Saturday, 24 July 2021

PLANET OF THE DEAD ~ PILGRIMS ...... review


"For fans of classic science fiction and supermassive riffs" screams the legend on sci-fi obsessed quartet Planet of the Dead's Bandcamp page and just one listen to their latest album "Pilgrims" will confirm the validity of that statement. If you had the privilege of hearing the bands debut "Fear of a Dead Planet" you will already know that Planet of the Dead, Mark Mundell (vocals); Malcolm McKenzie (guitar); Kees Hengst (bass) and Josh Hussey (drums), have a sonic attack made up of a heavy and loud blend of swampy sludge and gnarly stoner metal informed by themes gleaned from sci-fi comics, films and novels, new album "Pilgrims" is no different except this time around maybe just that little heavier, that touch gnarlier and that much more sci-fi obsessed.


Let's get one thing straight here and that is subtlety is not big on Planet of the Dead's list of priorities the Wellington, New Zealand combo like to hit hard and ask questions later, this is not to say that their grooves are full on and in your face at all times, there are times when they do take their foot from the metal and ease off on the gas, but those times are few and far between. There is nothing wrong with grooves that sit fairly constantly at the full on and heavy end of the groove spectrum, after all its worked pretty well for PotD's Australian neighbours AC/DC, but a little contrast can certainly help now and then and that contrast is provided here, amongst all the down tuned riffage and thundering rhythms, by the odd forays into spacier heavy psych territories, these moments are rare but they do serve to break up the intensity of PotD's sonic onslaughts and in doing so they provide a much more rounded and enjoyable listening experience. Musically the bands sound is closer to a stoner rock/metal dynamic than it is to doom or sludge, the bands overall sound on songs like title track "Pilgrims", "The Sprawl", "Directive IV" and "The Great Wave" is one of heavily fuzzed out raucousness rather than one of crushing over-distorted brutality, the bands sludge factor (if you can call it that) comes not from the tones of its guitars and the power of its rhythms, which are both immense, but from the thick semi-guttural attack of it vocals, front man Mark Mundell possessing the sort of bear like growl that would send seasoned woodsmen running for the shelter and safety of their cabins, it is this voice those tones and those rhythms combined with those rare moments of subtle cosmicness that make this album such a trip and a "pilgrimage" well worth embarking upon.


"Pilgrims" is an intense, heavy and powerful album but one that doesn't take its heaviness and intensity to such ridiculous levels that everything just becomes an unlistenable onslaught of brutal noise, Planet of the Dead make music that will appeal not only to those who like their grooves sitting precariously on the edges of the extreme but also to those who like their heaviness a little more accessible.
Check 'em out .... 
 
© 2021 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 22 July 2021

THE AGE OF TRUTH ~ RESOLUTE ...... review

Treading a line between what has gone before and what is of the now can be hard trick for a band to pull off , the balance of old school values like melody and songcraft with the swagger bite and full on attack of more modern era rock is precarious, too far one way and you start to fall into retro/mainstream territory too far the other way and you start to look and sound like your trying too hard to be something you are not completely comfortable with being. Kevin McNamara (vocals); Michael DiDonato (guitars); Scott Frassetto (drums and percussion) and William Miller (bass), the guys that make up Philadelphian quartet The Age Of Truth, do not have that problem they are a band who will readily admit they draw from the past but will also tell you that they do so in order to make music that is relevant to the here and now, something they demonstrate to great effect on their second full length album "Resolute".

Soulful, bluesy and melodic are all words you could use to describe The Age Of Truth's sonic onslaught but you could easily just as well use words like heavy, blustering and metallic as a description because The Age Of Truth are that band who bring it all to the table. This is a band who will appeal not only to the stoners and doomers who frequent the underbelly of the rock scene but also those mainstreamers above ground sporting their Greta Van Fleet tees and those still stuck in a time warp who never listen to anything that came out after 1978. In other words The Age Of Truth are all things to all men and women and anyone in this day and age who might fall between. On songs with titles like "Palace of Rain", ""A Promise of Nothing", "Salome" and "Return to the Ships" the band bring not only the crunching refrains and thunderous rhythms of the underground rock scene, in all its various guises, but also the sort of dynamics that many might consider to be of a "classic rock" flavour, combining these elements behind a vocal that in its upper register has a howling rock god type timbre and at its lower end has a touching weary soulfulness. 


The Age Of Truth's "Resolute" is a stunning collection of songs guaranteed to remain in the memory long after the last note has faded into silence, an album, like those classic albums of the past, that you will want to come back to again and again and again. This is essential listening!!!!!
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Friday, 16 July 2021

BIS-NTE/MILANA ~ MALLORCA STONER VOL. 1 - SPLIT ...... review


That age old question arises on Desert Psychlist today, do we, a UK based review site, use the Anglicized spelling for the largest of the Balearic Islands or do we go with the Spanish/Catalan spelling, in other words do we go with Majorca or do we go with Mallorca? Well since the subjects of this review both hail from the aforementioned island and are, for "Mallorca Stoner Vol. 1", signed to Discos Macarras Records, a Spanish label based in Catalonia, we will therefore go with Mallorca.
The two bands in question are Bis-NteMaria J (vocals); Vicente Paya (guitars); Andrea Trujillo (bass) and Pablo Herrero (drums), and Milana, Pedro Ingles (vocals); David Oliver (guitars); Guillem Morey (bass) and Edu Biurrun (drums), of these two bands it may be Bis-Nte who may be the more familiar having released one full length album," Ancestral Punishment" (Xtreem Music) prior to this while Milana have to date only released one single "White Buffalo" (which also features on this split).


There are two distinct and different approaches to the doom genre to be found on this marvellous little gem of a split, on one half you have two songs from Bis-Nte a band who tread territories not too dissimilar to those inhabited by Windhand, Acid King and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats while on the other half you have two tracks from Milana a band with a much more proto sound that incorporates elements of stoner, classic and hard rock as well as a touch of soulful bluesy swagger into its sonic attack. Now it might seem strange to some to couple together two bands who come at the same genre from two completely different directions but then  just as strangely this coupling pays unexpected dividends. Bis-Nte's  two songs, "Unbalanced" and "Involuntary Act" may have their roots planted deep in the fetid soil of unhallowed ground but for all their dankness and melancholy these songs are not one-dimensional dirges, both songs have uplifting moments where the gloom clears and a ray of light comes shining through and most of those moments come courtesy of Maria J whose vocals are delivered in unhurried smooth clean tones and work as the perfect counterbalance for the superbly dank dark grooves the rest of the band lay beneath her. Milana's two songs, "White Buffalo" and "Forest Tale", in contrast start their lives in the sunshine and then routinely dip their toes into darkness, the band hitting grooves on their brace of songs that are for the most part crunching heavy and upbeat but are prone to sudden dives into murkier waters, tarrying there for a while before just as suddenly resurfacing into the light. Milana, like Bis-Nte, also boast an impressive vocalist, Pedro Ingles has the  roar of a lion at the top end of his range but croons with an unexpected soulful grittiness at the other end of his vocal spectrum, both dynamics perfectly complimented by the band he stands in front of.


Putting two Mallorcan bands together on one release is a great way to promote Mallorca's somewhat overlooked underground scene, it is also a great way to throw a spotlight on two bands whom may have otherwise slipped under the radar if it wasn't for this diamond of a split. 
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 15 July 2021

GODS & PUNKS ~ THE SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE ........ review


Brazil's Gods & Punks have fast become one of Desert Psychlist's go to bands for those times when we need a lift from life's everyday trials and hardships, there is something uplifting and strangely life affirming about what this band deliver with their music and this holds true even when the band are dealing with subject matter of a darker denser content. Gods & Punks are a band who love a theme, to tell a story with their music and this has held true from their very first release to the one we are discussing in this review, the bands stories and songs may be set in fantastical landscapes we do not recognise but the narrative of those songs, veiled as it may be at times, is concerned with the planet we reside on and our interactions (or lack of) with that planet. Sci-Fi writers often release their books in a series, with each series being part of a bigger story and Gods & Punks have done something similar with their albums, " Into The Dunes of Doom", "Enter The Ceremony of Damnation" and "And The Celestial Ascension" are all chapters of what G&P call their "Voyage Series" this month the band bring us the latest instalment of that story with "The Sounds of the Universe".


Let's get one thing out of the way first and that is that some of the songs you will hear on "Sounds of the Universe" have appeared elsewhere, here though they appear in the context of the "Voyage" story remastered and re-imagined.  Now we have got that out of the way lets get down to the nitty gritty of reviewing this stunning album,  
"Eye In The Sky" opens this chapter of the "Voyage" series, its laid back almost lo-fi first section of gently strummed guitar, backed by tasteful Gilmour flavoured lead and restrained percussion is delivered beneath an equally restrained and laid back vocal, the song slowly builds but doesn't quite explode instead it swells in intensity and volume with the vocals taking on a more urgent tone while those Floydian style licks begin to adopt a grittier edge. "Ejection" follows and like its predecessor it begins sedate and languid with lilting harmonies floating serenely over a backdrop of  fractured chord voicings and liquid bass and again much like its predecessor there is no great explosion into a heavier dynamic but more of a gradual move towards that dynamic. Up next is "The TUSK" a song that resides very much within stoner/desert rock territory, warmly fuzzed guitar tones and insistent  percussion wrapped around a gritty but on the whole fairly clean and effective vocal. Next track "Nebula Haze" is an excellent instrumental that uses sampled narrative and soundbytes to tell its tale, it also has the distinction of being one of the very few non-live rock songs to include a drum solo. Where previously on "The Sounds of the Universe" Gods & Punks have shifted into a heavier dynamic via gentler beginnings on "Bad Apples" they just go for the throat from the outset, the song erupting from nothing into a dank doomic, almost Sabbath-esque refrain then shifting things into a funky stop/start shuffle when the vocals kick in before finally closing things out with a scorching bluesy guitar solo. A delicious bass motif opens the equally delicious "Dimensionaut" then is joined by the guitars and drums in a superbly effective spaced out stoner groove decorated in what we at Desert Psychlist consider to be one of the best vocals of the album. The band throw us an interesting curveball with their next song "Universe", its madrigal-like vocal melody and lilting musical accompaniment has an almost medieval feel that wouldn't have sounded too far out of place if it had  been played by a court musician in one of the great European throne rooms of the 16th century, however having said that the songs final heavier section might have caused a few ruffs to be ruffled and resulted in a few heads rolling. Penultimate song "All Systems Fail" is the albums second instrumental, its lo-fi and lysergic groove, played beneath a computer generated voice repeating the songs title, builds layer by layer until suddenly taking off into the cosmos on a wave of screaming guitar and thunderous percussion, the song is only just over three minutes long and it leaves you wishing it was much longer. Finally we arrive at last track "Gravity" a song that ups both the bands prog and doom quotient while at the same time managing to sound both spacey and stoner. 


Gods & Punks are, in Desert Psychlist's opinion, one of the best bands to have come out of Brazil, and given the depth of talent recently coming out of that country that is saying something indeed, a band who consistently deliver quality without ever sounding as if they are treading water or going over the same ground again and again. "The Sounds of the Universe" is the last mile of what has been a great journey, where they go next is anyone's guess but you can guarantee wherever it is it'll be worth the price of the ticket.
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Monday, 12 July 2021

THE HOLY CORRUPT ~ THE HOLY CORRUPT ..... review

Think California and you will probably immediately think of  blue skies and sunshine but for two Californian residents blue skies and sunshine are light years away from where their heads are at. For Donny Browne (guitar/vocals) and Alex Gerber (drums/percussion), the two guys who make up The Holy Corrupt, it is the darker side of life that holds sway they are a band whose musical themes are informed not by muscle cars, bikini clad beauties and the warmth of the sun's glow but by ornate horse drawn hearses, black clad hex casting crones and impenetrable mist covered landscapes, these themes delivered in grooves the band describe as being "heavy, sleazy, trippy, & slow", dynamics they use to great effect throughout the seven songs that make up their self-titled debut album "The Holy Corrupt" (Dead Sun Records). 

THC have an agenda and that agenda is to make " heavy, sleazy, doomy tunes to get stoned to" and it would be foolish to say they do not succeed in this endeavour, if there was ever a music that was better suited to taking a hit/lighting one up to then we at Desert Psychlist are yet to hear it. This is a band who play doom of the slow and low variety that has a hazy lysergic undercurrent perfectly suited to those of you out there who might enjoy smoking the occasional exotic cigarette, however please don't despair if you are not a fully paid up member of the Society of Weedians because there is still much to enjoy here. "The Witch Is Coming" kicks things off slow. low and heavy and for the most part stays that way for its duration, Browne crunching out  thick reverberating and distorted power chords that seems to hang in the air for an age before he brings his pick down on the strings to execute another while Gerber adds touches of  resounding thunder to the proceedings via his deliberate but nevertheless busy drumming. By now you are probably making comparisons with stoner doom/desert legends Sleep but THC's grooves are so sedate, so unhurried they almost make Matt Pike's boys look like a thrash band and Sleep certainly didn't have a vocalist of Browne's quality fronting their sonic onslaught. "I Want To Touch You" follows and despite its rather romantic sounding title is another slice of dank dark crushing  doom decorated in gnarly fuzz and distortion driven by the sort of  punishing percussion that makes you think of industrial machinery rather than one man with a couple of sticks hitting animal skins. The song also boasts a great vocal, Browne's clean strong baritone, edged with longing and melancholy soars majestically above the mayhem being despatched beneath it and in doing so adds a very pleasing degree of gravitas to what is basically a love song. "Backwoods Banshee" ups the tempo from stoner doom to something more akin to  "proto" pace but we are not talking a Sabbath-esque gallop across the fields here more a laboured preamble through thorny undergrowth. The band do however pepper things up with a few spicy curveballs along the way with Browne briefly reverting to a more demonic vocal approach mid song as well as the duo making a nicely executed side step into heavy psych territory that finds Gerber doing his best Bonham impersonation and Browne discovering is inner guitar hero .Up next is "Spacer" which is basically a chance to catch your breath, it is an experimental piece that unfortunately does nothing to enhance the bands reputation but then does nothing to diminish it either. The heavy psych aspects of the bands sound, briefly hinted at on "Backwards Banshee," are given free rein on instrumental "Earthed" while "Inflicter of Karma" finds the band back in low, slow and heavy stoner doom territory but this time with Browne's vocals laid a little further back in the mix. Final track, the epic "Come To Dying" could be the heaviest, most doomic heavy psych tome committed to tape in the history of psychedelic doom metal, it is a song with a wickedly dank and dark demeanour made even more dank and dark by Browne's guitar tones , his amps emitting a dark thrumming sound awash with gritty fuzz and distortion that when combined with Gerber's earth-shaking rhythms and the guitarists own powerful vocals creates a brooding atmospheric that has an almost gothic quality.


"The Holy Corrupt" is everything doom, as a music, should be, it is a dark dank atmospheric opus that lumbers and lurches along at tempos just short of crawling, it is an album tinted in psychedelic colours and textures but an album not overpowered by them, it is, as the band have already stated, an album to get stoned to.
Check it out ....

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 10 July 2021

DESERT DRUID AND THE ACID CARAVAN ~ THE VVITCH .... review


Horror movies have been the inspiration for so many bands over the years, let's remember that it was a horror movie that inspired four young Birmingham lads to change their name from Earth to Black Sabbath and also pen a song of the same name that would then propel their careers into the stratosphere and would Stourbridge's Witchfinder General have been called Witchfinder General if they hadn't seen Vincent Price's portrayal of the odious Matthew Hopkins in the 1968 British horror classic. Of course this doesn't only apply to English bands, all over the world the horror movie genre has had the same effect of inspiring bands to explore darker themes than those of teen love and broken hearts, a fact that brings us nicely around to the subject of this review. Brazil's Desert Druid and the Acid Caravan, F. Klinger (vocals/bass) Nass (vocals/guitar) and E. L (drums), are a band who readily hold their hands up to being inspired by early horror movies which in turn has led to an interest occultism and witchcraft the band weaving these influences and interests together to create a musical tapestry that mixes cloying dank doom with atmospheric heavy metal to create a sound that is both heavy yet at the same time strangely ethereal, so without further ado let us introduce you to "The VVitch"
 

If there is one complaint Desert Psychlist has about Desert Druid and the Acid Caravan's debut release it is that it is an EP as opposed to being a full length album, as the last note fades on these four songs you will soon find yourself hoping for just one more song, and we are sure if another song did miraculously appear you would be then wishing for yet one more, such is the impact and appeal of this Brazilian bands music. We suppose you could label what DDatAC do as proto-doomic as much like the aforementioned Black Sabbath there is an air of bluesy swagger in what they do but there is also something else going on here. The four songs that make up this little gem of an EP, "The VVitch", "Total Madness", "Mistress of Black Heart" and "Witching Hour" are not complex or convoluted, in fact they are fairly simplistic in construction just a blend of crunching downtuned  riffs and thunderous rhythms coated in clean, not overly powerful, vocals however it is this simplistic approach and the way the band combine those riffs, rhythms and vocals with well chosen movie soundbytes and the occasional sound effect that makes this release stand out a little taller and prouder than others of a similar sonic attack.


You could no doubt find less abrasive and better produced releases than "The VVitch" within the doom/occult genre but why would you want to, it is its slightly raw production twinned with the gritty gnarliness of its guitar tones, the uncluttered and untamed passion of its vocals and the wild unorthodox approach to its rhythms that is this EP's biggest selling point, change any of those elements and you would lose all that is good about this cracking little diamond in the rough. 
Check it out ....

Thursday, 8 July 2021

MONAS ~ MONAS ...... review

 


Most of you reading this probably came to this whole stoner rock/ doom/heavy psych scene via Kyuss, Fu Manchu and bands of that ilk but Desert Psychlist came to this scene from a slightly different route, we arrived at this destination thanks to discovering a little label called Tee Pee Records and their roster of artists, a roster that included bands like Assembled Heads In Sunburst Sound, NAAM and Mirror Queen, only discovering the joys of Kyuss etc. later on. One Tee Pee band in particular stood out for us head and shoulders above the rest and that band were Canadian psychonauts Quest For Fire, the band only made two albums before calling it a day but those two albums  still, to this day, get regular spins on our decks at Stonerking Towers. So why should we mention this here on a review of an album from a completely different band, the reason my friends is that the  shiver up the spine we got from hearing Quest From Fire's two albums of hazy, slightly indie flavoured, slightly shoegaze grooves returned today when we pushed play on French trio MONAS' self titled debut "Monas"

The strong psychedelic element that was so integral to Quest For Fire's sonic attack can also be found on MONAS' debut but is tempered by textures that are a little danker and darker than those executed by the Canadian outfit, not so dark and dank that they could be considered doomic but certainly edging towards that dynamic. Opening track " Lone Warrior" demonstrates this perfectly by beginning with a  deeply distorted bass motif, accompanied by drums, that is then joined by guitar on a groove that is not so much thundering as raucous and crunching but then dissipates slightly when the harmonised vocals enter, delivered clean and slightly hazy. Suddenly and surprisingly the haziness of the vocals is replaced by a few bars of sludge like roaring before things return back to normal and the song plunges headlong towards its finale. "Fallen Astronaut" follows and eases a little back on the raucousness by replacing it with some nicely gritted fuzziness and decorating that fuzziness with a clean perfectly pitched vocal that alternates between being up front of the mix and buried slightly within it. Next track "Anguish Pipe" mixes its shoegaze and heavy psych up with touches of Sabbath-esque proto-doom while final track "Mindroad" starts its life by going in completely the other direction, it's initial groove having a liquidity and lightness of touch far removed from that which has gone before, this respite does not last long however and suddenly the groove explodes into a glorious heaviness, not a brutal one dimensional heaviness but one flecked with bright psychedelic colours and lysergic textures over which a lilting hazy vocal holds precedence.


If you have a hankering for those hazy psych drenched grooves that made Tee Pee Records such a go to label for that genre of music but are also partial to a bit of grittiness in your lysergic laments then you won't go far wrong by giving MONAS' debut a listen, you will not be disappointed.
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones