adding to the overall thrill of new discovery and familiar heat as each song is savored and embraced.

Release date - September 19, 2016

Favorite track - "Last Samba"

Hometown: Berlin, Germany

bandcamp || facebook || youtube || website



7. Mesmer - "Mesmer"

The guitars are a dazzling, haunting, massive sound of macabre metal carried along by dark, delicious melodies and a vocalist of eerily beautiful tone and timbre, evoking haunted houses of horror and towers of terror through keenly wrought edges of nervous awareness.

Release date - June 3, 2016

Favorite track - "Weight of Confusion"

Hometown: Oakland, California

bandcamp || facebook



6. Stone Witch - "Order of the Goat"

This album is like an incessant, relentless heavy armored track brigade grinding and crunching its way through black forest gravel roads sodden and sopping with the dark blood of a thousand zombie amplifiers wailing and howling through the dank, dark night into the eternal stygian abyss. Dual guitars are unremitting in all-out onslaught of riff and solo, while the vocals deliver exquisite, alluring, haunting lyrics of depth and melancholy. Earth-rattling bass and superhuman staccato stickwork pulverize to bliss and submission.

The desert climes of Arizona are home to this magnificent quartet and their initial foray into the bastions of stoner rock, desert rock, and occult rock.

Release date - July 13, 2016

Favorite track - "Blood Feast"

Hometown: Phoenix, Arizona

bandcamp || facebook


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I'm tempted to list the final five as 1a, 1b, 1c, 1d, 1e. Any of these five could've made my #1 position. But that's a cop out, so in the immortal words of William Shakespeare, "Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;"



5. Fall of an Empire - "Croweater: An Echo in the Bone"

Fall of an Empire released one hell of an album in 2014 in "Songs of Steel and Sorrow". Following up with something that good and that successful must be a neat trick (sarcasm), because as often as not a sophomore event struggles to match the heart and magic of the inaugural product, so when "Croweater" was released it was like an overwhelming rush of sweet snowy air. The talent and ability of this savvy quintet of stoner rock fabulists carried the day in overwhelming style. They again achieved a mighty and preeminently worthy collection of massively thrilling tales ensconced deeply in thick magic woolen riffs and heart piercing musical tales of medieval woe and enchanted adventure. The scope is huge, the delivery massive, and the experience thrilling.

Release date - August 17, 2016

Favorite track - "Uprising"

Hometown: Spartanburg, South Carolina

bandcamp ||  facebook



4. Mississippi Bones - "2600 AD: and Other Astonishing Tales"

Prolific, esoteric, and deep fried in southern stoner fuzz, Mississippi Bones are as gifted as a band can be. They create a LOT of music. They create a lot of GREAT music. Their songs are musically and lyrically profound, pulling you in myriad directions of intrigue, alluring in quality of riff and reverb, mesmerizing in tale, primal in melody and rhythm, there is more to chew on than ever meets the external acoustic meatus at first echo.

Release date - September 2, 2016

Favorite track - "Outhouse Poet (or Shitty Lyricist)"

Hometown: Ada, Ohio

bandcamp ||  facebook || twitter



3. Buzzzard - "Cold Blood"

Finding "Cold Blood" is a coup in my reckoning. The characteristics and qualities I always listen for when first experiencing an album, whether from a known group or someone new, are all present on this album. Twin guitars of heat and smoke, along with a bruising bass and piercing drums blister the auditory system in unrelenting brilliance. Three vocalists harmonize in glory and grandeur, led magnificently by a quintessential lead voice of fuzz rock purity. The primal chord of melody is fully exploited through each track by this melancholy stoner blues machine, combining to deeply hypnotize from the initial fuzz pedal power up to the last skin rap and cymbal tap.

Release date - November 23, 2016

Favorite track - "Nowhere to Go"

Hometown: Carbondale, Illinois

bandcamp ||  facebook



2. Ruff Majik - "The Fox"

The fuzz is huge on this magnificent album out of South Africa. A splendid blending of mammoth riff distortion driven by captivating and beguiling song structures as well as a new age vocalist of ability and intrigue. This threesome are nimble in execution yet powerful in deliverance. The music is uniquely their own, with little in the way of homage other than maybe the tonal range they choose to chisel from the stoner rock escarpment and vague references to a half dozen foundations of metal.

Release date - September 1, 2016

Favorite track - "Canned Fruit Bats"

Hometown: Pretoria, South Africa

bandcamp ||  facebook



1. Black Water - "Edison's Elephant"

I want to start by pointing out I know that technically this album was released in 2015, but it was a December release date and I didn't come across it until late January of 2016. This album is just too good to not share with as much of the world as is willing to peruse my list and perhaps sample the music therein. If you're as much a fan of bluesy stoner desert magic as I am then you'll surely appreciate the magnitude of what these Virginians have wrought. They are incredibly gifted song-writers, with half of this album getting the 5 star treatment on my personal favorites playlist. The melodies are immortally memorable, the tenor pure blues melancholia, the guitars as fine and ferocious as can be found in the dark, mossy metal underground, an inspired drummer and brutal bassist, an adept, keen vocalist and an ability to galvanize the disparate pieces into something truly special and enduring.

Release date - December 10, 2015

Favorite track - "Blueser"

Hometown: Rocky Mount, Virginia

bandcamp ||  facebook || twitter


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As with many bands that ply the stoner/doom/psychedelic/retro/blues waters the artists featured here are inspired by their love of the music and abilities that allow them to lay tone to tape. Brilliance isn't always discovered by record labels, late night TV hosts, or reality television. It doesn't mean that innate genius isn't to be found and enjoyed, at least not anymore. While Black Water, Ruff Majik, and Buzzzard, and the other bands on lists present and past, might not enjoy a tour with Disturbed, or whatever pretender gets the luxury of backing these days, I hope that at the very least they find their way into the hearts of the lovers of the best rock and metal on the planet. 

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