Friday 3 February 2023

SWELL O - MORNING HAZE .... review

 Of late it every album landing on our desk seems to be hailing from Germany, not that we are complaining as the scene over there looks to be on fire. The latest album from a German outfit to reach the top of our "marked for review" pile comes from a combo going by the name of Swell O, consisting of Simo (drums), Harald (bass),Sebastian (vocals, guitar) and Sönke (vocals, guitar), a quartet of musicians who jam an up-tempo mix of stoner rock and heavy psych ideal for those who like their grooves with an element of "joie-de-vivre" about them, an element running rife throughout their debut album, "Morning Haze".(Clostridium Records)

"Hitchhiker" kicks things off  in forceful style, a hard driven stoner/desert romp with an insistent fuzz drenched groove that fans of bands like Fu Manchu, Truckfighters and early Red Fang would sell a kidney to acquire for their music collections. Vocals come from much the same ballpark as the music , clean melodic tones that are a mixture of lead and dual harmonies with any grittiness kept to a bare minimum and zero traces of harshness, in other words a very much "old school" style of what we currently call stoner rock. For their next track, "Summit" Swell O introduce a little psych into the equation, the songs groove still staying very much within the stoner/desert parameters of the previous track but this time sprinkled with a liberal pinch of cosmic haziness. That haziness extends itself into following song "Black Cat" but here takes on a more circular swirly dynamic with the heavily filtered vocals possessing a tone not too dissimilar to those found on early Nebula recordings. "Earthship No,2" is somewhat of a departure from what has gone before mainly due to its vocals, which are delivered in a clipped tone that gives them an almost goth(ic) feel, a feel reflected in the songs grooves which are still stoner/desert in flavour but are tinted with a darker edginess. It is fully understandable that Swell O should choose "Morning Haze" as the song to name their album after as it is a song that perfectly captures what the band are all about, its throbbing desert groove and ear catching vocal melodies are just so joyous and life affirming that its hard not to just keep hitting the repeat button and attempt to live in the moment for eternity, if people tell you that stoner rock has seen better days then just play them this track and walk away smugly smiling. "Shine Through" carries much the same vibe as its predecessor only this time with a touch more bluesiness in its attack as well as a little extra heavy psych haziness while final song "Venom" takes its lead from the punk and garage rock that fuelled the desert movements early days, its furious groove and staccato type vocal delivery possess a gnarly infectiousness that will appeal to fans of both Kyuss and Black Flag alike.

Swell O should be given a hearty slap on the back for what they have brought to the table with "Morning Haze", it is an album packed solid with all the things we valued about the original desert sound but then puts a fresh spin on them so that those same values can be appreciated by a whole new generation of retro tee wearing, fuzz obsessed disciples of the riff.
Check 'em out ..... 

© 2023 Frazer Jones

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