With the depressing decline of brick and mortar record stores, iffy streaming services and cloud storage and the ridiculously priced iTunes monopoly and lack of available full-bandwidth downloads, Bandcamp has become one of the few good things in the music industry lately. It blows my mind that any band would not choose to sell their album on Bandcamp at this point, but it’s still catching on I guess. Some of the releases, especially the European ones, are a bit overpriced, but at least you get the option to download lossless files (FLAC). It beats having to track down import CDs for even more money. And you can stream the whole album before you buy. Here is a rundown of some of the best releases available on Bandcamp so far this year.
Royal Thunder – CVI (Relapse, $9.99)
Royal Thunder, from Atlanta, GA were so good from the start that people were talking about them two years after releasing just an EP (2010). Bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz was compared in one review to Courtney Love. But while Love wishes she could sing as well as someone like Stevie Nicks, Mlny can. Their songs have a nice languid flow, and are far too melodic to be considered strictly doom metal. The band has the luxury to leave space in the music and not feel obligated to cram it full of pyrotechnics, because Parsonz can carry it all with her captivating voice. By itself “Low” might sound ordinary, but her choruses are spine-tingling. The times they do rock out, like with a couple minutes to go on “Deacon,” it’s exhilerating. Their full-length debut on Relapse, CVI surpasses all expectations generated from their EP, much like Christian Mistress. It’s a genuinely expansive, epic album, with seven of its ten tracks surpassing six minutes. Rather than vamp on a dirgey, endless riff, the longer songs feel like an action-filled journey, expanding their repertoire into psychedelic and prog territories. Even the 9:47 “Blue” feels like it ends too soon. With piles of awesome duelling guitars and Mlny’s vocals reaching new heights, CVI is an astounding album that’s one of the very best of the year.
Christian Mistress – Possession (Relapse, $9.99)
On its release in late February, Possession was clearly one of the very best albums of the year. I’ve listened to it dozens of times, more than anything else so far this year, and it holds up as a brilliant achievement, a subtle fusion of NWOBHM and classic rock elements, well written songs and a performance by Christine Davis for the ages. As addressed in Metal Sirens, they lead the list of over two dozen quality metal bands lead by women. Except for the new Ufomammut and upcoming Royal Thunder albums, I still rate Possession above everything else. | Teeth of the Divine | Pop Matters
Snail – Terminus (Snail, Name Your Price!)
Snail recorded their debut way back in 1993, recorded at same studio that Sleep did Holy Mountain. I grabbed it off their Bandcamp page for $5. It’s kind of cool, but can understand why it slipped under the radar, as it had maybe a bit too much grunge influence. After an EP they disbanded, and reunited in 2008 and released Blood (Meteor City, 2009). That’s where their sound really started coming together. Many of those songs were once left over from the 90s era that they completed, so Terminus is truly the best representation of the band’s full capabilities. Available temporarily at name yr price. They’re allotted 200 free downloads, but if you just chip in at least a dollar, it’ll make that last longer. This is a great album, currently in my top 15, and well worth at least $10. | The Obelisk
Conan – Monnos (Burning World, €5)
Trippy Wicked & the Cosmic Children of the Knight – Going Home (Trippy Wicked, Name Your Price!)
St Albans band formed in 2006, and play bluesy stoner rock with a touch of sludge/doom, along the lines of Wo Fat. 2009 album Movin On is worth hearing too.
Deepspacepilots (Deepspacepilots, $9)
Some excellent stoner/doom/psych space rock from Chicago. Deepspacepilots put out their first EP back in 2006. From listening to their full-length debut, officially released on January 31, they have not been idle during those six years, but rather honing their songs into well written tunes with planet-sized riffs and majestic space rock flourishes. The vocals have really developed nicely too. Let’s hope it’s not another six years before their next album.
Pharaoh – Bury The Light (Cruz Del Sur, €9.99)
I don’t know if Pharaoh are considered part of the NOWOTHM (new old wave of traditional heavy metal) or just power metal, but Philadelphia’s Pharaoh (with Chris Black from Dawnbringer, High Spirits on drums) is one of a handful of U.S. bands that are keeping up with the Europeans in creating some consistently high quality of work that may be rooted in metal from the 70s and 80s, but also evolve subtly with each album with songs and performances not to be missed if you’re a fan of old school metal. Their fourth album, Bury The Light is arguably their best, though many fans remain loyal to their tour de force, Be Gone (2008). | Teeth Of The Divine | From The Dust Returned
DSW – Dust Storm Warning (Acid Cosmonaut, Name Your Price!)
I don’t know much about this band yet, just that there is an EP floating around that I haven’t heard, they’re from Italy, and this just became available on Bandcamp via Acid Cosmonaut records, which may or may not be their own label. Some nice, bone-dry sounding desert jams.
Moonless – Calling All Demons (Doomentia, €7)
Excellent stoner/doom/sludge from Copenhagen, Denmark. Moonless started out identifying themselves as a doom band based on the doom Rosetta Stone template of Black Sabbath. But like early Sleep, Electric Wizard and Orange Goblin, as they evolved their sound, they developed a more of a fuzzed out stoner vibe. Calling All Demons isn’t exactly original, but it is filled with great riffs that indicate Moonless would be a great live act, and have more in the bag of tricks to come. | Doomantia | The Sludgelord
The Bad Light – Marrow Of Sound (The Bad Light, $6)
For a while I had an aversion to modern versions of blues rock, probably because most of it was mighty stale throughout the 80s and 90s. Lately, excellent albums by Radio Moscow and The Heavy Eyes have turned me around (and on the indie side, The Black Keys). Now Santa Cruz’s The Bad Light have taken the swampy blues of R.L. Burnside and mixed in some Electric Wizard fuzz. Slow, driving grooves that are repetitive yet psychedelic, Marrow Of Sound continues to live in my playlist throughout the year.
Iron Mtn (Iron Mtn, Name Your Price!)
Named after the inaccessible summit in the San Gabriel Mountains, Iron Mtn are an instrumental stoner/doom/sludge band from Los Angeles. Mixing intruiguing bits of krautrock and modern noise elements, the band’s debut is pretty unique. For those who would rather not be distracted by a vocalist and just zero in on the riffs, this band is for you. | The Sludgelord
Born To Hula – Tales Of Love (Born To Hula, €6.99)
Obviously QOTSA influenced, this German band most likely spent some time with Lo Rider and Dozer albums. It appears they released their Sunset Radio EP early last year, and then their debut full-length Sunrise Radio in June 2011. Already on their second full length, they’re certainly prolific!
Orange Goblin – A Eulogy For The Damned (Candlelight, $7.99)
When Rise Above issued a box set of Orange Goblin’s first five albums, that seemed to spell the end for the band as a creative force. Their sixth album, Healing Through Fire (Sanctuary, 2007), was their weakest, and they’d been quiet for nearly five years. Yet I had a good feeling when they announced the upcoming new album. And indeed, their seventh album is at least as good as Coup de Grace (2002), if not better. They simply nailed down what they do best, their patented mix of stoner rock and Motorhead-inspired biker metal, a formula High On Fire is also indebted to. | The Sleeping Shaman
Sigh – In Somniphobia (Candlelight, $7.99)
This Japanese avant-garde black metal band has always made confoundingly difficult listening albums, many of which continue to be rewarding to devoted listeners. In Somniphobia shows them just as inscrutible as ever. Like other albums, it may take me more than a year for it to fully register. So as far as how it fits in with the rest of their extensive discography, beats me! | Teeth Of The Divine
Sun Preachers – Faces Of Ashes (Sun Preachers, $.50)
French stoner/psych. Really kicks on on “Nail King”.
Wizard Rifle – Speak Loud Say Nothing (Seventh Rule, $7)
Like Sigh, this Portland, Oregon duo is hard to nail down. There are elements of stoner/doom/psych/sludge, but also some batshit crazy chaotic weirdness. Their debut will likely inspire enthusiastic raves from some new fans, and others will shrug and move on to something more accessible. | Doomantia
| Heavy Planet
Witchden – Consulting The Bones (Witchden, $6)
Sludge band from Minneapolis. If you’re up for some punishing Eyehategod style metal with bleach-gargling vocals from Jason “Herb Headie” Micah, then Witchden is well worth checking out. | The Sludgelord
Zodiac N Black – The Aftermyth (Zodiac N Black, £6.99)
London stoner/desert rock, but very polished, enough that they attracted the attention of Classic Rock magazine before they even released their debut. | Doomantia
Psyconauts – Planet X (Psyconauts, €5)
From Alessandria, Italy, Psyconauts follow in the footsteps of Acrimony, Sleep and Ufomammut. Heavy, fuzzed out stoner and psycedelic space rock.
Ice Dragon – Tome Of The Future Ancients (Yersinia Pestis, Name Your Price!)
Ice Dragon garnered some attention with its second album, The Sorrowful Sun (2011) showing up in some end-of-year lists. The new album features an H.P. Lovecraft style letter on its Bandcamp page that shows some extensive thought has gone into the lyrics and songwriting. If only they would have put that much work into the recording, which still sounds like a shitty four-track demo. I guess it’s an aesthetic some people like, but I’m having serious problems getting past it. | Doomantia | The Sludgelord
Deep Sea Thunder Beast (DST, $3)
Stoner/sludge from San Diego.