Saturday, 30 May 2020

HIGHBERNATION ~ COMATOKES ...... review


"Reefer fueled stoner doom with a dash of sludge" is how Edmonton, Alberta's Highbernation describe their sound and after hearing their latest EP "Comatokes" its hard not to agree with them. The band, M.R (guitar/vocals); R.G (bass) and M.J (drums), jam grooves drenched in distortion and fuzz that recall the "weedian" outpourings of "Dopesmoker" era Sleep but with a touch more variety.


As we stated in our introduction piece fuzz and distortion play a huge part in Highbernation's overall sound and it these two effects, plus a generous helping of crashing cymbals and deftly beaten drum skins, that introduces "Comatokes", the first of  the EP's three songs. The songs dissonant intro slowly subsides into dark noise and is then replaced by a more "traditional" arrangement with R.G's rasping bass locking in with M.J's thunderous drums to lay down a thick glutinous platform of stoner doom groove over which M.R layers overdriven guitar parts drenched in grainy fuzz, the guitarist also providing the songs pleasingly throaty and equally grainy vocals. "The Black Sea of Trees" follows next with M.R waxing lyrical about holy men and reapers over a groove that shows why Highbernation are not your atypical stoner doom band, the trio mixing up their Sleep-like refrains with moments of angular psychedelics and spaced out sludge while never letting the dial slip beneath devastation levels. "Reverend Moon" closes out the EP all guns blazing, MJ a whrling dervish utilising every inch of her kit and R.G's bass booming and growling in unison with M.R's caustic guitar, on a groove that begins a little above mid-tempo but then descends into a low slow doomic workout with lysergic undercurrents.


With pedals dialled to corrosive, amps turned up to thirteen and beneath a virtual avalanche of percussion you might be fooled into thinking "Comatokes" is a little on the brutal side but there lies the beauty of this little three song EP because despite its undeniable heaviness and dark, dank intensity "Comatokes" is surprisingly accessible.
Check it out ….

© 2020 Frazer jones

Monday, 25 May 2020

ETHEREAL SEA ~ FORGOTTEN MEMORIES OF TOMORROW ..... review


It seems to Desert Psychlist that there is a musical shift ,within the underground scene, towards more complexity and intricacy, even in the brutal riff heavy world of sludge and stoner metal we have noticed far more musicality and a willingness to experiment. Of course this is the norm in any scene as musicians become far more adept on their instruments and their confidence in their own abilities grows but it seems that within the underground this trend has become far more noticeable and of course welcome.
Oregon's Ethereal Sea are one such band to have grasped on to this new shift in musical values the band's first album "A Universe Far From Ours", although a diverse and delightful collection of songs, relied heavily on its crunching riffs and powerhouse rhythms to make its point. Three years have passed since then and Ethereal Sea are back with a new album, "Forgotten Memories of Tomorrow" and although those riffs and rhythms are still in place listeners will notice, as one fan wrote on the bands Bandcamp page, "a leveling up of all the characters".


Desert Psychlist has often mentioned the old jazz term "swing" when reviewing music but what does that actually mean, and how does it apply to what Ethereal Sea bring to the table with their latest opus? "Swing" is not something you can define easily but it mainly relates to the accents and inflections musicians put into their music to give it impetus, flow and feel, if someone describes your grooves as "swinging" then they are basically telling you your music has an effect on them not only sonically but physically. Ethereal Sea's grooves, on "Forgotten Memories of Tomorrow", "swing" like a cradle in a wind tunnel, they can make you want to sway, dance or just jump up and down , they are soulful, warm, joyous and have that indefinable ability to make you feel damn good.
Individually each member is on top of his game, Dustin Bartee's vocals, warm soulful and smooth are matched by his tasteful and soaring guitar work while Walter Hansen adds that magic ingredient courtesy of his tinkling keys and swirling synths. Keeping the groove nailed down hard but also with a certain amount of pleasing liquidity are Richard Boone (drums) and Cole Johnson (bass), the former driving the band on with a dazzling display of dexterous drumming , the latter expertly locking down the groove with some thick syrupy bottom end, all four together a force to be reckoned with.

Swinging, soulful, a touch psychedelic and with just the merest hint of country rock edginess and blusesy swagger "Forgotten Memories of Tomorrow" is an album light years ahead of its predecessor, "A Universe Far From Ours", and marks a huge leap in Ethereal Sea's development.
Check it out …. 

© 2020 frazer Jones

Sunday, 24 May 2020

VITSKÄR SÜDEN ~ VITSKÄR SÜDEN ..... review


Something a little different, a little special landed on our desk at Desert Psychlist a few days ago, something a little less caustic and heavy from our usual fare but nevertheless something we think you should know about. That little something was an album, "Vitskär Süden", from a Californian collective going by the same name, a collective comprised of Martin Garner (bass/vocals), Julian Goldberger (guitar), Christopher Martin (drums) and TJ Webber (guitar), four musicians who with their combined musical skills have created something intensely beautiful.


It would be understandable if, just by going on the artwork, the casual record browser dismissed "Vitskär Süden" as just another metal album, the three armed figure in a full face helmet holding what could be mistaken for a weapon screams of dank doom or brutal black metal. Let us not however go judging books by covers here because as soon as opening track "War Machine Crimson" creeps seductively into your ear space you will soon realise that Vitskär Süden are more about mood than they are about malice. There is a heaviness to be found on "Vitskär Süden" but it is not to be found in endless riffs and thundering rhythms but more in its deep thought provoking subject matter, the band telling stories, in world weary tones, of mistakes made, regrets revisited and futures uncertain against backdrops of swirling moody psych built on a bedrock of soothing string arrangements, subtle piano passages, reverberating chord progressions and undulating rhythmic patterns. Subtle, nuanced and seductive yet able to bite if it has to "Vitskär Süden" is a debut well worthy spending time with.


Don't try placing Vitskär Süden into a any genre, category or neat little labelled box because they don't fit into any, they are what they are and what they are is a very talented group of musicians creating music that is moving, meditative and beautiful.
Check 'em out ……

© 2020 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 23 May 2020

LACERTILIA ~ CALLING THE QUARTERS ..... review

#First off an apology,: Desert Psychlist has been a little behind the curve recently due to network problems this has resulted in a few reviews, such as this one, being a little later than expected, things are thankfully now sorted.


Cardiff riff merchants Lacertilia blew some minds when they released their debut full length album "We're Already Inside Your Head" back in 2016, the band (formed by vocalist Matt Fry after his previous band Witches Drum dissolved) hit a groove with that album that was hard to ignore, a sort of Monster Magnet meets Cybernetic Witch Cult vibe with a hint of Clutch like swagger thrown in for good measure. After dragging themselves around the UK for the past few years supporting the likes of  Mammoth Wizard Weed Bastard, Orange Goblin and many others the band returned to the studios to record their second album "Calling the Quarters".


It is interesting to note that after deciding to call their second album "Calling the Quarters" the band then go on to musically give no quarter at all. If your looking for subtlety and nuance then stop reading now because Lacertilia are taking no prisoners with their latest release, this is an album that is on the attack from its first note to its last, its raucous, occasionally raw, and essential listening because of that. From the moment "Cloaks & Daggers" tears its way out of the speakers, like a wolverine on a mission, its hang on to your hats time as one feral refrain follows another, the intensity of the bands sonic attack only broken by the occasional psychedelic episodes and even those are a tad on the wild side. With Matt Fry's strong throaty vocals sitting atop the twin guitar attack of Michael Young-Temple and Lucas Zalunski and the powerhouse rhythm section of Ed Hughes (bass) and Tom Lee (drums) working their magic beneath the band give a whol new meaning to the words "full" and "on".


Lacertilia with "Calling the Quarters" deliver a tasty dish of  punked up stonerized metal served up with a side order of spacey lysergic madness, it's loud, it's in your face and it's bloody good fun!
Check it out....

© 2020 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 21 May 2020

DESERT STORM ~ OMENS ...... review


It seems like an age since Desert Storm last released "Sentinels", an album that still gets regularly spun at Stonerking Towers, so it was with gladdened heart that Desert Psychlist received the news that the band were releasing "Omens" a brand new opus crammed to the gills with their trademark mix of bombastic stoner rock , caustic sludge metal and hard heavy rock but also an album packed full of surprises.


Title track "Omens" opens proceedings, an eerie poem narrated in gravelled, almost gothic, tones over a backing track of droning effects that then slowly fade into silence. "Black Bile" follows and here we are presented with the Desert Storm we have all come to love and cherish with Matthew Ryan roaring and growling over a doomic groove interspersed with moments of proggish complexity, Chris White and Ryan Cole's guitars trading off chiming arpeggios and crunching refrains over an ever shifting rhythmic backdrop courtesy of  Elliott Cole (drums) and Chris Benoist (bass). "Vengeful Gods" and "Pain, Grief and Suffering" follow in much the same vein, both are classic Desert Storm songs full of vitriol and anger, the former a mid tempo workout touched with a degree of doomic dankness, the latter a more strident, sludgy and demonic workout.. "The Path of Most Resistance" blends the bands love of a raucous riff with their new found love of post-rock textures and subtle prog(ish) colourings while "The Machine" hits you square on the jaw with some nasty heavy sludge vocalising over a brutal fractured groove while also utilising a bit of off-kilter weirdness in its mid section to keep you on your toes. "Lockjaw" follows its angular prog metal groove, decorated in a mixture of  clean, gravelled and demonic vocal tones, hits hard, fast and heavy. The album closes its account with "Rebirth" a beautiful, if somewhat unexpected, folk song that has a strong Roy Harper(ish) vibe both musically and vocally.


If you are coming to Desert Storm's new album expecting more of the same sludgy heavy hard rock the band explored on "Sentinels" then you might be in for a rude awakening when you hear "Omens". The band have opted for a more experimental and occasionally off-centre approach to their grooves this time around and its a approach that we at Desert Psychlist think has paid off.

© 2020 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 16 May 2020

SHOGUN ~ ADDENDUM ..... review


"Riffs upon riffs upon more riffs, straight from the cosmic cloud" is the legend that precedes any release from, Wisconsin groovemeisters, Shogun and the Milwaukee quartet deliver on that legend once again with their latest album "Addendum" an eight song opus chock-a-block full of crunching refrains and powerhouse rhythms all decorated in soaring clean, clear vocals.


Compartmentalizing bands into neat little boxes marked by genre is a great tool for journalist's, bloggers, podcasters etc. to give their readers/listeners a general idea of what to expect from a release, however that kind of falls down when you come across a band like Shogun who don't readily conform to those specific genre descriptions. Drop a needle anywhere on "Addendum" and you are just as likely to hit a groove that is grungy and alternative as you are one that's dank, dark and doomic and that is if you don't hit something classic rock flavoured or proto-ish and metallic. As their legend states Shogun love to jam on a riff but don't go thinking that is all they have in their armoury the band also know a thing or two about melody, pacing and dynamics something that gives their songs added substance as well as gravity. The first thing you will notice when giving "Addendum" a spin is the ferocity of Alvin Vega's drums, the man at the back is a virtual monster percussionist especially on the albums opener "Eos Archaea" where he almost plays his kit like a lead instrument. Vega is ably supported by Max Muenchow on bass duties the bassist locking down some growling bottom end and coming into his own on the grungy "Space Cleric" where he lays down the groove that holds the whole song together. For those who like their guitar solo's soaring, screeching and drenched in feel then look no further than Sam Wallman, the axe-man lays the crunch down when the crunch is needed and fills the spaces in-between with some fiery lead work, he is also no shrinking violet when it comes to playing acoustically either as the beautifully picked "Cascade" will testify to. Vocal duties fall to Joe Widden and he does not disappoint,  his vocals are strong clean, melodic and blessed with a clarity that has become a rather rare commodity these days, at the top of his register he can howl like a rock god of old, as he proves on the excellent "Dread Haze", but he also possesses a warm weariness at the other end of his vocal spectrum that is demonstrated to great effect on the lilting and folkish "Gilgamesh".


"Addendum" has come as a bit of a surprise to many of us who feverishly search the web for news of new releases, tours etc. many of  us so called movers and shakers, who write, report and host podcasts telling everyone about what's hot and what's not, didn't even know that Shogun had gone into a studio, let alone were releasing a new album. In a time when we are consistently being bombarded by so many unwanted surprises (Covid 19) it is nice to get one we do want.
Check it out …..

© 2020 Frazer Jones

Monday, 11 May 2020

EARLY MOODS ~ SPELLBOUND ..... review


Desert Psychlist spoke in a recent album review of bands whose sound is somewhat a sum of their influences, i.e. if a bands members grew up listening to Iron Maiden and Judas Priest then there is a good chance that some of that music is going to seep into their own grooves. As far as we at Stonerking Towers are concerned their is nothing wrong with this just so long as you are honest and are prepared bring something of yourselves to the party and avoid becoming a pastiche/carbon copy of the bands that influenced you and your sound. California's Early Moods do not try to hide or deny their love of early doom bands like Candlemass, Trouble, Witchfinder General and Black Sabbath but nor do they slavishly go out of their way to sound like their heroes, yes you will hear recognisable traits on their debut EP "Spellbound" that will remind you of where their influences lie but you will also here a band trying to be true to themselves and in our opinion succeeding.


Part of why "Spellbound" works is that it doesn't just draw from an endless well of Sabbath-esque doomic riffage but also dips it's toes into the realms of NWOBHM and the good old fashioned heavy metal of bands like Saxon and Motorhead. The listener will find as many galloping refrains on "Spellbound" as there are dank riffs and doomic crunch and it is this balance of metallic styles that makes "Spellbound" such a fulfilling and enjoyable listen. Title track "Spellbound" is the perfect example of this balancing act, Alberto Alcaraz (bass/vocals/synth) and Chris Flores (drums) masterfully shift the songs dynamic from a doomic plod to a strident gallop and back again without breaking sweat while Oscar Hernandez and Eddie Andrade trade off riffs, licks and solo's that range from dark and doomic to bright and bluesy, Alcaraz's strong clean and powerful vocals soaring above this mayhem with unexpected clarity proving to be the cherry on the cake. Of course one song does not make an EP and the four songs that follow, "Starless", "Isolated (feat. Alan Jones)", "Desire" and "Living Hell", all have their fair share of mouthwatering twists and turns with "Isolated" standing just that little more erect and prouder than its neighbours due to it's slightly off kilter vocal melodies and its mix of subtle and abrupt changes in both time and tempo.


Familiar without being fake, doomic yet not dank and heavy but not leaden "Spellbound" is superb debut that may not be the release that propels Early Moods to the giddy heights of their heroes but it is one that will put their collective foot on the first rung of that ladder.
Check it out …. 

© 2020 Frazer Jones