Friday 23 February 2024

SUNDRIFTER ~ AN EARLIER TIME ...... review


Its been six years since Boston's Sundrifter, Craig Peura (vocals/guitar); Paul Gaughran (bass) and Patrick Queenan (drums), released their excellent second full length album, "Visitations", a stunning opus that secured a very respectable #17 in Desert Psychlist's "Best of 2018" end of year list. What the band have been up to in those six years is a question best asked of the band themselves we are just glad that they have returned and that they have marked that return with "An Earlier Time" (Small Stone Records) an album that in our humble opinion is a game changer.


The track "Limitless" kicks things off and straight away it feels like these guys have never been away those clean clear powerful vocals are still in place as are those spacious feeling desert rock grooves that made their previous album such joy to listen to, but Sundrifter have not returned to the studio just make a carbon copy of "Visitations" as next track "Space Exploration" goes to prove. "Space Exploration" is a song built around an off-centred and pulsing circular refrain, the songs overall vibe is totally different from its predecessor in that it as a spaced out quality that is part Hawkwind(ish) and part Elder(ish) but graced with far better vocals. There is an eastern tint to next song "Nuclear Sacrifice" both in its guitar work and its vocal which sees Peura, when not delivering a deep plea for the powers that be to push the button, warbling in wordless Arabesque flavoured tones. "Prehistoric Liftoff" finds Sundrifter jamming a chugging, almost proto-doomic, groove interspersed with proggish textures and boasts a sublime vocal melody while following song "Begin Again" sees the band once again dipping their toes into exotic waters but this time more akin to the dancing music of Turkey's Whrling Dervishes. Fans of UK bands Muse and Radiohead will find much to enjoy about following tracks "Want You Home" and "Final Chance" with the former having that same mix of indie rock and prog-like majesty that Muse made their calling card and the latter boasting Thom York like vocal melodies and those slightly off- kilter alt-metal refrains and rhythms that set Radiohead so far ahead of the chasing pack. Sundrifter sign off their new album with "Last Transmission" a moody and quite beautiful piece delivered in a minimalistic style with sparse guitar textures and droning effects framing a simple but highly effective vocal, the song a lyrical wave goodbye with the promise of an eventual return, something we will all be looking forward to after listening to this wonderfully diverse and essential album.


Sundrifter's "An Earlier Time", is one of those albums with the potential to live on much longer than the band that made it actually exists, a game changing album much like Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" was back in its day, Radiohead's "OK Computer" is today and how Elder's "Lore" will no doubt be perceived in the future, a bold statement you might say but this album really is that GOOD!
Check it out .... 

© 2024 Frazer Jones

Sunday 18 February 2024

BIRDS OF VALE ~ LIMBO ... review


Birds of Vale, Nikos Liakos (vocals); Lazaros Kangelidis (guitars); Kostis Papagiannopoulos (bass) and Nikos Manatos (drums/percussion), describe themselves as simply a "rock n' roll band from Athens, Greece" and that is all well and good but we at Desert Psychlist believe there is much more to this band than just basic rock'n'roll, something you may discover for yourselves when giving the bands debut album "Limbo" (Bitter Tea Records) a spin.


Opening track "Chora" tells you everything you need to know about what Birds of Vale bring to the table with their music as well as serving as the perfect indicator of what to expect from the rest of the album. The songs heavy blues groove, enhanced by exquisite sliding guitar and grainy emotive vocal tones is the stuff those of us of more advanced years grew up listening to and those of more tender years may of have heard blasting out of their parents sound systems, in other words classy melodic blues tinted hard rock of the type bands like Bad Company, Cry of Love and Free once called their own. Following song "Indian River" sees Birds of Vale showing us that along with classic rock bluesiness and southern swagger they also have some alt-metal grunginess in their locker, Kangelidis laying down a mixture of slurred refrains and searing solos ably supported by Papagiannopoulos' grizzled bass lines and Manatos' blend of tight and loose drum patterns, Liakos applying the cherry to the top of the cake with a powerful vocal that channels touches of the late Chris Cornell (Soundgarden/Audioslave) in its delivery. Its back to the heavy blues for "Howler" an atmospheric torch-song boasting a full on and feel drenched vocal sang mostly at the higher end of Liakos' range, a stunning opus that is then followed by title track "Limbo" a more traditional country blues song that sees the band getting low down and suitably swampy. Fans of early Led Zeppelin will be left with gaping jaws while listening to next track "Caviar" the song giving the chance for Kangelidis to play Page to Liakos' Plant while Papagiannopoulos and Manatos lay down a groove Bonham and JP Jones would have been proud to call their own. A deliciously dank Papagiannopoulos bass motif kicks off next track "Dream" a mid tempo rocker that melds aspects of grunge/alt-metal with the blues that then leads us into "Raff" a song boasting much the same dynamic as its predecessor only this time with a little more sting in its tail. Finally we arrive at "Sungun", here we find Birds of Vale  closing out, what has been an utterly engrossing and highly enjoyable album, with a soaring blues heavy opus that routinely switches between smouldering smokiness and white hot heaviness, incendiary stuff!


Many bands have attempted to meld grunge/alt-metal with doom and stoner rock, and done so quite successfully, but not too many have attempted to merge grunge/alt-metal with heavy blues, Birds of Vale have, with "Limbo", done just that and in doing so may well have made one of the best heavy blues based albums released this year!

© 2024 Frazer Jones

Thursday 15 February 2024

WITCHORIOUS ~ WITCHORIOUS .... review


Paris, France is renowned for being the city of romance but the city also possesses a dark underbelly, especially its underground music scene which over the years has given us bands like Domadora, Red Sun Atacama, Hyde and Grandma's Ashes, bands whose grooves could hardly be described as a reflection of their cities romantic reputation. Today we bring you another Paris based band, this one going by the name Witchorious, a trio consisting of Antoine (guitar/vocals); Lucie (bass) and Paul (drums) whose music could be described as sitting at the gnarlier end of stoner/hard rock but the more accessible end of doom and sludge metal. Witchorious first came to Desert Psychist's attention via their two song EP "The Haunted Tapes", an intriguing two song release that although a little disjointed in places showed a band brimming over with promise and potential, a promise and potential that has now come to fruition on their debut self-titled album "Witchorious" (Argonauta Records).

We tend to expect new albums to open up with something monstrous so as to set the scene for what is to follow and Witchorious deliver on those expectations with the appropriately titled "Monster", a track that encapsulates everything that is good about this band, the songs mix of sneery clean melodies and low guttural harshness supported by thrumming refrains and thunderous rhythms is manna from heaven for those of us who like our sludge and doom crunching and heavy but at the same time imbued with an element of old school classicality. "Catharsis" follows and here we find Witchorious ramping up the gnarliness by adding a little extra bite to their sonic attack but then routinely dialling back on that nastiness with off kilter vocal harmonies and alt-metal flavoured, guitar textures. The band dip their toes into occult rock territories next with the wonderfully atmospheric " The Witch", again the vocals posses a delicious sneery quality in their delivery but what really makes this song great rather than just good is the horn like motifs employed on the songs more up beat sections which punctuate the songs gloomy occult atmospherics like angels trumpets announcing the coming of divine judgement. "Blood" seeps out of the speakers next, a deliciously dank and dark opus boasting an intriguing  mixture of clean and quirky vocal harmonies and harsh growls over a groove that carries an essence of Polish riffmeisters Dopelord in its execution. An element of spacious heavy psych is introduced into the mix for next song "Eternal Night", bassist Lucie handles lead vocals here, her fey but not quite ethereal tones adding a pleasing haziness to the proceedings, a haziness enhanced by the cosmic swoops and whirls that wind themselves around the songs heavily psyched out doomic groove. And so it goes for the rest of the album, the gloriously schizophrenic "Sanctuaire", the instrumentally weird "Amnesia", the gnarled and sludgy "Watch Me Die", the reflective "To The Grave" and the superbly atmospheric final track "Why" are all well above average songs that are rooted in doom, hard rock and sludge but not anchored down by those roots, the band bringing elements of off-centred quirkiness and otherworldly spaciousness to their grooves to create a sound that resides in the canon of doom but is sat way to the left of its centre.  


Witchorious state in their liner notes that they "wanted to create more modern sounds and structures to avoid doing doom that we’ve all heard before" and listening to their debut album it would seem they have succeeded in doing exactly that. 
Check 'em out ....

© 2024 Frazer Jones

Wednesday 7 February 2024

DEAD RUNES ~ RAIDHO .... review


Dead Runes hail from Nashville, a place where musicians outnumber the ordinary citizens, the band make a noise they describe as "head-bangable, dynamic, fuzz-drenched rock'n'roll" quantifying that statement by telling us they jam a groove that blends the "frantic anxiety of Mastodon with the chill majestic vibes of The Sword". To find out if your ears agree with Dead Runes self-assessment you will have to give their debut "Raidho" a spin, a task we are quietly confident you will end up thanking us for.


An instrumental piece entitled "Secrets of Mountains" opens proceedings, a majestic blend of blues flecked post-rock guitar noodling and sludgy dank riffage supported by dark toned bass lines and tight solid percussion that then makes way for "Allfathers Path" a galloping heavy rocker that along with its highly impressive strong clean vocals  and "Immigrant Song" like rhythms also boasts some searing shredded guitar pyrotechnics. If you have not fell under this bands spell yet then the doom tinted "My Freya" will change all that, its chugging refrains and pounding rhythms twinned with an absolute peach of a vocal melody is on another level especially in its last quarter when things go slightly off piste prior to the songs final verse. "Iron Song" follows next, the songs atmospheric intro of spaced out guitar textures, sparse percussion and hazy echoed vocals is soon shattered by crunching refrains and punchy drumming over which the vocals take on a a more powerful dynamic, things do revert back to the ambient nature of the songs intro but only briefly and its not long before the song pushes to its finish on a wave of  deliciously crunchy stoner-like riff'n'roll. Title song "Raidho" is up next and blends elements of prog with post rock, blues and alt-metal to create a groove that is in constant flux but never once loses its flow or its focus, it also boasts both the albums best vocal performance and its best guitar solo. "Different Stars" is probably Dead Runes at their most accessible and boasts a superb vocal backed by a groove with a slightly dialled down hard rock dynamic while "To Hel and Back" finds Dead Runes getting pleasingly angular and off-kilter. Final number "Sea Tripper" finds the band experimenting with textures and colours both musically and vocally, the music part of the equation an undulating blend of stonerized psych, off centred blues and  hazy doom, the vocal part mantra-like and slightly monotonic, it is not quite the foot to the floor barnburner you might expect an album of this nature to sign off with but is, despite that, a very impressive curtain closer on a seriously entertaining album. 


Dead Runes may think they have a sound that captures essences of Mastodon and The Sword but what we at Desert Psychlist hear is a sound closer to the likes of Elder, All Them Witches and King Buffalo, an intelligent and varied mix of prog- like complexity, lysergic languidity and swaggering heaviness fronted with smooth yet wonderfully powerful vocals. 
Check 'em out .... 

© 2024 Frazer Jones

Saturday 3 February 2024

TROY THE BAND ~ CATACLYSM .... review


A few years ago Desert Psychlist reviewed an album called "0=1" by Ukrainian alternative metal doomsters Dreadnought by the Pond and we remember getting VERY excited by the bands off-kilter and angular approach to their music. The same excitement we felt that day is again coursing through our brains only this time that excitement is being triggered not by an Eastern European outfit but one from our own British backyard, a band going by the name Troy The Band, a four piece from London, England consisting of Sean Durbin (bass); Sean Burn (guitars); Craig Newman (vocals) and Daniel England (drums). The band have just released their first full length album "Cataclysm" (Bonebag Records), an album with a sound that is as an amalgamation of off-centred stoner metal and angular doom offset with elements of heavy psych and post-metal, a raucous and highly entertaining stroll down the left side of the metallic path.


To try and describe "Cataclysm" in words is no easy task, this is an album that really needs to be heard to truly appreciate its layers, shades and textures however we will do our best to explain why, in early February, we think this album could already be a contender for one of those end of year lists so beloved of our community. It is probably the opening/title track "Cataclysm" that best exemplifies why we think so highly of what TTB bring to the table, its doom laced back drop of slurring refrains, low basement level bass lines and varied rhythmic patterns is enhanced by vocals that range from shoegaze(ish)  and mellow to harsh and growly but what really puts this song on a pedestal is its layers, peel this song back to its core and you would be listening to a pretty acceptable doom tune but with layers of colour, atmosphere and texture constantly being added and subtracted what was acceptable suddenly becomes extraordinary and dare we say it... exceptional. Ok so that's the opening track and most opening tracks are geared for impact so can TTB maintain that level of impact over the duration of a whole album? Well the answer to that is you bet your bottom dollar they can, in fact this is an album that just keeps giving and getting better and better as it goes along, songs like "Flesh Wound", "Only Violence" and "Fauna" are packed with all the righteous heaviness you could possibly ask for but also contain moments that leave you slack-jawed with amazement and disbelief, sometimes those moments are subtle sometimes blatant but they take each and every song gracing this album to a level that far exceeds that which we have come to expect from music of this nature.


Stoner doom can often find itself trapped in a cul-de-sac of its own making, limited by its reliance on slow, low and heavy guitar dynamics and plodding rhythms, this is not the case with Troy The Band's "Cataclysm" the band have identified the genres short fallings and attempted to fix them by adding an angular and off-centred element to their sound, the quartet still remaining true to the roots of the genre but then making things a little more exciting by taking left turns where many of their contemporaries might turn right.
Check 'em out ... 

© 2024 Frazer Jones

Wednesday 24 January 2024

CHEDDAR ~ PSYCHE ... review

Cheddar are a Spanish outfit hailing from Burgos consisting of Clara Dorronsoro (vocals);Daniel Bitrián (guitars); Pablo Cabornero (guitars); Miguel Alonso (bass) and Javier Macho (drums). Now unless you have some personal connection to the band or have seen them play live in their homeland there is no reason why you would recognise any of those names or even have heard of the bands name but that might change when you have gotten a load of their astounding debut "PSYCHE", an astounding mix of crunching prog-like riffage and heady lysergic languidity tinted with elements of occult rock and fronted by soaring vocals that are an enticing mix of power and fragility. 

The sound of chirping birds accompanied by high pitched drones, keyboards and sampled narrative make up intro piece "PSYCHE" which is then followed by "CHRYSALIS I" a stunning mix of arpeggiated noodling and electric guitar crunch framed by rhythms that alternate between languid and loose and heavy and tight over which Dorronsoro layers a sublime vocal that ranges from a seductive whisper to a banshee-like howl, man can this lady SING! Next up we get "CHRYSALIS II" a song that like its sister piece showcases Cheddar's ability to go from heavy to lysergic in a heartbeat. Bitrián and Cabornero's guitars play off and around each other on the songs quieter moments but come together in perfect unison on the songs heavier sections but what really impresses here is Alonso and Macho's almost telepathic understanding of each others parts in the whole, the pair driving the groove hard where it is needed and laying it down loose lysergic and jazzy when and where that dynamic is called for, all four musicians creating the perfect platform for Dorronsoro to launch her incredible vocals from. Cheddar allow the listeners a moment to catch their breaths with the achingly beautiful "LE MORT" then rips that breath away with the quiet /loud/quiet dual attack of "IMAGO I" and its sister piece "IMAGO II", the latter just shading it over the former thanks to Dorronsoro's slightly more emotional vocal. "LIMERENCE" begins life fey and ethereal, with Dorronsoro waxing lyrical about being addicted and disconnected in lush creamy tones, but then takes a turn for the heavy in its last quarter with Alonso and Macho laying down a barrage of groove for Bitrián and Cabornero to decorate with thrumming refrains, tonally opposed motifs and soaring solos. Last but not least comes "LUA" a song that sits sonically somewhere between a less sludgy Rosy Finch and a slightly more heavy Evanescence, which given how good this tune is seems a not too bad place to be sitting.


Elements of prog, alt-rock, occult rock and even hints of symphonic metal can be found nestled among the eight songs that make up "PSYCHE" so placing what Cheddar do in a neatly labelled box is nigh on impossible. Lets just say, other than this is essential listening, is that what Cheddar bring to the table with their debut release is just good intelligent rock music with a penchant for crossing over into many territories and just leave it at that.
Check it out ....

© 2024 Frazer Jones

Tuesday 23 January 2024

DUNGEÖN ~ DUNGEÖN .... review

Been a while since Desert Psychlist dived down the stoner-doom rabbit hole so what better way to revisit said hole than with an EP released by a band from The Psychlist's own UK homeland. The band in question are a trio, Zak Larkins (bass/vocals). Guy Southam (drums) and Keir Sheehan (bass), who go by the name Dunge​ö​n and describe what they do as "noise terror and riff worship", which given the dank, dark nature of their self titled debut EP "Dunge​ö​n" is a pretty apt description.

Opening track "Green Throne" begins, like so many songs do in this genre, with sampled narrative lifted from a horror movie then erupts into low slow reverberating bass and guitar riffage replete with the necessary pounding drumming over which bellowed semi spoken vocals tell their dark tale, it all sounds pretty par for the course so far doesn't it? Well actually it's not and the reason it is not comes down to how well Dunge​ö​n structure their sound, yes there is plenty of repetition and riff reliance going on here but there are also places where the band go off-piste and dare we say get a little cosmic and out there. Following track "Parasite" starts off life eerie and full of menacing suspense then the hammer goes down and the band explode into a seriously fuzzed out and distorted stoner doomic refrain that if it were any heavier would be in danger of  totally collapsing into just noise. Vocals here are again delivered in a tuneful bellow but, thanks to their placement in the mix, are not overbearing or too in the listeners face, a pet hate of Desert Psychlist's is when these type of vocals are pushed too high in the mix but these sit perfectly in the "goldilocks zone" and serve to enhance rather than detract from the songs overall impact. Final number "Condemn The Earth" eases back a little on the fuzz and distortion, albeit only slightly, and boasts a groove that sits somewhere between stoner and proto doom with the latter of those two dynamics being a touch more Electric Wizard than it is Black Sabbath, again there is not much variation to be found in the songs riffs or for that matter the vocal delivery but, like the two previous songs, there is enough for things not to fall into tedium, the swirling solo's and use of sampled narrative elevating the song to a level far above the usual generic plodding this genre can sometimes descend into.


 Ludicrously loud, crushingly heavy and deliciously dank "Dunge​ö​n" is everything you could want from a release bearing the tags doom and sludge metal but it also has so much more working in its favour, its occasional forays into more cosmic territories and its clever use of samples raise its sonic impact from generic to genre defining. 
Check it out ...

© 2024 Frazer Jones