Another year full of excellent fuzzy releases !
Damn we’re already at the end of the year to do the usual but tedious task of listing our favorite albums of 2016 ! This year again it was really hard to make that final list, but hey “a man gotta do what a man gotta do” So many great releases, from old & new bands, the Fuzzy scene has never been so strong, and it feels good.
It’s also the time for me to do a little retrospective of this year for More Fuzz. We passed the 10000 followers mark on Facebook & Instagram, so thank you fuzzers for the love, we love you too A lot of passionate contributors joined the team and I’m still amazed by what they all have done, be it reviews, gigs reports, photographing, podcasting… So kudos to the fuzziest team ever ! This year was also a milestone for me as I launched More Fuzz Records and signed 2 amazing bands (the 3rd one coming in 2017 ). For now it’s still only digital release, but the bands & myself definitely want to release them on vinyl asap (about that stay tuned, I hope to do a big thing in the beginning of 2017, but sssshhhh ). I also attended way too many gigs to remember each of them, but the joy of experiencing music live, and now photographing the bands, is something I think will never quit me till I die.
There are also some regrets. For example I’d have loved to review more albums myself on More Fuzz, but I think I focused on other parts of the blog. Not finishing a festival report is something I should also blame myself for. I also wanted to expand the type of content we publish, not only publish reviews, but go beyond the music only. Because yes, our fuzzy world is vast and I think it’s not only about the music but a lot of other things, so yeah I had a few ideas but never had the time to concretize them…
And finally I want to thank each people I got in touch with this year, be it online or in real life, be it a reader of More Fuzz, a musician, a blogger, a concert promoter, a photographer, a label owner, a music publicist, or any other guy or gal that took his/her time to talk with me for various reasons. Because yes, it’s thanks to all those healthy human connections that I’m here now writing those lines
And now it’s time for Rock ‘n’ Roll !
It’s time to show you what I think
is la crème de la crème in terms of fuzzy music…
Let’s discover my favorite records of 2016 !
Top 20 Albums of 2016
20 : Holy Grove – Selftitled
I remember when I discovered in 2014 Holy Grove when they only published 2 tracks captured live in a venue on their Bandcamp. And even if the sound quality was not the best, I could still hear the great potential coming from this band. Fast forward to 2016 when Heavy Psych Sounds announces the release of Holy Grove debut album I was so excited to hear it. And I was right in 2014, Holy Grove’s potential translated in one of the best debut albums I heard this year.
Even if their music is not that original, we’re in front of a killer Stoner-Doom release with so much heaviness, and a songwriting that will hook you in instantly to their furious groove. The highlight being those powerful but enchanting vocals by their frontwoman Andrea Vidal. You know how much I love female vocals and when it’s wonderfully done like here, there is only one thing left to do : headbang hard !
19 : Moon Coven – Selftitled
Amazing Swedish Stoner-Doom with plenty of slow and heavy riffs, ethereal vocals to satisfy your fuzzy appetite. I wouldn’t say this is original, but the whole thing is so well executed that it flows naturally, you can only approve and just start headbanging with a bong in hand !
18 : Goatess – Purgatory Under New Management
Another Swedish band in my top, damn ! And I must admit I only discovered Goatess with this album, even if they released their selftitled debut album in 2014. What I love in this release is the constant heavy riffage going on, crushing your skull from beginning to end ! There is also a strong 70’s Doom groove, even more reinforced by Chritus epic & powerful vocals. But the overall sound production is definitely modern, making it an interesting mix. Some welcoming softer & psychedelic parts are also spread across this heaviness onslaught, like a war break that never lasts that long… So go get purified by Goatess, because apparently, the purgatory is under new management 😉
17 : Maidavale – Tales of the Wicked Forest
The Retro Rock release of 2016 ! With the sad news of Graveyard calling it a quit in September, the Swedish Retro Rock scene took a big hit… But rest assured the succession is well present with Maidavale. This group of 4 girls worshipping those rockin’ 70’s vibes put out a debut album as good as some well-established bands in the scene. With a lot of soul and energy, those bluesy grooves flow in their veins, another band who signed a pact with the devil for the pleasure of our ears ! You better watch out for the future of this band as I’m sure they could be as big as Graveyard in a few years if they try to further expand their identity.
16 : Swan Valley Heights – Selftitled
Wow for real ? This is a debut album ? No way ! German Swan Valley Heights created the perfect Stoner Rock / Heavy Psych album of 2016 ! By applying all the proven working recipes of our Fuzzy Scene, from the trippiness of Colour Haze, the groove of Truckfighters, the heaviness of Kyuss, you maybe get something not really original, but still mind-blowing and highly addictive.
15 : Asteroid – III
Asteroid is one of those band in the Heavy scene with quite a big mysterious aura around them. Certainly because they released 2 excellent albums in the late 00’s and a 7” in 2013, but then disappeared for 3 long years before reuniting in the beginning of this year, playing gigs all across Europe and finally dropping this 3rd album in November with Fuzzorama Records. And let me tell you the wait was long but totally worth it !
Asteroid really created their own blend of Stoner Rock and Psychedelic Rock with that typical delicate Swedish touch you can, for example, find with Graveyard. And yes this is where they shine, being able to craft those layers of lights & shadows, emotionally strong, creating an intense atmosphere for their listeners. The sublime high-pitched vocals by Robin Hirse also play a key role in this atmosphere, and when they begin to sing in turns or in unison with bassist Johannes Nilsson it becomes even more epic ! Also, don’t miss seeing them live, the complicity between these 3 guys and their joy of being on stage and sharing a moment of great music with their audience is to be lived at least once.
14 : Demonauta – Tierra Del Fuego
The Chilean Demonauta were back in 2016 with a monstrous release that was directly seen as a Stoner Rock classic for many of us, including me. Backed by a brilliant production, so powerful on the fuzz and the bass, Demonauta gave us 7 tunes melting perfectly crafted heavy riffs with a lot of stunning highly psychedelic parts and killer guitar solos. Now let’s embark on a fuzzy journey that flows so easily with Tiera Del Fuego !
13 : Hijo de la Tormenta – El Manto de la Especie
Another good example of the fabulous South American Heavy Psych scene. Hijo de la Tormenta crafted 6 beautiful songs, with a lot of harmonies and sensitivity. To give you an idea, their sound can be similar to European bands like Rotor or Colour Haze, but they still have their own DNA. It’s quite difficult to talk about this album, so I’ll let your mind do the rest, smoke a big one and enjoy the trip !
12 : Brant Bjork – Tao Of The Devil
The Papa of Desert Rock was back in 2016 with a new album in the same vein as his previous one Black Power Flower, but still with a few differences. It’s without a doubt that Brant Bjork is the icon of the “Desert Rock sound”, and of course he delivered again with “Tao Of The Devil“. His unique move-ya-ass groove is still here, the overall sound is certainly less on the heavy-side than the previous album and more on the raw/laid-back one, kinda back to his first albums. So yeah a subtle, but welcoming change ! Special mention for “Dave’s War” the longest song of the album, its jammy part is so damn coooooooool
11 : Red Lama – Dreams Are Free
This may be the album with the less fuzz in this top, but it totally deserves its place here. Red Lama is a Danish Psychedelic Rock and “Dreams Are Free” is their debut album, a quite impressing one for a first release ! Their music deeply touched me with its dramatic atmosphere, profound vocals, numerous layers of melodic sounds with the guitars and the keyboard. I also had the chance to see them in their hometown this summer for the Copenhagen Psych Fest, and whenever I listen to their album it brings back good memories of this particular Red Lama concert in a small theatre, this amazing festival in the middle of Christiania, that Danish capital with such an enjoyable atmosphere
10 : Lacertilia – We’re Already Inside Your Mind
Be warned fuzzers, with UK Lacertilia you’re about to experience a Stoner Rock Fury like you never heard ! The Temperature Level can be so high your speakers will throw lava out ! But don’t take me wrong, what we have here is something quite unique, a primal force lead by the rage in Matt Fry’s vocals and supported by some amazing fuzzy riffages and rhythms by the rest of the band. The dementia is even more expanded by the numerous trippy guitar effects, the acid is starting to flow into your veins… Oops too late ! Lacertilia is already inside your mind, determined to take over the control
9 : Geezer – Selftitled
Here is something refreshing in the Fuzzy scene. The Kingston, NY trio lead by the charismatic Pat Harrington on the vocals & guitar (also host on the Electric Beard Of Doom radio show) already released some great stuff in the past (a debut album, a live and an EP). But it seems this last one is really the most polished of all, thus maybe the choice to name it as a selftitled album, a way to state “THIS is Geezer”.
“Cosmic Stoner Blues” as they say, I think this qualifies perfectly their sound. A bluesy groove is indeed a common theme in most of their tunes, to go even further I’d say it’s also mixed with a Josh Homme’s Robot/Desert Rock attitude. There is also a raw edge in Geezer’s music, particularly with this delicious nasty fuzz tone. Add to that a huge attraction to long psychedelic jams with killer solos, often reminding me Wo Fat or even more the Polish band Weedpecker. Pat also has that very particular smokey, whiskey-soaked voice which goes along perfectly with their style. An album with a lot of influences and variety, Geezer directly put themselves among the best bands in the scene with this release.
8 : Wo Fat – Midnight Comet
Since I started doing top albums on More Fuzz in 2014, Wo Fat always had a place in it. So yeah, once again in 2016, the Texan Rockers brought another huge piece of Fuzz in the face with “Midnight Comet”. One might say “it’s always the same thing”. Well, I do agree. But Wo Fat is Wo Fat and they forged their own sound that no other band can compete with them. They’re just in their own world of Heaviness and every time they release something it’s just pure gold. Well at least it is for me, so that’s why Wo Fat is in my top again this year
7 : 1000mods – Repeated Exposure To…
Aaaaah the return of the Greek Stoner Rock Kings ! I had high expectations on this one as they’re simply one of my favourite band and their previous effort (Vultures, 2014) was not that exceptional… And let me be honest, we’re still not at the level of their debut album “Super Van Vacation”, but I think it never will be (at least for me), whatever they release in the future. It’s just one of those “emotional album”, one of the first that made me into Stoner Rock.
But let’s try to be objective and tell you why this is still one of the best Stoner Rock albums of 2016. First, there is this relentless energy, that kind of invisible force that pushes you to headbang instantly in each of these 8 tunes. Then 1000mods are masters when it comes to creating those epic song progressions that put a smile on your face. For example, those uber-heavy riffs that come just after a calmer moment, obliviously you know they’ll come, like a punch in the face that is so enjoyable you’re asking for more ! And last but not least, you know it, yes you do : THE FUUUUUUZZZZZ ! It’s massive, it smashes your head, and yes repeated exposure to 1000mods is warmly recommended
6 : Causa Sui – Return To Sky
Aaaahhhh it’s always a good news when the Danish Heavy Psych masters return… to sky that time Indeed, I think everyone can agree that it’s difficult to dislike this band, at least if you’re into Psych stuff, you can’t deny it. Each of their songs is an experience on its own. If you really focus on the music only and close your eyes, you’ll even be able to feel a dozen of emotions, to imagine epic stories in your mind, narrated by the numerous changes in mood and layers of their songwriting. So yeah, nothing much more to say about this new masterpiece by Causa Sui, enjoy the ride, go fly in the sky, go fight with terrifying monsters (and beat them)…
PS : Oh and a sweet joint is warmly recommended
5 : Mos Generator – Abyssinia
Are you trying to define “Heavy Rock” ? I have your answer : “Mos Generator”. Since 2000, Tony Reed, the main mastermind behind Mos Generator is blasting his furious Rock’n’Roll to our ears. Abyssinia is their 6th album and as always, it’s non-stop demonstration of talent, an inevitable groove, a huge dose of heavy riffs and guitar licks that would surprise Mr. Iommi ! So wear your favourite leather jacket, do the typical nodding-your-head-with-semi-closed-eyes-and-duckfacing, raise high your sign of the horns, and rock the hell out with Mos Generator !
4 : Nap – Villa
Wow this album completely got me by surprise, it was an instant love ! This is the Heavy-Psych gem of 2016 ! Mostly instrumental, go on your way if this is not your thing. But on the contrary, if you’re into carefully crafted melodies melted with the right dose of heaviness Nap is for you They also have a distinctive element in their sound which is so welcoming and which fits perfectly to the Heavy-Psych genre : a totally accepted Surf vibe ! Yeah with vibrato and all ! Damn this is good, let’s go surfing high in the clouds !
3 : Filthy Lucre – Mara
This one came out at the end of January, and I’m not lying when I tell you this was my most played album during at least the next 3 months (and still occasionally nowadays). Filthy Lucre is an Aussie duo with a strong fuzz addiction, so without any doubt it was a perfect match with me They also completely understood the power of a guitar-drums duo, those questions-answers between the 2 instruments and/or the vocals, that’s where the groove births ! Besides fuzz, their second crush is about the Blues. Well a dirty blues, but it’s there. Also a special mention for the production, the sound is so huge it’s amazing ! So blast this beast at maximum volume, you won’t regret it (your neighbors on the other hand…).
2 : Wight – Love Is Not Only What You Know
From the first few notes of “Helicopter Mama”, the first track of this album, you know Wight is different from the usual Fuzzy bands you hear everyday. Indeed, it’s starting with a killer funky groove and some percussions, then the vocals kick in a beautiful 70’s style ala Leaf Hound, outch I’m going to love this.
The rest of the album is just a wonderful fusion of 70’s Southern Rock vibes, modern Heavy Psych jams, and way too good funky/tribal grooves. But I’m most of all impressed by the musicianship of each of those musicians. The rhythmic section drives so well the whole band, and I’m sure you’ll be mind-blown by those bass lines René Hofmann, the guitarist, keyboardist & vocalist is just as much an amazing musician. A wah-wah addict, delivering furious melodic solos without missing a note, as a guitarist myself, I’m just in awe and can only applause…
If this album would have been released in the golden years of the 70’s, I’m sure it would have sit at the top of the charts and Wight would be playing Madison Square Garden for Christmas. Well they’re 2nd on my list, that’s still cool BRAVO !
1 : Elephant Tree – Selftitled
I hope this one will be featured in a lot of top among my peers because Elephant Tree truly deserves it. And no, it’s not because Jack Townley the guitarist is part of the More Fuzz team and now a good friend, that I placed him & his nice mates at the very top of my favourite albums of 2016. This release is just a majestic piece of Heaviness full of emotions. And without any doubt, it’s the album I’ve the most listened to this year since it came out in April with Magnetic Eye Records.
Let’s first talk about the vocals in this album, because I think this is something often forgotten in our scene. To be clear a lot of bands in the Fuzzy scene don’t put much effort on the vocals, or just copy what has already been done a thousand times. But even if our music is still very much centred around the instruments’ sounds (I am myself a huge instrumental aficionado), carefully crafted vocals melodies will ALWAYS make a huge difference, in ANY music genre. And here, Elephant Tree understood that.
First, the distant, airy type of vocals they chose to use totally make sense with their huge sound. Like Julien Pras from Mars Red Sky, I think those kinds of clear, epic high-pitched vocals combined with massive heaviness is a very interesting sound opposition to make, balancing the whole thing wonderfully.
Then if you listen carefully to the vocals, you’ll be able to hear Jack & Pete singing together from time to time. If you listen even more carefully, they also sing amazing harmonies, each one singing on a different tonality. This particular vocal trick put so much more depth to the music, and you can clearly tell this wasn’t done by mistake
Finally, the vocals’ melodies are perfect and full of sensitivity. They just stick to your head so easily. For example take “Circles“, the acoustic song on the album, it became my favourite song of the year. Why ? Well, because it’s beautiful, and most of it is thanks to those vocals, from the chorus’ harmonies to the “Earth open up and kiss me with stone” melody… Wow.
Now let’s talk about the meaty part : the HEAVINESS. I have 2 expressions I often use with my friends when describing a band to them, the first one is kinda used everywhere and now part of our regular language (and sometimes maybe overused…), it’s “FAT” : “ce groupe est trop FAAATTT !“, I think you know what I mean
But there is a 2nd one that I use less often, certainly because it is stronger than “FAT” and I tend to only use it for really mindblowing heaviness, it’s “BOARF“. Yeah, BOARF. For example during a gig with my mate Mr. Stone, if the band is really heavy and I’m liking it a lot, I often turn to him and just say a big “BOOOOOARRRRFFFF”. The typical gesture that accompany this onomatopoeia is my hand opening up in front of my mouth.
Yes I’m going into details, and you might think I’m crazy, but I don’t care. This explanation was just to make you understand how “BOOOOOOOOOOOOOARRRRRRRRFFFFFFFFFF” Elephant Tree is Take the song “Aphotic Blues“, and don’t tell me the part coming after that long fuzzy noise isn’t uber-massive ! This is how your brain will feel :
So yeah, Elephant Tree amazed me with their new album. A beautiful demonstration of talent mixing a Stoner-Doom heaviness with a stunning vocals work you rarely see in our scene. I just wish one thing for the next album : more epic guitar solos Also so psyched to finally see them live in February, I’m sure a lot of “BOARF” will be told there. BOARF.
Honourable Mentions by Atmosphere Levels
As you may know, More Fuzz now created its own label : More Fuzz Records. We have 2 release so far, and as I didn’t want to cheat and favor them in my main Top, I still think it is “ok” to mention them here. Of course if I chose to sign them, that means I love what they do, and they would have had both a top spot in this list
So please have a listen to Brazilian Augustine Azul and their unique blend of instrumental fuzziness, insane grooves & proggish/bluesy vibes ! And if you’re more into classic Stoner Rock riffage with a lot of fuzz, you better check Norwegian Leafy out !
By Fat Level
Slow Green Thing – II
Truckfighters – V
Powder For Pigeons – Circus Kinda Time
Grotto – Smokonomicon
King Hiss – Mastosaurus
Vokonis – Olde One Ascending
By Purple Haze Level
Mars Red Sky – Apex III
Monomyth – Exo
Cambrian Explosion – The Moon EP
King Buffalo – Orion
Monkey3 – Astra Symmetry
Lee Van Cleef – Holy Smoke
By Temperature Level
Crobot – Welcome To Fat City
Greenleaf – Rise Above The Meadow
Joy – Ride Along
Top Concerts of 2016
Rotor @ DesertFest London
Fu Manchu @ Hellfest, France
Mothership @ DesertFest London
Black Sabbath @ Hellfest, France
Sunn O))) @ Hellfest, France
Brant Bjork @ Divan du Monde, Paris
The Machine @ Yellowstock Festival, Belgium
Elder @ DesertFest London
Colour Haze @ DesertFest Antwerp, Belgium
Pentagram @ DesertFest Antwerp, Belgium
Yawning Man @ Reverence Valada Festival, Portugal
Nik Turner @ Reverence Valada Festival, Portugal
Papir & Dr. Space @ Reverence Valada Festival, Portugal
Red Lama @ Copenhagen Psych Fest, Denmark
The Shrine @ Freak Valley Festival, Siegen, Germany
Dopethrone @ Le Ferailleur, Nantes, France
and many many more, but I already listed too much of them…