Friday 31 January 2020
Jake Lewis is a man who likes do things a little differently, the multi-instrumentalist first came to Desert Psychlist's attention via "Blood of the Raven"" a stunning doomic opus from his other project Burn Ritual. Burn Ritual started life as a one man affair, with Lewis playing almost everything, and resulted in a two track EP entitled "Like Suffering" but then soon morphed into a fully fledged band for the release of the widely acclaimed "Blood of the Raven". Not a man content to sit on his laurels Lewis almost immediately started writing music again, however the music that was flowing out of his head had a more lysergic, psychedelic edge, an edge that didn't quite fit the proto-doomic remit he was exploring with Burn Ritual. Wanting to get this music heard Lewis recruited Sun of Grey vocalist/guitarist Freddy Allen to handle bass duties for "Eye of the Sun" a new project that was forming in his mind, a project that would once again see him holding down the bulk of the instrumentation and be released under the collective banner of Gypsybyrd.
Freddy Allen's deep booming bass motif introduces "Prisoner", the first track of "Eye of the Sun", and almost immediately Desert Psychlist can understand why Lewis needed to find an alternative vehicle for his latest musical scribblings as the music emanating out of Desert Psychlist's speakers is as far removed from Burn Ritual's Sabbathesque bluster as it is possible to get. Where with Burn Ritual Lewis came at us with all guns blazing and riffs roaring here we find him using a subtler palette of colours to paint his soundscapes with. There is a hazy, almost chilled, feel to the music Lewis brings to the table on "Eye of the Sun", a feel that caresses rather than bludgeons, this is not to say songs like "Cosmic Eyes", "The Quest for the Enlightened One" and "The Mountain" are bereft of any elements of "heaviness" it's just that that "heaviness" is approached with a little more consideration and subtlety.
Desert Psychlist, when reviewing, Burn Ritual's "Blood of the Raven", could not help but make some references to the albums Sabbathesque qualities however those references were approached from the perspective of Sabbath's heavier doomic tomes. Those Sabbathesque qualities are also present on Gypsybyrd's "Eye of the Sun" but instead of taking them from the heavier end of Sabbath's doomic spectrum Lewis has opted for the more lysergic side of the Birmingham Four's sonic output.. Imagine if you can that Sabbath had made their name not on the strength of "War Pigs" and "Iron Man" but on the heavily phased lysergic majesty of "Planet Caravan", and if you can..., then imagine what a whole album of songs like that would sound like. Wonder no longer!
Check it out ….
© 2020 Frazer Jones
Sunday 26 January 2020
Mammoth's were big hairy elephant-like mammals armed with impressive weaponry, not sure they had much exposure to the delights of lysergic based pharmaceuticals but apart from that they have much in common with, Acid Mammoth, the subject of this review. Acid Mammoth are a doomic four piece from Athens, Greece who, judging by their press photo's, are also quite hairy, the combo also boast some impressive weaponry only theirs is not long white ivory tusks, theirs come in the shape of devastatingly dank riffs and rhythms that although may not kill you will almost certainly leave you slightly battered and bruised. As for the "acid" part of their name well there is plenty of that to be found in the swirling lead breaks and solo's that decorate the bands second album "Under Acid Hoof" (Heavy Psych Sounds Records).
Another thing Acid Mammoth's grooves share with the animal they borrowed, part of, their name from is their size. Acid Mammoth's sound is big heavy and powerful, not so much slow and low, but possessing a delightful lumbering quality that adds a certain depth to its sonic impact. Now given that the bands stock in trade is titanic riffs and thundering rhythms you might expect vocals of a similar dynamic, maybe something a little growly or demonic, but instead Acid Mammoth offset their huge sounding grooves with tones that are both melodic and clean. Chris Babalis Jr. holds down the vocals while also doubling up on guitar, a duty he shares with his father Chris Babalis Sr., his vocals are slightly one dimensional but are delivered with a strength and clarity that is quite refreshing in this age of growlers and screamers. The Babalis father and son pairing lay down a mixture of dark toned dual riffage and swirling sharp lead on their respective axes and are superbly supported by Dimosthenis Varikos (bass) and Marios Louvaris (drums) the rhythmic duo supplying the meat and potatoes for Sr. and Jr to garnish with a superb array of six-string flavourings.
Five songs make up "Under Acid Hoof", "Them!", "Tree of Woe"," Tusks of Doom", Jack the Riffer" and title track "Under Acid Hoof", each has its own unique doomic charm and each would be worth the price of the album just on their own and there are not too many albums you could say that about!
Greece is fast building a reputation for producing quality underground rock music from quality underground rock bands however many of those bands hail from the stoner/hard rock and psych end of the musical spectrum so its nice to see/hear a band like Athens's Acid Mammoth emerging from that country with something a little more doomic. "Under Acid Hoof" is a superb follow up to the bands debut "Acid Mammoth" and should go a long way to cementing their place as one of the leading lights on Athens burgeoning doom scene, now go tell the Spartans!
Check 'em out ….
© 2020 Frazer Jones
Saturday 18 January 2020
Let's start with a little rock history lesson … Many still consider the 70's as the "golden age" of rock music a time when .in the words of journalist Mick Wall, "Giants Walked the Earth". Many of those so called "giants" hailed from a little island, stuck between the cold waters of the North Sea and the vast expanse of the Atlantic Ocean, called Britain. Britain gave to the planet such icons of the rock world as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple, Black Sabbath and Jethro Tull but the British rock scene back then was a two tier system in that for every Zeppelin there was a May Blitz, for every Sabbath a Budgie, every Purple a Uriah Heep and every Tull a Wild Turkey, these bands were often referred to as "second division bands". The term "second division" did not mean the music these bands played was any less vital or exciting than their more well known contemporaries just that they either didn't have the label promotion or managerial support to push their careers that little bit further.
Many of these "second division" bands have achieved an almost cult status among those who spend their time listening to the grooves and riffs of today's underground rock scene and many of todays bands are not averse to referencing these bands as influences in their promotional bio's and on their social media pages either. Germany's Isles of Mars are one such band to doff their caps to the demi-gods of rocks "second division" citing the sound they create as being a blend of Atomic Rooster and Camel among others, whether you will agree with this description Desert Psychlist will leave for you to decide by giving their self titled debut EP "Isles of Mars" a spin.
Isles of Mars are Dave Brechbilder (drums), Gregor K. (bass) and David S. (guitar and vocals), three musicians from Mannheim, Germany with a real understanding of 70's rock music, not just in its sound but also it's structure and feel. It could be argued that "Isles of Mars" is an EP with a strong "retro" vibe but Desert Psychlist prefers to term the sound this trio bring to the table as having a more "vintage" quality, Isles of Mars do not just try to emulate the grooves of those late 60's, early 70's bands, mentioned earlier, and bring them up to date, these guys actually capture the sound and feel of that period. It would not be inconceivable to imagine a casual listener, spinning songs like "Psychopompos" and "Lady Atrocity" for the very first time, to actually sit back and believe they have just listened to an obscure band from rock's heyday such is the authenticity of the musicality and production on display here. On the musicality front Isle of Mars can't be faulted, Brechbilder and Gregor K. bring a diverse array of groove to the party, Brechbider's rock steady rhythms are spiced up with elements of jazz-like swing and proggish complexity while Gregor K. nails down the bottom end with a mix of growling and booming liquidity, his runs and fills sounding at times like a Boeing 747 getting ready for take off. David S holds down guitar and vocal duties, his swirling solo's, crunching chords and delicate arpeggios filling the spaces Brechbilder and K. leave him with an impressive range of textures and tones while his vocals, although not in the rock-god arena, are strong clean and totally effective.
"Isle of Mars" is a superb debut from a band who proudly wear their influences on their sleeves and are unafraid to celebrate those influences in their music. If you like your hard rock flavoured with an un-manufactured, authentic flavour of the 70's then you cant go far wrong by giving these guys 25 minutes and 50 seconds of your time, we guarantee you will not be disappointed.
Check 'em out …
© 2020 Frazer Jones
Monday 13 January 2020
From out of Chicago, Illinois come Tombstone Eyes, a blues based band like no other, a band who give meaning to the words hazy and psychedelic, a band who have made an album entitled "Land In The Sky", an album that you will want to listen to until your ears bleed and your brain turns to mush!
If you thought the blues as a genre had seen its best days pass or that its fabled mojo was no longer in working order then prepare to have those thoughts utterly shattered. Some may argue that Chicago's Tombstone Eyes are not a blues combo at all but if you cannot recognise the delta drenched presence of Robert Johnson and Muddy Waters beneath the swirling psychedelic textures this band cloak their grooves in then its possible we are listening to a different band. Tombstone Eyes are not just any ordinary blues combo either, these guys are an extraordinary blues combo, that's quite a bold statement you may be thinking but Desert Psychlist defies you to listen to the bands hazy lysergic take on the blues and not come away without a huge shit-eating grin on your face. From the organ drenched intro of "Hydrogen Fog", to the schizophrenic mix of samples, noise and piano that is "Showman's Rest" there will be no doubt left in the listeners mind that they are listening to something a little different but nonetheless a little bit special. It is however between these two songs that the real meat and potatoes of Tombstone Eyes sound can be found, the band jamming chilled, acid drenched blues grooves, on songs with titles like "Solar Barge", "Precession of the Sun" and "Black Knight Satellite", that are slightly off-kilter and hazy but steeped in the traditions of a genre older than they are.
Tombstone Eyes play a heavily stoned, tripped out and psyched version of a genre that been around for eons, the band don't so much reinvigorate the genre as offer it some different narcotics and see how it copes, and on the evidence of "Land In The Sky" it copes very nicely thank you.
Check it out ....
© 2020 Frazer Jones
Sunday 12 January 2020
Hard to believe that there was a time when Elder Druid was known only to a few fellow Irish metalheads and a few clued up journo's and bloggers with their fingers on the underground rock scenes pulse. These days the announcement of an upcoming release from these Ballymena bruisers is met with the sort of excitement and anticipation usually reserved for Swedish or American big hitters like Graveyard and Monster Magnet. The reason for this is simple, Elder Druid may operate at the harsher end of the underground spectrum but their grooves have a swing and meter that speaks to rock fans right across the board, their sound being harsh enough to grab the extremists but also diverse enough to appeal to those with more conservative tastes.
The band, Gregg McDowell (vocals); Jake Wallace (guitar); Mikey Scott (guitar); Dale Hughes (bass/keys/Theremin) and Brien Gillen (drums), return this year with their latest opus "Golgotha" (available January 17, 2020) so lets find out if all that anticipation and excitement is justified.
As Desert Psychlist has stated on numerous occasions we are not big fans of harsh, guttural vocals, so why, you must be asking, are we reviewing an album by a band known for those type of vocals. The reason is that although vocalist Gregg McDowell may sound like he is channelling the spirit of some ancient demon through a torn and bleeding larynx the singer can, unlike many with a similar style, actually make himself understood and he brings a clarity to Elder Druids lyrics that might otherwise have been lost had they been sang by anybody else of a similar vocal dynamic. Another reason why Desert Psychlist is reviewing "Golgotha" is that, vocals aside, Elder Druid are a virtual groove monster who can bludgeon you into submission with the force of their stoner doomic riffs and thunderous sludge rhythms, as they do on tracks like the humungous sounding "Sleeping Giant" and the satanic sounding "Vincere Vel Mori", or can send you spinning through gaping cosmic black holes with their forays into lysergic territory, as can be witnessed on the superb psych/doom instrumental "Sentinel". There is much more musicality to be found on "Golgotha" than can be found on previous Elder Druid releases, one reason for this could be the bands decision to allow bassist Hughes the freedom to run riot with a Fender Rhodes and a Theremin but more likely it is the fact that this is a band who have jammed, rehearsed and gigged together as a unit for many years and, along with an increased prowess in their instrumental ability, have built up an almost telepathic understanding of each others parts in the whole, a whole that just seems to get better and better with every release.
Desert Psychlist has read a lot of album reviews and articles comparing Elder Druid to this or that band, Electric Wizard has been mentioned as have Black Sabbath, The Melvins and Sleep but we can categorically state that when listening to "Golgotha" all Desert Psychlist can hear is Elder Druid, and that is the biggest compliment we could possibly pay this unique and exciting band.
Check 'em out ….
© 2020 Frazer Jones
Monday 6 January 2020
Bassists and drummers have, in the past, often got overlooked within a band dynamic, these masters of rhythm and groove have tended to take a back seat and allow the more flamboyant guitarists and vocalist's to hug the spotlight, often becoming bridesmaids rather than brides. This was, with a few exceptions, the case for many years but over the last decade and a half a shift towards a more pared down group dynamic started to gather momentum and suddenly the "heavy rock duo" began to become a thing. First of all it was mainly drum and guitar combo's but then drum and bass duo's started to pop up everywhere with bassists employing their instruments not just as a tool to enhance a groove but also as a lead instrument in its own right.
Lancing, Michigan's ORC, Andy Jeglic (bass/vocals) and Connor Peil (drums), are one such band who, after attending a Primus/Mastodon gig together, decided to take the duo route. The two musicians wanted to blend the progressive elements they were hearing that night with the hard rock/metal elements they grew up with but wanted to achieve this within the confines of a two piece. The duo also wanted their sound to be BIG which meant some innovative drum micing and the employment of something Jeglic calls a "dual-output bass rig", something that allowed him to push his bass sound to unprecedented levels and thicken its sonic impact, an impact that can be witnessed first hand on the bands debut "ORC".
Fuzz plays a huge part in ORC's sound, warm, growling fuzz, fuzz crackling at the extremes of its signal and fuzz so thick it's almost tangible are all employed to great effect throughout the nine tracks that make up "ORC". Jeglic's bass spits, snarls and splutters with the stuff his distorted riffs, sounding more like a conventional six-string at times, would be in danger of dominating proceedings if it were not for Peil's thunderous drumming, the percussionist defying the limitations of his kit with breathtaking steam hammer displays of percussive might. There are times when, if you hadn't read this pieces intro, that you could easily be convinced that this is not just two people but a quartet, or something even bigger, such is the density of sound that Peil and Jeglic create between them. If the sound you are hearing on songs with titles like "Living For The Fight", "Sneaky Snake" and "The Villain" are not already big enough for your sonic needs then Jeglic's powerful, rock god like vocal pyrotechnics will seal the deal. Jeglic boasts a voice that could peel paint off a ships hull a voice that channels the spirit of Soundgarden's Chris Cornell's upper register with the distinctive howl of Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale, a unique and powerful instrument in it's own right it takes ORC's already impressive sonic impact to whole other level.
ORC have laid down a marker for other "rock duo's" to follow with their debut, a huge sounding tome created with the minimum of instrumentation but the maximum of dedication and commitment, an album that that ticks all the right boxes in all the right order by a duo who sound so much bigger.
Check it out ….
© 2020 Frazer Jones
Saturday 4 January 2020
"Two become one" sang The Spice Girls but in the case of THAL (The Heathens Are Loose) that lyric could well be reversed as THAL was originally a one man project conceived by multi-instrumentalist John "Vince Green" Walker, however when Walker realised that in order to achieve his musical vision he needed a like minded musician to bounce ideas off ,write with and perform with out went a call to fellow multi-instrumentalist and friend Kevin Hartnell, and so "one became two"
This collaboration paid huge dividends when in 2018 THAL released "Reach For The Dragon's Eye" an album that deservedly crept into many of the underground scenes "best of " lists and raised the bands profile to heights they could only of once dreamt of. With any level of success comes expectation, and that can be a burden in itself, but just before 2019's Christmas break the band released "The Harvesting" an album that more than delivers on all its expected promise.
The best albums can conjure up visions in the mind's eye, visions that play out as stories of your own making, this is the case with "The Harvesting". While listening to the nine songs that make up the albums content Desert Psychlist was transported to a world of hardship, conflict and misery in an undefined era that could just as well be medieval Europe as it could be modern day USA. This is the beauty of THAL's music, and especially this album, Walker and Hartnell paint sonic portraits with both their lyrics and their grooves that can take a listener outside of themselves, able to escape the mundane realities of real life and just for a short while mentally escape to places that are dark,dangerous yet exciting. So ok they can tell stories and invoke mental imagery but what do they actually sound like? THAL are heavy but not in a brutal way, the bands grooves sway between doomic and grungy with elements of old school hard rock and metal scattered liberally around to great effect while vocals throughout the album are a mix of clean throaty roars and smooth warm, almost Lynott-esque, croons, both dynamics executed to perfection. It is a sound with the ability to cross genres, a sound just as likely to appeal to the hardened metal extremist as it is to those whose tastes may lean nearer to the mainstream.
Desert Psychlist started this review with a Spice Girl's lyric so it only seems right to finish with one. "The Harvesting" is a superb follow up to "Reach For The Dragon's Eye" that justifies all the expectation that surrounded its release and if that don't make you want to "slam your body down and wind it all around" then we don't known what will.
© 2020 Frazer Jones
Friday 3 January 2020
Still get spinal shivers from listening to Kyuss, does hearing Fu Manchu still cause involuntary head bobbing and foot tapping? If the answer to those questions is a resounding yes then its odds on that Holland's Desert Colossus are going to tick all your boxes and push all your relevant buttons. Desert Colossus hit a groove that recalls the early days of the desert rock scene, a time when bands would head out into the sandy wilderness and set up impromptu gigs using old generators as a power source, gigs that would see bands melding everything from punk to prog in one big melting pot of sonic mayhem. Desert Colossus do not so much try to replicate the sound of those first desert pioneers but more try to recreate the "vibe" of that period, to bring that desert sound to whole new audience while at the same time putting their own unique twist on things. The bands last album "Omnibeul" went a long way in achieving that goal and so this year (2020), with the bit between their teeth, the band return with "Eyes and Tongues", a whole new collection of psych tinted desert inspired grooviness for your listening pleasure.
"Eyes and Tongues" contains no crushing disappointments or dismal disasters, from the opening note of the Monster Magnet(ish) "Tear Me Down" to the hollow ringing effect that brings last track "The Final Signs of the End" to a close "Eyes and Tongues" is one triumphant, fist pumping, riff fuelled groove monster. Gloriously raucous and grittily gnarly from start to finish "Eyes and Tongues" is not an album for navel gazers or deep thinkers seeking introspection, this is a joyous, if sometimes shaded, album that needs to be approached not with a heavy heart but with a love of life and a lust for enjoyment, Ok with titles like "Predicament", "Collect Call To Reality", and "Null" you might expect things to be a little negative,downbeat and dank but if there is any dourness in lyrical content it is countered by the upbeat and forceful nature of the grooves that surround them with only the aforementioned "The Final Signs of the End" really dropping into the realms of doomic, it's almost as if the band are saying yes we know we are all going to hell in a handcart but let's at least have some fun on the way.
2017's "Omnibeul" saw Desert Colossus edging their foot in the door of international recognition, "Eyes and Tongues" should see them not only walking through that door but smashing the damn thing off its hinges.
Check it out …..
© 2020 Frazer Jones