Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Somewhere In Space This May All Be Happening Right Now

Farflung - 5 (2016)
FARFLUNG - "5" cover art

When I hear the term "space rock" my mind immediately fills with images of cosmonauts completely engulfed in the near vacuum of space as each sound you hear is each member's attempt to make some sort of sense and order out of their surroundings.  Farflung have mastered this perfectly throughout their career, and especially with their new album 5, on the Heavy Psych Sounds record label. 
Farflung are a legendary heavy underground project who care not about their homeland of Los Angeles' gravity and have chosen to make their own.  Members include Tommy Grenas, Michael Esther, Paul Hischier, Abby Travis, and Chris Nakata, with guest appearances from Hawkwind‘s Nik Turner and Queens of the Stone Age/Eagles of Death Metal affiliates David Catching and Gene Troutman.  They began as pioneers of the genre in 1992, and over the course of 20+ years they have released 8 albums and split releases with White Hills, Black Rainbows, and Fatso Jetson.
5's beginning track, "Hive", sounds like an astronaut's descent onto a distant planet's surface as their brain scrambles and regroups.  All the while guitar chords are repeated along with what almost sounds like looping, near-fragmented words which occasionally change.  "Proterozoic" is a schizophrenic, multilayered cluster freak-out with meteoric instrumentals, keyboards reminiscent of lasers, and vocals that begin despondent and then transition into a fevered scream.  Beginning with more coherent guitars is "Lupine", and while the instrumentation is more grounded than before, the vocals are so damn distorted they almost sound like they were recorded inside of a microscopic echo chamber with each passing word engulfing you and not letting go until your head melts into, in a sudden change of pace, equally distorted guitars.  "Being Boiled" has a maddening beginning until tale woven around "Buddha Watching" with a mesh of guitars and synthesizers rising and falling until they hit an abrupt end. 5's closer "The Retreat" begins with what sounds like an engine struggling and then gaining momentum is almost a return to "Hive" in structure, but lacking that overwhelming intensity in favor for a more mellow vibe and leaving you with an insatiable urge to re-listen, and dissect all the layers of this complicated album. 

For Fans Of; Hawkwind, Failure, Cave In, First Band From Outer Space, Secret Saucer


Monday, May 30, 2016

High Times...

Electric Citizen - Higher Time (2016)

There's no shortage of impassioned heavy riff rock bands around at the moment, and that's no bad thing, but it does mean that it can be difficult for bands to stand out from the crowd.  Electric Citizen manage to do this through the fact that they're simply very good at what they do.  I was first drawn to the band through their self-titled EP; over the four songs on that release, Electric Citizen proved themselves to be one of the most exciting riff-centric heavy rock bands of the last few years.  Their debut LP, Sateen, capitalised on the promise with a collection that was perhaps a little samey but certainly had no shortage of quality rock songs.
High Time is the Cincinnati quartet's sophomore effort, and one that manages not only to avoid the difficult 'second album syndrome' but also to surpass its predecessor.  It's a consistent and sometimes even thrilling collection of anthemic, driven retro rock songs that flirt with elements of psychedelic (and at times even doom metal) without ever embracing them wholesale.  The fittingly named album opener, "Evil", starts on a series of ominous, clattering chords.  It takes those already familiar with the band's melodic rock-based sound by surprise - these first chords are uncharacteristically and utterly unashamedly doom metal.  If it's the band dicing with the devil for a moment, then it's short-lived; the song properly kicks in after a short intro, and the group's distinctively energetic hard rock starts up.  This isn't a problem though, as Electric Citizen do energetic hard rock very well indeed.
The beginning of the title track features a moment of sonic experimentation for the band - a hazy, screeching guitar builds atmosphere, while the rhythm track fades into the song.  The songs also feature a spoken word segment, complemented with an iridescent psychedelic backing.  Both are small touches, but they really add to the song.  They positively embellish the song so well in fact, that it can be frustrating to see such techniques hinted at but never fully exploited.  It can be tempting to imagine what Electric Citizen might sound like if they were to start taking a bohemian attitude towards studio experimentation in all of their songs.
It's not impossible to fault the album if you're looking to do so.  Apart from a few all-too-brief flirtations with other styles, Electric Citizen largely stick to what they know, and if you've heard Sateen, you'll know exactly what to expect for the most part.  The bulk of Higher Time is uniform in its approach, and it's hard not to feel that the album would benefit from a few more risks being taken. 
Even for its lack of variety, Higher Time fulfills its goals as an album.  The riffs are great, as are the vocals, the rhythm section provides a rock solid base, and, after a few plays, the songs are memorable.  While it's an album recommended not entirely without caveat, Higher Time is a collection of songs that's hard not to enjoy.
~ Martin

For fans of; Lucifer, The Well, Purson, Ruby The Hatchet, Mount Salem


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Gold Shines Through...

Mondo Drag - The Occultation of Light (2016)

We last heard from Mondo Drag with the release of their excellent self-titled second album last year, and since then, they joined Riding Easy Records (spurring a re-release of that album) while working on putting this third album together.  The group's heavy psych/prog/krautrock style is still intact (with some of the desert rock influence of the last album dropped out for jazzier material), though they've made some experimental adjustments.  The chemistry shown by the musicians on previous albums is thankfully still going strong, and the songs are fleshed out well without getting over-bulked.  Powerful performances all around, with fluid drumming, throbbing bass, agile guitar-work, and sweet-toned keyboards complementing the soulful vocals as the songs build, burst, flow, and flat-out rock.
As good as the voiced sections are, for a fair amount of the album, the vocalist steps back to focus on his keyboards, and the instrumental jams that result are some pretty fantastic stuff, full of sharp hooks and counter-point melodies.  Had the album been done fully voiced or fully instrumental, things might easily have run a little dry, but the balancing of the two is done to very nice effect, helping the music hold up to heavy listening.  Fans of heavy rock with genuine creativity to it instead of just emulating the '70s should do themselves a favor and snag a copy of this one, check out Mondo Drag's past releases, and wait tight for their next batch of excellent tunes.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Broughton's Rules, Crown Larks, Deep Purple, Rhinoceros, Witchcraft


Saturday, May 28, 2016

Turning Water Into Weed...

Green Fiend / Toke - Ritual Substance Abuse (2016)

Teaming up two groups from North Carolina, and delivering two tracks from each, this split of stoner-toned heaviness (as if you couldn't guess from the band names, release name, and artwork) bubbles into action with a sound highly familiar to its target demographic before launching into the hard, chunky riffs.  Green Fiend take the A-side with "Purge", a blistering heavy-tear ride through extra-tuneful riffs and swampy bass menace; and "Cocaine", which lays out a more traditional BSabbath-influenced lick before giving J.J. Cale's classic tune a thoroughly sludgy treatment.
Over on the B-side, Toke pack "Four Hours For Hours", a low-swinging doomy track with some sludge to the vocals and guitar tone, throwing in some rougher breakdowns before its end; and "Legalize Sin", a stormer with what some might hear as DNA from Weedeater's meaner moments flowing through its beats, riffage, and howl-growls.
Good licks to both sides, room for some instrumental exploration, and rhythms to get your body swaying along make this a good set of tracks for those looking to get introduced to either band, and while the original mercury silver cassette run has already sold out, there's rumors of a vinyl pressing in the works, so keep your ears tuned for chances to pre-order that.  In the mean-time, you can snag digital copies of the tracks from the respective BandCamps of the two groups, so get on that if you're in the mood for some dirty, hard-edged stoner doom.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Acid Witch, Chronobot, Fudge Tunnel, King Heavy, Weedeater


Friday, May 27, 2016

Burrowing Through Muscles...

The Conqueror Worm - Demo (2015)

Coming to us from the much-loved city of Milwaukee, Conqueror Worm and their three-track demo make a solid first impression by laying out their policies on hard riffs, heavy atmosphere, and a willingness to move beyond slow tempos.  Sharp guitar tones (put into some tasty shredding that's infrequent enough to keep its edge), a bass presence that can flex out into bigger bulk when needed, and drums which seem to be taking a few pointers from classic NY punk for the faster sections come together in a bash that grabs the attention with its unruliness, and holds it with strong song-writing.
Though it's a little premature to start talking about the band's style, as it will surely be altered over the course of writing more songs and putting together further releases, I feel pretty confident in saying that this group is one to keep an ear on.  They're already showing that they know how to play the Hell out of a song while keeping the essential melody going strong, and though 2/3rds of the songs on this EP are in the 4-minute range, the closer, "Oceans Rise", shows that they can just as easily work stuff of longer length without losing that powerful drive.  Good tunes, certainly worth your time to check out, and if you like what you hear, you can support the band by snagging a cassette copy, a T-shirt (featuring the demo's cover art), or a die-hard combo pack limited to 13 copies with the cassette sealed by blood into an exclusive wooden case.  Stylish, yeah?  You bet your ass it is.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    early Exciter, Heavydeath, The Munsens, Stoneburner, Wolf Blood


Sunday, May 22, 2016

High On Rocket Fumes...

Spaceslug - Lemanis (2016)

Anyone who's been following our reviews for a decent amount of time knows that we consider Poland to be one of the top countries around when it comes to doom, especially that of the stoner/psychedelic variety.  So when we were sent this debut album from the Polish trio of Spaceslug, tagged as "Heavy Space Doom", I was excited, to say the least, despite not really having a clue what the title meant.
And practically as soon as I had the album loaded up and hit play on the opening track, "Proton Lander", I felt justified in that excitement, as a thick wave of bass rolled right out with treacly strings warming up alongside it, and a leisurely drum-strut soon popped its head in.  As the song grew from this laid-back start to a heavier, harder, and headier space, picking up some powerful cymbal clangor on the way, I found myself grinning in anticipation of the rest of the trip.
Thick grooves, compelling riffs, and the sound of musicians losing themselves in their instrumental output were the soundtrack for the rest of the cruise, while track titles such as "Supermassive" and "Grand Orbiter" helped chart the star-bound atmosphere.  Kicking ass whether rolling slow or burning through some of the higher speeds, the album never once had me feeling bored or disengaged.
And, at the end of it all, after the title track ushered in the finale, I wanted more.  That's always a nice feeling with albums, but as this is the group's debut, it bodes well for future efforts (and hey, maybe we'll be lucky enough to get a split or EP in the time between now and their next full album).  Great stuff from start to finish, earmark this as one of the year's best.
~ Gabriel

For Fans Of;    Bomg, Desert Crone, Gallileous, Goya, MotherSloth