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