Sunday, 18 February 2018
I suppose many of found our ways to the seedy recesses of the stoner/doom and psych scene via a variety of different routes some may have followed along the Sabbath route signposted by "Master of Reality" others via the dusty desert trails left by Kyuss, Unida and their like. No matter how we arrived or even where those paths have led us since we can all probably agree that the one thing that brought us all here in the first place was a love of a big fat riff, drenched in fuzz and distortion and played very loud.
If the above statement resounds with and you find yourself nodding along in sage agreement then get ready to relive those days of thundering rhythms and gnarly refrains with Canadian riffmeisters Thy Kingdom Slum and their debut release " A History of Dissent".
Grab your hard hat and settle down somewhere safe from the danger of falling masonry as your world is about to be rocked, shaken and stirred by a glorious cacophony of noise dealt out by a band whose blend of kick-ass rock'n'roll and insightful social commentary is both relentless and loud . Thy Kingdom Slum, Trevor De Block (rhythm guitar/backing vocals), Brandon Gourley (drums), Chris Mayville (lead guitar), Michael Edwards (vocals) and Ray Solomon (bass), kick things off with "Reign/Black Flags", a stirring diatribe against those that hold the power told in throaty maniacal vocal tones and delivered against a wall of crunching riffage and incessant rhythms. Three more highly charged, politically themed songs follow, "Master Plan","5even" and "Not Your Enemy", before the band close shop with "Presence of Mind", the band urging us to "Use your fucking minds, before we run out of time" and warning us of "the demagogue propped up by puppet strings" over a swathe of gritty stoner fuzz and blustering heavy rock rhythms, the song and EP finally coming to an end on a wave of howling sustain.
Furiously paced, grainy stoner/hard rock grooves and social commentary do not always sit comfortably together but Thy Kingdom Slum have, with "A History of Dissent", somehow managed to find a balance that provokes thought while at the same maintains a sense of fun, delivering an EP that is not only highly enjoyable but also highly intelligent.
Check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Saturday, 17 February 2018
Women involved in the arts have had a pretty raw deal over the years as can be seen by the recent Hollywood sex scandals and the UK's TV pay parity revelations, in our own underground rock scene however women have had a somewhat easier ride (although it has to be said not always) with women musicians like Acid King's Lori S and Youngblood Supercult's Bailey Gonzales garnering in their respective fields an equal level of respect as that of their male counterparts. The biggest sea change however is in the emergence of a seemingly unending slew of bands fronted by the voices of female vocalists, less and less are we being bombarded with those statements of " I never listen to bands with female vocals" many music fans/collectors going out of their way to actively seek out these bands, appreciating the different dynamics a female voice can bring to the table. All of which brings us around nicely to discuss a new band on the block, a band from New York, fronted by sublime vocals, going by the name Uncrossing who have just released their self-titled EP "Uncrossing".
"Uncrossing" opens its account with "Get It From Me" a sultry doom tinted opus that begins with Jared Drace picking gently swept arpeggios from his guitar before being joined by Scott Meyer's bass and Sanal Leejean's drums in a chugging fuzz drenched groove embellished by Drace's clever little guitar licks and soaring solo's. Over and around this quiet storm of crunching riffage and rock steady rhythms soars the majestic vocal tones of the bands secret weapon Kristin Flammio. Flammio's voice, clear, clean and blessed with a purity that is quite rare in underground rock circles, swoops swirls above the raucousness lying just beneath it, her almost symphonic tones, bereft of the usual grittiness associated with this genre, coming across like candy for the ears. "What I Want" follows and sees the band moving into tranquil waters with Drace's Stairway To Heaven(ish) guitar motif the base around which Flammio tells a heartfelt tale of longing for something not in her control, her story fractured by moments of intense metallic bluster, moving, atmospheric and superbly executed by all involved it is beautiful and bruising in equal measure. "IOU" closes "Uncrossing" with a song that highlights not only the bands musical prowess but one that also throws a light on where this band might be heading next, the songs intense heavy doomic riffage, Sabbath-esque shifting time signatures plus Flammio's slightly edgier vocal delivery suggesting a band moving towards a darker more occult orientated sound.
What direction Uncrossing take their sound in next is unknown, will the slightly symphonic tinted metal of "What I Want" win the day or will the intense proto-doom of "IOU" be the path they take, or will it be that mixture of both that makes "Get It To Me" so utterly enjoyable be the way forward? Desert Psychlist doesn't know but finding out is something we will be very much looking forward to.
Check 'em out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Friday, 16 February 2018
THAL (The Heathens Are Loose) started of as a one man project. the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist John "Vince Green" Walker, his idea was to get the songs that were forever forming themselves in his head recorded with a minimum of collaboration from others, playing all the instruments himself and only calling in fellow musicians for parts he felt they could better handle than himself. This solo approach resulted in 2016's "Glitter" an astounding debut that garnered a lot of well deserved attention and appreciation within the underground's rock community. No man is a mountain however and Walker soon realised for THAL to move forward a little help and collaboration from a more permanent second party would not go amiss and also take a little strain off his shoulders. Enter Walker's Wytchord bandmate Kevin Hartnell, also a multi-instrumentalist, to add his weight to both the instrumentation and songwriting for the (now a) bands new album "Reach For The Dragon's Eye" (Argonauta Records)
The first thing that hits you about "Reach For The Dragon's Eye" is the level of sheer power these two guys create between them. Sometimes with two man affairs the listener is left with a feeling there is something lacking or missing from the overall sound, an element gone astray somewhere that you can't quite put your finger on but just makes everything feel a little less than whole, this is not the case here. Walker and Hartnell fill every space available on "Reach For The Dragon's Eye" with swathes of gritty sound so much so that even the pauses between songs feel loud! Desert Psychlist could not, without a detailed breakdown, honestly tell you who plays what on each track (except that Hartnell handles all the drum parts) what we can tell you though is that every guitar solo, riff, bass line, drum beat and synth noise are delivered with the utmost expertise, without indulgence and for the song. Did we mention songs? THAL have them in spades, gritty fuzz drenched ones like "Rebreather", southern tinted ones with an undercurrent of bluesy swagger a la "Thoughtform", angry bitter diatribes, "Punish" and intense ones with prog-ish undertones, "Reach For The Dragon's Eye". The band even get to throw in a little QOTSA-like quirkiness via "Her Gods Demand War" where they invite These Butchers Will Kill You's Sophie Steff in to help out on vocals.
All in all THAL have, with "Reach For The Dragon's Eye", created an album that had it been released before the New Year would most certainly have made Desert Psychlist's best of list for 2017, an album that will only not make our best of list for 2018 if 30 better albums are released in this coming year and that my friends is going to be a very tall order!
Check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Sunday, 11 February 2018
October of 2017 Desert Psychlist reviewed a live EP from a relatively new Swedish combo trading under the name of Hazemaze containing five tracks of absolutely blistering doom tinted proto-metal. That EP, "Live at Copperfields", highlighted a band influenced by the music of the 70's but not overwhelmed by it, pulling elements from the past but blending them with the more contemporary grooves of todays stoner/doom and psych scene to shape a sound that is fresh and of the present yet still doffs its cap to those that have paved the paths before them. The band, Ludvig Andersson (guitar/vocals), Nils "Ein" Eineus (drums) and Estefan Carrillo (bass) promised, on the release of their live EP, a soon to come full album and true to their word here it is... "Hazemaze" (Kozmik Artifactz Records)
A laid back and funky slow blues jam opens first track "Wall of Confusion" then gradually mutates into a low slung mid tempo proto doom refrain driven by growling bass and pounding percussion. Over this dark rumbling earthquake of sound Andersson croons lyrics telling a tale of the thin veil separating life and death in cool clean vocal tones, tones that although not overly powerful are a perfect match for the dank hazy grooves they are surrounded by. "Hazy" is the perfect word to describe Hazemaze's sonic output as there is a tangible hazy quality to all eight songs on "Hazemaze", whether this is intentional due to their name or just some happy accident Desert Psychlist doesn't know but that "haziness" is there nonetheless and it works for them. On songs with titles like "Minds Abyss" and "Beast and Prey" that "haziness" presents itself in Andersson's low pitched riffs and solos and Carrillo's even lower grumbling bass lines, the pair combining with Eineus' solid busy drumming to create a dark thrumming effect not dissimilar to the sound of an overloaded electricity cable, something that when written down might may sound like a hindrance but in actuality enhances the albums overall effect.
If you like your grooves thrumming with raw power and growling with latent menace then "Hazemaze" might just be the album you've been searching for
Check it out .....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Saturday, 10 February 2018
Boston trio Sundrifter, Craig Peura (vocals/guitar), Patrick Queenan (drums) and Paul Gaughran (bass), make no bones about their almost obsessive interests in space, time and the existence of extra-terrestrial life, the band utilising these interests as the foundations on which to build their songs and theme their albums. The band first whetted our appetites for grooves astrophysical with their 2016 debut "Not Coming Back" a stunning opus packed to brimming over with spacey desert goodness that had more than a trace of Kyuss/QOTSA-like sandy swagger ingrained within its grooves, this year the band return to take us once again to the edges of our consciousness with their new release "Visitations".
"Vistations" kicks off with an absolute peach of a track in "Sons of Belial" its deeply fuzzed circular refrain, pushed by growling bass and crashing drums and coated in cool clean vocals, comes out of the traps like a greyhound in pursuit of a hare and grabs the listener by the throat and refuses to let go until the last note fades into silence. This is then followed up in quick succession by two similarly paced but dynamically different songs in "Death March" and "Lightworker", the former a quirky heavily distorted desert opus with eastern undertones, the latter a Kyuss shaped rocket flying at speed over a bedrock of insistent grainy groove, all three songs taken to another level by Peura's astonishingly clean and effective vocals. The guitarist/vocalists powerful distinctive tones, a strange hybrid of Scott Walker's (The Walker Brothers) torch-song crooning and Chris Cornell's impassioned feral howling, are startling and astonishing all at the same time especially when applied to the albums more diverse and less abrasive songs such as the swirling and lysergic "Targeted", the eastern tinted "Till You Come Down" and the gently sedate and beautiful "I Want To Leave". It is however Peura's heavily fuzzed and distorted riffage driven by Gaughran's gnarly bass and Queenan's pummelling percussion that is the meat and potatoes of Sundrifter's sonic attack and the band deliver those elements in spades with songs like "Hammerburn", "Sky Peoples Son" and the doomic "Fire In The Sky" all hitting their marks with an unerring level of consistency.
Sundrifter preface "Visitations" with a quote from astrophysicist and author Carl Sagan on their Bandcamp page so it seems fitting to close this review with another quote from the great man..
"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be"
With "Visitations" that something incredible may already be here
Check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Friday, 9 February 2018
Swansea three piece Estuary Blacks, Dan Williams (bass), Alex Bodinger (guitars/vocals) and Tom Young (drums), describe their sonic output as "post marsh rock" a unique blend of post and progressive rock mixed with elements of heavy stoner metal, a blend that permeates every pore of the bands debut album "Estuary Blacks".(releasing digitally 17 February 2018 and a yet to be announced vinyl release later in the year on Kozmik Artifactz Records)
If Desert Psychlist was forced to compare what Estuary Blacks bring to the table with another band then it would have to be Boston soundscapers Elder, both bands deal in huge multi-layered grooves, both have a tendency for long instrumental passages and both lean towards the progressive end of the stoner spectrum. Where Estuary Blacks differ from their American counterparts however is in the fact that the Swansea trio's progressive leanings, in places, drift towards the much more traditional end of progressive rock. This becomes immediately evident on the albums opening track "Moorings" a delightfully complex instrumental underpinned by lush liquid bass lines and intricate rhythms overlaid with a mixture of clean classical tinted arpeggios and post-rock textured guitar solos. Next track "Trawlers" follows where "Moorings" departed opening with folk flavoured clean guitar motifs played over a chiming backdrop of laid back groove that then suddenly explode into a gloriously crushing doomic refrain around which superbly pitched mellow clean vocal melodies are delivered. "Fat Jason" follows and raises the bar high with a song that oozes atmosphere and intensity, the songs epic, anthemic feel is enhanced by Bodinger's stunningly powerful vocals and swirling guitar textures and is compounded by Williams and Young's complex and elaborate rhythms. "Hank Carmarvin" allows the listener to take a breather and wallow in a sea of acoustic bliss before being dragged back into the real word by "Caswell Brat" an undulating instrumental groove fest that ambles through tranquil post-rock territory before slowly building to a heavy blues tinted, prog flavoured crescendo. "Puris Prass" closes proceedings by tying all the various threads and elements visited elsewhere on "Estuary Blacks" together in one song, prog-like complexity, post-rock intensity and stoner-like fuzz all weaved together in a tapestry of moving, atmospheric and at times breathtaking intelligent groove.
If while reading this review you felt a little put off by the references to "post-rock" and "progressive" then take a few seconds of your time and just click the "play" icon on the link for "Estuary Blacks" below and you might just find a piece of music that will allay your fears and open your ears to a whole new world of music
Check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Saturday, 3 February 2018
Let's start this review with a word from the band whose EP is its subject ...
"The Black Swamp have re-hashed a sludge sound reminiscent of 70's and 90's before heavy metal got all dicky about the genre divide". A bold statement but what does it actually mean? Well give the bands new EP "Witches" a spin and all will be revealed
A brief screech of howling feedback and a feral scream introduces first song "Headless" and we are immediately plummeted into The Black Swamp's world of crunching heavy guitar riffage and powerful pulverising rhythms, a world where old school hard rock and southern swagger live harmoniously together with swampy sludge brutality and new age metal aggression, these diverse elements mingling together to create a tsunami of mind-blowingly powerful groove. A tsunami is always driven by a force and the "force" that drives The Black Swamp's wave comes from the relentless pummelling drums of Brendan Woodley and the grizzled growling bass of Rohan Downs the pair combining to lay down a bedrock of gnarly thunderous rhythm for the rest of the band to decorate with their own contributions. Those contributions come in the shape of the grainy fuzz drenched distorted riffs, crunching powerchords and swirling solo's provided by guitarists Grant Scott and Jesse Kenny and the bear-like vocal growls of Luke Hosking, Scott and Kenny trading off licks and refrains around Hosking's strong throaty roars framing the frontman's big beefy tones with an array of dank gnarly riffage. "Witches" is not just a vehicle for a series of blustering riffs and rhythms however, songs like the aforementioned "Headless", the superbly atmospheric "Event Horizon" and title track "Witches" also bring an element of swing and melody to the table giving the somgs an added level of gravitas and intensity as well as enhancing their overall sonic impact.
The Black Swamp's prospects were already looking pretty good with the releases of their first EP "Foulness" and the excellent 2016 debut full length "I Am" but with "Witches" the band have refined their sound, raised the bar and stepped up to the next level, it's just a shame it wasn't a full album,
Check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Friday, 2 February 2018
If you name your band after a fairly well known Black Sabbath song then comparisons are bound to be made with that band and your own grooves, thankfully New Jersey's Sleeping Village, although obviously influenced by Sabbath, do not fall into the trap of trying to imitate their every move and note instead finding and creating their own sound and groove within the frameworks provided by their heroes.
The band, Rick Dal Cortivo (vocals/guitar), Tim Gray (bass) and Scott Borchert (drums), have just recently released their debut EP "Among The Gods"
There is no denying that the spirit of Tony Iommi looms large among the riffs and grooves that go to make up the four songs of "Among The Gods" but that spirit manifests itself as more of a feel than an out and out lifting of licks, riffs and solos, guitarist/vocalist Cortivo injecting his own identity and ideas onto and into each and every song. Ably supported by Gray's big sounding bass lines and Borchert's busy, solid percussion the guitarist layers thick swathes of overdriven riffage and swirling bluesy lead over a tumultuous barrage of gnarly proto-doom groove while at the same time delivering cool clean vocals that although not particularly strong are totally effective. It is these vocals, delivered in slightly weary-ish, almost indie fashion that sets Sleeping Village apart from other Sabbath inspired bands currently doing the rounds, Cortivo's un-Ozzy like tones giving songs like "The Puppet Masters", "Lucky 7's" and title track "Among The Gods" a feel more akin to the early days of Austin, Texas' The Sword rather than those of the famous Birmingham Four. Final song "The End" moves the goalposts slightly and finds the band mixing their proto-doom grooves with those of a more traditional doom flavour the song shifting through a series of differing tempos and time signatures before fading out on a wave of grainy fuzz drenched riffage.
Sleeping Village have no problem admitting to their Sabbathian leanings, guitarist Rick Dal Corvito candidly telling Desert Psychlist "We are a classic heavy metal/doom band from New Jersey trying to capture that old Sabbath groove", and Desert Psychlist as no problem in admitting to loving what they do with that groove on "Among The Gods" ... lets see if you agree with us
Check it out.....
© 2018 Frazer Jones