Sunday, 15 July 2018

MAN IN THE WOODS ~ BADLANDS: PART 1 ....... review


Almost dead centre between Northern Ireland and England, surrounded by the cold waters of the Irish Sea, lies an island, an island with a mix of both Nordic and Celtic heritage, an island the locals know as "Manx", an island we from the outside know as the Isle of Man. The Isle of Man has never been much known for its musical exports, its only claim to musical fame being that all three of the Bee Gees were born there, but that might all be about to change with the emergence of a four piece Manx quartet going by the name Man in the WoodsMarc Vincent (bass/vocals, James Oxtoby (guitar), Dave Murray (guitar) and Christian Hardman (drums),who have just released their debut EP "Badlands: Part 1".


The addition of "Part 1" to this EP's title suggests to Desert Psychlist there is a distinct possibility of a future "Part 2" and that, readers, is the first piece of good news in a review brimming over with good news. Ok we are getting a little ahead of ourselves here so lets take a moment and examine why the prospect of another release from a band who have only just released their debut is such a mouth-watering prospect.
Shimmering guitar arpeggios picked over a backdrop of thrumming bass introduce first track "Icarus Landing"  going slightly askew and dissonant as the song progresses then fading away briefly before reappearing, drums in tow, to explode into a huge sludgy desert groove overlaid with big throaty vocals. The songs aggressive, full on attack, tempered by Oxtoby and Murray's deft guitar work and driven by Vincent and Hardman's bass and drums, has a dynamic somewhere between heavy desert rock and swampy sludge and sits probably closer to the latter mainly due to Vincent's big throaty vocals, the bassist/vocalist sounding on occasions like a pissed off bear with a toothache. Next track "Speedeater" sees Man in the Woods initially jamming an up-tempo stoner/desert groove but as the song progresses this gradually makes way, mid section, for a dark doomic interlude that finds Hardman laying down an almost tribal beat over low, droning bass and guitars before the song returns full circle to it's desert root to take things to the close. "Toxicology" is up next and its cloth is cut a little slower and a little less in your face than its predecessor with Vincent telling us "I'm no good" over a low, but not slow, backdrop of grizzled bass and crashing percussion fractured with swirling dark guitar colouring, the song dropping down mid song  into a short but totally effective lysergic groove before exploding back into life for the finale. Final song "Angel of Gasoline" goes straight for the throat, the song taking "Badlands: Part 1" to its close on waves of raucous circular riffage, hard edged rhythms and screaming guitar solos all topped off by Vincent's meaty,rasping vocal tones.


There is a bridge on the Isle of Man that is known as the "Fairy Bridge" and to cross this bridge without first greeting the fairies is said to bring bad luck. Well if this legend has any grain of truth in it then Man in the Woods must have, before going into the studio to record "Badlands: Part 1", not only said hello to these magical folk but also given them an almighty hearty hug.
Check it out ….

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 14 July 2018

LOGGERHEAD ~ DEPTHS ...review


With "Ancient Squid, toothed whales and giant sharks" listed as an interest and the fact they call themselves a "nautical sludge metal band" who play "salted sludge doom" it is not hard to fathom (see what we did there) that Alabama's Loggerhead have a bit of an obsession with all things maritime, this obsession manifests itself throughout the bands debut release "Depths" so let's get to the bottom of it (sorry couldn't resist).


The reason many of us are reluctant to go swimming in the seas around out respective shorelines may have a lot to do with the subject of Loggerhead's first track on "Depths" a little atmospheric sea shanty going by the name of "Carcharodon" a song that extolls the hunting skills, patience and efficiency of that stealthiest of marine predators the humble shark. The song begins with ominous swirling effect and shimmering percussion that then segues into a chugging low, slow groove overlaid with a clean vocal that is parts narrated, parts sang. "Dark shapes wander, peacefully,shark dives under, patiently" sings the vocalist describing the act of predation on an unsuspecting herd of seals and never was an  act of nature caught so perfectly in a heavy rock/metal context. Instrumental "Spermaceti" follows it's glistening arpeggios and restrained percussion augmented by swirling synths and cellos slowly builds layer by layer and seems to be heading towards some sort of noisy crescendo but then suddenly and unexpectedly flickers out on a wave of drone. "Architeuthis" picks up where the previous track left off mirroring the tranquillity and solitude of the deep oceans with a laid back and atmospheric post-rock/metal groove, again we are greeted by those half sang, half spoken vocals this time telling a tale of the elusive Giant Squid, a "red creature without face" against a backdrop of reverberating guitar, low grizzled bass and gentle percussion that sporadically erupts into heavy sludge as each verse reaches its lyrical peak. The songs groove then takes a dramatic turn into even heavier territory to represent the appearance of a whale in the Giant's story and perfectly captures, in music, the life and death battle for survival that then ensues. The albums last two songs "The Wretched Sea" and "Feeding Frenzy" are just as cinematic as those  preceding them with the former a tale of the valour, gore, cruelty, excitement and fear of a whale hunt and the latter, an enthralling mix of intense heavy sludge and doomic prog, that tells the tale of when the hunters becoming the hunted.


Stephen Speilberg's "Jaws" was a huge hit in its day but when you look back on it now it seems dated and frankly a bit laughable, however one scene that always sticks in peoples minds is the one where the three shark hunters are sitting below deck telling tall stories and comparing scars and the talk comes around to Robert Shaw's character telling his tale of surviving the shark infested waters of the Pacific after the USS Indianapolis was sunk in 1945, it is a scene that is spine tingling, intense and leaves a long lasting impression. It is the same feeling Desert Psychlist felt after listening to Loggerheads "Depths"
Check it out ….

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Friday, 13 July 2018

GREEN DRAGON ~ GREEN DRAGON ....... review


New Jersey's Green Dragon are not exactly what you would call a "traditional" band, the band don't play live and the music they make together does not really reflect the "hardcore" backgrounds each member comes from or explores in their own respective bands. Green Dragon, Jennifer Klein (bass), Ryan Lipynsky (guitar), Nathan Wilson (drums) and Zack Kurland (guitar/vocals), came together through a series of "happy" accidents and two members mutual appreciation of Deep Purple to just play some tunes together in a basement and occasionally release the results. This lackadaisical approach may have you thinking that Green Dragon don't take what they are doing together too seriously but after listening to their first full album "Green Dragon" you just might want to think again.


Green Dragon's whole reason for being was to get together and just play some "rock" and with their first "official" release that is exactly what they have achieved. The band list a long line of influences and inspirations that stretch the whole rock spectrum, from the Beatles and T.Rex to Agnostic Front and Bathory, but to their credit Green Dragon do not try to sound like any of their heroes, the band cleverly avoiding that whole "retro" trap by using those influences as an essence rather than a blueprint for what they do. First track "Eternal Pyre" serves as a fine example, here we have a title that screams Sabbath and although their are "sabbathian" elements to be found here the overall impression is one of heavy psych with element of shoegaze-ish colouring, an element made all the more prominent by Kurland's slightly phased and clean vocal delivery. On "Poison Finger" the band jam a groove not dissimilar to that executed by Canadian cult psychonauts Quest For Fire, in their heavier moments, but then they confuse the issue by going off on bluesy, guitar swirling hard rock tangent to take things to the close. "Dark Rider" on the other hand is as schizophrenic as it is brilliant, the song shifting back and forth between contemplative tranquillity and swaggering lysergic aggression before suddenly heading off to its finale on a proto-doomic chugging gallop. "Dead Space" closes the album and as its title suggests finds Green Dragon bringing a cosmic, spacey vibe to the table, nothing is straightforward in Green Dragon's world however and  the band cut and paste a little doomic shading just beneath its surface just to keep things interesting.


"Green Dragon" is a superb debut from a band who although only get together occasionally to jam some "rock" have, either by accident or design, stumbled upon a magical formulae for something quite exciting and special.
Check it out ….


© 2018 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 12 July 2018

KINGNOMAD ~ THE GREAT NOTHING ....... review


Around five or six years ago a new sub-genre of rock/metal started to make its presence felt in and around the underground scene, a sound inspired by the dark witch/warlock lyricism and heavy psychedelic music leanings of 70's cult bands like Coven and Black Widow blended with elements of today's doom, hard/classic rock and in some cases pop . Some began calling this sound "occult rock" and some called it "spectral doom". This new(ish) sound was first spearheaded by European bands like Holland's The Devil's Blood, Germany's Blood Ceremony and England's Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats but has since rapidly spread further afield. Today it is hard, while searching the internet for new music, not to come across at least one or two bands with an occult rock flavouring especially since the emergence of Sweden's occult torchbearers Ghost.
It is in Sweden that we find the subject of this review, a four piece band going by the name of Kingnomad,  Mr Jay (guitars and vocals), Mano (drums), Marcus – (guitars and psychedelia) and Maximilian (bass and backing vocals),who have just released their new album "The Big Nothing" on Ripple Music Records and are a band whose sound contains elements and traces of all of those bands mentioned above but mixes with them something a little unique and magical of their own.

  
"The Yoga of Desolation" introduces "The Great Nothing" with a brief barbershop style vocal that segues then into "Cosmic Serpent" a diverse mix of spacey stoner rock blended with elements of 70's flavoured prog. Strangely it is the former song that sets the tone for the latter and for that matter the rest of the album as Kingnomad take you by the hand and lead you through soundscapes populated by swirling guitar solo's, thrumming bass lines ,diverse percussive patterns and occasional keyboard colourings. It is, however, Mr Jay's superb smooth and effective vocals that will stick longest in the mind after this album finishes, his tones and phrasing, whether singing alone or harmonising with Maximillian (and with his wife on track 1), take things to a whole new level. I suppose the nearest comparison Desert Psychlist could make with Kingnomad would be that of their fellow Swedish countrymen Ghost but where Papa Emeritus/Nihil and his Nameless Ghouls tend to lean towards cheesiness and gimmickry on occasions there is an integrity to Kingnomad's grooves that doesn't sound contrived or faked. Kingnomad may come across a little quirky, a little off the beaten track on first listen but when you dig deeper and really take the time to listen to songs like "The Mysterious Agreement", "Collapsing Pillars of the Earth" and title track "The Great Nothing" you come to realise these guys are the real deal and that boy these guys can play!


Proggish grooves dipped in doom and hard rock might not seem something to get too excited about but then add in Baroque tinted lead vocals and monastic harmonies plus a level of musicianship akin to that found in jazz and classical music and those little hairs on the back of the neck start to really stand to attention. Kingnomad's "The Great Nothing" might not be everyone's cup of tea but it just might be yours.
Check it out ….

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

RED SUN ATACAMA ~ LICANCABUR ..... review


Hailing from the moderate climate of France rather than the deathly heat of the Chilean desert, that their name suggests, Red Sun Atacama are nonetheless a band with a penchant for all all things sand blasted, dune shaped and peyote inspired. If you then add into that equation a touch of old school punk aggression you roughly arrive, at what Desert Psychlist likes to describe, as a sort of "urban desert rock". This intoxicating blend of desert grooviness and inner city furiosity permeates every beat and groove of Red Atacama's first "official" release "Licancabur" (More Fuzz Records) and it is something we at Desert Psychlist think is worthy of your attention.


Any band working in the field of what we sometimes call "desert rock" will undoubtedly owe a huge debt to those giants of the Palm Desert scene Kyuss, Unida and Fu Manchu and Red Sun Atacama are no exception, the band plough a similar furrow of lysergic dynamics, grainy hard rock riffage and punky angst as those desert/stoner pioneers but where these Paris based riffmeisters differ from their more famous counterparts is in the way they bring those elements together. Ignoring the rather pan pipes and acoustic guitars intro of "Atacama (Intro)" the listener is faced with a furious onslaught of punkish and aggressive refrains, fronted by equally punkish clean vocals, interspersed with moments of  swirling psych and proto-metal bluster. First track "Gold" comes at you like a rabid jaguar, claws extended and ready to rip you to pieces, its furious heavily fuzzed bass and guitar refrain, driven by tumultuous percussion, pins you to the wall with its sheer furiosity but just when you think things can't get any better, they do. Suddenly, seemingly out of nowhere, the band shift down into bluesy psychedelic territory with the drums and bass combining to lay down a funky lysergic backdrop around which searing lead guitar and whooshing keyboards soar and swoop before returning to full on stoner punk mode to take things to a close  Next song "Red Queen" rides along on a "Children of the Grave" like galloping groove over which a strong and catchy vocal melody is sang with gusto and passion. As with "Gold" the band shift things around and suddenly the listener finds his/her self, after a brief doomic interlude, propelled into proto-metallic maelstrom of screaming guitar solo's, pummelling percussion and growling bass. "Cupid's Arrow" follows, a short sharp jab of raucous stoner punkiness  that is as brief as it is in your face followed by  "Drawers" a crunching romp on a wave of raging riffage offset by an addictive pop punk vocal melody. Red Sun Atacama close their account with "Empire" a sprawling and effervescent, full on desert flavoured tome that as well as rocking like a sapling in a hurricane also allows each member the opportunity to take a step into the spotlight and show us their undeniably skilful and accomplished musical chops.



A French band playing South American themed songs in a style born in North America may seem a bit weird when written down but there is nothing weird or odd about Red Sun Atacama's "Licancabur", in fact nothing has ever sounded so natural.
Check it out …..

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Monday, 9 July 2018

GAUPA ~ GAUPA ...... review


Music that is off the wall and a little left of field has always been bit of a draw for Desert Psychlist, it's not that we search out the strange and weird it is just that when something comes across our desk that is a touch quirky and a little odder than normal we tend to gravitate towards it like bees to a flower. Sadly there are not too many releases that meet this criteria but one that does is a self titled EP that comes from a combo out of Falun, Sweden going by the name Gaupa. Gaupa, Emma Näslund (vocals), David Rosberg (guitars), Daniel Nygren (guitar), Erik Jerka Sävström (bass) and Jimmy Hurtig (drums), released their debut EP "Gaupa" earlier this month and already it has got people talking.


"Gaupa" has already been described as like "Bjork fronting a rock band" and although Desert Psychlist can see where that description is coming from there is far more to Gaupa than an unusual and unique voice placed in front of a rock'n'roll backdrop. First thing one notices about Gaupa (the band) are the levels of musicianship on display here, solid, tight percussion combined with deep growling bass lines are the backbone around which Gaupa's two guitarists lay down diverse washes of delightful  and dynamic six-string colouring, the pair not so much going head to head as complimenting each other with a mixture of eastern motifs, shimmering arpeggios, crunching heavy powerchords and scorching psychedelic lead work, however it is the vocal acrobatics of  Emma Näslund that many will leave this EP remembering long after the last note of "Gaupa" fades into silence. Näslund  has a unique tone and delivery and it is easy to see why those comparisons with Iceland's elfish chanteuse have been made as both singers have that same distinctive vocal elasticity in their armoury, however where Bjork's voice sometimes wanders into shrillness there is a smoother more fluid timbre to Näslund's vocals that is, for Desert Psychlist, far more pleasing and easier on the ear. 


Comparisons aside "Gaupa" is stunning debut full of twists and turns that maintain the listeners interest, keeping him/her on their toes never knowing where songs like "The Drunk Autopussy Wants To Fight You", "Gryt" and "Bergatroll" might lead them next. Quirky, left of field and off the wall never sounded so good.
Check it out ….

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 8 July 2018

ALABAMA CHURCH FIRE ~ FOREVER HOMELY AND HIGH ..... review


One of the most pleasing things about reviewing music is when an album/EP, from a band you've never heard of, comes hurtling out of the big nowhere and proceeds to blow you away. This recently happened with an EP, released out of the blue, by a band going by the name Alabama Church Fire, a band from Chattanooga, Tennessee who really ticked all Desert Psychlist's boxes with three tracks of  swaggering southern metal and alt.country doom flying under the collective banner of "Forever Homely and High".


A sample of lay preacher like narrative opens first track "Mountain View" underscored by pounding percussion, grumbling bass and glistening guitar arpeggios before suddenly erupting into heavy and atmospheric, slow but not sedate southern metal groove. Given the heavy nature of the preceding grooves the listener may be fooled into expecting the obligatory growled and throat shredding vocals that are often the norm these days when listening to anything southern and metallic, however Alabama Church Fire are not a band wanting to follow trends and so we are treated to the clean, superbly weary and slightly cracked tones of one W.F. Lamb his voice and phrasing giving the song an almost alt.country vibe not unlike that executed by Drive By Truckers on their earlier albums. "Smokevision" follows with drummer Eric Waller beating out an insistent tattoo while the guitars of Lamb, Jake Kinard and Jeff Chastain lay down a grinding maelstrom of crunching riffage and harmonised refrains with bassist Bryce Simpson anchoring the groove with deep, growling bottom end. Once again Lamb gives a superb vocal performance, the fragility of his vocals against the tsunami of metallic mayhem behind them is a contrast that shouldn't work but ultimately just does. Alabama Church Fire leave the best to last though with the sprawling "East Valley Ramble" an epic thirteen minutes plus tome brimming over with mood and atmosphere that sees Lamb swapping his vocal weariness for vitriol, frustration and anger, his vocals superbly backed up by the rest of the band with each member contributing to the whole yet each bringing something of their own to the table.


If there is one criticism Desert Psychlist could level at "Forever Homely and High" it is that there are only three tracks, music this good, this vital, this interesting needs to grace a full album and SOON!
Check it out ….

© 2018 Frazer Jones