For a long time when anyone mentioned Australia and rock music in the same sentence the first things that came to mind were AC/DC, Rose Tattoo and to a lesser extent cult favourites Buffalo but things are starting to change down under and we are starting to become aware of a new wave of rock bands emerging from the antipodean underground, assailing our senses with a diverse mix of styles and grooves via sites like Bandcamp and Reverbnation.
One band to have recently come to the attention of the, northern hemispheres, underground web jockeys, bloggers and journalists are Sydney psychonauts Transcendent Sea, a band who in their own words "play knuckle dragging, sleazy stoner rock/70's doom inspired music"
The band, Mathew J Allen - Guitars, Andrew Auglys - Bass, Mark Mills - Drums and Sean Bowden - Vocals, went into The Brain Studios, Surry Hills, Sydney in December last year and with the help of producer Clayton Segelov. emerged some time later with this, their first full length album, "Ballads of Drowning Men".
"Over Easy" opens with a gnarly heavy blues intro before taking a left turn into stoner/desert territory with a driving high tempo groove driven by Auglys thunderous bass line and Mills whirlwind drumming. Bowden opts vocally for a throaty roar that borders on the edges of punky and hardcore and is the perfect foil for Allen's tasty riffs and solo guitar injections. The song falls back into its initial blues rock groove for the last quarter finishing with Allen's guitar feeding back and slowly fading to silence.
"Throw Me A Line" continues the blues theme of the previous track but this time instead of just dipping their toes the band dive in and get thoroughly soaked. Sonically sitting somewhere between Led Zeppelin's "Dazed and Confused"" and Parlour Mob's "Tide of Tears" the band hit a groove so deliciously seductive it is almost immoral. Bowden's clean, gruff powerful delivery sits atop an exquisite Auglys bass line complimented by Mills exemplary percussive dexterity. Over and around this Allen injects jazzy arpeggios , bluesy chord progressions and psychedelic flourishes as well as delivering a scorching blues drenched solo. This is a band who like to mix it up a little so it comes as no surprise that come the halfway mark the things take off in a completely different direction and we enter into an almost blackened metal section with harsh growled vocals over a driving sludge metal groove before it all settles down again into the bluesy refrain of the first half. Thrilling stuff!
"Mind Queen" has a touch of 70's classic/hard rock about it, albeit married to a gritty stoner/desert attitude. Mills lays down a driving beat around which Auglys weaves lines of bone shaking, thundering bass and Allen layers with hook laden riffs and solo's. Bowden adds the icing to this particular tasty cake with a superb throaty and wonderfully delivered vocal. Probably the most accessible track on the album and the one that, if you had to pick a song for use as a single , would be the track of choice.
"Blood of a Lion" is up next, a gnarly heavy stonerized hard rock workout with a touch of bluesy swagger at its root. Bowden roars and snarls around a backdrop of solid rhythmic thunder interrupted only by Allen's superb injections of swooping solos, hooks and licks. Special mention should go here to Auglys and Mills, the pairing are as solid as a rock throughout, tight as a scotsman's fist and twice as powerful, laying down a groove so thick a truck could drive over it.
"Way of the Wolf " brings things to a close with a track so gloriously essential it should be classified as a class "A" narcotic. A brief snippet of what sounds like a Bollywood theme sang by a group of Asian ladies makes way for deeply distorted guitar and thrumming bass sustain that segues into a riff so gnarly it has to be heard to be believed. The dynamic drops down for the verse with Auglys and Mills holding it all together while Allen embellishes with little touches of psych colouring and spacey effects. Bowden is again in fine form his voice showing a gruff fragility in the quieter moments shifting through the gears into full on sludge roar in the more hard edged and heavier sections, a superb vocal performance. Allen lets rip with a scintillating solo full of emotion and dripping with feel that then leads back into the main riff and the vocals. Just when you start to think it cannot get any better than this ....it does, the band drop into a gentle psych groove that sees Auglys getting a touch funky on bass and Mills channelling his jazz chops on drums while Allen creates atmosphere and mood with his use of arpeggiated chords and pedal effects all topped off by a wonderfully clean and heartfelt Bowden vocal...stunning!
Nasty is a word that in the past had negative connotations but these days it is also used as a word to describe something good, something positive. "Ballads of Drowning Men", using that second analogy is damn nasty!
Check it out...