Monday, 11 November 2019

ALUNAH ~ VIOLET HOUR ..... review


After a run of outstanding occult tinted doom albums Birmingham's Alunah's upward trajectory almost came to a shuddering halt when founding member vocalist/guitarist Sophie Day announced her retirement from the band, Day was the bands main lyricist and with her distinctive voice she was very much the focal point of the bands live shows. Replacing Day was going to be a big ask but thankfully the band found the perfect replacement in, former Bear Legs, vocalist/guitarist Sian Greenaway, not only did Greenaway possess similar vocal tones to Day she had just as strong a stage prescence. The band soon got down to writing for their new line up and soon discovered  that Greenaway was not only a powerful vocalist but she was also an accomplished lyricist, the new member was proving to be quite the asset. After testing the waters on the live circuit Alunah decamped to the studio to record "Amber & Gold" a four song EP that included three new songs and a stunning cover of Chris Issak's "Wicked Game", the EP garnered good reviews from all the right quarters and things were looking promising for the Birmingham combo. This year, and quite out of the blue, Alunah announced that founding guitarist David Day was leaving to pursue a life outside of music, for any other band losing another founding member would be a disaster but the band hardly missed a stride and the news that he was leaving was almost immediately followed by the news that Dean Ashton, who had previously been plying his trade with metal legends Diamond Head, was his replacement. Fast forward a few months and the revised line up of the band who had been working on new songs, headed into the studio to record  their new album "Violet Hour".Will the loss of two original members have had a huge impact on Alunah's core sound, we'll let you make your own minds up.


Things get off to promising start with opening track " Trapped and Bound", old fans will be pleased to hear that Alunah's hallmark sound of huge resounding refrains driven by thunderous rhythms are all still in place but may be intrigued by the slightly more commercial feel of Greenaway's vocal melodies. For some older fans this ever so slight shift towards a more mainstream sound maybe the straw that breaks the camels back however we at Desert Psychlist find the fact that there are still bands out there writing songs that are satisfyingly heavy and intense yet still pleasingly hummable to be quite refreshing. "Dance of Deceit" follows in much the same vein as its predecessor,  Ashton's heavily distorted and fuzzed guitar crunching out thrumming powerchords and dark swirling solo's over and around a backdrop of growling bass and crushing percussion, expertly supplied by Dan Burchmore (bass) and Jake Mason (drums).It is Greenaway's vocals however that will stay the longest in the listeners memory, her vocal range,slightly wider than her predecessors, possess enough tonal similarities to Day's to ensure that Alunah's core sound. which is the reason why we all came here, has not been compromised. "Hunt" follows and jams a slightly more atmospheric and brooding groove, Greenaway's vocal, occasionally backed by Ashton, sounds huge here and combined with the songs dark menacing refrains and pulsating rhythmic groove gives the song an epic almost grandiose feel. "Hypnotized" finds Greenaway employing a clipped, almost Germanic inflection to her vocal totally suited to the songs throbbing groove while title track "Violet Hour" is built around an encapsulating stop start refrain that splutters and stutters beneath clean clear vocal melodies."Unholy Disease" is up next and mixes old school doomics with new school occult melody to create a delightful blend of both dynamics.Things get a little ethereal on " Velvet" Greenaway's vocals taking on waifish tones,  her vocal a little higher and a little sweeter sounding while beneath her the band lay down an intriguing mix of  heavy doomic nastiness and chilled bluesy swagger. "Lake of Fire" brings the album to a close with a wonderful blend of lilting melody and atmospheric heaviness, Greenaway's note perfect soaring vocals drifting gracefully over thick swathes of dark, dank prog tinted bluesiness, Ashton ripping brief but tasteful solos from his guitar superbly supported by Burchmore's deep liquid bass lines and Mason's solid and on point percussion.


Like we said in our intro we will let you decide if the new line up of Alunah meets your high expectations however we will say that for us, at Desert Psychlist, this latest version of Alunah have, with "Violet Hour", upheld the legacy of the original Alunah and have gone some way in enhancing that legacy. Long live Alunah!
Check it out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 10 November 2019

GODS & PUNKS ~ AND THE CELESTIAL ASCENSION .... review


From a country that keeps giving comes a band who are equally giving. Brazil's Gods & Punks have, over a three year period, been turning out quality release after quality release, the Rio de Janeiro quintet steadily gaining a legion of fans both in their own country as well further abroad. Although things have been going well on the international scene things at home have not been going so well, the band recently lost access to a place they called "The Attic", a rehearsal space where they thrashed out ideas and composed the majority of their musical tomes. Fortunately, and  after a period of fruitless searching, the band chanced upon a place called "The Shack" an ideal new home set in a semi-jungle environment where, in their words, "the magic happened". That "magic" can now be witnessed firsthand on the bands third full length album "And The Celestial Ascension"


Gods & Punks seem to be a band on a consistent mission to blow minds, the band, who took their name from a Monster Magnet song, have progressed at alarming rate since the release of their debut EP, gradually shifting from being a four to the floor heavy stoner unit to one unafraid to experiment and take chances. The bands sound has, in just a three year period, evolved to such an extent that it's hard to believe that the band who gave us "The Sounds of the Earth" is the same band currently promoting their new album "And the Celestial Ascension", where were once crunching riffs and punchy rhythms we now find intricate sweeping arpeggios and shimmering percussion. This is not to say that when called upon Gods & Punks can no longer pin you to the wall with the power of their refrains, they can and do, just that there is a more cerebral, intelligent feel to their grooves now that somehow makes them feel much more powerful and a whole lot more interesting. Undulating is a strange word to attribute to music from what is essentially a hard rock band but that is exactly what you get with songs like "Ascension", "Infinite Hourglass" and "Dying Planet", songs with grooves that have the ability to pick you up and carry you along with them, grooves that ebb and flow like waves on an ocean's surface, powerful and dangerous one minute calm, serene and gentle the next.


Complex, clever and packed solid with superb vocal performances and outstanding musicianship "And the Celestial Ascension" is Gods & Punks finest release to date, how the band will top this is anyone's guess but you can bet your bottom dollar they will try and given their current trajectory will most probably succeed.
Check 'em out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 7 November 2019

COSMIC REAPER ~ DEMON DANCE ,,,,, review


Somewhere in North Carolina a gathering is happening, The Horned One has summoned his acolytes to partake in a ceremony to celebrate the beginning of the end times, inviting his malevolent horde of malformed and maladjusted disciples to strut their stuff as humanity slowly spirals into apocalyptic chaos, tonight my friends..... the demons dance.
Ok that is not exactly true (apart from the mention of North Carolina), what we at Desert Psychlist are really trying to do here is flex our journalistic muscles to prepare the stage and set the scene for an EP that has a dark occult(ish) feel and crunching  proto-doomic flavour, that EP is entitled "Demon Dance" and the band are called Cosmic Reaper.


If you are not a fan of Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats psychedelic doom endeavors and have had your fill of Sabbathesque proto doomic riffery then maybe now is the time to stop reading however if the mention of those two bands evokes an onset of uncontrollable drooling then your in for a treat with "Demon Dance". Charlotte, North Carolina's Cosmic Reaper do not try to put on any airs and graces or try to pretend they are the next big thing, they don't want to be the new Elder or Tool they just want to lay down some damn good doom and have some fun while doing it. Now you may be thinking that that sort of mind-set doesn't show much ambition, well you would be wrong as although Cosmic Reaper might not be chasing world domination they do want to be the best at what they do and what they do is grind out some mightily impressive doomic grooves. From the delightfully dense and heavy instrumental "Subintroeo", with its powerful percussion and thundering reoccurring fuzz drenched riff, to title track and closer "Demon Dance", with its clean ,almost buried in the mix, vocals, crunching circular refrains and brief but highly effective solos, there is not a minute or nano-second you will regret pushing the play button on this little gem of an EP!


Going back to our tongue in cheek intro to this review, if the Angel of the Bottomless Pit really did need a soundtrack for his end-times shindig then he wouldn't be going far wrong if he started spinning Cosmic Reaper's " Demon Dance" on his flaming decks of steel, the Horde would be going ballistic!
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer jones

Tuesday, 5 November 2019

CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC ~ SECOND SIGHT ....review


Clouds Taste Satanic will be no strangers to Desert Psychlist's readership, we have covered three of their releases and we were not about to let the bands new two song EP "Second Sight" slip through our fingers without waxing lyrical on its many merits. For those of you who may have been living in some sort of vortex and are unfamiliar with CTS they are an instrumental band hailing from Brooklyn, New York who have made a name for themselves as a go to heavy doomic band despite the lack of a vocalist.


There seems to have been a slight shift in direction from CTS on their new EP "Second Sight", and it is slight we are not talking seismic here, the band are still laying  down the doom thick and nasty but the psychedelic/lysergic elements that have always been an aspect of their sound seems here to have been ramped up a notch or three. Title track "Second Sight" is a prime example of this, the songs constantly changing dynamics spiral to unbelievable heights one minute then plummet into doomy depths the next, the band shifting seamlessly from one groove into another never allowing the music to go down blind alleys it can't return from and constantly finding new destinations they can take it to. Second song "Black Mass" finds CTS adding a touch of old school hard rock and heavy metal in with their staples of heavy psych and post-doom, the rhythm section of Sean Bay (bass) and Greg Acampora (drums) at one point laying down an almost Iron Maiden type gallop behind the crunching riffs and swooping solos of guitarists Steven Scavuzzo and Brian Bauhs. CTS are also unafraid to  employ ambience and atmosphere as weapons in their musical arsenal as they do at the songs three quarter mark where a dark throbbing bass line, accompanied by droning effects and controlled guitar feedback, leads into menacing slow, low riffage pushed by powerful deliberate percussion before then taking off on a lysergic flight of guitar screaming fancy to take things to the close.


There are a myriad of bands out there travelling the instrumental highway but none come close to replicating what Clouds Taste Satanic bring to the table with their particular brand of instrumental post-doom and lysergic metal. We at Desert Psychlist thought it would be damn hard for the band to better their previous EP "Evil Eye", such was its sonic impact and high levels of writing and musicianship, but CTS have proved us wrong and with "Second Sight" the band have raised the bar to whole new level
Check it out …….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 3 November 2019

AROUND THE FIRE ~ ADVENT OF THE FIREWALKERS ...... review


If you have been a regular visitor to the pages of Desert Psychlist then it might have come to your notice that we have a bit of a predilection for music that is a little off the beaten track, music with jagged edges that doesn't quite conform to what many consider the norm. Today we feature a band who fall into that category, a combo from Thessaloniki, Greece whose grooves blend Asian and Middle Eastern influences in with those from their home country while also managing to rock out western style.. The band in question go by the name of Around The Fire and their debut album flies under the banner of "Advent of the Firewalkers"


After bigging up Around The Fire's Middle Eastern/Asian influences it comes as a bit of a surprise when the needle drops on first track "Helie Eleison" and we are treated to a vocal chant that sounds not unlike something that might be heard at some Native American rain dance, the band redeem themselves somewhat though by surrounding the songs tribal drumbeats and crunching guitars with swirling eastern tinted motifs superbly delivered on a kemenje (a type of fiddle with three strings used predominantly in Eastern Mediterranean folk music). Vocals, both here and throughout the album, are delivered in clear tones but mostly sit at the low throatier end of the spectrum, this vocal approach far from being at odds with the albums underlying eastern themes and motifs actually adds a certain gravitas to proceedings and gives the album an almost ritualistic, spiritual vibe. Only four songs are contained on "Advent of the Firewalkers", all of them are a mix of westernized heavy doom, stoner rock and traditional flavoured Middle Eastern/Grecian grooviness and each, in Desert Psychlist's humble opinion, is worth its weight in gold, frankincense and mer.



Quirky, left of center and off the wall "Advent of the Firewalkers" is all of those things and more, an album from a band not just content to take their influences from the vast library of western rock but also from their own geographical location and history.
Check it out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 27 October 2019

HERÁLDICA DE MANDRAKE ~ ESTO TAMBIÉN PASARÁ ....... review


There is something going on in the international underground scene that has never really happened before, bands from the countries like Brazil, Argentina and Peru, situated at the southern end of the America's, are not only creating music to be enjoyed by audiences of their own respective countries they are also making music that is reaching out to a much wider international market and Chile, that strip of land running like a spine down the South American west coast, is no exception. 
Heráldica de Mandrake, a trio from Santiago, Chile, consisting of Francisco Visceral Rivera (guitar/vocals)and vocals; Max Salazar (bass/backing vocals) and Cristian Rivera (percussion), jam grooves that although owe a huge debt to the doomic grooves of Northern Hemisphere bands like Reverend Bizarre and Count Raven contains enough "rice and beans" to give them their own unique identity, as can be heard on their epic one track EP "Esto Tambien Pasará". 


"Esto Tambien Pasará" begins with drummer Cristian Rivera beating out a huge military-like percussive tattoo that is then joined by the harmonised voices of Francisco Visceral Rivera and Max Salazar in tones that can only be described as Gregorian, monastic chants that give the proceedings an almost spiritual yet at the same time satanic feel. The Ep's lyrics are all sang in Spanish and far from limiting their appeal to a potential wider international audience they add an element of mysticism to events giving the listener the feeling they are witnesses to some sort of ancient religious ritual. Musically "Esto Tambien Pasará" sits somewhere between epic doom and its stonerized equivalent with a variety of big thundering guitar riffs driven hard by equally thundering percussion and bass around which the band intersperse elements of swirling heavy psych and  experimental space rock, the trio regularly taking their grooves off on weird and wonderful tangents  but just as regularly returning to the rustic core elements of their doomic origins.


In a scene that regularly looks backwards for its inspiration it is refreshing to find a band trying to do something a little different with those inspirations, and what Heráldica de Mandrake bring to the table with "Esto Tambien Pasará" is certainly different and maybe even a little brilliant!
Check it out .... 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

URBAN GRAVEYARD ~ WELCOME TO THE URBAN GRAVEYARD .... review


We at Desert Psychlist have come to the realisation that our coverage of grooves coming out of the Dutch underground scene has been a little sparse to say the least, in fact the only bands we've covered from the Netherlands in the five years we have been running have been Desert Colossus and Blood Diamond This  needs to be remedied and how better than pointing you in the direction of Urban Graveyard a quintet from the Dutch Low Countries with a penchant for caustic fuzz drenched riffage and punchy thundering rhythms as can be heard on the bands debut "Welcome To The Urban Graveyard".


 Title track "Welcome To The Urban Graveyard", is not so much a track as an introduction piece, its narrative, accompanied by the sound of  crowing cockerels, tolling bells and the sound of people getting on with their general lives, tells of how death for people living in medieval towns and cities was such a common occurrence that the dying and dead outnumbered the birds that sat atop the rooftops. Just as the listener begins to think they may have stumbled across some conceptual themed opus set in the Dark Ages the listener is suddenly propelled into the present with a gritty little ditty entitled "21st Century Prostitute"  a song that begins life with rolling, heavily fuzzed, bass line that is then joined by the rest of the band in a groove that sits somewhere between the generator party desert rock of Kyuss and the weed inspired riffology of Wales' Dopesmoker, incessant circular grooves decorated in big, slightly untamed, vocal colouring. A brief experimental piece going by the name "Danjon-L0" follows before we are once again battered by an onslaught of fuzz drenched refrains via "Bloodmoon Rising", a chugging thunder riffed groove monster interspersed with Hawkwind flavoured swells and swirls. "A Subtle Guide" is up next and does not differ much from its predecessor except for the fact that there is a touch of bluesy swagger thrown into the mix this time around. "A58" closes "Welcome To The Urban Graveyard", an inner city cruising song that conjures up visions of on coming headlight glare and seemingly endless tarmac,


Experimental pieces aside Urban Graveyard's sound is a relentless assault that hits into a groove and does not deviate too far from that groove once that groove has been hit. Now some might read that statement as a criticism, it is not, like the aforementioned Dopesmoker Urban Graveyard use their relentlessness and repetition as a tool to create a mesmeric almost hypnotic feel with their music, the band creating grooves that once they have grabbbed you just simply refuse to relinquish their grip.
Check them out …..

© 2019 Frazer Jones