Friday, 25 May 2018

WITCH MOUNTAIN ~ WITCH MOUNTAIN ...... review


When, Portland , Oregon's Witch Mountain, released their 2014 album "Mobile of Angel's" it came as a bit of a bitter/sweet pill, the joy associated with the release of an album from a band, who at the time were on every underground rock/doom fan's lips , was counterbalanced by the news that it would be their last with their charismatic and highly talented vocalist Uta Plotkin. Rumours that the band were auditioning new singers and bassists soon came trickling through the grapevine but it was a few months before founding members Rob Wrong (guitars) and Nathan Carson (percussion) announced the arrival into their rocky coven of Justin Brown (bass) and Kayla Dixon (vocals). Not wishing to head straight into the studio just to make a statement that Witch Mountain had reconvened as a band Wong and Carson decided to bed Dixon and Brown in by heading out on tour thus allowing not only the new members the time to adjust to their new surroundings but also the fans to appreciate and accept the new dynamics the two new recruits were about to bring to the table. Desert Psychlist is not too sure if that period of transition was planned to take almost three years but that is how it worked out and now finally, with the release of "Witch Mountain" (Svart Records), we have something tangible we can at last drool and slaver over and spin to our hearts content.


There will be those of us, Desert Psychlist included, who will always have a fondness and high regard for Uta Plotkin period Witch Mountain but Uta has moved on to new pastures and it would be rude, and also a little lazy, for Desert Psychlist to fill this review with comparisons between her and new vocalist Kayla and therefore lets not do that, instead let us concentrate on the dynamics and shades the superbly talented new vocalist brings to Witch Mountain and this their new album.
Kayla Dixon is a phenomenally adept and versatile vocalist who can, in the blink of an eye, shift from soulful chanteuse to venom spitting demoness while also having the ammunition in her vocal arsenal to switch, just as easily, from ethereal whisper to bluesy howl. Dixon screams, growls, howls and croons over a mixture of diverse and varied doomic backdrops, superbly provided for her by Wrong's thick downtuned riffs and scorching solo's, Carson's mix of intricate and punishing rhythms  and Brown's grumbling, booming bass lines, bringing a soulful and emotional edge to songs like "Midnight", "Mechanical World" (a Spirit cover) and "Burn You Down" yet able to suddenly drag them down in to the abyss with a guttural growl and anguished scream. On the wonderfully paced "Hellfire" she even gets to bring an element of gospel(ish) jazziness to proceedings, her voice soaring majestically over gentle guitar arpeggios and piano accompaniment. It is on the epic closer "Nighthawk" however that Witch Mountain's new line up really show their mettle, a slow building opus that not only highlights Dixon's amazing vocal range but also gives new bassist Brown the chance to shine, his earthy, big booming bass not only introducing the song but also at the root of the songs gradually increasing dynamic. This is Witch Mountain at their finest, bluesy, soulful and laying down thick slabs of atmospheric, cloying doom, the band building the song layer upon glorious layer until suddenly exploding into a wonderful, mind-blowing hybrid of grimy blackened doom and gnarled extreme metal.


The fact that the band have simply called their new opus "Witch Mountain" speaks volumes and tells us in two words that this is the beginning of a new chapter in Witch Mountain's story, it is the band's way of saying let's not forget our history and what previous members contributed to that history but let's start anew, this is our fresh start, our "ground zero"
Check it out …..

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Monday, 21 May 2018

EYE ~ OUT OF BODY ......... review


Faced with no information on a band's personnel, instrumentation or past history what is the humble reviewer/blogger to do? Well one option would be to make up something epic like this is a band whose members are the offspring of a coupling between men and Russian she-wolves and their instruments are made from the bones and guts of prey animals, or maybe we could say that they were political prisoners who formed a band while imprisoned in a Russian gulag/labour camp and after a daring escape are now  making music in the underground sewers of their home city. Trouble with that option is that there is a good chance the band in question will read this and Desert Psychlist will be looking down the wrong end of a law suit. The other option is just to tell it how it is and confess that Desert Psychlist knows nothing of this band other than they play exhilarating psychedelic stoner doom, that their name is EYE, they come from Murmansk, Russia and that they have an absolutely killer album now residing over on Bandcamp entitled "Out Of Body"


Droning effects and feedback introduce first track "Transformation" before things settle down and the band fall into a heavily psyched swirling doomic groove, which reveals something else about EYE that we didn't touch on in our intro piece, and that is they contain among their numbers a truly impressive vocalist. Strong of voice and with a slightly stilted, almost Germanic delivery she (for it is a she) battles hard to be heard over a huge wall of guitar fuelled fuzz and distortion, growling bass and thunderous percussion yet she succeeds magnificently and in doing so takes everything to another level. This level is maintained and at times exceeded as the band follow up "Transformation" with four more songs of swirling, swooping lysergic stonerized doom, the band adding eastern hues to "Out of Body", utilising male/female harmonised mantras,dual lead and traded vocals on the excellent "Moment Balans", going full on stoner on "Smoke Weed" then finishing in a blaze of gothic tinted doomic splendour with the spine-tingling and atmospheric "Circle of Suffering".


Heady, trippy, tinted in gothic hues and with an undercurrent of menace and brutality "Out of Body" is an album that mesmerises, mystifies and pummels all at the same time and if  EYE continue on their current path it may not be too long before we may actually find out who they are and what instruments they play.
Check 'em out …..

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Saturday, 19 May 2018

SPIRAL SKIES ~ BLUES FOR A DYING PLANET ..... review


Those of advanced years may remember a little combo going by the name of Curved Air, if you are in fact too young to recall them Curved Air were (and occasionally still are) a prog rock/folk hybrid fronted by a stunning vocalist named Sonja Kristina. Although Curved Air never really set the music world alight they did manage to garner a hit single in the shape of "Back Street Luv" (1971) which reached a quite respectable #4 in the UK singles charts. Now you may be wondering why Desert Psychlist is mentioning a 70's cult band in a review concerning a Swedish band formed in 2014, well the answer is simple Spiral Skies have picked up Curved Air's prog/folk baton and are currently running your way with it and if your not convinced then give their latest album "Blues For a Dying Planet" (AOP Records) a listen..


Desert Psychlist doesn't know whether Eric (bass), Daniel (drums), Jonas (guitar), Dan (guitar) and Frida (vocals) used Curved Air's mix of prog complexity and folkish whimsey as the blueprint for their sound or if they are even aware of their British counterparts existence but it is hard, if you've heard both bands, not to make a comparison. If ,however, you are coming to this review with no prior knowledge of Curved Air, or for that fact Spiral Skies, then your in for a treat on both scores.
Let's begin with the voice up front and centre stage of Spiral Skies sonic attack, a voice that carries with it imagery of floral dresses and straw hats yet is supported by a musical backdrop that screams black leather and spandex. Frida's vocals soar and swoop over the intricate and complex grooves executed beneath them yet you could not describe her vocals as ethereal or waif like, her strong powerful voice possessing a folky grittiness that is perfectly in tune with the retro(ish) grooves they decorate. Those grooves come at you from a good number of directions with stoner rock, hard rock and their well dressed cousin classic rock all represented here in one form or another, but it is that mix of prog and folk which is the overriding factor that pulls them all together. Jonas and Dan's guitars weave an intricate web of scorching Celtic flavoured solo's and harmonies, chunky powerchords and delicate arpeggios in and around Frida's vocals while underneath Eric and Daniel keep things grounded and on point with big growling bass and solid but flexible percussion, all five members combining to create a truly glorious, if not totally original, cacophony.


If the words Sweden, Celtic, harmonies and retro have not already got you reaching for the buy button for "Blues For A Dying Planet" then consider these words instead AWESOME, SUPERB and ESSENTIAL
Check it out ….

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Friday, 18 May 2018

THOUGHT EATER ~ BONES IN THE FIRE ......... review


Bass guitars, those cumbersome and heavy instruments that hold down a songs bottom end and are usually wielded by musicians with severe back problems, usually range from those of the four string variety up to those of eight, Thought Eater's bassist, Darin Tambascio, however prefers to make things a touch more complicated for himself by opting for a bass with no less than twelve strings. It is the sound of this unusual instrument combined with the sonic texturing of Douglas Griffith's guitar and the complex and powerful drumming of Bobby Murray that makes Thought Eater's new release "Bones in the Fire" (Grimoire Records) such a mouth-watering prospect.


Well let us get one thing out of the way first, "Bones in the Fire" is an instrumental album, now if instrumental music is not your thing then you may want to stop reading now but if you do then you are likely to miss out on some truly inspirational jams shot through with rich veins of post-metal and prog-metal texturing. To be honest there is not a lot NOT to enjoy about the six songs Thought Eater present us with here, the bands blend of complexity and good old metallic bluster is as intoxicating as it is breath-taking and in places recalls the metallic edge UK  proggers King Crimson brought to us with their iconic opus "Red". From the heavily fuzzed first notes of opener "Bones in the Fire (Part1)" to the serene acoustics and string effects of closer "Umwelt" the band do not miss a chance to impress and astound, shifting grooves like some shift their stance, throwing in a complex jazz progression here a brutal riff  there and doing so without once losing sight of each songs core elements, blending structure and chaos together in a blazes of instrumental magnificence.


Hopefully you of the anti-instrumental brigade ignored Desert Psychlist's suggestion earlier to stop reading and stuck with this review of Thought Eater's "Bones in the Fire", wondering what all the fuss is about and intrigued to hear what a twelve string bass sounds like.. well now is the time to find out.
Check it out .....

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Thursday, 17 May 2018

LA IGLESIA ATOMICA ~ GRAN MURO DE COMA ...... review


Sometimes you need to live with an album before reviewing it, taking time to really appreciate its finer points, its nuances, shades and colours, really allowing it to sink into your psyche, to the point where you almost feel part of the music you are listening to. That is how it was ( and still is) with La Iglesia Atomica's latest release "Gran Muro de Coma" and why you the reader have had to wait until now to read Desert Psychlist's thoughts on it.


"Gran Muro de Coma" is a conceptual piece based around the continuing flight through the vast expanse of space of NASA's Voyager 1 delivered in three movements of exhilarating psychedelic rock. The first of these movements "Viajero" (English translation: The Wanderer) begins with a sample of  Voyager 1's launch countdown amidst a swirling backdrop of screeching dissonant guitar effects which is slowly joined by the bass and drums in a revolving and evolving hard rock/psych groove. The band continue along this path ,evoking in musical imagery Voyager 1's spinning trajectory out of Earth's orbit, until slowly shifting down the gears and moving into a more sedate and lysergic groove. Here is where things get really interesting with shards of splintered chordal guitar colouring chiming ,chirping and screaming over backdrops of liquid bass, intricate percussive patterns and textured keyboards, the band creating a swirling, swooping soundscape that places the listener in the driving seat of a craft that has no drivers seat. "Nube de Oort" (English translation: Oort Cloud) visualises in music Voyager 1's journey through that halo of icy objects, thought to be the source of many of the universes comets. There is a chaotic element to the grooves found here, an element of menace and danger befitting of the environments the music tries to portray, moments also of tranquillity and serenity that balance and buffer the songs intensity and insanity."Hijo del Sol" (English translation: Son of the Sun) closes the album and depicts in sound Voyager 1 coming face to face with the Great Wall of Coma, the supercluster of galaxies at the edges of our own galaxy, and presenting itself as an ambassador of our home star, our Sun. As you would expect from a track that depicts such an iconic event there is grandiosity and epic quality to the grooves to be found here, triumph, awe, confusion and apprehension are all portrayed in a series of shifting grooves that stretch from brutal to serene to funky all of which are executed with an astonishing level of musical vision and breath-taking musicianship.


"Gran Muro de Coma" is an astonishing album put together by a band who have, like the space craft in this album, travelled a long, long way to get where they are today. So was it worth all the heartbreak and tears, breakups and reformations that La Iglesia Atomica have been through in their twenty year life span? Well on the evidence of this album the answer to that has to be a resounding YES!
Check it out .... 

© 2018 Frazer Jones

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

ELECTRIC PUSSY ~ HEROIN ...... review



Controversial themes combined with questionable artwork maybe the reasoning behind Ukrainian groovsters Electric Pussy preferring to keep a low profile and releasing very little information on their instrumentation or personnel . One thing we can tell you though is that the band have just recently released a very interesting and totally schizophrenic album entitled "Heroin"


"Satan" kicks things off with discordant heavily fuzzed guitar crunching out thick reverberating chords that circling menacingly in the air,  chords and riffs that carry the groove for a full four minutes before being joined by sparse but solid percussion Vocals then enter the fray and those that might be expecting something a little feral and growly are in for a surprise because we are faced here instead by a vocal almost devoid of tone, monotone weary mumbles that at first are a little disarming and just damn weird but after a while seems apt and fitting for the grooves they are surrounded by. Electric Pussy are nothing if not brave and they demonstrate this courage by tackling one of heavy rock's most iconic anthems next in the shape of Led Zeppelin/Jack Holmes' "Dazed and Confused", the band staying pretty close to the original but adding in their own little dissonant twists and turns along the way as well as replanting Robert Plant's original bluesy howls with those aforementioned monotone mumbles, it's a little weird , a little wacky but strangely it works. Title track "Heroin" follows and continues on a similar Zeppelin-esque path, the band laying down a heavy circular bluesy groove decorated with swirling lead colouring and of course those highly distinctive vocals. Final track "Last Trip" finds the band heading off into psychedelic territories with swirling guitar solo's swooping and swirling around each other, mixing textures and colours in a kaleidoscope of dissonant groove over a backdrop of solid steady percussion, it's breathtaking stuff that breaks all the known rules and a few that a haven't even been made yet.


"Heroin" is one of those albums that is likely to split opinion within underground rock community, there will be those that love it's uncompromising ugliness, its discordant noisiness and its left of centre weirdness and there will be those that hate every second of it, finding it loose, sloppy, chaotic and unlistenable. The truth, in Desert Psychlist's opinion, is that "Heroin" is all these things and more and that is why this album is so enjoyable, frustrating and brilliant all at the same time.
Check it out .....

© 2018 Frazer jones

Saturday, 12 May 2018

HIGHBERNATION ~ HIGHBERNATION ........ review


The definition of a riff according to the Oxford Dictionary is ..."a short repeated phrase in popular music and jazz, typically used as an introduction or refrain in a song". That definition, although correct, seems a little dismissive and throwaway for something that is more or less been the heartbeat of every rock, blues and pop song ever recorded. No genres of music have been more reliant on "the riff" than those at the more heavier end of the rock spectrum, especially those bands working within the metal, doom, stoner and hard rock arenas where the power of the riffs are almost as important as the songs they reside in.
Edmonton, Alberta trio Highbernation, MJ (drums), MR (guitar/vocals) and RG (bass) may prefer to hide their identities by using just initials but they certainly know a thing or two about laying down a riff having filled their debut release "Highbernation" with a ton of them.


Highbernation refer to their particular sonic groove as "reefer fuelled doom metal", stating their influences as stemming from such stoner doom luminaries as Sleep and Electric Wizard. It is not hard to hear elements from both those influences mentioned manifesting themselves within the three songs the band present here but this is not to say Highbernation are copyists. Highbernation are a band who like to riff, a band who believe if a riff is good enough then it doesn't matter if it consists of two notes or ten they are going to play it until fingers bleed and  muscles disintegrate and in this respect their are similarities but where Highbernation differ from their contemporaries is in the subtle psychedelic nuances they scatter around their mix of slow to mid paced riffage. Those nuances and lysergic hues present themselves both in MR's vocal execution and his occasional (and here we DO mean occasional) lysergic guitar solos, his strong, slightly gothic vocal tones, delivered with a hint of reverb, giving first two songs "Uncle Indica" and "Motherfuzzer" an almost ethereal feel despite the heaviness brought to the table by RG's monsterous bass lines and MJ's thundering percussion. On final track "Wasted Faith" the band allow us a peak at another side of them, the trio hitting into a groove that is just a little less stonerized and a lot more doomic and one that sees MR tailor his vocals accordingly, losing the reverb that gave his voice its ethereal quality and adopting a more traditional doomic tone. The songs ten minute plus span also allows the band to experiment a little, throwing a brief but delightfully executed lysergic section into the mix as well as some Sabbath-esque time shifts and tempo changes.


"Highbernation" shows a band who although may not be quite the finished article yet (there are a tad too many rough edges for that) nonetheless exhibit a high level of potential and promise for the future, a band worth keeping our eye on.
Check it out ..... 

© 2018 Frazer Jones