Monday, 22 November 2021

LOW ORBIT ~ CRATER CREATOR ..... review



Angelo Catenaro  (guitars/vocals); Joe Grgic (bass/synth) and Emilio Mammone (drums) are Low Orbit a trio from Toronto, Canada who make a huge noise, and when we say huge what we really mean is MASSIVE! The band came to the attention of the wider world via their stunning self-titled debut "Low Orbit", a mix of spaced out stoner rock and heavy psych that prompted one Bandcamp listener to describe it, on the bands BC page, as "essential". The band followed this up three years later with "Spacecake" an album that found the band thickening their sound up by adding a little doom into the equation which in turn gave their music a danker, darker dynamic. Not a band to rush things the band have returned,, almost four years later, with a new album and if you thought their last two releases were "essential" wait until you hear "Crater Creator"!


Title track "Crater Creator" opens the proceedings and is an assault on the senses from its first note to its last, the songs crunching, chugging guitar refrains, swirling gnarly toned solos, low thrumming bass lines and tight pummelling percussion are accompanied by a perfectly pitched vocal that is both clean and powerful and possess a crystal clear clarity not usually associated with music of this genre. "Tardis" follows and opens with a short narrative on the origin of God and the Universe before exploding into an angular doomic groove underpinned by some incredible drumming and decorated in a slightly more aggressive vocal. "Sea of See" finds Low Orbit mixing things up with swampy sludginess, dank doomic bluster and heavy metal thunder all getting a starring role in this full on sonic maelstrom of groove while "Empty Space" sees the band revisiting the more spaced out stoner rock of their previous releases only with a bigger, thicker and more in your face dynamic. Next up is "Monocle" and if you ever wondered what American late 60's/early 70's heavy rock legends Mountain might have sounded like if they had been brought up on a diet of sci-fi novels and  Kyuss albums then this is it, "more cowbell please". "Wormhole" goes for the jugular with Sabbathian flavoured proto-doomic refrains pushed to the fore over which an ear-catching vocal melody holds sway but then briefly deviates into lysergic territory before just as quickly returning to its initial groove. Final song "Timelord" puts all Low Orbit's eggs in one basket, condensing all that has gone before into one face-melting explosion of groove that'll blow your mind at the same time as it blows your speakers.


How Low Orbit will top this incredible album is a question only time and the band will have the answers to but for now just bathe in the gloriously gnarly spaced-out doomic splendour of "Crater Creator" and pray to the gods  that the bands next release is as "essential" as this one is.
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Friday, 19 November 2021

MORGANTHUS ~ CELLS ..... review



There is no getting away from the fact that Warren, Pennsylvania's Morganthus sound owes much to the proto-doomic blueprint first drawn up by the UK's Black Sabbath, however release by release the band have slowly been unravelling themselves from the umbilical cord tying them to the Birmingham Four and have steadily been developing their own signature sound, a sound still very much in the canon of proto-doom but one that is much more identifiable as their own. With their latest release "Cells" the band may not have fully thrown off their Sabbathian cloaks but they most certainly have redesigned them


.Unusually "Cells" opens with a song that is not performed by Morganthus, "Prel'oud" is a lovely solo piece written and performed by friend of the band Jim Schreiber, it is a classical sounding composition with exotic leanings played on an oud, a fretless African stringed instrument not too dissimilar to the European lute. Morganthus finally make their entrance with "Rats, Whores and Corpses" a thinly veiled poke at organised religion that finds the vocalist snarling in menacing nasal tones "Take your pulpit share the woe, beg for tears for every soul, Martyrs to your phony pleas, a rat leads rats unto disease" against a backdrop of thrumming doomic refrains and thunderous percussion. Morganthus take us to the foot of the sacrificial altar with their next song "Injecticide" a brooding low, slow and heavy tome that finds the guitarist and the bassist crunching out dark reverberating bass and guitar riffs beneath a powerful and ponderous percussive tattoo over which the songs lyrics are narrated in a voice racked with a mixture of remorse and pain. "Witch Tits" follows and begins with a sample lifted from some obscure horror movie then explodes into a dank distortion drenched groove that features one of those recurring guitar motifs that once it has you hooked refuses let you go. Lyrically the song draws inspiration from Hammer House of Horror movies and the writings of Poe, Lovecraft and Dennis Wheatley, the vocalist telling of  "flesh writhing in sin" and "summoning ecstasy" against a musical backdrop so dank and cloying you can almost feel it touching you. Finally we arrive at "Dead and Perfect" a sprawling atmospheric finale that proves that doom is at it best when it carries an air of menace in its makeup, the track also boasts a killer solo that cuts through the gloom like a sacrificial knife through flesh, a solo delivered short and sweet but that is nonetheless scorching.


Morganthus have had a few issues to contend with prior to the release of this EP, we won't go into those issues here, but they say that the best art comes out of adversity and Morganthus have certainly had there fair share of adversity during the making and and up to the release of "Cells". The band describe "Cells" as a recording "brought to you by a year of frustration, turmoil, and perseverance", so was it worth all that effort? We think so.
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Monday, 15 November 2021

TRILLION TON BERYLLIUM SHIPS ~ ROSALEE EP ..... review


Lincoln, Nebraska's Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships first came to Desert Psychlist's attention earlier this year via their debut album "TTBS" a devilishly delicious collection of low slow and heavy grooves decorated in (surprisingly for this genre) clean clear vocals. Not a band to sit about twiddling their thumbs when, in their words, there is some "existential pondering" still to be done the band, Jeremy Warner (guitar, vocals); Justin Kamal (drums) and Karlin Warner (bass) soon set about writing and recording new songs. Those songs are now finished and have had all the rough edges sanded off, and some added, and appear on the bands latest EP "Rosalee, we think you'll like it.


TTBS's new EP begins with "Core Fragment" a song that unusually jumps, after a very brief flurry of  thunderous percussion, immediately into the vocals, now we think Jeremy Warner will be the first to admit that his vocal delivery is not exactly what you would call rock god powerful but his clean low key vocal approach and melodic tones are very effective and work as a nice counterbalance to the sedately paced heavy rhythms and refrains that accompany them and at times even threaten to drown them out. "Destroyer Hearts" follows, a song steeped in dank dark doominosity that routinely builds towards a crescendo only to then dissipate into a swampy murky meander, rising and falling in this fashion throughout its duration driven by some thunderously impressive drumming from Kamal while "URTH Anachoic" takes low slow and heavy to a whole new level of ponderous and boasts a slightly weird but totally effective vocal meter. Title track "Rosalee" sees the band sign out with a deliciously dank sixteen minute plus instrumental anchored to the earth by Karlin Warner's deep thrumming bass it is also strangely the first and only song on the EP that guitarist Jeremy Warner gets to cut free and unleash the full potential of his guitar playing chops, his searing lead work in the songs last quarter taking the songs dynamic out of the realms of stoner doom and into more lysergic territory.


"Exploring the claustrophobic void of space" is how Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships describe their music making process and there is very much a claustrophobic element to much of what goes down on  their latest EP "Rosalee". The trio create a groove and sound that feels  more like an implosion than it is does an explosion, the bands low slung riffs and rhythms collide and crash into one another like matter falling into a gaping black hole, their grooves slowly gathering in mass until collapsing in on themselves under the immensity of their own weight, Jeremy Warner's clean melodic vocals the last pinpoint of light in the all consuming darkness, or to put it another way... some damn heavy shit!
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Friday, 12 November 2021

BLACK SOLSTICE ~ EMBER .... review

 


Black Solstice guitarist Anders Martinsgård is an awful tease, long before Black Solstice were officially "a band" Anders would drop little video snippets on social media sites of what he was working on with (what was then) an unnamed band, wickedly whetting our appetites with promises of grooves yet to come. This was not a new phenomenon for Anders as he would often do the same when he was with his previous band Ponamero Sundown, sending to Hard Rock Revolution, an online forum Desert Psychlist was a part of, teasers for upcoming releases by the band. The best thing about Mr Martinsgård's little game was that whatever he promised he always delivered on and nothing has changed in that respect, That unnamed band we saw working on songs has now become a fully fledged unit with Anders holding down guitar duties joined by his old Ponamero Sundown bandmate Peter Eklund on drums, Lelle B Falheim on bass and Magnus Lindmark on guitar and vocals, and those riffs and licks that the band were trying to flesh out have become songs in their own right and now grace the bands debut album "Ember" ( Cd; Ozium Records, Vinyl; Majestic Mountain Records)

"Ember" opens with "Intervention" a brief instrumental that begins life on a wave of screaming feedback segues into a circular groove driven by tribal -like percussion and then finishes the way it started, its a strange introduction but it does set the scene for "Firespawn" a song that boasts a similar circular refrain.as its fall-back, we say fall back because that refrain is the only constant in a groove that never stays still with Martinsgård and Lindmark riffing and soloing sometimes in unison, sometimes in competition while drummer Ekland and  bassist Falheim test them with a diverse array of rhythmic meters and tempos. Lindmark also handles vocal duties his voice possessing an unusual clean weary tone that although not powerful, in a rock god sense, nonetheless sits comfortably on the ears. Title track "Ember" is a next and has a groove that sits somewhere between old school heavy metal and the type of hard rock that was the territory of bands like Thin Lizzy and UFO. "Calls From The Deamons" follows and although boasting doomic flavoured lyrical content the song rolls nicely along on a strident heavy rock groove, something that is continued on "Signs of Wisdom" only here the band stagger the pace with some nice shifts in tempo while, despite its reference to  a Flying V, also throwing in the occasional Iommi type guitar lick and while we are talking Iommi it has to be said that the following hazy trippy instrumental "Celestial Convoy" is not too far removed from Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" in both name and feel. "Part Of Me" and ""Sweet Misery" both follow a hard 'n' heavy rock blueprint and both are full of crunching riffs and hard riven rhythms with the latter standing out just that bit prouder than the former due to the flow and lilt of its vocal melody. Penultimate track  "Burned By The Sun" is a superb mid tempo rocker that unashamedly borrows, plunders and steals from every 70's and 80's rock band you have ever laid your riff beaten ears on, as well as a few you may not have, yet still manages to sound fresh and original. "If We Fall" closes the album and begins life with a crescendo of thunderous riffery then melts into a laid back doomic lament that has the feel of something Candlemass or Solitude Aeturnus might have attempted back in the day, however that only tells half the story as around the mid-song mark the band ascend into a chugging, almost proto-metal refrain with the vocals following a similar path before a searing guitar solo signals the grooves descent back into mellower waters.

If you were forced to stick a label on what Black Solstice bring to the table with "Ember" it would have to be "hard rock", the dynamics that the band employ throughout the the ten songs that make up this debut are far closer to hard or heavy rock than they are the stoner rock they will undoubtedly and wrongly get tagged with, maybe not so much the early 70's model of hard rock but most certainly its later 70's/80's model, and that can never be a bad thing in our book.
Check it out .....

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 7 November 2021

THE CROW'S EYE ~ THE CROW'S EYE ...... review

 

Sleaziness is not something you usually associate with doom metal, horror the occult and Satanism are all a given but sleaze not so much. Maryland's The Crow's Eye however are the exception, here are a band who are wholly adept at laying down dank dark grooves of a proto-doomic nature but are just as adept at bringing to the altars of doom elements of inner-city griminess and urban commentary, elements that run rife through all of the eight songs that make up their self titled debut "The Crow's Eye"


"Don't look into the eyes of a crow, (it'll) steal your soul" is the advice given on first track out of the bag "The Eyes of a Crow" these sage words imparted to the listener in a heavily filtered vocal over a backdrop of Zeppelin-esque bluesy doomic groove awash with warm grainy fuzz. Lyrically the song has all the attributes you would expect from something pitched within the doom canon, mention of Lovecraftian like "sacred groves" and "days of old", but are then offset with warnings about telling children "not to play out in the road" a line that has the effect of placing the songs imagery in a more urban scenario. Next track "All Is Pain" is a heady piece that begins life in the fast lane then morphs into trippy heavy psych and would probably float away into the turquoise skies if it were not for the equally exquisite bass line that keeps it anchored to the ground while "Dying In The USA" borrows a riff from Sabbath's "War Pigs" before going off on a tangent into lysergic waters and playfully bastardizing Bruce Springsteen's chorus from "Born In The USA" for the now generation. "Crawl A Little Closer" is a powerful tome that scores high on the sleazeometer, its bluesy guitar motifs screech and scream over and around a filthy stonerized blues groove while the singer tells of "dying everyday" and "crying tears of acid rain" in a voice racked with mournful gravitas. "Die Alone" follows next its full on angular attack is driven hard by some incredibly busy drumming and is decorated in a heavily filtered and gloriously hazy vocal. "Reap The Whirlwind", and its follow up "Awaken The Beast" are both steeped in heavy bluesiness with the former having a more traditional feel and the latter leaning towards a more stonerized dynamic. Final song "I Got A Bad Reputation" finds The Crow's Eye bowing out on a slow blues bereft of the filtered vocal effects and trippy lysergic doomic dynamics, that have up until now been their signature, and instead playing it straight and in doing so showing that beneath all their vocal effects and fuzz pedals they are also a very credible classic rock band. 


Sleazy, off kilter bluesy doom heavily tinted with elements of lysergic colouring is what The Crow's Eye bring to the table with their debut album, their version of doom has a modernistic urban slant that takes doom out of the unconsecrated cemetery's and altars that have been its home for so long and places it slap back in the streets where we live. 
Check 'em out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Friday, 5 November 2021

BLIND TENDRIL ~ α ...... review

 Let us start by thanking, UK residing Greek band, Blind Tendril for calling their latest release "α" and causing us no end of grief by having to cut and paste every time we mention the albums title in this review, use the alternative keyboard we hear you shout, we did but the code Google suggested for the alpha symbol gave us us a completely different symbol altogether. Good natured rant over lets get on with dissecting this stunning release.

Liquid toned guitar chords that have an almost Cure like feel open first track "Dead Trees" and that on its own tells you more about where Blind Tendril stand musically than a thousand words could. Blind Tendril are not your archetypical underground rock band , yes they have crunching riffs and hard driving rhythms to spare but they also have melodies, ear catching choruses, alt-rock flavoured dynamics and a penchant for writing songs that "swing". It would not come as too much of a surprise to hear something from "α" make its way on to the playlist of some mainstream rock radio DJ's show as songs like "Genetic Freaks" and "Brace" certainly contain more than an element of "crossover" appeal. However having said that, there are also songs, like the excellent "Hanging By A Thread", which features Bjorn Strid (Soilwork/ The Night Flight Orchestra) on vocals, where the band show they can get down dirty and gnarly if  the mood/song so dictates. There will be many who may pick up on a slight Alice In Chains feel to some of the grooves and vocal inflections on "α", as well as some rather exotic influences ,whether AIC were a large influence on the band is not known but those exotic elements are totally intentional the band taking traditional eastern instrumentation and mixing it with more modern equipment to give their sound a more layered effect and international flavour.


Blind Tendril, Dimitris (vocals/guitar); Jonny (guitar); Rob (bass) and Cameron (drums), started their musical journey in 2006 in Thessaloniki, Greece but have since relocated to the lush countryside of Devon, UK, quite why they made the move you will have to ask the band but if living in this green and (occasionally) pleasant land is even partly responsible for the superb grooves they unleash upon us with "α" then they are more than welcome to stay here until their bones crumble into the Devonshire dust. 
Check 'em out ....

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 2 November 2021

ANCIENT DAYS ~ SIGN OF THE TIMES ...... review

 

A year ago Desert Psychlist penned a few words on Indianapolis, Indiana band Ancient Days Bandcamp page, regarding their album "Black Magic Nights", we stated that we dug the albums heavy doomic bias but found it  "a little generic and Hammer House of Horrors" in places. Whether our little blurb went down well with the band we never found out but over the last year there has certainly been somewhat of a sea change in the bands approach to their music. On their latest album "Sign of the Times" they have seemingly jettisoned the more stoner doomic aspects of their sound and embraced a more expansive dynamic, a dynamic that is still very much within the canon of doom but also encompasses elements of old school classic rock and heavy metal.


Ominous swathes of organ combined with spoken narrative opens first track "Intro/White Smoke" then segues into a groove built around what sounds like Native American rhythms, Derek Fletcher's voice, aided with a little echo, soars above Jake Dwiggins tribal beats and Brian Yates' liquid bass lines in tones strong and powerful Alex Wangombe's keys, comping just beneath the vocal, giving the song an extra dimension of depth and texture, Papillon Burkett who up until now has been content to lay down crunching chord progressions and tasty licks unleashes a scorching feel drenched solo at the three quarter mark to take things to the close. "Uncle Acid" is up next and literally prances out of the speakers on a riff you'll be remembering long after its last note has faded into the void while "Black Shadows" proves there is still doom running through this bands veins but only this time that doom has a more traditional flavour. The doom continues to flow through next track "The Conjuring" an atmospheric number made even more atmospheric by Wangombe's cathedral sounding keyboards, the song also highlights the bands new found confidence in their own abilities by suddenly shifting up the gears and finishing on a rampant heavy psych wig-out. The first part of "Welcome To Hell" could almost be called a "boogie" its strident up-tempo groove, periodically interrupted by an ear catching guitar motif, is full on and in your face and is accompanied by a superb Fletcher vocal but as we learnt in the last song this is a band who have now thrown off the shackles and are unafraid to take chances and so for the second half of the song the band launch into a blistering instrumental jam that finds Burkett throwing every guitar trick and lick he has ever learned into the ring to great effect. There is a slight return to old ways with "Trail of Serpent", a song that also features producer Kamaron Lockwood on guitar, but do not worry because although there are parts to this piece that are low slow and damn heavy those parts are countered by an almost Doors-ish dynamic sitting beneath a powerful lay preacher like vocal. Desert Psychlist has no idea if Ancient Days are familiar with the UK's low- budget sci-fi TV franchise DR, WHO but the opening riff to next track "Night Witches" is very reminiscent of that shows theme tune, that aside the song is one that undulates between traditional doom and its more galloping proto cousin and boasts an absolutely mind-blowing solo from Burkett. All good things have to come to an end and with "The Devil Made Me Do It" Ancient Days end this good thing with an absolute banger, an atmospheric lament decorated in a superb Fletcher vocal and  underpinned by Yates' booming bass and Dwiggins solid tight percussion,  the song is given further depth and gravitas by Wangombe utilising both piano and organ to give the song added  texture while Burkett peels off searing emotion drenched solos.


With "Sign of the Times" Ancient Days  may have, with the exception of Green Lung's excellent "Black Harvest", made one of the best keyboard drenched doom flavoured albums of the year. The slow. low and heavy grooves of the bands previous output were always a pleasurable listen but you were often left with the feeling that they were missing that vital element that could give their grooves the wings they needed to really fly. That element, whatever it was, has thankfully been found and with "Sign of the Times" Ancient Days have transformed their sound from what were once leaden trudges across dank mires into boundless gallops through sun dappled forests.
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Monday, 1 November 2021

CONFUSION MASTER ~ HAUNTED ..... review

 

Today is Halloween in the UK so what better time could there be to being reviewing an album entitled "Haunted" (Exile On Mainstream) , an album from a collective called Confusion Master hailing from Rostock, Germany who some may remember from their 2018 debut "Awaken" or their 2020 "Split" with metallic punksters Angoisse. Confusion Master, Mathias Klein (bass); Stephan Gottwald (drums); Gunnar Arndt (guitars/fx) and Stephan Kurth (guitars/fx/vocals), are a band who, in their own words, "walk traditional doom paths, deeply rooted in sabbathian mud" while explaining that they also have a tendency for leaning towards "sludge and underground hardcore". A heady mix you might be thinking, and you would be right in your thinking, especially when you factor in that the band also have penchant for a spot of heavy psych too.

A high pitched droning effect opens first track "Viking X" followed by a brief period of grainy guitar noise, the band then explode into a groove that although possess a proto-metallic vibe is most definitely rooted in doom and predominately the "stoner" variety. The band have been compared with Electric Wizard by their record company and there are places throughout this song and the rest of "Haunted" where you can hear why that comparison has been made, there is a similar crushing gnarliness in the guitar tones and like Electric Wizard Confusion Master tend to use volume as weapon of mass destruction, but to our ears there is a little more going on with these Germans, especially given their preferences for the occasional wade into more lysergic waters. Vocals throughout the album are delivered at the monotonic end of the spectrum yet at the same time are melodic and easy on the ear and their clean delivery works perfectly as a counterbalance to the heavy sonic barrage constantly being unleashed above and beneath them. As with many bands within the underground rock scene these days Confusion Master supplement their vocals with occasional sampled narrative but these snippets are not thrown in randomly but are cleverly placed so as to add atmosphere and a degree of context to the lyrical content of each song they appear on. As we said earlier Confusion Master's groove predominantly dwells within the realms of stoner doom but that doesn't mean they should be just dismissed as just another low, slow and heavy outfit as there are moments on songs like "The Cannibal County Maniac", "Casket Down" and "Jaw on a Hook" where the music steps outside of itself and begins to explore newer avenues, admittedly these moments are rare but when they do crop up they tend to send shivers down the spine.


If you are a fan of bands like Electric Wizard, Sleep and Monolord or have a leaning towards the likes of Dopelord or Spelljammer then you will find plenty of common water to rock your boat in on Confusion Master's "Haunted", this is an album that ticks all the heavy boxes but hides beneath its tough dark exterior nuggets of bright shiny silver that occasionally glisten in the sunlight.
Check it out ...... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Friday, 29 October 2021

GREEN LUNG ~ BLACK HARVEST ..... review


As exporters of heavy music we in the UK can feel rightly proud, since as way back as the mid sixties we have consistently delivered the goods, giving the world such heavy hitters as Cream, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, Deep Purple, Judas Priest and Iron Maiden, and that's without mentioning the so-called mid table bands like Budgie, The Groundhogs, Hawkwind and so many others. One might think that the flow of ass-kicking British bands might have curtailed with the passage of time, or at the very least been stemmed somewhat, but with the emergence of British bands like Boss Keloid, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Sound of Origin and the subject of this review, Green Lung, it would seem as though its business as usual in good 'ol Blighty.

Green Lung, Tom Templar (vocals); Scott Black (guitar); Joseph Ghast (bass); Matt Wiseman (drums) and John Wright (organ), have come a long way in a comparatively short space of time, the first green shoots of what this band would become and where they would be headed where planted with their demo "Green Man Rising" a promising two tracker that blended heavy psych with elements of hard rock and doom, it was a little raw and untamed but you could almost taste the potential within its grooves. The band followed this up with the EP "Free The Witch" a stunning collection of songs brimming over with raucous refrains and thunderous rhythms that also showed the band had an ear for a good melody. "Free The Witch" was good but what was about to come next was a game changer. "Woodland Rites", the bands debut full album, sent the over-ground and the underground press into virtual meltdown with Kerrang magazine calling it "‘Killer, sample-strewn psych-doom" and Metal Hammer describing it as "Surging with all the druggy riffs and spooky psychedelia you could ever want", it also made March 2019's #1 spot on that bastion of monthly good taste The Doom Charts beating some serious contenders to get there. The critical success of "Woodland Rites" meant that the bands next album needed to be something special, a big ask but it is one Green Lung's latest release "Black Harvest" delivers on.


There is an occult/pagan vibe to much of Green Lung's themes and that is reflected in the opening vocal to opening track "The Harrowing", Templar urging us to "Come up to the hill for The Harrowing" in sombre tones backed by ominous dark droning noise, the song then exploding into a metallic groove decorated in exquisite swathes of swirling organ and neo-classical guitar textures backed by thunderous drumming and bone shaking bass. Next up is "Old Gods" a stonking rocker with more than a pinch of  Celtic flavouring in its sonic attack, imagine Pagan Altar jamming with Deep Purple and you might just get a handle on what you are hearing, however as the songs seems to be reaching a noisy crescendo it suddenly and quite unexpectedly shifts into a slightly mellower groove that features some clever vocal interplay and  trade off harmonies  If "Old Gods" was Green Lung channelling their inner Deep Purple then next track  "Leaders of The Blind" is them paying homage to Uriah Heep, the songs strident organ rich grooves frame a clean melodic vocal that is further enhanced by Scott Black's scorching lead work. Next track "Reaper's Scythe" continues the Heep-ish attack of its predecessor but throws a little occult rock flavouring into the mix to spice things up while "Graveyard Sun" brings things down to tell a vampiric love story lamenting dawn's that will never come against a suitably atmospheric musical backdrop. Title track "Black Harvest" is an instrumental, although it does contain some Gregorian-like cadences in its moody intro, and gives the listener the chance to really appreciate what a superb musical unit this band have become without the distraction of a vocal, Wiseman's busy thunderous drums and Ghast's winding bass lines laying down a solid foundation of rhythmic might for Wright and Black to launch off on their respective flights of fancy. "Upon The Altar" finds Green Lung going all in on an occult flavoured rocker that is full to brimming over with Dennis Wheatley style lyrical imagery, Templar promising to "deliver to the devil a daughter" in clean but sinister tones. The band shift tack slightly for next song "Bear The Mark", the band hitting into a groove that although still heavy has a  slightly more old school hard rock meter. "Doomsayer" mixes Green Lung's classic rock leanings with a little proto-metallic doom, if you are one of those rare beasts that shudder when confronted with the sound of keyboards then this is not the song for you as Wright is all over this, his swirling keys swooping in and out of the dark refrains that surround them, his playing supporting  Black's scorching guitar riffs and solos in places replacing them in others. "Born to a Dying World" closes the album and is a song with gentle/heavy/gentle dynamic, quaint and folk-like one minute, searing hot and heavy the next ,the songs barely concealed green message finding Templar mournfully bemoaning a world doomed by those inhabiting it..


If you are a fan of the organ heavy classic rock of bands like Deep Purple and Uriah Heep, have a hankering for the folk-tinted doom of Pagan Altar but also get off on the 00's occult rock of Blood Ceremony and The Devil's Blood then Green Lung's "Black Harvest" is an album sure to tick all your relevant boxes and will also explain why one of Britain's major newspapers, The Guardian, called Green Lung "'Britain’s finest folk horror-indebted heavy metallers'
Check 'em out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Monday, 25 October 2021

REDSCALE ~ THE OLD COLOSSUS ..... review


Germany's Redscale, Christian Reuter (guitars); Henning Claussen (vocals/guitars); Martin Stabler (drums) and Grant Price (bass), are a band who consistently deliver the goods and we can confidently announce that their new album "The Old Colossus" (Majestic Mountain Records) continues that tradition. If for some unknown reason you are unfamiliar with Redscale then let us tell you that this is a band who jam a metallic groove influenced by70's heavy rock and 90's stoner/desert rock, it is a sound built on raucous guitar riffs and insistent rhythms and it is one that will appeal to fans who like their rock to ROCK!


"On The Run" opens proceedings and employs that old standby of verse/ chorus/verse, something that is becoming increasingly rare these days, the song is a strident foot to the floor romp decorated with ear catching hooks, a duel guitar attack and powerful full on vocals, those that regularly moan on social media about stoner rock and metal becoming stale and one-dimensional obviously haven't listened to these guys yet. Having already got us on the ropes with their opening number Redscale proceed their assault with title track "The Old Colossus", lyrically the song has similarities with Nick Cave's "Right Red Hand" and Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" but with a more politically aware message, musically it is crunching riff monster with a groove so infectious it should carry a health warning. Stoner rock has always had an affinity with punk rock, many of the leading lights of the 90's desert/stoner scene cut their teeth in punk bands, and for "It's a Death Cult, Baby" go back to their punk roots with a song that is as furious as it is fun. Up until now its been full steam ahead assault on the senses but next track "Tabula Rasa" marks the beginnings of a pulling back on the reins with a song that could be described musically as a torch song, due to its undulating intensity, but lyrically deals with much darker subject matter, ambiguous lyrics that could be describing anything from the sudden cold shock of birth to the slow crumbling of a once fertile mind. "Hard To Believe" could almost be the sister piece to it's predecessor the song having much the same levels of intensity and torch-like dynamics only this time we are presented with lyrics that point to a more disturbed mind, someone with "secrets dark and terrible" who promises to "show you what’s there to find behind the curtain". Instrumental, "Wall of Bricks", ups the tempo slightly and allows the band to don their heavy psych caps while "Of Wealth and Taste" finds the band mixing up their stoner with a smattering of doom. "At The End" is a for most part a vehicle for voice and acoustic guitar its folk/Americana feel broken only by a brief but soaring lysergic section. The album signs off with "The Lathe of Heaven" a mid to up- tempo number with a to die for groove this is packed to brimming over with crunching power chords and searing solos backed by tight solid drumming and deep low bottom end all of which is decorated in forceful vocals edged with an element of anger.


There are many describing this album as "pure" stoner rock but to Desert Psychlist's ears there is much more to this album than a few of fuzzed out riffs and hard driven rhythms, Redscale have a real understanding of songcraft and dynamics and how to pace a song so as to maximise its impact and for us, and maybe you, that places "The Old Colossus"  in "classic rock" territory.
Check it out ...

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 24 October 2021

SCARECROW ~ SCARECROW II ..... review


One of the more pleasant surprises of 2019 was the release of "Scarecrow" an enthralling slice of genuine sounding 70's flavoured proto-metal/hard rock from a Russian quartet trading under the same name. The band, Artemis (vocals); Elijah (bass); Vadim (drums) and Max (guitar), were probably taken aback somewhat by the reaction to their debut as it seemed everybody who mattered in the worldwide underground scene appeared to be falling over themselves to lavish praise on them and their grooves, and rightly so. Having such a well received debut however can throw up its own problems, the main problem being how do you follow up such an ass-kicking release when its fairly obvious your newly acquired fan-base are going to want more of the same but you as a band have a duty to yourselves to push your music forward. Well the band answer that question with "Scarecrow II", a stunning collection of songs that does not deviate too far from the blueprint the band drew up with "Scarecrow" but is innovative and daring enough not to sound like a re-creation of what has gone before.


Those who have delved a little deeper into Scarecrow's world will already know that the bands singer Artemis has a background in composing, arranging and conducting symphonic/orchestral music (check out his solo project  "Artemis' The Endless Journey: North") so it will come as no surprise that some of that work finds its way on to Scarecrow's new album. "The Endless Ocean Overture" opens "II" and has the feel of a soundtrack to a documentary or a movie, the pieces luscious strings, classical style piano and huge cavernous percussion, backed by sound effects of sea and wind, is an epic introduction, if a somewhat unusual one, to an album that gives a whole new meaning to the word diverse. In our review of the bands debut album we compared Artemis' vocals to those of  Rush's Geddy Lee and Budgie's Burke Shelley and we still stand by that opinion but there is also a touch of Wolfmother's Andrew Stockdale and Mark Melicia of The Parlor Mob to be found in his high wailing vocal style and this especially evident on next track "Blizzard" a song that in its initial stages boasts a heavy proto-metallic groove but then encapsulates elements of proggish jazziness into its sonic attack, guitarist Max throwing every rock guitar cliché in the book into his solos yet still making those solo's sound fresh, new and wholly original, doing this despite bassist Elijah and drummer Vadim's attempts to drown him out with the combined power of their ever shifting rhythmic backdrops. Every band has a blues song in them and Scarecrow are no exception and the one they bring to the table with "Magic Flower" is a blues of rare magnitude and is one with just the merest hint of Zeppelin-esque bluster about it with wailing harmonica and Jimmy Page like guitar textures pushed right to the fore and a "Whole Lotta Love" style lysergic section sitting smack bang in the middle. " Spirit Seducer" follows and and here we find Scarecrow still channelling Zeppelin but more in the way Canada's Rush did on their Neil Peart- less self-titled debut. Having ticked off the their Zeppelin and Rush boxes Scarecrow now concentrate their attentions on doom with the excellent "The Moors", Scarecrow's doom however is a complete departure from the doom of their peers and although it does carry elements of the proto-doomic dynamics, that were once the territory of  Black Sabbath and Pentagram, Scarecrow's doom is a much more complex and convoluted beast that incorporates swirling orchestral flourishes and bluesy psychedelic colourings. "The Mushroom King" follows and has a groove similar to something that Deep Purple or Uriah Heep might have attempted back in the day but one with a totally different vocal dynamic and one that occasionally deviates into folk -rock territory. Those folk-rock textures are expanded further on the gently rocking  and semi-acoustic "The Golden Times" before the band sign off with epic closer "The Endless Ocean", a enthralling musical piece that sees Artemis' orchestral skills and the rest of the bands abilities to rock out combining together to create a groove that ebbs and flows between symphonic and jazzy while touching all the relevant bases in-between.


Following up on the critical success of their debut was always going to be a big ask for Scarecrow but with "II" they have proved that they are a not just a one hit wonder and that they have the chops, the ideas and the songs to not only match the success they achieved with their debut but to surpass that success.
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Monday, 18 October 2021

MARAGDA ~ MARAGDA ..... review


Maragda, Marçal  (bass/vocals/synth); Guillem (guitar/vocals/synth) and Xavi (drums/vocals), are a trio from Barcalona, Spain who augment their sonic attack by use synths to add colour and texture to their  blend of heavy psych and complex prog, not to overpower their grooves but as a tool to expand those grooves and give them added depth and structure, to give their sound a fullness not usually associated with underground music. Don't get us wrong if you took the synths out of the equation Maragda would still be a band with the power to blow your mind to smithereens, and their self-titled album "Maragda" (Spinda Records, Necio Records & Nafra Records) would still be an album of the year contender but with those synths .....WOW!


"Maragda" is a concept album and that being the case it would be remiss of us if we didn't include the bands statement regarding the ideas behind the music, so here goes "This record tells the story of Maragda, a civilization that took refuge underground after the Great Disaster. Many years have passed now, and the memory of a life on the surface has completely faded. People live under the oppression of a totalitarian government, The Core, when suddenly a strange voice speaks inside their minds. After this call, a group of rebels launches an expedition through The Unknown, willing to discover the secrets of Maragda”. Whether this concept works in tying the seven songs that make up "Maragda" together is hard to say, the first two songs of the album, "The Core as the Whole" and "The Calling"  are clearly explained in the bands statement but after that, and without the benefit of having a full storyline to hand, things get a bit confusing as to how each of the following songs fit in with the story, so for the purposes of this review we will concentrate on each song as a separate entity and for its impact as a standalone piece. 
"The Core as the Whole" comes out of the traps on a wave screaming feedback then explodes into a riff laden groove that although is hard hitting and heavy nonetheless has an air of proggish complexity about it, this prog-like vibe is expanded upon when the song moves into its next phase and those riffs suddenly make way for ringing arpeggios and intricate chord progressions that glisten and sparkle around the low-key and beautifully melodic harmonies that accompany them. There are elements to be found here, and for that matter throughout this album, that will remind older listeners of both Rush and Yes, especially in the way Maragda go about constructing their songs, but there are also elements that will be familiar to those who regularly listen to the likes of Elder, All Them Witches and Howling Giant. "The Calling" follows and here we find Maragda channelling a little indie jangliness into their heavy prog and psych with the guitarist even throwing a little country rock flavoured shredding into the mix to make things even more  interesting while "The Hermit" finds the band getting a little angular and off kilter with circular guitar motifs vying for space with strident bass lines and insistent rhythms around which coolly executed harmonies ask us if  "reality goes any further". A low and gritty bass refrain introduces next track "Orb of Delusion" supported by restrained but effective percussion over which slightly echoed vocal harmonies waft their mellow magic, the song also boasts one of the albums best guitar solos, a scorching blend of structured dissonance and cosmic bluesiness. "Crystal Passage" follows and those synths we spoke of in our introduction piece are pushed to the fore to create a moody atmospheric instrumental that has a floating orchestral feel. Those synths are utilised a little differently for next track "Beyond The Ruins" cleverly giving the songs already strident and full on instrumental attack and upbeat vocal meters an added element of va-va-voom. For their final song, "The Blue Ceiling"" go all in on an enthralling and totally mesmerising instrumental that gives the guitarist free rein to explore everything from country style picking to Steve Howe-like prog shredding in his blistering solos.


"Maragda" is one of those albums that you could play a thousand times and on the thousandth time still find something new to send your mind into a spin. There is so much going on within these seven essential slices of metallic tinted prog and heavy psych that one sitting will never be enough to take it all in and that, my friends, is the hallmark of a truly great album.

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 14 October 2021

SNOWY DUNES ~ SASTRUGI ...... review


There was a time in the mid to late 70's when a modicum of mellowness and melody started creeping into heavy rock, it was a period that saw the rise of bands like Bad Company, Bachman-Turner Overdrive, Boston and early Foreigner, bands who when called upon could rock like a cradle in a hurricane but also had in their locker songs that could tug at your heartstrings and didn't just rely on a riff to grab their listeners attention. Sweden's Snowy Dunes, Niklas Eisen (lead vocals, percussion, acoustic guitar); Christoffer Kingstedt (electric guitars, guitorchestration); Carl Oredson (bass, keyboards, mellotron) and Jonathan Wårdsäter (drums, percussion) do not exactly work from the same blueprint that those bands used to propel their careers into the stratosphere, Snowy Dunes  grooves are a little bit too gnarly and gritty, but they do bring to underground rock many of those same attributes of songcraft, melody and soulful gravitas that saw those other bands become staples of worldwide rock radio stations, attributes that can be found scattered quite liberally throughout the five songs that make up the bands third album "Sastrugi


Title track "Sastrugi" (a word used to describe parallel wave-like ridges caused by winds on the surface of hard snow) kicks things off in grand style, with hardly an intro other than a brief shimmering effect the song jumps straight in to the vocal backed by any almost funkish hard rock groove with the guitar laying down an almost staccato like refrain beneath which booming bass and  thunderously busy drums keep things tight and on course while the singer tells us of being lost amid the snow in tones clean and powerful. If you are already familiar with Snowy Dunes you will know that they are not a band who like to stay stuck in one groove for the duration of a song and so its not long before the funky heaviness is jettisoned for a trip into lysergic territory, random whistling, reverberating guitar tones and hazy soulful vocals giving the songs latter section an almost spaghetti western/surf rock dynamic. The heady psychedelic feel of the latter part of the previous song is continued into next track "Let's Save Dreams" a song that sees Snowy Dunes recruiting a few friends to help fill things out, Alex Gatica contributing keys, acoustic guitar and backing vocals and Adele Friberg also adding her weight to the vocals. There is a trippy late 60's playfulness to this song that had Desert Psychlist reminiscing about Hollywood's attempts to portray pop culture on celluloid back in the heyday's of love and peace, if you close your eyes you can almost see the mini-skirted beauties and young men in tie-dyed shirts and beads dancing along to its eastern tinted grooves while their blue-rinsed elders look on disapprovingly. Following track "Great Divide" switches routinely between a laid back torch song and an out and out rocker with Eisen adjusting his vocal approach accordingly while "Medicinmannen" finds the band grooving melodic yet gritty on a song sang in their native Swedish, something that strangely has the effect of giving the song a Latinesque feel. For final track "Helios" Snowy Dunes opt for a mix of lounge lizard jazziness and psych tinted classic rock resulting in a groove that is reminiscent of The Doors in places but with a slightly more stoner-ish dynamic.


"Sastrugi" is probably Snowy Dunes most diverse and contemporary sounding album to date but do not take that as a bad thing, there is an uplifting feel to the grooves the band bring to the table with their third album that makes for a refreshing change from the doom and gloom we have been surrounded by over the last eighteen months.
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 10 October 2021

DIRELANDS ~ ASCENSION ..... review



Houston, Texas' Direlands may have come up with a unique marketing ploy regarding their artwork, the band released their first EP "The Cave You Fear" in October last year (2020) and this year they have released their second "Ascension", both releases sport exactly the same artwork with the only difference being "Ascension" has an extra splash of colour added to its skyline. Desert Psychlist may be wrong but we suspect that the bands next release will sport the same artwork again and another colour will be added and that this will continue EP by EP until we are presented with a full completed piece. If this is the bands intention then its a great idea but in order to achieve this goal and get listeners to buy into their concept the band need the grooves that will back up that concept, thankfully Direlands have those grooves.


Direlands call themselves an "American heavy metal band" who draw their inspiration from "classic metal, the occult, conspiracies, and a prevailing dystopic worldview". Now while there is no doubting Direlands "classic metal" credentials,  Maiden -esque galloping bass lines, crunching riffs, finger blurring guitar solos and insistent driving rhythms can all be found in abundance here,  there are also aspects of Direlands sound that owes much to more modern doom and stoner metal. This is no more evident than on opening number "Singularity", the songs gnarly riffs and thunderous rhythms are delivered at a few BPM's beneath thrash tempo with plenty of interesting twist and turns along the way while vocalist Jarett Dureell shreds his vocal chords to ribbons with a demonesque delivery that reminded Desert Psychlist somewhat of a slightly hoarser Emil Johansson (Ordos). Following track,"Doombringer", is probably more doomic than it is actual doom and what we mean by that statement is that although there are elements of doom to be found here, especially in some of guitarist Troy Binegar and bassist Patrick Gerek's choices of riffs, the overall vibe is still one of old school metal and in particular that NWOBHM groove beloved of Iron Maiden, Judas Priest and bands of that ilk. All the best metal bands have one of those slow burning torch songs that will induce mass swaying and the holding up of lighters and Direlands is "Blood Moon" an atmospheric number, underpinned by some intricate percussion work from Daniel Thompson, that builds and builds layer by layer before signing out not on the screaming finale you might have expected but on an equally satisfying dark stuttering riff. "Beyond The Horizon" closes  proceedings and is a song that opens up the playground for "old school" metal to mix together with its "new school" cousins doom and stoner metal, Gerek and Thompson lay down a superbly shifting rhythmic platform for Binegar to garnish with soaring technical solos and Iommi-esque riffs over which Dureell flexes his rock god muscles almost coming over like a demonically possessed Bruce Dickenson in places, not so much harnessing the same air raid siren power of the Maiden frontman but certainly matching him in the meter of his delivery.


Direlands have with "Ascension" taken the vibe of the traditional metal many of us grew up listening to and blended it with elements of the harsher edged metal that popular today, melding these two metallic styles together to create a groove that should appeal to fans of both styles without having to compromise their sound or their dynamic
Check 'em out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones