Monday, 27 June 2022

LOREKEEPER ~ THE BEASTIARY


"Long ago in a land far far away" is probably how Desert Psychlist should start this review of an album that tells a tale of green wizards, evil doings and cursed books but we don't want you having sleepless nights so what we will do is pack the concept behind Minneapolis, Minnesota duo Lorekeeper's new album "The Beastiary" into just a few words, so here goes,,,, green wizard finds cursed book that leads him to a library filled with similar tomes, wizard becomes somewhat of a pariah and a vessel for the books dark intent and reaps havoc on the land and is thenceforth known as the "Green Lich". Of course there is a lot more to this tale than that but we'll let John Dowling (guitar/bass/vocals) and Jacob Fulton (drums) fill in the blanks via the medium of their words and music.


"The Beastiary" begins with "The Green Lich" a scene setting opus that explains the Green Wizard's rise to prominence against a backdrop of gnarly fuzzed out refrains and thunderous percussion narrated in clean powerful vocal tones sang with both clarity and passion. the song also adds a postscript as it winds its way to its finale with the singer telling us of a hero who intends to "track down the Lich with the magic he knows, and avenge the bloodshed the beast left in its wake" a line that nicely sets the scene for what is to follow. What follows is our heroes trials and tribulations as he journeys to confront his nemesis having to along the way overcome a swamp dwelling man eating creature ("Bog Monster"), seek the wisdom of a witch ("Oracle") and avoid a ghostly woodland spectre ("Banshee"), finally completing his quest in a battle to end all battles ("Lich's Bane"). Now with many conceptual type albums there is an element of leaving much to interpretation and a propensity for going off on cerebral tangents, things that can often leave the listener confused and a little bewildered, but this is not the case with "The Beastiary". Lorekeeper lay out "The Beastiary" like a good fantasy novel, they don't deviate, ramble or meander they tell their tale in straightforward prose as if they were reading a bedtime story to a child, each song a chapter in the story and each chapter slowly leading you towards the final reckoning you have been eagerly anticipating from the stories outset .It may be a simplistic approach but it is one that works well especially when combined with the exceptionally gnarly soundtrack of gritty stoner metal refrains and pummelling doomic rhythms this duo have chosen to decorate these lyrical tales of fantasy and wonder with.


Tales of swords and sorcery combined with crunching metallic power chords and thunderous percussion has always had an honoured place in rock music, let's face it Ronnie James Dio's built a whole career on such, however no one has quite put these elements together the way Lorekeeper have done with "The Beastiary", This is an album that tells a story from beginning to end without the need to deviate and it does it so well you could at times be fooled into believing you are listening to a narrated fantasy novel on a Kindle rather than a gnarly assed rock album put together by two fantasy obsessed rock musicians 
Check it out ..... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 23 June 2022

RED SUN ATACAMA ~ D A R W I N .... review

 


Three Frenchmen with an obsession with deserts might sound kind of weird and will sound even weirder when we mention that the desert these Frenchmen have their biggest obsession with is situated thousands of miles from their Gaelic homeland. The three Frenchmen in question are Clément Márquez (bass/vocals); Robin Caillon (drums/percussions) and Vincent Hospital (guitar) who together make up the desert/stoner combo Red Sun Atacama and the desert that is the object of their obsession lies beneath the slopes of the South American Andes and bears the last part of the bands name. Quite why the band are so intrigued by this particular part of the world Desert Psychlist doesn't know and hasn't asked them but if it inspires grooves as exiting and as ass-kicking as the ones the inhabit the bands latest album "D A R W I N" then let's hope their obsession with all things Andean never ever ends.

Much like they did with their previous release "Licancabar" Red Sun Atacama kick off their latest album with something in keeping with their love of all things South American, this time out its a flamenco style guitar duet, under layered with the sounds of desert winds, going by the name of "11-CH". That out of the way we get down to the real meat and potatoes (or should that be rice and beans) of what this band are all about and what they are all about is jamming desert/stoner rock of the type that used to grace the generator parties of Palm Desert, California. and there is no better example of this than next track "Furies". Never has a song been better named than this furious slice of sand blasted aggressiveness, it is a song that explodes into life with punkish ferocity a ferocity reflected both in the delivery of its vocals and the tones of its guitars however ferocity and aggression are only part of the story as the song then shifts, via a some very doom-ic style refrains, into a face melting lysergic laced heavy psych jam replete with screaming guitar solos low grumbling bass motifs and some of the best rock drumming you are likely to hear outside of a Led Zeppelin album. The mood changes for next track "Antares" to languid  and lysergic but only momentarily with Hospital's sharded guitar textures and Márquez's liquid bass runs soon making way for crunching chord progressions, scorching solos and growling bottom end set against a thunderous percussive backbeat from Caillon, Márquez decorating the ensuing onslaught with his customary high pitched wail. The band then suddenly apply the brakes and slide back into the psych drenched groove they used to kick things off with only to then explode once again and finish the song in a wave of strident raucousness. The raucousness that closed the previous track carries on into following track "Echoes" but this time has an element of old school hard rock about it, albeit blended with a little heavy psych Hospital throwing some tried and trusted bluesiness into his guitar parts while Caillon and Márquez lay down a strident and frankly quite manic rhythmic groove behind him. "Revvelator" is an in your face force of nature that hits hard and only stops hitting to allow Hospital the space to insert some tasty acid flavoured lead work into the mix while for final track "Ribbons" the band go all proto-doom on our asses and channel a little Sabbathian gallop into proceedings, well that is up until the half way mark when a scorching Hospital solo signals a sudden shift into  more cosmic territory that in turn makes way for acoustic guitars being strummed over the sound of waves breaking on a beach. 


Exhilarating from start to finish with numerous twists and turns along the way to ensure maximum interest "D A R W I N" is the type of album best of year lists were invented for, with "Licancabar" the band raised the bar high, with "D A R W I N" the band have elevated that bar to an altitude that is almost Andean.
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 22 June 2022

SMOKE THE LIGHT ~ EGO DEATH ...... review


New York's Smoke The Light are a four piece heavy psych/sludge/doom combo who after starting their individual journeys playing raucous punk rock in bands with names like The Rebel Dead, Seer, Six Kills and Taking Back Sunday decided they wanted to try their hand at something that was a little bit darker and a touch heavier. The Long Island quartet, consisting of Jarett Slionski (rhythm guitar/vocals); Paul Komsic (bass/backing vox); Jerzy Kurjanski (lead guitar) and Steve DeJoseph (drums), tell us their intentions are to "play loud catchy music pulling inspiration from bands like Queens of the Stone Age, Elder and High on Fire".

The band have just recently released their debut EP "Ego Death" a riff heavy ass-kicking collection of songs that'll leave you battered, bruised, blown away and highly entertained.

Given the bands punk rock backgrounds and their intentions to hit the doom-ic road it might come as a surprise to find the band opening their debut release with "Intro/We Are Not Alone" an experimental piece that leans more towards the avant-garde than it does the low. slow and sludgy, its mixture of throbbing bass and industrial noise making for an interesting listen if a somewhat unsettling one. Things return to some semblance of normality with next track "InHell" its grainy heavily distorted bass and guitar refrains are driven by pounding percussion and decorated in wah pedal drenched lead work, a combination that gives the song a sludge-like dynamic but a dynamic not reflected in its vocals which retain a little of the punkish snarl that was part of each the members pasts. Smoke The Light really get to show their doom credentials on next track "Wizards" its slow to mid-tempo groove boasts some seriously fuzzed out riffs and is fronted by some really impressive vocals which are crooned clean and mellow on the songs verses transitioning to a feral scream on its chorus and if that wasn't enough there is also a nicely paced Iommi-esque guitar solo to look forward to. "The Heroic Dose" is next and here we find our heroes jamming a galloping groove that sits somewhere between stoner rock and old school heavy metal and is furnished with clever ear catching guitar motifs and an easy to singalong to hook laden vocal melody. "Detached" follows and is a song that starts out raucous with bluesy undertones and then explodes into a desert/stoner groove interspersed with some clever musical twists and turns something that is mimicked in its vocals which are roared and raw for the most part but then revert to mellow doom-ic mantra as the song reaches its conclusion.  Last song and title track "Ego Death" is a song that employs everything from galloping Sabbath-esque riffs to stuttering sludge like crunching chord progressions, it also features this EP's best vocal performance, heavy, riff fuelled and strident the song stands as a fitting finale to what has been a very good and highly enjoyable listen from a band Desert Psychlist is sure we will hear much more from in the future


Smoke The Light's "Ego Death" is a debut release and as such it is a little naïve and untamed in places but that is not a criticism that should put you off giving this a spin or laying down a few dollars/pounds on their Bandcamp page to add this to your collection. "Ego Death" is a solid highly enjoyable release from a band who if they continue on this trajectory will become one of those bands, much like those bands they wish to emulate, whose albums/EP's are pre-ordered unheard long before their release dates.
Check 'em out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Monday, 20 June 2022

OREYEON ~ EQUATIONS FOR THE USELESS ..... review

 

Italy's Oreyeon have been on an upward trajectory ever since releasing their debut album "Builders of Cosmos" (released in 2016 under their original name of Orion) a collection of songs that mixed elements of spaced out heavy psych with elements of riff heavy doom and sludgy stoner metal. The band followed up their debut with "Ode To Oblivion" (2019) an album that saw a name change but was still very much in the same musical ball park as its predecessor only this time boasting a much more polished production and a far more mature approach to arrangement and song structure. This year La Spezia's favourite sons, Richard Silvaggio (bass/vocals); Andrea Ricci (guitar); Matteo Signanini (guitar) and Pietro Virgilio (drums), return with their third album ""Equations for the Useless" (Heavy Psych Sounds Records) and we at Desert Psychlist think its their best to date.


A droning effect that swells and swoops back and forth across the speakers introduces first track "It Was Time" accompanied by a crunching chord progression which is then joined by the drums, bass and second guitar in a thrumming doom-ic flavoured groove around which spacey prog-like guitar textures routinely drift in and out of. Almost as if in defiance of the heaviness that surrounds them the songs vocals bear a mellow clean  dynamic and sit partly buried in the mix a trick that adds much to the songs overall sonic impact and at times gives things an almost ethereal vibe. "Pazuzu" finds Silvaggio's vocals pushed a little further forward in the mix and possessing a touch of goth rock-like gravity in their execution, musically this song remains very much in the canon of doom but has so much more going on within it that to just tag it as doom would be doing the song a gross disservice. With title track "Equations for the Useless" Oreyeon lay down a musical milestone that marks just how far this band have come since their 2014 formation, the song begins in a wash of psychedelic textures and colours, similar in flavour to those Pink Floyd experimented with on their iconic psych masterpiece "Echoes", Silvaggio laying down a deep low bass line over which Ricci and Signanini layer all manor of superbly effective guitar trickery before the song suddenly erupts into a whirlwind of doom-ic heaviness and vocal majesty pushed hard by Virgilio's Bonham-esque drumming. "If" follows and sees Ricci and Signanini trading off raucous and strident riffs anchored to the earth by Silvaggio's booming bass and Virgilio's thundering percussion, the band the band adding an element of diversity to the song by subtly shifting time signatures and altering tempos throughout is duration while "Downward Spirals" finds the band melding lilting vocal melodies over a tsunami of complex stoner metal bluster tinted with elements of eloquently textured post-rock. The band close proceedings with "The Protocol" a strident and pummelling blend of prog metal and stoner rock/metal fuzziness which, like the albums opener, benefits from having Silvaggio's vocals set a little back in the mix and thus allowing the sheer forcefulness and power of the songs groove to be the songs main focus.


If you google the word "evolution" online one of the definitions you will come across is "the gradual development of something", that something in Oreyeon's case is their music. Oreyeon's first album sounded a little unpolished, untamed and a little raw but they had "something", it was a "something" you couldn't quite put your finger but it was there nonetheless. The bands next album saw that "something" growing in substance and showing glimpses of its full potential. Now with "Equations For The Useless" that "something" has become a fully fledged SOMETHING and its a SOMETHING you need to hear.
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 14 June 2022

SWARM ~ SWARM ....... review

 

It is not often Desert Psychlist gets to use the term "warm" in a review but it is a word that is unavoidable when describing the music of Helsinki based Finnish quintet SWARM, in fact you could go further and say that the music these five musicians create together possesses an iridescent glow that hangs in the air long after their music has faded into silence. The band, Hilja Vedenpää (vocals); Panu Willman (guitar/vocals); Dani Paajanen (drums); Einari Toiviainen (guitar) and Leo Lehtonen (bass), jam a groove some are referring to as "heavygaze", a heady blend of ethereal folkiness and languid grunginess spliced together with elements of dank doom and occult(ish) rock that is not exactly what you would call heavy but nevertheless carries its fair share of weightiness. 
The band have just recently released their debut album "Swarm" a collection of four sultry tomes warm enough to take the chill off even the coldest of nights.

Opening song "Nevermore" begins its journey with a circular guitar motif revolving over reverberating single bass notes and lightly applied percussion then is joined by Vedenpää's mellow vocal tones, her voice clear, clean and note perfect, telling us that she doesn't want to be by herself, is aided and abetted on the songs harmonies by the voice of guitarist Willman, their voices intertwining  and complimenting each other to perfection . Musically the song has its heavier moments but its crunching riffs and soaring solos are cleverly offset by moments of languid tranquillity and mellow reflection something that allows the song a much greater flow and gives it a nice even balance. "There Again" follows and finds SWARM initially kicking out the jams with a raucous doom tinted bass and guitar refrain overlaid with soaring lead guitar but then drops down into a gentle lament with the vocals a mix of mellow lead and luscious harmonies. For "Frail" the band go (semi) acoustic with the vocals taking on a folk-like flavour, the only electricity allowed being a drone like effect that thrums and grumbles in around the vocal interplay and a brief but precious burst of lead guitar. The band finish with "We Should Know" a song that builds from humble beginnings, Vedenpää warbling serenely over a folk-rock flavoured musical backdrop, then slowly builds in intensity and volume until finally bowing out on a wave of low slow doom-ic riffage interspersed with Edge (U2) like lead guitar colouring.


SWARM deliver, with their debut, both weight and warmth, the sound they create together is an intriguing blend of riff orientated metal and ethereal folk-rock that is as likely to have you throwing devil's horns in the air as it is to have you weaving daisy chains under a a turquoise sky.. 
Check 'em out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Monday, 13 June 2022

INDUS VALLEY KINGS ~ ORIGIN ..... review


New York's Indus Valley Kings raised the bar pretty high for themselves with the release of their self titled debut "Indus Valley Kings", the albums mix of grungy bluesiness and fuzzy desert grooviness, overlaid with a mix of clean and harmonized vocal tones, made for an impressive musical statement especially when those elements were combined with the bands predilection for filling their songs with constant shifts in both both direction and dynamic . The trio, consisting of Billy Fridrich (lead and rhythm guitars, vocals); Jonathan Lesley Habers (bass, vocals) and Dan Lofaro (drums), return this year with a new album, "Origin", an album that possess all the attributes that made their debut such a pleasurable listen but this time with a little edgy darkness and experimentation dialled in.

Opening track "Clown" explodes out of the blocks on a wave of thrash-like guitar riffage then just as quickly settles down into a low slung stoner groove over which clean harmonized vocals tell of "searching for the perfect" and "breaking skulls at the seams", the songs groove then shifting up a notch or two to accommodate the songs catchy chorus before shifting back into stoner mode for the verse, the song routinely revisiting these three differing dynamics over its duration only deviating to include a brief but totally face melting guitar solo. "...And The Dead Shall Rise" finds IVK waxing lyrical on the approach of an impending zombie apocalypse over a backdrop of chugging proto-doom that includes an up-tempo Sabbathian flavoured middle section replete with Iommi-esque guitar colouring while next track "A Cold Wind" mixes doom with a little grunge and jazzy psych to create a tasty cocktail of groove that will leave listeners both shaken and stirred. "Hell To Pay" sees bassist Habers taking over lead vocal duties while also bringing some four string funkiness to the table, his soulful but slightly fragile tones contrasting nicely with Fridrich's fuzzy guitar tones to give the song a very pleasing late 60's undercurrent. "Dark Side Of The Sun" follows and jams a groove nestled somewhere between doom and heavy psych but that does not quite fully commit to either and is all the better because of that. IVK opt to go instrumental for next track "Mohenjo Daro" a doom-psych tour-de-force that is in turns both heavy and languid and allows Fridrich's the space and freedom to showcase his considerable talents on six-strings. "Demon Beast" is a weird but totally compelling hybrid of indie-rock, grunge, punk rock, blues and doom that feels like it was cut and pasted together from various musical ideas the band couldn't find a home for elsewhere but then discovered worked together perfectly as a stand alone song. "Drowned" begins with strident urgency, Lofaro's furious and powerful drumming driving the song along at a tempo that sits somewhere between punkish and thrash-like while Habers and Fridrich combine to lay down complimentary bass and guitar refrains as well as melodic vocals over those rhythms. At the core of this song beats a chaotic heart, the songs mid-section being a schizophrenic mix of screaming discordant guitar solos, rumbling bass riffs and ever changing rhythmic patterns that have no real right to be existing together in the same song but nevertheless do. Elements of chaos that infected the previous song roll on into final song "Sky King" only the band keep a firmer hand on the tiller this time around and manage to just about steer their musical ship into waters a little more traditional and straightforward, the band jamming a galloping desert/stoner groove flecked with traces of doom and psych boasting an ear catching melody and scorching lead guitar work.


Desert Psychlist suspects that there will be some who may be turned off by IVK's diversity and off kilter approach to their music but what may turn some off them will also endear others to their cause. You cannot pin a convenient label on a band like IVK, they are a band who like to defy convention and rules, a band who will  constantly shift the focus of a song away from its starting point to take it somewhere else entirely, bringing it back only to once again go off on another unexpected tangent, maybe they should of  just called the album "ORIGINAL".
Check 'em out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Friday, 10 June 2022

SERGEANT THUNDERHOOF ~ THIS SCEPTRED VEIL ....... review


Bath, UK's Sergeant Thunderhoof have always been so much more than just another of those riff fixated stoner bands, this became obvious with the release of the bands first album "Zigurat", a stunning debut that showcased a band who had all the riffs you could possibly ask for but also knew how to pen those riffs into well crafted song structures that had defined beginnings, middles and ends. The Hoof, as they are affectionately known, followed up their debut with the aptly named "Ride of the Hoof" an album that saw them not only widening their audience at home but also internationally, it was however with the release of the bands third album "Terra Solus" in 2018 that things really started to gel for the band with even the mainstream rock press turning their attention in their direction, Classic Rock magazine giving the album an 8/10 rating and calling it "Barely tamed, extremely hallucinogenic and beautifully overloaded all round ". The band originally intended to follow up "Terra Solus" with a 2020 release but a worldwide pandemic put paid to those plans and a drastic rethink had to be undertaken, something which vocalist Dan Flitcroft has described as somewhat of a blessing in disguise as it enabled the band the time and space to write songs that were of a much more reflective and personal nature and a better representation of where the bands were currently at musically. Those songs have now been released under the banner/title of "This Sceptred Veil" (Pale Wizard Records) and we at Desert Psychlist think its the bands best and most ambitious album to date.


There is a much more progressive rock element to the grooves Sergeant Thunderhoof present for our listening pleasure on "This Sceptred Veil" than on the bands previous outings and that progressive element is somewhat reflected in the albums artwork, Sara-Jane Swettenham's painting of twisted vines rooted to a clump of earth suspended on a plain green background is somewhat reminiscent of the work Roger Dean used to grace the albums of prog giants YES back in the 70's, whether this is intentional or not Desert Psychlist does not know but it does seem a little more than coincidental. Do not however fear that what you are about to hear are complex keyboard heavy odes to Siberian Khatru's  dwelling in Topographical Oceans.as The Hoof's take on prog is a lot more subtle and is never too far away from a heavy killer fuzzed out guitar refrain. "This Sceptred Veil" does have one thing in common with 70's prog though and that something is a concept with each of the albums nine songs being inspired by the folklore. myths and legends surrounding the bands West Country home turf. 
"You've Stolen The Words" kicks things off in heavy style with guitarist Mark Sayer and bassist Jim Camp combining on an old school flavoured stoner riff driven by some solid tight drumming from Darren Ashman over which Dan Flitcroft delivers a pitch perfect clean vocal edged with unexpected moments of harshness. "Devil's Daughter" follows, its galloping gait, routinely interspersed with Thin Lizzy-like  ascending/descending guitar motifs, is pure ear candy for those out there who like their rock delivered strident and riff heavy. You might be wondering at this point when those prog-rock elements, spoke of earlier, will make an appearance and The Hoof answer that question with "Absolute Blue" a smoky mix of crunching chord progressions and prog flavoured guitar textures around which Flitcroft delivers a clean pristine vocal that tells a balanced tale of remembrance and regret. "Foreigner", "Woman Call", "King Beyond The Gate" and "Show Don't Tell" all follow much the same pattern with each boasting a hard rock/stoner core but with the band surrounding that core with elements of heavy psych, post rock, classic rock and prog so as to add colour and texture and vary each songs dynamic. The album finishes with  "Avon & Avalon Pt.1" and "Avon & Avalon Pt.2" which is essentially one epic song split into two movements inspired by the bands West Country home and the Arthurian and Celtic myths that have shaped its history and culture. Both parts lean towards the prog/psych end of the rock spectrum but both also possess just the merest hint of doom-ic darkness in their makeup, it is these hints of darkness that adds to each song/parts atmospherics and emotional gravitas and take both songs/parts to an all other level of listening enjoyment.


Sergeant Thunderhoof are probably never going fly to gigs in their own charted plane or live in huge mansions decorated in questionable taste, those days are long gone, these days bands have to subsidise their rock'n'roll lifestyles by having proper jobs which makes it even more astonishing that despite having to take kids to school, worrying about paying bills and generally trying to survive from day to day a band like The Hoof are still able to make albums as powerful, majestic and essential as "This Sceptred Veil"
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones