Top 5 Releases of January

As the first month of the year comes to an end, and I’ve submitted my list to the Doom Charts, I am overwhelmed by how much good music is being released every week. Whatever got into our collective water supplies since the pandemic continues to affect us…

#5. Solar Trip – Solar Trip

Picking favorites is tricky, especially when I rank them. If there’s one thing I’ve improved on over the past few months, it’s being able to predict which recordings I’ll go back to time and again. The good ones are fun to listen to, but the great ones get better each time I listen. I wrote about Solar Trip earlier in the month, and you can check out my review here. All I can write this time around is that I think and feel the same way, only more. The ability of this album to take me on a “trip” each time I put it one is a testament to the heart and vision of the band. “Give in to Solar Trip, forget everything else you’ve heard, and let these craftsmen take you where they want to take you. Your patience will be rewarded. “

#4 Signo Rojo – There Was A Hole Here

There is one persistent thought that goes through my mind whenever I hear an album like this: it’s only a matter of time. Someday, this brand of Stoner/Doom will be recognized for what it is: first rate, vibrant, head-banding hard rock. Radio airplay, coverage by mainstream press and actual Billboard Chart placement. Signo Rojo has everything that modern bands need to break through: scream(ish) vocals that are almost anthemic, catchy guitar riffs, and boundless energy. I guess the only thing wrong with it is it’s actually good. If you crave, need, fucking jones, for real Hard Rock, this is a must buy.

#3 Ahab- The Coral Tombs

Ah…Funeral Doom.

Nothing brings family and friends of all ages together more than the glacial tempos, harsh vocals and 10+ minute songs, combined with the feeling dread, doom, and despair that pervades…everything.

Unless you’re listening to Ahab, a band dedicated to taking us on amazing and astounding journeys into the depths, as depicted by some of the greatest literature ever written. Ahab is so far, far beyond the tropes of the genre (which I swear is one of my favorites) that they defy description once you truly listen to them.

I don’t think I’m too off-base to observe that some of the greatest artistic achievements of this era have come from the depths of Doom overall. Ahab is an example of a band that uses the form to express things in a way no else has been able to achieve since the days of Mussorgsky, Beethoven, Sibelius and Mozart. I know I’m heavily biased, but gawd-damn it, this album is a work of art, from start to finish.

Like all my Liszts (if you get the joke, you need help), take the #3 placement here with a grain of salt. It really is a three-way tie, and chances are strong that The Coral Tombs will end up as my #1 for the year. While this might not bring in a lot of fans to Funeral Doom from the general public, I do think Ahab has won over a lot from the Stoner/Doom fanbase who may think this kind of music is too extreme.

…and it is…exremely awesome!

#2 Giant Sleep- Grounded to the Sky

Speaking of Doom, Grounded to the Sky was doomed to be ignored by me this month.

I admit, I’m skeptical of anything with the term “Progressive” in it lately. I’ve had a distant relationship with my second favorite genre over the past few years. Mostly it’s because the syncopated rhythms of King Crimson got morphed by Dream Theater, then Tool, and now bands like Haken. The Tool influence is my biggest turn-off, but I realize it’s just biased, gate-keeping bullshit. Tool is a great band, and I like them. But isn’t progressive supposed to actually…progress? Lately, Prog has become one homage after another it seems, over and over to the point that it’s no longer exciting or impressive.

Still, a strong recommendation from Stevie Haynes from Doomed and Stoned was enough to get me to give it a shot. And as predicted, opener Silent Field took me a bit to get into. The intro is excellent, but at 20 seconds in it’s hard to tell the difference between this and Tool/Haken and dozens of other bands. After a while, I almost clicked it off and took a hard pass.

At about the 2 minute mark though…oh? There’s the Stoner, Rock, Metal, whatever you want to call it. I mean, yeah, these guys can play complicated rhythms, 64th note arpeggios and the usual “Progressive” tropes. But they can also bring in something I’m finding all too rarely these days: Balls. Swagger. With a touch of emotional texture, just to catch one’s breath. I can’t get enough of it. In the end, Giant Sleep has definitely helped Stoner/Doom move forward, bringing in ideas and references that are unexpected and exciting, track after track.

How good is Grounded to the Sky? It’s good enough to make me willing to give “progressive” anything another shot. It’s good enough to get me to restart tracks right after they’re done. It’s also good enough to be the #1 release for me this month…if it wasn’t for my actual #1.

#1 Turned to Stone Chapter 7: Gypsy Chief Goliath and End of Age

Let’s be honest: at this point, Ripple could slap Justine Bieber doing a split release with Weedeater, and I’d buy it. Heck, it would probably even be GREAT. I mean, doing a duet with Dixie Dave would probably give the Biebster the cred he’s been seeking.

But I digress: the point is that this album Slays! The pairing of Gypsy Chief Goliath and End of Age completely unexpected and works so well that if you haven’t heard it: I can’t believe you haven’t heard it yet. And check out my review from earlier in the month here.

One of the best releases in hard rock, ever. Period.

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