Monday, 19 October 2020

INSTANT BONER ~ HIGH PLACE PHENOMENON .... review


Desert Psychlist
held back a little from reviewing Instant Boner's latest album, "High Place Phenomenon", owing to the fact that having covered so many albums and EP's released by Greek bands lately we didn't want you to start to think that we were being overly biased in favour of one country. So since a decent period of time has passed since our last review of  a Greece  based band and having lived with this eclectic gem for a while now (its been on almost constant rotation at Stonerking Towers), we thought it was now the right time to put a few words down to explain its appeal.

Having decided it was time to review Instant Boner's new album we are now faced with the problem of putting into words why this is such a superb release, this is something that is not going to be easy as "High Place Phenomenon" does not fall into any easily recognizable categories or pigeonholes. Jazzy, bluesy, lysergic, heavy, ambient and even funky are terms that all could be applied to the songs that populate this remarkable album and some of those elements can even turn up together in just one song! There have been a few major upheavals in the bands line up since their last album "Outburst" the most notable being the replacement of original vocalist Kostas with that of present vocalist Marianthi, a move that has seen the band shifting slightly away from the rockier aspects of their previous work and embracing a more eclectic approach that suits their new singers more broader vocal range. Fans of Orestis's contributions to Instant Boner's sound will also rejoice to hear that on "High Place Phenomenon" the saxophinist takes a much more prominent role, no longer just bolstering the rhythm section with his blowing but also flying free with the guitarists as a soloist in his own right. As for songs this is a band with tunes to spare, tunes like "Big Bang", crunching riffs and punchy rhythms offset by a lilting jazz-fusion flavoured mid-section, " Desert Hills", a funky hard rocker that goes off on unexpected tangents into blues territory and "Mid Air" an achingly beautiful torch song totally taken to another level by Marianthi's emotive and heart felt vocal.. For the albums finale Instant Boner revive one of their best cuts from their first album, ("Perfect Sunday"), appropriately entitled "Perfect Sunday Revisited", this was a huge and impressive song with Kostas at the helm but with Marianthi taking on the vocals the dynamic is completely altered, where before the song leant towards trippy and lysergic this time around it turns into shape shifting behemoth that erupts, quells and erupts again. This version finds Marianthi channeling a little Beth Gibbons (Portishead) like vocal huskiness in some sections while in others she wails wordlessly like an ethereal banshee over grooves that are constantly changing tact, one minute languid and loose the next complex and intense. At just over twenty one minutes long you might be fooled into thinking that the band might be overplaying their hand and maybe this song could have been compressed into a shorter duration but such is the quality of its individual performances and the songs constantly shifting dynamics and hypnotic nature you will hardly notice any time has passed at all.


"High Place Phenomenon" is not stoner or hard rock, it is not prog, its not post-rock, heavy psych or metal yet at the same time it is all those things and so much more, in fact "phenomenon" is the perfect word for this truly astonishing album! 
Check it out ....

© 2020 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 18 October 2020

FUMAROLE ~ VALLEY OF TEN THOUSAND SMOKES .... review

 


If you are a band who cite your main musical influences as being Orange Goblin and Earthless then it's a probably a given that your grooves are going to be populated with a fair amount of metallic bluster combined with a high level of instrumental prowess and Australian trio Fumarole do not disappoint on either score. The Brisbane band, Ryan Stewart (drums); Dan Bartsch (bass) and Kurt Werder (guitar/vocals), initially whetted our appetites with their debut album "Mountain" an entertaining collection of swaggering hard rock and grizzled groove metal that registered high praise from all the right quarters. Two years after "Mountain" Fumarole have returned with their latest opus "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes" a conceptual album telling of a future where the poor are used to mine for a bacteria that will ensure eternal life for those sitting at the top of the social ladder.

Despite Fumarole's debut "Mountain" being a stonking riot of raucousness and groove it did lack a little nastiness and growl in its production, fortunately that is not a problem with "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes", from the moment Stewart's drum roll announces opening track "War Cry" and Bartsch's bass and Werder's guitar join together on the songs main refrain you are immediately hit by how thicker, heavier, louder and gnarlier things sound compared to the previous album. This grizzlier more intense sound extends itself not only to the albums overall production but can also be noticed in Werder's vocal performances throughout the new album, the guitarists/vocalists voice coming over stronger, gruffer and also possessing a little more "lived in" gravitas than on the bands previous effort. Concept albums can be strange beasts, there has been many a time when Desert Psychlist has listened to an album, muted as a "concept", where we have become lost and confused, not quite understanding how each piece fits together in the story, this is not the case with "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes", each song is a chapter and each "chapter" is perfectly placed in the tale so that the album reads like a book (of course it helps that the band have printed the lyrics on their Bandcamp page too). Musically there is nothing to disappoint here either with songs like "Desert Worms", "Mothership", "Remote Controllers" and "Ghost Ship" all brimming over with raucous and delightful grooviness , a grooviness expertly delivered courtesy of Bartsch's growling bass, Stewart's thunderous percussion and Werder's crunching riffs and scorching lead work.


If "Mountain" was the album that saw Fumarole knocking at the door of international acceptance asking politely to be let in to the party then "Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes" is the band kicking that door down and stealing all the women and beer. 
Check 'em out ..... 

© 2020 Frazer Jones

Friday, 16 October 2020

MONKEY OKAY ~ THE LONG HAUL OF CERCOPITHECOIDEA ...... review


Let us start this review by giving a huge shout out to Doom Charts/Doomed and Stoned's Mel Lie who contacted us asking if we would consider giving the subject of this review a listen. The band Mel so graciously pointed us towards hail from Denmark and jam a groove that defies labelling, they are a band who are just as likely to hit a fat reverberating E chord as they are to go off on some meandering journey into ambient post-rock territory. The bands name is Monkey OkayJeppe Juul Stephansen (vocals); Mads Siegenfeldt (guitar); Hkh KeiZeren (bass); Peter Clement Lund (guitar) and Kristian Berg (drums), the album that Mel suggested we wrap our ears around is called "The Long Haul Of Ceropithecoidea"

"Spiral", an engaging instrumental, starts the ball rolling, it's blend of post-rock textures, space rock flavoured swirls and lysergic laced prog makes an interesting change from the usual grab you by the throat hands employed by many bands for a first track. That throat grabbing moment is reserved for the next track "S-G-G-Y" a desert flavoured rocker full to brimming over with catchy hooks and memorable head nodding riffs that possesses a superb vocal melody and chorus that will stay spinning around in your head long after the album finishes. Weirdness then descends in the shape of "Boatman SE 84 pt.1" a song (if that's the right term) which comes across as some sort of tone poem, its heavily effected vocals, narrated over a backdrop of synthesized swirls whoops and warbles beneath which all manner of percussive tricks are employed, gives it a strange but hypnotic quality, unfortunately Desert Psychlist can envisage many skipping this track owing to its unorthodox and experimental nature but it is in our opinion well worth a listen. Normality returns with "Soldier" a song that mixes its rock one part stoner, two parts hard rock and throws a little doom in for good measure. Next up is title track "The Long Haul of Ceropithecoidea" a huge sprawling opus that takes in everything from pop to prog routinely stopping off at rocks stoner, desert and hard to refuel before heading off into uncharted waters to experiment with elements of space, post-rock and heavy psych.


Intelligent, complex and, in places, experimental "The Long Haul of Ceropithecoidea" is also rocking, fun and joyous, its an unorthodox mix but then Monkey Okay are an unorthodox band and in these unorthodox times what more could you possibly ask for. 
Check 'em out ...

© 2020 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 14 October 2020

ARCADIAN CHILD ~ PROTOPSYCHO ..... review


Cyprus
may not be your go-to country when looking for grooves of a more "underground" persuasion but to overlook it would be a mistake, something is growing beneath the countries warm sunny skies and its not just figs and olives.
Leading this revival/revolution in Cypriot rock music are Arcadian Child, a quartet from Limassol consisting of Panagiotis Georgiou (vocals/guitars); Stathis Hadjicharalambous (guitars); Andreas Kerveros (bass); and Constantinos Pavlides (drums). The band have almost single-handedly put Cyprus back on the musical map with two scintillating releases, "Afterglow" and "Superfonica", releases that jam grooves drawn from a love of late 60's psychedelia, 70's hard rock and the more current stoner/desert/ heavy psych scene. With these releases the band have garnered a growing following among those that have their fingers on the pulse of international rock music, a following that we have no doubt will increase with the release of the bands third album "Protopsycho" (Ripple Music)


Traditional Cypriot folk music has been very much influenced by its proximity to the countries it is surrounded by, elements of Arabian, Greek and Turkish music have all had a huge part to play in shaping the countries traditional sounds. Arcadian Child have always been aware of their musical roots and on both of their previous releases the band have attempted to integrate elements of those sounds into their own music. For "Protopsycho" however the band have taken those sounds and instead of integrating them into their more westernized grooves they have turned things around by pushing the more traditional sounds of their homeland further to the fore. 
Prime example of this shift in Arcadian Child's dynamic is the new albums opening track "Snakecharm" a beautifully performed opus with a strong middle-eastern vibe that is evident in both its instrumental execution and vocal styling, it is a vibe so strong that if you close your eyes you can almost visualize the dancing of a snake as it weaves and sways mesmerized by the hypnotic music and the carefully considered movements of its charmer. 
"Wave High" follows a similar path to its predecessor but this time the band mix things up a little by throwing a little westernized stoner crunchiness and heavy psych colouring in for good measure, if Desert Psychlist were asked to pick a single for the purpose of promoting this album then "Wave High" would be our choice.
"Sour Grapes" is up next, a song that sits somewhere between being a mournful ballad and a melancholic torch song that for the most part is atmospheric and moody but then takes on a more strident dynamic as it reaches its close.
The lower key mood set by "Sour Grapes" continues with "The Well" its sitar like guitar intro making way for a song, that despite its underlying middle-eastern motifs, has an almost Scandinavian feel in that  it has a colder winter feel than the rest of the album and evokes images of wide open spaces and cold wind swept tundras.
"Bitter Tea" is the shortest song on the album and boasts a part narrated, part sang vocal incanted over a heady lysergic groove that slowly builds in intensity incorporating catchy and clever little hooks as it does so.
"Bodies of Man" finds Arcadian Child reverting back to being the stonerized psychedelic rock band they were on their first album "Afterglow" only they've come a long way since then and so there's a little more complexity and a lot more musicality about their rockier songs these days.
"Raisin' Fire" is a superb song that once again finds Arcadian Child mixing their rock with their ragas, it is also the song that finally answered a question that has been bugging us since we first chanced upon this band, that question was who were we reminded of when hearing Panagiotis Georgiou's sing? The answer that came to us (you can and probably will disagree) was another Greek Cypriot , the legendary Cat Stevens.
Title track "Protopsycho" brings things to close, it is a song that is not at all "proto" or for that matter particularly "psycho" its basically just a damn fine song to bring to a finish what is a damn fine album! 


Arcadian Child are a band evolving at an alarming rate and the new album "Protopsycho" is testament to that evolution. Once upon a time if you mentioned Cyprus in a conversation concerning rock music the first name on anybody's lips would be Aphrodite's Child, not anymore however because there is a new Child making music beneath the warm Mediterranean sun and this one's Arcadian!
Check 'em out ..... 

 © 2020 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 11 October 2020

AMON ACID ~ PARADIGM SHIFT ..... review

 

We all know the story of how British rock bands/musicians like Cream, Led Zeppelin Peter Green's Fleetwood Mac, John Mayall  and others took the blues repackaged it, re-imagined it, electrified it and sold it back to the USA, and that even the great Jimi Hendrix had to relocate to the UK because Britain was the one place in the world (at that time) where the music that he was making could be guaranteed an appreciative audience. What many do not know is that while this was all going on a bunch of pill popping hippies in West London, who were also at the time rooted in the blues, were experimenting with enhancing their recorded grooves with electronic effects, poetry and cosmic themes, that band were called Hawkwind and those experiments resulted in the band almost single handedly inventing the sound we now call "Space Rock", a sound very much influential in shaping the grooves of some of today's bands, one of which is the subject of this review.
Now Liverpool England's Amon Acid, whose album we are reviewing today, are not exactly what you could call a "space rock band", the grooves they display for our entertainment on their latest album "Paradigm Shift" are a little too close to the doomic side for that , but their sound certainly owes a huge debt to the grooves those acid dropping hippies from Ladbroke Grove were experimenting with all those years ago.


As we stated in our intro piece Amon AcidSarantisCharvas (vocals/guitar/tzouras/synthesizers/drum programming) and Briony Charvas (bass), are primarily a doom band but they are also so much more than just that.
Swirling synths swooping in and out of thick reverberating dark, dank guitar refrains and the ringing strings of traditional Greek acoustic instrumentation are the basis of Amon Acid's sound, a sound given extra depth and gravitas by Briony Charvas' huge thrumming bass, this resulting blend of cosmic tinted occult rock and acid doom is perfectly complimented by some quite brilliant drum programming from Sarantis Charvas which when combined with his clipped, almost gothic/indie, vocal tones gives the bands sound, in places, an almost krautrock/industrial undercurrent. Apart from the obvious Hawkwind comparisons, that listeners are bound to make given the spacey synthesised effects that make their presence felt on each and every one of the albums six songs, hidden among the heavy gloom you may also detect shades of UK goth rockers Bauhaus and Alien Sex Fiend as well as flavours of "Seventeen Seconds/Faith" era  Cure, albeit drenched in psychedelic colours and slowed down to a more sedate and lumbering doomic pace. It is, when considering the somewhat downbeat aspects of some of the music that flew under the "Goth" banner in the eighties, not surprising that some aspects of goth's dourness and gloominess should translate to the doom we listen to today, it is very much to Amon Acid's credit that they seamlessly integrate these aspects into their doom while also still managing to shoe in elements of space and heavy psych. That aside, each song on the album is an experience in itself, from the ominous and creepy "Intro" to the atmospheric and epic title track, "Paradigm Shift", Amon Acid take you on a cosmic trip that is rooted in doom but is shaped by so many other influences and musical genres, it is a head spinning journey you will never want to forget or, for that matter, ever want to end!


Having not seen the band in the live environment Desert Psychlist is at odds to understand how Amon Acid can pull off such a complex and intricate sound with just the two of them up there on a stage, the fact that they do so is testament to not only their skill as musicians but also their skill as technicians. Hopefully Desert Psychlist will get to witness this one day but until that happens we are happy to just turn off the lights, plug in the lava lamp and stick "Paradigm Shift" on repeat ad-infinitum. 
Check it out .... 

© 2020 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 8 October 2020

REZN ~ CHAOTIC DIVINE ...... review


What is it that makes bands like Tool, Elder and All Them Witches stand out from the crowd when that crowd is made up of very adept bands full of equally adept and skilled musicians? The answer is risk! The bands mentioned at the top of this page possess a fearlessness that sets them apart from the following herd simply because they are willing to experiment, to take chances and steer their music down unexpected avenues that may take them down cul-de-sac's but could equally open up whole new musical horizons.
Chicago's REZN are not quite yet in the same league as those bands mentioned above but the quartet of  Rob McWilliams (guitar/vocals/oud); Phil Cangelosi (bass/vocals/bağlama/rainstick); Patrick Dunn (drums /percussion/ sitar) and Spencer Ouellette (synthesizer /saxophone/flute/percussion) are certainly heading in the right direction if the bands latest album "Chaotic Divine" is anything to go by.


Opening song, "Emerging", does exactly that ...it emerges out of a combination of North African/Middle-Eastern acoustic instrumentation then morphs into a grinding low slow and heavy doomic groove replete with swathes of dark reverberating guitar and bass refrains that are driven by ponderous thundering percussion and decorated with soaring clean vocal harmonies. We spoke earlier of REZN being one of those band willing to take risks and so it comes as no surprise that around the songs three quarter mark the band suddenly jettison the doom and head into quieter, tranquil waters to take things to the close, those waters laced with a hazy lysergic dynamic. A ringing, heavily echoed, guitar motif introduces next track "Waves of Sand" a heady psychedelic workout with a strong eastern feel beautifully enhanced by swirling synthesizers and free flowing saxophone. For next track "Garden Green" REZN look to the Caribbean for their inspiration the band jamming a rootsy groove that is more dub than it is doom and boasts an absolutely delightful sax solo. REZN  partially revive the doom for next track "The Door Opens" an atmospheric tome that sees the vocals taking on a more grizzled dynamic over dark resonating guitar textures, huge growling bass lines and pummeling drum patterns, however this being REZN it is not long before the band fall into a hazy laid back and languid groove for the songs mid-section before just as suddenly redialing in the doom for the songs finale. The rest of the album is just as eclectic, ambient instrumentals ("Clear I" and Clear II"), hazy psychedelic doom workouts with undulating dynamics ("Optic Echo", "Inner Architecture", "The Still Center"), full on frenetic fuzzed out stoner metal ("Scarab") and Floydian experimentation ("Mother/Forever Time"), each song a departure from the previous one and each a mesmerizing mixture of shifting dynamics enhanced by an interesting blend of traditional and modern instrumentation.


As we said at the start of this review taking risks and daring to step off the the well trodden path is what sets the "great" bands apart from the just "good" bands and in Desert Psychlist's humble opinion REZN, with "Chaotic Divine", have more than cemented their place in the former category.
Check 'em out .... 

© 2020 Frazer jones

Monday, 5 October 2020

IGLESIA ATOMICA ~ LA GUERRA DEL FIN DEL MUNDO ...... review

Armageddon...The Apocolypse,... The Rapture, call it what you want, is predicted to be just around the corner for us as a race of people, it's sad but we only have ourselves to blame. Of course musicians being musicians such a global catastrophe cannot not be allowed to pass without someone writing a song about it or basing an album around the concept of a world coming to terms with its own demise. Puerto Rico's Iglesia Atomica, Agustín “Chito” Criollo (bass/keyboards); Martín Latimer (guitars) and Herb Pérez (drums/percussion), are the latest band to throw their hats into the Armageddon ring however their approach, on their latest album "La Guerra del Fin del Mundo", is not one of chronicling the planet's final days but more a plea for those that may survive such an apocalyptical event to learn from the mistakes of the past and forget about the new gods we worshiped at the altars of technology, greed and war and instead look to the old gods to rediscover our connection with nature and the planet lying beneath our feet. The fact that Iglesia Atomica attempt to convey this message via the medium of instrumental music does make things a little more difficult but thankfully each songs part in the whole is explained on the albums sleeve notes (or for digital buyers can be found on the bands Bandcamp page).


"Chamán" starts the ball rolling, a song portraying man's obsession with technology and the effects that this obsession has had on the natural resources we as a people rely on to survive. The song starts with the sound of birds singing and water running beneath the sound ringing guitar arpeggios, the occasional shaking of a prayer stick and shamanic chanting evoking images of fertility rites and harvest rituals. Slowly the gently plucked arpeggios fade away and make way for a more swirling guitar dynamic pushed by deep booming liquid bass and superbly executed drumming that is cleverly played both on and just behind the beat. The song gradually grows in intensity with Criollo and Perez laying down some absolutely wicked grooviness for Latimer to decorate with his lead work, the guitarist ripping one scorching and emotive solo after another from his finger worn fretboard, together the band flying so high that at times they are in danger of burning up. At around the songs halfway mark the band begin to cool things down a little and with the arrival of an absolutely delicious bass solo from Criollo the band drop into a hazy lysergic groove that also sees Criollo's keyboards taking some of the weight off of Latimer's shoulders, and Perez shifting his drumming attack from feral and tribalistic to a mixture of jazzy, complex and intricate. As the song nears its conclusion the need to fly takes over the band again and they once again take off on another guitar screaming foray into the stratosphere before finally finishing on a Floydian flavoured psychedelic fade out.
"Atomo Verde No.5" is up next, its theme of greed, excess and neglect is perfectly portrayed by a series of fiercely addictive guitar motifs, chopped out funky chord progressions, swirling keyboard textures and some truly outstanding drum work.
"La Guerra del Fin del Mundo", follows and deals with the existence of old gods and the preparations for a battle they wished they didn't have to fight but can't avoid. It is a song that mixes the less aggressive and more lysergic aspects of Iglesia Atomica's sound with touches of fusion-like jazz funkiness (is that Criollo slapping his bass that we are hearing?) and spacey ambience, the band even going as far as to throw in a little Appalachian bluegrass for good measure.
"Un Dios Enemigo" reflects, musically, the war of the old gods against the new gods with crunching metallic guitar riffs and thundering rhythms played with relentless intensity against a backdrop of sampled voices shouting, screaming in anguish, anger, fear and fury. Suddenly a lull, marked by a lilting hazy psychedelic section, appears both in the battle and the music portraying that battle and allows the sound of nature to filter through all the devastation and destruction that has been wrought only to be suddenly drowned out as the war machine restarts its engines.
"Isla Rebelde" brings the story to not so much a conclusion but to a choice, do we the survivors of the war follow the model that brought us to this point in our existence and thus start the whole vicious cycle all over again or do we follow the model that our earliest ancestors followed and learn to accept nature as our one true god and be thankful for all the gifts she has to offer us. Iglesia Atomica reflect this dichotomy with a song that begins restrained and low key then slowly climbs to a crescendo, Latimer's guitar soaring over a back drop of evocative and sensuous Floydian - like grooves expertly delivered by Criollo and Perez, the song bringing this story/album not so much to an end but more to the close of a chapter in an ongoing saga.


Not really a tale of condemnation and not exactly a tale of destruction or retribution "La Guerra del Fin del Mundo" is more a tale of hope, hope that the next generation will grasp the nettle and force a change, hope that we can find a more organic, natural way to live and hope that we will always have hope.
Check it out .... 
.
© 2020 Frazer Jones