Monday, 18 February 2019

WILLOW ASH ~ A BANQUET IN THE GRAVE ..... review


Desert Psychlist has always had a leaning towards grooves that don't conform to the norm and are a little off the beaten track, imagine our delight then when we pressed play on Vermont based Willow Ash's  "A Banquet In The Grave" and discovered an  EP that takes the whole stoner/doom thing and turns it completely on its head.


The pentagram and occult inspired font announcing the band's name, depicted on the EP's cover artwork, may suggest, to some, music of a blackened metallic nature, however Willow Ash's grooves, although containing blackish elements, slide more into the arena of stonerized doom. Now the whole stoner doom thing has its detractors but the angle with which  Willow Ash approach the sub-genre is quite unique and refreshing, the band eschewing the low, slow brutal dirges they have utilised on previous releases for a more intellectual, slightly more considered feel that finds them decorating their songs with guitar tones that lean towards the more indie/post-rock end of the spectrum and grooves that although heavy are just shy of crushing. Vocals, on the EP's three non-instrumental songs "Beyond Where The Trees Turn Black","Banquet In The Grave" and "god (Reason Above All Else" are also non-conformist and are cleverly pitched a little back in the mix and consist of a blend of clean lead and remote, almost dissonant, harmonies with the occasional slide into harshness adding an extra element of dank atmospherics to proceedings. Fourth track, "Back Patio", however muddies the waters by throwing listeners a curveball, the band jamming a jazzy lounge bar instrumental  that although at odds with all that has gone before comes as a nice but totally unexpected surprise.


Heavy without being leaden, doomic without being overly dank, progressive without being prog "A Banquet In The Grave" is also unsettling, disturbing and in places downright weird but then that's the beauty of this little gem of an EP, it doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is and what it is....is different and utterly brilliant.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

DR. AWKWARD & THE SCREWS ~ GETTIN' OUT OF STYLE .... review


With "Greek Rock Revolution", a documentary highlighting Greece's burgeoning underground rock scene, looming on the horizon Desert Psychlist expects to see a huge peak in interest in Greek flavoured grooves. Never wanting to be late to the party we at Desert Psychlist thought we'd get the ball rolling by pointing you in the direction of Dr. Awkward & The Screws, a heavy blues quartet from Athens who have just released their first full length album "Gettin' Out Of Style"


Dr. Awkward & The Screws may not have made the cut for "Greek Rock Revolution"( the documentary features Naxatras, Planet of Zeus, Puta Volcano, 1000 Mods, Nightstalker, Villagers of Ioannina City and Tuber)  but on the evidence of "Gettin' Out Of Style" they more than deserve to have been included.
Dr. Awkward & The Screws are primarily a blues based combo with stoner(ish) tendencies, a combo with chops to spare and one that among its talented musicians possess a vocalist of distinctive quality and tone. First track "Take Me Down" explodes from the speakers with Pylarinos (Kostas)Kwnstadinos and John Amariotakis chopping out an enticing blend of clean and crunching guitar tones underpinned by solid tight percussion courtesy of drummer Thoukydidis Karpodinis.  Vocalist Grigoris (Greg) Konstantaras delivers, over this raucous wave of stuttering bluesy hard rock, a vocal that sits somewhere between Dave Sherman (Earthride) and Don Van Vliet (aka Captain Beefheart) as well as supplying some very tasty bottom end via his earthy bass tones. This is the way it rolls for the duration of "Gettin' Out Of Style", the good Dr and his cohorts laying down thick fuzz drenched delta influenced blues grooves enhanced by an unconventional but highly enjoyable left of field approach, an approach that pays huge dividends throughout.


Instead of trying to round this review up with one of our usual why you should buy this outros we thought we'd just quote one of the blues genre's greatest songwriters/performers Mr Willie Dixon, "The blues are the roots and the other music's are the fruits. It's better keeping the roots alive, because it means better fruits from now on". Don't worry Mr Dixon Dr Awkward & The Screws are still keeping those fruits alive, a little darker and fuzzier around the edges, but still alive!
Check 'em out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 16 February 2019

SILVER DEVIL ~ PARALYZED ...... review


It seems to have been quite a while since Desert Psychlist found themselves back in the Worlds capital of stonerized fuzz and distortion, Sweden and there seems to have been somewhat of a lull in Swedish underground rock of in that time( it wasn't that long ago that every underground release of any note seemed to have its roots planted in the frost hardened soil of this little Scandinavian country) however that lull has been gloriously shattered by the arrival of "Paralyzed" (Ozium Records) a new album from Gävle five piece combo Silver Devil.


Silver Devil's "Paralyzed" takes you back to a time when cargo shorts, Black Flag tees and suitably distressed footwear were the uniform of choice, a time when beards were still stubble and the most important weapons in any bands arsenal were their fuzz pedals, We are talking  authentic "stoner rock/metal" here and although there has been a recent backlash against anything remotely associated with the term "stoner" Desert Psychlist defies even the most conservative of the "Tru-Metal" brigade not to garner some level of enjoyment from the grooves Silver Devil lay before them here.
 Desert Psychlist can already hear the screams of "retro" and "old school" being readied in the throats of those who see any form of looking backwards as a sign of weakness and lack of originality, well hold those cries for a moment and lets examine what we have here. "Paralyzed" fizzes and pops with a vitality and vigour that although may have its roots planted in another era is nevertheless very much of today, in fact if it were not for the slightly faster tempo's, 90's flavoured riffs and swirling 70's style guitar solo's, on songs like "Howl", "Octopus" and "Hypersleep", you would be hard pushed not to think you were listening to some new album by a young and upcoming band hailing from Poland's burgeoning sludge/doom scene.. Thick heavily distorted riffs interspersed with scorching guitar solo's compete to be heard over backdrops of deep growling bass and thunderous, insistent percussion and are adorned with vocals that ,although slightly monotonic in nature, are the perfect fit for the sonic maelstrom of groove they decorate, the whole coming together as one big wall of unrelenting fuzziness that is totally addictive and hard to ignore.


 Silver Devil are not trying to re-invent the wheel with "Paralyzed", granted, but neither are they living in the past, if Silver Devil are doing anything its is they are refurbishing that wheel, adding some shiny new spokes and surrounding it in fresh thick black rubber so as to ensure that it will keep on rolling, if not forever then at least, for a few years to come.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Friday, 15 February 2019

WARLUNG ~ IMMORTAL PORTAL ..... review


Over the years of writing little blurbs on Bandcamp pages and since starting this very site Desert Psychlist has built some strong lasting relationships, not only with fellow writers, musicians and labels but also people who, like us, are just fans of good music. You learn to trust these people's judgement and when one of those people, in this case fellow Bandcamp junkie Steve Rodger, states he has bought an album un-listened to just on the strength of a bands previous work, well you just got to check that album out. Add to this the fact that almost immediately after reading Steve's missive Desert Psychlist gets a message from a representative of the band in question sending us a promo and stating that a mutual friend, from another Texas band, has suggested that we should check said band out, well then you've got to start believing in things like fate and planets aligning.
The band we are talking about is Warlung and the album is "Immortal Portal"




.The venerable Mr. Rodger also states that there may be just a whiff of Blue Oyster Cult about the grooves Warlung explore on "Immortal Portal" and once again I have to bow to Mr. Rodger's vast musical knowledge and nod in sage agreement. However it is just a whiff and however accomplished and talented BOC's rhythm section were back in the day they would be hard pushed to match the levels of four string growl and percussive thunder Chris and Ethan Tamez lay beneath the guitars and vocals of George Baba and Phillip Bennett. BOC, at times, teetered on a razor's blade edge between hard rock and its more radio friendly cousin AOR and there is a sense that Warlung are performing a similar function with their melodic approach to underground rock. Warlung's lighter more melodic and considered touch may prove to be a bridge too far for those with a hankering for the more abrasive extremes of rock and metal however for those of us brought up suckling on the breast of 70's classic rock Warlung's mellower take on heaviness is manna from heaven. Dual harmonies and clean lead vocals tell doomic tales and apocalyptic stories over backdrops of heavy but measured groove, and here is it is we find yet another parallel with BOC, for although there is element of lyrical darkness to songs like "Palm Reader", "Between The Dark And The Light" and "Coal Minor's" the music they are enveloped in has a contrasting brighter melodic, almost commercial rock feel, a feel that is both refreshing and somewhat warming in these times of brutal crunching riffage and growling demonic vocals


Warlung's "Immortal Portal" is an album that goes a long way in proving that dark lyrical content does not always need to be surrounded by grooves that reflect that darkness and that you can say as much with a good melody as you can with a satanic growl. After all don't they say when faced with danger you should hum a happy tune.
Go check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

THE GHOST NEXT DOOR ~ A FEAST FOR THE SIXTH SENSE .... review


It is nice to see that Todd Severin and the gang at Ripple Music, a label that has built its reputation on releasing music of a more hard rock/stoner bias, are still sending feelers out into more diverse and angular territories. Ripple Music first stepped out of their comfort zone when they released "Human Collapse" by postapocolyptic French rockers Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel and have since dipped their toes into the doomic arena with Sweden's Vokonis, sludgy stonerized prog with France's The Necromancers and Mediterranean flavoured psychedelia with Cyprus's Arcadian Child. Ripple's dalliance with rock of a more alternative nature continues with their latest signings The Ghost Next Door, Gary Wendt: (guitars/vocals), Aaron Asghari: (guitars), Sebastien Castelain: (drums) and Noah Whitfield: (bass), a quartet from Berkeley, California who describe what they do as "a desire to marry the dark melancholy of 80s and 90s alternative with the aggression and drive of Bay Area metal". Let's see if their new album "A Feast For the Sixth Sense" lives up to that statement.


It is hard to pin down, just by listening, what influences have shaped The Ghost Next Door's sonic output as there is just so much going on here, both as a whole and as individual tracks, on paper the band list among their influences everything from Rush to The Cure so we are talking a broad musical spectrum here. What is evident, when listening to the bands debut, is that TGND are not a band who are bound by the rules of genre, grunge/alt. metal aesthetics, doomic density, prog complexity and sludgy stoner fuzziness either get a walk on part or lead the cast throughout the albums eight songs (ten if you buy CD or digital) and keep the listener on tenterhooks as to where any song may go at any given moment. Making comparisons to other bands in order to gain a reference point on TGND's sound is almost next to useless as no sooner are you convinced a song  has a touch of Alice In Chains type slurry grunginess in its groove than it suddenly takes off on some prog(ish) excursion or drops down into sludgy doomic dankness. Vocally things are no less diverse with Wendt changing tones like some people change moods, crooning clear, clean and mellow one minute bellowing bearlike and bellicose the next, never giving less than 100% in either mode
Exciting, innovative music should not be defined by a label or tag and there has not been either invented yet that could even come close to describing the grooves The Ghost Next Door bring to the table with "A Feast For The Sixth Sense", the best Desert Psychlist can come up with is STUNNING!


 "A Feast For The Sixth Sense" is a fine addition to Ripple Music's increasingly varied catalogue and one by a band for whom  the word "varied" is probably the most fitting and apt.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 11 February 2019

NEGATIVE WALL ~ GAMMAGELU ... review


When three musicians get together who have worked together on various musical projects you kind of expect a certain level of telepathy to be present and that's exactly what you get with Georgia trio Negative Wall. Negative Wall are Tommy Stewart  (bass, vocals, Hammond bass organ, Theremin), Dennis Reid (drums, percussion, keyboard, didgeridoo) and Don Cole (guitar) three guys who have crossed paths previously in bands such as Hallows Eve, Bludy Gyres and Tommy Stewart's Dyerwolf and have come together to take listeners on "A sci-fi doom voyage through 70's inspired stoner music scapes and blues riffs" with their new offering "Gammagelu".(Black Doomba Records)


Negative Wall's claim that "Gammagelu is "70's inspired" could be seen as a tenuous one as although there are musical aspects that hark back to the golden days of rock to be found throughout "Gammagelu" the overall vibe is one of grooves that are more of the here and now, grooves that it could be argued owe a bigger debt to the likes of Elder and Monolord than they do say Sabbath or Hawkwind. "Gammagelu" comes across a little less doomic and a lot more prog(ish), spacy and lysergic than much of the music the members of Negative Wall have been associated with previously and is all the better for that fact. The initial reaction ,as first track "Imperii Exsules (Galactic Viatores)" assails the ears, is one of astonishment, astonishment that just three musicians can create a sound this big, this deep and this encompassing, Big fat distorted  riffs, swirling blues infused guitar solo's and growling bass combine with strong clean vocals, howling theremin, keyboards and even a digeridoo to create a huge wall of sound that comes at you in waves and give the albums sci-fi themed songs a vastness and depth that defies their three man execution.


Doomic, heavy music can sometimes be a little icy and distant but there is a warmth to each of "Gammagelu's" four songs that wraps around the listener like a blanket, a thick, dense warm blanket weaved of blues flecked fabric sewn with a shiny sharp doomic metal needle.

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 9 February 2019

DEATH DENIED ~ A PRAYER TO THE CARRION KIND ...... a belated review


Let Desert Psychlist take you by the hand and lead you back through the mists of time, well actually just to this time last year (we just wanted to sound poetic). 2018 was a busy time for the Polish underground rock scene with major players Dopethrone and Sunnata both releasing significantly important albums as well as the sudden emergence, on the global scene, of the likes of Weird Tales and Shine. It should come as no surprise then that some albums coming out of Poland managed to slip under the radar, one such album was "A Prayer To The Carrion Kind" an ass-kicking collection of southern tinted fuzz heavy stonerized metal from Łódź based combo Death Denied. Now we realise a year has passed since its release but we at Desert Psychlist thought it was high time this overlooked little gem got the attention it deserved.


Now one of the reasons "A Prayer To The Carrion Kind" may have been overlooked/missed on its release may well have been its refusal to conform to the heavy, intense brutality and doomic density we have come to expect from Polish underground bands. Death Denied are, despite having a name that suggest sludgy dankness and doomic darkness, more of a traditional metal band who fill their grooves with old school values like melody and swing, this is not to say they don't possess the necessary tools to lay it down low, slow and thick  just that they prefer to temper those elements of their sound with a modicum of finesse. Verses, choruses, bridges and middle eights all find a place to call their own over the course of the albums eleven tracks and all benefit greatly from these tried and tested musical structures. In other words what you get from Death Denied with songs like "Black Orchid", "Atlas", "Funeral Pyre" and "Gods of the Abyss" is just that SONGS!


A wholly entertaining album from start to finish with superbly executed clean vocals sang and roared over backdrops of equally well executed groove "A Prayer To The Carrion Kind" is an album that deserved better on its release, maybe this belated review will help get it the attention it deserves and redress that.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Friday, 8 February 2019

JAGANNATHA ~ SAMSARA ...... review


Just over two years ago an album landed on Desert Psychlist's cluttered "virtual" desk and proceeded to blow us away, that album, a swirling amalgam of space rock, heavy psych and prog, came from a French combo from Grenoble and both album and band went by the name "Jagannatha". This year Jagannatha return once again to blow our minds and scramble our chakras with three scintillating instrumental jams gathered together under the collective banner "Samsara".


As with their debut, eastern themes and motifs form the foundations on which Jagannatha build their jams but if that has you expecting some hippy trippy tiptoe through the tulips then think again, Ok there are moments to be found on "Samsara" where the music does wander into the realms of the tranquil and ambient but a change through the gears into heavier psychedelic territories is never too far away. It is the balance of heavy and mellow, crunching and laid back that makes listening to instrumental music such an exciting  and rewarding experience and Jagannatha are masters of the medium, seamlessly shifting from one dynamic to the other with consummate and unerring ease. It would be a pointless exercise to break down every little nuance, overtone and modulation that goes into "Samsara"(there are many) as the three jams that make up the album, "Sooraj", Chandrama" and "Brahmaand", are something that should be listened to as you would a classical piece, three movements that make up a whole, needing to be allowed to wash over the listener as one rather than as individual tracks so as to better appreciate the albums overall impact.


Imagine you could grab a comet by its tail and ride it through the cosmos and on your journey take in distant stars, strange alien planets and other wonders of the universe, this is how it feels listening to "Samsara", a kaleidoscope of colourful shifting groove that never stays in one place too long constantly finding new patterns, shapes and hues to dazzle and delight with.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 7 February 2019

SABBA ~ PENTACLE .... review


Brooklyn, New York trio Sabba, Kevin Dawkins (drums), Mike Calabrese (guitar/bass) and Valerie Russo (vocals) preface their debut EP "Pentacle" with the words "From the depths of South Brooklyn, occult stoner/doom riffage to melt your genitals". Now admittedly the melting of genitals part of that statement might be pushing it a little bit but the dark, dank occult grooves Sabba lay before their listeners with "Pentacle" does somewhat warm those nether regions up.


Calabrese's ominously dark, deliciously fuzzed guitar riff, interspersed with Iommi-like vibrato, driven by Dawkins slow but busy percussion, introduces title track "Pentacle", announcing in no uncertain terms that among Sabba's many musical influences it is Black Sabbath's bluesy proto-doom that holds sway. Now you may by now be thinking do we really need another Sabbath influenced band, well the answer to that is twofold for if you wait a moment and allow the vocals to kick in you will soon come the realisation that although groove-wise these guys lean towards the Sabbathesque vocally they are a different animal altogether. Russo's banshee like wails and haunting ethereal tones take Sabba's grooves out of the proto arena and into more occult(ish) doom waters, her mournful tones giving Sabba, an a times, gothic feel, a feel that prompted Desert Psychlist to remark elsewhere that while listening to the song "Smoke Goddess", a dark brooding song taken to another level by Calabrese's scorching guitar work, we were reminded of a doomic early Siousxie and the Banshees (UK post-punk/goth band). "IVIPTER", a swirling atmospheric tome that finds the band blending those proto and gothic undertones with an element of stoner-doom intensity , closes out "Pentacle" and in doing so brings to an end what is a highly impressive debut from a highly impressive band.


Haunting, ethereal and at the same time crushing, dark and dank "Pentacle" is a stunning release that will have all those doomers. occultists and even some of those goths drooling into their silver goblets for more.
Check it out ...


© 2019 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 6 February 2019

BONZAI ~ SEEDS TO ROOTS .... review


Formed in 2015 Thessaloniki, Greece natives Bonzai have shared stages with such noted bands as Planet of Zeus, Sasquatch and Kalamata turning many a head with their raucous take on heavy stonerized hard rock.. The band, Giannis Omp (guitars/vocals), Dmitri Parisis (guitars), Matthew Οmp (bass) and Nicko Ridi (drums) ,have just released their first album, "Seeds To Roots", and it's one well worth investigating.


The Greek rock scene, unlike its economic environment, has been growing in strength over the past few years with what seems like a new band popping up every other week. As with any scene, there are those bands that have that undefinable magical element that sets them apart from the pack and there are those that see a winning formula and try to imitate it, Bonzai are a band who fall into the former category. From the, straight out of the starting blocks, fuzz soaked desert riffage of "Hopeseeker" through the grunge like aesthetics of "Original Sin", the Floydian tinted instrumental "Sunshot" to the slow burning title track "Seeds To Roots" Bonzai do not waste anytime meandering about trying to be overly technical or complex, the band keeping things relatively simple and on point but with just the right levels of intensity, drive and lyrical content to keep things interesting. Scorching WAH pedal guitar solo's, heavily distorted riffs growling liquid bass lines and tight, solid percussion are the bedrock around which cool,clean vocals tell their tales in strong but not overly powerful tones. the musical components all coming together in one gloriously addictive raucous and rocking whole.


Although not as hardcore as Planet of Zeus or as post-rock as Tuber Bonzai nevertheless have carved themselves, with "Seeds To Roots", a comfortable niche within the Greek underground rock scene, a place where grungy psychedelics blend with swaggering bluesy hues and sandblasted desert textures to create one big melting pot of wonderfully colourful groove. 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 3 February 2019

DESERT HYPE ~ SAMUFIRE .... review


Dr, Suess the man that brought us "The Cat In The Hat", "The Lorax" and "Green Eggs and Ham", was once quoted as saying "We are all a little weird and life's a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” Well it seems this may well have been the case when Italians Andrea Demurtas (bass/vocals), Mirko Deiana (guitar) and Daniele Moi (drums) came together to form Desert Hype, however that love was not so much for each other but for a mutual love of making off the wall grooves of a weird and quirky nature such as can be found on their debut album "Samufire"(Blacktooth Music).


There is no point in talking conventional regarding Desert Hype's approach to their art, pressing play on "Samufire" is like opening a portal into a world where everything is a little left of where it should be, a place where all rhythms are jerky and disjointed and everyone sings and talks in twitchy, spasmodic meters. It is this slightly wrong, slightly angular, but at the same time oh so right, approach that makes "Samufire" such an interesting, and for that matter exhilarating, listen, you just do not know what to expect from one minute to the next, every song from opener "Nightwalker" through to closer "Daycrawler" packed with unexpected twists and turns that have you checking the albums track listing to see if you are actually listening to the same song you thought you'd pushed play on. Desert Psychlist supposes if we were forced to compare Desert Hype's sound with that of another similar sounding band then it would have to be USA's Queens of the Stone Age but even Josh Homme would struggle to out-quirk these guys.


Italy, much like its European cousin Norway, is fast building a reputation for producing bands that do not quite conform to the norm but the levels of joyous, quirky weirdness Desert Hype lay before the altar with "Samufire" are off the scale even by Italian standards.
Check it out …. 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 2 February 2019

HEAVY CROSS OF FLOWERS ~ HEAVY CROSS OF FLOWERS ...... review


Portugual's Heavy Cross of Flowers describe their sonic output as "Heavy stoner played by good guys (and a girl)" and "A mix of a tasty Stoner Rock/Metal, Sludge and Doom" a statement hard to argue with when listening to their self-titled debut release "Heavy Cross of Flowers" The band, Beatriz Cruz (drums), Telmo Cruz (guitar/vocals), Paulo Ferreira (bass) and Mário Fonseca (guitar) have been in existence since 2016 and have been gaining converts ever since and are now, with their debut, hoping to reach a wider global audience


Now the albums stark, quite unsettling artwork may not seem the best choice for pulling in potential customers but when you delve into the grooves it contains beneath all thoughts of why and what the fuck are replaced by joyous fist pumps and breathless gasps of "Wow". From the moment the western themed guitar intro of, first track, "Social Dyslexia" is joined by the rest of the band in an explosion of crunching doomic desert groove the albums artwork soon becomes a secondary concern and you just find yourself glorying in the sheer force of the bands musical attack and in the diversity of that attack.. HCoF are not a band to sit on one riff and let it carry them through, this is a band unafraid to throw everything but the kitchen sink into the mix with the listener just as likely to hear elements of Kyuss/QOTSA like desert/stoner grooviness, ("In Memory Of"), as they are crushing stoner doom, ("Dead On Drugs"),, or hardcore punk rock, ("Get Your Shit Together"). The fact that they do this without losing a sense of their own signature sound is not only impressive its also mind blowing!


Wanting something psychedelic, doomic, hardcore, stonerized or acidic then look no further than "Heavy Cross of Flowers" an album that has it all, an album that's all things to all men (and women)
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones