There is an "urban" feel to many of the songs inhabiting "Swarm the Mandala", the bands two previous releases "Reach for the Dragon's Eye" and "The Harvesting" played a little with fantasy and mythology but here we find Hartnell and Walker lyrically directing their ire at targets a little closer to home. This "urban" feel is no better exemplified than on opening title track "Swarm the Mandala", a song with ambiguous lyrical content, are we listening to the blood lustful boasts of a brainwashed soldier or as the line "behind the eyes, an empty space, to contemplate my own hell" might suggest, the nightmarish memories of a veteran fighter who has seen too much. Whatever way you wish to read it there, and there are many, there is no escaping the fact that this is one powerful and angry song, that anger not only reflected in its lyrics, which are sung in an almost rap style meter, but also in the delivery of the grooves surrounding those lyrics. "Caustic" follows and kicks off with a lay preacher like vocal sermonising over a stuttering stoner/desert groove that initially has a Clutch/Mississippi Bones vibe but then as the song progresses moves into harder, heavier territory. If the song "Swarm the Mandala" may have hinted at post-traumatic stress disorder then it could be argued that "Mirage" tackles the subject head-on, " time froze and I walked away from those I thought were heroes, took my trust and ripped it in two, went from boy to a man in a day, as much as I try, I’ve lost my own light", powerful words delivered over a backdrop of powerful music. As the album progresses, through songs with titles like "Torch the Crown", "Death Sublime" and "Godmaker and the Child Profits", it becomes increasingly obvious that "Swarm the Mandala" is an album born out of anger, anger at those who wield the power, anger at the futility of conflict and anger at ourselves for falling for the same old lies and promises, the duo ironically using graphic descriptions of violence in their lyrics to hammer home their point, "the bloodshed is great, but the kill comes so fast, when the wolf spots his target, that target won’t last" ("Caustic"), while at the same time referencing elements of our own inner conflicts, "crawling alone on the side of the road, looking for what remains of my soul" ("Desolation"), lyrics a psychiatrist would have a field day analysing.
Wednesday 30 November 2022
Tuesday 29 November 2022
With all the doom, stoner metal and 70's retro bands currently swamping the underground the trippy psychedelic rock, of bands like Colour Haze, The Machine, Sungrazer and My Brother the Wind, seems to have taken a bit of a backseat but that does not mean we should ignore it. Italy's Desert Wave, with "Deafening Silence" prove that there is still a place for music that speaks to us on a spiritual rather than earthly level, otherwise who would there be left to play at DUNAJAM
Thursday 24 November 2022
When Desert Psychlist first heard Swedish alternative/stoner combo Gaupa's self-titled debut back in 2018 we have to admit it was a case of love at first listen, and that love reached almost biblical proportions with the release of "Feberdröm" in 2020. Now with all things against the middle, and given the warm reception it was getting from all the "right people", "Feberdröm" should have seen Gaupa's name being mentioned in the same breaths as some of those of the underground's upper echelon. Unfortunately, that didn't quite happen thanks in part to "Feberdröm" being released while the world was in the throes of a global pandemic, which made it a little difficult for the band to give the album the push it deserved. There is a saying that goes "the cream will somehow always rise to the top" and that is certainly true in this case because one of those "right people" listening to the album turned out to be Jens Prueter, head of A&R Nuclear Blast Records Europe who immediately signed them for his label. So, with the power of a major label behind them and with new album, "Myriad", just released Gaupa are now back on course for world domination.
Gaupa, Jimmy Hurtig (drums); Daniel Nygren (guitars); Erik Sävström (bass); Emma Näslund (vocals) and David Rosberg (guitars), create a special sound together, a sound that may have its roots in stoner/hard rock but is not typical of the genre, a sound that also contains elements of heavy psych but would be a push to call "psychedelic". Probably the closest you could get to describing the music inhabiting "Myriad" is that it is some sort of off centred prog/stoner/alternative rock hybrid but even that description falls short of the mark as first track "Exoskeleton" will attest to. "Exoskeleton" begins straightforwardly enough, with Näslund vocalising in majestic elfish tones over a strident, raucous and fuzzy stoner rock groove, but then at just over the midway mark all sorts of weird and wonderful things start happening with swirling electronic effects and complex prog-like guitar solos vying for dominance with off centred rhythmic patterns and low funky bass lines, the band then reprising the songs initial groove in a final, somewhat more manic, dash to the close. "Diametrical Enchantress" follows and sees Nygren and Rosberg chopping out stuttering angular refrains ably supported by Sävström and Hurtig, Näslund delivering a vocal that is almost straight in comparison to her usual Bjork-like crackle and pop. Gaupa dial things down a notch or two for next song "Moloken", an atmospheric and utterly beautiful hazy blues tinted tome that balances out its occasional heaviness with restrained rhythmic patterns and shimmering guitar textures with Näslund's vocal routinely rising from a whisper to a wail in response. "RA" sees Gaupa jamming a groove that begins its life soothing and serene but then slowly takes on a more aggressive stance, both musically and vocally, as it nears its last note. "Elden" follows a similar path to its predecessor but adds a little more eastern flavoured dissonance into the mix while "My Sister Is A Very Angry Man" is quirky, off kilter and just damn rocking. Next up is the "Sömnen" a fey and folky number featuring just voice and acoustic guitar, Näslund sings the song in her native tongue and never has the Swedish language sounded so fragile, powerful, seductive and beautiful as it does here. Final track "Mammon" begins with a groove that would not sound out of place in a modern dance club, it has the feel of something a DJ might spin to build the tension before the beats slam down and everyone goes crazy, only when the beats DO go down on this, they are not computer-generated bass and drum loops but fuzzy refrains and punchy rhythms played by real living breathing musicians with a unique and distinctive vocalist at their helm.
© 2022 Frazer Jones
Wednesday 16 November 2022
The tragic loss of a member will obviously have a huge effect on the remaining members of a band, a totally understandable state of affairs given that said band would have not just lost a fellow musician and integral cog in their musical wheel but have also lost a confidante, a sounding board to bounce ideas off of and, most importantly, a friend. For some bands the death of a member can be a bridge too far to cross and so they will reluctantly call it day, others however see carrying on as the greatest tribute they can possibly pay to a partner in groove. It is this latter option that Connecticut stoner/sludge combo Afghan Haze decided to follow when they tragically lost their drummer Randall "Randy" Colbourne this year, knowing that the very last thing Randy would have wanted was for the band to fold the remaining members, Jonathan Mlyniec (vocals); Erik Barrett (bass) and Jon Harrison (guitars), asked Paul Litewka to join. However, prior to his passing Randy had completed putting down rhythms on the bands second album "Hallucinations of a Heretic" and it is this album we are reviewing today, a barnstorming mix of sludge, blackened doom and stoner metal, infused with elements of space and psych, driven from beneath by a mighty fine drummer.
Saturday 12 November 2022
Opening number "Paralyse" begins in classic YURT style with shimmering drones, electronic beeps and whirls and robotic voicings (played at a variety of speeds) then slams into a strident and angular groove, decorated in effect laden guitar textures, driven by low heavy bass and a whirlwind of percussion. The song shapeshifts through a myriad of changes in tempo, volume and dynamics over its twelve minutes plus duration but probably it will be the section where the vocals first come in that will stick in many listeners minds the most, a section that gives a hint that some members in the band may have possibly been listening to their fair share of early Hawkwind of late. Title track "Upgrade to Obsolete" looms into earshot next, a superbly busy tome, packed solid with unexpected flourishes, textures and colours, that is anchored strongly to the ground by a surprisingly funky bass line, and if you thought that was busy wait till "The Book of Esophagus" hits your aural canals, its fusion of swirling space rock and free-form jazz may on the face of it seem to be going in a hundred different directions at once, with bursts of saxophone, guitar and electronic noise constantly battling for supremacy but is, underneath it all, rhythmically quite straightforward and tight. "Breakfast in Aksum" then follows, a song that is probably the closest YURT come to laying down something resembling traditional prog on this album, Anderson channelling a little Steve Howe (YES) complexity into his guitar playing while Mugabe and Bushe concentrate on supplying the songs jagged and turbulent groove, of course this being YURT they could not possibly allow a song to end much the same way it started and so they close the song out in maelstrom of swirling, fizzing dissonant noise. "The Brand Evangelist" sees those monotonic Hawkwind-esque lead vocals and harmonies rear their head once again, but this time backed by a musical backdrop that has a surprising dank and doomic quality. "Mukbang" finally brings things to a close and is a song that throws everything into the pot at once, old and new school prog, space rock, heavy psych, a little doom, you can also hear shades of Hawkwind and Ozric Tentacles as well as YES, Floyd and Dream Theater and even touches of Kraftwerk and CAN, all these different elements and influences spinning and weaving around each other to create a melting pot of sound that you won't want to end but ultimately has to.
Exceptional from start to finish "V-Upgrade to Obsolete" is progressive rock how we always hoped it would sound, complex, intricate and dynamic but at the same time not so far up its lowest orifice that you end up turning it off and moving on to something less taxing and confusing. Dubbing YURT's latest album as mind-blowing seems like a bit of a cliche but that is exactly what it is. YURT make music that is uncompromising, angular and experimental but is at the same time accessible and does not require any overthinking on the part of the listener, of course the band want to impress you with their musicianship and arrangement skills but at the same time they do not want you to feel like you have to understand music theory to enjoy what they do. There is a flow to YURT's music, albeit one that twists and turns with alarming regularity, that despite its numerous intricacies and complexities is easy on the ear and doesn't feel like you are wading through a mire of egotistical showmanship, each participant playing for the song instead of despite of it.
Check it out ....
© 2022 Frazer Jones
Thursday 10 November 2022
Wednesday 9 November 2022
Witchfinder, Clément Mostefai (vocals/bass); Stanislas Franczak (guitar); Thomas Dupuy (drums) and Kevyn Raecke (keyboards), have been knocking around the scene since 2016 and in that time have shared stages with the likes of Conan, Corrosion of Conformity and Monolord, slowly building their fanbase and garnering a reputation as a good live band. The band have been no slouches when it comes to recording either with albums "Witchfinder"(2017), "Hazy Rites" (2019) and the EP "Endless Garden" (2022) all receiving warm receptions on their release. Now you might think with all this gigging they've done and with an applauded EP already under their belts this year Witchfinder might want to see 2022 out by putting their feet up and taking a well-deserved rest but no, they give us "Forgotten Mansion" (Mrs Red Sound), an early Christmas present you will not want to re-gift,
Opening track "Approaching" begins with tinkling percussion and ominous drones than erupts into a thunderous dark refrain so dank and malevolent that if you began listening to it in a dark room would soon have you running for a light switch. Strangely this dark pounding maelstrom of reverberating riffage, swirling keys and pummelling percussion is offset by vocals of an altogether different flavour, vocals that are not exactly sweet and airy but are a whole lot more melodic and cleaner than what you might have been expecting, given the bombastic nature of the grooves that surround them. In the live environment Mostefai and Franczak share vocal duties, with Mostefai handling the lead and Franczak pitching in on backing vocals and harmonies, Franczak isn't credited as a vocalist on "Forgotten Mansion" but Desert Psychlist assumes the same is true here, either way the vocals are huge and possess an echoing quality that makes them feel like they were recorded in a cathedral rather than in a studio. "Marijuana" follows with a groove no less ominous and menacing than its predecessor only here the band seem to be channelling a little Ghost type dramatics into their sound, albeit with a touch of blackened metal extremism thrown in for good measure, while "Lucid Forest" is a keyboard drenched low slow and heavy stoner doom workout with gothic undertones. "Ghosts Happen to Fade" is up next, its lyrics might scan like something translated by a Google bot but this does not detract from their execution vocally or the enjoyment its mix of heavy stoner bluster and heady psyched out doom brings Final track "The Old Days" comes over like something Dopelord, Monolord and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats might come up with if left locked in a studio together, heavy plodding and doomic, but flecked with a myriad of subtle shades and colours that serve to break up its relentless thrumming heaviness, the song is a fittingly epic finale to what is an equally epic album of dramatic doom.
© 2022 Frazer Jones
# "Forgotten Mansion" drops 18th November 2022 on Mrs Red Sound
Sunday 6 November 2022
Friday 4 November 2022
"The Faceless King" is a grandiose conceptual album that tells the story of a malevolent king dethroned and murdered by his subjects whose remains have been acquired by a sinister cult intent on resurrecting him for their own dark purposes. We use the word "grandiose" because it is a word that pertains to something that has been conceived on a very grand or ambitious scale, and this makes it the perfect word to describe the music Vitskar Suden present to us with "The Faceless King". "The Faceless King" is "grand" in respect of the richness and depth of its music, and it is "ambitious" in regard to its cinematic and panoramic vision. As the first strains of opening track "The Way-Part 1" seep stealthily out of the speakers the listener need only close his/her eyes to be transported out of their own mundane existence and into Vitskar Suden's world of cults, deposed monarchs and windswept dunes. Like a good movie "The Faceless King" drags you in and along, you may not be able to see the characters live out their triumphs and failures on a big screen but with David Paul Seymour's artwork already seared into the mind's eye and huge sprawling atmospheric tomes like "Archdiocese Of Worms" , "Shepherds On The Roadside" and "The Broken Crown" serving as your soundtrack it's easy to conjure up your own images and, much like you would when reading a book, add your own colours and textures to this engrossing conceptual piece.