Words by Andrew Lampela
Andrew Lampela was an employee and eventual co-owner of the 40-year old institution, Haffa’s Records in Athens, Ohio, just outside of the dark woods from which Skeletonwitch emerged. Over his years there he has played in a number of bands ranging from rock to noise to metal and has taken his lifelong knowledge of music into contributing to a number of publications.
I can’t really separate these two albums anymore. I probably would have never checked out Howling Giant if it weren’t for the Horseburner dudes, and would have missed out on a fantastic album of space psych stoner doom. And, well, Horseburner are awesome and put out one hell of a record themselves, so here we are with a tie. Again, I love watching my friends do cool shit, and it’s scary how good Horseburner are these days. Do yourself a favor, snatch both of these up.
I’m a big fan of free jazz, weird music, and watching my friends do cool shit. Ghosts has all three. Joining the core sax and drums duo of Dead Neanderthals, Hedrick takes a break from his Skeletonwitch day job to go way out there over these two tracks. “Bone Hill” is twenty tense minutes as epic sheets of hypnotic drone get propelled by the drums. “Death Bell” slowly builds off of the guitars into a wild free jazz freakout thirteen minutes in. Let’s hope everyone involved continues to collaborate, as this is excellent stuff.
75 Dollar Bill is another one that’s difficult to describe. Expanding beyond the duo of guitar and percussion, I Was Real encompasses Afrobeat, psych, jazz, drone, and a whole lot more over its nine tracks. For as many different styles and directions as this album takes me in, these songs are completely of a whole. I’m mesmerized every time I put these guys on.
One very easy way to get me to check out a record is to tell me it sounds like Swedish death metal mixed with some cross over goodness. I will check that shit out every time. I stumbled on to Creeping Death’s previous EP earlier this year and instantly loved it, so I was really looking forward to this one. It does not disappoint. More importantly, though, is it sounds like these dudes are having fun. I can’t help but smile when I listen to this thing, it hits all the right spots for me. Total banger.
I can’t really describe Fennesz. Well, I mean I can, but droney laptop electronica hardly touches on what Fennesz does. I filtered quite a bit of instrumental music through my headphones this year, mostly for therapeutic decompression purposes, and Agora unfolded into one of the more upbeat albums to catch ahold of me. You know, if you can call listening to sine waves on the floor in the dark upbeat. Fennesz isn’t for everyone, I know, but Agora rewards those that have the patience.
I’ve always had a thing for bands that sound like a Frazetta blacklight poster, so I went into this one fully knowing I’d be into it, but I sure had no idea that an operatic 80s influenced doom album would be one of my favorites this year. Crypt Sermon completely nail the tight wire act of sounding mystical without the usual cornball goofiness. Soaring vocals, great riffs, and awesome drumming, Ruins is a seriously awesome album.
Death metal got pretty stale there for a decade or two. I’m not really into the inhumanely fast sweep-picking variety of the genre, so I’m super stoked that 2019 ushered in a ton of bands dragging the old school feeling into the modern age. There were a ton of great death metal albums to choose from this year, but it’s been ages since an album in this style has commanded my attention quite like Planetary Clairvoyance. Absolutely flawless, start to finish.
It took me a couple listens to get through this one. exclusively because I had to stop it mid-way through the emotional punch that is the opening track several times before I could get it together. An acoustic demo left as a message by bassist Caleb Scofield before his tragic passing, it fucked me up so I can only imagine how hard it was for the band to put this album out, the last material the group worked on. This is a raw nerve of an album, and easily ranks as one of Cave In’s finest. A fitting testament to the musical force of Scofield.
I naively thought, towards the end of 2018, that 20 plus years of playing bass in hardcore, metal, and noise bands would ease the transition over to cello. I mean, it’s like a slightly smaller bass, right? Well, I’m a dumb-ass and cello is very difficult, let me clarify. “Last Hour Story” was one of the first songs to really grab me this year and Temporal has been a constant since. Layered cello loops, minimal electronica, pianos, and stately, sublime melodies from start to finish. I could float away in the graceful depth of “Through The Window” all day long (and I have!) Amazing album.
Look, I know how pretentious utilizing the sounds of two black holes merging 1.3 billion years for a drone record comes off. However, Basinski is on a tear these days, and this record has been the sound of my fried-out brain blissfully imploding since it came out. If all you know is his Disintegration Loops, you should definitely acquaint yourself with On Time Out Of Time (and Cascade) immediately. One of my favorites in an incredibly stacked discography, and hands down the album I turned to the most this year.
More of Andrew Lampela’s contributions