Sunday, 20 January 2019

INNER ALTAR ~ VOL.III ... review


Describing what Missouri's Inner Altar are about musically is not an easy ask, ok they are most definitely a band whose groove is of the doomic variety but calling them just a doom band would be  somewhat of a disservice as there is so much more going on here. If trying to fathom out a description for their sonic output is not made difficult enough for the humble reviewer the band muddy the waters further by opting for exotic pseudonyms rather than their actual birth names. So here is an album called "Vol. III" that is slightly genre confused and is brought to you by Lord RewciferLong Feather, Tunks, Seasnake and Strong Smoke....enjoy!


"Prelude", a serene and tranquil acoustic lullaby with baroque/medieval leanings, opens "Vol. III", it is brief yet beautiful but really doesn't really tell you much about the grooves that are about to explode out of your speakers for the duration of this albums next eight tracks. So what is it that Inner Altar bring to the altar that is radically different from what other bands are doing in the doom scene? Well the answer is that Inner Altar's musical outpourings owe as much to the traditional doom of the 80's as they do the post-punk, gothic rock of the same period, the band treading a wafer thin line between the epic doom of Candlemass and the dark art-school meanderings of the UK's Bauhaus. There has always been a tenuous link between "goth" and its heavier cousin "traditional doom", both explore the darker sonic edges of the musical spectrum and both toy with baroque themes and dark romanticism for their inspiration. Inner Altar  explore that link with "Vol. III" borrowing, on songs with titles like "Undine's Kiss" and "Mother Eternity", a little from one to mix with the other and creating a groove that embodies the dankness and depth of doom as much as it does the cold, stark darkness of goth, the band blending the two dynamics to create a sound that is wholly original and totally their own yet at the same time still vaguely familiar.


Inner Altar have ,with "Vol, III", taken traditional doom into territories it may not have previously visited, this is not a bad thing, genre's need to be challenged so as to evolve and Inner Altar are a band evolving at an alarming rate.
Check 'em out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 17 January 2019

YATRA ~ DEATH RITUAL .... review


Desert Psychlist thinks if your a fan of Sleep and are drawn towards the stoneric blackish doom of Sweden's Ordos then its a pretty safe bet that the thick slow to mid-tempo growling grooves of Maryland's Yatra will be, as we say in England,  right up your street. Yatra, Maria Geisbert (bass), Mike Tull (drums) and Dana Helmuth (guitar/vocals), write songs that deal in fantasy and mythology and decorate them in thick droning bass and guitar tones anchored by crushing heavy pounding percussion around which they weave gravel thick, almost spoken, vocal tones, something you can check out for yourselves by taking their debut release "Death Ritual" (Grimoire Records) for a spin.


Desert Psychlist is not going to pretend that the type of vocals performed by Yatra's Dana Helmuth on "Death Ritual" are something we regularly tend to seek out in our grooves but you really could not imagine the devilishly dense and delicious eight grooves that make up the bands new album working without them, Helmuth's deep gravel thick tones are the perfect fit for the thick doomic refrains and pummelling beats that surrounded them and add a pleasing, if somewhat disturbing, sinister edge to proceedings. A big shout out here should go out to the recording and mixing skills of Noel Mueller, the man behind the desk has done a sterling job of giving "Death Ritual" a huge thick dense sound while still retaining the clarity of each individual instrument and of course those vocals. "Death Ritual" is an album strewn with highlights and there is honestly not a weak track to be found on the album but if the push came to the shove and Desert Psychlist had to choose a favourite then it would be to a toss up between the two ebony gems sitting side by side in the albums centre, "Snakes In The Temple" with its wah drenched guitar motifs, and "Smoke Is Rising" a song so heavy it should carry a government health warning,


Yatra's "Death Ritual" is an album that you will either love or hate, there is no sitting on the fence with these guys you either get what they are bringing to the table or you don't, Desert Psychlist is most definitely sitting on the "get" side of the fence but you will have to make your own minds up
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 14 January 2019

EARTHDIVER ~ LEAVE SOMETHING WITCHY ..... review


Nowadays artwork is probably one of the most underestimated tools in an artistes arsenal of how to pull in casual browsers to sample their goods, it's a trick that has worked for years, put some killer painting/photo/sketch on your cover, be it a digital download, CD or vinyl, and the casual browser will be drawn to it and in the best scenario make a purchase. This worked to great effect recently when Desert Psychlist was trawling through the various genres of underground rock on Bandcamp and came across an EP by a band called Earthdiver, struck by its cover artwork of two other-worldly olive skinned women set against a background of hazy moonshine and dark foreboding trees we duly checked it out, the album was called "Leave Something Witchy" and its grooves kicked even more than its artwork!


Earthdiver are Matthew Funk (bass), David Hindman (drums) and Eric Stuart (guitar/vocals) a trio hailing from Denver, Colorado who are relatively new kids on the stoner doom block. Despite their lack of experience Earthdiver seem to have wasted no time in gelling as a unit and taking the unprecedented step of recording their first EP before even having played a gig together."Leave Something Witchy" is a raucous three tracker that although a little raw and naïve in places is nevertheless highly enjoyable and promises much for the future. From the insanely heavily fuzzed and distortion drenched title track "Leave Something Witchy" with its sampled narrative, angsty toned garage style vocals and thunderous proto-metal groove, through the strident and galloping "Warrior's Plight" with its wizards and swords lyricism, to the psychotic blend of proto bluster and low slow doomic experimentation that makes up "Genesis/ Lament of the Elder Gods", listeners are treated to a virtual tsunami of groove that although at times comes across slightly untamed and feral is nonetheless, and maybe because of those aspects, essential listening.


Earthdiver maybe the latest in a long line of doomic bands with a heavy stoner bias currently raising their heads above the parapets these days but there is something about their naïve and raw approach that really ticks all Desert Psychlist boxes and makes "Leave Something Witchy" an EP we highly recommend you listen to
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 13 January 2019

FROZEN PLANET.... 1969 ~ THE MYSTERY WHEEL ..... review


Having, due to an unbelievable workload, missed out on being able to write a review of Frozen Planet...1969's previous release "The Heavy Medicinal Grand Exposition" (an album you really should make a point of checking out) Desert Psychlist hopes we can make amends by pointing you, the readers, in the direction of their latest release "The Mystery Wheel"(Pepper Shaker Records) a one track opus that was originally recorded for their 2017 album "Electric Smokehouse" but for one reason or another never quite made the cut.


Listening to "The Mystery Wheel" might raise the question of why on earth Frozen Planet ….1969 have taken so long to release this in the first place, obviously it's huge twenty five minute plus duration was a key factor in it not making "Electric Smokehouse" but two years seems a long time to sit on something as mind blowingly excellent as "The Mystery Wheel". OK listening to nearly a half hour of instrumental groove is a big ask in these days when people want immediate gratification or they move on to something else but sometimes it is worth taking the time to immerse yourselves in an album so as to fully appreciate its little subtle nuances and layers and "The Mystery Wheel" is one of these. Floydian textures, bluesy Hendrix pyrotechnics and lysergic jazzy chops float, scream and dance from guitarist Paul Attard's strings underpinned by Frank Attard's diverse array of percussive chops and bassist Lachlan Pain's mix of growling and liquid bottom end, the three musicians taking the music in a myriad of exciting and interesting directions that range from the cosmic and ambient to the rocking and heavy while calling at all stops in-between.


Instrumental grooves with lysergic leanings are nothing new for those who roam the backwaters of rocks underground looking for new music but there is something fresh and vital about what Frozen Planet ….1969 bring to the heavy psych table that is a little bit special and deserves to be heard by a much wider audience.
Check 'em out ……

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Friday, 11 January 2019

WEIRD TALES ~ HELL SERVICES COST A LOT ..... review


Poland's Weird Tales tell a strange story of madness, demolition and acid trips concerning their formation, whether this is all true or a figment of their over zealous imaginations is something Desert Psychlist has no clue about, what we can tell you however is that after releasing two killer EP's in the shape of  "Weird Tales" and "Shiny Void" the band return with their first full length album "Hell Services Cost A Lot" and its well worth investigation.


Droning feedback and barking dogs introduce "Madness", the first of the seven songs that go to make up "Hell Services Cost A Lot", and then everything explodes at once and the listener is thrown headlong into maelstrom of low tuned riffage, insanely complex rhythms and a mix of manic and ethereal vocal tones . Weird Tales are not your archetypical doom band there is a strange quirkiness to what they do that is a little left of centre to what you might expect from a band working in this genre, there is something just not quite right about the grooves they execute yet it is this air of unpredictability and discordant dynamism that drags you in and firmly grips your attention.  Songs with titles like "Crawling Pain", LIE" and "Bitchcrusher" come at you from angles you may not be expecting, messing with your head as they twist and turn and fly off on unexpected tangents, the band recreating the sound of Hell far more convincingly than even the most extreme Satan worshipping death/black metal band could ever hope to do.


Dark, discordant and dense grooves of dank doom played with real conviction make "Hell Services Cost A Lot" one of the most disturbing yet compelling releases of this year and Weird Tales one of the most exciting and original bands to come out of Poland.
Check 'em out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 10 January 2019

STONE WITCH ~ DESERT ORACLE ...... review



The Arizona desert might not be a place you would readily associate with music of a doomic nature, you are more likely to envisage grooves with a more expansive, lysergic leaning coming from a place with very little in the way of gothic structures or sacrificial altars. However if you think about it the desert is a place teeming with "doom", a place where the nasties actually DO come out at night!
Arizona, and specifically Phoenix, is the home of Stone Witch a four piece combo consisting of Jayare Robbins (vocals, guitar), Matt Wentz (lead guitar), Jason Colbert (drums) and Ian Colbert - (bass) , four guys who understand that if you look hard enough you can find "doom" even in the most unlikely places, something they prove to great effect with their latest release "Desert Oracle".


Ok our intro to this review may lead you into expecting something leaning towards the more traditional end of the doom spectrum and although their are aspects of traditional doom to be found among the grooves of Stone Witch's "Desert Oracle" the real meat and potatoes of the bands sound comes from them jamming a more proto-doom dynamic, a dynamic that although informed by the likes of  Black Sabbath and Pentagram still owes a huge debt to the desert climate it was birthed in. 
"Desert Oracle" begins its journey with "Curse" a song that opens with, of all things, a drum solo before segueing into a low slow groove built around a droning bass and guitar riff driven by big pounding percussion over which clean melodic and mellow vocals tell their tales, tales further enhanced by injections of searing lead guitar work. The band follow this up with "Void of Form" a swaggering, chugging tome with a strong Sabbathesque bias replete with Iommi-like guitar colouring, It has to be said that up to this point a certain amount of muddiness slightly marred Desert Psychlist's enjoyment of the two previous tracks but for whatever reason that muddiness falls away by the time we get to the excellent "Wizard's Smoke" , a song that will have fans of Egypt's "Valley of The Kings" running to dig their battered copies out of mothballs, and is replaced with a sharper, cleaner sound that really enhances the song and for that matter the rest of the albums impact. "The Ark" lifts its head above the dunes next and rides into town on a head nodding inducing mid tempo groove around which is weaved a deliciously delightful vocal melody. Proto-doom has always had, at its core, an element of the blues and next track "Shadow" has more than its fair share of bluesy inflections and flavours entwined within its doomic grooves, not only its swirling guitar solo's but also in its strident vocal melody. "White Eye" taps into those more traditional doom aspects of their sound mentioned earlier while "Dutchman" finds the band showing whatever they can do electrically they are more than adapt at doing acoustically too. For "Hollow Earth"  the band don their stoner hats and dial the fuzz to devastation levels before closing out with "Pillar of the Colossus" a moody slow burner chock full of atmospheric twists and turns.


Those masters of the proto-doomic groove Egypt sadly packed up their runes and called it a day in 2018 and although they can never be replaced if there was ever a band who could partly fill that huge hole left in our hearts by those Fargo doomonauts then Desert Psychlist would put our money on it being Arizona's Stone Witch,
Check 'em out ….. 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 9 January 2019

SON CESANO ~ SUBMERGE ..... review


There are those that might forget that back in the day, when desert rock was first making its presence felt, the desert scene was kind of split into two camps, on one side their was the chugging riff orientated grooves of Kyuss and Unida but on the other side was the lysergic instrumental forays of Yawning Man and Karma To Burn. Europe seemed to embrace the latter camps more psychedelic elements and the emergence, on the international scene, of bands like Colour Haze and Rotor seemed to suddenly explode overnight. Where are we going with this you may ask? Well the answer to that question can be found on "Submerge" a six track instrumental opus from Swiss combo Son Cesano that owes a huge debt to both the desert party instrumental jams of those USA pioneers and the experimental textured grooves of their European cousins.


"Submerge" opens with its title track a song that utilises gentleness and serenity as its opening gambit then takes off in so many directions the listener will need a map to follow its path. Floydian flavoured guitar textures, that swoop and swirl over liquid deep bass tones and complex percussion vie for space with funky on the off beat reggae grooves, heavy lysergic psych jams and moments of stark and unsettling ambience to create an ever shifting soundscape that perfectly befits the songs aquatic theme. "Cold Sleep" follows and finds the band, either intentionally or unintentionally, hitting into a groove that would not sound out of place on an early Colour Haze album while next track "Aberration" sees them blending elements of the blues and funk into a song that in places recalls the more liquid prog/rave experiments of the UK's Ozric Tentacles. "Martini Effect", a song built around big booming and addictive bass lines, has a rockier stonier edge than what has gone before and is enhanced by emotive bluesy guitar colouring while "36070", though no less rockier, has a more ever shifting and schizophrenic vibe. "Dust Age" closes proceedings with a tune that travels from throbbing heavy psych through to shimmering ambience while taking in all the necessary stops in-between, undulating and absorbing it is a superb song to round out what is a superb album.


Stunning from its first note to its last Son Cesano's "Submerge" is not an album for listening to on the fly or as background music while doing something else, this is an album that needs to be listened from start to finish allowing the instrumental grooves to wash over you in wave upon glorious wave so as to allow you to better appreciate its heady lysergic textures and subtle psychedelic nuances.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 7 January 2019

WITHERED FIST ~ THIS IS MY MOUNTAIN ... review

The Irish have a way with words like no other nation, maybe it's a skill that been handed down over the years or maybe its just something buried deep in their DNA but when an Irishman tells a story, or even just tells you about his day, their is something in that "telling" that holds you rapt, compelled to listen, and when that "telling" is combined with  music, well it just like cream on coffee!
Tipperary duo Withered Fist are an Irish combo consisting of Carl King (vocals) and Justin Maloney (all instruments), two guys who've served their time in other bands (Acrid Nebula/Two Tales of Woe), two guys who can tell a good story, two guys who with "This Is My Mountain" have kickstarted 2019 with one of the best EP's of melodic edged doomic rock you could ever possibly hope for.


As you may have noticed in this reviews intro Desert Psychlist is referring to this three song EP as "doomic" rather than referring to it as straight down the line, dyed in the wool "doom" and the reason for that is that the cloying dankness and intensity usually associated with doom is somewhat watered down here by Withered Fist's tendency to wander into melodic classic rock territory, a tendency that sets them apart from the following pack and makes the three songs on "This Is My Mountain" essential listening for those with a more discerning musical palette. Now this is not to say that Withered Fist are not adverse to getting downtuned dirty and dank, there are plenty of occasions and places on "This Is My Mountain" where the grooves drop down into the hefty and heavy with thrumming low slow reverberating riffage growling over pounding percussion, those moments however are cleverly offset by blending into the mix surf-like guitar tones, bluesy textured solo's and a vocal that is probably closer to Journey's Steve Augeri than it is to Down/Pantera's Phil Anselmo., the band adding a lilting, melodious edge to their grooves without compromising on their overall heaviness or lyrical content.


Withered Fist's "This Is My Mountain" is a truly inspiring release that showcases a band who have come to the realisation that playing heavy rock music does not necessarily mean you have to compromise melody and musicality for muscle and might.
Check it out …. 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 2 January 2019

GODS & PUNKS ~ ENTER THE CEREMONY OF DAMNATION ...... review


Desert Psychlist has been banging the drum for Brazil's Gods & Punks since first hearing their debut EP "The Sounds of Earth" (2016), and with good reason. Gods and Punks are a band who have steadily evolved as a unit both in instrumental prowess and their song writing and arrangement, the band steadily getting better and stronger with every release. The band continue building their reputation and climbing that upward curve with their latest release "Enter The Ceremony of Damnation" and we continue to bang that drum for them


"Enter The Ceremony of Damnation" is the third part of Gods & Punks "Damnation" trilogy and the latest in what the band are calling their "Voyage" series, a series that has taken them from the heat of the desert to the cold darkness of the tomb. As befitting its tomb setting the music on "Enter The Ceremony of Damnation" has dank claustrophobic vibe, dark, yet not brutal, grooves that are doomic yet not exactly doom. This darker element of the band sound is also reflected in the albums lyrics with every glimpse of hope, "A heartbeat, heard from a mountain top, it shows there, might be a way" ("From Sand To Throne"), counterbalanced with despair, "When I look outside I see claws and fangs, cybernetic fiends beasts with many names" ("Transparent Chains"). Don't however even begin to think that "Enter The Ceremony of Damnation" is a joyless, pessimistic affair, far from it. there are gloriously bright shards of light permeating the darkness of this tomb and they manifest themselves in the albums swirling bluesy guitar solo's, funky prog interludes and cool mellow reverb soaked vocal tones, a perfect balance of light and shade that sits easy on the ear and sends shivers of pure delight hurtling up the spine.


There are many fine bands coming out of Brazil of late but there is something a little special, a little magical about Gods & Punks that just inches them above the following pack. If there was one Brazilian band you would put money on gaining international recognition outside of their homeland then Gods & Punks would be odds on favourites.
Check 'em out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 1 January 2019

TAR PIT ~ TOMB OF DOOM ..... review


With interests that include the occult, pre-historic beasts and extra-terrestrial life plus a musical palette that spans from Blood Ceremony to Conan it is no surprise to find that Portland, Oregon's Tar Pit have a sound that reflects their tastes, a sound that is dank, dark and in places a little disturbing. Tar Pit's Mathew Ortega (vocals), Brandon Martinez-Woodall (guitar), Stephen Hoffman (lead guitar), Hayden Johnson (bass & additional vocals) and Derek Johnson (drums0 combine together to create grooves that, to Desert Psychlist's ears, have a gritty sludge metal edge yet are melodic enough to fall into proto-doom territory, however that's only our take on things you can decide if you agree by giving their latest opus "Tomb of Doom" a spin.

"Tomb of Doom" opens with "Rune" a thunderous doomic tome driven by powerful percussion and heavily distorted guitars coated in clean but grizzled vocal tones that over the course of  its ten minute plus duration switches back and forth between slow low doom and thrash paced sludge, the band further confusing things by throwing in an element of lysergic texturing. "Sauin" follows crawling out of the speakers on a wave of droning feedback behind a plodding doom riff before a heavily blues soaked guitar solo rends the air and the band fall into a throbbing proto-doom groove that intermittently drops back into slow/low mode. A strong powerful vocal with a swinging melody counterbalances the pummelling rhythms,dank riffs and swirling blues infused solo's and in doing so takes everything to whole new plane of doomic excellence. "Capra Nocturnus" finds Tar Pit wallowing in a stoner doomic mire of dankness and despair, heavier and more intense than the previous two songs "Capra Nocturnus" shows Tar Pit have more than one string to their bow and if they really wanted to compete with the Conan's and Yob's of this world then they have the necessary arrows in their quiver to do just that. Next up is "Bruja" and sees Tar Pit once again donning their proto-doomic robes for a song built around an incessant and addictive chugging riff that is taken to another level by cool slightly echoed vocals and swirling lead breaks. Tar Pit round things off nicely with title track "Tomb of Doom" a song that could well have been called "blues by any other name", the band delving deep into their roots to create a doomic blues groove that is as much delta as it is damnation.


To be perfectly honest Desert Psychlist nearly missed this sterling blend of doom, sludge and blues and only become aware of it when it appeared on  this December's "The Doom Charts"(2018), a project we actually contribute to! Thank god it did as Tar Pit's "Tomb of Doom" is easily one of the highlights of what was an extremely good year for underground rock music.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones