Monday, 17 September 2018

SHOGUN - INFINITET ..... review

When, in 2016, Wisconsin quartet Shogun released their self titled EP "Shogun EP" Desert Psychlist went a little overboard with, rightly deserved, praise for a release that at the time blew us away and is still doing so to this day, telling the world, via these pages, that their debut release was "something a little special". The band, Max Muenchow (bass guitar and synth), Alvin Vega (drums), Sam Wallman (guitars and synth) and Joe Widen (vocals), return to this year with a new release "Infinitet" so let's see if they can improve on "special"

As the droning intro, decorated with minimal acoustic guitars, synthesised bird calls and thunder, of first track "Ex Nihilo (Genesis)", makes way for an onslaught of filthily fuzzed bass and guitar, driven by thunderous percussion, the omen's for whether Shogun can take things to the next level look and sound very promising indeed. The first thing that becomes apparent, when listening to the four songs that make up "Infinitet", is that the bluesy proto-metal (ish) attack of the debut EP has not so much been replaced but has been given a more grittier and aggressive edge, an edge that is a little more metallic and doomic yet still retains an air of bluesy bluster and proto swagger at its core. Production-wise "Infinitet" is huge with Muenchow's big booming, grizzled bass lines and Wallman's filthy toned guitar riffs and scorching solo's coming of the speakers like a hurricane especially when pushed by Vega's pounding, punishing percussion. It would take a strong vocalist to compete with the levels of sound Wallman, Muenchow and Vega emanate from their respective instruments and in Joe Widen they have a vocalist who is more than up to the task. Widen's phrasing, tone and emotive vocals sit atop Wallman, Muenchow and Vega's backdrops of grainy groove like cream on a razor blade, the frontman's distinctive tones having a gritty smoothness that belies their power and gives songs like "Rosebud", "Aurora","Metatron" and the afomentioned "Ex Nihilo (Genesis)" a soulful gravitas you might not usually expect from music pitched towards the heavier end of the rock spectrum.


So has "Infintet" delivered on the promise of Shogun's debut EP or has the band taken a backward step with the more aggressive and doomic dynamics of their new album? Well after repeated spins and living with "Infintet" for a while now Desert Psychlist can categorically state that where we described "Shogun EP" as a "little special", "Infinitet" is HUGELY special!
Check it out …..

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 16 September 2018

APE MACHINE ~ DARKER SEAS ..... review


Back in the late 70's there was a division building up between those that loved their rock bluesy and hard and those that leant towards a more radio friendly commerciality in their grooves. but although battle lines were starting to be drawn up and barricades were slowly being erected one band seemed to galvanise opinion, that band was Bad Company, a group of musicians who successfully bridged the gap between the bluesy bluster of Led Zeppelin and Free and the more easy on the ear AOR meanderings of Journey and Foreigner  . So why ,when writing a piece on a fairly recent band, should we be mentioning one of the UK's finest exponents of mid paced radio acceptable rock?
Well the answer is Portland, OR's Ape Machine are very much a band from that old school of rock where the strength of your songs,melodies and arrangements are just as vitally important as the riffs and rhythms you use to decorate them, something that becomes glaringly obvious when listening to the bands fifth studio album "Darker Seas" (Ripple Music)


"Damned, Their Bones" opens "Darker Seas" account with oodles of bluesy swagger and classic rock bluster, vocalist Caleb Heinze telling us, in tones that sit somewhere between those of Free/Bad Co's Paul Rodgers and that of late Wild Turkey/Rick Wakeman Band frontman Gary Pickford-Hopkins, a cinematic tale of flight and fury over a backdrop of prog tinted swirling guitar (Ian Watts), booming liquid bass (Brian True) and solid punchy percussion (Steve Hanford). Ape Machine, however, are not content to just play the classic/hard rock card and bring into play elements of progressive texturing throughout "Darker Seas", fleshing out their grooves with these elements yet managing to do so without falling into the trap of technical overkill and overcomplication, creating more of a subtle prog colouring than a full blown technical wash. What makes "Darker Seas" really work though is that no song is overworked or overly long the band keeping songs like "Into The Shredder", "The Contract" and the excellent "Bend The Knee" all under the five minute mark with only "Watch What You Say" just creeping over by a second. This brevity of song length works twofold in that the listeners mind remains focused on each song without boredom or distraction getting in the way and that the band themselves are forced into to making their songs more immediate and impactful, something they do to startling effect throughout "Darker Seas" eleven tracks.


Why, you might be asking, are Desert Psychlist reviewing an album from a band whose music leans towards the more mainstream end rock when we could be telling you about the crushing riffs of say the new YOB or Conan opus? The reason dear readers is that good music is good music whether it is dressed in satin and tat or in cargo shorts and sweaty tee's and "Darker Seas" is damn good music!
Check it out …

© 2018 Frazer jones

Monday, 10 September 2018

DRUID ~ THE SEVEN SCROLLS ..... review



Back in 2015 Desert Psychlist wrote, during the course of reviewing a debut album by Athens, Ohio trio Druid, "We really hope this band manage to climb all the hurdles that road weariness, ego’s, music business politics etc. will inevitably throw in front of them, and that they will stick together, we would love to see how this band progresses", Words ,some might say, that had the potential to come back and bite us on the ass but thankfully Druid did stick together and did progress and that progression can be heard in every guitar chord, every bass note and every drum beat of the bands latest release "The Seven Scrolls".


The eight songs that make up "The Seven Scrolls" are broken down into chapters numbering one to seven with a brief and delightful instrumental acoustic interlude inserted between chapters six and seven entitled "Interlude (St. Patrick's Dance)". Lysergic and psychedelic are two words that come to mind while listening to "The Seven Scrolls", however that psychedelic vibe comes not from the modern school of psych, that is the current territory of bands like Earthless, Comet Control and to some extent Sergeant Thunderhoof and Merlin, but from the more pop-psych and progressive experimentations of the late 60's and early 70's, Druid hitting into a groove that sits somewhere between the folk/pop musings of pre-Steve Howe and Rick Wakeman UK proggers YES and the heady guitar fuelled lysergic outings of the USA's Quicksilver Messenger Service and Spirit. To Druid melody is just as an important factor as bite and there is plenty of both to be found among the "chapters" of this enthralling and spellbinding album, the melody coming courtesy of its wonderfully mellow vocal harmonies and transcendental grooves, the bite raising its head in the shape of its occasional, and sometimes sudden, shifts into heavier proto-metal territories.


Imagine taking some of the finest musicians from the psychedelic/prog crossover days of the sixties and seventies and placing them in a modern studio, with all its bells and whistles at their disposal, and telling them to make an album, the results, just might, arrive somewhere close to the sound Druid have achieved with their latest album "The Seven Scrolls"
Check it out …. 

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 8 September 2018

GRUSOM ~ II ...... review


Denmark's GrusomNicolaj Hoffmann Jul (vocals), Jakob Kaae (drums), Dennis Warburg (guitar), Thomas Ulrik (guitar), Søren Olesen (bass) and Peter Pørtner (keys), have a sound that once heard is never forgotten, the band hit a groove that is part early 70's classic rock and part progressive folk and part bluesy bluster, a groove that is undeniably retro yet is still very much contemporary and current. The band have released a steady stream of EP's and tracks as well as a well received debut album "Grusom" and have just released their second full length album  "II" (Kozmik Artifactz)



Grusom have been described as sounding like a hybrid between Swedish hard rock bluesters Graveyard and North American 60's legends The Doors and although it is easy to see why those comparisons have been made Grusom are a band who have many more strings to their collective bows. Grusom are a band with a heavy and distinctive  keyboard presence and sooner or later any band with that presence will get lumped in with either The Doors or Deep Purple, the spirits of both Jon Lord and Ray Manzarek do hover around the edges of many of the tunes on Grusom's latest release but there is a far more doomic feel to the way Portner uses his ivories. Portner's keys swell and swoon beneath Ulrick and Warberg's crunching riffs and bluesy solo's an give songs like "Skeletons" and "Embers" a truly "classic rock" feel yet one that is very much informed by the stoner/hard rock and doom of today thanks, in part, to the huge rhythmic platforms provided by Oleson and Kaae, the bassist and drummer laying down huge and diverse rhythmic foundations for Ulrick, Warberg and Portner to decorate with their respective instrumental colourings and textures. When faced with grooves that carry even a hint of "classic rock" in their arsenal you need a vocalist who can match those grooves with clarity and power and in Hoffmann Jul Grusom have a vocalist of true calibre. Hoffman Jul is a vocalist who may not possess the bluesy holler of a Robert Plant, the soulful howl of a Steve Marriott or the smooth bluesy gravitas of a Paul Rogers but what he lacks in those departments he more than makes up for with his gravelly phrasing and forceful, at times almost folkish, delivery and tone.


"II" is a stunning return from a band who had already converted many to their cause with their 2015 debut "Grusom", and if you dug that release then your going to go batshit for this one
Check it out ….. © 2018 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 6 September 2018

CRUA-CHAN ~ CRUA-CHAN ... review


From the outside it may look like Desert Psychlist is entering September on some sort of South/Central American mission, this is not by design just the result of a series of stunning releases simultaneously hitting our desks from that part of the world.
The latest Latin American tome to present itself at StonerKing Towers comes from an Argentinian three piece going by the name Crua-Chan, the Buenos Aries based band, consisting of Christian Garis (drums), Jorge Patiño (bass/vocals) and David Dos (guitar/vocals), take their influences from a wide spectrum of rocks elite and the underground's cult heroes, influences that range from Alice In Chains and Los Natas to Mastodon and Megadeth, however despite those influences the band have settled on a sound that is very much their own as can be heard on the bands self-titled debut "Crua-Chan".



As a non Spanish speaking reviewer Desert Psychlist has no knowledge of what themes or subject matter Crua-Chan cover on the seven tracks presented here, but that no way detracts from their impact. Let's be honest, half the time we who frequent the musical recesses of rock's underground can't understand many of the lyrics we come across even when they are in English so the fact that Crua-Chan's lyrics are sang in their native tongue should not be a problem, at the end of the day all that matters is the tone and the vibe. Those tones are perfectly executed throughout "Crua-Chan" and are delivered with throaty gusto against a backdrop of heavy blackened stoner metal that has a huge emphasis on rhythm. Christian Garis drives Crua-Chan's grooves with an incredible display of percussive might, ably supported by Jorge Patiño's grizzled, growling bass lines, David Dos layering the combined results with a mixture of dark doomic power chords, searing psychedelic solo's and complex neo-classical shredding.


"Crua-Chan" is a dark forceful collection of songs and grooves that, whether you speak Spanish or not, have a drive and sonic impact that is hard to ignore. The bands sound, although sitting on the stoner side of the metal spectrum, has a blackened edge that could well appeal to those with harsher, more extreme tastes.
Check it out …..
© 2018 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 4 September 2018

THE TRONAUTAS ~ OLOVORGO ...... review


"Music,beer and fine herbs" is the mantra Mexican doomsters The Tronautas march to and we are fairly confident in guessing that those "fine herbs" are not likely to be parsley, sage, rosemary or thyme. Hailing from Matamoros, on the southern banks of the Rio Grande, The Tronautas are a trio comprising of Raco: (guitar and vocals), Mr.SelfDestruct: (drums) and Radiobot: (bass and synths) who have just released their debut EP "Olovorgo", a four song collection dealing with subjects that include the hypocrisy and piousness of organized religion and the effects and causes of loss and depression.


With tags, gracing the bottom edges of their Bandcamp page, ranging from doom metal through to post-hardcore you would expect The Tronautas debut to be somewhat of a full on noisy affair with vocals to match, and musically/instumentally to some extent that is exactly what you get, however vocally "Olovorgo" is somewhat of a melodic outing. When we say melodic we are not talking ethereal or sweet however, Raco retains an element of gruffness in his clean tones but they are delivered perfectly pitched and with a clarity not usually associated with this genre of music. Raco tells us of "the last days of the fading sun" ("Last Days"), laments that "salvation comes but for a price" ("My God") and tells us life is "crushing my soul apart" ("Eternal Gloom") against a backdrop of diverse and powerful rhythms, expertly provided by Radiobot's thrumming bass and Mr. SelfDestruct's thunderous percussion. over which the vocalist/guitarist adds crunching dark toned riffage and scorching lead work. The Tronautas save the best for last however in the shape of "To Destroy A Beautiful Thing", a prog flecked tome with a heartfelt lyric that perfectly highlights each members instrumental contribution both individually and as a unit.


Complex and intense grooves wrapped around dark themes layered with warm melodic edges makes The Tronautas' "Olovorgo" not only a highly enjoyable listen but one that also makes you think.
Check it out...

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 2 September 2018

SATTA CAVEIRA ~ MMI ..... review


"Recorded live in the home studio with no clicks, additions or overdubs" reads the legend on Satta Caveira's Bandcamp page and given the intensity and musical impact of the bands latest release "MMI" maybe more bands should give this approach a whirl.


Gonzalo Void (drums), Jonatan Emilio (bass) and Cristian Villagra (guitar) are Satta Caveira, a trio from San Miguel, Argentina with a penchant for jamming grooves of a heavy psychedelic nature, something they have been doing to great effect from their formation back in 2014. Now lysergic flavoured instrumental heavy rock coming out of the bowels of the South American continent will come as no surprise to those who follow that continents underground scene, there seems to be a plethora of South American bands who just seem to have that knack of making non-vocalised music come alive and feel more vibrant and vital. Satta Caveira sit high on that list of Latin America's exponents of the instrumental jam, the bands mix of heavy downer rock and lysergic experimentation, blended with elements of jazz fusion and downtuned spacy funk, coming over as heady and loose as it does gnarly and tight. Over the course of the eight songs, that make up "MMI", Satta Caveira take their listeners on a rollercoaster ride through a plethora of moods and  emotions, cleverly using elements of light and shade to accentuate those feelings and in doing so give their listeners a wholly satisfying and truly rewarding experience.


Sprawling and experimental yet at the same time solid, heavy and gnarly Satta Caveira's "MMI" blends Floydian lysergic texturing with Karma To Burn like instrumental stoner oomph and arrives at a sound that sits somewhere between the two yet at the same time is wholly original and fresh.
Check it out …..

© 2018 Frazer Jones