Friday 29 January 2016
BLACK DESERT SUN ~ Self titled album ..........review
Iceland is a land dominated by ice, volcanoes and hot geysers so it may come as a surprise that a band coming from that country use the word "desert" in their name but I am reliably informed that Iceland does indeed have vast areas of wilderness that could be described as desert(ed) and that parts of the coastline are covered in black sand so I suppose that explains that!
Black Desert Sun come from Reykjavík, Iceland and started their musical journey, as so many bands do, by practicing in a garage, covering tunes by their heroes Kyuss, Sabbath as well as fellow Icelanders Brain Police but it was when jamming their own riffs that , as they say, "MAGIC started to happen" a MAGIC that can now be heard on the bands recently self titled debut.
"Echobrain" opens the album with fuzz drenched aplomb, the band jamming on a doomy Colour Haze meets Sabbath instrumental groove replete with swirling effects and spoken soundbytes. Guitarist Víðir injects into these grooves touches of psychedelic flavouring and colour as well as laying down some tasteful lead work while beneath him the rhythm section of Gestur (bass) and Brynjar (drums) keep the pulses tight and economic.
"Spliff Sucker" enters next and the listener is immediately reminded of Palm Springs desert sons Kyuss, the up-tempo, sand blasted grooves recalling a time when Homme and his cohorts looked like being the saviours of underground rock music. One could even be fooled at times into thinking that the great John Garcia is at the microphone if it was not for the fact that this "John " is actually a "Jane" who goes by the name of Björg Amalía!
"Pharoas Serpents" continues in the same vein as the previous track but adds a touch of doomy darkness into the groove. Björg Amalía's gritty vocals sit comfortably within the sandy rhythms surrounding them, her voice possessing a rawness that fits the music perfectly adding an element of desert authenticity to the bands obvious Kyuss worship. Three quarters into the song the tempo picks up a pace and Víðir unleashes a superb guitar solo that swirls and swoops above the rhythmic barrage provided by Gestur and Brynjar, then drops back into the main riff finishing on a sustained chord that takes things to a close.
"Psycho Wizard" ramps up the doom hinted at in the previous track and sees the band slide ever so gently into Sabbath country. Björg Amalía's doubletracked vocal veers away from the Garcia like tones employed elsewhere and instead utilises a more melodic and slightly cleaner approach that compliments the songs darker vibe perfectly and gives the vocal a feel not unlike that of North California's psychonauts Sleepy Sun. Brynjar drives the song from his drumstool with an exemplary display of percussive dexterity, channeling the spirit of Sabbath's Bill Ward with his use of cymbals and skins while Gestur holds the bottom end down, his bass rumbling like thunder from the mountains. Víðir when not laying down the songs thick layer of distorted riffage injects perfectly executed and note perfect solo's into this mix that are a joy to behold.
"Monster In Haze" sees Björg Amalía joined on vocals by Brain Police's Jens Olafsson over a slightly more straight ahead stoner/hard rock groove. Olafsson's powerful hard rock wail blending perfectly with the Black Desert Sun vocalist's grittier desert tones adding a whole new dynamic to the songs, and the bands, overall groove.
"Sparkle Juice" jams a slight "Children Of The Grave" groove beneath a vocal that tells of 24 hour party people and staying up all night. Short. direct and infectious it boasts a chorus that hooks you in and spins you around not letting you go until the final note fades.
"Pshychedelic Soundscape III" closes proceedings with a spacey instrumental psych romp featuring band friend and luthier Gunnar Örn Sigurðsson on lead guitar. At 3:35 it's a tad to short to really grab you by the throat but there is enough here of interest to wonder where they could of gone had they expanded this into something a little longer.
Black Desert Sun have made a highly entertaining album that is full of promise for the future, if it has a failing it is that it wants to be too many things all at once and thereby sounds a little schizophrenic in places. This an album from a band who are still finding their way in the world but this is still a good album nonetheless and when these guys find their own identity instead of cherrypicking from their heroes then you better watch out!