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


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


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

Sunday 6 June 2021


Today Desert Psychlist drags its riff bruised and groove grazed body back to Brazil to introduce you to a band with a slightly daft name who have just released their third equally as daftly titled album. The band in question are Mad Chicken, Filipe Xavier (vocals); Daniel Santos (guitar, keyboards); Michel Custódio (guitar, optical theremin); André Salviano (bass) and Pedro Paim (drums), and the album they have just released goes by the name "Chicken of the Grave"

"Chicken of the Grave" is a superb album packed with all the elements you would expect a great album to possess, it has riffs it has melodies it has skillful musicianship and it has great vocals but at the same time it is also a slightly strange album. Why is this we hear you screaming, well let us tell you..... "Chicken of the Grave" begins life with "In The Pit" a song any stoner rock/metal band worth their weight in riffs would be proud to call their own, a song built around heavily distorted guitar refrains and industrious rhythms fronted by gritty angst ridden vocals. The band then follow this up with "Devil Within" a song that follows a similar path to its predecessor but this time is touched with a little proto-doomic flavoring. It is now that things get a little strange, after showing us what a great stoner rock band they are Mad Chicken then decide to go all alt-rock/grunge on us with " Lies In Your Head" a song that could have easily been written by Alice In Chains or Soundgarden, its quiet /loud//quiet dynamics augmented by slurred guitar refrains and  a vocal that is almost the polar opposite of what has gone before. Mad Chicken stay in grunge mode for next track "Self Service Dialogue" its intro of screeching feedback making way for another groove that swells and dissipates with an unerring regularity. "Fake Model Life" mixes its stoner with its grunge to create a cocktail that'll quench the thirst of fans of both musical disciplines while "Spellcaster" finds the band adding bluesy shades to their already quite colorful musical palette. The proto-metal/doom of "Devil Within" returns for "War In The City" a song that carries the cryptic line "everyone is killing but no-one's has a gun" and jams a groove so infectious it should be classed as a disease. It's back to the grunge for "Endless Storyline" a superbly executed alternative semi-ballad that to Desert Psychlist's ears carries a little Stone Temple Pilots in its musical construction. "On The Edge Of Reason", an instrumental piece with orchestral leanings follows and to be brutally honest adds nothing much to the album but is nonetheless a pleasant enough distraction. "You Better Quit" revives the Alice In Chains vibe explored on "Lies In Your Head" but twins that vibe with a vocal that is probably closer to the late Soundgarden vocalist/guitarist Chris Cornell's impassioned howls than it is to AIC's Layne Staley's melodic croons. Final track "Asteroid Belt" then sees Mad Chicken blending together elements of stoner rock and grunge and topping the resulting mix off with touches of heavy psych and space rock.

Blending alt-rock/grunge with stoner/hard rock and metal is nothing new but usually those bands working in the this field tend to mix the two into a hybrid of both musical genres, the difference between Mad Chicken and those other bands however is that Mad Chicken divide their grunge from their stoner to such a degree that at times it is almost as if you are listening to two different bands. Now this could result in a very disjointed album but strangely this is not the case with "Chicken of the Grave" in fact it is this duality that is the albums biggest selling point. 
Check it out ....  

© 2021 Frazer Jones