Monday, 9 December 2019

HELA ~ VEGVISIR ..... review


Spanish combo Hela arguably made one of the best albums of 2017 with their highly acclaimed release "Death May Die" however triumph soon turned to disappointment when vocalist/guitarist/lyricist Mireira Porto announced she was departing from the band soon after its release. Fast forward to 2019 and Hela return to the sonic arena with a new vocalist, Ayla-Mae Coghlan, and a brand new album "Vegvisir" (Tormo Records) so let's see if dynamics have altered or directions have changed.


First impressions, as first song "Holy Hell" wafts from Desert Psychlist's battered speakers on a wave of dark imposing heavy doomic groove, is that not much has altered regarding Hela's sonic signature but then Ms Coughlan's vocals enter the fray and those first impressions are totally turned on their head. Coughlan brings a whole new dynamic to Hela's sound, her voice does lacks some of the gravelly edginess of her predecessors but she more than makes up for this with her smoother ethereal, almost symphonic, vocal approach. "Drowned By Myself" follows and finds the band experimenting with a little lysergic colouring and texture, Julián Velasco teasing reverberating arpeggios from his guitar over a backdrop of deep liquid bass (Tano Giménez) and solid steady percussion (Miguel Fernández) while Coughlan sings of "cold waves" and "sorrow" in haunting velvet tones. "Golden Snake" then enters and all thoughts of comparison with Hela's former vocalist are forgotten, Coughlan's smoother tones bringing a more chilled and mystic vibe to Hela's doomic tomes. Hela round up "Vegvisir" with two massive tracks the first of which, "Decaying Sky", shows off Hela's ability to create atmosphere without going overboard or reverting to tired clichés and the second, "Sleepless Nights" is a slow burning doomic lament that builds in intensity yet cleverly never quite explodes into wanton heaviness, both songs serving as a glowing testament to Hela's growing maturity as both songsmiths and musicians..


"Vegvisir" is not a heavy album neither, despite some of its lyrical content, is it an overly dark album, there is a warmth about Hela's new album, in both its musical grooves and vocal performances, that wraps around the listener like a an unexpected but very welcome embrace making it a very rewarding and totally satisfying listen
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 2 December 2019

DESERT SUNS ~ CARRY ON ..... review


Want something with more hooks than a butchers storeroom, more crunch than a head on collision and is grittier than a wet fish on sand dune well look no further Desert Psychlist has the answer to all your needs. Dave Russell (vocals), Woogie Maggard (guitar), Anthony Belluto (guitar), Gabe Fonseca (bass) and Ben McDowell (drums) are Desert Suns a five piece combo from San Diego who, much like their hometown contemporaries Red Wizard and The Great Electric Quest, jam grooves that combine elements of old school 70's rock. blues and metal with those of today's stoner/desert and psych scene. Desert Suns first came to Desert Psychlist's attention with their self titled debut "Desert Suns" but then seemed to slip off our radar until suddenly reappearing on chapter 5 of Ripple Music's "Second Coming of Heavy" EP series sharing the bill with Chiefs (now known as King Chiefs). The band return this year with a brand new album "Carry On" (Electric Valley Records) so hopefully they will remain a little longer on our radar this time around.


Title track "Carry On" kicks things into gear with a song that mashes Kyuss' generator party type desert grooviness with the proto-doomic swagger of Black Sabbath, Russell telling us of "chasing despair" and about "the voices in your head" in strong clean, slightly weary, vocal tones. The band dive deep into blues territory for following track "Sinking Like A Stone", Fonseca laying down deep booming bass lines complimented by McDowell's slightly restrained but highly effective percussion and guitarists Maggard and Belluto's mix of crunching chords and soaring solo's, the track also sees a guest appearance from Red Wizard's Travis Baucum on harmonica his wailing blues harp the perfect foil for Russell's impassioned vocal. Next up is"Slip of the Tongue" an upbeat blues rocker with an infectious vocal melody and a recurring guitar hook you could hang a coat on. "Right This Way" then finds the band easing back on the throttle and getting a little laid back, lysergic and genteel while "Wish It Away" sees the band taking the lysergic elements of the previous track and mixing them up with some old fashioned heavy blues swagger. "Judgement Day" revisits the proto-doomic elements of the albums title track both musically and lyrically before the band brings things to a close with "Feast of Flesh", a song that sees guitarists Maggard and Belluto trading licks, riffs and solo's over and around a grainy heavy doomic voodoo blues groove expertly anchored by Fonseca's thundering bass and McDowell's powerful drums, Russell singing of  the beast hidden within us with a knowing clarity and passion.


Probably a little less metallic than The Great Electric Quest and maybe a tad more blues orientated than Red Wizard, Desert Suns do however still share a common denominator with their San Diego brethren and that is their ability to make music that has its roots in the classic and hard rock of the past yet is still very much of today and new opus "Carry On" is testament to that.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 30 November 2019

WHEEL OF SMOKE ~ SONIC CURE ..... review


On the uppermost floor of Stonerking Towers is a room we call the "listening post", it's walls are  decorated with lovingly framed pictures of 70's rock gods and old dog eared concert posters stuck to the cream painted walls with blu-tack.. This room, with it's guitars and basses leaning against cabinets overflowing with vinyl, cd's and cassettes, is where we at Desert Psychlist write our reviews and do the majority of our listening. Today this fairly small space is unusually full, not because this is the warmest room in the place but because the grooves, currently exploding from the battered speakers of the rooms solitary PC, is drawing both family and friends in like bees to a flower. That flower is a five track opus entitled "Sonic Cure" ( Polderrecords) from a five piece Belgian combo going by the collective name of Wheel of Smoke.


Progressive, complex music is probably a fair description of what Wheel of Smoke are currently bringing to the table with their new album"Sonic Cure" however that is not the whole story, there is plenty of good old fashioned rock'n'roll to be found among the five tracks on offer here as well as good helpings of heavy psych and desert flavoured space-rock. The introduction of synthesiser maestro Johan Overloop to the bands ranks has given the band a whole new lease of life and seemingly inspired the bands original core of Erik Heyns (guitar/vocals) Tristan Michiels (bass/vocals) Jouk Op De Beeck (drums) and Filip Remans (guitar) to dig that little deeper and reach that little higher to create music, that although in the past has always been highly enjoyable and rewarding, here is a little more cerebral and challenging. There is an intelligence and an intensity to songs like "Brainshaker","Beamed" and "Electric I" that, when combined with the high levels of musicianship, vocal prowess and songcraft on offer throughout "Sonic Cure", elevates Wheel of Smokes's sonic impact to a whole new level of enjoyability.


"Sonic Cure" has finished now and as we look around the "listening post" all that can be seen are huge appreciative grins, not only from the faces of the living inhabitants of the room but also, and we are convinced of this, from those 70's icons looking down from their glass fronted enclosures.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Friday, 29 November 2019

RAINBOWS ARE FREE ~ HEAD PAINS ..... review


Oklahoma's Ranbows Are Free are a strange beast but one well wort investing a little time in getting to know. The bands sound is a heady blend of heavy stoner rock and space tinted psych that although might sound a tad normal and par for the course in todays current underground scene is nothing of the such. Desert Psychlist can guarantee you that there is nothing straightforward or run of the mill about what this band bring to the table with their heady mix of theatrics and eclectic grooviness but don't take our word for it, do yourselves a favour and just give their latest opus "Head Pains" (Argonauta Records-CD/Digital and Horton Records - Vinyl) a spin for confirmation.


There is a gothic edge to some of the grooves on "Head Pains" that harks back to that post punk era of the UK music scene, a time that saw the emergence of bands like Bauhaus, Sisters of Mercy and The Southern Death Cult (who later shortened their name and leapt into the classic rock arena as The Cult) flying their colours under the banner of Goth Rock. This edge comes not from a musical perspective but from a vocal one and the fact that vocalist Brandon Kistler, when singing in the lower register, channels a croon that blends shades of  Bauhaus' Pete Murphy's baritone delivery with that of The Cult's Ian Astbury as well as a little hint of Jim Morrison and Nick Cave too. Musically the band jam high calibre grooves gathered from the full spectrum of western rock music with Floydian heavy psych, Sabbathesque proto-doom and even a little baroque-like acoustic picking getting thrown in to the mix. It is this diversity that makes "Head Pains" such a joy to listen to, the band having no specific signature sound and seemingly just going with what feels right to them at the time, something that results in a delightful mish mash of styles and genres that totally defies categorisation.


Rainbows Are Free have, with "Head Pains", crafted an album that is somewhat like an English stew or a New Orleans gumbo, the band throwing everything that has ever moved or influenced them into one big pot and stirring it all together to make something totally unique, mouthwatering and extremely tasty.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Friday, 22 November 2019

DROID ~ HYPERREALITY ..... review


Stoner doom with a good helping of psych is something that really floats our boat at Desert Psychlist, there is something about huge heavy leaden riffs blended with a modicum of swirling lysergic texturing and colour that just seems to hit that sweet spot with us. Given this information you can imagine our delight when Australian quartet DROID, Richard Iskov (vocals/guitar); Will Haines (vocals/bass); Tim Wooltorton (guitar) and Jeremy Kaye Simmons (drums), contacted Desert Psychlist enquiring about a review and inviting us to take a sneak preview of their debut album "Hyperreality", not only did it fall into the above category of lysergic laced stonerized doom it also blew our tiny collective minds!



All manner of weird and wonderful noises greet the listener as first track "Mind Collapse" begins but those noises slowly dissipate and make way for a thundering bass heavy refrain, tinted with the faintest hint of eastern promise. Suddenly, just about when you are ready to throw those devils horns in the air and prepare for some vigorous head nodding, everything changes and the vocals kick in, executed in clean but hazy tones, against a groove that although still quite heavy as an almost alt/post rock feel. This fractured alternative take on what is at its deepest root a stoner doom sound is something that runs right through "Hyperreality", the band utilising heavy distorted riffage and thundering powerful rhythms as the foundation for their sound but weaving into that sound elements of psych, space and basically anything they can land their hands to challenge the listener and keep things interesting, To successfully pull this off you need to have musicians in your band who can adapt to sudden changes in time, dynamic and tempo and be able to flow through those changes without sounding mechanical, in Iskov, Haines, Wooltorton and Simmonds DROID have those musicians. Iskav and Wooltorton wrench a huge range of tones and effects sounds from their guitars while still maintaining enough crunch and swirl to please even the most ardent stoner loving doomer while Haines' growling bass and Simmons' thundering drums lay down a groove that never stays in one place long enough to become tedious or one dimensional. Add to this lysergic laced mix of heaviness and off kilter quirkiness vocals that shift from smooth and hazy to punkish and angsty and you arrive at a sound that is familiar yet at the same time unlike anything you may have ever heard before.


Stoner metal/doom has been getting a little thick around the waist belt of late with many bands content to sit back and rely on the strength of their riffs and leaden heaviness to pull them through however this is not the case with DROID, those riffs and that heaviness are unarguably still part of DROID'S overall sound but they are mixed with an undefinable something that makes them stand way out from the crowd, and that is something to be both applauded and celebrated.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 21 November 2019

DESERT SMOKE ~ KARAKUM .... review


Portugal is not a country that we tend to mention too much when talking about the underground rock scene on an international level, but the Mediterranean country, clinging on at the western borders of Spain, is not without its share of very good bands happily flying the underground flag. Dollar Llama, and more recently, Heavy Cross of Flowers have both made sizable splashes on the international scene and there are many more waiting in the wings hoping for their chance to shine. One Portuguese band hoping for their moment in the spotlight are a little combo from Lisbon going by the name of Desert Smoke. Desert Smoke, André Pedroso Rocha on guitar, João Romao on guitar, João Nogueira on bass and Claudio 'Pidgeon' Aurélio on drums, jam grooves that weave together elements of swirling space rock and lysergic laced heavy psych to create a sound that takes the listener to places they didn't know they could go to, so why not grab a bag and the bands new album "Karakum" and allow Desert Smoke to take you with them on a one way trip to instrumental heaven.


Without doubt the first thing that will come to mind, as intro "Smoke One" billows out of your speakers/headphones on a wave of swirling swooping sound effects, will be Hawkwind but although there are plenty of Hawkwind-esque moments on "Karakum" it cannot be said that Desert Smoke are in anyway attempting to emulate those space rock grooves of yesteryear. Desert Smoke's grooves come from a much deeper, heavier and trippier place than those of Dave Brock's space cowboys something that following track "Darvaz" more than testifies too."Darvaz" erupts out of the speakers with muscular riffs fuzzed and crunching then proceeds to go everywhere all at once with the two guitarists laying down a scorching array of screaming, screeching solo's, expertly steered from beneath by some outstanding deep growling bass work and industrious thundering percussion. "Solar Jam" follows and begins with chilled and hazy sounding guitar tones floating over shimmering percussion and deep liquid bass lines, the song slowly building in momentum until taking off into the cosmos on wave after wave of lysergic laced guitar pyrotechnics, the band gradually easing off the throttle and bringing the listener back to earth by reverting once again to the humble relaxed fusion groove of its beginnings. "Mystic Lunar" opens with a superbly executed circular bass motif that is then joined by the guitars and drums in a groove that is part desert rock, part Ozric Tentacles style progressive rave rock and 100% breathtaking instrumental grooviness.. Desert Smoke close out the album with "Gate of Karakum" a scintillating heady tour-de-force that ebbs and flows between hazy ambience and full on lysergic heaviness.


Desert Psychlist hates using that tired old cliché "journey" when describing music but its damn hard to think of another word when trying to put into words the experience of listening to Desert Smoke's "Karakum", it is without a doubt "a journey" and it is one you will want to revisit again and again.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 11 November 2019

ALUNAH ~ VIOLET HOUR ..... review


After a run of outstanding occult tinted doom albums Birmingham's Alunah's upward trajectory almost came to a shuddering halt when founding member vocalist/guitarist Sophie Day announced her retirement from the band, Day was the bands main lyricist and with her distinctive voice she was very much the focal point of the bands live shows. Replacing Day was going to be a big ask but thankfully the band found the perfect replacement in, former Bear Legs, vocalist/guitarist Sian Greenaway, not only did Greenaway possess similar vocal tones to Day she had just as strong a stage prescence. The band soon got down to writing for their new line up and soon discovered  that Greenaway was not only a powerful vocalist but she was also an accomplished lyricist, the new member was proving to be quite the asset. After testing the waters on the live circuit Alunah decamped to the studio to record "Amber & Gold" a four song EP that included three new songs and a stunning cover of Chris Issak's "Wicked Game", the EP garnered good reviews from all the right quarters and things were looking promising for the Birmingham combo. This year, and quite out of the blue, Alunah announced that founding guitarist David Day was leaving to pursue a life outside of music, for any other band losing another founding member would be a disaster but the band hardly missed a stride and the news that he was leaving was almost immediately followed by the news that Dean Ashton, who had previously been plying his trade with metal legends Diamond Head, was his replacement. Fast forward a few months and the revised line up of the band who had been working on new songs, headed into the studio to record  their new album "Violet Hour".Will the loss of two original members have had a huge impact on Alunah's core sound, we'll let you make your own minds up.


Things get off to promising start with opening track " Trapped and Bound", old fans will be pleased to hear that Alunah's hallmark sound of huge resounding refrains driven by thunderous rhythms are all still in place but may be intrigued by the slightly more commercial feel of Greenaway's vocal melodies. For some older fans this ever so slight shift towards a more mainstream sound maybe the straw that breaks the camels back however we at Desert Psychlist find the fact that there are still bands out there writing songs that are satisfyingly heavy and intense yet still pleasingly hummable to be quite refreshing. "Dance of Deceit" follows in much the same vein as its predecessor,  Ashton's heavily distorted and fuzzed guitar crunching out thrumming powerchords and dark swirling solo's over and around a backdrop of growling bass and crushing percussion, expertly supplied by Dan Burchmore (bass) and Jake Mason (drums).It is Greenaway's vocals however that will stay the longest in the listeners memory, her vocal range,slightly wider than her predecessors, possess enough tonal similarities to Day's to ensure that Alunah's core sound. which is the reason why we all came here, has not been compromised. "Hunt" follows and jams a slightly more atmospheric and brooding groove, Greenaway's vocal, occasionally backed by Ashton, sounds huge here and combined with the songs dark menacing refrains and pulsating rhythmic groove gives the song an epic almost grandiose feel. "Hypnotized" finds Greenaway employing a clipped, almost Germanic inflection to her vocal totally suited to the songs throbbing groove while title track "Violet Hour" is built around an encapsulating stop start refrain that splutters and stutters beneath clean clear vocal melodies."Unholy Disease" is up next and mixes old school doomics with new school occult melody to create a delightful blend of both dynamics.Things get a little ethereal on " Velvet" Greenaway's vocals taking on waifish tones,  her vocal a little higher and a little sweeter sounding while beneath her the band lay down an intriguing mix of  heavy doomic nastiness and chilled bluesy swagger. "Lake of Fire" brings the album to a close with a wonderful blend of lilting melody and atmospheric heaviness, Greenaway's note perfect soaring vocals drifting gracefully over thick swathes of dark, dank prog tinted bluesiness, Ashton ripping brief but tasteful solos from his guitar superbly supported by Burchmore's deep liquid bass lines and Mason's solid and on point percussion.


Like we said in our intro we will let you decide if the new line up of Alunah meets your high expectations however we will say that for us, at Desert Psychlist, this latest version of Alunah have, with "Violet Hour", upheld the legacy of the original Alunah and have gone some way in enhancing that legacy. Long live Alunah!
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 10 November 2019

GODS & PUNKS ~ AND THE CELESTIAL ASCENSION .... review


From a country that keeps giving comes a band who are equally giving. Brazil's Gods & Punks have, over a three year period, been turning out quality release after quality release, the Rio de Janeiro quintet steadily gaining a legion of fans both in their own country as well further abroad. Although things have been going well on the international scene things at home have not been going so well, the band recently lost access to a place they called "The Attic", a rehearsal space where they thrashed out ideas and composed the majority of their musical tomes. Fortunately, and  after a period of fruitless searching, the band chanced upon a place called "The Shack" an ideal new home set in a semi-jungle environment where, in their words, "the magic happened". That "magic" can now be witnessed firsthand on the bands third full length album "And The Celestial Ascension"


Gods & Punks seem to be a band on a consistent mission to blow minds, the band, who took their name from a Monster Magnet song, have progressed at alarming rate since the release of their debut EP, gradually shifting from being a four to the floor heavy stoner unit to one unafraid to experiment and take chances. The bands sound has, in just a three year period, evolved to such an extent that it's hard to believe that the band who gave us "The Sounds of the Earth" is the same band currently promoting their new album "And the Celestial Ascension", where were once crunching riffs and punchy rhythms we now find intricate sweeping arpeggios and shimmering percussion. This is not to say that when called upon Gods & Punks can no longer pin you to the wall with the power of their refrains, they can and do, just that there is a more cerebral, intelligent feel to their grooves now that somehow makes them feel much more powerful and a whole lot more interesting. Undulating is a strange word to attribute to music from what is essentially a hard rock band but that is exactly what you get with songs like "Ascension", "Infinite Hourglass" and "Dying Planet", songs with grooves that have the ability to pick you up and carry you along with them, grooves that ebb and flow like waves on an ocean's surface, powerful and dangerous one minute calm, serene and gentle the next.


Complex, clever and packed solid with superb vocal performances and outstanding musicianship "And the Celestial Ascension" is Gods & Punks finest release to date, how the band will top this is anyone's guess but you can bet your bottom dollar they will try and given their current trajectory will most probably succeed.
Check 'em out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 7 November 2019

COSMIC REAPER ~ DEMON DANCE ,,,,, review


Somewhere in North Carolina a gathering is happening, The Horned One has summoned his acolytes to partake in a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the end times, inviting his malevolent horde of malformed and maladjusted disciples to strut their stuff as humanity slowly spirals into apocalyptic chaos, tonight my friends..... the demons dance.
Ok that is not exactly true (apart from the mention of North Carolina), what we at Desert Psychlist are really trying to do here is flex our journalistic muscles to prepare the stage and set the scene for an EP that has a dark occult(ish) feel and crunching  proto-doomic flavour, that EP is entitled "Demon Dance" and the band are called Cosmic Reaper.


If you are not a fan of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats psychedelic doom endeavors and have had your fill of Sabbathesque proto doomic riffery then maybe now is the time to stop reading however if the mention of those two bands evokes an onset of uncontrollable drooling then your in for a treat with "Demon Dance". Charlotte, North Carolina's Cosmic Reaper do not try to put on any airs and graces or try to pretend they are the next big thing, they don't want to be the new Elder or Tool they just want to lay down some damn good doom and have some fun while doing it. Now you may be thinking that that sort of mind-set doesn't show much ambition, well you would be wrong as although Cosmic Reaper might not be chasing world domination they do want to be the best at what they do and what they do is grind out some mightily impressive doomic grooves. From the delightfully dense and heavy instrumental "Subintroeo", with its powerful percussion and thundering reoccurring fuzz drenched riff, to title track and closer "Demon Dance", with its clean ,almost buried in the mix, vocals, crunching circular refrains and brief but highly effective solos, there is not a minute or nano-second you will regret pushing the play button on this little gem of an EP!


Going back to our tongue in cheek intro to this review, if the Angel of the Bottomless Pit really did need a soundtrack for his end-times shindig then he wouldn't be going far wrong if he started spinning Cosmic Reaper's " Demon Dance" on his flaming decks of steel, the Horde would be going ballistic!
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer jones

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC ~ SECOND SIGHT ....review


Clouds Taste Satanic will be no strangers to Desert Psychlist's readership, we have covered three of their releases and we were not about to let the bands new two song EP "Second Sight" slip through our fingers without waxing lyrical on its many merits. For those of you who may have been living in some sort of vortex and are unfamiliar with CTS they are an instrumental band hailing from Brooklyn, New York who have made a name for themselves as a go to heavy doomic band despite the lack of a vocalist.


There seems to have been a slight shift in direction from CTS on their new EP "Second Sight", and it is slight we are not talking seismic here, the band are still laying  down the doom thick and nasty but the psychedelic/lysergic elements that have always been an aspect of their sound seems here to have been ramped up a notch or three. Title track "Second Sight" is a prime example of this, the songs constantly changing dynamics spiral to unbelievable heights one minute then plummet into doomy depths the next, the band shifting seamlessly from one groove into another never allowing the music to go down blind alleys it can't return from and constantly finding new destinations they can take it to. Second song "Black Mass" finds CTS adding a touch of old school hard rock and heavy metal in with their staples of heavy psych and post-doom, the rhythm section of Sean Bay (bass) and Greg Acampora (drums) at one point laying down an almost Iron Maiden type gallop behind the crunching riffs and swooping solos of guitarists Steven Scavuzzo and Brian Bauhs. CTS are also unafraid to  employ ambience and atmosphere as weapons in their musical arsenal as they do at the songs three quarter mark where a dark throbbing bass line, accompanied by droning effects and controlled guitar feedback, leads into menacing slow, low riffage pushed by powerful deliberate percussion before then taking off on a lysergic flight of guitar screaming fancy to take things to the close.


There are a myriad of bands out there travelling the instrumental highway but none come close to replicating what Clouds Taste Satanic bring to the table with their particular brand of instrumental post-doom and lysergic metal. We at Desert Psychlist thought it would be damn hard for the band to better their previous EP "Evil Eye", such was its sonic impact and high levels of writing and musicianship, but CTS have proved us wrong and with "Second Sight" the band have raised the bar to whole new level
Check it out …….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 3 November 2019

AROUND THE FIRE ~ ADVENT OF THE FIREWALKERS ...... review


If you have been a regular visitor to the pages of Desert Psychlist then it might have come to your notice that we have a bit of a predilection for music that is a little off the beaten track, music with jagged edges that doesn't quite conform to what many consider the norm. Today we feature a band who fall into that category, a combo from Thessaloniki, Greece whose grooves blend Asian and Middle Eastern influences in with those from their home country while also managing to rock out western style.. The band in question go by the name of Around The Fire and their debut album flies under the banner of "Advent of the Firewalkers"


After bigging up Around The Fire's Middle Eastern/Asian influences it comes as a bit of a surprise when the needle drops on first track "Helie Eleison" and we are treated to a vocal chant that sounds not unlike something that might be heard at some Native American rain dance, the band redeem themselves somewhat though by surrounding the songs tribal drumbeats and crunching guitars with swirling eastern tinted motifs superbly delivered on a kemenje (a type of fiddle with three strings used predominantly in Eastern Mediterranean folk music). Vocals, both here and throughout the album, are delivered in clear tones but mostly sit at the low throatier end of the spectrum, this vocal approach far from being at odds with the albums underlying eastern themes and motifs actually adds a certain gravitas to proceedings and gives the album an almost ritualistic, spiritual vibe. Only four songs are contained on "Advent of the Firewalkers", all of them are a mix of westernized heavy doom, stoner rock and traditional flavoured Middle Eastern/Grecian grooviness and each, in Desert Psychlist's humble opinion, is worth its weight in gold, frankincense and mer.



Quirky, left of center and off the wall "Advent of the Firewalkers" is all of those things and more, an album from a band not just content to take their influences from the vast library of western rock but also from their own geographical location and history.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 27 October 2019

HERÁLDICA DE MANDRAKE ~ ESTO TAMBIÉN PASARÁ ....... review


There is something going on in the international underground scene that has never really happened before, bands from the countries like Brazil, Argentina and Peru, situated at the southern end of the America's, are not only creating music to be enjoyed by audiences of their own respective countries they are also making music that is reaching out to a much wider international market and Chile, that strip of land running like a spine down the South American west coast, is no exception. 
Heráldica de Mandrake, a trio from Santiago, Chile, consisting of Francisco Visceral Rivera (guitar/vocals)and vocals; Max Salazar (bass/backing vocals) and Cristian Rivera (percussion), jam grooves that although owe a huge debt to the doomic grooves of Northern Hemisphere bands like Reverend Bizarre and Count Raven contains enough "rice and beans" to give them their own unique identity, as can be heard on their epic one track EP "Esto Tambien Pasará". 


"Esto Tambien Pasará" begins with drummer Cristian Rivera beating out a huge military-like percussive tattoo that is then joined by the harmonised voices of Francisco Visceral Rivera and Max Salazar in tones that can only be described as Gregorian, monastic chants that give the proceedings an almost spiritual yet at the same time satanic feel. The Ep's lyrics are all sang in Spanish and far from limiting their appeal to a potential wider international audience they add an element of mysticism to events giving the listener the feeling they are witnesses to some sort of ancient religious ritual. Musically "Esto Tambien Pasará" sits somewhere between epic doom and its stonerized equivalent with a variety of big thundering guitar riffs driven hard by equally thundering percussion and bass around which the band intersperse elements of swirling heavy psych and  experimental space rock, the trio regularly taking their grooves off on weird and wonderful tangents  but just as regularly returning to the rustic core elements of their doomic origins.


In a scene that regularly looks backwards for its inspiration it is refreshing to find a band trying to do something a little different with those inspirations, and what Heráldica de Mandrake bring to the table with "Esto Tambien Pasará" is certainly different and maybe even a little brilliant!
Check it out .... 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

URBAN GRAVEYARD ~ WELCOME TO THE URBAN GRAVEYARD .... review


We at Desert Psychlist have come to the realisation that our coverage of grooves coming out of the Dutch underground scene has been a little sparse to say the least, in fact the only bands we've covered from the Netherlands in the five years we have been running have been Desert Colossus and Blood Diamond This  needs to be remedied and how better than pointing you in the direction of Urban Graveyard a quintet from the Dutch Low Countries with a penchant for caustic fuzz drenched riffage and punchy thundering rhythms as can be heard on the bands debut "Welcome To The Urban Graveyard".


 Title track "Welcome To The Urban Graveyard", is not so much a track as an introduction piece, its narrative, accompanied by the sound of  crowing cockerels, tolling bells and the sound of people getting on with their general lives, tells of how death for people living in medieval towns and cities was such a common occurrence that the dying and dead outnumbered the birds that sat atop the rooftops. Just as the listener begins to think they may have stumbled across some conceptual themed opus set in the Dark Ages the listener is suddenly propelled into the present with a gritty little ditty entitled "21st Century Prostitute"  a song that begins life with rolling, heavily fuzzed, bass line that is then joined by the rest of the band in a groove that sits somewhere between the generator party desert rock of Kyuss and the weed inspired riffology of Wales' Dopesmoker, incessant circular grooves decorated in big, slightly untamed, vocal colouring. A brief experimental piece going by the name "Danjon-L0" follows before we are once again battered by an onslaught of fuzz drenched refrains via "Bloodmoon Rising", a chugging thunder riffed groove monster interspersed with Hawkwind flavoured swells and swirls. "A Subtle Guide" is up next and does not differ much from its predecessor except for the fact that there is a touch of bluesy swagger thrown into the mix this time around. "A58" closes "Welcome To The Urban Graveyard", an inner city cruising song that conjures up visions of on coming headlight glare and seemingly endless tarmac,


Experimental pieces aside Urban Graveyard's sound is a relentless assault that hits into a groove and does not deviate too far from that groove once that groove has been hit. Now some might read that statement as a criticism, it is not, like the aforementioned Dopesmoker Urban Graveyard use their relentlessness and repetition as a tool to create a mesmeric almost hypnotic feel with their music, the band creating grooves that once they have grabbbed you just simply refuse to relinquish their grip.
Check them out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 14 October 2019

HIDDEN SUN ~PARALYZED ..... review


Sometimes musicians come together and something just clicks straight away, whether its because all the musicians involved have a similar musical vision or it's just an alignment of certain planets remains a mystery but when it does happen the results can be outstanding. Bamberg's Paralyzed only got together in March of this year (2019) and after only a few gigs the German quartet of Michael Binder (vocals & solo guitar); Caterina Böhner (rhythm guitar); Philipp Engelbrecht (bass guitar) and Florian Thiele (drums) decided that despite the brevity of their time as a working unit they needed to dive into the studio and document the magic they were creating together so as to share it with the wider world. The results of that studio visit can be heard on the bands debut EP " Hidden Sun" and we think you will agree IT IS outstanding!


Regular perusers of Desert Psychlist's pages will know that we have a real soft spot for that genus of raucous raw groove, birthed between the heavy blues of the late 60's and the hard rock/heavy metal of the late 70's, that we now known as "proto metal".  Paralyzed may not have even been born during this period but the music they create has a distinctive "proto" vibe, albeit sitting at the more bluesier end of the spectrum. Fear not though that Paralyzed's grooves are backward looking as "Hidden Sun" has as much of the gritty modern stoner attack of Earthless and Wo Fat in its execution as it does that of, "proto" cult legends, Buffalo and JPT Scare Band. Why are we specifically mentioning these bands rather than say the Monster Magnet's and Kyuss' from the modern era and the Sir Lord Batimore's  and Dust's from those "proto" heydays, the reason why is, with the exception of Buffalo, those are and were bands who put a huge emphasis on the use of guitar solo's as a main musical weapon as opposed to just an accompaniment or a way to fill in the spaces between verses. So why Buffalo then we hear you ask? Well that's because Binder's vocals have a not too dissimilar tone and delivery to those of the Australian bands frontman Dave Tice, gritty, bluesy and strong.  "Hidden Sun" is primarily a guitar album and it is Binder's guitar work, combined with his powerful vocals, that is the dominant force throughout the EP's seven tracks, whether rocking back and forth on his wah pedal or laying down soaring clean tones and textures he is the axis around which the rest of the musicians contributions revolve. And what contributions they are, Böhner's rhythm guitar does not just fill in the spaces Binder leaves for her it lays down the foundations on which those guitar forays are built, her crunching power chords and single note riffs dripping and drooling in warm fuzz are the cornerstones around which the lead guitarist constructs his swooping solo's. Engelbrecht's bass plays a similar role, his booming, growling bass lines sit just beneath the guitars and combine with Thiele's solid, tight and punchy percussion to inject "the groove" into the EP's blues flecked lysergic sonic onslaught. Song wise Paralyzed do not put a foot wrong from the fuzzy bass intro of brief but groovy "Idols" to the final snare shot that closes the heavily fuzzed final track "Polarity" not a guitar note or drum beat is used without it earning its place in the whole, everyone bringing their "A" game to the table to create something that doesn't need a few listens to "get in to" but hits that sweet spot in your inner ear immediately.



Desert Psychlist was one of the first to chance upon Paralyzed's "Hidden Sun" and we immediately posted our discovery on social media to alert others to its awesome content, the post was then picked up by such underground press luminaries as Doomed & Stoned's Papa Paul Rote and Doom Charts contributor Steve Rodger both of whom have gone on to not only rave about its sonic impact but also to put their money where their mouths are and make a purchase.... and that can probably tell you more about how good this is than a few hundred of Desert Psychlist's words.
Check it out ..... 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 13 October 2019

DOPE DEFAULT ~ IMPRISONED ..... review


When reviewing Greek riffmeisters 2017 EP "Tales from the Wasteland" Desert Psychlist stated that "Dope Default may not be in the same league as Planet of Zeus and 1000mods quite yet but if they continue releasing EP's of the quality of "Tales From The Wasteland" then that day might not be too far away" Well it seems that Desert Psychlist maybe somewhat of a seer as since that time Dope Default's star has been on the ascendancy. The band soon followed up "Tales from the Wasteland" with their first full length album "Ofrenda" an album that fully cemented the bands transformation from the wannabee grungsters of their debut EP "Nuclear Honeymoon" into the hard riffing stonerized desert rockers they are today and to further document that transition from groan to growl the Thessaloniki quintet of  John Campbell (vocals); Dimitris Kolimvanos (guitars); Giorgos Kontouris (guitars);  Makis Georgiou (bass) and  Thodoris Anastasiadis (drums), have just released their second album "Imprisoned".


Things get off to a very promising start with "No Tomorrow" a chord crunching riff fest driven by throbbing bass and powerful percussion over which big throaty vocals tell of missed opportunities and chased dreams. Following tracks "Cold-Blooded Queen" and "The Fallen Saviour" follow in much the same vein as their predecessor with big chopped out powerchords complimented by swirling lead guitar motifs pushed hard by a pulsating bass and drum pairing, both tunes finding Dope Default putting a bigger emphasis on melody and vocal trade offs. Next song "Sinless Invader" finds the band heading into southern rock waters, the band jamming a groove that sits somewhere between Blackfoot and Mississippi Bones, and is quickly followed by "Relentless", a chugging riff monster with a clever mix of loud, quiet , loud dynamics. "Silent Scream", a song that tackles the subject of our own inner demons, is next and is buoyed by a stuttering heavily fuzzed guitar riff decorated in a mix of gritty lead and harmonised vocal colouring while "Years Of Glory" , an instrumental, uses a recurring twin guitar motif to grab you attention before going off on a series of groove laden tangents. And so we arrive at last track and the one that bears the albums title "Imprisoned", big beefy and with a groove that is part Sabbath, part Orange Goblin and part Iron Maiden, it closes the album with all guns blazing its powerful bellowed vocals, scorching lead and crunching rhythm guitars underpinned by growling bass and punishing percussion, all combining to create a raucous finale to what is a delightfully raucous album.



Greece maybe a country struggling with its economic climate but one currency the bands that reside there do not lack in is groove and Dope Default's "Imprisoned"  is rolling in the stuff!
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 5 October 2019

GEVAUDAN ~ ITER ..... review


It starts at the base of the spine and runs like an electric shock up through the vertebrae finally arriving in that sweet spot in the brain where there it explodes like a bomb sending your senses reeling and filling your whole being with an unexplainable delight. We are of course talking about that reaction we feel when we hear music that is so damn good it actually has a physical effect on the body, a reaction Desert Psychlist felt earlier today when we dropped the needle for the first time on UK doomsters Gevaudan's debut "Iter"


Grief, misery and woe are staple and oft overused themes of many bands working in the field of doom however Adam Pirmohamed (vocals), Bruce Hamilton (guitar), Andy Salt (bass) and David Himbury (drums), under the flag of Gevaudan, manage to give those themes a whole new lease of life with their debut album "Iter". "Iter" is in essence what you would call a "traditional" doom album but to just call it that would be a disservice as there is so much more going on here. Yes there are those themes of despair and sorrow we spoke of earlier and yes Pirmohamed's vocals do have those classic gothic tinted tones that border on rock operatic but when you put these together with the dark, dank and frankly quite prog-like doom that Hamilton, Salt and Himbury lay beneath those vocals and lyrics then you end up with something very, very special. Desert Psychlist's first thoughts, while listening to Gevaudan's debut opus, was to try and compare it with albums from those greats of the traditional doom genre Candlemass and Solitude Aeturnus but the more we listened the more we started to hear something else and the truth dawned on us that what we were hearing had more in common with early Opeth and Ireland's Primordial than it did with Leif Edlings Swedish combo as there are elements of both Opeth's proggish leanings and Primordial's blackened metal intensity in what Gevaudan bring to the table, albeit a little more doomic and vocally a little more traditional. Desert Psychlist could go into one of our usual song by song breakdown's, examining every little vocal inflection and instrumental passage of the five songs that make up "Iter", however we will leave that for you to discover as music this good, this emotionally involving and powerful should be experienced first hand without any preconceived notions, what we will tell you is what Gevaudan bring,to the altar, with songs entitled "Dawntreader", "Maelstrom", "The Great Heathen Army", "Saints of Blood" and "Duskwalker", are dynamics that range from a whisper to a roar, grooves that can seduce with a gentle caress then leave you reeling with the ferocity of their attack.



"Iter" is an album that will appeal to both the traditional doom crowd and those that like their doom a little on the blacker side, an album that leans towards prog in places yet at the same time stays true to the basics of its doomic roots, an album that's not quite a masterpiece but comes damn close.
Check it out …..
  © 2019 Frazer Jones