Monday 31 October 2022

THRUMM ~ NEON DEAD ...... review

You can't beat a bit of old school metal to get heads nodding and fists pumping especially when that metal comes wrapped up with searing lead guitar breaks and the sort of vocals that could put an air raid siren to shame. It is this flavour of metal, blended with a little 70's hard rock swagger and a touch of doom(ish) dankness, that Atlanta. Georgia quintet Thrumm bring to the table with their debut EP "Neon Dead", an amalgamation of old school melody and swing with new school grit and groove that will tick the boxes of fans of both.

"Neon Dead" is a little gem of an EP packed with everything good about heavy music, David Prince (guitar); Chris Abbamonte (guitar); Glen Williams (bass); Troy Wolf (drums) and Sean Shields (vocals) have together managed, on songs like "Overdrive", "Morning After Judgement Day", "Throwing Stoned" and title track "Neon Dead", to take all the best bits from old school traditional heavy metal and substitute the bits they didn't like with elements salvaged from 70's classic rock and early proto- doom. Musically Thrumm are bang on the money, Abbamonte and Prince lay down a myriad of modern and retro flavoured riffs. licks and solos that draw from the full gamut of rock and metal while beneath them there is Williams and Wolf keeping things tight and solid with low growling bottom end and powerful punchy rhythms. The grooves these four musicians lay down are structured to accommodate vocals and it would take quite a vocalist to do them the justice they deserve, thankfully in Sean Shields they have such a vocalist. Shields voice is a jaw-dropping mix of smooth soulfulness and raw power, he doesn't just hit notes he smashes through them with the ease of an opera singer, in his lower register he brings a gritty smokiness to bear, in his upper register he soars with a husky soulfulness that is, in places, reminiscent of Trapeze/Deep Purple MK III's Glenn "The Voice of Rock" Hughes. Together these four musicians and their vocalist have created something very, very special indeed, a something worth hearing over and over again

If old school metal is your thing but you have become a little bored with all the generic wannabees and copyists well then wrap an ear around Thrumm's "Neon Dead" and its blending of traditional metal with elements of doom and classic rock, you will not regret it.
Check it out .... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Saturday 29 October 2022

KRAMPOT ~ OUROBOROS ...... review

We, the bloggers, podcasters, Youtubers and wannabe journos, who regularly spend our free time diving into the deep recesses of the Worlds underground rock and metal scenes to bring you pearls are, with a few exceptions, an affable bunch who will regularly share our finds with each other in order to better promote the music we love. These shares can take the form of a message/email, a post on social media or even a purchase on Bandcamp (which will generate a notification on the feed of those who follow you). It was from the latter of these "shares", from fellow Doom Charts contributor and head honcho at Deathrattle Podcast Steve Woodier, that Desert Psychlist was introduced to stoner doomsters Krampot.
Krampot, Andrea Klein (guitar); Claudia Mühlberger (guitar/vocals); Julian Kirchner (bass) and Georg Schiffer (drums), hail from Vienna, Austria and jam a groove that sonically sits within the stoner doom canon but thanks to the unique singing style of the bands vocalist and the sometimes more strident gait of their grooves finds itself situated a touch left of its centre, as you will no doubt discover when listening to the band's latest release "Ouroboros"

Sparse percussion and low throbbing bass introduce opening track "Heliopolis" but are soon swallowed up in a groove that is doomic by nature, circular in execution and gritty and grainy in texture. As we pointed out previously Krampot are not your archetypical stoner doom combo and this first track is a prime example of that, the pace is a little too strident than what some might be used to in this sub-genre and the tones of the guitars lean more towards an early 70's proto-doom sound than something you might expect to hear on say a Yob or Toner Low album. Another factor that sets them apart from others in their field is Mühlberger's vocals, her voice possesses all the necessary moroseness and melancholy we have grown accustomed to hearing fronting music of this nature yet has a brightness, and clarity quite unusual in the genre. What follows this opening number is more doom but doom with a difference, what we mean by this is Krampot's doom is not of the generic variety, yes songs like "Yom Hadin", "Ta-Tenen" and "Wild Hunt" do adhere mostly to a low and heavy dynamic but those 70's flavoured proto guitar tones Mühlberger and Klein bring to the table and the fact that the rhythm section, of Kirchner and Schiffer, are not constantly trying to crush you with the combined power of their respective instruments, allows room for an element  of subtlety and finesse amongst all the heaviness and bluster. Lyrically the band are quite astute too, its true the band do stick to the tried and tested formulae of using legend and mythology to decorate their songs, but they do not throw these words together blindly. A lot of thought has gone into lines like "Sebek's beasts scourge riverbanks from Nile delta to aqueous ends" ("Heliopolis") and "mankind cloaked in flames as Tefnut feeds on land fiery heights emerging obsidian descent"("Ra's Retreat"), intelligent lines that go a long way to proving that there is still a place for poetry in heavy music. 

There will be some among you who will find Krampot's off-centred approach to doom on "Ouroboros" a little hard to take on first listen, some of you might struggle with the unusually bright vocal tones, others might find the proto flavours of the guitars not brutal enough, while some might baulk at the inclusion of a song that includes Czechoslovakian lyrics chanted in a Native American meter over tribal drumming ("Marena"), however, if you stick with it you WILL reap rewards. There is an endearing stealth like quality to the grooves inhabiting "Ouroboros", the albums music having a tendency to creep up on you and slowly seep into your psyche and worm its way under your skin, to the point where what was once an objective listener has now become a slavering fan desperate for news of the next release. 
Check it out ..... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Friday 28 October 2022


When reviewing Thammuz's debut album "Into The Great Unknown" Desert Psychlist described them as "a band who can take you by the hand and dance you down long dusty desert highways, who can evoke nightmares with their dank doomic dirges, take you on psychedelic journeys into the cosmos and rip your face off with their aggressive punk-like ferocity". Well two years have passed since that album was released so have Thammuz ditched that diversity and tried to make their lives easier by just settling into one groove and sticking with it or have, they continued down the same paths of diversity that made "Into The Great Unknown" one of the standout releases of 2020? Thankfully new album "Sons Of The Occult" (Argonauta Records) proves the latter to be the answer.

Thammuz's second album bursts into life with an absolute barn burner in the shape of instrumental "Electric Sheep", though to call it an instrumental is not strictly accurate as it does contain a heavily filtered robotic voice quoting the title of Phillip K. Dick's celebrated novel that inspired the movie "Blade Runner". The track begins with a delicious circular guitar motif that is then joined by the bass, drums and second guitar in a groove that recalls the heydays of Kyuss and Fu Manchu, a raucous, grainy and strident groove that would make the perfect soundtrack for an overhead shot of cars racing through deserts in some futuristic road movie. Leaving us no time to catch our breaths Thammuz then slam straight into the album's title track "Sons of the Occult" a thrumming blend of doom tinted riffage interspersed with curly little QOTSA flavoured guitar licks and motifs overlayed with a superbly pitched throaty vocal that at one point intones the immortal lines "We all have the power in our hands to kill, some of you want to but just a few will". Next up is "Guayota" a semi-acoustic instrumental that slowly builds layer upon layer and along the way incorporates a mixture of Floydian and Elder type guitar textures and colours in its sonic makeup This is then followed by "Had A Blast" a hypnotic tome decorated in a mix of falsetto and husky vocal tones, the song subtly increasing in intensity and volume but never quite exploding. "Self-taught Man" is the type of song Alice Cooper might have pitched to his record company back in his early days only to be told not to risk his career, it is a song that shares many of the musical characteristics Alice toyed with back in those early days. Its lyrical themes of horror and perversity are almost vaudevillian in content and are backed by a mixture of musical backdrops that range from Victorian music hall theatrics to Sunset Strip hard rock sleaziness, and who could resist a line like "i want to play with your remains" or the offer to "make love to you when you were dead". Next is "Dumuzid's Descent" a brief but interesting instrumental with strong lysergic overtones which then leads us to "Death Song's" a crunching riff monster with an old school hard/desert rock vibe that routinely shifts between a strident gallop and a satisfying chug. "People From the Sky" follows next and is a nicely paced desert rock workout perfect for driving along to while "Peyote", an instrumental, blends heavy psych haziness with desert rock swagger without drifting too far into either territory. Finally, we arrive at "Insomnia" a song that shifts with keen regularity between laid back and languid and raucous and gnarly boasting along the way low liquid bass motifs, crunching riffs, searing solos and thunderous solid percussion all topped off with a superb vocal that lyrically sways between weary introspection and questioning anger.

Heavy music is not a stranger to diversity, but it is rare to come across a band like Thammuz who sound so different from one song to another yet still manage to maintain a signature sound that is so wholly their own. Many may have thought that the levels of diversity found on the band's debut "Into The Great Unknown" was the result of a band trying to find their own feet and develop their own sound by experimenting with different genres before settling on a direction that suited them best, but then along comes "Sons Of The Occult" and dispels that theory by following much the same path as its predecessor. It seems very much that being all things to all men/women, and anyone falling in-between, is exactly the target this Dutch foursome are aiming at, and on the strength of this, their second album, it seems as though they are hitting their targets.
Check 'em out ..... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Thursday 27 October 2022


Desert Psychlist has been bending the ears of anyone who will listen regarding Italy's burgeoning acid/psych doom scene, but Italy does not hold a monopoly on bands who have a tuned in, turned on and dropped out approach to the doom genre. All over the world there are bands popping up who's grooves owe as much to Timothy Leary as they do Tony Iommi and today we will be introducing you to one of those bands and one that just happens to reside in Desert Psychlist's UK homeland.
Amon Acid, Sarantis Charvas (guitars/synths/vocals); Briony Charvas (bass/cello) and Smith (drums), hail from the West Yorkshire city of Leeds and along with a love of Sabbath-ian refrains, Hawkwind-esque swirls and Floydian textures are also hooked on sci-fi and horror movie soundtracks (check out their release "Diogenesis"[The Weird Beard Label] a collection of music influenced by among others the film director/composer John Carpenter and Italian prog rockers Goblin). "Cosmogony" (Regain Records), the bands second release of 2022, is more geared towards the former rather than the latter but is not bereft of the odd nod to horror and sci-fi movies soundtracks or afraid to dip its toes back into the heady psych of earlier releases as you will find out when you give it a spin.

Desert Psychlist was determined to avoid the word "trippy" when describing Amon Acid's music in this review but that became an unachievable objective a minute or two into opening track "Parallel Realm", its flute-like intro making way for a groove that sees swirling eastern motifs, thrumming drones and synthesised whoops and whirls competing for dominance around a low pitched semi-monotonic vocal delivered in a mantra-like meter made "trippy "seem pretty apt.  Next track "Hyperion" finds our trio flexing their doom muscles with a tune that nods its head to both Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard but is also reminiscent, (to Desert Psychlist's ears anyway), of now defunct UK proto-doom outfit Caravan of Whores. Up next is "Death on the Altar", a song that gives the band another chance to blend their eastern motifs with their western refrains, it is followed by "Demolition Wave" an absolute beast of a song that boasts some really impressive lead guitar and synth from S, Charvas as well as a great vocal, his hard work and industry ably supported by B. Chavras' low growling bass and Smith's solid tight and industrious percussion. We did mention earlier of Amon Acid's obsession with movie soundtracks and "Nag Hammandi" gives the band free reign to indulge in that obsession, the songs ritualistic chants and droning eastern refrains combine to give the song a cinematic feel worthy of a cult horror b-movie, you can almost envision this set against a backdrop of ancient temples and rust coloured dunes, which is a little weird when you consider that the swirling synth effects S. Charvas chooses to surround this groove with owe more to Bebe and Louis Barron's score for the 1956 sci-fi classic "Forbidden Planet" than they do any desert scenario. "Mandragoras" is another song with a soundtrack feel, albeit mixed with a heavy helping of doom, but this time there is a slightly more orchestrated vibe to the proceedings, Desert Psychlist cannot be one hundred percent certain, but we suspect Briony Charvas' cello has a huge part to play in that vibe. "Demon Rider" dooms right out of the box and features some scorching blues tinted soloing while "Ethereal Mother" finds Amon Acid stripping things back and getting a little stark and minimalistic but still managing to sound cosmic, Final song "The Purifier" is an eleven minutes plus monster that soars and dooms in equal measure, crunching riffs and swirling synths circling over a bedrock of throbbing dank doomic groove, the songs dynamic rising and falling in waves with S. Charvas' voice the songs one constant, his morose tones coming over like a beacon of calm in uncertain waters., it's a "trip" maaaaan!

The band have described "Cosmogony" as being an album that is "more Belladonna than LSD" and as being "a darker trip", statements very hard to disagree with. Amon Acid's last album as three-piece, "Paradigm Shift", saw the band shifting towards a heavier sound, a sound that was still trippy and trance-like but was still more Ozric Tentacles than it was Black Sabbath but with "Cosmogony" the band have seemingly found their inner Sabbath and decided to run with it for a while.... and it suits them. 
Check 'em out

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Monday 24 October 2022


It was a sad day when Desert Psychlist learnt that Salt Lake City's SubRosa had called it a day, but that sadness was tempered by the news that a collection of past and present members of the band had teamed up with fellow Salt Lake City resident Matt Brotherton (ex-Visigoth/Huldra) to collaborate on a new project they were calling The Otolith. More good news was to follow with the announcement that an album was in the works and that it would be released through Blues Funeral Recordings
That album, "Folium Limina", has now dropped and any sadness you might still be feeling over SubRosa's demise will swiftly dissolve away when you hear what The Otolith have to offer.

The Otolith, Sarah Pendleton (vocals/violin); Kim Pack (vocals/violin); Levi Hanna (guitars); Andy Patterson (drums) and the aforementioned Matt Brotherton (vocals/bass), are not by any stretch of the imagination some sort of SubRosa 2.0, this is a new project with different goals, a different approach and a different sound, granted there are places were the two bands crossover and share common ground but on the whole The Otolith are a different animal entirely. "Symphonic" is a word Desert Psychlist has seen banded about a lot regarding "Folium Limina" and it's a fitting word given that Pendleton and Pack's violins play such a huge role in The Otolith's overall sound, their electrified "fiddles" sometimes taking on the role of lead instruments, other times framing Hanna's crunching chords and twisted solos in a myriad of beautifully bowed colours and textures. Add to this Pendleton's wonderful soaring lead vocals and Pack's lilting harmonies and the fact that each track of the album feels less like an individual song and more like part of a greater whole and it soon becomes easy to start thinking of The Otolith's music in classical terms. "Folium Limina" is not all ethereal arias and classical dynamics however, there is plenty of growl and bite to be found here also, most of which is supplied courtesy of Hanna, Brotherton and Patterson who when they are not respectively picking glistening arpeggios, dropping liquid bottom end and beating out medieval flavoured rhythms are laying down all the dank doom and sludge you could possibly ask for with Brotherton earning himself extra metal points by pitching in on the vocals with gutsy, harsh abandon. It is this balance of the ethereal and the fey with the blustering and the brutal, that exists throughout the album's duration, that is its greatest asset and could, if the planets align, possibly put "Folium Limina" in pole position for being one of the finest debut's released this year.

You may have noticed that we have not singled out, or highlighted for review, a single track from this album and there is a good reason for that. "Folium Limina" is not an album for casually dipping into, it is an opus that needs to be listened to without interruption from start to finish, an album that should be savoured and lovingly poured over (preferably alone in a room wearing good headphones), so as to best marvel at its jaw-dropping complexities and subtle intricacies, then, and only then, should you consider sharing it with others.
Check it out (on your own) .....

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Thursday 20 October 2022


It has been a while since a Brazilian band graced these pages, which is a little weird as there was a time when it seemed that every other band we were listening to seemed to hail from this South American country. This recent lack of coverage comes to an end today with the release of "Breathtaker" (All Good Clean Records) the second full length album from Londrina trio Red Mess, Douglas Labigalini (drums); Thiago Franzim (guitars/vocals) and Lucas Klepa (bass/vocals), who, for those not familiar with the band, play a super cool blend of stoner rock and heavy psych undershot with elements of alt-rock/grunge and old school hard rock.

If immediate impact is what you are looking for from an album well then you couldn't ask for anything more impactful than opening song/ title track "Breathtaker". This is a song that literally leaps out of the speakers in a whirlwind of gnarly riffage and thunderous drumming but then just as suddenly drops away into a languid and grungy blues groove over which  hushed, almost whispered, vocals tell of "trying something new" and being "out of control" before then once again taking off into gnarlier territories with the vocals taking on a more strident and powerful dynamic, the song swaying back and forth in this way before finally signing off with a low slow doomic refrain. Following song "Deep Blue Fever", much like its predecessor, doesn't bother with clever intros and instead dives straight into the groove with amps turned up to eleven and effect pedals dialled to devastation, vocals here are pitched a little cleaner and a touch more melodic but any relief  from the onslaught of fuzzed out gnarliness they may provide is soon wiped out by the gloriously mind-fucking and heavily dissonant guitar solo that finally brings the song to its close. If you are already familiar with Red Mess, you will know they do love to get a little heady and cosmic from time to time and next song "Icicles" is the perfect vehicle for that side of their character, the songs mix of laid back and languid serenity and heavy stoner bluster sees luscious low liquid bass, sweetly swept arpeggios and shimmering percussion routinely trading places with growling bottom end, thunderous drum patterns and crunching power chords without once feeling disjointed or forced. "Extinction" and "Outta Sight" follow, both songs foot to the floor rockers but with the latter boasting an off-kilter and spaced-out middle section. Following these two comes "Dead End Stairs" a song that crams all Red Mess' eggs into one basket, a song that is in turns heavy, grungy, lysergic and bluesy and for its finale serves up another of those jaw-dropping dissonant guitar wig-outs while penultimate track "Atomic Tide" has somewhat of a desert rock feel due to its strident rhythms and the grainy tones of its bass and guitars. It has almost become a tradition in rock music to save your best for last and Red Mess uphold that tradition with closer "Crushing Gravity" a song with so many twists and turns it's hard to know sometimes if you are still listening to the same song and haven't accidently skipped onto a series of hidden bonus tracks, Heavy, heady spaced out and swaggering the song boasts some really impressive lead and harmonised vocal dynamics as well as some pretty slick musicianship, it is a monster of a song that does not just match the impact of the albums opening number it supersedes it!

"Breathtaker" contains everything a fan of underground rock music could ever hope to find gracing one album, it is heady and cosmic, snarling and gnarly, it touches base with heavy psych, proto-doom, hard rock, alt-rock and the blues while at the same time juggles melody with dissonance, it is in short, a nugget of Brazilian gold that more than lives up to its title!
Check it out ..... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Sunday 16 October 2022


Desert Psychlist could easily bullshit you, our readers, and tell you we know everything that is needed to be known about the heavy rock and metal scene in Israel, we could tell you that there is a thriving scene there with many up-and-coming bands edging ever closer towards international recognition and because Israel is not a major force on the underground rock scene (yet) or much written about you will probably never know we are bullshitting you. The truth is Desert Psychlist knows diddley-squat about what's going on in Israel musically and even less about which bands are hot and which are not. Historically Israel is a country that has always played its cards close to its chest, a country in constant dispute with the countries surrounding its borders, so it not surprising that we know very little about its alternative musical culture, pop or rock. However, every now and then an Israeli band will pop up, seemingly out of nowhere, and give us an inkling of what might be going on there.
Methuselian Ariel Beker (vocals/bass); Yohan Katzanelson (guitars) and Alex Krivinski (drums), have just released their debut album "Beyond Human", it is an album with a very unique sound, a sound rooted in the soils of stoner metal, doom and heavy rock but fronted by an ancient vocal style (Tuvan) usually only utilized by the indigenous peoples of Mongolia and Siberia. It is a sound that might take a few minutes of listening to fully appreciate but one that once you do get will start you to wondering why, outside of Mongolian metal collective The Hu, there are not many more bands doing this, it is just so damn DOOM!

"Beyond Human" consists of just three tracks but they are HUGE tracks packed full of interesting twists and turns that leave the listener wondering where the music might go next but at the same time not really wanting to know because that would spoil the surprise. The first of those tracks is "496" a sprawling blend of heady psych, 70's heavy rock and stoner doom drenched in WAH pedal heavy guitar solos, crunching riffage and constantly shifting rhythms all topped of with a mix of rumbling throat singing, harsh demonic growls and larynx destroying screeches, the band even throwing in some blues-like swagger just to keep us on our toes.  Second song "Prometheus" begins with a lone guitar motif that is then joined by the drums and bass in a groove that has a Colour Haze(ish) vibe in its initial stages but then as it increases in intensity and heaviness becomes more doomic in feel, a feel further enhanced by its low rumbling throaty vocal telling a mythological tale of conflict among old gods. "Descent" rounds "Beyond Human" off and is an absolute monster of a song that begins with Beker laying down a low luscious bass line over which Katzanelson taps out ringing natural harmonics. Krivinski embellishes this languid groove with shimmering percussion before moving onto a more tribal drum pattern over which Beker sings about a "ghost with no head and limbs " and " Gods of earth", first in his natural clean voice but then gradually moving into his adopted Tuvan style. Things get a little heavier both vocally and musically as things progress with the song moving towards a more blackened doom dynamic and the vocals taking on a more harsh and manic tone but only after a very 70's flavoured middle section of bluesy guitar pyrotechnics, followed by a brief return to the groove that licked things off initially is completed.

Q: What do you call a band like Methuselian whose music is an amalgamation of blackened metal, doom and sludge yet at any given moment can suddenly go off on a flight into bluesy hard rock and heavy psych and whose vocals hark back to an ancient singing style once believed to be a way to communicate with the natural world?
Check 'em out ..... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Friday 14 October 2022


Album releases in the sub-genres of stoner, desert, doom and psych are our main musical focus here at Desert Psychlist but we also try to cover those albums by bands whose music falls into the cracks and grey areas that exist in-between those genres. London based trio Mountains are one such band whose music dwells in those cracks and grey areas, their music has stoner(ish) elements in its make-up but is not exactly what you would call stoner or desert, you will find dank doomic flavours making their presence felt here and there also but you would never in a million years ever call these guys a doom band and as for psych, well there are elements present, but they tend to lean towards the more prog end of that particular spectrum. Mountains are a bit of an enigma, a band whose music has ticks in all the relevent boxes but doesn't actually fit into any of those boxes, something that will become more evident when listening to the band's new album "Tides End".

A raucous guitar motif backed by growling bass and punchy powerful percussion introduces opening song "Moonchild" but is then quickly replaced by gently picked arpeggios rolling over a backdrop of sympathetic rhythms with vocalist/guitarist David Jupp telling of "a light in the wood", that "leads you to answers" in clean languid tones, his voice possessing a honeyed weariness that is a perfect fit for the songs slightly melancholic lyrical content. Nicely balanced with interchanging moments of crunching riffage and laid-back tranquillity the song sets a very high standard for the rest of the album to live up to. There is a touch of Biffy Clyro (Scottish alt-rock/indie combo) in what Mountains bring to the table musically, not just in Jupp's vocal delivery, which carries a similar dynamic to that of Biffy Clyro's frontman Simon Neil, but also in the way the band structure their songs with dark reverberating heavy riffage routinely trading places with quieter more tranquil moments over which vocal melodies, boasting almost pop-like meters, are sung, crooned and on occasions roared. Jupp's vocals and guitar work throughout the eight songs that make up "Tides End" are exemplary, we have already spoken of his vocal prowess, but his guitar work is just as impressive, his lead work soars and swoops, his chords crunch and crackle and his arpeggio's sparkle and glisten. Mountains are not just one man however and Jupp's vocals and guitar tones would sound severely lacking if it were not for Greg Machray's mixture of liquid and growling bottom end and Matt Byrne's powerful seismic rhythms, the pairing a force to be reckoned with, both when the groove is tight and when things get a little looser and languid.
 If you are looking for Desert Psychlist to do a full break down of all the songs on ""Tides End" then you are going to be disappointed, what we will do is point out what for us are a few of the album's highlights. We have already mentioned the superb opening track "Moonchild" with its undulating dynamics but it's following track "Lepa Radić" is equally as mind-blowing, a three-minute tour-de force that utilizes prog like chord progressions, sludge metal refrains and harsh and clean vocals over an ever-shifting rhythmic platform of groove that is just sublime. Then there is "Empire" a song that boasts a stoner metal dynamic but twins that dynamic with those Biffy Clyro flavoured vocal melodies we spoke of earlier. Lastly, we have title track "Tides End" a song that ties together all the different facets of Mountains sound together in one place and leaves you wishing the song was so much longer than its seven-minute duration.
Mountains guitarist/vocalist David Jupp admited to Desert Psychlist, in a recent chat, that he was a wee bit concerned that the bands ever so slight shift in direction towards a grungier/alt-rock sound might alienate some fans who had bought in to the band's music via their first album "Dust In The Glare" and that they might find themselves "out on a limb in the scene" due to their new direction but on the evidence of this, the bands second album, we suspect Mr. Jupp's worries will prove unfounded.

"Tides End" is an astonishing album from start to finish, its melding of alt-rock textures and easy on the ear melodies twinned with sludge tinted refrains, prog-like complexities and occasional vocal harshness will appeal to those who like their music bordering on the extreme but also to those who like a tune they can whistle, an album that covers all angles.
© 2022 Frazer Jones

Friday 7 October 2022

FAITH IN JANE ~ AXE TO OAK ..... review


With seven fairly well received albums under their belts and hailing from Maryland, a place many consider to be the epicentre of  the underground's rock, metal and doom scene, you would think that Faith in JaneDan Mize (guitar/vocals); Brendan Winston (bass) and Alex Llewellyn (drums), would be a band getting mentioned in the same breaths as The Obsessed, Clutch and all those other Maryland based warriors of the riff  but unfortunately that is just not the case. Maybe it is because the band have in the past toyed with such un-metal musical elements such as reggae, funk and soul or maybe it is simply a case of under promotion, whatever the reason Faith in Jane are a band in need of more love and the band's eighth album "Axe to Oak" (Grimoire Records) might just be the album to get them that love.

"Whiskey Mountain Breakdown" kicks things off and it would seem its business as usual for the Baltimore trio, the screeching solos', raucous riffs and thunderous percussion that have always been a staple of Faith in Jane's sound are all nicely in place as are those throaty vocals which give the bands grooves such an air of southern soulfulness. Having opened with a sound and groove that will be familiar to their fans the band then test those same fans devotion by going completely off-piste and diving headlong into the heady waters of traditional Irish music with "She Moved Through the Fair" a song that has been covered by everyone from folk rockers Fairport Convention to jazz legend Wayne Shorter. Vocally Mize sticks pretty rigidly to the song's original melody with the singer/guitarist adding folkish tones and meters to his delivery for added authenticity and it is his powerful and emotive vocals, twinned with Llewellyn and Winston's sympathetic drum and bass backdrops and Mize's own Celtic tinted guitar textures, that takes this song away from being just an interesting filler to being something truly heart-rending and beautiful. The awesomeness doesn't just stop there either because without a second for the listener to catch their breath the band slam straight into "Enter Her Light" a fitting sister piece to the previous track that boasts another great emotive vocal from Mize and a nice combination of bass and drums from Winston and Llewellyn, the pair locking down tight on the songs busy groove to create a solid a platform for Mize, when he's not singing, to launch his scorching solos from. "Heavy Drinker" follows and finds Mize telling a lyrical tale of struggle, addiction, resignation and apathy against a heavy rock backdrop tinted with elements of southern rock bluesiness. while "How Many Ships Sail in the Forest" is an instrumental that gives the band the opportunity to throw off the shackles and just jam on a groove. Title track "Axe to Oak" is up next and Desert Psychlist has already read reviews comparing the bands performance of this song to that of Pearl Jam and we have to concur, this is a song that had it been recorded by Vedder and co. would easily have made the track listings for either "Ten" or "Vs." thanks in part to the songs strong classic rock meets alt-rock groove but mainly thanks to Mize adopting many of Eddie Vedder's vocal ticks and mannerisms in his delivery, a trick the trio repeat with final song "The Seeker" only this time with the band adding into the mix a little more stoner bite and bluesy growl.

Why Faith in Jane are not one of the biggest names on the scene is a mystery, the band have over the years consistently released quality music that is well arranged, well written and possesses a groove that is both soulful and heavy. It is time these guys got the break they deserved and were elevated to the same levels of appreciation that is afforded many of their Maryland peers and "Axe to Oak" might well be the album to make that happen.
Check it out ..... 

© 2022 Frazer Jones

Tuesday 4 October 2022



Grunge. or alt-rock as some prefer to call it, exploded onto the music scene in the early 90's and was more or less spent as a major musical force by the end of the decade, however, in its short life span grunge managed to wreak its fair share of havoc on the music business. Glam/hair metal was wiped out as a credible musical force almost overnight and thrash metal was never ever quite the same after grunge hit. One rock sub-genre that wasn't quite so damaged by grunge's emergence was the desert/stoner rock scene, in fact it actually benefited from its rise with many, so called, "stoner" bands incorporating elements of grunge and alt-rock into their own sounds, something that brings us nicely around to the subject of this review.

Netherlands trio Baardvader, J.Aron (guitar/vocals); J.P. (bass) and Koen (drums), were formed in early 2019 and the following year released their self-titled album "Baardvader", a stunning collection of tunes that mixed the slurred grungy dynamics of bands like Alice In Chains and Soundgarden with the fuzzed out riffage and stonerized swagger of combos like Graveyard and Kamchatka. This year the band return with their second album "Foolish Fires" sounding even more slurred and fuzzed out than ever.

A myriad of effects and sampled noises introduces first track "Pray" followed by the band exploding into a groove that is at first doomic and dank but then with just the slightest shift morphs into an Alice In Chains - like groove, slurred bass and guitar riffs and double tracked vocals holding sway over a backdrop of powerful solid and tight percussion. "Understand" follows and has, in its initial stages, a somewhat more Nirvana-esque quiet/loud/quiet dynamic than its predecessor but then gets a touch more stonerized and metallic as it nears its close with its vocal neatly following suite. "Illuminate" is up next and is a song that uses every trick in the grunge/alt-rock handbook, undulating dynamics, Staley/Cantrell/Cobain-like vocal phrasing and low-slung slurred guitar refrains, yet even with these in place still comes out sounding sludgier and heavier than anything that was coming out of Seattle back in the day. "Blinded Out" finds Baardvader flexing their psychedelic muscles with a song that utilizes everything from Hawkwind-esque swirls to exotic flavoured motifs, ideas they expand upon further with the excellent spaced out and ever so slightly doomic "Prolong Eternity". Baardvader close out their second album with "Echoes" a spitting snarling ten minutes plus beast of a song that chugs and gallops in equal measure and leans, at times, towards a more extreme metal sound while still managing to hold on to its grunge/alt-rock credentials thanks to a superb Cantrell/Staley flavoured vocal melody, it's impressive stuff and a fitting end to an album that started on a high and then just kept on climbing.

One of the worst aspects of the whole grunge/alt-rock movement were the copycat bands and bandwagon jumpers, like Creed and Nickelback, bands who didn't quite grasp alt-rock/grunge's unique aesthetics and mixed elements of its sound with their own, fairly generic and stale, hard rock grooves to reach a wider audience and a achieve a short cut to success. This is not a criticism that can be levelled at Baardvader, there is an authentic feel to Baardvader's grungy/alt-rock grooves on "Foolish Fires" that is not copy and pasted, these guys understand the music and understand how it should be played but at the same time are not limited by it. By blending grunge/alt-rock's dark, somewhat downbeat and grimy, aesthetics with the heavier and fuzzier dynamics of sludge and stoner rock and then further muddying the waters by decorating that combination in lyrical content that is fairly doomic in its nature Baardvader have taken grunge/alt-rock into territories it was always meant to move into and in turn have revitalised the music for a whole new generation of fans unafraid to pair a plaid shirt with a sloppy sweater.
Check 'em out ,,,, 

© 2022 Frazer Jones