Tuesday 30 March 2021
Wednesday 24 March 2021
If you are a regular visitor to Desert Psychlist you will already know that music from the Greek underground is something that gets featured fairly frequently on these pages, the reason for that is not because we are on some sort of financial retainer from the Greek Arts Council but just simply because there is so much great music emanating from that country. There doesn't seem to be a month passes by without something from a new or an established Greek based combo landing on our cluttered desk demanding to be heard with the best part of that being that very rarely do any those submissions disappoint. Disappointment is not an emotion you will feel when listening to BLACK JUJU's latest release, the band who hail from Larissa, Thessaly first turned our heads with their 2012 debut "Letters From My Brother Cain" an ass-kicking collection of Sabbath-esque proto-doom and Orange Goblin-ish heavy/stoner metal, this year the band return with their second full length album "Purple Flower, Garden Black" (Sleaszy Rider Records) and we are glad to announce it's business as usual.
Opening song "Jaguar Paw", an instrumental, establishes BLACK JUJU's Sabbathian credentials by grooving Iommi inspired refrains over a proto-doomic groove that embodies all the usual time and tempo changes you would expect from something with this type of flavoring. Not a band wanting to thought of as just another bunch of Sabbath clones BLACK JUJU change things up for next track "Hiawatha", the songs tribal rhythms ,overlaid with dark chugging guitar tones is further enhanced by a wordless vocal that assimilates Native American chanting, an idea that when written down on paper might sound kind of crazy but is one that sonically strangely works. "V.F.T." erupts out of the speakers with delightful furiosity on a wave of squealing pinched harmonics and crunching powerchords, courtesy of guitarist Dimitris 'Omiros' Tsimbonis, driven hard by Kostas Gagalis' deep growling bass and Vagios Alexopoulos' thundering percussion. This is also the first time on "Purple Flower, Garden Black" that we get to hear vocalist Panos Dimitriou stretching his vocal chords in a more traditional singing style, his voice a clean gritty mix of southern flecked roars and croons tinted with just a hint of twinkle eyed mischievousness and tongue in cheek malice. "Soulstealer" begins with the sound of someone gargling then immediately jumps into a sleazy heavy stoner groove that is probably more Monster Magnet than it is Sabbath, a groove that finds Dimitriou hamming it up in almost Alice Cooper like fashion in the role of the songs principle character. "Burn Me (When I Die)" has the feel of one those torch songs so beloved of Southern Rock bands, a sort of condensed "Freebird" or "Green Grass and High Tides" for the stoner generation while "Black Hearted River" finds the band dipping their toes into more traditional doom waters with very pleasing results. For next track "Acid King" Tsimbonis digs out his wah pedal and Zakk Wylde book of guitar harmonics for a song that spits and snarls with dark doomic menace, a shapeshifting groove fest that you will not want to end. "(A Song For) Sorrow" utilizes ringing arpeggios and phase heavy guitar tones over a laid back groove of liquid bass and restrained percussion, a combination of sounds that provides the perfect setting for Dimitriou to tell, in grizzled southern tones, his melancholic tale of woe. "Flesh And Blood" mixes up its doom with touches of strident stoner metal bluster to create a sound that will resonate with fans of both genres while closing track "Gloomy Sunday" stays mainly within doom territory but brings a little theatrical vocal dramatics into play to give things an almost operatic feel.
Tuesday 23 March 2021
Friday 19 March 2021
Sometimes compared to the likes of ISIS, Mastodon, and Baroness UK quintet DVNE are, as you might expect, a band with reputation for heaviness and it is a reputation more than justified, however heaviness is not the only weapon in DVNE's armory. DVNE are a band who can roar, rage and rumble but they are also a band who can whisper, soothe and placate, they are a band who put as much emphasis on melody as they do muscle, a balance they demonstrate to great effect on their latest release "Etemen Ænka"(Metal Blade Records)
Thursday 18 March 2021
© 2021 Frazer Jones
Wednesday 17 March 2021
"Vacío Eterno" (translation: Eternal Void) kicks things off with a song built around a strident stoner/desert groove that although nods its head towards Kyuss probably leans more towards Sweden's Truckfighters, the songs fuzz drenched buzzing guitar tones, booming bass lines and tight, solid drumming the backdrop to a vocal (in Spanish) that is strong, clean and ever so slightly aggressive. Title track "Cosmonauta" follows and here we get the first real glimpse of Eutanasia's more lysergic side the band using the songs desert rooted groove to launch off on tangents into heavy psych territory, scorching guitar solos' weaving in and out of each other while the rhythm section keeps everything anchored to the ground. "Camino Errante" (translation; Wandering Road) is up next, a strident very busy rocker with amps and effect pedals all dialed to eleven, to say the fuzz is strong in this one would be an understatement. To mark passing the albums halfway point Eutanasia offer up "Psiconauta" an enthralling instrumental that rises and falls like waves on an ocean, all crashing drums and raucous riffs one minute, the next ringing arpeggios and shimmering cymbals. "Viajero del Tiempo" (translation; Time Traveler) once again dials up the fuzz and distortion to almost breaking point and boasts not only the albums best vocal but also its craziest guitar solo. Things are brought to an unwanted close (believe us when we say you won't want this album to end) with "Sin Retorno" (translation; No Return) a thundering groove monster spliced with sudden and unexpected plunges into proto-doomic waters, it's impassioned howl as it fades into silence the perfect reminder to re-press play and relive the whole experience over again.
Tuesday 16 March 2021
Sunday 14 March 2021
Thursday 11 March 2021
Russian stoner/doom bands are a little like London buses, you wait ages for one and then two come along together, or at least that's how it feels after just recently finishing a review of Murom based trio Swamplord's new album "Tombstone" only to then turn around and find an album from Tomsk quartet Inhale pop up on my Bandcamp feed. Not that we are complaining though because the bands self-titled debut. "Inhale", is a little dark gem.
Inhale's sound incorporates much of what we have come to expect from music that comes under the canon of stoner, doom or occult rock, downtuned guitar and bass riffs, thunderous drumming, a mixture of graveled and harsh vocal tones and lead breaks that scorch and burn with a dark fiery magnitude. What you might not expect however is that despite all its the down tuning, thundering and scorching "Inhale" is an album edged in a brightness and sheen not always associated with music of this nature. So what do we mean by that last statement given that doom has a tradition for dourness and dankness, well musically "Inhale" is as dour. dank and atmospheric as you could ever hope for, the four songs that make up Inhale's debut, "Under The Floor"; "C.O.S.C."; "Her Voice" and "The Blackest Eyes" contain all the requisite ingredients we look for in doom but what sets "Inhale" apart from releases in a similar vein is its production, the team behind bringing Inhale's songs to life, Vagiz Bikulov (mixing/recording) and Marshall Fishwick (mastering), have eschewed the usual route of trying to add atmospherics by keeping everything low and murky and have instead opted for a brighter, almost classic rock sound that sees the guitar riffs sound crisper and crunchier while still maintaining that all important low end thrum supplied by the rhythm section. Of course its no good employing the best in the business to sprinkle their magic on your tunes if you don't have those tunes in the first place and thankfully Inhale have those tunes. Inhale's sound probably leans more towards the occult rock end of the doomic spectrum, it's a sound that draws from three of its doomic relatives, stoner proto and traditional, but relies a little more heavily on melody and elements of the blues, hard rock and good old heavy metal to make its impact, and believe us when we say ... its a pretty big impact.
Tuesday 9 March 2021
Desert Psychlist always approaches demos/promos sent our way from Russia with a little trepidation as the majority of requests we get receive from Russian bands are usually so heavy, so blackened and so harsh that it is physically dangerous to listen to them. It was for this reason that after seeing a post on social media extolling the virtues of a Russian combo going by the name of Swamplord, we approached their new release with a level of cautiousness only usually reserved for checking for monsters hiding under the bed. Thankfully we needn't have worried as Swamplord's second album "Tombstone" is so far up Desert Psychlist's street we've invited it to move in.
© 2021 Frazer Jones
Saturday 6 March 2021
Check it out ....
Friday 5 March 2021
I think most of us can agree that Acid Mammoth's "Under Acid Hoof" was one of the highlights of 2020, an album that blended dooms proto and stoner together with a little psych to create an album that had its own unique identity and for once didn't have to rely on rearranging old Sabbath riffs. 2020 also saw the band finding time to collaborate with Italian doomsters 1782 on a wonderfully dank and dark split "Doom Sessions Vol.2" Acid Mammoth return this year full of a new found confidence, a confidence afforded them by featuring in so many of the scenes end of year lists, with a new album, "Caravan" (Heavy Psych Sounds Records), and if you thought "Under Acid Hoof" was good wait 'til you hear this little beauty!
A short burst of maniacal laughter introduces opening track "Berserker" then its straight into the songs slow to mid-tempo groove with the guitars of Chris Babalis Jr. and Chris Babalis Sr. combining to lay down a thrumming dank refrain superbly supported by Dimosthenis Varikos' growling bass and Marios Louvaris' solid ,almost tribal, drumming, Babalis Jr. providing the songs vocals which are delivered with clean, melodic clarity. "Psychedelic Wasteland" follows, a song that lumbers and lurches under the weight of its low. slow and heavy riffs, the song sits a little more towards the stoner end of the doom spectrum than it's predecessor but is saved from just becoming an excuse for a riff fest by Babalis Jr.'s excellently pitched, almost mantra-like, vocals and the swirling proto-flavoured guitar solo's that constantly weave their way in and and out of the dark miasma of groove that is being laid down around them. "Ivory Towers" treads a similar stoner doom path but this time with a little added haziness while title track "Caravan" seems to borrow a little of that dark stifling relentlessness from their Italian label mates 1782 in that here we find the Acid Mammoth keeping things low slow and murky (in a good way) with just the briefest pushes towards the light. The band round things off perfectly with "Black Dust" an intriguing doomic tome that would border on traditional doom if it were not for Babalis Jr.'s hazy, mellow but powerful vocals and the utter lumbering gait of the rest of the bands musical attack.
Wednesday 3 March 2021
Sweden's Spelljammer are not the most prolific of bands, since their formation in 2007 to the present day the band have only managed to release two EP's and two full albums, however such is their reputation and such is the power of their music that when Spelljammer release something new the world immediately sits up and listens. On the day Desert Psychlist wrote this piece Spelljammer's long awaited new album "Abyssal Trip" had just reached the #1 spot on the Doom Charts and as a contributor to that hallowed barometer of monthly good taste Desert Psychlist can tell you it didn't get there just on the bands reputation it earned its place because it kicks ass on every level.
Droning guitar and low thrumming bass, played at a pace so slow it could be mistaken for rumbling thunder, introduces first track "Bellwether" and is then slowly joined by pulverizing percussion all of which creates an ominous and foreboding atmosphere, an atmosphere made even more ominous and foreboding by bassist Niklas Olsson's graveled half roared/half shouted vocals which sit perfectly part buried in the mix thus allowing the bands music to take the lion's share of the listeners attention. The screaming feedback and white noise that marks the close of "Bellwether" also announces the arrival of "Lake" a song that explodes out of the traps via some utterly incredible drumming from Jonatan Rimsbo, the percussionist utilizing every inch of his battered set up in a dazzling display of rhythmic dexterity. Guitarist Robert Sörling really steps up to the mark here, his chords are crunching and raucous, his solo's scorch and scream and when the song shifts mid-song into a lysergic laced heavy psych workout it is his use of bluesy licks combined with fractured chord voicings and feedback that really grabs the listeners ear. "Among The Holy" again begins on a wave of feedback and droning effects before transforming itself into a low slow doomic riff monster with Sabbath-esque undertones and a few occasional whirling swirling nods to Hawkwind, the song also finds Olsson tailoring his voice to deliver his haziest vocal on the album while also supplying some devastatingly heavy bass work. "Among The Holy" really comes into its own though when the proto(ic) doom of the songs first half makes way for a sprawling and truly mind-blowing lysergic jam, something that really has to be heard first hand to truly appreciate its magnitude. Title track "Abyssal Trip" opens its account with a sound clip lifted from an old movie then erupts into a groove that will have fans of doom, both traditional and stoner, dribbling at the mouth as this is a song that utilizes the atmospherics of the former while staying true to the dankness and darkness of the latter, pulling the two sub-genres of metal together to create a hybrid that will resonate with fans of both. It is easy to see why the band chose to name the album after this song as everyone is on their "A" game here, Olsson delivers his best vocal on the album while laying down a bass sound that is just short of titanic, Sörling's guitar work, both rhythmic and lead is in a league of its own while Rimsbo's drumming borders on the Bonham-esque. "Peregrine" follows and allows the listener to catch his/her breath with a brief but delightful acoustic number before the huge lumbering behemoth "Silent Rift" crawls from the undergrowth to close the album on a groove that could make mountains shake and cause tall buildings to topple just on the strength of its dark doomic intensity.
Tuesday 2 March 2021
Desert Psychlist once described Polish psychedelic doomsters Sunnata's music as "sometimes brutal, sometimes beautiful, sometimes challenging, sometimes simple but at all times totally intriguing and immersive", so we are glad to report that nothing has changed and that the bands latest album "Burning In Heaven, Melting On Earth" is all of those things again and MORE!
There is not a band on this earth who sound, or for that matter come anywhere near sounding, as unique and as different as Sunnata, the bands music defies all the usual categorizations of genre and style and follows no rules other than its own. Take "Crows", the opening track to "Burning In Heaven, Melting On Earth", a song that begins with an insistent bass motif accompanied by liquid sounding guitar arpeggios over which smoothly delivered vocals are crooned in an 80's Goth rock style. Now if this was how the song carried on to its finale it would still be a fine, if one dimensional , little ditty but this being Sunnata, a band who just do not do one dimensional, things soon start to get a touch complicated and twisted. Those smooth croons gradually start being replaced by guttural roars, those reverberating arpeggios begin to make way for brutal chord progressions and the gentle accompaniment of the bass and drums, provided in the songs initial stages, suddenly turns into a tsunami of growling bottom end and thundering percussion. This, however, is only momentary and those croons , arpeggios and intricate rhythms once again return, this time with added harmonies, but again this only a brief reprieve before everything takes off again and we are plunged back into a world of relentless heaviness. "God Emperor of Dune" follows and here we find Sunnata living up to their "shamanic doom metal" tag with a song drenched in eastern flavorings. Lyrically the song references Frank Herbert's series of "Dune" novels while musically there are sections of this song that are not too far removed from what you might expect to hear on an album from Tuareg desert rockers Tinariwen, albeit with a little added intensity and complexity. Up next is "A Million Minds" an unexpected strident rocker with a The Cult meets Hawkwind vibe which is followed by the excellent "Black Serpent" a song with a hazy/heavy /hazy dynamic enhanced by some wonderfully executed vocal harmonies. Penultimate track "Volva (The Seeress)" sounds like it was recorded secretly in a cathedral in the dark of night by cowled monks paying homage to a deposed goddess, its Gregorian style vocals, intoned monophonically over a backdrop of sparse but effective instrumentation, adds to the songs atmospheric feel as does its sudden eruptions into sporadic post-rock heaviness. "Way Out" brings things to a close and is a song that exemplifies all that is good about Sunnata's music, a song that weaves together threads of doom, post-rock, grunge and psych to create a sonic tapestry that although may have its roots in those genres mentioned, somehow manages to sound totally unique and original.
© 2021 Frazer Jones
Monday 1 March 2021
Apparently Neptune is dead but Desert Psychlist doesn't remember reading about it in the papers or seeing it reported on the news so could this be "fake news"? Well yes and no, yes because Neptune was an old god from an ancient religion and if he is still alive he's been keeping very quiet of late, and no because Neptune Is Dead is actually a dynamic quintet from Thessaloniki, Greece, consisting of Frank Lampadaropoulos (vocals); George Ouzounoudis (guitar); Thanos Ouzounoudis (guitar); Manos Tzinieris (bass) and Konstantinos Alex.Noulas (drums), all of whom are very much alive and kicking and have just released their debut album "Chronos" (Chronos being the name of another Greek deity)
If you are releasing your debut album and want to grab your potential listeners attention with something that will interest them enough to stick around for a whole album then you are going to need a song that comes out of the traps spitting and snarling and with "Brimstone" Neptune Is Dead deliver the perfect opener. Raucous, pacey and in your face "Brimstone" doesn't sneak out of the speakers courtesy of some clever and intricate intro it explodes out of them on a wave of crunching riffage and thunderous rhythms and doesn't stop until its very last note, in that space of time delivering as much musical crunch and vocal growl anyone could ever hope for from an album carrying a stoner rock/metal tag. Following track "The Fortress of Montauk" drops the raunch down slightly, but only by a smidgeon, and tackles the rumoured stories associated with a secret air force base situated in Long Island, New York, stories that told of people being used as human guinea pigs in experiments related to time travel and chemical warfare. Lyrically the song reads like an eye witness report, Lampadaropoulos telling us in thick graveled tones of a place "hidden from prying eyes deep inside the mountain" where children were "kidnapped, tortured, and killed in rooms, where blood pours like rain, only tears remain". It's heavy stuff and is backed by a groove that reflects the gravity of the songs theme, George and Thanos Ouzounoudis' guitars thrashing out a mixture of crunching power chords, ringing arpeggios and swirling solos over a backdrop of industrious drumming and deep growling bottom end courtesy of Noulas and Tzinieris. "Answers" begins strident and aggressive then puts on the brakes and slips into a grungy/alt-rock groove, the song seamlessly shifting back and forth between these two dynamics, with the vocals taking on a similar loud/quiet/loud dynamic, before finally signing out as aggressively as it began. Next up is "Handler of the Mob" its Floydian guitar intro introducing a song that has the feel of a torch song/ballad in its initial stages but then shifts towards something a little more feral and progressive as it reaches its close. As the album progresses through songs like "Narcissus In Vain", "Liquid Messiah" through to album closer "The Sky" it becomes apparent that Neptune Is Dead are no powerchord junkies just content to string a few riffs together and stick to a tried and tested rock blueprint, this is a band made up of skilled and competent musicians who are just as able to go off on journey's into the inricate complexities of prog as they are to laying down something that is a little more raucous, and heavy, the fact that they can do this without compromising on either is much to their credit.