Tuesday, 29 November 2022

DESERT WAVE ~ DEAFENING SILENCE ..... review


Up until now most, but not all, of the Italian bands Desert Psychlist has introduced you to have come from the more scuzz rock, acid doom end of the underground spectrum so it makes a nice change to bring you something a little less abrasive and little more considered from the country.
Desert Wave are a trio hailing from Vincenza, Italy consisting of Enrico "Burton" Dalla Pozza (guitar); Luca "Logan" Adamati (bass, vocals, synth) and Andrea "Drugo" Vetri (drums), who some of you may already be acquainted with thanks to their 2017 debut "Lost in Dunes". Desert Wave's approach to their music is quite different to that of their Electric Wizard worshipping countrymen in that Desert Wave's sound owes more to the desert rock experimentations of Yawning Man, Causa Sui and Colour Haze, than it does Electric Wizard's fuzzed to the max doom and has, despite its moments of heaviness, a more chilled and spacious feel. It has been five years since Desert Wave assailed our ears with their unique brand of panoramic desert rock, but good things are always worth waiting for and new album "Deafening Silence" is a very good thing indeed.


Ominous droning synth effects introduce opening track "Outside Pt.1" accompanied by a tight solid drum rhythm that is then joined by guitar in an otherworldly off-kilter jam that then segues into "Outside Pt.2" which shares much the same groove as its predecessor but with everything dialled up a notch and clean, mellow vocals added. Title track "Deafening Silence" follows and is a song built around a trippy circular guitar motif that routinely increases and decreases in volume, such is the hypnotic power of this one motif that it becomes almost easy to overlook what is going on beneath it but listen hard enough and you will soon realise that there is a seriously good rhythm section going about their work here. "Above" and "Vortex" both have a very Colour Haze feel with heavily fuzz drenched bass combining with the drums to build a platform for the guitarist to launch swirling sand-blasted motifs and solos from, the former also boasting a suitably Colour Haze(ish) vocal. "Venus Chains" sees Desert Wave jamming a groove that is a little less Colour Haze and a touch more Re-Stoned/Mother Engine in flavour, while final track "Endless Night" is a spaced-out heavy psych tome with guitar swirling and swooping over a circular drum and bass groove and hushed vocals telling of "ghostly eyes" and "space vampires", impressive stuff!


 With all the doom, stoner metal and 70's retro bands currently swamping the underground the trippy psychedelic rock, of bands like Colour Haze, The Machine, Sungrazer and My Brother the Wind, seems to have taken a bit of a backseat but that does not mean we should ignore it. Italy's Desert Wave, with "Deafening Silence" prove that there is still a place for music that speaks to us on a spiritual rather than earthly level, otherwise who would there be left to play at DUNAJAM
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones


Thursday, 24 November 2022

GAUPA ~ MYRIAD .... review

 

When Desert Psychlist first heard Swedish alternative/stoner combo Gaupa's self-titled debut back in 2018 we have to admit it was a case of love at first listen, and that love reached almost biblical proportions with the release of "Feberdröm" in 2020. Now with all things against the middle, and given the warm reception it was getting from all the "right people", "Feberdröm" should have seen Gaupa's name being mentioned in the same breaths as some of those of the underground's upper echelon. Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen thanks in part to "Feberdröm" being released while the world was in the throes of a global pandemic, which made it a little difficult for the band to give the album the push it deserved. There is a saying that goes "the cream will somehow always rise to the top" and that is certainly true in this case because one of those "right people" listening to the album turned out to be Jens Prueter, head of A&R Nuclear Blast Records Europe who immediately signed them for his label. So, with the power of a major label behind them and with new album, "Myriad", just released Gaupa are now back on course for world domination.

GaupaJimmy Hurtig (drums); Daniel Nygren (guitars); Erik Sävström (bass); Emma Näslund (vocals) and David Rosberg (guitars), create a special sound together, a sound that may have its roots in stoner/hard rock but is not typical of the genre, a sound that also contains elements of heavy psych but would be a push to call "psychedelic". Probably the closest you could get to describing the music inhabiting "Myriad" is that it is some sort of off centred prog/stoner/alternative rock hybrid but even that description falls short of the mark as first track "Exoskeleton" will attest to. "Exoskeleton" begins straightforwardly enough, with Näslund vocalising in majestic elfish tones over a strident, raucous and fuzzy stoner rock groove, but then at just over the midway mark all sorts of weird and wonderful things start happening with swirling electronic effects and complex prog-like guitar solos vying for dominance with off centred rhythmic patterns and low funky bass lines, the band then reprising the songs initial groove in a final, somewhat more manic, dash to the close. "Diametrical Enchantress" follows and sees Nygren and Rosberg chopping out stuttering angular refrains ably supported by Sävström and Hurtig, Näslund delivering a vocal that is almost straight in comparison to her usual Bjork-like crackle and pop. Gaupa dial things down a notch or two for next song "Moloken", an atmospheric and utterly beautiful hazy blues tinted tome that balances out its occasional heaviness with restrained rhythmic patterns and shimmering guitar textures with  Näslund's vocal routinely rising from a whisper to a wail in response. "RA" sees Gaupa jamming a groove that begins its life soothing and serene but then slowly takes on a more aggressive stance, both musically and vocally, as it nears its last note. "Elden" follows a similar path to its predecessor but adds a little more eastern flavoured dissonance into the mix while "My Sister Is A Very Angry Man" is quirky, off kilter and just damn rocking. Next up is the "Sömnen" a fey and folky number featuring just voice and acoustic guitar, Näslund sings the song in her native tongue and never has the Swedish language sounded so fragile, powerful, seductive and beautiful as it does here. Final track "Mammon" begins with a groove that would not sound out of place in a modern dance club, it has the feel of something a DJ might spin to build the tension before the beats slam down and everyone goes crazy, only when the beats DO go down on this, they are not computer-generated bass and drum loops but fuzzy refrains and punchy rhythms played by real living breathing musicians with a unique and distinctive vocalist at their helm.


 "Myriad" is not just a good album, its a GREAT album that is a heady mix of the straightforward and the unconventional played by a band who see music in colours and shapes rather than just notes and chords. If you are planning on going to see Gaupa play live in the near future, then it would be advisable to go see them while they are still playing clubs and tickets are still reasonably priced because this is a band with a bright future in front of them.
Check 'em out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 16 November 2022

AFGHAN HAZE ~ HALLUCINATIONS OF A HERETIC ... review

 


The tragic loss of a member will obviously have a huge effect on the remaining members of a band, a totally understandable state of affairs given that said band would have not just lost a fellow musician and integral cog in their musical wheel but have also lost a confidante, a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and, most importantly, a friend. For some bands the death of a member can be a bridge too far to cross and so they will reluctantly call it day, others however see carrying on as the greatest tribute they can possibly pay to a partner in groove. It is this latter option that Connecticut stoner/sludge combo Afghan Haze decided to follow when they tragically lost their drummer Randall "Randy" Colbourne this year, knowing that the very last thing Randy would have wanted was for the band to fold the remaining members, Jonathan Mlyniec (vocals); Erik Barrett (bass) and Jon Harrison (guitars), asked Paul Litewka to join. However, prior to his passing Randy had completed putting down rhythms on the bands second album "Hallucinations of a Heretic" and it is this album we are reviewing today, a barnstorming mix of sludge, blackened doom and stoner metal, infused with elements of space and psych, driven from beneath by a mighty fine drummer.


The ironically titled "Pushing Up Daisies" kicks things off, a song that we would normally describe as an instrumental if it were not for the various soundbites and samples that are layered over its crunching riffs and thunderous rhythms. More doomic than sludgy the song is a kick-ass opener, situated just the right side of brutal, that highlights, among other things, Afghan Haze's unique and sometimes off-kilter approach to heavy music. "Satan Ripper" follows and sees the band hitting into a more familiar sludge/stoner metal groove, decorated with a forceful bear like vocal, a groove that does not deviate too much until it reaches its midway point when a sudden burst of white noise and feedback heralds in a brief, but quite captivating, period of lysergic laced otherworldliness that features a heavily phased guitar motif being played out over an equally effect laden bass line and militaristic drumming, the band reprising the songs original groove shortly after, only this time at a more doomic pace. A song entitled "Hellijuana" might lead you to expect some sort of Sleep-like ode to exotic smoking materials, but you would be wrong, granted the song does possess a "weedian" flavour but lyrics like "peel back my skin, expose my tissue" and " my soul sinks into the soil, where my body will rot", roared in bullish tones, do not exactly paint a picture of a stoned-out nirvana. Having arrived in Hell and had a taste of its many delights Afghan Haze then decide to show us around, pointing out a few of its residents and generally giving us their impressions of the place, a sort of twisted travelogue set to a soundtrack of sludgy stoner metal riffage driven by powerful rhythms. Final song "Gin Whore" begins with sampled narrative of a murderer describing the dismemberment of one of his victims in detached, matter of fact tones then erupts into a droning low slow, heavy blackened doom groove with the vocals taking on a grittier more spoken than sang/roared meter, "this is the pleasure palace" intones Mlyniec, in his unique bullish tones, and for lovers of sludgy metallic blackened doom it most certainly is!


Afghan Haze's "Hallucinations of a Heretic" is a dark heavy and uncompromising album that mixes brutality with unexpected moments of cosmic finesse, an album that works not only as a fitting tribute to the late Randall "Randy" Colbourne but also as a statement of the band's future intent. 
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 12 November 2022

YURT ~ V - UPGRADE TO OBSOLETE ...review


Complicated, complex and indulgent are all criticisms that have been levelled at music of a progressive nature, or as we have come to call it prog, and in many respects those criticisms have been justified. In fact, it was because of these reasons, and a few others, that prog crashed and burned in the late 70's and allowed punk rock to get its foot in the door, kids were bored rigid with mind-scrambling concepts, twenty-minute organ/synthesiser solos and lyrics you needed a PhD to understand. However, prog is a resilient beast and never fully went away and has, over the last few decades or so, been slowly clawing its way out of the shadows and back into our lives.


YURT are Andrew Bushe (drums); Steven Anderson (guitars/vocals/electronics) and Boz Mugabe (bass/vocals/electronics), otherwise known as the "Sonic Elders of YURT", the music they make IS complicated and complex and IS on occasions indulgent, but weirdly that is also its beauty. YURT are not prog in any traditional musical sense of the word, yes, they do draw their influences from some of the same wells that the likes of Yes, Dream Theater and Opeth drew inspiration from, but they also do not ignore the rock'n'roll basics either, they are a band who are just as likely to jam on riff as they are to experiment with a convoluted chord progression, as their fifth album "V-Upgrade to Obselete" will attest to.

 Opening number "Paralyse" begins in classic YURT style with shimmering drones, electronic beeps and whirls and robotic voicings (played at a variety of speeds) then slams into a strident and angular groove, decorated in effect laden guitar textures, driven by low heavy bass and a whirlwind of percussion. The song shapeshifts through a myriad of changes in tempo, volume and dynamics over its twelve minutes plus duration but probably it will be the section where the vocals first come in that will stick in many listeners minds the most, a section that gives a hint that some members in the band may have possibly been listening to their fair share of early Hawkwind of late. Title track "Upgrade to Obsolete" looms into earshot next, a superbly busy tome, packed solid with unexpected flourishes, textures and colours, that is anchored strongly to the ground by a surprisingly funky bass line, and if you thought that was busy wait till "The Book of Esophagus" hits your aural canals, its fusion of swirling space rock and free-form jazz may on the face of it seem to be going in a hundred different directions at once, with bursts of saxophone, guitar and electronic noise constantly battling for supremacy but is, underneath it all, rhythmically quite straightforward and tight. "Breakfast in Aksum" then follows, a song that is probably the closest YURT come to laying down something resembling traditional prog on this album, Anderson channelling a little Steve Howe (YES) complexity into his guitar playing while Mugabe and Bushe concentrate on supplying the songs jagged and turbulent groove, of course this being YURT they could not possibly allow a song to end much the same way it started and so they close the song out in maelstrom of swirling, fizzing  dissonant noise. "The Brand Evangelist" sees those monotonic Hawkwind-esque lead vocals and harmonies rear their head once again, but this time backed by a musical backdrop that has a surprising dank and doomic quality. "Mukbang" finally brings things to a close and is a song that throws everything into the pot at once, old and new school prog, space rock, heavy psych, a little doom, you can also hear shades of Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles as well as YES, Floyd and Dream Theater and even  touches of Kraftwerk and CAN, all these different elements and influences spinning and weaving around each other to create a melting pot of sound that you won't want to end but ultimately has to.


Exceptional from start to finish "V-Upgrade to Obsolete" is progressive rock how we always hoped it would sound, complex, intricate and dynamic but at the same time not so far up its lowest orifice that you end up turning it off and moving on to something less taxing and confusing. Dubbing YURT's latest album as mind-blowing seems like a bit of a cliche but that is exactly what it is. YURT make music that is uncompromising, angular and experimental but is at the same time accessible and does not require any overthinking on the part of the listener, of course the band want to impress you with their musicianship and arrangement skills but at the same time they do not want you to feel like you have to understand music theory to enjoy what they do. There is a flow to YURT's music, albeit one that twists and turns with alarming regularity, that despite its numerous intricacies and complexities is easy on the ear and doesn't feel like you are wading through a mire of egotistical showmanship, each participant playing for the song instead of despite of it. 
Check it out ....

  © 2022 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 10 November 2022

ROSY FINCH ~ SECONDA MORTE ... review


Desert Psychlist came to Spain's Rosy Finch via the bands 2015 album "Witchboro" and to say it blew us away would be a gross understatement, eagerly we awaited a follow up but, apart from the impressive "Sunset Acoustic Sessions Vol,1" (alternate versions of songs from the band debut EP "Wolves Waiting" and the album "Witchboro") nothing was forthcoming until 2020 when the band released "Scarlet". "Scarlet" was almost wholly guitarist/vocalist Mireia Porto's baby and was a lot more visceral and a lot heavier than "Witchboro" and allowed Porto to explore some of the same dark territories she had experimented with during her short tenure with, what had been her second band, Hela. Much like "Witchboro", "Scarlet" was warmly received but even as it was being recorded so the line -up was changing with Porto recruiting Óscar Soler (formally of Pyramidal) on bass and Juanjo Ufarte (from Grajo) on drums and it is this line up that brings us "Seconda Morte" the latest instalment in the ongoing Rosy Finch story.


"Seconda Morte" is a concept piece based on Dante Alighieri's 14th century poem "The Divine Comedy" a poem that tells a story of a soul's journey through hell, purgatory and heaven, a poem that Porto had been reading prior to writing and recording the lyrics and music for this release. There are just four songs on "Seconda Morte" with each representing a chapter in Dante's journey from a crisis of faith to sudden understanding, the first "Selva Ocura" is more a tone piece than a song, an instrumental composition made up of synthesised effects, raked strings and randomly plucked arpeggios meant to mirror Dante's loss of way and confusion, it's an eerie piece but oddly beautiful at the same time. Next up is "Inferno", now you might think that a song dealing with a stroll through the horrors of hell might come straight out of the blocks spitting fury and flame, but Dante's hell is an insidious hell that can be as seductive as it can be treacherous, and so Porto reflects this by allowing the music to soar and swoop between restrained and sinister and thundering and threatening, her voice a comely whisper one minute a whirlwind of screeching fury the next, her guitar playing following a similar pattern with Soler's bass and Ufarte's drums holding it all together beneath her. "Purgatorio" is our next stop on the Dante express and here we have a song that harks back a little to the bands "Witchboro" period in that it finds the band jamming an occult rock flavoured groove with Porto opting for a much more waifish and clean vocal dynamic that gradually shifts to an impassioned roar as the intensity of the music increases. Every journey ends somewhere and where better to end a journey than in paradise, or "Paradiso" as it is called here. though don't get to thinking you will be hearing a host of angels singing, harps being gently plucked or Gabriel getting modal on his horn, this is Rosy Finch remember and that is not how they operate. What you do get is moments of lysergic serenity trading places with moments of gritty heavy rock and metal slowly transitioning to a lone ethereal vocal wafting majestically over acoustic guitar, a brilliantly put together piece of music, expertly delivered by three extremely talented musicians, that has the ability to pin you to a wall with its ferocity while at the same time sending shivers down your spine with its unconventional beauty.


Rosy Finch have taken a huge gamble in taking such an iconic and celebrated piece of literature and presenting it in the context of a rock album, but it is a gamble that has paid off. Those that have never ever heard of Dante and think The Divine Comedy is a show they've missed on Netflix will still have the undulating mix of dynamics, the crunching riffs and thundering rhythms to enjoy while those familiar with the Dante will have all of the above but also the added enjoyment of seeing how the band interpret his poem, which makes "Second Morte" a win/win situation for all involved.
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 9 November 2022

WITCHFINDER ~ FORGOTTEN MANSION ..... review

WitchfinderClément Mostefai (vocals/bass); Stanislas Franczak (guitar); Thomas Dupuy (drums) and Kevyn Raecke (keyboards), have been knocking around the scene since 2016 and in that time have shared stages with the likes of Conan, Corrosion of Conformity and Monolord, slowly building their fanbase and garnering a reputation as a good live band. The band have been no slouches when it comes to recording either with albums "Witchfinder"(2017), "Hazy Rites" (2019) and the EP "Endless Garden" (2022) all receiving warm receptions on their release. Now you might think with all this gigging they've done and with an applauded EP already under their belts this year Witchfinder might want to see 2022 out by putting their feet up and taking a well-deserved rest but no, they give us "Forgotten Mansion" (Mrs Red Sound), an early Christmas present you will not want to re-gift,

Opening track "Approaching" begins with tinkling percussion and ominous drones than erupts into a thunderous dark refrain so dank and malevolent that if you began listening to it in a dark room would soon have you running for a light switch. Strangely this dark pounding maelstrom of reverberating riffage, swirling keys and pummelling percussion is offset by vocals of an altogether different flavour, vocals that are not exactly sweet and airy but are a whole lot more melodic and cleaner than what you might have been expecting, given the bombastic nature of the grooves that surround them. In the live environment Mostefai and Franczak share vocal duties, with Mostefai handling the lead and Franczak pitching in on backing vocals and harmonies, Franczak isn't credited as a vocalist on "Forgotten Mansion" but Desert Psychlist assumes the same is true here, either way the vocals are huge and possess an echoing quality that makes them feel like they were recorded in a cathedral rather than in a studio. "Marijuana" follows with a groove no less ominous and menacing than its predecessor only here the band seem to be channelling a little Ghost type dramatics into their sound, albeit with a touch of blackened metal extremism thrown in for good measure, while "Lucid Forest" is a keyboard drenched low slow and heavy stoner doom workout with gothic undertones. "Ghosts Happen to Fade" is up next, its lyrics might scan like something translated by a Google bot but this does not detract from their execution vocally or the enjoyment its mix of heavy stoner bluster and heady psyched out doom brings Final track "The Old Days" comes over like something Dopelord, Monolord and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats might come up with if left locked in a studio together, heavy plodding and doomic, but flecked with a myriad of subtle shades and colours that serve to break up its relentless thrumming heaviness, the song is a fittingly epic finale to what is an equally epic album of dramatic doom.


Heavy, evil sounding guitar refrains, bone rattling bass lines, ground shaking percussion and dramatic swirling keyboard flourishes are the tools Witchfinder have used to build their "Forgotten Mansion", with the decorations a mix of melodic lead and harmonized vocals with occasional hardcore growls and screeches thrown in to sweeten the deal. It's a sturdy structure built on solid foundations that will probably still be standing strong when others have crumbled to dust.
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

#  "Forgotten Mansion" drops 18th November 2022 on Mrs Red Sound 

Sunday, 6 November 2022

BURNING SISTER ~ MILE HIGH DOWNER ROCK ..... review


Apparently, it was Black Sabbath's Bill Ward who first publicly coined the term "downer rock" it was a term he came up with in response to being asked to describe the darker, gloomier and heavier music his and other bands were experimenting with in the late 60's and early 70's. Record labels, however, were not so keen on the term, due to "downer" being street slang for barbiturates and benzodiazepines (barbs and bennies), and so avoided its use as a marketing tool and were much happier to throw their quite considerable weight behind more consumer-friendly terms like "heavy rock", "hard rock" and "heavy metal". The use of "downer rock" as a musical description died a death and soon disappeared into the annuls of history rarely to be heard again, well not quite.
Like the proverbial bad penny, the term has turned up once again, this time gracing an album of music very much in fitting with the sounds it was first coined to describe yet originating in the present day. That album is "Mile High Downer Rock" and is brought to us by a trio of musicians, hailing from Denver, Colorado, calling themselves Burning Sister.


Those of you who remember Burning Sister from their self-titled debut EP, "Burning Sister" will garner no advantage over those coming to this Denver trio anew as listening to the band's debut album "Mile High Downer Rock" is almost like listening to a different band entirely. The personnel remain the same, Steve Miller (bass/synth/vocals); Drake Brownfield (guitars) and Alison Salutz (drums), but the sounds they make together on this new release are gnarlier, grittier and just downright filthier than anything that graced their first EP. Some of the credit for this newfound gnarliness should probably go to the legendary Tad Doyle (TAD/ Brothers of the Sonic Cloth/H.Molly) who, in the mastering process, has stripped some of the polish off of the band's original sound and replaced it with a rougher edgeiness but Desert Psychlist is guessing that Doyle was only doing what the band required of him and that any dumbing down of sheen and gloss was wholly the bands idea. Whoever decides to take the credit there is no getting away from the fact that this grainier, seedier sound is something that fits the band like a glove and gives them a whole new palette of colours and textures to play with.  
First song "Leather Mistress" begins with a somewhat cliched soundbite sampled from some obscure horror flick but this is soon forgiven when the songs Electric Wizard flavoured refrain kicks in with a maelstrom of grainy guitar fuzz and low-end distortion underscored by thundering drums, barely audible vocals and some interesting synthesiser effects. Next up is "Acid Night Vision" another full-on onslaught of fuzzed out riffage and solid tight rhythms only this time with the vocals pushed a little more to the fore and some nice squealy lead work making its presence felt. By now you are probably scrolling back to make sure that you have not misread the opening piece of this review and that this trio DO actually hail from the USA and are not one of those Italian acid-doom/scuzz rock outfits that seem to be cropping up every other day. This would be perfectly understandable as Burning Sister share many of the same musical elements that Italian bands like Witchsnake, Demonio and Wizard Master bring to bear in their compositions, such as lashings of fuzz, overloaded distortion, dialled back in the mix vocals and punishing rhythms. Where Burning Sister differ from their Italian brethren however is in their dynamics. Burning Sister are not a band who are constantly in devastation mode throughout a song, they know how to pace themselves and allow spaces in songs, like "Dead Sun Blues", "S.I.B." and "Stars Align", where the listener can catch a breath before being slammed down again and where the guitar can soar for a second or two before getting dragged down again by the bass and drums into a mire of filthy groove, rare but precious moments that show that even something dubbed "downer rock" can still have the ability to lift you up.


Fuzz is the commodity we lovers of sludge, doom and stoner rock tend to gravitate towards the most in this scene we call the "underground", with the general thinking being that if it fuzzes it probably rocks. This is not always the way things work out though, as many of us have probably found to our cost after buying an album on the strength of just hearing a few bars of fuzzy riffage only then to find we've bought a complete turkey. Thankfully this is not a problem you will encounter with Burning Sister's "Mile High Downer Rock", because what fuzzes here most definitely does rock!
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones