Friday, 15 June 2018

ALMS ~ ACT ONE ...... review


Any band who mentions UK doom/NWOBHM band Pagan Altar in their list of influences is going to draw Desert Psychlist's attention and the fact that the band doing the mentioning also cite Wishbone Ash and 70's era Scorpions as influences also does nothing but further peak our interest.
The band in question,a quintet from Baltimore, Maryland going by the name Alms, consisting of  Andrew Harris (bass), Bob Sweeney (guitar, vocals), Derrick Hans (drums), Jess Kamen (keyboard, vocals) and Danny McDonald (guitar), recently convened at Developing Nations Studio to record their debut album the results of which are now available via Shadow Kingdom Records and Bandcamp.


Keyboards used correctly in rock music can transform a bands sound dramatically, giving the grooves, delivered by the usual couplings of vocals,drums, bass and guitar, an extra dimension and depth. Alms use keyboards on "Act One" to great effect, their vocalist/keys player Jess Kamen comping behind a riff one minute, swirling in and out of the groove with swathes of textured keyboard colouring the next, however it would be wrong and a little misleading to call Alms a keyboard driven band as there is so much more going on here. The first thing you notice when giving "Act One" a spin is that these guys have SONGS. Alms are not just another run of the mill riff machine, although there are plenty riffs here to enjoy, these guys have melodies, harmonies and arrangements to spare and are unafraid to use them. Opening track "Dead Water" is a perfect example of Alms manifesto of musical substance over riff based content, its doomic/occult,almost cinematic keyboard heavy, groove is counterbalanced by Sweeney and Kamen's superb dual harmonies over a pop like, swinging melody, creating an overall groove that is as dank as it is deliciously delightful. This intoxicating blend of bright swinging vocal melodies and dank, dark groove is repeated throughout "Act One" and sees Hans and Harris supplying a diverse array of rhythmic platforms for McDonald and Sweeney to decorate with swirling lead work and crunching doomic refrains, Kamen's keyboards, swirling in around the grooves, the icing on what is a very tasty and totally moreish musical cake.


If doom is your thing but you sometimes feel the need to escape from the more cloying elements of intensity and darkness, the genre is known for, then you can't go far wrong by giving Alms "Act One" a spin, Desert Psychlist guarantees you won't be disappointed.
Check it out …..

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

FIRE DOWN BELOW ~ HYMN OF THE COSMIC MAN ..... review


Belgium's Fire Down Below refer to themselves as "amp-hugging, hard-hitting, fuzz-loving, ear-splitting, riff-worshipping rock 'n rollers", it is a bold claim but one the band, Sam Nuytens (drums)Jeroen Van Troyen (rhythm guitar and vocals), Kevin Gernaey (lead guitar) and Bert Wynsberghe (bass guitar), can more than back up, as can be witnessed by giving their latest release "Hymn of the Cosmic Man" (Ripple Music) a spin.


The word "cosmic" is well used in this albums title as the album has very much a space related theme running through its songs, titles like "Red Giant", "Ignition/Space Cruiser", "The Cosmic Pilgrim", "Nebula" and "Adrift in a Sea of Stars" are scattered liberally over the album length and even those songs with no reference to the vast Cosmos in their titles, " Saviour of Man" and "Ascension", are lyrically concerned with the great unknown and our place within it. What we all come to an album for however is the music and even if you have the most mind blowing concept for your album if the music does not match the integrity of your themes/concepts then you are more or less sunk before you have begun. Thankfully Fire Down Below's grooves are more than a match for their lofty conceptual aspirations and deliver both musically and lyrically within their spacial structures, the band rocking and vibrant on "Ignition/Space Cruiser", tranquil and trippy on "Nebula" and even a little prog(ish) and Tool like on the superb "Ascension".


Overall "Hymn of the Cosmic Man" is a superb follow up to the bands excellent debut "Viper Vixen Goddess Saint" and is an album that shows Fire Down Below are a band who are slowly evolving into something very special indeed.
Check 'em out ……

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Monday, 11 June 2018

MR BOOZE ~ THE MOURNING HYPOCRITES ..... review



There must be those out there who are starting to believe Desert Psychlist has some sort of obsession with the Greek stoner/hard rock scene as, over the few years we have been active, we seem to have covered a good many Grecian bands on these pages. The truth is, however, that with so many good bands and so much good music coming out of Greece at the present time it would be just too damn hard NOT to feature an album/band from that country.
One band who Desert Psychlist has not covered on these pages hails from Kalamata, Southern Hellas consisting of Dimitris Diamandis (vocals), Yiorgos Mpelos (guitar), George Mountaneas (bass) and Stathis Bar (drums), a band of bearded desperados flying under the collective banner of Mr. Booze. The band. who have released two previous albums, "Greetings From The Middle Finger" (2012) and "Dance At Your Own Risk" (2015), and have shared stages with such Greek hard rock/stoner luminaires as 1000 Mods and Planet of Zeus, have just released their third album, a stonking collection of fuzz drenched raucousness and doomic riffery entitled "The Mourning Hypocrites"



The one common denominator among many Greek underground bands seems to be their predilection for adding, to their crunching riffage and thundering rhythms, a certain element of southern rock/metal swagger and swing. Mr Booze are no exception to this rule but where Mr Booze differ from their Greek contemporaries is in the doomic elements the band bring to the table, retaining the southern swagger that almost seems to be a prerequisite in Greek rock, but adding to it a darker, danker edge. This darker edged vibe is prevalent from the very first track "",  the snippet of sampled dialogue that announces the tracks arrival telling us to "fasten your seatbelts, it's gonna be a bumpy night" is the perfect introduction to an album that both crushes and rocks in equal measure.
Each song on "The Mourning Hypocrite" is like a little dark vignette telling tales of despair and desolution all perfectly executed by a band who have learnt their craft supporting some of Greece's finest underground combo's. Drummer Bar's mix of restrained intricacy and brutal power sits at the root of Mr. Booze's sonic attack, the percussionist locking in with Mountaneas' grumbling, growling bass to build diverse platforms of groove for guitarist Mpelo's to decorate with a mixture of crunching down tuned riffage and soaring lead work, the three musicians creating the perfect musical frameworks to portray and display Diamandis' strong, distinctive vocals, the front man able to go from throaty stoner drawl to full on heavy metal howl with consummate ease, his range and tone giving lyrics like "hear the hounds scratching at my door, smells like their fear has settled on the floor" an extra level of impact and gravitas.



From the aforementioned "", with it's swinging vocal melody and menacing groove. through to the ever shifting proto bluster of "Mourning" there is an underlying feeling of danger and unpredictably to the seven songs on "The Mourning Hypocrite" a feeling that is akin to living near a dormant volcano, you know it is going to erupt, you just don't know when!
Check it out … 

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 10 June 2018

MONOLITH GROWS! ~ BLACK AND SUPERSONIC ..... review


What's in a name? Well if your band started life flying under the banner Monolith only to find out later that there are at least a gazillion and one other "Monolith's" doing the rounds, then Desert Psychlist expects quite a lot, especially after you've released two EP's and an album under that name. Still these things happen and having realised their predicament the quartet from Modena, Italy have added the word "Grows!" to their title. It's the same band, the same sound but with a slightly longer name, just check out their new release "Black and Supersonic" (Burning Wax Productions) if you need reassurance.


Part heavy metal rockers, part fuzz driven stoners and part angsty grunge groovesters Monolith Grows! are a band who cover a lot of bases and cover them all well. It might seem, from someone looking in from the outside, that a band incorporating so many styles and elements into their sound would have to make certain musical compromises to accommodate them all but thankfully this is not the case. Monolith Grows!, Andrea Marzoli (guitar/vocals), Enrico Busi (bass/vocals), Massimiliano Codeluppi (guitar) and Riccardo Becero Cocetti (percussion), manage to swing back and forth between Alice In Chains-like slurring grooviness on "Ultraviolet In The Clear Sky" and " Low", to Kyuss/QOTSA-esque quirky desert swagger, "You're Gone","Satan Monday Bureau"(featuring House of Broken Promises Joe Mora) and "So Fresh", while on the way touching on old school classic rock and metal with "Here Comes The Hero", Silly Gods" and "Above the Doubts", managing to inject elements from all these influences and more into their grooves without ever losing sight their own unique sound, even when stepping outside of the box, as on the ambient "Interlude With Synths and Clean Guitar". The Nirvana-esque "Empire of Dirt" that closes proceedings rounds up ,what is for Desert Psychlist, a very interesting and highly enjoyable album and an  opus that will resonate with many of those listeners brought to today's heavy underground music via Seattle's mid eighties/early nineties alt/grunge scene.


"Black and Supersonic" is not an overly heavy album, but it does have it's heavy moments, neither could it be considered mellow and laid back, yet it has those moments to, what Monolith Grows! have created here is an album that ticks all the right boxes and is a damn fine collection of extremely well written and performed rock songs..... and that is something worth checking out.....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Friday, 8 June 2018

MISSISSIPPI BONES ~ RADIO FREE CONSPIRACY THEORY ...... review


Concept albums inspired by novels are usually heady, intellectual affairs full of  deep meaning and serious thought, with not a lot of room for humour. Mississippi Bones do not adhere to that train of thought however, and when the six piece stoner rockers from Ada, Ohio, decided to tackle a concept they chose to base it around Jonathan Raab's "The Hillbilly Moonshine Massacre", one of the craziest, funniest, surreal novels ever set to print, and to write it from the perspective of one of the novel's main characters, Sheriff Cecil Kotto, and his conspiracy theory radio show.
This is "Radio Free Conspiracy Theory" grab a beer, relax and let Mississippi Bones treat you to one of the funniest, rockiest concepts albums ever recorded.

Structured as "live" broadcast, with Sheriff Kotto airing his thoughts on various conspiracies and theories, hosting a phone in while also trying to deal with a real life X-files like crisis happening on his own doorstep, "Radio Free Conspiracy Theory" is a masterpiece of audial storytelling and musical execution that sees Mississippi Bones supplying the musical interludes to Kotto's DJ'ing, theorising and general all round Earth saving. The fact that Mississippi Bones drafted in the novelist Jonathan Raab to help write the "radio" passages between each song, as well as employing a whole slew of  actors to voice the various characters phoning in, adds a whole new dimension to this project. However this project would not work without the excellent southern tinted stonerized grooves Mississippi Bones interrupt Kotto's musings and theories with, and while we are talking about the music, let's address the elephant in the room and get one thing out of the way before we start. The criticism that is bound to be levelled at this album, and for that matter Mississippi Bones sound in general, is that they sound both dynamically, musically and vocally similar to Clutch, there is no getting away from this, those similarities are undeniably there for all to hear, and so the best thing to do is either accept the fact, and enjoy what Mississippi Bones do, or go find something else to listen to. Desert Psychlist highly recommends doing the former, let's face it who could not love a band, who in a song called "101 Ways To Cook A Human", insert the lyric "They call us monsters, but who cares what dinner thinks? "


Do yourselves a favour, put aside your Clutch sized reservations and just enjoy Mississippi Bones' "Radio Free Conspiracy Theory" for what it is, a damn fine rock record based around a brilliantly funny and thought provoking concept that combines both story and music in a unique and highly enjoyable way.
Check it out ….

Sheriff Cecil Kotto
Mississippi Bones
© 2018 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 3 June 2018

THE STONE EYE ~ KEVLAR, KRYPTONITE, GLORIA ..... review


Philidelphia's The Stone Eye don't mess about, less than a year from the release of their third album "The Meadow" the band return with another platter of intoxicating groove and fuzz drenched riffage, this time flying under the  working title of  "Kevlar,Kryptonite, Gloria"


The unassuming  artwork of an industrial smokestack looming over suburban dwellings may fool the listener into expecting something a little stark and equally industrial from The Stone Eye's new album and although there are moments of starkness and indie flavoured industrialism to be found among the eleven songs presented here, the overriding impression is one of swaggering bluesy, stonerized, hard/classic rock. The Stone Eye for all their angsty posturing and fuzzy seriousness are, at root, a blues band, ok not your regular twelve to the bar blues band, but a blues band nonetheless. That they cleverly hide their blues roots beneath a mountain of fuzz, discordant noise and occasional indie flavoured acoustics is to their credit but every now and then the mask slips and those blues credentials peek through the smokescreens of indie melodies, grungy dynamics and stonerized distortion and show themselves in all their naked glory and when they do it is quite breath-taking.


Overall The Stone Eye's "Kevlar, Kryptonite, Gloria" is a diverse and delightful album full to brimming over with solid musicianship and strong vocal performances and is packed to the rafters with songs that, thanks to strong songwriting skills and clever arrangements, are not reliant on just riffs to pull them through.
Check 'em out....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 2 June 2018

DUNE PILOT ~ LUCY ....... review


The term "desert rock" came in to being thanks to bands like Kyuss, Unida and Yawning Man playing, impromptu gigs, called "generator parties", out in the surrounding deserts of their Palm Desert home base in the late 80's, since then the desert rock sound, a sort of hybrid of hard rock, punk, psych and Latin influences has spread wide and far and is now being played by bands who's proximity to anything even resembling a desert is probably a sand pit in their local children's playground.
Munich, Germany is not exactly a vast wilderness populated by tall spiny cactus and sun bleached bones but four guys from that Bavarian capital, performing under the extremely apt title of Dune Pilot, sure know their way around a dusty desert groove, as can be witnessed on their latest release "Lucy"


The desert can be a cold and desolate place in its night time period yet deadly hot, humid and unforgiving during the day and although Dune Pilot's closest encounter with such a landscape has probably been via the pages of a copy of the National Geographic, left lying open in the waiting room of a doctor's surgery, the band have somehow managed to reflect those extremes in their raucous sandy grooves. Those hot and humid elements come through perfectly on songs like the barnstormin' opener "Loaded", the raucous, romping desert rocker "Postman", and the Sasquatch-esque "Speak Up" but the band are just as adept at delivering  desolate and doomic, as can be witnessed on their more sedately paced tunes, such as the  slowly building "Griper" and the schizophrenic closer "Feed Your Conscience", songs that balance the albums more aggressive moments with those of a more restrained and reflective vibe and give the albums overall impact a more rounded and immediate dynamic..


Superbly executed, with strong performances in both the vocal and instrumental departments, "Lucy" is an album that proves you don't have to live in a desert to be able to play "desert" you just need a little imagination and bucketful of groove.
Check it out ….

© 2018 Frazer Jones