Monday, 16 September 2019

IGLESIA ATOMICA ~ THE JIM JONES KOOL-AID ACID TEST, VOL.1 .... review


Regular perusers of Desert Psychlist's pages will already know we have a soft spot for instrumental heavy psych and those same readers will also know that Puerto Rico's Iglesia Atomica are one of our favourite exponents of that particular sub-genre. Given that information you can understand why we were super stoked to receive a message recently from Iglesia Atomica's bassist/keyboardist Agustin Criollo informing us of the release of an album of unreleased outtakes recorded live in the studio and released under the auspicious banner  "The Jim Jones Kool-Aid Acid Test, Vol.1"


When approaching any music labelled as "outtakes" one cannot help but be suspicious, we have probably all shelled out for a deluxe version of a classic album purporting to contain essential outtakes and unreleased tracks only to find out that the reason they never made the album in the first place was because they were essentially crap! No need to worry on that score with "...Vol 1" as although songs like "Ritual", "Nube de Oort" and "Astral Variations" are labelled as "outtakes" the albums five tracks are more like improvised jams, songs that may have had some semblance of formal structure at one time in their lives but are here stretched, twisted, deconstructed and then reconstructed into entities in their own right. There is also a rawness here you don't usually associate with Iglesia Atomica, gone is the gloss and sheen that is usually associated with their releases and it is replaced by a more organic, a more feral in the moment feel, Agustin Criollo's bass sounding grittier and growlier, Martin Latimer's guitar work harsher slightly deeper toned and Herb Pérez's percussion unrestrained and wild. Being mostly a live in the studio recording you would expect mistakes to be made and to Iglesia Atomica's credit they don't try to hide these mistakes, misplaced notes, exuberant shouts, accidental rimshots the occasional electronic buzz and unintentional feedback all make an appearance here and there but somehow that adds to the albums overall appeal rather than detracts from it.



Whether intended to document their improvisational skills as musicians or just a way of getting out there some tunes they believed in but could not find a place for on an "official" album "The Jim Jones Kool-Aid Test, Vol.1" is a stunning, if somewhat raw, collection of heavily improvised psych and experimental space rock that is easily one of the best "outtake" releases you are likely to hear this year, or for that matter any year.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 15 September 2019

SATURNA ~ ATLANTIS ..... review


Saturna, hail from Barcelona, Spain and have been steadily making a name for themselves in underground circles by releasing a steady stream of high quality and extremely listenable albums since forming in 2010. Over the years the bands line up has changed but the bands commitment for creating strong melodic heavy rock has not, something that can be discovered by giving their latest album "Atlantis" a spin.


If you like your music gritty, a little stonerized but still hanker for old school elements like groove and melody then you may well have stumbled onto your new favourite band. Saturna are not a doom band neither are they what you could consider a stoner rock band, although they do harness aspects from both genres in their sound, Saturna are a "rock band" in the old tradition of the term, a band who can crunch out raucous riffs and pummeling rhythms with the best of 'em but can at the same time tug at your heart strings with the soulfulness and emotional gravitas of their compositions. From the chugging hard rock of opening track "Black Purple" to the heavy blues drenched closer "Distant Shores" there is not note wasted, a vocal thrown away or a beat misplaced as the band take you back to a time when trouser bottoms were a little wider and rock ruled the musical world. The fact that Saturna  do this without falling into the trap of sounding "retro" or nostalgic is down to the freshness and vitality they bring to the table, the band serving up classic recipes laid out on a brand new tablecloth.


There are surprisingly very few albums that can truly be considered "all killer no filler", most releases will contain at least one or two songs that do not quite reach the mark of the other songs they are surrounded by but when one of these rare albums does appear, where every track is on a level playing field with its neighbours, then it is something to be savoured and lauded. Saturna's latest opus "Atlantis" is one such album, the Spanish four piece combo have excelled themselves and created one of the "must have" releases of 2019.
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 8 September 2019

IRON RIDER ~ WONDERING IF YOU'RE IN HELL BY NOW .... review


Something evil approaches ….
Mark Grillo (guitar/vocals); Michael Livathinopoulos (drums) and Julian Agneta (bass/keyboards) are that something evil and they approach us under the collective banner of Iron Rider. They come, with barely concealed sardonic grins and dark glints in eyes, from Brooklyn, New York and try to fool us, in convincing tones, that they are "an old fashioned bluesy doom band", don't be hoodwinked by their claims, one listen to their horror themed debut "Wondering If You're In Hell By Now" will convince you they are not!


Of course given their claim to be at heart an old fashioned blues band Iron Rider need to keep up the pretence by presenting to the listener something that does retain, at least, a semblance of bluesy delta flavouring and they do this with "I'll Find You" a dark, low slung instrumental that although has its roots in the blues is unlike any blues you might hear coming from a Saturday night roadhouse bar band. This is a twisted, gnarled version of the blues played by a band who sound as if they are auditioning for a residency as the house band in Hades. The mask begins to slip on next track "Drifter" the trio jamming a heavy doomic groove underpinned by deep boneshaking bass and thunderous percussion over which low strung guitar adds dark textures and colours. Vocals rear their head for the first time and here is where any bluesy illusions still remaining are blown clear out of the water, Mark Grillo does not roar like Howling Wolf, he sounds like a howling wolf or at least some hellish, demonic version of one, his vocal not quite a guttural growl nor quite a spectral screech but sitting somewhere in between, clean yet at the same time harsh. Things calm down a little with "An Old Low" the band settling into a hazy low, slow doom groove around which lysergic six-string texturing is lovingly applied, the songs vocals this time taking on a more maniacal tone. "Bonfire" follows almost immediately and by now the blues that were at the root of the albums first track are almost a distant memory and we find the band hitting into a thundering instrumental that throbs and pulses with latent menace. Funky WAH drenched guitar introduces "Beg" and suddenly we are briefly plummeted into something that resembles blues territory but Iron Rider being Iron Rider it is not long before they are banging up sludge shaped fencing around the landscape and turning the place into a vision of hell. "Justice" closes out "Wondering If You're In Hell By Now", the band finishing things off nicely with a dark dank stoner doomic instrumental with subtle Sabbathesque undertones.


"Wondering If You're In Hell By Now" is the question, the answer is yes you are, now unpack your bags and make yourself at home.
Check it out … 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Monday, 2 September 2019

OLE ENGLISH ~ OLE ENGLISH ..... review


"Warlock Rock" is not a genre you maybe familiar with but if Lafayette based Louisiana four piece Ole English have their way it will be one you will be actively seeking out in the future. The band, Lynden Segura (vocals/guitar); Nick Harvey (vocals/guitar); Magnolia June (bass) and Austin Wood (drums), describe what they do as "preserving the lineage forged by dynasties such as Black Sabbath, Kyuss, The Sword and Soundgarden", its a bold statement to make and one that could well backfire if it doesn't hold water, let's see if it does.




"Hooks... write them and they will come" could well be the thinking behind the first track to be presented on "Ole English" for here is a song with more "hooks" than a high school cloakroom, curly little guitar licks tagged on to the end of crunching riffs that immediately grab your attention and pull you further into the songs raucous groove and when you ally those hooks with the strong throaty vocals and pulsating rhythms that they decorate well who could blame you for sticking around. "Old Man" is the next track to raise its head and what a wonderfully gnarly head it is full of chugging metallic swagger and bluesy bluster and blessed with a clean powerful voice. "Heel" follows and has a groove pitched at the punkier end of the stoner rock spectrum both vocally and musically, however its not long before Ole English's blues rock credentials begin to show and the band close the song with a high energy stonerized heavy blues jam. Those blues credentials surface again on "Visions of Ghana" a song built around a "Dazed and Confused" type bass line that, much like the Led Zeppelin song, builds and builds until it takes on a life all of  its own and morphs into something completely different from what it started out as, in this case a heavily atmospheric doomic tome. "Holy Roller" closes out "Ole English" with a gritty rocker driven by booming bass and tight, solid percussion around which a mixture of crunching refrains and soaring off kilter solos are lavishly delivered, however that is not the whole story as things take an unexpected turn mid -song, the band taking things to a close on a plodding low slow doomic groove decorated in guitar textures that would not sound out of place gracing a 1960's spaghetti western.


"Ole English" is a great album but one that is slightly schizophrenic, an album where listeners are bombarded with grooves that run the whole gamut of underground rock, one minute you are nodding along to a Sasquatch type proto-metallic groove the next your being blitzed by some heavy blues with stoner doomic undertones, this however is not a criticism but a testimony to the diversity on display here, Ole English do not push boundaries they smash them to pieces.
Check 'em out ....

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 1 September 2019

ALBATROSS OVERDRIVE ~ ASCENDANT ..... review


Desert Psychlist could probably write a short novel on the various line-ups that have made up California's Albatross Overdrive since their formation in 2004 (they were just Albatross back then), so in order not to send you fast to sleep we will just say there have been a few. The present line up of Art Campos (vocals); Rodney Peralta (drums); Andrew Luddy (guitar); Derek Phillips (guitar) and Mark Abshire (bass) have been fairly stable since 2017 (but with this bands record that could all change before you reach the end of this review) and have just released their third album "Ascendant"


First tracks are an important part of any album, grab your listeners attention with something that is immediate and powerful and you more or less guarantee that he/she will be sticking around for the duration of your opus. Albatross Override begin "Ascendant" with a beauty called "On The Ledge" a full on no holds barred hard rocker with a feel not dissimilar to that of later period Thin Lizzy, albeit flecked with a little southern stonerized grittiness. Of course "On The Ledge" is not the best track on "Ascendant", it would be foolish to send in your elite troops first, but it does show that this is a band who intend to win the battle. "The Sleeper" follows next and dials up the intensity by initially going in harder and heavier but then confuses things by falling back into a hazy, almost lysergic, heavy blues with swirling guitar solo's and soulful grainy vocals underpinned by an intense and thunderous rhythmic groove. Title track "Ascendant" fizzes with vigour and energy and jams a groove that blends the bands already mentioned Thin Lizzy vibe with that of one more akin to that of Australian hard rock merchants Electric Mary which by anyone's book is no bad thing. Earlier we were talking best tracks and for Desert Psychlist "Come Get Some" is the cherry on the cake, the diamond in the rough, a song that is emotional and powerful, a song that in its early stages has a strong Bad Company vibe but then morphs into a humongous guitar screaming hard rock monster as it nears its conclusion. Up next "Live, Love, Laughter" boasts a spluttering heavily fuzzed groove around which vocals tell us to "live for tomorrow" and "love every day" while "Undecided" finds the band hitting a groove that listeners will be inadvertently humming long after the album has finished. "Pity Pie" closes "Ascendant" not, as might be expected, with an all guns blazing sweaty rocker but with a more restrained soulful lament, an emotion racked torch song with a swaggering bluesy undercurrent.


More classic rock than it is stoner, more Bad Company than it is Kyuss "Ascendant" is an album that sits somewhere between mainstream rock and its heavier underground cousin, an album that will appeal to fans of both but also to those whose allegiances may lie further afield..
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

WISEST OF THE MYSTICS ~ COMPASS ..... review


For us at Desert Psychlist one of the greatest thing about discovering a new band is when that band does not conform to the usual tags or labels, a band who intentionally or unintentionally stand a little left of center, a little on the outside, a band who bring something a little different to the table. Wisest of the Mystics are one such band, not only do they bring grooves to the feast that are off-kilter and challenging they also swathe themselves in a veil of mystery and secrecy, posting on their social media pages the legend  "we are immortal travelers through the vast expanse of cosmic dust" and a picture of a pool ball emblazoned with the number 7, a number that in some cultures signifies "divine vibration". There is plenty of "divine vibration" to be found on the bands debut "Compass", a four song opus that has its roots in psychedelic rock but it branches reaching into infinity and beyond.



Tribal percussion, accompanied by deep resonating guitar chords, introduces first track "Swamp Thing Loves You", and then it's all aboard the "Starship Groove" as the band lead you by the ear through soundscapes populated by droning guitar textures, shimmering arpeggios and diverse rhythmic pulses. Desert Psychlist guesses you could describe what Wisest of the Mystics present to their listeners as a sort of "mood music", muscular tones and titanic textures weaved into an atmospheric tapestry of repetitious and hypnotic groove. This vibe and feel of moodiness is no more prevalent than on second track "With the Light of the Moon as Your Guide" a song that blends Floydian lysergic atmospherics with those of a more metallic nature, a song that soars above the earth on gossamer wings one minute then crawls across swampy mires on its scaly stomach the next.  "The Lesser Sun" follows and here we find Wisest of the Mystics once again flexing their Floydian muscles this time adding a little lyrical colouring to the mix, low -key, clean vocals incanted rather than sung delivered over a backdrop of incessant percussion and heavy doomic groove, the band creating an overall vibe that is unsettling yet strangely spiritual.  "Where There's Smoke" brings "Compass" to a close with a song built around a hypnotic throbbing industrial groove anchored by a booming bass line and solid tight percussion, this groove is augmented by some jagged and very fractured guitar work, the guitarist (or guitarists?) utilising an array of techniques and effects to bring an extra level of brooding atmosphere to proceedings.



Industrial and heavy yet at the same time lysergic and experimental Wisest of the Mystics new opus "Compass" is a sometimes challenging but wholly rewarding listen that is well worth checking out..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Friday, 23 August 2019

MERLIN ~ THE MORTAL ....... review


This could be a tricky review not because Desert Psychlist has issues with "The Mortal",  the new album from Kansas City's innovative and boundary pushing Merlin, but because trying to lay down in words and make readers realise how damn good this album is will probably make Desert Psychlist sound like some sort of slavering collective of  Merlin fanboys (we actually are). So let's start by apologising for the drooling and fawning that may follow this intro piece and hope you will forgive and understand when you hear what "The Mortal" (The Company) has to offer.


Merlin bring to the table not just the usual array of drums, bass guitar and vocals but also sax, flute, various keys and assorted percussion and are joined on "The Mortal" by a trio of guest musicians (Jeremy McClain, Garrett Holm and the oddly titled Bretstradamus) who add to the mayhem with accordions and trumpet. Now with this amount of instrumentation on display you may think that things could get a little chaotic in places and you would be absolutely right, however it is this chaos that is Merlin's greatest asset and the thing they use to their best advantage. Merlin dance a fine line between freedom and form throughout "The Mortal", a line no wider than a razor's edge that sees the band tantalisingly dipping their toes into one discipline only to pull back and dip them, just as tantalisingly, into the other while at the same time managing to precariously balance between the two. Merlin have no peers to be compared against, this is a band who's uniqueness and off centred quirkiness is their signature. a signature sound that no other band out there at the present time comes even remotely close to resembling sonically. From the moody intro "Prologue", with its dissonant drones and classical sounding guitar, through the epic folk/jazz/blues fusion of "Tower Fall", the schizophrenic grooves of "Chaos Blade", the medieval fairground madrigal that is "Metamorphosis"  to the spiralling closer "The Mortal Suite" every song is executed with exceptional aptitude and skill and delivered by a band of musicians who understand that in order to make a music "swing" you need to be tight and loose in equal measure, and believe us when we say "The Mortal" is an album that "swings"


Carter Lewis (guitar/ keys/ organ), Stu Kersting (guitar/ saxophone/ flute), Chase Thayer  (guitar/ additional percussions), Joey Hamm (bass guitar), Jordan Knorr (vocals/ storytelling/ omnichord) and Randall Tripps (drums/ dark magic) are Merlin, remember those names because with "The Mortal" they may well have made the album of the year!
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones