Saturday, 13 July 2019

SPIRAL GURU ~ VOID ...... review


Quality underground rock music seems to be flowing out of Brazil like the waters of its infamous Amazon River flow into the sea with Pesta, Son Of A Witch and Gods & Punks just some of the bands making their presences felt around the world. One band at the forefront of this Brazilian invasion are Piracicaba quartet Spiral Guru, the band have been drip feeding their brand of spacey occult-ish psych rock on to the international market since 2014 via a series of enthralling sci-fi themed EP's and now the quartet have released their first full length album "Void"


So what do you get when you place the needle, laser, or whatever it is that drives a digital playback onto Spiral Guru's latest release? Well the answer to that is you get three exceptional musicians, Samuel Pedrosa (guitars), José Ribeiro Jr. (bass and backing vocals) and Alexandre Garcia (drums), laying down dark ,but not foreboding, prog tinted proto-doomic grooves around the slightly folkish and ethereal tones of an equally exceptional vocalist, Andrea Ruocco. Now you could say that this has all been done before, and we would have to say yes it has, but never in quite the same way. There is a stark and startling contrast between Ruocco's sweet folk tones and the grooves that surround them, a contrast that on paper shouldn't work but sonically ultimately does, and it is this contrast of light and dark that is both the albums biggest selling point and its greatest asset. Ruocco's vocals are crisp, clean and clear her haunting sweet  tones channel the spirits of such folk rock greats as Sandy Denny (Fairport Convention) and Annie Haslam (Renaissance) as well as those of her fellow countrywoman Flora Plurim (jazz chartreuse who worked with jazz giants Chick Corea and Stan Getz), her voice floating and soaring above the cacophonies of dark groove laid beneath her like a delicate butterfly flitting majestically over thorny bushes. This juxtaposition of heaviness and delicacy informs most of "Void" but is most prevalent on songs like "The Curfew At Dusk" and "Time Traveller", Pedrosa, Ribeiro Jr. and Garcia tearing up the ground with thundering percussion, grumbling bass, crunching riffs and swirling solo's while Ruocco wails waif like overhead, it is however when band and vocalist pull things back a little that things get really magical as on the beautiful "Mindfulness" and the exquisite "Showcase of Dreams", the band fusing opposing dynamics together to make one awe-inspiring whole.


"Fusion", in musical terms, was/is a word oft associated with  jazz music blended with other musical styles but given one of the words definitions, "the merging of different elements into a union" , why then can't we apply that word to what Spiral Guru do? Elements of space, doom, metal and psych merged with folk like lead vocal tones and duel harmonies sounds like a "fusion" to these ears, in which case "Void" is the damn best "fusion" album we have heard in a long time!

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Friday, 12 July 2019

WOLF PRAYER ~ ECHOES OF THE SECOND SUN ...... review


Germany's Wolf Prayer cordially invite us to "join a trip with the band through atmospheric soundscapes, hard riffs and hypnotic melodies" How could we refuse an offer like that especially as the soundtrack to that trip is one that blends the musical elements of big hitters like Kyuss, All Them Witches and Dead Meadows into one big smorgasbord of desert flavoured groove called "Echoes of the Second Sun" (Barhill Records)


 Things begin quite loud and noisy with first track "Average Man" a song that boasts humongous fat fuzz drenched riffage, pulsing percussion and deep booming low end embellished with a generous helping of synthesised keyboard flourishes and effects. After its initial burst of energy the song settles down into a sort of quasi-stoner grunge groove with guitarist/synthesiser maestro Jan Sprengard vocalising in grainy, slightly accented, tones over a loud/quiet/loud dynamic perfectly executed by bassist Tim Hansen and drummer Matthias Schorr. The song then takes a left turn as it winds to an end finally concluding its life in waves of synthesised tranquility. "According To The Rule" jams a more raucous stoner groove that although still retains the grunge like dynamics of its predecessor has a much more harder, grittier edge to it while "Desert" has a touch of "Sixteen Stone" era British post grungers Bush in it's sonic make up. "Shapeshifter" follows and does exactly what its title suggests, the song shifting from a raucous heavily fuzzed and thunderous intro a serene and tranquil groove enhanced by emotive vocals ,ringing arpeggios and restrained percussion before then shifting once again and taking off into a lysergic heavy psych jam. "New Morning" throws away the rule book and mixes heavy stoner riffage with jazzy fusion swing, Sprengard showcasing his keyboard chops, in the songs mid-section, over a laid back bass and drum groove expertly supplied by Hansen and Schorr. "Like A Fool" and "Strings Like A Puppet" finds the band returning to those Nirvana-esque dynamics that have served them so well with the latter boasting a nice line in Colour Haze-ish texturing. "Feed My Brain" closes the album and brings all the elements visited elsewhere together in one big melting pot of lysergic laced stonerized groove.


Chilled and laid back yet at the same time heavy and intense "Echoes of the Second Sun" is an album that blends the best elements of the 90's alternative rock scene with the best parts of the stoner/desert movement from the same era and brings it up to date by adding a few ideas of their own. There is no convenient box or tag for what Wolf  Prayer bring to the table sonically but if you had to label them  something then the best we can come up with is "alt/desert".
Check 'em out ...

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 10 July 2019

SON OF A WITCH ~ COMMANDED BY COSMIC FORCES ..... review


Gila Monster (guitar), King Lizzard, (vocals), Psychedelic Monk (guitar), Old Goat (bass) and Asteroid Mammoth (drums) are back, ok that might not mean much to the ordinary man/woman in the street but to those of us with our fingers on the pulse of the Brazilian underground rock scene it marks the return of one of the best doomic bands the South American continent has to offer. The band we are talking about here is Son of a Witch a foursome who first came to Desert Psychlist's attention via their 2012 Ep "Son of a Witch" then grabbed that attention fully with their 2016 debut album "Thrones In The Sky", an enthralling mix of riff heavy proto-doom and crunching hard rock. Last year (2018) the band entered Black Hole Studios in Natal to record new songs for their second album, that album, "Commanded By Cosmic Forces" has just been released (Kozmik Artfactz {vinyl} and Burning London/Deathtime {CD}).


"Commanded By Cosmic Forces" begins life with a customary soundbyte intro, probably lifted from some obscure occult movie, then forges straight into first track proper "Black Clouds of Lies", a track that the band released as a teaser for this album in June of this year. "Black Clouds of Lies" is a song that deals lyrically with the absence of truth and the convictions of our beliefs and is played out against a backdrop of heavy doomic groove that borders between proto and traditional. King Lizzard sings of "defending our truth" and wishing "long life to the sincere of soul and heart" in a voice thick with emotional gravitas, his vocal strong, powerful and just the right side of throaty is pushed hard by the Goat, the Monk, the Monster and the Mammoth, the four oddly named musicians laying down an exceptional array of dark but not overly dank doomic refrains and rhythms."Breathe Dust" follows and finds the band jamming a slightly slower, heavier groove that leans more towards the stoner end of the doom spectrum, the song is solidly anchored down by big booming bass and slow ponderous percussion allowing the two guitarist to express themselves with a mixture of crunching riffage and swirling solos. The song is taken to another level by the slightly off-kilter nature of its vocal melody, the Lizzard man imparting cryptic wisdom in tones that are as warm as they are powerful. Next up is "Idol of Marbles (Commanded By Cosmic Forces)" a song that finds the band stepping out of their doom comfort zone and pushing into more experimental areas, a militaristic drum pattern forming the platform from which the band launch into a hazy lysergic groove over which acoustic and electric guitars vie for supremacy bolstered by a bass line that would not of sounded out of place on an album by British art-rockers Japan. "Dry Leaves" finds the band back in more familiar doomic territory with strong throaty vocals extolling the virtues of wind over a backdrop of thunderous doomic refrains both proto-ic and traditional. "Melting Ocean" brings "Commanded By Cosmic Forces" to a close with a huge throbbing slab of intense psychedelic tinted doom, its heavy crunching grooves decorated with green tinted lyrics that tell of a world slipping into chaos, Lizzard telling us in a mixture of anger and sadness that "we built our houses all out of straw, now the wolf is coming to take us all", it's a song with a thinly veiled political message but one that sadly will probably carry on being ignored nonetheless.



Intelligent, thought provoking doom makes a nice change from the satanic musings usually associated with the genre and much like their fellow Brazilian counterparts, Pesta, Son of a Witch are band unafraid to address themes and issues others might feel are a little too contentious.... and that, combined with their incredibly addictive grooves, is something they should be loudly applauded for.
Check 'em out ...

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

STONEKIND ~ STONEKIND (EP) ...... review


If your a band that hails from a place with "Salem" in its title then its possible your going to garner some interest from within the doom metal community, unfortunately the "Salem" in question is not the one associated with the infamous "witch trials" and the band we are talking about is not really what you would consider a "doom" band. Stonekind, Davis Templeton (guitars), Jacob Shelton (bass) and Jeff Ayers Jr (drums,/vocals), hail from the North Carolina city of Winston-Salem and jam grooves that, although reside very much within the stoner spectrum, lean more towards the bluesy rather than the doomic.
The band have just released their debut EP "Stonekind" on Bandcamp and whether your a stoner, doomer or just a general music fan, this is gonna blow your socks off!


"Ember" gets the ball rolling and starts with a high pitched drone effect that then makes way for some charming and deft acoustic picking before segueing almost straight into "Talk To Fire" an excellent heavy blues-ish outing that swaggers and struts with stoner attitude and if your boat is not already floating by now then it's gonna be ocean bound when you hear Ayers Jr's warm creamy vocal tones enter the fray. The drummer/vocalist possesses one of those voices that cradles you with warmth and texture, Ayers Jr doesn't try to dazzle you with rock god vocal pyrotechnics preferring instead to deliver his lyrics in a voice that is soulful and world weary, the fact that he is also laying down some mean, on point, percussion at the same time just adds to his legend. Ayers Jr is surrounded by two musicians of equal stature and skill, Shelton's bass growls and rumbles in sync with Ayers  Jr's drums and comes into it's own on the hazy psychedelic "Black Molasses" the bassist anchoring the songs more lysergic moments with boneshaking liquid low end. Guitarist Templeton meanwhile is a guitar legend in the making, he coats the grooves Ayers Jr and Shelton lay beneath him with a startling array of colours and textures, his solo's soar and swoop, his riffs crunch and crush, the six-stringer filling every space available to him with a masterclass in guitar dynamics, something that is especially evident on the superb "It's Alive" where his playing is nothing short of jaw dropping.


As debuts go this up there with the best of 'em, the only downside to "Stonekind" being that it only contains four songs and after hearing this brief but brilliant introduction to the band you will undoubtedly want more, in fact you will DEMAND more!
Check it out .... 

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

IRON CROWN ~ BEFORE THE VOID ..... review


California, once the playground of many of the sixties and seventies beautiful people, is not a place you would regularly associate with "doom" but nevertheless it does exist there, sheltering in dark recesses beneath the sun streaked skies and occasionally popping its head out to say hi and scare the beejeeus out of the old hippies roaming around still balancing their chakras and looking for enlightenment. One such band to play their doomic grooves under the warm Californian sun are San Francisco trio Iron Crown, Dave Brunicardi (guitar/vocals), Don Braun (drums) and Didier Hahn (bass), a band influenced by the likes Sabbath, High On Fire and Blue Oyster Cult et al. but not beholden to them the trio having their own unique take on doom, something that will become evident as soon as you wrap your ears around their debut release "Before The Void".


Iron Crown's approach to doom is a little different from that of many of their contemporaries in that they come at the whole doom thing from a completely different angle, this is not to say that all the usual doomic nuances and textures are missing (they are not) just that these guys, in Desert Psychlist's humble opinion, bring something a little less abrasive and menacing to the table. It's hard to nail, in words, exactly why Iron Crown's sound is so at odds with what others are doing within the doom genre, especially as songs like "Watcher of the Realm", "Dune Rider", "The Outsider" and "Straight On Till Morning" are chock-a-block full of heavily fuzzed low slung doomic refrains and pounding rhythms. Maybe its Brunicardi's vocals that are the difference, his clean tones have an alt-rock/indie-ish tint to them while his harsh tones are more a deep rumble than a demonic growl, maybe its Braun and Hahn's rhythmic grooves that tip the balance, the pair laying down an enthralling mixture of chugging old school heavy metal and throbbing proto-ic groove for Bruncardi to decorate with his crunching chords and dark swirling solo's, or could it be the brevity of their grooves, short sharp jabs of tempered doom with only one song going over the five minute mark.


 We honestly can't put our finger on what sets "Before The Void "apart from other albums in this genre, but what we can say is that whatever it is it works, and works well.
Check it out …..

© 219 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 29 June 2019

OLD HORN TOOTH ~ FROM THE GHOST GREY DEPTHS .....review


Along with all the usual instrumentation London trio Old Horn Tooth also mention that each member brings something a little extra to the party, guitarist/vocalist Chris Jones along with supplying crunching low slung riffage, screaming solo's and strong clean vocal tones also dabbles in a little "hypnosis", bassist Ollie Issac, not content with laying down deep, heavily distorted low end, also brings "vibration" and "filth" to the table while drummer Mark Davidson adds "attitude" to his pummelling array of percussive skills while at the same time apparently carrying his troubles around with him in something called a "greifcase".
Confused? Well things may become a little clearer when you delve into the bands debut release "From The Ghost Grey Depths".


As first track "She Is Risen" washes in on a wave of white noise and droning effects, interrupted only by a thundering bass drum beat, you begin to get an inkling of where that "hypnosis" element of the bands sound is derived from, by the time the thrumming low bass and heavily distorted guitar kick in and we are treated to the songs incessant wall of deep, dank riffage pushed by a mix of restrained and thunderous percussion  that inkling has become a certainty. Jones adds to the songs slumberous and mesmeric quality with a vocal that is powerful and clean and has just the right amount of highs and lows in its dynamic to stop it slipping into the realms of monotonic. "Follow the Demon" brings the "filth" and "vibration" elements to the table courtesy of Issac's low, bone crumbling bass which, when combined with Jones' mix of  crushing dark powerchords and Davidson's pummelling and thunderous percussion, creates a groove that could persuade even the most timid amongst us to join the aforementioned demon's parade. "Old Horn Tooth" follows ,a song that the band share their name with and the one that best demonstrates their Anglo-Saxon take on stonerized doom. Huge relentless and dank the song begins with a monolithic bass and guitar refrain, enhanced by monotonic vocal tones and is driven into the ground by immense display of piledriving percussion, the band sitting on this groove for most of the songs duration until, when in the songs final third, they shift into proto-doomic mode to take things to a close. You have not mentioned the "greifcase" we hear you cry, well that comes in the shape of what can only be described as an experiment in mood and sound, an appropriately entitled piece called "Greif" that is a weirdly compelling smorgasbord of drones, sound effects and random percussion. "Greif" it is not exactly what you might be expecting to close an EP that up until now has been a full on doomic assault on the senses but it does have a strange charm and goes to show that there is more to this band than which first hits the ear.


For a long while Britain was lagging behind the USA and the rest of Europe in the underground rock music stakes but over the last four or five years Desert Psychlist has noticed more and more bands hitting a groove of a more stonerized doomic nature, let's hope that trend continues and we see more bands of Old Horn Tooth's quality emerging in the near future
Check 'em out ….

© 2019 Frazer Jones

Friday, 28 June 2019

SPACE GOD RITUAL ~ THE UNKNOWN WANTS YOU DEAD ..... review


In doomic circles it is generally accepted that when it comes to capturing, in music, the vibe of those old horror B movies and tv shows like "The Twilight Zone" we all grew up watching then it is the Italians who are the masters. One band who might disagree with that statement however is Portland, Oregon's Space God Ritual, three crazy dudes who have built their career around transposing Lovecraftian themes into heavy musical soundtracks. The band, The Owl, Yohan Sebastian Glamour and Alexander Olaff (we did say crazy dudes), return this year with more tales of space and magic, horror and terror with a new opus entitled "The Unknown Wants You Dead"


We spoke earlier of horror movies and TV shows and Space God Ritual's latest opus begins with "Miskatonic 1927" an introduction piece that the legendary master of ceremonies Rod Serling, who used to present the excellent late night horror show "The Night Gallery" would have been proud of, an introduction that invites us, in convincing clipped British tones, "to take an Eldritch ride through horrors dark and obscene" against a backdrop of heavily orchestrated eeriness. Introductions over we then move straight into title track "The Unknown Wants You Dead" and here we find Space God Ritual hitting their stride with a song that although jamming a groove that is proto-doomic in nature possesses an almost vaudeville/British music hall feel with its villainous laughter, whispered undertones and operatic harmonies a theme that runs right through all eleven of the albums songs. Whether Space God Ritual approached this album with the intention of creating a doom version of a Victorian penny dreadful (cheap popular serial literature produced during the nineteenth century) is unknown but that is exactly what they have created with this album, eleven songs, stories, vignettes that almost impel the listener to boo and hiss as each character makes their appearance, you can almost see moustaches being villainously twirled and capes being furled and unfurled as the band tell their lurid tales of the macabre beneath swathes of cleverly arranged heavy traditional and proto-ic doom.


Desert Psychlist does not expect everyone to buy into what Space God Ritual are striving to achieve with "The Unknown Wants You Dead", there is a Britishness to what these Americans are doing here that might not sit comfortably with those not familiar with the history of Victorian music hall, but for those of you who do get Space God Ritual's take on vaudevillian story telling you are in for a rare and quite unique treat.
Check it out …. 

© 2019 Frazer Jones