Tuesday, 4 October 2022

BAARDVADER ~ FOOLISH FIRES .... review

 


Grunge. or alt-rock as some prefer to call it, exploded onto the music scene in the early 90's and was more or less spent as a major musical force by the end of the decade, however, in its short life span grunge managed to wreak its fair share of havoc on the music business. Glam/hair metal was wiped out as a credible musical force almost overnight and thrash metal was never ever quite the same after grunge hit. One rock sub-genre that wasn't quite so damaged by grunge's emergence was the desert/stoner rock scene, in fact it actually benefited from its rise with many, so called, "stoner" bands incorporating elements of grunge and alt-rock into their own sounds, something that brings us nicely around to the subject of this review.

Netherlands trio Baardvader, J.Aron (guitar/vocals); J.P. (bass) and Koen (drums), were formed in early 2019 and the following year released their self-titled album "Baardvader", a stunning collection of tunes that mixed the slurred grungy dynamics of bands like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden with the fuzzed out riffage and stonerized swagger of combos like Graveyard and Kamchatka. This year the band return with their second album "Foolish Fires" sounding even more slurred and fuzzed out than ever.

A myriad of effects and sampled noises introduces first track "Pray" followed by the band exploding into a groove that is at first doomic and dank but then with just the slightest shift morphs into an Alice In Chains - like groove, slurred bass and guitar riffs and double tracked vocals holding sway over a backdrop of powerful solid and tight percussion. "Understand" follows and has, in its initial stages, a somewhat more Nirvana-esque quiet/loud/quiet dynamic than its predecessor but then gets a touch more stonerized and metallic as it nears its close with its vocal neatly following suite. "Illuminate" is up next and is a song that uses every trick in the grunge/alt-rock handbook, undulating dynamics, Staley/Cantrell/Cobain-like vocal phrasing and low-slung slurred guitar refrains, yet even with these in place still comes out sounding sludgier and heavier than anything that was coming out of Seattle back in the day. "Blinded Out" finds Baardvader flexing their psychedelic muscles with a song that utilizes everything from Hawkwind-esque swirls to exotic flavoured motifs, ideas they expand upon further with the excellent spaced out and ever so slightly doomic "Prolong Eternity". Baardvader close out their second album with "Echoes" a spitting snarling ten minutes plus beast of a song that chugs and gallops in equal measure and leans, at times, towards a more extreme metal sound while still managing to hold on to its grunge/alt-rock credentials thanks to a superb Cantrell/Staley flavoured vocal melody, it's impressive stuff and a fitting end to an album that started on a high and then just kept on climbing.


One of the worst aspects of the whole grunge/alt-rock movement were the copycat bands and bandwagon jumpers, like Creed and Nickelback, bands who didn't quite grasp alt-rock/grunge's unique aesthetics and mixed elements of its sound with their own, fairly generic and stale, hard rock grooves to reach a wider audience and a achieve a short cut to success. This is not a criticism that can be levelled at Baardvader, there is an authentic feel to Baardvader's grungy/alt-rock grooves on "Foolish Fires" that is not copy and pasted, these guys understand the music and understand how it should be played but at the same time are not limited by it. By blending grunge/alt-rock's dark, somewhat downbeat and grimy, aesthetics with the heavier and fuzzier dynamics of sludge and stoner rock and then further muddying the waters by decorating that combination in lyrical content that is fairly doomic in its nature Baardvader have taken grunge/alt-rock into territories it was always meant to move into and in turn have revitalised the music for a whole new generation of fans unafraid to pair a plaid shirt with a sloppy sweater.
Check 'em out ,,,, 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Friday, 30 September 2022

NOISE RIVER ~ NOISE RIVER EP .... review


Desert Psychlist does not need to once again go over the importance of the Polish underground and its impact on the global scene as the seemingly unending number of bands coming out of Poland more or less tells its own story. Today we just want to point you in the direction of one Polish band in particular, a band from Wroclaw going by the name of Noise River, Jacek Węgrzyn (vocals/guitar), Filip Małż (drums), Dominik Nowak (bass) and Łukasz Ostrowski (guitar). Desert Psychlist was steered towards Noise River by Doomed & Stoned/Doom Charts contributor Mel Lie who will often subtitle her recommendations as a "nice thingy", well Mel couldn't have been more on the money in regard to Noise River's debut EP it is one of the nicest thingy's Desert Psychlist has heard in a while.

The blues lies at the root of much of what Noise River bring to the table, but do not go expecting anything remotely traditional or straightforward as what Noise River serve up is a twisted and warped version of the genre spliced with elements of stoner rock, sludge, doom and space that is in turns heavy, trippy and at times quite brutal. The bands blend of lysergic cosmicness and heavy bluesy bluster is no better exemplified than on opening track "Lost In Universe" a mesmerising hotch-potch of hazy psychedelics, thundering percussion and crunching riffage decorated in slightly one-dimensional, but hugely effective and powerful, clean vocals that tell of "an eternal void", "gravity slaves" and the coming of "four horsemen". Next up is "S.O.R." a song that in its initial stages is a pummelling sludge/stoner metal riff-fest over which cool flowing vocal melodies and occasional bluesy guitar colourings hold sway, but is in its second stage a low slung doomic dirge decorated in sampled narration. "Heartless Voices" rears its head above the parapet next, a schizophrenic mix of hazy lysergic laced bluesiness and feral stoner metal that routinely swoops and soars back and forth between these two dynamics before finally signing out with the two-guitarist attempting to outdo each other in a battle of squealing, squawking six-string dissonance. Noise River save their best for last with "Shamanic Rites and Preacher's Lament" an enthralling, mostly instrumental, ten minute opus built around what is essentially a short lyrical prayer to higher forces. It is a song that is in parts ambient, in parts spiritual and in parts heavy and thunderous yet traverses these differing dynamics without feeling disjointed or like it was an amalgamation of song ideas forced together for convenience, a song that flows from one dynamic to another with consummate ease and no lack of musical competency and serves as a fitting finale to what is a highly enjoyable debut.


Desert Psychlist is going to cheat here and close this review out with the short blurb we knocked up for the bands Bandcamp page, not because we are being lazy but because we feel it says not only everything you need to know about Noise River but also everything about the Polish heavy underground scene.as a whole,
".Polish bands always seem to do things a little more "IER", their sludge seems sludg"IER", their doom tends to be doom"IER" and when it comes to heavy trippy blues well, they do it heav"IER", trip"IER" and blues"IER" as this excellent release from Poland's Noise River will attest to"
Check 'em out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 28 September 2022

BLOODSHOT ~ SINS OF THE FATHER ... review


If when you hear the word "Maryland" used in conjunction with other words like doom, metal and heavy and you do not start salivating then you probably have arrived at this review by accident and should probably leave right away. If, however, you are a devotee of all things dank, dark and thunderous and are of the understanding that, although metal and doom may have arguably come to prominence in the industrial heartlands of the UK's West Midlands, it is Maryland that is now considered by many to be the music's capital, then this review may well be of interest to you.
Bloodshot; ex War Injun member JB Matson (drums), former Earthride contributor Joe Ruthvin (bass), Tom Stacey (guitar) and Jared Winegardner (vocals) are based in Fredricks, Maryland and although the band possess many of the doomic traits of their fellow Maryland contemporaries they are also a band not averse to throwing into their musical compositions touches of punkish aggression and thrash-like speed as well as a little NOLA flavoured hardcore/groove metal mayhem, as you will no doubt find out for yourselves when checking out their debut "Sins of the Father" (Half Beast Records)


Matson introduces first track "Faded Natives" with three singular beats of his bass drum with a fourth beat signalling Stacey to enter with a galloping palm muted refrain ripped straight out of the thrash guitar for dummies handbook, Matson and Stacey are then joined by Ruthvin in a groove somewhat reminiscent of the bassist's tenure with the mighty Earthride, only maybe a touch more strident. Over this tsunami of thunderous gnarliness Winegardner delivers a vocal possessing all the requisite factors music of this ilk demands, guttural growls, bear-like roars and clean but gritty croons, yet through all these differing vocal dynamics still managing to maintain a surprising level of clarity. "Visions Of Yesterday" is next and finds Bloodshot flexing their punk rock muscles with short sharp stab of raucousness that finds Winegardner delivering his vocals a little cleaner than on the albums previous track and Matson laying down some incredibly busy and on point drumming. "Zero Humility" follows and here we find Bloodshot edging towards a more crossover sound, still as heavy as a truck load of rhinos but with touch more swing and swagger in both its vocal dynamics and musical attack. It's back to metallic bombast and bluster for next song "Uncivil War" a rant against global conflict, its opening line "millions of people, thousands of kids, countless murders, millions are spent” summing up in just a few words what some anti-war protesters have tried to get across in a thousand. "Beaten Into Rebellion" finds Motsan and Ruthvin laying down a stuttering stop-start groove over which Stacey layers crunching power chords and searing lead while Winegardner waxes lyrical of being forced into reactional behaviour by circumstances out of his control. "Worn & Thorn" is another slice of punkish raucousness played at thrash-like speed while "Inside The Outside" has an alt-rock/grunge feel courtesy of Stacey's slurring guitar refrains. Bloodshot dive even further down the grunge rabbit hole for next track "Sucking Chest Wound", with Matson and Ruthvin laying down a sedately paced groove over which Winegardner delivers a world weary toned vocal and which Stacey decorates with distortion drenched riffs and blues tinted solo's, the song only increasing in tempo as it nears its finale. Penultimate track "Fyre" has somewhat of a groove metal/hardcore feel underscored with touches of doom, a feel reflected in Winegardner's grittier, harsher vocal tones and the thrumming musical backdrops Stacey, Matson and Ruthvin frame those tones with. Title track "Sins Of The Father" closes proceedings and is for us, at Desert Psychlist,,the highlight of the album, it is a song that draws all the threads of Bloodshot's various influences and past associations together, aspects of Matson and Ruthvin's previous musical dalliances finding their way into the songs sonic makeup as well as those of Down, Crowbar and Corrosion of Conformity while vocally Winegardner channels a powerful gruff tone that sits somewhere between the gravelled coarseness of the sadly missed Dave "Sherm" Sherman and the bull like roar of Phil Anselmo, Stacey adding his two penneth worth to the mix with caustic chord tones and squealing harmonics.


Spirit Caravan, The Obsessed, Earthride. Hidden Hand, Iron Man, Internal Void. the list of iconic doom and metal bands birthed in Maryland just seems to go on and on and on but just like an IKEA extendable table there is always room for one more and Bloodshot have proven with "Sins Of The Father" they are a band worthy of sitting down with the best of 'em.
Check 'em out  .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 21 September 2022

KHYBERNAUT ~ EP .... review


Red Stoner Sun will be familiar to some reading this, the German trio released some absolutely stonking albums together, the band blending aspects of desert/stoner rock, inspired by the likes of Kyuss, Fu Manchu and Nebula, with elements of swirling space and psych to create a sound that was in parts raucous and riff heavy and in others experimental and heady. Unfortunately, Red Stoner Sun are currently on an extended hiatus but music, like life, finds a way and so from the remnants of Red Stoner Sun a new band has emerged.
Khybernaut are that new band and are made up of Eazy Butterfly (drums) and Hensen (bass) from Red Stoner Sun plus Dave aka Reverend Snow White on vocals and the less than exotically named Ben handling guitar duties. There is marked difference to the dynamics employed on this self-titled debut EP than those Eazy and Hensen explored before with Red Stoner Sun, a more progressive dynamic with a darker grittier edge, a dynamic made even more grittier and darker by the superbly executed vocals and thicker denser guitar tones the good Reverend and Ben bring to the party.


Desert Psychlist guesses many will label Khybernaut's music as being prog-metal, or at the very least "proggish", and fair enough it does have its fleeting moments of grandiosity and pomp but on the whole Khybernaut's sound is just a tad too gritty, doomy and raucous to be truly considered prog. Given that two of Khybernaut's members have spent time in a band known for blending desert flavoured rock with swirling spacious psych it is understandable that a certain level of grittiness is in evidence, but it is Ben's guitar tones and textures and Reverend Snow White's vocals that are the real deal breaker in this set up. Ben's riffs reverberate and thrum over and around Eazy and Hensen's superbly constructed rhythmic backdrops like thunderous black clouds and his solo's soar, swoop and squeal but rarely scream while Dave aka Reverend Snow White's superbly pitched clean baritone combines with his German accent to bring an almost gothic doominess to proceedings. There are no faults to be found in the levels of song writing and arrangement on display here either, "Relief", "Belief", the superbly atmospheric "Angel Must Fall" and the strident "Violet" all possess undulating dynamics that are constantly swelling and dissipating, each song flowing through its various changes with a stealth like subtlety that cleverly avoids the need for drastic musical leaps and sudden and unexpected left turns.


Labels and tags are a tool used by reviewers to give their readers an indication of what they might be listening to prior to hitting the play button when really, we should just be saying play this and make your own mind up but if a label HAD to be applied to Khybernaut's music, then we guess that proggish alt-doom served up with a side order of gothic desert grunge might just about cover it.
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 15 September 2022

WITCHSNAKE ~ WITCHSNAKE .... review

Desert Psychlist has spoken on these pages previously of our suspicions that bands hailing from the Italian acid doom/scuzzy metal scene are maybe somehow connected, that bands like Demonio, Sonic Demon and Black Spell may actually have evolved from a small pool of Italian musicians who routinely furnish us with vague information regarding their personnel etc. As we have already said this is just a suspicion, but that suspicion was once again ignited by the recent release of another slice of fuzzed out distortion drenched Electric Wizard worship flying under the banner of "Witchsnake" by a band of the same name. Witchsnake are a band who utilize not only a similar reliance on partly buried in the mix vocals, devastating distortion and furious fuzz as those bands mentioned earlier but also have a similar penchant for late 60's flavoured soft porn/horror movie artwork as well as that same vagueness regarding their individual identities. Desert Psychlist will probably never know for sure if our suspicions are founded but then again it doesn't really matter because be Witchsnake the creation of an Italian collective or a band in its own right their new album is a masterclass in doomic acid gnarliness.

Make sure you are holding on to something firmly planted in the earth when dropping the needle/ pushing play on opening song "Full Moon Wizardry" because the force this song comes out of the speakers at is something that can only be measured on a Richter scale, the levels of fuzz and distortion applied to the guitar tones here are of such a tangible quality that you don't just hear them you actually feel them. Add to this whirlwind of noise drumming that goes beyond thunderous and becomes a sound man has yet to find words for and its highly likely that if you didn't take our advice and hold on to something solidly fixed to the ground you will now be laying outside your place of abode looking back at the hole in your wall this song has just blown you through. If this is the case then please, for your own safety, do not re-enter your home, it will be safer to listen to the rest of this album from the relative security of where the opening song has just deposited you, especially as songs like "Weed of the Witch/Black Trip", "Hellrider 666" and "Green Serpent Rising" do not get any less gnarly, filthy or impactful and any movement towards those sounds could only endanger your life further. Are there vocals we hear you shout from your temporary shelter of rubble and stone, and our answer is yes there are vocals, but you will not be able to discern a damn word of them such is their placement in the mix, but worry ye not as this won't matter a jot as those vocals serve as just another layer of gnarliness to this maelstrom of sound that has blown both your mind and most of your home away.


Filthy fuzz, dirty distortion and pummelling, pounding percussion doubled up with sneery, barely audible vocals might sound like the stuff of nightmares for those with more conservative musical tastes but for those of us brought up suckling on the leathery tit of Electric Wizard, and bands of that ilk, Witchsnake's debut opus is manna from heaven, or should that be hell.
Check it out ...

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 14 September 2022

TRIPPELGÃNGER ~ THIRD TRIP ...... review

 


Trippelgänger, Nicklas Lind (guitar/vocals); Tobias Jacobsen (bass) and Christoffer F. Moland (drums/vocals), hail from Aalborg, Denmark and have, over the past year and a half, been steadily assailing our audial cavities with a series of EP releases which they dub as "trips" and today we are reviewing the third, and latest, in that series the appropriately titled "Third Trip".


First track out of the bag, "Virology", most definitely resides at the traditional end of the doom spectrum, its slow to mid-tempo groove is made up of ponderous, pummelling percussion, growling deep bottom end and low reverberating guitar riffs tinted with just the right amount of wah pedal colouring so as to not stray into "wakka wakka" funk territory. Vocals for this song are delivered dually by Lind and Moland singing in what could be described as harmony but as the word harmony is usually applied to something sweet and melodic and the vocals on this opus sounds more like something you might hear coming from the terraces of a football stadium situated in hell, we are not so sure. "Ride" follows and apart from its low, slow and lysergic middle section steamrolls along at an almost thrash like pace, probably more stoner than it is doom it's a song that hits hard and fast and will leave life changing injuries. "Third Trip" ends its tenure with "Doomsday Clock" a delicious mix of proto doom swagger and traditional doom atmospherics, its sinister intro of tolling bells and pouring rain slowly making way for a low guttural vocal telling us in an almost nursery rhyme meter that "When the ticking stops from the doomsday clock i'll be far from here" against a backdrop of dark guitar arpeggios slightly reminiscent of those gracing the first part of Heaven & Hell's "Bible Black". Much like Heaven & Hell did with their iconic opus Trippelgänger soon jettison those ringing arpeggios and replace them with crunching power chords, grumbling bass lines and thunderous percussion, the band hitting into a groove that is big, loud and deliciously doomic decorated in an ear-catching vocal melody that boasts an intriguing and frankly quite addictive singalong quality, it's a superb choice to bring their third EP to a close with.


Whether Trippelgänger intend releasing these "trips" as a full album later on down the line is not known but for now let's just enjoy what we have, and with "Third Trip" what we have is three tracks of delicious proto doom blended with more than its fair share of traditional doomic dankness.
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Monday, 12 September 2022

SPELLBOOK ~ DEADLY CHARMS .... review


There could be many reasons why a band might change their name, legal reasons, changes in musical direction or the simple fact that there are other bands out there sporting the same or a similar name. Desert Psychlist doesn't know the facts behind why Pennsylvania's formally named Witch Hazel changed their collective title to SpellBook, it could well be a combination of all three, but we suspect it might be that they just got a little peeved off with getting mistaken for Lancashire, UK combo Wytch Hazel, who, it has to be said, tread a similar "retro" path.
Whatever the reasons may be the fact is Witch Hazel are now SpellBook and the band's latest album "Deadly Charms" (Cruz del Sur Music), their second release under their new name, (the first being "Magic & Mischief") is as good if not better than anything they have done under their previous name.


A brief but charming synth/piano piece entitled "1928" opens proceedings, slowly swelling in volume and intensity before just as quickly fading away to be replaced by the thundering rhythms and ear catching guitar motifs of next track "Rehmeyer's Hollow". Now given that we have already mentioned that SpellBook's music tends to lean towards the retro(ish) end of the rock spectrum it is not surprising then to hear echoes of other bands in this song, its chugging proto-doomic groove and Celtic flavoured guitar motif's scream familiarity, add to this a vocal that sits somewhere between Sabbath's Ozzy Osbourne and Pagan Altar's Terry Jones and it's hard not to be taken back to bygone times. "Goddess" follows and reminds Desert Psychlist of one of those songs that back in the day would somehow buck all trends and find its way onto mainstream TV or radio, much like Black Sabbath did with "Paranoid", Iron Maiden did with "Running Free" and Saxon did with "Wheels of Steel", such is the addictiveness of its vocal melodies and the strength of its galloping groove. Up next is "Pandamonium" a song that finds SpellBook blending Sabbath-esque proto-doom with a little 80's NWOBHM and throwing in some old school 70's heavy rock into the cauldron just for the sheer hell of it. For "Her Spectral Armies" the band take a leaf out of Metallica's book by beginning and ending the song with a wordless female vocal, much in the same vein as the one Marianne Faithful famously supplied for "The Memory Remains", while in-between jamming a groove that undulates between torch-like balladry and strident metallic bluster. There is a touch of Ghost about next track "The Witch of Ridley Creek", in that it has a similar melodic swing to something that Papa Emeritus and his cohorts might attempt only with this song possessing a grittier and less theatrical dynamic. Title track "Deadly Charms" jams a mid-tempo groove decorated in scorching lead work and crunching guitar riffs anchored down by throbbing bass and solid punchy drumming over which the vocals soar and swoop with sneery nasal gravitas. "Night of the Doppelganger" begins off-kilter and doomic but then explodes into something not too far removed from being power metal, the band hitting into a strident groove only momentarily broken by the band going off-piste into unexpected and frankly quite weird waters before reverting back to their initial stridency to take the song to its close. "Out For Blood" closes the album and finds SpellBook waving goodbye with a song that is in total contrast to the occult rock swagger and proto doom-ic bluster that the band have assailed us with thus far, its jangly guitar textures and Beach Boy style vocal harmonies proving beyond a shadow of a doubt that if these guys ever wanted to take a more mainstream direction, they are more than capable of making that transition.


We have described SpellBook as being "retro" but this band are not just about recreating the past, there is much to be found within the nine songs that make up "Deadly Charms" that is fresh, contemporary and relevant to today's underground rock, metal and doom scene. Whether you like to get your rocks off listening to the grainy proto doom of early Black Sabbath or its Ghost's current stadium filling melodic occult rock that floats your boat SpellBook's "Deadly Charms" has something for you.
Check it out .... 

   

# SpellBook's "Deadly Charms" will be released on Cruz del Sur Music 30th September 2022

© 2022 Frazer Jones