Saturday, 26 December 2015


Bradford, UK is not a place you would expect to be mentioned in the same sentence as the words stoner and psych, the West Yorkshire city is better known for it's wool than it is it's music scene but that may just change if Too Many Chiefs have their way.
The quartet of Phil Hey - Guitar/lead vox, Dave Wainfor - Guitar/vox, Martyn Birchall - Bass and Warren Garner - Drums have just released their self titled album on Bandcamp, a mix of gnarly fuzz and psych that recalls the shoegaze/stoner vibe of Canada's Quest For Fire yet retains a little of West Yorkshire grit within its hazy distorted grooves.

"Glide" starts the albums ball rolling with a fuzz and wah drenched little number that tells you everything you need to know about this band. Heavy, but never brutal, riffs compete with slightly shoegaze/indie vocals that float  majestically over and around a solid  and insistent rhythm base. The guitars of Hey and Wainfor compliment each other perfectly with  one laying down the fuzz and the other injecting little gems of licks and solos in the spaces in-between.
"Psylocybin" continues in much the same vein with its circular riff enhanced with flourishes of psychedelic colour and texture and driven by the incessant and pulsating rhythm work of Birchill and Garner. Hey's vocal, unfancy and bereft of any type of vocal pyrotechnics nonetheless fits the bands groove like a hand in a velvet glove, his tone melodic and clean sits perfectly within the mix, not too upfront or too far back but just where it is most effective!
"Devil Bird" is up next, infectious and addictive with a chorus you just can't help joining in on. Hey's and Wainfor's voices, like their guitar playing, blend perfectly together. Heavier than the two previous tracks the song also boasts some superb effect soaked guitar solos.
"Road Trip" sees the band shift into a slightly different groove. A stuttering, stop start riff leads the way and sees the vocals take on a slightly rap metre giving the tune an almost Nebula/early Fu Manchu feel  that is very old school desert/stoner and very enjoyable.
"Wounded Yak" is an excellent instrumental jam with the band all stepping up to the mark. Hay's and Wainfor's guitars lay down a plethora of tasty psychedelic licks and fuzzy riffs under which  Birchill and Garner lay a solid wall of rhythmic splendour.
"Burning Cave" gets the band back in the psych/stoner saddle with a deliciously groovy circular riff that spins around what is probably the albums best vocal.  The song shifts into a slower desert groove in the last quarter that i'd love to have heard the band expand on.
"Blind Man" closes the album with an all out rocker and sees the vocals take on a punkier, shoutier tone. The band throw off their cloak of psychedelic colours and go for a more abrasive, aggressive groove that although having its merits does not have the subtleties and nuances that were so prevalent on the rest of the album. It is for me the albums weakest track and I would have much preferred they had extended the final slow burning groove of "Burning Cave" and finished on an epic high, but that's only my opinion and i'm sure many will disagree.

Check these guys out here...

Friday, 18 December 2015


You've just spent endless hours refining your end of year best of 2015 list, trying to decide between Elder's "Lore" and Spelljammer's "Ancient of Days" for that coveted 7th place position, decision made you click on publish and sit back for a moment to admire your hard work. It is in this moment, this nano-second of time, after you have posted your list over every available social media site, that a legendary stoner rock band from Fargo, North Dakota decide to release their new killer album. Bastards!!!

The band in question are stoner rock icons Egypt a band whose first self-titled EP has achieved, within the underground rock scene, cult status and who have just released their latest album "Endless Flight"

The album opens with title track "Endless Flight" Neil Stein's delta blues drenched guitar intro recalling a time long ago when the blues was played by black men in dusty black suits playing for mainly black audiences. Chad Heille's drums and Aaron Esterby's bass then join in, moving the whole groove into more of a traditional blues shuffle then BANG the whole track explodes into a glorious cacophony of noisy stonerized blues rock. Esterby's raw edged, larynx ripping vocal roaring above a backdrop of thunderous drumming and bluesy guitar. The song shifts direction once again mid song and sees the band enter into slightly more doomy territory yet managing to remain within the blues framework of the songs origin. It is a superb opener and a great indicator of what to expect from the rest of the album.
"The Tomb" opens with Esterby's bass laying down an almost funky bass line over Heille's assorted percussion before moving up a gear into a full on bass heavy riff. Stein comps along through the verses unnoticed until just over the three minute mark when he unleashes an absolutely blistering solo that is rich of tone and full of feel. Vocally Esterby is at his most visceral, pushing his voice harder than I think I've ever heard before, shredding his vocal chords in a display of raw emotional passion.
"Tres Madres" comes straight outta the blocks with the band grooving on a delicious Zeppelin-esque riff over which Esterby lays a slightly less throat ripping, but still totally effective vocal. At around the 3:30 mark the song goes in to an absolutely wonderful psych jam with Stein laying scintillating solo over scintillating solo, ripping unbelievable flurries of  notes from his six strings, utilising every inch of his sweat stained fretboard. Beneath this Heille hits everything he possibly can in a dazzling display of Bonham-esque power and dexterity while Esterby keeps things grounded with his rumbling liquid bass lines, awesome!
"Black Words" sees the Egypt finding the Black Sabbath mojo that has always run through this bands veins. The songs brooding heavy riff swirls around the listener like a dark mist with Esterby's stoner roar adding a sinister evilness to the songs mood. The tune screams out for abrupt Sabbathian  time changes and guitar solos and Egypt duly and stunningly deliver both.
The album closer "Shaman's March" is a full on doom monster with a dark slow droning riff punctuated by Esterby's throaty growled vocals and Stein's slow burning guitar solo and enhanced by Heille's solid drumming. It's an atmospheric and deliciously eerie finale to an absolutely wonderful album from a band who are still well and truly on top of their game.

Monday, 14 December 2015


What a fantastic year for the music we stoners, doomers and psychonauts follow, both new bands and more established ones have really stepped up to the mark this year with some fantastic albums and  EP's being released. Here's my pick of  25 of the years best.............

25. Long Road Made of Gold ~ Kamachatka

Superb bluesy hard rock/stoner collection that followed quite fast on the heels of the slightly disappointing "The Search Goes On" and proved that this band still had the chops to kick some serious ass!

24. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere ~ Acid King

Lori and the boys returned with an absolute barnstormer of an album with this. The riffs sound thicker, the vocals more heartfelt and the songwriting as good as anything from their back catalogue. Superb!

23.Veddesta ~ Ponamero Sundown

Man oh man its was a long wait but its was worth it.
Sweden's Ponamero Sundown returned with some of the best classic/hard rock/stoner grooves of the year.

22. Hidden Places ~ Black Vulpine

Fuzz drenched grooves fronted by sweet clear female vocals. Elements of QOTSA and Kyuss hiding in these grooves but mixed with a slightly doom/occult vibe

21. Cuatro Cienegas ~ 4 Cienegas

Heavy fuzz drenched Mexican psych.

20. Multiverse ~ Electric Valley

Electric Valley are a band who play intelligent, well crafted stoner rock with touch of Soundgarden grunge/alt intensity

19. Thousand Sons of Sleep ~ Godsleep

Riff heavy psych/stoner from Athens Greece. Throaty powerful vocals roar and croon over thick distorted guitar all held down by some majestic bass work and swinging percussion

18. Fly Camel Fly ~ Ape Skull

Retro grooves that reek of patchouli oil and reefer. Super cool vocals sang over heavy psychedelic bluesy riffage and enough hooks to hang a sky on.

17. Absturz ~ Mother Engine

Mother Engine's first album was a killer but the band raised the bar high with this one.

16. Satyrnalia ~ Psychic Dose

Awesome is a word not nearly big enough for the sounds coming out of this album, Retro, occult, doom, stoner, psych, seventies and hard rock are another bunch of words you could use to describe this album, but still you would fall short of nailing its sonic impact. Forget the words just listen.

15.  Lake Of Fire ~ Black Wizards

Fuzzy female fronted Portuguese hard rock/stoner with a ton of that thing we call swagger!

14. The First Year Of Catastrophe ~ Simon Magus

Hard rock/trad doom that delivers everything you could ever want from that particular genre. Bluesy doom riffage, incendiary solos and thunderous rhythms all topped off with a startlingly good vocal

13. #1 ~ Old Stove

 Stoner desert grooves from Brazil that are heavily distorted and filthy with fuzz.

12. NN ~ Cannahann

Absolutely stunning collection of songs that mix grunge/alt dynamics with thick sludge/stoner riffs and gravel gargling vocals.

11. Mindstate:Dreamscape ~ Wired Mind

Textured guitar swirling over superb bass driven riffs and some really cool jazzy drumming. This band are tight and loose in equal measures knowing when to lay out and when to hit the groove.

10. Psychic Warfare ~ Clutch

How could they top "Earth Rocker"? I'll tell you making an album that's even better!

9. II ~ Weedpecker

Full fat fuzzy riffs, psychedelic guitar solos and slammin' rhythm work topped off with superb dreamy vocals.

8. Lore ~ Elder

A more mature Elder with more emphasis on atmosphere and space. The titanic riffs are still in place as you would expect but there is an almost krautrock feel to the grooves.

7.   Ancient Of Days ~ Spelljammer

Heavy as truck full of rhinos and just as mean! Spelljammer are back, all hail the riff!

6. Strange Creations ~ Disenchanter

Infused with elements of hard, stoner and classic rock and fronted by the absolute sublime vocals of Sabine Stangenberg Disenchanter have made an album that demands attention.

5. Out Of This Earth ~ Out Of This Earth

Awesome Greek stoner rock that is both gritty and infectious

4. Nocturnes ~ Mother Mooch

Mother Mooch promised so much with their debut EP "Preludes" and with "Nocturnes they delivered.

3. The Black Sun EP ~ Year Of The Cobra

Bass and drum duo that sound like a four piece.
Dreamy female vocals over occult doom grooves.

2. Deep Shades ~ Savanah

Excellent heavy doomy psych that keeps the listener on tenterhooks, never knowing which direction any given song is going to take

1. Witchboro ~ Rosy Finch

Supreme blend of doomy atmospherics, stoner fuzziness and occult themes all wrapped up in one killer album.

So that was 2015!!!!!!!

Friday, 11 December 2015

WOLVES OF WINTER ~ debut album preview

Quite awhile ago Soshanna Scarsella (a.k.a.Love Among Ruins), Outlaws of the Sun blog contributor, Bandcamp reviewer and friend recommended I give a listen to a band she had come across who went by the name of Wolves of Winter. The band consisting of Josh McGee (guitar and vocals), David Weaver (bass) and Mike Horn (drums)  and hailing from Phoenix, Arizona had just released, via Bandcamp, a very ambitious full length demo..... and it was a killer!

It's been almost two years since that demo but the band have not been idly sitting on their thumbs contemplating the universe, they have been busy learning their craft, honing their skills waiting until they felt ready to give those early demos the home they deserved.

Wolves of Winter (the album) is basically the 2013 demo re-shuffled, rearranged and re-imagined, the rawness of those early tunes buffed and polished until they gleam like  diamonds in the sunlight.
"Astrothoughts" which was the demo's closing track this time leads from the front and it deserves it's place. McGee's lone guitar reverberates from the speakers with a sliding and slurring intro reminding me a little of Joe Walsh's iconic opening salvo to "Rocky Mountain Way". Weaver and Horn then join the fray the two  locking into a tight mid-paced, earth moving, heavy groove over which McGee lays a stunning short bluesy solo that leads into the first verse. McGee's vocals, clean, warm and melodic, sit perfectly against the heavy riff'n'roll all around them and give the song an almost 60's psych/hard rock feel reminiscent of Randy California's Spirit.
"A New Reality" rears it's head next and once again i'm getting that Spirit vibe. A little faster paced than the previous tune the song rides along on a wave of exemplary rhythm work from Weaver and Horn with McGee's chugging guitar riffs and solo's the icing on the cake. The song has a totally infectious verse/chorus/verse that I defy even the most hard headed stoner not to fall in love with.
"Tooth and Nail" hits the ground running with the band hitting a groove that is a little more stoner than West Coast psych. Horn attacks his drums with a little more ferocity here, driving the groove with powerful percussive dexterity and is ably assisted by Weaver his bass deep and rumbling reverberating through and around the music, it's almost as if the pair are attempting to move, with the power of rhythm, the mountain McGee refers to in the songs chorus.
"Start of the Season" sees a little darkness creep into the bands sonic palette with the groove shifting into slightly sludgey, doom- lite territory with McGee's vocals switching back and forth between clean/melodic and hardcore scream giving the songs vibe a real sinister edginess. I have to say here I've never been a fan of extreme vocal styles but the balance here works well for me.
"The Blind Leading The Blind"  an instrumental, opens with a gentle guitar arpeggio backed by shimmering cymbals and seductive bass lines before exploding into an absolute monster doomy psych groove. The tune swoops and dives between the two dynamics building to a heavy brutal crescendo one minute only to fall back to a whisper the next creating a delightful feeling of light and shade throughout.
"Devil's Kiss" hits the stoner trail again with the band locking in tight to create a massive wall of sludge/stoner noise. McGee's vocals are laid a little further back in the mix here and this adds to the songs dark intensity, an intensity that goes into overdrive with it's primal screamed finale.
"Rubber Band" stays in the same ball park as the previous track with Weaver and Horn laying down massive slabs of rhythmic thunder over which McGee lays clean slightly phased vocals. The track sees McGee fully pull on his guitar hero outfit with a burst of incendiary guitar that finds a perfect balance of shred and feel, it's probably only a couple of seconds long but utterly makes the track for me.
"Child's Reasoning" takes the darkness that is at the heart of this album and marries it to the West Coast psych vibe of the first two tracks resulting in a glorious hybrid of the two. McGee's vocal swings with an almost Alice In Chains melodic metre that is strangely charming against the heavy sonic barrage that surrounds it.
"Manipulation" steams along on a chugging prog metal groove curtesy of Weaver and Horn with McGee adding little licks and squeals as well as some scintillating solo's to the mix. Infectious and with a ton of little hooks and catches its only fault is it's too short!
"Try Till Dead" closes the album on a high, McGee's vocals and stuttering guitar riff combining with the awesome rhythms of Weaver and Horn to create an incredible finale to what is an absolutely incredible album!

I have been raking my brains trying to come up with a way to close this preview/review but keep coming up short so i'll leave it to the man behind the six strings and vocals, the man who produced this stunning album, Mr Josh McGee

"My goal was to produce a musical product. Not a squashed piece. Dynamic range up to 25dB. As it was meant to be.No autotune or click tracks, i wanted to produce the best album I could. It is honest and real."

It most certainly is Josh......

Wolves Of Winter will be released on 09-01-2016

Friday, 4 December 2015

SMOKE HEALER ~ Debut album review

Classic rock and heavy metal are two genres that have grown up side by side but unlike sub-genres hard rock and stoner, who have roots in both, the two very rarely get in bed with each other. Off the top of my head I can only think of three bands who have managed to seamlessly weld these two giants together and they are Sweden's Spiritual Beggars and Grand Magus and to a lesser extent USA's Stone Axe. These three manage to harness the strong song writing/arrangements and melodies of classic rock and marry them to the heavy rhythms and riffs of heavy metal without compromising the sonic impact of either.
Today, thanks to Youtube legend MrStonebeliever, I found another band who fit the criteria mentioned above.....Smoke Healer!

Smoke Healer are a quintet from the USA consisting of Dan Ryan - Vocals, Chris Brown - Guitar, Jake Stone - Guitar, Brooke Smith - Bass and Mike Hamm - Percussion and have just released, via a Kickstarter funding campaign, their self-titled debut album, a mix of classic rock melodies and heavy metal riffage.

The album starts with a short organ based intro "Requiem Fugue" before exploding into the first track proper "Black Liquid Drain" a storming riff monster embellished with Zack Wylde type guitar squeals and pinched harmonics and fronted by superb vocals.
"Figure It Out" follows with a Sabbath-like opening riff over which vocalist Dan Ryan lays another fine vocal, his voice may not have the power of a Coverdale or Dio but he more than makes up for this with impeccable tone and delivery, gritty and throaty in the upper register and smooth and dark in the lower.
"Garden Of Sin" is next up beginning with effect laden guitar buoyed by eerie keyboards before segueing into an atmospheric doom riff. I have not figured out whether lead guitar duties are shared by Chris Brown and Jake Stone or that one is the riffmeister and the other the soloist but whatever way it works there is some superfine six string work going on here. Solo's are concise and note perfect soaring and squealing in and around the rhythms and the riffs are thick distorted and cut through the mix like a chainsaw cutting through balsa wood.
A didgeridoo heralds the start of  "Desert Son" before settling into a slightly eastern/Arabic groove with Brooke Smith and Mike Hamm holding down the bottom end with a solid  and dazzling display of bass and drum. Ryan sings of "Burning you alive from within" and of "Being the one, the desert son" with conviction and passion, a passion that is matched by the two guitarists who deliver a stunning array of riffs and solos to the sonic canvas. Listen out for some killer violin from, guest and band friend, David McElfresh from Moonbow who trades licks with Stone and Brown to marvellous effect.
"Return" is a stunning mid-tempo song that is part power ballad, part metal torch song and once again the band is joined by McElfresh, his violin solo full to brimming with emotion and feel and combined with the scintillating guitar solos takes this song to a whole new level. Ryan gives the performance of his life here filling every vocal line with a feeling of weary melancholy, roaring the words as if he's living them, awesome!
"Edge Of  The Flames" opens with Hamm hammering out (see what I did there) a tribal beat on his already well punished drum skins against a buzzing distorted riff, The song then settles into the songs main refrain with Ryan singing of " Strolling at the edge of the flames" while around him guitars squeal and squawk. There is a moment during the cacophony when everything falls away and Smith delivers a short but absolutely delicious bass lick to the proceedings, it's one of those magical moments in a song when you think that's just soooo perfect and right!
A droning, circular motif opens "Nowhere To Run" before exploding into a chugging palm muted riff that takes the song out of the classic rock/metal hybrid of the rest of the album and places into a more straight ahead stoner metal arena. Ryan follows suite with his vocal taking on a more whiskey soaked stoner rasp than on previous tracks, A shredded guitar solo adds to the full on metal dynamic of the song, it's short at 3:35 but packs quite a punch.
Next track "Adimus Prelude" is a little strange and seems odd given the heavy riffage and powerful rhythms surrounding it but at only 35 seconds long doesn't hurt too much.
"We Are Diamonds" marries the classic rock and metal with a little prog-ish dexterity and sees the band firing on all cylinders in flurry of riffs, ambience and atmosphere.  Ryan croons, roars and bellows his way around the songs verses with a mix of vocal dynamics and tones while beneath him the band display a dazzling display of musical chops that take the music on a journey through a myriad of shifting soundscapes, breathtaking!
If you dig the three bands mentioned in the opening paragraph of this piece then check out Smoke Healer you will love 'em!

SPECTRECIDE ~ self titled EP review

Now and then an album or EP will turn up that you want to share with others but are not quite sure if those others are going to feel the same way you do about it. "Spectracide" is one such EP and although it contains many of those elements my fellow peers, salivate over i.e. psych, space and metal that is enhanced with heavy riffs and heavy rhythms it is put together in such a way that it could be considered a little on the "acquired taste" side of things.

Spectrecide (the band) are a trio from Atlanta, Georgia comprising of Austin Pacini (guitar, lead vocals), Joe Smith (bass, vocals) and Nathan McKinney (drums) and fuse Mastadon type heaviness with spacey psych ambience and prog metal complexity coated in a blanket of groovy funkiness.

"Frostbitten Plains" gets things rolling with a deliciously seductive bass guitar intro that is then joined by howling feedback before the song takes off on its glorious instrumental journey through the cosmos driven by a totally infectious, heavily effect laden, guitar motif that is underpinned with some solid jazzy drumming and to die for bass work.
"Among The Holy Mountains" drops things back to Terra Firma with a heavily eastern themed groove that conjures up images of  golden temples set on high cliffs overlooking vast desert plains. This strong mystic vibe  is further enhanced by the mantra like, almost Gregorian, chants that accompany the music. I was slightly reminded of SLEEP's Dopesmoker/Jerusalem while listening to this, it has that same feeling of spiritualism and journey that was invoked on that iconic album.
"Beast Infection" sees the band jamming on a another instrumental eastern groove but this time with a little more pace and vigour. Pacini lays down a circular almost raga type riff that is perfectly complimented by Smith's exquisite bass chops and McKinneys unbelievable deft percussion work. Pacini breaks away from the main riff every now and then adding flurries of psych tinged guitar solos and licks that give the tune a real feeling of colour and vibrancy.
"The Bardo" is next and for the first time on the EP we get "proper" vocals. Pancini's gruff stoner growl, slightly echoed and low sit against a backdrop of heavy stoner metal riffage and rhythms that are in total contrast to the Ep's three previous tunes but nevertheless work perfectly with them.
"Heavy Belt Blues" comes out of the starting gate with a heavy slow stuttering bass and guitar riff that then morphs into an almost straight (for this band) bluesy stoner metal groove that sees Pancini growling the verses and Smith taking over for the funky chorus. The tune then shifts into a quirky and quite brilliant blues rock jam with Pancini ripping out some furious guitar solo's under which McKinney and Smith lock in tight in a glorious display of rhythmic prowess.
"Alphalords" closes the EP with a mind melting display of musicianship. Partly prog metal, partly stoner/psych jam the track is a perfect showcase for what is good about this band. McKinney alternates between heavy metal thunder and jazzy intricacy utilising every inch of his kit, pushing and driving the other two musicians with his solid and complex rhythmic power. Smith, whose bass playing is for me the highlight of this EP, lays down a groove that you can feel in your bones, whether locked in tight with the drummer or going off on one of his glorious booming funky tangents he never drops below the brilliant mark! Pancini meanwhile coats everything in swathes of colour and texture, one minute shredding the next laying down a solo or motif full of feel and passion, his guitar an extension of himself, at one with the groove.
If your looking for something a little different, a little off the wall and quirky but still want to remain within the parameters  of the rock underground then check out Spectrecide........