Let's take a trip to the bottom end of the South American continent and visit Argentina, a place that for a while now has been churning out more than its fair share of gnarly assed underground grooviness. The band we are visiting today go by the name of Halfaya, Pancho (vocals/electronics), Gonza (bass/vocals), Strips (guitar/vocals) and CJ (drums/percussion), a band who like to call what they do as "weedcore". Now, with the odd exception, Desert Psychlist tends to run a mile from anything attached to the term "core" but Halfaya's debut release "El Paso de Halfaya"(Psycho Records) proves that the word "core" doesn't always have to rhyme with "bore".
Title track "El Paso De Halfaya", an instrumental, arrives slow and atmospheric with droning electronic effects that are accompanied by a crunching circular guitar motif that gradually builds and builds until finally settling into a juddering heavy proto-doomic/metallic refrain that is as far removed from being "core" as it could possibly get while still remaining in the hard and heavy arena."Vienen Por Vos" follows and apart from a few gnarly vocal inflections there is still no real sign of those "core" elements raising their head, instead we get a heavy stoner outing decorated in grainy fuzz and driven by thick growling bass and punchy, pounding percussion."Miserias" throws a curve ball into the mix, a short moody instrumental that although brief is quite charming and strangely soothing which is something that cannot be said about its near neighbour "Extraños" a short sharp jab of stoner doomic mayhem broken up by moments of thrash like pace, a song where those "core" elements talked about begin to make their presence felt. Next track "Asidero A La Oscuridad" explores more stoner doomic territories its low slow intro building up into a thrumming heavily fuzzed groove decorated with a strong triple vocal attack, the song increasing in pace before finally coming to an abrupt finish."Vencidos" follows and now we do enter the "core" arena with the band hitting a punky hardcore groove with the vocals following suit. "Abduction" closes the album and finds the band dropping their native tongue for English with a song that has a strong political edge, the lyrics telling of "Abduction, Disappearance, Homicide", seemingly a reference to Argentina's "Dirty War" a time when many of Argentina's citizens were rounded up by the authorities never to be seen again. Powerful and doomic with subtle twists in dynamic and pace the song closes "El Paso De Halfaya" much like the album began, slow and atmospheric.
Halfaya may call what they do "weedcore", and there are elements to be found here that most definitely come under the dreaded "core" banner, however what we at Desert Psychlist prefer to call this is … devastatingly good , powerfully heavy ROCK!
Hardly has the ink dried (metaphorically speaking) on Desert Psychlist's review of a band we described as raising the doom standard to impossible new heights (Troll ~ Legend Master), than along comes one of the scenes big hitters and throws that same standard way out into the stratosphere. Finland'sLord Vicar will not be strangers to those of you who follow dooms gore splattered flag but it has to be said the band have not exactly been overly active of late in the recording stakes, their last outing of note being 2016's "Gates of Flesh", however that has all changed with the release of "The Black Powder" an album that cements Lord Vicar's place as one of dooms leading lights.
Desert Psychlist could give you a detailed breakdown of each and every one of the nine tracks that make up "The Black Powder" but you can find those easily enough on other review sites and why take the enjoyment out of you discovering these songs for yourselves, instead we'll try to give you our brief overall impression of "The Black Powder" as a whole. "Black Powder" possess all those elements you would expect from an album that has its feet planted firmly in the decaying soil of the doomic genre, it is dank, cloying, atmospheric and in places a little creepy yet at the same time is also epic, grandiose and, despite its sometimes fatalistic lyrical content, strangely uplifting. One of the criticisms levelled at Lord Vicar'sSwedish contemporaries Candlemass was that their latest album "The Door to Doom" was, in places, a touch like listening to a doom version of an Andrew Lloyd-Webber stage production, this is not so with "The Black Powder" here we have an album that reeks of doom, feels like doom and for all we know may even taste of doom. Dynamically Lord Vicar play, what we call in the UK, a blinder, it would be so easy for the band to travel down the musical paths of low slow and heavy but they evenly balance out their doomic dirges with grooves of a more upbeat, almost proto-metallic nature, for every gaping hole of depression, a shining white light of hope, for every "Sulphur, Charcoal and Saltpetre" a "Levitation".
So there it is a brief and not overly detailed description of Lord Vicar's new album "The Black Powder", an album we, at Desert Psychlist, believe to be their best to date, an album that should be in every discerning doom fans music collection. Check it out ….
Most of the UK bands Desert Psychlist has reviewed of late have come from the western fringes of the country, today however we travel to the middle of England and the city of Leicester for a four piece who have, with the help of three well received albums, steadily been building a reputation not only in the UK but also across the pond. That band are Mage, Andy (drums). Tom (vocals), Mark (bass) and Woody (guitar), four guys who despite having to deal with some issues during their five year tenure, both personal and business wise, are still bringing it to the table loud and raucous, something their fourth album "Key To The Universe" more than bears testimony to.
From the moment first track "Zen Blues" tears through the cones of your speakers with its huge wave of heavy blustering riffage and thunderous percussion you almost instinctively know you are going to love every single moment of the next thirty plus minutes, and you will! You will marvel at the swinging vocal melodies and swaggering hard rock grooves of "You Hate Speech", you while throw fist pumps to the air as you listen to the fractured shifting refrains of "Grind", you will feel real disappointment when the swaying, swirling "Black Totem" brings things to a close with its mix of stuttering old school heavy metal and proto-doomic bluster, and you will feel utter joy and elation when you realise just pushing play means you can hear it all again.
Desert Psychlist supposes you could describe Mage's sonic assault on the senses, with "Key To The Universe", as leaning towards the more metallic end of the stoner spectrum, their sound being a little too doomic and heavy to be associated with the Kyuss's and Monster Magnet's of this world and just a little less intense and leaden for it to be mentioned in the same breaths as say a Pallbearer or a Dopelord. Mage's sound sits instead somewhere in the middle of those dynamics, a crossroads where melody and intensity meet and amicably shake hands.
Evil Eye, Wikipediadefinition; The evil eye is a curse or legend believed to be cast by a malevolent glare, usually given to a person when they are unaware. Many cultures believe that receiving the evil eye will cause misfortune or injury.
"Evil Eye", Desert Psychlist definition; "Evil Eye" is a two track album by New York instrumental post-doomanauts Clouds Taste Satanic. Many believe receiving "Evil Eye" will cause forty minutes plus of unbridled audial pleasure.
Clouds Taste Satanic are that rare thing, an instrumental doom band who constantly deliver, now doom by it's very nature can be a little limiting in that it has parameters that need to be met in order to fulfil its full doomic potential, doom needs to be heavy for one thing, it also needs to be atmospheric, have depth and in most cases be a little slower in pace. CTS more than meet all these needs with their vocal free grooves but they also add into the mix a little dynamic faery dust so as to avoid their jams becoming just plodding bore-fests. The band achieve this by weaving into their doomic grooves touches of lysergic colouring and neo-classical texturing as well as a modicum of bluesy swagger and proto-doomic bluster, something that gives their wordless tomes an epic almost grandiose feel. Title track "Evil Eye" exemplifies this perfectly, the band using all those elements mentioned to lift the music up from its monolithic, monotonic doomic core and allow it to momentarily spread it's leathered wings before then plunging back into the viscous primordial soup from which it was birthed, shifting back and forth between these two dynamics of light and shade via a constant stream of changes in pace, volume and signature. For the first part of its life second track "Pagan Worship" takes a different tack preferring to stay in its doomic mire wallowing in its own heaviness until when, a quarter of the way in, it suddenly takes off on a proto-doom groove with guitar solo's screaming overhead only then to come to a full stop shortly afterwards and then plunge into a bass heavy post -metal dirge that slowly builds with intensity until finally exploding into a full on doom groove replete with soaring blues flecked guitar solos, growling bass and Bonham-esque military style drumming, the song finally bowing out on a wave of reverberating crackling fuzz, the whole experience leaving you a little awe-struck, a little breathless and a whole lot battered and bruised
As the last notes of "Evil Eye" fade into silence you will suddenly come to the realisation that you have sat through forty minutes plus of heavy, complex and intense instrumental doom without once wishing for the introduction of an impassioned howl or grizzled bellow, this is the beauty of Clouds Taste Satanic they make music that transcends the need for vocals or lyrics, a band who let their instruments create the drama and emotion and then leave it to their listeners imaginations to do the rest
Oakland, California groovsters Skunk make no bones about where their musical roots stem from, the quintet of John McKelvy (vocals), Dmitri Mavra (guitar), Erik Pearson (guitar), Matt Knoth (bass) and Jordan Ruyle (drums) readily admit that they draw their inspirations from the golden age of seventies hard rock and in particular the music, that bridged the gap between heavy blues rock and heavy metal, we now refer to as proto-metal. Skunk first tickled the hairs of our ears with their superb debut full album "Doubleblind" a raucous mix of proto flavoured riffage and classic rock swagger and now return to damage our hearing further with their new opus "Strange Vibration" (Fuzzy Minds Records)
Title track "Strange Vibration" opens with droning electronic trickery accompanied by a low booming bass line and is then joined by the other instruments in a lysergic jam that has guitar solo's coming at you from every conceivable angle, pushed into overdrive by busy tight percussion, the mayhem gradually subsiding for the groove to drop into a plodding doomic groove with the vocalist entering stage left to tell us of stoned gods dreaming and wise men preaching, telling these tales in vocal tones that have to be heard to be believed. John McKelvy's vocals are going to be either the deal clincher or deal breaker regarding whether you, the listener, are going to "get" Skunk, for some his Burke Shelley (Budgie) meets Ozzy Osbourne (Black Sabbath) and shares a helium filled balloon may prove a bridge to far but for others (us included) they will be the cherry on a very tasty proto flavoured cake. Assuming you are of the latter group and dig McKelvy's unique vocal talents then what the rest of the album offers is going to rock your boat harder than a hurricane in the Atlantic Ocean, unashamed borrowing ("Stand In The Sun" *basically Black Sabbath's NIB with different lyrics, chorus and middle section), bluesy funkiness ("Blood Moon Rising"),swaggering hard rock ("Evil Eye Gone Blind") and doom mixed with a liberal sprinkling of glam rock ("The Cobra's Kiss") are just a few of the elements that will have you leaping around your personal space like a loon who's trod on a cactus, the rest you can discover for yourselves.
Let's try not to get bogged down with the term "retro" in regard to Skunk's new album, yes the music contained therein does have its roots in the 70's but there are also elements to be found here that would never have surfaced had it not been for today's re-emergence of rock as a force to be, once again, reckoned with. Skunk may use the halcyon days of bell bottom trousers and kaftans as their jumping off point but where they land is most certainly in the here and now.
Mount Soma, Brian Kiloran (vocals/guitar), Keith Walsh (guitar), Conrad Coyle (bass/synths) and Aaron Carroll (drums), hint that their latest EP, "Nirodha", might very well be their last, the Dublin based band stating (via their Bandcamp album page) that "We struggle to exist as a band because life is complicated, so if this is our last transmission then let it be thus". We at Desert Psychlist hope that this hint does not become fact because to lose a band this intense, this intelligent and this damn good would truly be a crime.
The brief sample of narrative and spacey whoops and swirls that serves as the intro into first track "Dark Sun Destroyer" may fool the casual listener into expecting some sort of Hawkwind(ish) space rock extravaganza but that notion is smashed to pieces when, like Thor's Hammer, Carroll's drums come crashing in and the band explode into a thick sludgy stoner doomic groove with Coyle's bass rumbling like an earthquake beneath Kiloran and Walsh's heavily distorted powerchords, riffs and solos. Kiloran, along with his guitar duties, also supplies the bands vocals and the man has a beast of a voice, deep, thick gravelled tones delivered with a force equal to the force of the grooves surrounding them. After a brief count in by Carroll "Emerge the Wolf" literally erupts from the speakers on a wave of low slung riffage and pulverising percussion with Kiloran almost shredding his vocal chords telling us of wolves, ancient woods and tangled thrones over a groove that is heavy, intense and just short of brutal. Last track "Resurfacing" begins its life hazy and atmospheric, a low rumbling bass line, coupled with heavily echoed guitar textures and tight solid percussion, sits beneath narrative telling, in hushed tones, of "electric cascades", "fractal explosions" and a "blue faced god", the songs groove slowly building in momentum and intensity until exploding into a huge sludge drenched, mid tempo, groove flecked with touches of prog-like complexity and heavy psych colouring, Kiloran returning to his usual bear-like roar to tell us of a fight to escape from a personal darkness, a "rebirth through suffering"
The depiction of rocky peaks, partially obscured by rolling red clouds, that graces the cover of Mount Soma's "Nirodha" seem very apt given that the music it serves has a very mountainous quality. When we say mountainous what we probably mean is "big" and despite only having three tracks "Nirodha" is nonetheless very "BIG" , big in intensity, big in sound and big in enjoyment.
Ever had that moment when you thought you had come out of a dream only to find that you are not quite back in the land of the living, that you are lost somewhere in that hinterland between reality and dreamland, frozen, paralysed, unable to move even an eyelid? If you have then you will recall the utter terror and blind panic of that experience, those feelings of vulnerability and total helplessness. This state of being is sometimes referred to medically as "dream paralysis", but there is another state of dreaming that is just as terrifying, a state of dreaming that has you utterly convinced you are actually fully awake, doing everyday things like brushing your teeth and having a shower, only to discover this perceived reality is just a dream of that reality, this is called a "false awakening", which leads us nicely into the subject of this review. "False Awakening" is the title of, Swedish sound architects, Insonika's debut album, an album that delves into those nightly horror movies we call nightmares and gives them a soundtrack befitting of their unpredictable, confusing and quite often horrific nature.
"Night Sky" opens "False Awakening" with gentle, guitar arpeggios sweeping over a backdrop of serene shimmering effects and low key bass and is followed by "The Hunt Begins" a song that, initially, continues in much the same vein as its predecessor only this time around drums make an appearance and the bass takes a more prominent role. The song builds in atmosphere by gradually swelling in volume until exploding into a slightly repetitious but wholly engrossing heavy doomic groove replete with swirling guitar solo's before just as suddenly subsiding back into serenity. "Tiamat (featuring Billy Taylor)" begins with a spoof radio phone-in beneath which a military style drum pattern is efficiently tattooed out, the drums are then joined by the guitar and bass in a thrumming slightly spacey groove over which clean, lightly phased, vocal tones tell nightmarish tales of escaping entities and mystical deities. Next up is "The Path of Men" a tune that mixes its stoner doomic properties with that of its more metallic stonerized cousin and is followed by "Who lit My Candle" a dynamic, hard rocking, almost thrash paced opus that seamlessly jumps back and forth between dynamics and time, while "Mare Poem" finds Insonika dipping their toes into sludgier, slightly more progressive waters, its vocals, though still clear and clean, taking on a grittier, growlier edge. "Hellwalker" brings the nightmarish scenarios of "False Awakening" to a conclusion with a sprawling, schizophrenic instrumental stretched out over a captivating thirteen minutes, the band sonically shifting up and down through the gears until finally closing out on a wave of fuzz drenched droning resonance, a fitting end to an album the band describe as "themed around the stuff of nightmares"
Much like movies nightmares tend to start well, first there is serenity, comfortability and familiarity then suddenly things take a sudden sharp turn and the dreamer finds themselves plunged into a realm awash with absurdity and insanity. Insonika's "False Awakening" mirrors this gradual spiral into bedtime terror by building the tension and atmosphere slowly, the music reflecting a dreamers journey from placid tranquillity to those places in our sleeping subconscious where our deepest fears and anxieties dwell. Check it out ….
Desert Psychlist has waxed lyrical about Chile's underground rock scene on these pages before as well as filling readers in on a little history regarding the suppression of any music that the Chilean authorities deemed to be subversive. Thankfully things have changed quite drastically in that department over the years and Chile is now a hot bed of musical activity, especially in the field of underground rock. Neoyka, Alfredo B. (guitar/vocals), Diego H. (drums), Felipe P. (bass/vocals) and Moisés S. (synthesiser), hail from La Serena, Chile and call what they do "stoner/fuzz rock", a term that somewhat belies the depth and scope of the grooves these guys bring to the table, yes they have the stoner fuzz thing going on and yes they do rock but there is a lot more going on here, something that is more than borne out when listening to their latest release "Vol.II: Desborde y el Ocaso"
Ominous and atmospheric is the best way to describe "Vol.II's" opening instrumental "Introspeccion I" it's deep booming bass lines, scorching psychedelic guitar forays and hard driving percussion are taken to another level by an array of swooping, swirling keyboard /synth colouring, all these elements coming together to create a mood and feel that although edged in darkness is nonetheless soulful and uplifting . As well as being quite adept at being dank and moody Neoyka can also rock and they prove this with songs like "Marbola", "70 Rockas" and "Estrelle de sombras benignas", songs drenched in devastating levels of distortion and fuzz and coated in powerful clean dual vocal harmonies (sang in Spanish), songs that grab you by the throat and demand your attention. It is however those songs that step off the gas a little and explore darker sonic pathways that really make Neoyka a force to be reckoned with, the lysergic "Sabes" with its beautiful keyboard intro and emotive vocal melody, the stoner doomic "A 2 segundos" with its dank distorted doomic refrains and church like organ textures, the bluesy and schizophrenic "Nuestra marcha" and the hazy, lazy, lysergic instrumental "Introspeccion II & III" all go to show a level of arrangement, song writing and instrumental aptitude that is, at times, mind-blowing.
Stunning is a word oft overused regarding music and art but Desert Psychlist does not apologise for using it in the context of "Vol.II: Desborde y el Ocaso", this IS a "stunning" album that rocks and soothes in equal measure and should be heard to be believed. Check it out …..
Bath, UK'sEyes Fly, started life as two man project conceived at an all day doom fest by Peter (guitar) and Gaz (drums) , two West Country residents brought together by a mutual love of doom and heavy noise in general. Realising that, to really bring to life the sound they were hearing in their heads, the duo needed to become a quartet the pair soon recruited in Tom on bass and Dean, from Gaz's previous band Valfader, on vocals. With Eyes Fly now a four piece the band set about writing tunes that would best utilise their newly expanded line-up and showcase their bigger more dynamic sound, the results of which can be heard on the bands debut release "The Long Return".
Prog, as a genre/style of music, has had its denigrators over the years, so much so that prog's overblown nature was cited as the reason (blame in some circles) for the emergence of the back to basics movement that culminated in punk rock. Prog however is a resilient beast and although dealt a devastating body blow by the likes of The Clash and The Ramones the genre was not fatally wounded and has slowly been clawing its way back, not so much in its own right but by integrating itself into other forms of music and genres, mainly at the heavier end of the underground rock scene. Eyes Fly are not what you would call an out and out prog band but their music does have progressive elements, elements of complexity and intricacy blended with a fair amount of old school hard rock swagger and bullish metallic stoner bluster.
First track "The Dead, Living" comes out of the gates with untamed force and feral ferocity, the band jamming a groove that is all crunching chords, growling bass and thunderous percussion before then settling down into a chugging metallic groove fractured by moments of blustering heaviness. Clean, grit edged vocals, that occasionally descend into harshness, soar effortlessly over these dark heavily fuzzed refrains telling their doomic tale against a huge backdrop of dark and addictive stonerized metallic groove.. So where is all this prog we hear you asking, well next track "She Who Rode" answers that question with a song that, in its initial stages, incorporates prog flavoured glistening arpeggios, complex chord structures and clean crystal clear vocals, the song slowly building in intensity and volume until finally exploding into a whirlwind of heavy doomic groove replete with swirling lead work, earth shaking bass and punishing heavy percussion with the vocals following suit with a harsher, growlier delivery. "Home Within"is up next and begins life with demonic wordless growling over shimmering percussion and then morphs into a laid back, almost post-rock, groove over which clean vocal tones tiptoe and skip melodically before the band up the ante and shift into stoner doomic territory with those harsher vocals once again rearing their demonic head over a raucous foundation of chainsaw riffage. "Eyes Fly" (the track) follows and closes the EP with a song that has an almost Opeth feel to it, thanks in part, to its thrumming, sometimes stuttering prog metal groove and its mix of clean vocal melodies and guttural growling, the song closing what is a very impressive EP that boasts a blistering and wholly entertaining mix of mesmerising prog metal and dank stoner(ish) doom
Progressive, raucous, delicate and doomic "The Long Return" is absolutely off the scale in the groove stakes, an EP that proves that intricacy and complexity can live quite comfortably hand in hand with brute force and power without the need to compromise to either.
Maybe there is something in those apples they grow in the UK's West Country that causes so many good bands to emerge from there. Doomicidal, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Sail and Cybernetic Witch Cult all have to some degree made their mark on the underground scene and all hail from the South West of England.
Yeovil, Somerset combo Duskwood are another West Country based band hoping to reach a wider audience, the band first made the scenes movers and shakers sit up and take notice with the release of their 2016 debut "Desert Queen" a stunning collection of desert flavoured grooves underscored with a hint of 60's psychedelia and 70's hard rock swagger. Appetites whetted we waited eagerly for a follow up but it never materialised .. until now! Three years after the release of "Desert Queen" Duskwood are back with a new EP, "The Long Dark", still swaggering and still desert flavoured.
Things get underway with "Space Craft" a colourful yet atmospheric song with a quiet/loud/quiet dynamic underscored by deep rumbling bass and a mixture of laid back and forceful percussion over which heavily effected guitar trades off riffs and solos around clean, powerful and slightly gritted vocals. "Mars Rover" follows and although jamming a similar undulating dynamic as its predecessor this time leans towards being a little more in your face and raucous. "Crook & Flail" slows things down and sees the band dipping their toes into the psychedelic arena, the songs liquid bass lines and wah drenched guitar textures lapping gently around its clean emotive vocals, the songs laid back lysergic feel only interrupted by moments of sporadic crunching heaviness. "The Long Dark" finishes with "Nomad" a barnstorming showstopper that marries the bands love of a heavy groove with that of their more trippy desert side, the band channelling a sort of Colour Haze meets Dope Smoker (the Welsh stoner/doom band, not the Sleep album) vibe that totally works and closes out the EP on a massive and totally satisfying high
"The Long Dark" marks a stunning return for Duskwood but let's hope that the bands next release does not take another three years to be released, we really need music this good to be coming at us annually as opposed to tri-annually. Check it out ….