Tuesday, 16 January 2018
Cordoba, Spain is a place with a history of both Roman and Islamic occupation, something that can still be found influencing its architecture to this day. Cordoba is also the home of Grajo a four piece band whose diverse array of western doomic grooves mixed with elements of eastern promise reflect the two opposing cultures that have helped shape their cities past and present. This blend of styles is something that you can hear for yourselves on the bands latest outing "Slowgod ll" (Underground Legends Records for CD/ DHU Records for Vinyl).
First track "Alteres" lurches out of the speakers like a B movie monster, slow deliberate and menacing, a wave of grinding riffage and pummelling percussion heralding its approach, just has the creature makes its grab for his intended victim she turns opens her mouth and the gloom and darkness are suddenly pierced by the light of sweet honeyed and ethereal vocal tones, tones that placate his bloodlust and bewitch him with their beauty . Ok that's romanticising things a little too much but if your new to Grajo's mix of thunder and sunshine and your reading this before listening then that imagery might just be the deal breaker for you to go check them out. If and when you do make that move you might also find that the above description is not so far from the truth as you first thought.
Grajo deliver grooves that are dark, low, slow and heavy but they counterbalance those dank, dusky, refrains and thunderous rhythms with husky sweet but powerful clean vocals, vocals that are in stark contradiction to the grooves they are surrounded by yet somehow are enhanced and complimented by them. Album highlights are many on "Slowgod II" but special mentions should go out to the sprawling eastern tinted "Malmuerta", with its Moorish guitar motifs and superb vocal performance, and to the instrumental "Malestrom" with its prog-ish textures and washes of psychedelic/post-rock colouring, in actuality there is not a poor track to be found on the album and you the listener will no doubt find your own favourites.
Grajo have been slowly chipping away at that glass ceiling looming over them for a few years now, trying to reach a wider audience and break their music onto a more international market, "Slowgod II" just might be the album to do that..
Check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Monday, 15 January 2018
Who remembers nights hiding behind a cushion watching old Italian horror movies? Ok if you watch them now they are not so scary and even pretty laughable but back in their day they were guaranteed to give you sleepless nights and have you jumping at every creak and groan of your old wooden floorboards. Haunt, a trio from Central Illinois, with influences that range from The Beatles to Voivoid, rehash those days of wide eyed panic and bedclothes pulled up high to the neck with their self recorded, self produced debut release "Haunt" a stunning mix of 60's style vocal harmonies and retro flavoured horror inspired hard/classic rock and metal,
Haunt are a band who like to play their cards close to their chests only telling us, in their own words, that they are "a lead vocalist on guitar who also provides keyboards, a bassist who also provides backing vocals and a drummer who provides lead vocal harmonies" adding that they "hope to be thought of as a single entity (a unholy trinity)", all pretty mysterious stuff but then that air of mystery and intrigue is also reflected in their music.
"Hymn" opens "Haunt" with beautifully executed choral harmonies and counter harmonies wordlessly sang a-cappella style that although not fully representative of the grooves to follow strangely sets the tone for the rest of the album. What does follow is "Revenant" a absolutely enthralling song that boasts among other things swathes of swirling keyboard colouring, a tolling bell and a cool mix of vocal harmonies and vocal trade offs all superbly supported by tight, solid rhythms and topped off by a recurring guitar motif that will have listeners drooling and salivating. Next track "Planet Horror" sees Haunt move briefly into sci-fi territory with a tune that has an almost comic book quality, theremin-like whoops and whirls swish and swoop around a pacey groove underpinned by flourishes of textured keyboard that for some reason had Desert Psychlist recalling the rock opera " The Rocky Horror Show" especially in it's addictive chorus and playful mix of vocal dynamics. The 60's soaked "Build Your Wall" is up next and finds the band hitting a groove and vocal execution that would, if he was still alive, have had 60's psych rock pioneers Spirit's sadly passed guitarist Randy California beaming with pride. "Living Room" and "Thy Will Be Done" get Haunt back on the horror/occult track, the former a tongue in cheek Lovecraftian tale set in a domestic situation, the latter a song with a mini rock opera vibe enhanced by a mixture of early CSN&Y/Byrds like vocal harmonies. "Rise From Your Grave" closes "Haunt" with a beautifully arranged song filled to overflowing with clever little vocal hooks and instrumental catches that will pull you in deeper and deeper into Haunt's world of comic book horror and macabre sci-fi inspired intrigue and have you never wanting, or be able to, leave.
Fate brought Desert Psychlist to "Haunt", (we were searching for a band with a similar name) and if you are not a regular reader of these hallowed pages and fate has also brought you here under those very same circumstances then don't go away without listening, go with fates flow and check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Saturday, 13 January 2018
Right time to take advantage of the lull in review requests and and promos vying for Desert Psychlist's attention and take a step back to October of last year to take a look at a two song, self titled EP. that got a little lost in the huge tsunami of music that descended upon us in 2017, from a band hailing from Colorado going by the name of Sun of Grey.
"Sun of Grey" begins its brief but interesting life with "All Bad Things" a song that thrums and sparks like an overloaded electricity cable, hazardous but restrained by its outer casing. This analogy of contained danger is the perfect description for a song that has a dark, low key stealth-like attack both in its vocal and musical execution. The songs gnarled grinding refrain is both menacing, and malevolent but that menace and malevolence comes in a latent form that is akin to finding a sleeping rattlesnake, you know its dangerous but are hypnotized not only by its beauty but also by it's threat.
"The Day After" follows a similar doomic path to its predecessor but this time ramps up the atmospherics with sustained guitar colouring and subtle shifts in dynamic and tempo. The vocalist tells, in powerful clean monotonic tones, a tale of a world torn apart by war and disease against a backdrop of heavily distorted guitar riffage, spine crumbling bass and thunderous percussion, the three musicians painting, with their grooves, a nightmarish dystopian vision of the future.
Freddy Allen (bass/vocals), Jim Merz (drums) and Anthony Welch (guitar) are Sun of Grey three doomanauts who play music they describe as "expansive as the Plains and as monstrous as the Rocky Mountains that comprise the landscape of Colorado". Now Desert Psychlist has never been to Colorado but it has to be said that the grooves to be found on the two songs that make up "Sun of Grey" are pretty damn huge.
Check 'em out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Thursday, 11 January 2018
With two pervious albums already under their belts, "Under The Hurricane" and "Grand Union", and having shared stages with the likes of John Garcia, Karma To Burn and Valient Thorr one would think that Portugual's Dollar Llama would be considered as A-list material among those that prefer their music doomic and stonerized. Somehow, and not because of a lack of talent or dearth of addictive grooves, taking that next step up the ladder has so far eluded the band, hopefully that will all change with the release of their latest album "Juggernaut" (Stoner Groove Records)
"Juggernaut" is possibly Dollar Llama's best album to date combining as it does an undercurrent of gnarly southern strut flecked with elements of raucous stoner/sludge riffage and bluesy hard rock swagger. Add in to this equation the fact that these guys can not only lay down all the grizzled and gnarly refrains you could ever possibly desire but are also not averse to filling their songs with such occasionally outdated notions as swing and melody. From the opening bars of "Semigod" to the gradual fade out that closes last track "Youth Riot" Dollar Llama tick every box needing to be ticked, push every button needing to be pushed to ensure maximum impact. The twin guitar attack of Hugo Vieira and Chikko Marques pay huge dividends and define each song throughout "Juggernaut", whether the pair are playing off one another or harmonising on a motif/riff their contributions are a massive part of what makes Dollar Llama's songs work, their slightly different guitar tones, clashing and entwining around each other, an integral component to the bands overall sound. Beneath those swirling solo's and crunching riffs beats the heart of the band, the engine room of José Dinis (bass) and Pedro Cardoso (drums) who drive and steer the bands groove with booming low end and pummelling percussion, the bassist and drummer laying out loose and easy when the dynamic calls for it, locking in tight and solid when the hammer needs to go down. Over this whirlwind of gnarled groove and duelling fretwork are layered the distinctive tones of one Tiago Simôes his bear like sludge roar and throaty yet surprisingly clear stoner rasp dominating songs like "Knucklehead" and "Nails". giving them an impressive extra level of passion and gritty gravitas, his powerful voice the icing on what is a very tasty cake.
If Dollar Llama's latest release does not see them climbing another rung of the ladder towards wider international recognition within the underground community then there is very little justice in this world. "Juggernaut" is a truly impressive album that deserves better than cult status so do the band a favour tell your friends, tell your family and even tell your enemies to....
check it out ....
© 2018 Frazer jones
Wednesday, 10 January 2018
Space and deserts have a lot in common, both are vast expanses populated by very little, both have extremes of either heat or cold and both have been the inspiration behind much of the underground rock scenes finest moments. Glasgow, Scotland may not be somewhere one would associate with either of these expanses but that has not stopped Glaswegian trio Isak , Joe McGarrity (vocals/guitar), Gregor Malcolm (bass/noise) and Robert "Twig" McLean (drums/percussion), from exploring the musical possibilities these two extremes throw up, as can be witnessed on the bands second release "EP2"
Floydian is the first thought that comes to mind as the swirling, circular motif, that introduces first track "The Sound & The Fury", spins around faster and faster and Floydian is still uppermost in Desert Psychlist's thoughts as Malcolm's gnarly sounding bass refrain is joined by McLean's excellently busy percussion in a groove not dissimilar, in its rhythmic vibe, to that of Pink Floyd's "One Of These Days". However Isak are no copyists and with the introduction of McGarrity's superbly effective guitar colourings/textures and his clean, clear, perfectly pitched vocals the band soon prove they have a sound and groove all of their own, a groove that although born in streets of Glasgow brushes across sandy desert dunes on its way to the stars and beyond. "Smoke and Mirrors" sees Isak hitting the desert trail with a song that begins with slowly brushed guitar chords echoing over swirling electronic effects underpinned by liquid bass and intricate percussion before exploding into a gnarly desert groove that just as suddenly then drifts into psychedelic ambience with McGarrity singing cryptic lyrics about "Frosted Glass" and "Heavy Water" before the song takes off once again this time on a unexpected foray into heavy blues territory. Malcolm's gnarly bass riff introduces last track "Dirty River" and he is soon joined by McGarrity's grainy guitar and McLean's tight, solid drums in a just as gnarly heavy groove with the guitarist/vocalist ever so slightly flexing his vocal muscles into the upper register. Not a band willing to hang around though Isak soon take the song off on a series of differing tangents that range from spacey ambience through to scorching heavy psych, the band moving through these differing dynamics with unerring and consummate ease.
It's been five years since Isak released "EP" and in that time the band have polished off their rougher edges and refined their sound, Those edges can still be found on "EP2" but they are tempered by a more mature and less abrasive approach, the band concentrating less on how gnarly their riffs can be and focusing more on how they can expand their sound into newer and more challenging areas.
Check 'em out ....
© 2018 Frazer Jones
Tuesday, 9 January 2018
Texas, USA is a damn big place and has a reputation for turning out bands and artists with a damn big sound, Desert Psychlist is thinking ZZ Top and Stevie Ray Vaughan here but that sonic largeness can also be heard coming from the many underground bands currently making their presence felt outside of their Lone Star State home. Gypsy Sun Revival are no exception, these Texans have a sound that leans more towards the more polished psychedelic end of classic rock than it does the riff orientated stoner/hard rock usually associated with the underground rock scene, the band utilising keyboards, synths and even a theremin to fill out there sound, giving their grooves a more expansive classical rock sound. The band demonstrate this sound to great effect on their new album "Journey Outside of Time" (Nasoni Records)
Whooshing noise interrupted by fractured guitar chords introduces "Cadillac to Mexico" a song that mixes bluesy swagger with hues of a psychedelic nature, fronted by the clean yet grainy tones of vocalist, and occasional hand drummer, Mario Rodriguez. Rodriguez' strong, but not overly powerful, tones are the perfect fit for Gypsy Sun Revival's brand of acid laced rock his slightly cracked delivery giving this song, and that of the other six songs on"Journey Outside of Time", an authentic gritty edge. Rodriguez is ably supported by Will Weise whose bluesy guitar licks and solo's are an integral part of GSR's overall sound especially when they are combined with Tyler Gene Davis' swirling swathes of keyboard colouring, as on the excellent "Growing Shadows" a lysergic bluesy ballad that explodes into a heavy psych wig out in its final quarter. A band like a car/automobile is only as strong as the engine that drives it and in Lee Ryan (bass) and Ben Harwood (drums and synth) Gypsy Sun Revival have a V8 beneath their hood, Ryan's liquid bass lines and grizzled low end riffs are big boneshaking affairs that with Harwood's deft mix of delicate and pounding percussion create the perfect platforms for Weise and Davis to launch their swirling sonic assaults from and for Rodriguez to wrap his distinctive vocals around. The album also benefits from a crisp organic production something not overly suprising as the band drafted in ex Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain for mastering duties and Wo Fat's Kent Stump to oversee engineering and mixing.
Monday, 8 January 2018
In an age of sex scandals, fake news and games of political smoke and mirrors its nice to come across music that still has an element of honesty and integrity about it. Ironic then, given these days when we can no longer rely on the media for those elements, the music in question comes from a band going by the name of The Age of Truth.
The Age of Truth, hail from Philadelphia, PA and are a band who, in their own words, "blend fuzz and diesel fuel with elements of heavy blues, stoner rock and psychedelia" a blend that can be head on their new album "Threshold". (soon to be released on vinyl on Kozmik Artifactz)
Growlers, groaners and those of a more demonic vocal persuasion all rightfully deserve their place in the vast array of genres and sub-genres of the underground music scene but music with even a hint of the blues at its core demands strong powerful and relatively clean vocals to maximise its effect and The Age of Truth have ,with Kevin McNamara, found the perfect vocal vehicle for their grooves. McNamara's strong, gritty tones are a revelation throughout "Threshold" hitting Cornell-ish heights in the upper register, getting raw and gravelly in the middle and crooning bluesy and mellow at the lower end, his ability to go from one to the other in the blink of an eye giving songs like "Holding Hands Like Thieves" and the superb "Caroline" an especially pleasing dynamic. The other members of the band are no slouches either with stand in drummer Eric Fisher ( Scott Frassetto has since taken the drum stool) and bassist William Miller creating a plethora of differing rhythmic platforms on which the songs of "Threshold" are constructed. Miller lays down some boneshaking bottom end, locking in tight with the drums to drive the grooves from beneath with a mixture of raw power and intricate tenderness while guitarist Mike DiDonato layers over these diverse grooves crunching riffs, gently swept arpeggios and scorching bluesy licks and solo's filling the spaces the rhythmic pairing leave with swathes of colourful guitar texturing, perfectly framing McNamara's vocals while at the same time complimenting those exemplary rhythms.
"Threshold" is a massive album packed with gnarly hard rock/stoner riffage, moments of laid back bluesy swagger and touches of lysergic colouring delivered by a band who are truly on top of their game, forget the past welcome to The Age of Truth!
#Big thanks to Leanne Ridgeway at Mettle Media PR for promo and info
© 2018 Frazer Jones