There seems to be an interesting trend lately, among bands hailing from countries outside of the North American continent and Western Europe, for many of those bands to tap into the their own countries/continents heritages and histories and blend into their more westernized raucous rock grooves and psychedelic meanderings a little of their own traditional sounds and instrumentation. Bands like Cyprus' Arcadian Child, Chile's Puente Diablo, Brazil's Pathos and Puerto Rico's Iglesia Atomica have all to some extent had some level of success/recognition from mining the music's of their own homelands. Greece's Around the Fire are one band you could add to that list, the Thessaloniki combo wowed Desert Psychlist with their excellent 2019 debut "Advent of the Firewalkers", an enthralling blend of western crunch and growl blended with traditional Mediterranean motifs and instrumentation, and are now back to do the same with their second release "Celestial Keepers"
Things start off in a very traditional style with first track "Kau Ano Meha" its very exotic flavoured intro is brought to us courtesy of a traditional Eastern Mediterranean three stringed instrument known as a kemenje, the track then takes a 360 degree turn and explodes into a crunching heavy stoner groove with guitars dialed to eleven and drums set to thundering, this crescendo only halting to allow the vocalist to tell us in tones low, throaty and grizzled that we "will never see the light". the songs eastern feel still making its presence felt throughout thanks not only to its instrumentation but also the wordless vocalizations that weave around and between the songs verses. Following song "Astral Edifier" which sees the kemenje given a freer more lead like role, has a more spiritual feel than its predecessor its mix of hazy lead vocals and Gregorian like choral mantra's combined with its heavy, almost Indian raga like groove also sees the song moving into (but not quite) stoner doomic territory. "Awakening" is up next and is for Desert Psychlist the highlight of the album, it is a track that sets the bar almost impossibly high for other bands, wishing to blend traditional musics with rock, to follow. Here the band cast their net far and wide capturing not only the traditional sounds of their homeland but also essences of musics from all over the world, shoehorning those essences into six minutes fifteen seconds of stunning and unbelievably powerful music. "Ubdi" folows and comes across like Swedish doomsters Ordos jamming with Cypriot psychonauts Arcadian Child in a Moroccan tea house while "Light In The Sky" throws a Hawkwind shaped curveball into the mix with its tale of "unexpected visitors from outer space" who "bring a message from the edge of time" Proceedings are brought to a close with "Echoes of Oblivion" a spiritualistic hazy psych drenched tome that reminded Desert Psychlist of Black Sabbath's "Planet Caravan" in places but with a slightly more authentic eastern feel.
This stunning collection of songs carries all the usual tags and genre descriptions you would expect to find associated with the bands/albums reviewed on Desert Psychlist but in reality none of those tags or descriptions fit what Around the Fire bring to us with "Celestial Keepers" this is an album not of stoner, doom, sludge or psych music, this is WORLD MUSIC!
Check it out ....
© 2021 Frazer Jones