Monday, 26 July 2021

CAVERN DEEP ~ CAVERN DEEP ..... review

Sweden's Cavern Deep, Max Malmer (bass, vocals); Dennis Sjödin (drums) and Kenny Oswald Dufvenberg (guitars, vocals), have a story to tell, an adventure story of sorts, an adventure, like many adventures, that is driven by obsession and greed, a story brought to you via the medium of music and most specifically doom, this is that story...... 

One archaeologist and 49 men stand at the gates of a previously unknown civilization, for a moment staring down into the bowels of the mountain before they begin their decent. The journey downwards turn out to be more dangerous than expected, they climb down through whirling stairs lit only by organic fluorescent lights..
Further down the path turns more and more crumbled, eventually they must use ropes to traverse the broken bridges and tunnels over the deep chasms below. Filled by the promise of treasure they continue downwards.
Many men go missing as they’re tasked to explore diverting tunnels, they never return and their screams are followed by silence. the only thing found is their safety ropes, driven by greed the archaeologist continues the expedition.

If this brief outline of the concept behind Cavern Deep's self-tiled opus "Cavern Deep" has captured your interest then please read on....


Unlike many "concept" albums, that tend to go off piste along the way, "Cavern Deep" sticks very much to its storyline, as the narrative of this tale begins with the expedition staring down into the bowels of a mountain then naturally it would make sense to begin with a song called "Staring Down". If ever a song captured the mix of excitement, awe and trepidation felt when undertaking a journey into the unknown then "Staring Down" is that song, its atmospheric backdrop of dark thrumming riffs and ringing arpeggios, driven by powerful percussion and low growling bass, sits dankly and darkly behind a vocal that is clean, powerful and cultured and captures perfectly, in its gravid tones, the mood of the stories adventurers as they struggle with the enormity of the choices they have made. "Abandoned Quarters" follows and chronicles our explorers reaching an abandoned settlement where something amiss has transpired, the songs lyrics telling us of "signs of struggle, empty husks, scattered bones, gates unhinged", these lines delivered in low almost weary vocal tones over a sedate and intense groove that crackles with tension and only really explodes into doomic heaviness when it approaches the chorus. "Ominous Garden" is up next and begins with shimmering percussion beneath a repetitive, almost see-sawing, guitar motif  interspersed with Floydian flavoured lead, the song gradually increasing in tempo and intensity, with the vocals following suite, as the stories brave travellers realise that this no ordinary garden . The sound of dripping water and deep low slung bass heralds in "Waterways" accompanied by an even lower pitched vocal, here we find our party struggling to come to terms with the deep chasms and broken walkways that bar their way once they have left the garden, the song sees bassist Malmer and guitarist Dufvenberg trading off and harmonising on the vocals over a doomic, almost gothic feeling groove beneath which Sjödin lays down a thunderous mixture of restrained and unrestrained percussion. Lyrically the song highlights the growing terror and mistrust that is starting to spread throughout the party fuelled by the realisation that the chances of surviving this expedition are growing thinner by the hour, "aspirations begin to fade" sing our narrators, adding sardonically "the weak shall sink into their graves". Up next is "Leap Of Faith" a short doomic tome, that could almost be classed as being "traditional" if it were not for its dissonant guitar textures, which is then followed by the equally doomic and equally as short "Deeper Ground" both songs chronicling the explorers descent into the deepest bowels of the earth and the cost of that descent in both their lives and their sanity. "Fungal Realm" moves the story away from being one of men struggling to overcome obstacles and becomes one of men facing unspeakable horror, a horror that comes in the shape of something that is neither plant, mammal, insect or bacteria yet possesses characteristics that can be found in all four. " look behind, the chosen few, growing mounds I think they knew, life of sons will become food of gods, stay as one" sings the narrator/vocalist in low wearied tones over a backdrop of dank doom, made even danker and doomier by its sedate tempos and liquid-like guitar effects. Finally we arrive at "The Dark Place" and with all his companions absorbed into one by their fungal hosts it is left to our intrepid archaeologist to finish what he has started and take that final step. Entering a darkened room the archaeologist comes face to face with a dark and ancient entity who has for eons patiently been waiting for this encounter in order to hand over the reins of his fungal kingdom and in turn gain his own freedom. This chain of events is played out against a soundtrack of low slow and atmospheric doom that both musically and lyrically captures the narrators feelings of fear, despair and finally resignation, the narrators last agonies captured perfectly in the songs last verse, "Like a child I try to scream from the top of my lungs, suffocating from within I give in to blissful sleep finally relieved, we are lost; Cavern Deep".


Many conceptual albums can get a little complex and convoluted, the bands involved using their concepts/themes as just a convenient platform from which they can then take off into the cosmos on extended instrumental jams that, to the casual listener, often seem to have little or nothing do with the albums original concept. There are very few concept albums that stick rigidly to an original idea and tell a story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, " Cavern Deep" however is one of those rare albums where this does happen. Cavern Deep (the band) have perfectly synced their lyrical content with their musical content on "Cavern Deep" to tell a tale that incorporates all the elements that you would expect from such a story and they have done so without ever feeling the need to go off on unexpected and unrelated tangents that might have otherwise distracted attention away from what is an absorbing and spine-chilling tale of adventure, hardship and Lovecraftian horror.
Check it out ....

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 24 July 2021

PLANET OF THE DEAD ~ PILGRIMS ...... review


"For fans of classic science fiction and supermassive riffs" screams the legend on sci-fi obsessed quartet Planet of the Dead's Bandcamp page and just one listen to their latest album "Pilgrims" will confirm the validity of that statement. If you had the privilege of hearing the bands debut "Fear of a Dead Planet" you will already know that Planet of the Dead, Mark Mundell (vocals); Malcolm McKenzie (guitar); Kees Hengst (bass) and Josh Hussey (drums), have a sonic attack made up of a heavy and loud blend of swampy sludge and gnarly stoner metal informed by themes gleaned from sci-fi comics, films and novels, new album "Pilgrims" is no different except this time around maybe just that little heavier, that touch gnarlier and that much more sci-fi obsessed.


Let's get one thing straight here and that is subtlety is not big on Planet of the Dead's list of priorities the Wellington, New Zealand combo like to hit hard and ask questions later, this is not to say that their grooves are full on and in your face at all times, there are times when they do take their foot from the metal and ease off on the gas, but those times are few and far between. There is nothing wrong with grooves that sit fairly constantly at the full on and heavy end of the groove spectrum, after all its worked pretty well for PotD's Australian neighbours AC/DC, but a little contrast can certainly help now and then and that contrast is provided here, amongst all the down tuned riffage and thundering rhythms, by the odd forays into spacier heavy psych territories, these moments are rare but they do serve to break up the intensity of PotD's sonic onslaughts and in doing so they provide a much more rounded and enjoyable listening experience. Musically the bands sound is closer to a stoner rock/metal dynamic than it is to doom or sludge, the bands overall sound on songs like title track "Pilgrims", "The Sprawl", "Directive IV" and "The Great Wave" is one of heavily fuzzed out raucousness rather than one of crushing over-distorted brutality, the bands sludge factor (if you can call it that) comes not from the tones of its guitars and the power of its rhythms, which are both immense, but from the thick semi-guttural attack of it vocals, front man Mark Mundell possessing the sort of bear like growl that would send seasoned woodsmen running for the shelter and safety of their cabins, it is this voice those tones and those rhythms combined with those rare moments of subtle cosmicness that make this album such a trip and a "pilgrimage" well worth embarking upon.


"Pilgrims" is an intense, heavy and powerful album but one that doesn't take its heaviness and intensity to such ridiculous levels that everything just becomes an unlistenable onslaught of brutal noise, Planet of the Dead make music that will appeal not only to those who like their grooves sitting precariously on the edges of the extreme but also to those who like their heaviness a little more accessible.
Check 'em out .... 
 
© 2021 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 22 July 2021

THE AGE OF TRUTH ~ RESOLUTE ...... review

Treading a line between what has gone before and what is of the now can be hard trick for a band to pull off , the balance of old school values like melody and songcraft with the swagger bite and full on attack of more modern era rock is precarious, too far one way and you start to fall into retro/mainstream territory too far the other way and you start to look and sound like your trying too hard to be something you are not completely comfortable with being. Kevin McNamara (vocals); Michael DiDonato (guitars); Scott Frassetto (drums and percussion) and William Miller (bass), the guys that make up Philadelphian quartet The Age Of Truth, do not have that problem they are a band who will readily admit they draw from the past but will also tell you that they do so in order to make music that is relevant to the here and now, something they demonstrate to great effect on their second full length album "Resolute".

Soulful, bluesy and melodic are all words you could use to describe The Age Of Truth's sonic onslaught but you could easily just as well use words like heavy, blustering and metallic as a description because The Age Of Truth are that band who bring it all to the table. This is a band who will appeal not only to the stoners and doomers who frequent the underbelly of the rock scene but also those mainstreamers above ground sporting their Greta Van Fleet tees and those still stuck in a time warp who never listen to anything that came out after 1978. In other words The Age Of Truth are all things to all men and women and anyone in this day and age who might fall between. On songs with titles like "Palace of Rain", ""A Promise of Nothing", "Salome" and "Return to the Ships" the band bring not only the crunching refrains and thunderous rhythms of the underground rock scene, in all its various guises, but also the sort of dynamics that many might consider to be of a "classic rock" flavour, combining these elements behind a vocal that in its upper register has a howling rock god type timbre and at its lower end has a touching weary soulfulness. 


The Age Of Truth's "Resolute" is a stunning collection of songs guaranteed to remain in the memory long after the last note has faded into silence, an album, like those classic albums of the past, that you will want to come back to again and again and again. This is essential listening!!!!!
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Friday, 16 July 2021

BIS-NTE/MILANA ~ MALLORCA STONER VOL. 1 - SPLIT ...... review


That age old question arises on Desert Psychlist today, do we, a UK based review site, use the Anglicized spelling for the largest of the Balearic Islands or do we go with the Spanish/Catalan spelling, in other words do we go with Majorca or do we go with Mallorca? Well since the subjects of this review both hail from the aforementioned island and are, for "Mallorca Stoner Vol. 1", signed to Discos Macarras Records, a Spanish label based in Catalonia, we will therefore go with Mallorca.
The two bands in question are Bis-NteMaria J (vocals); Vicente Paya (guitars); Andrea Trujillo (bass) and Pablo Herrero (drums), and Milana, Pedro Ingles (vocals); David Oliver (guitars); Guillem Morey (bass) and Edu Biurrun (drums), of these two bands it may be Bis-Nte who may be the more familiar having released one full length album," Ancestral Punishment" (Xtreem Music) prior to this while Milana have to date only released one single "White Buffalo" (which also features on this split).


There are two distinct and different approaches to the doom genre to be found on this marvellous little gem of a split, on one half you have two songs from Bis-Nte a band who tread territories not too dissimilar to those inhabited by Windhand, Acid King and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats while on the other half you have two tracks from Milana a band with a much more proto sound that incorporates elements of stoner, classic and hard rock as well as a touch of soulful bluesy swagger into its sonic attack. Now it might seem strange to some to couple together two bands who come at the same genre from two completely different directions but then  just as strangely this coupling pays unexpected dividends. Bis-Nte's  two songs, "Unbalanced" and "Involuntary Act" may have their roots planted deep in the fetid soil of unhallowed ground but for all their dankness and melancholy these songs are not one-dimensional dirges, both songs have uplifting moments where the gloom clears and a ray of light comes shining through and most of those moments come courtesy of Maria J whose vocals are delivered in unhurried smooth clean tones and work as the perfect counterbalance for the superbly dank dark grooves the rest of the band lay beneath her. Milana's two songs, "White Buffalo" and "Forest Tale", in contrast start their lives in the sunshine and then routinely dip their toes into darkness, the band hitting grooves on their brace of songs that are for the most part crunching heavy and upbeat but are prone to sudden dives into murkier waters, tarrying there for a while before just as suddenly resurfacing into the light. Milana, like Bis-Nte, also boast an impressive vocalist, Pedro Ingles has the  roar of a lion at the top end of his range but croons with an unexpected soulful grittiness at the other end of his vocal spectrum, both dynamics perfectly complimented by the band he stands in front of.


Putting two Mallorcan bands together on one release is a great way to promote Mallorca's somewhat overlooked underground scene, it is also a great way to throw a spotlight on two bands whom may have otherwise slipped under the radar if it wasn't for this diamond of a split. 
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 15 July 2021

GODS & PUNKS ~ THE SOUNDS OF THE UNIVERSE ........ review


Brazil's Gods & Punks have fast become one of Desert Psychlist's go to bands for those times when we need a lift from life's everyday trials and hardships, there is something uplifting and strangely life affirming about what this band deliver with their music and this holds true even when the band are dealing with subject matter of a darker denser content. Gods & Punks are a band who love a theme, to tell a story with their music and this has held true from their very first release to the one we are discussing in this review, the bands stories and songs may be set in fantastical landscapes we do not recognise but the narrative of those songs, veiled as it may be at times, is concerned with the planet we reside on and our interactions (or lack of) with that planet. Sci-Fi writers often release their books in a series, with each series being part of a bigger story and Gods & Punks have done something similar with their albums, " Into The Dunes of Doom", "Enter The Ceremony of Damnation" and "And The Celestial Ascension" are all chapters of what G&P call their "Voyage Series" this month the band bring us the latest instalment of that story with "The Sounds of the Universe".


Let's get one thing out of the way first and that is that some of the songs you will hear on "Sounds of the Universe" have appeared elsewhere, here though they appear in the context of the "Voyage" story remastered and re-imagined.  Now we have got that out of the way lets get down to the nitty gritty of reviewing this stunning album,  
"Eye In The Sky" opens this chapter of the "Voyage" series, its laid back almost lo-fi first section of gently strummed guitar, backed by tasteful Gilmour flavoured lead and restrained percussion is delivered beneath an equally restrained and laid back vocal, the song slowly builds but doesn't quite explode instead it swells in intensity and volume with the vocals taking on a more urgent tone while those Floydian style licks begin to adopt a grittier edge. "Ejection" follows and like its predecessor it begins sedate and languid with lilting harmonies floating serenely over a backdrop of  fractured chord voicings and liquid bass and again much like its predecessor there is no great explosion into a heavier dynamic but more of a gradual move towards that dynamic. Up next is "The TUSK" a song that resides very much within stoner/desert rock territory, warmly fuzzed guitar tones and insistent  percussion wrapped around a gritty but on the whole fairly clean and effective vocal. Next track "Nebula Haze" is an excellent instrumental that uses sampled narrative and soundbytes to tell its tale, it also has the distinction of being one of the very few non-live rock songs to include a drum solo. Where previously on "The Sounds of the Universe" Gods & Punks have shifted into a heavier dynamic via gentler beginnings on "Bad Apples" they just go for the throat from the outset, the song erupting from nothing into a dank doomic, almost Sabbath-esque refrain then shifting things into a funky stop/start shuffle when the vocals kick in before finally closing things out with a scorching bluesy guitar solo. A delicious bass motif opens the equally delicious "Dimensionaut" then is joined by the guitars and drums in a superbly effective spaced out stoner groove decorated in what we at Desert Psychlist consider to be one of the best vocals of the album. The band throw us an interesting curveball with their next song "Universe", its madrigal-like vocal melody and lilting musical accompaniment has an almost medieval feel that wouldn't have sounded too far out of place if it had  been played by a court musician in one of the great European throne rooms of the 16th century, however having said that the songs final heavier section might have caused a few ruffs to be ruffled and resulted in a few heads rolling. Penultimate song "All Systems Fail" is the albums second instrumental, its lo-fi and lysergic groove, played beneath a computer generated voice repeating the songs title, builds layer by layer until suddenly taking off into the cosmos on a wave of screaming guitar and thunderous percussion, the song is only just over three minutes long and it leaves you wishing it was much longer. Finally we arrive at last track "Gravity" a song that ups both the bands prog and doom quotient while at the same time managing to sound both spacey and stoner. 


Gods & Punks are, in Desert Psychlist's opinion, one of the best bands to have come out of Brazil, and given the depth of talent recently coming out of that country that is saying something indeed, a band who consistently deliver quality without ever sounding as if they are treading water or going over the same ground again and again. "The Sounds of the Universe" is the last mile of what has been a great journey, where they go next is anyone's guess but you can guarantee wherever it is it'll be worth the price of the ticket.
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Monday, 12 July 2021

THE HOLY CORRUPT ~ THE HOLY CORRUPT ..... review

Think California and you will probably immediately think of  blue skies and sunshine but for two Californian residents blue skies and sunshine are light years away from where their heads are at. For Donny Browne (guitar/vocals) and Alex Gerber (drums/percussion), the two guys who make up The Holy Corrupt, it is the darker side of life that holds sway they are a band whose musical themes are informed not by muscle cars, bikini clad beauties and the warmth of the sun's glow but by ornate horse drawn hearses, black clad hex casting crones and impenetrable mist covered landscapes, these themes delivered in grooves the band describe as being "heavy, sleazy, trippy, & slow", dynamics they use to great effect throughout the seven songs that make up their self-titled debut album "The Holy Corrupt" (Dead Sun Records). 

THC have an agenda and that agenda is to make " heavy, sleazy, doomy tunes to get stoned to" and it would be foolish to say they do not succeed in this endeavour, if there was ever a music that was better suited to taking a hit/lighting one up to then we at Desert Psychlist are yet to hear it. This is a band who play doom of the slow and low variety that has a hazy lysergic undercurrent perfectly suited to those of you out there who might enjoy smoking the occasional exotic cigarette, however please don't despair if you are not a fully paid up member of the Society of Weedians because there is still much to enjoy here. "The Witch Is Coming" kicks things off slow. low and heavy and for the most part stays that way for its duration, Browne crunching out  thick reverberating and distorted power chords that seems to hang in the air for an age before he brings his pick down on the strings to execute another while Gerber adds touches of  resounding thunder to the proceedings via his deliberate but nevertheless busy drumming. By now you are probably making comparisons with stoner doom/desert legends Sleep but THC's grooves are so sedate, so unhurried they almost make Matt Pike's boys look like a thrash band and Sleep certainly didn't have a vocalist of Browne's quality fronting their sonic onslaught. "I Want To Touch You" follows and despite its rather romantic sounding title is another slice of dank dark crushing  doom decorated in gnarly fuzz and distortion driven by the sort of  punishing percussion that makes you think of industrial machinery rather than one man with a couple of sticks hitting animal skins. The song also boasts a great vocal, Browne's clean strong baritone, edged with longing and melancholy soars majestically above the mayhem being despatched beneath it and in doing so adds a very pleasing degree of gravitas to what is basically a love song. "Backwoods Banshee" ups the tempo from stoner doom to something more akin to  "proto" pace but we are not talking a Sabbath-esque gallop across the fields here more a laboured preamble through thorny undergrowth. The band do however pepper things up with a few spicy curveballs along the way with Browne briefly reverting to a more demonic vocal approach mid song as well as the duo making a nicely executed side step into heavy psych territory that finds Gerber doing his best Bonham impersonation and Browne discovering is inner guitar hero .Up next is "Spacer" which is basically a chance to catch your breath, it is an experimental piece that unfortunately does nothing to enhance the bands reputation but then does nothing to diminish it either. The heavy psych aspects of the bands sound, briefly hinted at on "Backwards Banshee," are given free rein on instrumental "Earthed" while "Inflicter of Karma" finds the band back in low, slow and heavy stoner doom territory but this time with Browne's vocals laid a little further back in the mix. Final track, the epic "Come To Dying" could be the heaviest, most doomic heavy psych tome committed to tape in the history of psychedelic doom metal, it is a song with a wickedly dank and dark demeanour made even more dank and dark by Browne's guitar tones , his amps emitting a dark thrumming sound awash with gritty fuzz and distortion that when combined with Gerber's earth-shaking rhythms and the guitarists own powerful vocals creates a brooding atmospheric that has an almost gothic quality.


"The Holy Corrupt" is everything doom, as a music, should be, it is a dark dank atmospheric opus that lumbers and lurches along at tempos just short of crawling, it is an album tinted in psychedelic colours and textures but an album not overpowered by them, it is, as the band have already stated, an album to get stoned to.
Check it out ....

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 10 July 2021

DESERT DRUID AND THE ACID CARAVAN ~ THE VVITCH .... review


Horror movies have been the inspiration for so many bands over the years, let's remember that it was a horror movie that inspired four young Birmingham lads to change their name from Earth to Black Sabbath and also pen a song of the same name that would then propel their careers into the stratosphere and would Stourbridge's Witchfinder General have been called Witchfinder General if they hadn't seen Vincent Price's portrayal of the odious Matthew Hopkins in the 1968 British horror classic. Of course this doesn't only apply to English bands, all over the world the horror movie genre has had the same effect of inspiring bands to explore darker themes than those of teen love and broken hearts, a fact that brings us nicely around to the subject of this review. Brazil's Desert Druid and the Acid Caravan, F. Klinger (vocals/bass) Nass (vocals/guitar) and E. L (drums), are a band who readily hold their hands up to being inspired by early horror movies which in turn has led to an interest occultism and witchcraft the band weaving these influences and interests together to create a musical tapestry that mixes cloying dank doom with atmospheric heavy metal to create a sound that is both heavy yet at the same time strangely ethereal, so without further ado let us introduce you to "The VVitch"
 

If there is one complaint Desert Psychlist has about Desert Druid and the Acid Caravan's debut release it is that it is an EP as opposed to being a full length album, as the last note fades on these four songs you will soon find yourself hoping for just one more song, and we are sure if another song did miraculously appear you would be then wishing for yet one more, such is the impact and appeal of this Brazilian bands music. We suppose you could label what DDatAC do as proto-doomic as much like the aforementioned Black Sabbath there is an air of bluesy swagger in what they do but there is also something else going on here. The four songs that make up this little gem of an EP, "The VVitch", "Total Madness", "Mistress of Black Heart" and "Witching Hour" are not complex or convoluted, in fact they are fairly simplistic in construction just a blend of crunching downtuned  riffs and thunderous rhythms coated in clean, not overly powerful, vocals however it is this simplistic approach and the way the band combine those riffs, rhythms and vocals with well chosen movie soundbytes and the occasional sound effect that makes this release stand out a little taller and prouder than others of a similar sonic attack.


You could no doubt find less abrasive and better produced releases than "The VVitch" within the doom/occult genre but why would you want to, it is its slightly raw production twinned with the gritty gnarliness of its guitar tones, the uncluttered and untamed passion of its vocals and the wild unorthodox approach to its rhythms that is this EP's biggest selling point, change any of those elements and you would lose all that is good about this cracking little diamond in the rough. 
Check it out ....

Thursday, 8 July 2021

MONAS ~ MONAS ...... review

 


Most of you reading this probably came to this whole stoner rock/ doom/heavy psych scene via Kyuss, Fu Manchu and bands of that ilk but Desert Psychlist came to this scene from a slightly different route, we arrived at this destination thanks to discovering a little label called Tee Pee Records and their roster of artists, a roster that included bands like Assembled Heads In Sunburst Sound, NAAM and Mirror Queen, only discovering the joys of Kyuss etc. later on. One Tee Pee band in particular stood out for us head and shoulders above the rest and that band were Canadian psychonauts Quest For Fire, the band only made two albums before calling it a day but those two albums  still, to this day, get regular spins on our decks at Stonerking Towers. So why should we mention this here on a review of an album from a completely different band, the reason my friends is that the  shiver up the spine we got from hearing Quest From Fire's two albums of hazy, slightly indie flavoured, slightly shoegaze grooves returned today when we pushed play on French trio MONAS' self titled debut "Monas"

The strong psychedelic element that was so integral to Quest For Fire's sonic attack can also be found on MONAS' debut but is tempered by textures that are a little danker and darker than those executed by the Canadian outfit, not so dark and dank that they could be considered doomic but certainly edging towards that dynamic. Opening track " Lone Warrior" demonstrates this perfectly by beginning with a  deeply distorted bass motif, accompanied by drums, that is then joined by guitar on a groove that is not so much thundering as raucous and crunching but then dissipates slightly when the harmonised vocals enter, delivered clean and slightly hazy. Suddenly and surprisingly the haziness of the vocals is replaced by a few bars of sludge like roaring before things return back to normal and the song plunges headlong towards its finale. "Fallen Astronaut" follows and eases a little back on the raucousness by replacing it with some nicely gritted fuzziness and decorating that fuzziness with a clean perfectly pitched vocal that alternates between being up front of the mix and buried slightly within it. Next track "Anguish Pipe" mixes its shoegaze and heavy psych up with touches of Sabbath-esque proto-doom while final track "Mindroad" starts its life by going in completely the other direction, it's initial groove having a liquidity and lightness of touch far removed from that which has gone before, this respite does not last long however and suddenly the groove explodes into a glorious heaviness, not a brutal one dimensional heaviness but one flecked with bright psychedelic colours and lysergic textures over which a lilting hazy vocal holds precedence.


If you have a hankering for those hazy psych drenched grooves that made Tee Pee Records such a go to label for that genre of music but are also partial to a bit of grittiness in your lysergic laments then you won't go far wrong by giving MONAS' debut a listen, you will not be disappointed.
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Tuesday, 6 July 2021

LUNAR SWAMP ~ MOONSHINE BLUES .... review


As long as there are "lemons to squeeze", "women who will do you wrong" and "mojo's that won't work" the blues will prevail however the blues does not always have to lean on tried and trusted generic clichés to make itself relevant, it is a genre that over the years has constantly re-invented itself and made its presence felt in everything from jazz to hardcore sludge. Italian shamanic doomsters Lunar Swamp understand the importance of the blues but as the band demonstrated with their excellent debut "UnderMudBlues" the blues these guys play is a twisted, mutated version of the genre, a dark swampy version of the blues blended with elements of dank doom and sinister sludge. The band return this year with their second release, "Moonshine Blues" (vinyl by Clostridium RecordsCD by The Swamp Records, tape by Burning Coffin Recs)  a collection of grooves that will cause your "little red rooster" to seriously "wang dang its doodle"!

Desert Psychlist wonders how many hours Lunar Swamp spent sitting around listening to Led Zeppelin's version of "When The Levee Breaks" before sitting down to pen the five original swampy doomic blues tomes that populate "Moonshine Blues" (there are six songs on the album but the last is a cover of Witch's "Sweet Sue") because each and every one of these five grooves shares the same intensity and rhythmic bluster of that iconic cover albeit minus Robert Plant's rock god howl. First track "Muddy Waters" is the perfect example of this with its delta style intro of slide guitar/mouth harp and tambourine suddenly exploding into a heavy, furiously fuzzy, blues groove driven by thundering Bonham-esque drumming and coated in vocals that have deep gothic undertones. "Moonburst Smoke" follows a similar path to its predecessor but with the onus leaning slightly more towards the doomic side of the bands sound  but that does not stop the guitarist from peeling off a scorching blues drenched solo to maintain the bands blues credentials. "The Redneck Squatch" follows and those gothic tinted vocals we mentioned earlier really come to the fore here, so much so that if it wasn't for the fact that the songs groove is most definitely delta influenced you could be fooled, at times, into thinking you were listening to UK Goth rockers Bauhaus instead of a doomic blues combo from Italy.  "Old Ben the Gator" has a more strident, almost proto-doom/metal feel than what's passed previously and its a feel that continuous over into  following track "Cross Swamp Blues" only here the band throw in a few psychedelic textures and colours to keep things interesting. Finally we come to the albums only non-original a cover of Witch's "Sweet Sue", the band, apart from a few deviations, sticking quite closely to the original but imbuing the song with their own swampy signature sound to give it a refreshing twist, also if you let the track continue after the song fades into silence you will be presented with a cool old school acoustic blues jam not too dissimilar to the intro that opens first track "Muddy Waters"


With "Moonshine Blues" Lunar Swamp have demonstrated once again that although the blues may be a little grey at the temples and walk with a little less swagger than it had in its youth it is still a vital and important music that can still get you "rollin' and tumblin' on your way to say  "hello to that little schoolgirl"
Check it out ......

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Monday, 5 July 2021

MAHA SOHONA ~ ENDLESS SEARCHER ..... review

 

To be perfectly honest Desert Psychlist were convinced that Sweden's Maha Sohona had joined the ranks of the promising but disbanded, that they were one of those bands that regularly burst onto the scene with everything you ever wanted to hear from a band only to then disappear into the ether never to be heard from again. Thankfully that has not been the case and seven years after delivering us a killer debut album with "Maha Sohona" the band return to once again entice and excite us with their long awaited second album "Endless Searcher" (Made of Stone Recordings)

Fuzz and distortion are essential components of genres like doom, stoner rock and heavy psych so clarity is not a topic we generally speak about when discussing these musics, however clarity is something we do need to talk about when attempting to describe the grooves Maha Sohona have laid down for our listening pleasure with "Endless Searcher" Every note, drum beat and vocal inflection on this stunning release is crystalline and clear, there are no muddy moments, no unintelligible growling or demonic harshness to be found here everything you will hear on these five essential cuts of space themed stoner rock/heavy psych are delivered with a pristine crispness not always the reserve of  bands working in this genre. It is no good having quality of sound if you haven't got the grooves to back that sound up so it is especially pleasing to find that Maha Sohona have those grooves in abundance. "Endless Searcher" opens its account with "Leaves", a warm hazy tome with a liquid like groove that doesn't so much explode out of your speakers as gently trickles out of them and is fronted by vocals that have an equally warm and hazy dynamic, its a stunning opener that perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the album.. Even when things do get a little heavier and harder, as they do on many of the albums five songs, it is to the bands credit that they still try to maintain their hold on both that warmth and clarity and don't fall into the trap of  being heavy just for the sake of it. What really sets Maha Sohona apart from the crowd however is the space they bring to songs like "Luftslott"," A Black Star", "Scavengers" and "Orbit X", the trio allowing each other room to breath within each song, careful to never step on each others toes, a band working in perfect harmony who are totally willing to play for the songs and only for the songs, finding room to express themselves within those songs but not to the detriment of those songs.


"Stunning" is an oft overused word when describing music but in the case of Maha Sohona's "Endless Searcher" that word is totally justifiable, someone else also mentioned the word "creamy" in their review of this incredible release, which suggests an element of smoothness to what Mah Sohona bring to the table. Both of these words hold water when applied to Maha Sohona's musical attack but there is also an element of grittiness and bite to the bands grooves that shouldn't be ignored either.
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Friday, 25 June 2021

TARLUNG ~ ARCHITECT ..... review



We have been battling through a global health crisis that has taken an unprecedented number of lives, decimated economies and isolated many thousands from their nearest and dearest,  a crisis that we are still fighting on so many fronts. So then why, you may ask, would we want to listen to an album packed to brimming over with songs telling tales of misery and woe given the fact that we are currently surrounded by so much fear and uncertainty. Well the answer to that question is pure and simply that for some strange reason happy upbeat music really only cuts it for us as human beings in small doses and that even when we are at our lowest we still tend to gravitate towards music that is at the more depressive end of the emotional spectrum, why do you think the blues has endured as a musical form for so long. Austria's TarLungPhilipp "Five" Seiler (guitars and vocals); Marian Waibl (drums) and the appropriately named Rotten (guitars) have made misery and despair their signature dish and on their latest album " Architect" they serve up those emotions and feelings on a platter of metallic groove so heavy it would take a forklift to get it to a table 
If you are familiar with TarLung's previous recorded output you will already know that the band are an extremely heavy sounding combo with a one foot in the swampy mire of sludge and the other in the dank fetid soil of doom so it might come as some surprise that they open their account on "Architect" with "Infinity" a song that begins its life with what is effectively a blues shuffle. Of course TarLung are no Foghat or Canned Heat and Seiler's thick syrupy growl is a million miles from being what you might call bluesy so it doesn't come as any great shock that things soon begin to move towards a heavier, denser dynamic but it does show that TarLung are no one trick ponies and that they are band unafraid to take chances and spring surprises. "Widow's Bane" finds TarLung in more familiar doomic territory with guitars crunching and drums pounding beneath a vocal that tells of  demise and sorrow and sounds like its being delivered from the deepest depths of the Earth and it is to TarLung's credit that despite its morbid subject matter and dank low slung delivery the band still manage to inject into this dark, heavy and deliciously dank dirge moments of stark if not conventional beauty. "Weight of Gravity" is as weighty as its title suggests while "Unthinkable" finds the band almost hitting into a conventional stoner metal  groove albeit graced with a vocal that is probably more Ordos than it is Orange Goblin. TarLung's third album ends its life with two absolute bangers in "Horses of Plague" and title track "Architect" the former a chugging riff monster that spits and snarls with malice and malcontent the latter a constantly shifting tome that melds together a variety of metal and rock styles, some of which are quite unexpected, yet still manages to retain the bands unique signature sound. 


If you were expecting TarLung's usual sludgy heaviness to make its presence felt on new album "Architect" then you will not be disappointed however amidst all its downtuned riffs, thunderous rhythms and its vocals, that sound like the singer is performing his duties while gargling graveyard soil, you will find moments of clarity and brightness, granted those moments are few and far between but it is those moments combined with the bands downtuned doomic dynamics that make "Architect" TarLung's finest achievement to date.
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Monday, 21 June 2021

YO NO SE ~ TERRAFORM ..... review


We have a friend on social media who will not entertain anything that carries a tag that says grunge or alt-rock, many have argued with him that he is missing out on a vast catalogue of music he would probably really enjoy if it was labelled as something else, especially as he has a huge love of stoner rock, doom and psych, elements of which can all be found on most releases in the grunge/alt-rock genre. No matter what we say though his position will not be shifted so sadly "Terraform" (Stolen Body Records), the latest release  from Bristol three piece Yo No Se, will probably never grace his ear space.... his loss though is most definitely our gain.


To be fair Yo No Se are far more than just your average grunge/alt-rock band, yes they do have, in Alex Struder, a vocalist/guitarist who employs a Cobain like sneer(ish) tone in his vocals and yes there are occasions when the band do revert to those tried and tested Nirvana-esque loud/quiet/loud dynamics but on the whole Yo No Se are probably closer to the quasi-punk stoner/desert rock of Nebula and Fu Manchu than they are to grunge's big hitters like Soundgarden or Alice In Chains. Having said this first track out of the bag "Black Door" is pure Nirvana worship and finds Struder chopping out slurred guitar refrains over a dark stuttering groove, expertly delivered by Jason Strickland (bass) and Matt Neicho (drums), that uses every grunge/alt-rock cliché in the book, Struder injecting all those little one note trills and bends at the end of a lick that were so much a part of Nirvana's overall sonic appeal. Things move towards a more stoner-ish dynamic for next track "Santa Muetre", here we find Struder crunching out grainy fuzz distorted powerchords over and around a strident hard rock groove before suddenly breaking into a short but perfectly executed guitar solo that is as dissonant as it is structured. And so it goes on throughout the album with Yo No Se serving up a series of short sharp sonic vignettes of a dystopian world, set somewhere among the stars, that are delivered in a mixture of styles gleaned from a wide spectrum of influences, songs that make their presence felt immediately rather than having the need to be grown into, an infectious mish-mash that  blend elements of punk, grunge, heavy psych and heavy rock together in such a way that actually sticking a tag or label on them becomes not only irrelevant but also nigh on impossible.


The point we were trying to make with our opening piece, telling of our friends distaste of anything labeled as grunge or alt-rock, is that tags are really only a guide we use to steer people towards something we may think they will dig given their buying/listening history. It is something all us writers, bloggers etc. have been guilty of at one time or another but the truth is we should strive to break out of the preconceptions those labels and tags impose on us and just listen to music with an open mind, at the end of the day there are really only two types of music and that is good music and bad music and Yo No Se's "Terraform", for us, falls into the former category.
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 20 June 2021

STONEKIND ~ SPIRIT OF THE VOID ...... review


Seems there has been a little trimming down going on within the ranks of North Carolina's Stonekind, the trio that made the excellent self-titled debut EP "Stonekind" have been pared down to a duo with only Jeff Ayers Jr. (drums/vocals) and Davis Templeton (guitar/bass) remaining from the original line up. The reasons behind this line up change are not clear at the time of writing this piece but those that dug the bands first EP will be pleased to hear that the music does not suffer at all from this change and if anything the new full length album "Spirit of the Void" benefits from that change.


Most bands would kick off their debut album with something face melting and in your face but Stonekind buck that trend by beginning with "Ashes Pt. 1" a tranquil blend of arpeggiated guitar textures, wordless harmonies and and shimmering percussion that slowly gathers momentum along the way but never quite explodes, the band save that explosion for the second installment "Ashes Pt. 2" where the band slip into  a much more traditional sounding stoner(ish) groove that boasts some scintillating, brief but effective, guitar soloing pushed hard by industrious and thunderous drumming the results of which are decorated in a vocal that is a combination of smoothness, warmth and power. You will have already detected an air of proggish complexity about what Stonekind bring to the table with their music so much so that it soon become obvious that these guys are not the type of band to just jump on a riff and ride it into the ground, these guys can really play and they also know the importance of  melody and how to structure a song so as to maximize its sonic impact. This is no more better exemplified than on the albums title track "Spirit of the Void" a song that lyrically walks a fine line between a lament to loss and and a declaration of undying love while musically carrying an undercurrent of bluesy grunginess overlaid with a mixture of prog and post-rock textures. If things weren't confused enough "Nowhere's Home" introduces a little barber shop style harmonizing into the mix before shifting into a groove that is not exactly jazz but is nonetheless surprisingly "jazzy" while "Untethered" is just... well untethered! "Swamp Stomp" is up next, an  irresistible and addictive heavy blues workout with a sludgy stoner rock twist driven by Bonham-esque drumming and is followed by "Dust" a song that starts off with gentle acoustic picking and ends in waves of experimental noise. It's back to the heaviness for  "Behold The Stone" a mind-blowing mix of blues, prog-metal and good old heavy rock that gives no quarter and takes no prisoners. Stonekind may have began their debut album in low-key and restrained manner but they sure as hell do not finish it that way, "Nomadic" is an amalgamation of all that has gone before blended, mixed and squashed together in one huge tidal wave of groove that is both heavy and powerful yet retains a fluidity that belies its intensity. 


If you like a little prog-like convolutedness, a little bluesy swaggeration and a touch of  inner-city grunginess in your music but are also partial to things like melody, clever lyricism and intelligently structured songs then Stonekind could be the band for you and their album "Spirit of the Void" your album of the year.
Check it out ..... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Friday, 18 June 2021

HEAVY TEMPLE ~ LUPI AMORIS ..... review


Desert Psychlist's love affair with Philadelphia's Heavy Temple began when we first stumbled on a YouTube video of a demo for the bands song "Unholy Communion", the songs eerie atmospherics, low key dynamics and almost tribal/ritualistic/spiritual vibe struck a chord deep within us that has been resonating ever since. Heavy Temple, it has to be said, have never been the easiest band to follow from afar, there have been numerous line up changes over the years and despite being a constant presence on the live circuit (pre-Covid) their recorded output has been sporadic to say the least having only released one other EP "Chassit" (2017) and a split with Wolfblood, "Split From The Black Hole" (2020), since the release of their excellent three song debut "Heavy Temple EP". The one constant through all the various line up changes and releases has been bassist/vocalist and main songwriter High Priestess Nighthawk, Heavy Temple has always been her baby, her vision, her reason for being and this year she has once again rejigged her troops, recruiting in Lord Paisley on guitar and Baron Lycan on drums, to bestow upon us another chapter of her bands story with a debut full length album "Lupi Amoris" (Magnetic Eye Records) a stunning collection of tunes tied together by a fairy tale theme.


"A Desert Through The Trees" opens proceedings and given that the albums theme is loosely based around the traditional children's tale of Little Red Riding Hood we were a little confused as to where a desert might fit into that scenario but then when we started to think about it we came to the conclusion that a desert doesn't always have to mean a sea of sand and sun blasted landscapes and that the desert in this piece could also refer to a place of abandonment, an area situated deep in a forest where no one goes and nothing will grow. Having got that particular bee out of our bonnet lets move on to how this works musically and WOW does this work! High Priestess Nighthawk gets the ball rolling with a heavily effected circular bass motif played at a rate just above mid tempo which is then joined by Lord Paisley's guitar and Baron Lycan's drums in an infectious proto-metallic groove, the High Priestess then enters with her vocals, the introduction of her dark edged strong melodic voice sees the band  take a sharp and unexpected turn into slower more stoner doomic territory, this transition from one dynamic into another is seamless and mind-blowing and literally sent shivers of delight shooting up and down our spines the first time we listened. "The Wolf" follows and opens with Lord Paisley applying liberal pressures to his wah pedal before fading out and allowing the High Priestess to interject with a deep liquid bass line, his Lordship rejoining her with Baron Lycan in tow to take the song into a groove that sits somewhere between proto-doom and heavy stoner rock. Next up to the plate is "The Maiden" a song that finds the band almost (but not quite) dabbling in a little post-rock texturizing during its initial stages before the song morphs into a runaway metal gallop pushed hard by Baron Lycan and decorated in a slightly brighter sounding vocal from High Priestess Nighthawk, the icing on this particular cake however is the absolutely stunning lead work from Lord Paisley. "Isabella (with Unrelenting Fangs)" finds the band initially back in familiar doomic territory spicing up that doom with touches of bluesy swagger however things take a drastic turn at around the halfway mark and we are suddenly plunged into a world of dissonant noise, structured heavy psych and cosmic blues that although when written down might sound slightly schizophrenic and unworkable is, in execution, absolutely stunning. Last song of the album. "Howling of a Promalthion", is a sprawling instrumental that routinely shifts from hard rock to heavy psych while touching base with doom, prog and much, much more along the way and features some seriously impressive performances from all involved. The song also serves as a good marker to how far the High Priestess has come over the years not only as a musician but also as an arranger and songwriter, her skills in both departments having moved up to whole new level while the musicians she has surrounded herself with for this project are some of the best she has worked with.


How long we will have to wait for the next Heavy Temple release is anyone's guess, the High Priestess Nighthawk is not known for rushing into anything, she likes to take her time and get things right, What can be guaranteed though is that whatever this band, or future versions of this band, release next will not be something just thrown together and served half baked it will be something cooked to perfection as is the case with "Lupi Amoris"
Check it out .... 

© 2021 Frazer Jones

Sunday, 13 June 2021

TREMOR AMA ~ BENEATH ..... review


Heavy riffs drenched in fuzz and distortion, screaming guitar solo's that soar and swoop over complex and thunderous rhythmic patterns and passages of unshackled free form improvisation are what we expect to hear when faced with anything bearing the tag "heavy psych" and France's Tremor Ama, Raphaël Guichard (lead vocals); Remi "Remitche" La Marne (guitar/backing vocals); Simon Leroy (guitar); Kévin Antunes (bass) and Maxime Lesage (drums/backing vocals), do not disappoint in any of those departments with their latest opus "Beneath", in fact we think they may well have gone above and beyond with this release


"Ab Initio" is the song that opens "Beneath" an atmospheric instrumental incorporating fractured chord progressions and heavily effected guitar arpeggios underscored by throbbing bass and piano, the song reminiscent in places of some of the more experimental musical explorations attempted by some of the lesser known UK goth/post-punk bands of the late 70's early 80's. Haunting and yet beautiful the song shifts seamlessly into following song "Green Fire" and here we get to experience the full force of Tremor Ama's sonic attack, the seeds the band planted with "Ab Initio" blossoming into something more substantial and powerful, the addition of Lesage's drums moving things towards a more heavier dynamic, a dynamic enhanced by Guichard's distinctive vocals soaring over the songs spaced out heavy psych groove in powerful dark majestic tones. There are no opportunities to catch your breath or shift your focus on something else for a few seconds with many of the songs on "Beneath" as one songs outro can cleverly segue into the next songs intro and so the last droning notes of "Green Fire" become the opening notes of "Eclipse". " Eclipse" and its follow up "Mirrors" finds Tremor Ama incorporating a little doom into their heavy psych, not so much so that we find ourselves wandering in the realms of the dark and the dank but just enough to show us that if this band decided to take that route then they are more than capable of following that darker path. Things are finally brought to a close with "Grey" a blustering musical monster decorated with yet another superb Guichard vocal performance, the song giving free reign for guitarists La Marne and Leroy to take a break from colorizing and texturizing Tremor Ama's grooves with their superbly applied stringsmanship and instead just going full out on a riff, Antunes deep growling bass and Lesage's feisty drumming providing the perfect platform for them to do so.


French bands are making their presence felt on our scene more and more these days and and one of the bands at the head of that vanguard are Tremor Ama, a band whose blend of heavy psych, stoner rock and metal is cleverly tinted with elements drawn from a wide spectrum of musical influences. It sometimes takes a bands a while to develop what we call a "signature sound" but in the space of just two releases Tremor Ama have developed theirs and its a signature scrawled right across each and every song on "Beneath"
Check it out ....

© 2021 Frazer Jones