Monday, 29 April 2019

INSONIKA ~ FALSE AWAKENING .... review


Ever had that moment when you thought you had come out of a dream only to find that you are not quite back in the land of the living, that you are lost somewhere in that hinterland between reality and dreamland, frozen, paralysed, unable to move even an eyelid? If you have then you will recall the utter terror and blind panic of that experience, those feelings of vulnerability and total helplessness. This state of being is sometimes referred to medically as "dream paralysis", but there is another state of dreaming that is just as terrifying, a state of dreaming that has you utterly convinced you are actually fully awake, doing everyday things like brushing your teeth and having a shower, only to discover this perceived reality is just a dream of that reality, this is called a "false awakening", which leads us nicely into the subject of this review.
"False Awakening" is the title of, Swedish sound architects, Insonika's debut album, an album that delves into those nightly horror movies we call nightmares and gives them a soundtrack befitting of their unpredictable, confusing and quite often horrific nature.


"Night Sky" opens "False Awakening" with gentle, guitar arpeggios sweeping over a backdrop of serene shimmering effects and low key bass and is followed by "The Hunt Begins" a song that, initially, continues in much the same vein as its predecessor only this time around drums make an appearance and the bass takes a more prominent role. The song builds in atmosphere by gradually swelling in volume until exploding into a slightly repetitious but wholly engrossing heavy doomic groove replete with swirling guitar solo's before just as suddenly subsiding back into serenity. "Tiamat (featuring Billy Taylor)" begins with a spoof radio phone-in beneath which a military style drum pattern is efficiently tattooed out, the drums are then joined by the guitar and bass in a thrumming slightly spacey groove over which clean, lightly phased, vocal tones tell nightmarish tales of escaping entities and mystical deities. Next up is "The Path of Men" a tune that mixes its stoner doomic properties with that of its more metallic stonerized cousin and is followed by "Who lit My Candle" a dynamic, hard rocking, almost thrash paced opus that seamlessly jumps back and forth  between dynamics and time, while "Mare Poem" finds Insonika dipping their toes into sludgier, slightly more progressive waters, its vocals, though still clear and clean, taking on a grittier, growlier edge. "Hellwalker" brings the nightmarish scenarios of "False Awakening" to a conclusion with a sprawling, schizophrenic instrumental stretched out over a captivating thirteen minutes, the band sonically shifting up and down through the gears until finally closing out on a wave of fuzz drenched droning resonance, a fitting end to an album the band describe as "themed around the stuff of nightmares"



Much like movies nightmares tend to start well, first there is serenity, comfortability and familiarity then suddenly things take a sudden sharp turn and the dreamer finds themselves plunged into a realm awash with absurdity and insanity. Insonika's "False Awakening" mirrors this gradual spiral into bedtime terror by building the tension and atmosphere slowly, the music reflecting a dreamers journey from placid tranquillity to those places in our sleeping subconscious where our deepest fears and anxieties dwell.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

NEOYKA ~ VOL. II: DESBORDE Y EL OCASO ..... review


Desert Psychlist has waxed lyrical about Chile's underground rock scene on these pages before as well as filling readers in on a little history regarding the suppression of any music that the Chilean authorities deemed to be subversive. Thankfully things have changed quite drastically in that department over the years and Chile is now a hot bed of musical activity, especially in the field of underground rock.
Neoyka, Alfredo B. (guitar/vocals), Diego H. (drums), Felipe P. (bass/vocals) and Mois├ęs S. (synthesiser), hail from La Serena, Chile and call what they do "stoner/fuzz rock", a term that somewhat belies the depth and scope of the grooves these guys bring to the table, yes they have the stoner fuzz thing going on and yes they do rock but there is a lot more going on here, something that is more than borne out when listening to their latest release "Vol.II: Desborde y el Ocaso"


Ominous and atmospheric is the best way to describe "Vol.II's" opening instrumental "Introspeccion I" it's deep booming bass lines, scorching psychedelic guitar forays and hard driving percussion are taken to another level by an array of swooping, swirling keyboard /synth colouring, all these elements coming together to create a mood and feel that although edged in darkness is nonetheless soulful and uplifting . As well as being quite adept at being dank and moody Neoyka can also rock and they prove this with songs like "Marbola", "70 Rockas" and "Estrelle de sombras benignas", songs drenched in devastating levels of  distortion and fuzz and coated in powerful clean dual vocal harmonies (sang in Spanish), songs that grab you by the throat and demand your attention. It is however those songs that step off the gas a little and explore darker sonic pathways that really make Neoyka a force to be reckoned with, the lysergic "Sabes" with its beautiful keyboard intro and emotive vocal melody, the stoner doomic "A 2 segundos" with its dank distorted doomic refrains and church like organ textures, the bluesy and schizophrenic "Nuestra marcha" and the hazy, lazy, lysergic instrumental "Introspeccion II & III" all go to show a level of  arrangement, song writing and instrumental aptitude that is, at times, mind-blowing.


Stunning is a word oft overused regarding music and art but Desert Psychlist does not apologise for using it in the context of  "Vol.II: Desborde y el Ocaso", this IS a "stunning" album that rocks and soothes in equal measure and should be heard to be believed.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 22 April 2019

EYES FLY ~ THE LONG RETURN ...... review



Bath, UK's Eyes Fly, started life as two man project conceived at an all day doom fest by Peter (guitar) and Gaz (drums) , two West Country residents brought together by a mutual love of doom and heavy noise in general. Realising that, to really bring to life the sound they were hearing in their heads, the duo needed to become a quartet the pair soon recruited in Tom on bass and Dean, from Gaz's previous band Valfader, on vocals. With Eyes Fly now a four piece the band set about writing tunes that would best utilise their newly expanded line-up and showcase their bigger more dynamic sound, the results of which can be heard on the bands debut release "The Long Return".


Prog, as a genre/style of music, has had its denigrators over the years, so much so that prog's overblown nature was cited as the reason (blame in some circles) for the emergence of the back to basics movement that culminated in punk rock. Prog however is a resilient beast and although dealt a devastating body blow by the likes of The Clash and The Ramones the genre was not fatally wounded and has slowly been clawing its way back, not so much in its own right but by integrating itself into other forms of music and genres, mainly at the heavier end of the underground rock scene. Eyes Fly are not what you would call an out and out prog band but their music does have progressive elements, elements of complexity and intricacy blended with a fair amount of old school hard rock swagger and bullish metallic stoner bluster.
First track "The Dead, Living" comes out of the gates with untamed force and feral ferocity, the band jamming a groove that is all crunching chords, growling bass and thunderous percussion before then settling down into a chugging metallic groove fractured by moments of blustering heaviness. Clean, grit edged vocals, that occasionally descend into harshness, soar effortlessly over these dark heavily fuzzed refrains telling their doomic tale against a huge backdrop of dark and addictive stonerized metallic groove.. So where is all this prog we hear you asking, well next track "She Who Rode" answers that question with a song that, in its initial stages, incorporates prog flavoured glistening arpeggios, complex chord structures and clean crystal clear vocals, the song slowly building in intensity and volume until finally exploding into a whirlwind of heavy doomic groove replete with swirling lead work, earth shaking bass and punishing heavy percussion with the vocals following suit with a harsher, growlier delivery. "Home Within"is up next and begins life with demonic wordless growling over shimmering percussion and then morphs into a laid back, almost post-rock, groove over which clean vocal tones tiptoe and skip melodically before the band up the ante and shift into stoner doomic territory with those harsher vocals once again rearing their demonic head over a raucous foundation of chainsaw riffage. "Eyes Fly" (the track) follows and closes the EP with a song that has an almost Opeth feel to it, thanks in part, to its thrumming, sometimes stuttering prog metal groove and its mix of clean vocal melodies and guttural growling, the song closing what is a very impressive EP that boasts a blistering and wholly entertaining mix of mesmerising prog metal and dank stoner(ish) doom


Progressive, raucous, delicate and doomic "The Long Return" is absolutely off the scale in the groove stakes, an EP that proves that intricacy and complexity can live quite comfortably hand in hand with brute force and power without the need to compromise to either.
Check it out.... 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 21 April 2019

DUSKWOOD ~ THE LONG DARK ..... review


Maybe there is something in those apples they grow in the UK's West Country that causes so many good bands to emerge from there. Doomicidal, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Sail and Cybernetic Witch Cult all have to some degree made their mark on the underground scene and all hail from the South West of England.
Yeovil, Somerset combo Duskwood are another West Country based band hoping to reach a wider audience, the band first made the scenes movers and shakers sit up and take notice with the release of their 2016 debut "Desert Queen" a stunning collection of desert flavoured grooves underscored with a hint of 60's psychedelia and 70's hard rock swagger. Appetites whetted we waited eagerly for a follow up but it never materialised .. until now! Three years after the release of "Desert Queen" Duskwood are back with a new EP, "The Long Dark", still swaggering and still desert flavoured.


Things get underway with "Space Craft" a colourful yet atmospheric song with a quiet/loud/quiet dynamic underscored by deep rumbling bass and a mixture of laid back and forceful percussion over which heavily effected guitar trades off riffs and solos around clean, powerful and slightly gritted vocals. "Mars Rover" follows and although jamming a similar undulating dynamic as its predecessor this time leans towards being a little more in your face and raucous. "Crook & Flail" slows things down and sees the band dipping their toes into the psychedelic arena, the songs liquid bass lines and wah drenched guitar textures lapping gently around its clean emotive vocals, the songs laid back lysergic feel only interrupted by moments of sporadic crunching heaviness. "The Long Dark" finishes with "Nomad" a barnstorming showstopper that marries the bands love of a heavy groove with that of their more trippy desert side, the band channelling a sort of Colour Haze meets Dope Smoker (the Welsh stoner/doom band, not the Sleep album) vibe that totally works and closes out the EP on a massive and totally satisfying high


"The Long Dark" marks a stunning return for Duskwood but let's hope that the bands next release does not take another three years to be released, we really need music this good to be coming at us annually as opposed to tri-annually.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

TROLL ~ LEGEND MASTER ....review


It could be argued that "doom" began life when four working class guys from Birmingham, then called Earth but now known as Black Sabbath, discovered that by slowing down their heavy grooves they actually sounded heavier and more menacing. This newer slower heaviness took off and was soon embraced by bands from right across the globe with bands, like Candlemass, Solitude Aeturnus, Pentagram and Pagan Altar, picking up the mantle Sabbath had forged and putting their own spin on it, in turn inspiring others to do the same. Doom has gone through many changes since Tony Iommi's slow vibrato kicked started the movement and doom these days comes in a variety of flavours ranging from harsh and brutal through to low, slow and funereal but even today, and despite all its sub-genres and offshoots, that original doom sound still holds sway and can still send shivers rippling down the spine.
Portland Oregon's Troll, Rainbo (vocals), Wayne Boucher (bass), Ryan Koger (drums) and Lou VanLanning (guitar), understand this and that knowledge and history has inspired them to create "Legend Master", a true doom masterpiece!


"Legend Master" is no ordinary doomic tome, here we have five intelligent and well constructed songs put together with a lot of thought and a high level of musical skill. "Legend Master" is a concept album. the second instalment of a trilogy, that tells its tales of dragon ships, eternal battlefields and spiral eyed goddesses swathed in an atmospheric blend of progressive rock and doom, traditional, proto and stoner, the band seamlessly weaving these styles/genres together to create a sound that is as beautiful as it is bleak. The words "sinister" and "menacing" tend to get a used quite a bit whenever we talk about anything doom related but those words become redundant when applied to "Legend Master" as like all the best fantasy/sci-fi novels there is an air of sorrowfulness and regret to be found amidst the albums lyrical content, a feeling that the main protagonist's sword rattling and shield brandishing is executed with a sense of regret rather than any sense of malice. Musically "Legend Master" is equally on point with Koger and Boucher laying down thick. solid layers of intricate and complex groove for VanLanning to hang his thunderous power chords and swooping solo's on while Rainbo spreads the icing on the cake with a voice that is as emotive as it is powerful, his weary melancholic tones sitting perfectly with the mournful nature of the albums lyrics and the sombre heavy music they are surrounded by.


"Legend Master" is that doom album you always wanted to hear but never expected to be made, an album that is intelligent as it is groovesome, an album that marries the old with the new without the need to go into extreme territories, an album you have to hear.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 14 April 2019

DOOMICIDAL ~ SHADOW OF THE GALLOWS ...... review


From the apple flavoured mists of a Somerset dusk emerge three men dressed in a variety of dark attire, three elders of the doomic altar with tales to tell, tales that will cause eyes to widen and spines to shiver, tales they tell while sipping rough cider from earthen jugs beneath the looming shade of the gallows their lifeless bodies will soon be dangling from.
Well not exactly but it seemed a poetic way of describing the doomic themes and lysergic imagery of West Country trio Doomicidal's debut album "Shadow of the Gallows", a seven song opus that has its roots set firmly in traditional doom but its branches spreading out into the full gamut of doomic sub-genres and rock styles.


Doomicidal, Roger Densham (bass), Migo Gage (guitar/vocals) and Barney Clements (drums), are not exactly what you would call spring chickens but neither could they be considered elder statesmen either. There are high levels of vibrancy and vitality to be found within the grooves of "Shadow of the Gallows" that many of the scenes younger guns could only wish to aspire to but there is also a fearlessness that comes with age and experience. Doomicidal do not need to set their stall out to capture a specific demographic, these guys are long enough in the tooth to know that trends tend to come and go so instead spread their net wide enough to capture elements not only from the full doomic spectrum but also from music genres further afield. Hawkwind-ish space rock, 70's proto bluster, heavy folk metal and blackened doom are all explored and are all delivered with equal expertise, driven hard by Clements solid, tight percussion and Densham's earth shaking bass and enhanced by Gage's crunching riffs and swirling solo's. Over these grooves of various doomic shades are delivered vocal tones that range from clipped and gothic ("Hangman"), manic and sinister ("Rats In The Wall") to blackened and harsh ("Autumn") with a guest vocal, from fellow West Country pal Cookie Turvey, giving an almost theatrical vibe to "Bride of Baphomet", the differing and diverse array of vocal stylings bringing a whole different dynamic to each individual song and in turn giving the whole album an added dimension of interest.


Despite the dark gothic lyrical imagery, that permeates every pore of "Shadow of the Gallows", there is an Englishness to Doomicidal's sound that gives their new album a slightly eccentric and left of centre feel and it is this off centeredness that is its greatest asset and makes "Shadow of the Gallows" such an enjoyable and rewarding listen.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 9 April 2019

PRAISE THE SUN ~ IN: THERMOGLOBAL ENDPOINT ..... review


Norway is probably best known, in musical terms, as the spiritual home of black/death metal but there are plenty of other reasons to check out Norway's thriving underground rock and one of those reasons is the subject of this review.
Praise The Sun are a band who like to retain an air of mystery, the Norwegian doomsters keep a very low profile regarding their identities, no band pictures on their social media, no line up information on their Bandcamp pages, nothing. What we can tell you however is that the band jam grooves of  a dark stoner doomic nature and have released two EP's, "Overseeing the Mountain Void" and "E-Scriptures from the Summit", prior to releasing this their first full length album "IN: Thermoglobal Endpoint".


In keeping with their veiled profile Praise The Sun's music is equally veiled and mysterious, the band telling tales of old gods and cold dark places in monosyllabic vocal tones over low slung down tuned refrains that have an almost ritualistic aspect to them. Vocals throughout "IN: Thermoglobal Endpoint" are not so much sang as intoned and add a sinister and almost monastic edge to the proceeding giving the listener an overriding impression that what they are listening to is not the latest album from a Norwegian doom band but some sort of satanic rite set to a soundtrack of brutal metal. There is not much light to be found on "IN: Thermoglobal Endpoint" but with songs with titles like "Everything, crystallized", "Voidwalker Reborn" and "Fractured" there was never any likelihood there would be, this is an album that wallows in its own shade, a celebration of old ways and Pagan deity's, an album that targets the darker ancient beliefs that still dwell deep in our subconscious and reminds us that before we had God we had GODS!



This is not an album likely to be put on to get a party started neither is it an album for the casual listener, "IN: Thermoglobal Endpoint" is an album that requires your full attention, from start to finish, so as to better appreciate its mesmeric nuances, its hypnotic subtleties and its dark spirituality.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 8 April 2019

KOOK ~ II ..... review




Kook, Troy Aschenbrenner (vocals), Eric Wilkins (drums), Jeff Wilson (bass) and Karl Larson (guitar), came into being from a variety of different directions the four members having played in numerous bands and projects. In Kook the quartet bring all those experiences and knowledge acquired elsewhere together in one place to create a groove unlike anything you may have heard before, a groove that is forever shifting and changing in both direction and dynamic. It is a sound that they first explored on their excellent debut "Kook" and is honed to perfection on this their second album "II".


So what is your musical poison of choice? Are you doomster looking for darkness and dankness, are you a stoner/hard rock aficionado looking for crunch and swagger or are you a lover of the lysergic wanting to get off on swirling lead breaks and flights into the musical cosmos? Well if you answered yes to any or all of those questions then "II" is all your Christmases and birthdays' come together, if you cannot find something here that does not float your particular musical boat then my friend your boat has sprung a leak and should not have been on the water in the first place. "II" is a smorgasbord of styles, grooves and genres seamlessly weaved together in a tapestry of sound that not only incorporates all those elements mentioned but also manages to nod its hairy head towards heavy blues, indie flavoured goth-rock and good ol' fashioned heavy metal. Kook do not recognise musical borders and routinely criss-cross through and over genres and styles, a band who are as likely to tug at your emotions with a bluesy torch song ("Left Behind") as they are to have you creating your own solitary mosh-pit with the raucousness of their riffs ("Chased By Monsters") while at the same time unafraid to take a risk and set off into dissonant lysergic tinted waters ("Frequency 8").


"II", we are told, is based around a concept of "the fight for survival...of the individual and the species...in an insane galaxy filled with monsters", well if this album is the soundtrack we walk into battle hearing then ….we might just have a chance.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 7 April 2019

EnFire ~ JUNIPER LANDING ..... review


New Zealand's underground rock scene may not be the biggest but that does not mean we should ignore it in favour of music from more prolific countries. NZ bands such as Beastwars, Mothra and Arc of Ascent have been turning out consistently excellent underground rock for some time now and have garnered interest not only from the rock press of their home country but also from further afield. Today Desert Psychlist are pointing our calloused fingers in the direction of a trio from Christchurch going by the name EnFire, a stoner doom outfit consisting of Nik "The Woods" Ward (drums), Dave Van Eerden (bass) and Cameron Taylor (guitars/vocals) who have recently released their debut album "Juniper Landing"

We did describe EnFire as "stoner doom" in this reviews opening piece but to be honest that is not strictly true, yes there is plenty of stonerized doom to be found on "Juniper Landing" but there are also elements drawn from the full spectrum of the underground rock scale, we are talking everything from swampy sludge to spacey garage psych here. Crunching downtuned guitar riffage, grizzled low slung bass and a bombardment of percussion are EnFire's tools of trade and they wield them with unerring levels of skill and aptitude, the band utilising a blend of clean and harsh vocal tones to add the finishing touches to their dark, dank musical constructs. From opening track "Dark Dungeon", with its droning fed back intro and dark throbbing proto -doomic groove, through to the excellent cover of Haunted's "Silvercomb" that closes the album (featuring Moonflower's Nicole Schaap on vocals and Josh Fairless on guitar) EnFire never miss a chance to dazzle, delight and entertain their listeners with their relentlessness and drive the band only dropping below incendiary for the excellent trippy and Planet Caravan-esque "Goodbye, You Great Fool", the song a moment of calm in an otherwise gloriously chaotic onslaught.

Unruly and anarchic would be a good way to describe the grooves EnFire bring to the feast with "Juniper Landing", there is an underlying sense of turmoil and disarray prevalent throughout the albums eleven tracks that sees the band walking a precarious razor edge width between discord and harmony, an edge that, to their credit, they manage to negotiate with consummate ease.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 2 April 2019

HEAVY TRAFFIC ~ GARAGE: BAD DREAM ADVENTURE ..... review


Back in 2016 Brooklyn's Heavy Traffic released "Plastic Surgery" an album that was hailed in some quarters as the perfect combination of heavy psychedelic stoner rock swagger and shoegaze melody. A lot of water has passed under the bridge since then and along the way the band have slimmed down to a trio, a move that has seen vocalist Tav Palambo, alongside Ian Caddick (guitars) and Dan Bradica, taking up the vacant bass duties. Heavy Traffic may have lost a member but that loss has in no way diminished the hazy psychedelic impact of the bands music, in fact it on the evidence of their latest release "Garage: Bad Dream Adventure" it seems to have galvanised them as a unit.


When reviewing Heavy Traffic's "Plastic Surgery" we compared them, in part, to defunct psychedelic rockers Quest For Fire, there was a similar element of lysergic haziness and heavy psychedelic grooviness to what Heavy Traffic were trying to achieve that ran along similar lines to that of the Canadian psych outfit. Those similarities can still be found on "Garage: Bad Dream Adventure" but this time around Heavy Traffic have added to their hazy acid drenched refrains an air of left of centre vocal quirkiness and off kilter musical dissonance. Desert Psychlist is not going to pretend that "Garage; Bad Dream Adventure" is an easy listen , it's not, and it is not made any easier by the albums flow being interrupted by its weird array of off the wall musical interludes, but the vibe you get from this quite stunning and unconventional album is one of a band challenging all the usual rules of structure, form and melody, a band allowing their music go where it needs to go with just the minimum of steerage.


Weirdly wonderful and wonderfully weird is probably the best way to describe "Garage: Bad Dream Adventure" an album that is as loose and free as it is solid and tight!.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones