March came in like a lion and left like a lion. No sheep were injured in the making of this list, that’s for sure. While there is a clear and obvious North Carolina focus in this list, they’re all deserved. North and South Carolina are definitely seeing a scene evolve, and it’s not all based on Corrosion of Conformity and Weedeater, though the mandatory respect is shown.
I usually only do a Top 5 for my blog, but that ain’t gonna cut it. These ten releases all impacted me as a writer and a fan, leaving me breathless. Special FU’s to Skull Servant, by the way. My bad for waiting so long, but did you have to be THAT fun? Screwed my whole list up…
- ACID KING – BEYOND VISION
This is an “ultimate album” in a lot of ways. I’m new to Acid King in a lot of ways, and I spent a bit of time listening to their entire discography in March, which will be covered in an upcoming post. This is a potentially life-changing release: for Acid King, their fans, and people discovering the for the first time. Epic, haunting and masterful.
2. MEAN GREEN – MEAN GREEN
Hard to avoid this release from North Carolina’s Mean Green. Heavy and dense as the native clay soil, dank as the stuff they probably smoke. Which is bad: smoke in lungs is never a good thing. But it makes for an album so intense and full of love for their favorite bands that it comes across as the latest release from a legendary band, not a first release. The buzz is strong with this one, beyond the obligatory reefer references. I’m a boomer, I can write that with a straight face.
3. EVIL LEAF – SLOW BURN
I admit I’m a bit self-conscious when it comes to my enthusiasm for another North Carolina band- Evil Leaf. It’s like finding out my next door neighbor is not only cool, but in a band poised to break out in a serious way. Slow Burn is both a nod to tradition and a departure from the rest of the pack. Don’t sleep on this band, y’all.
4. SKULL SERVANT – ASTRAL APOTHECARY
“Somehow, against all rational probability, this EP fricking slays! It sounds as if these kids were breastfed on sour goats’ milk with an endless loop of Reverend Bizarre, Candlemass, Electric Wizard, Pentagram, and Cathedral pumped into their nursery while their nannies were performing obscure and unspeakable rites in the basement.”
5. DOPE SKUM – GUTTER SOUTH
That opening riff sets the tone, chords that harken back to an older time and place. It’s “dank,” not in the current sense of the word, but old and musty and hard to get rid of. It’s the kind of riff that bores itself into my brain and keeps digging long after the song is over. This is an Appalachian “Straight Outta Compton,” full of anger and a grim reality that refuses to be ignored or marginalized and refuses to play the victim.
6. THE SLOW ATTACK – HIGHER THAN THIS
It’s the kind of whiskey-strained voice that just gets the crowd pumping and challenges the guitars for dominance. The bass playing is low-down and up to no good, reaching deep into your gut and making it clear where the boogie lies. Plenty of air drummers are gonna smashing the smokey haze with empty hands when they see these guys (and gal). I do not want this to end: I need at least another hour to soak in the hard and heavy vibes.
7. FABIANO NEGRI – BETWEEN PLAYING AND CURSING
I just know I’ll look back at this and regret I didn’t put Between Playing and Cursing #1 on this list. There is nothing else like it, hits us straight in the skull with a wonderfully over-the-top Brazilian production of complete and unabashed love for METAL. Live. No overdubs. Marvel as his voice cracks and strains while he’s obviously smiling and having a good time. Easily the best, most realistic live album I’ve heard since Thin White Rope’s The One That Got Away. $5 for the whole thing is a steal!
8. ISAAK – HEY
I think one of the greatest things about the Heavy Underground is the international flavor of it all. Italy has been producing some stellar stuff lately, and Isaak is the latest example. Heavy, hard, and totally engaging. I know this one is #1 for a few of my friends, and for good reason. Hard and heavy rock is due for a renaissance, and these Italians are poised to make it happen.
9. HOPE HOLE – BEAUTIFUL DOOM
If you need a break from power chords and mystical musings from Mammoths and Goats and don’t mind some quirky mashups of almost every sub genre of rock since 1981, this is for you. In fact, for a select group of adventurous souls, this might make your Top 10 for the year and wind up on half a dozen of your playlists. I just love this album, and I think a few more out there will as well.
10. MORASS OF MOLASSES – END ALL WE KNOW
Sometimes I just need Ripple music to do what Ripple does best: give me a healthy dose of cleverly written, professionally executed hard rock that doesn’t sound like what hard rock has become in the mainstream. It’s almost a shame to have these guys lumped in with Stoner/Doom, but I’m glad they’re there. There might be some road trips later this year, and this is the perfect album for that.