Monday, July 2, 2018

...and Five More You Should be Spinning!

Each month after the Doom Charts are released we'll take a step back to let people digest the 25 albums in that countdown, then we'll follow up with five more albums that we think you should be spinning in addition to the albums that MADE the Doom Charts.  Call this an addendum, or whatever you want, it's not necessarily the next five albums, as these were NOT voted on by the Doom Charts committee, but in all likelihood they did come from my ballot.  Without further ado I give you a Further Five you should be spinning...

Take one part Sabbath, one part Jane's Addiction, one part Mastodon, and one part Pink Floyd, throw in a dash of Hendrix and maybe a touch of Clutch, and the final product hails from the Pacific Northwest, cruising in on the spaceship rock and roll is Jollymon with their new nine-cut LP Voidwalker.

From the opening track "Tsunami" washing over you with it's monster stomp and sweet melodies and the claim that "We come in peace, but not the kind of peace you're used to see(ing)," to the processional march of "Sky Burial," this is one special release, deserving of 40 minutes of your attention, you know, just to get to know one another.  I think after you've been introduced properly, you'll want to spend even more time together, exploring deeper cuts, like bass in your face goodness of "Missile Commander," the groovy "Forecast" and reggae inspired "Slice of Life."

Up next is Bang with Best Of..., a compilation of the band's best tracks from it's first three albums released between 1971 and 1973.  This gorgeous double LP has been given a lot of TLC by label Ripple Music and it shows.

The poignant opener "Death of a Country," which could very easily have been written about present day America instead of 1971, is the 10 and half minute standout on the record, with a sultry bass line and urgent lyrics delivered in a crisp, smooth style.  The guitar tones are sharp and fill in around the bass nicely.  Other top tracks on this 18 track monster include "Our Home," the band's one charting hit song titled "Questions," "Mother," "Don't Need Nobody" and "Slow Down."  Bang is back!

Coming to you from the wilds of Quebec is Cleõphüzz with their new release Wizard of phüzz.

Though just a four song EP, it rates up there with some of the best releases of the year so far in 2018 IMHO.  A twister transports you to the world of Oz where you're off to meet the wizard in the classic tale The Wizard of Oz by L. Frank Baum.  You're not in Kansas anymore.  So it's only appropriate that one is similarly transported to the world of phüzz by this time a "Sandstorm," the 7:11 killer instrumental that opens the EP, and indeed, Kansas goes bye-bye, in exchange you find yourself in the rockin' desert, possibly of New Mexico or California.  Somewhere where stoner rock is prevalent.

Fuzz tones, or should I say phüzz tones, abound throughout the EP and the third cut, the middle eastern sounding centerpiece "Half Moon Ritual," features cello play as well as sitar.  This lush little 28 minute EP is a breath of fresh air for the summer and is a must buy.

One that just missed making the Doom Charts this past month is the kick ass album from El Rojo, 16 Inches Radial.  This one, from the five piece out of Morano Calabro, Italy, will make you want to drive your car fast and maybe do something stupid, like run from the cops in the process, haha, the lead track particularly will have you revving your engine - "Pontiac."

I can see myself easily blasting this behind the wheel of a 1977 black Pontiac Trans-Am Smokey and the Bandit style, running down the road doing 95 mph on the open interstate on a Coors beer run, working interference for Snowman. 

"We know the road."


Finally we come to the six cut deep album North from a band that combines and crosses multiple genres, including southern rock, grunge, 90s metal, and more.  Of course, I'm referring to Reykjavik, Iceland's Keelrider.  Released back in early March, this album has flown under the radar for far too long considering how strong it is.  It has clean, solid vocals reminiscent of Screaming Tree's Mark Lanegan, in my mind at least. 

While the grunge and 90s rock influences are easily detectable, this album is still rooted firmly in the stoner tradition, with the fuzzed out guitars and it has bears some 70s influences, though they are not as blatant as some of the other inspirations.  You have to listen attentively to pick them out in the mix.  All in all, though it's a kick butt record, reminds me of Mad Season, the best parts of Soundgarden, Alice In Chains, and the aforementioned Screaming Trees, but with a stoner rock twist.

Go North young man.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Sons of Alpha Centauri back with sophomore effort 11 years after debut

Ten years ago, in July of 2008, the members of Sons of Alpha Centauri convened in the UK with Yawning Man's Gary Arce to start work on the group's follow up to their 2007 self-titled debut.  Things went a little sideways with that project, as after just a day Arce and the band could tell something pretty special was taking place with the chemistry.    That volatile mixture of personnel, in just one short week, yielded the bones an album with a unique sound and vision, titled Ceremony to the Sunset, that was eventually released under the moniker of Yawning Sons.

Over the course of the ensuing year other personnel pitched in and added their talents to the project, including a vocal from Scott Reeder (Kyuss),  Mario Lalli (Fatso Jetson), and Wendy Rae Fowler (QOTSA).

Fast forward nine years since the release of Ceremony to the Sunset and SOAC are set to FINALLY drop a sophomore album, which, according to the band, it purports to be, "an epic introspective journey of abrasive and ambient progressive electronic alt rock."  Well, I'll be the judge of that.

The band maintains the same line-up as all of its previous releases, including its debut and its varied 7" splits, Nick Hannon on bass, Marlon Aaron King on guitars, Blake on electronics and textures, and Stevie B. on drums.

The album was not presented to me as a concept album, but with its eight song titles as cohesive as they are, it could very easily be passed off as one if it was not for the album's cover, which seemingly does not align well with the song titles.  The album is titled Continuum, well enough, it suits the song titles, OR it suits the cover, it's just that the cover and song titles do not mesh.  For example, there are song titles such as "Jupiter," "Solar Storm," "Io," "Interstellar," "Orbiting Jupiter," etc.  Meanwhile, the cover of the album appears to be a decommissioned WWII era (or thereabouts) submarine.

What?  Excellent publicity photos. Album cover?  I question the choice.  But alas, we move on to the music contained their in.

The brief introductory track is all synth and mellow guitar,but it's track two, "Jupiter," that defines the palette that Sons of Alpha Centauri will be painting Continuum with.  It goes heavy riff, slow jazz, heavy riff, slow jazz, repeat ad nauseam.  Actually that's not quite fair, there's some variation in there that nicely breaks up the routine, and it all comes together pleasant enough.  The band knows its craft.  "Jupiter" just failed to grab me.

Now "Solar Storm" was more my speed.  Something about King's guitar work at the outset, caught my attention.  He's not a flashy, showy guitarist, but that doesn't mean he doesn't know his way around the fretboard either.  The man can riff.

Nick Hannon's bass is the first thing we hear on "Io," the bands first single, see the video for this song below.  It's another mellow tune, and it's Hannon who leads the way, with Stevie B. helping out considerably.  A nice variation of sound, a good choice for video.  Hannon's jangly bass reminds me some of the work of Adam Clayton on this song.

The very brief "Surfacing For Air," has Hannon playing some deep tones on bass, great textures from Blake and brilliant guitar work from King.  Albeit over entirely too soon, this is my favorite track.

The 6:41 "Interstellar" commences with Blake's electronics and a beat from Stevie B. before Hannon and King join in nearly a minute into the tune.  Hannon, King and Blake skillfully weave around Stevie B.'s steady beat until it drops away and turns into some rapid stick work.  With two minutes left in the tune the band shifts into high gear and do some of the heaviest jamming they've done on the entire album.  They finally cut loose.  It's what I've been waiting for the entire cd, and it doesn't last nearly long enough.  Before the song is over, the band has mostly dropped out except Hannon's bass and the textures of Blake. Still, "Interstellar" is worth the price of admission.

"Orbiting Jupiter" is a beautiful piano piece with electronic accompaniment.  It segues into "Return Voyage," which opens with a jangly guitar, bass, and somber electronics.  But the slow intro is broken up every few seconds by drums and a wall of sound as the sound stops and starts, trying to get under way, then it finally commences.   At a minutee 55 in, the guitar riffing breaks in, timid at first, then more assertive, and I'm digging this.  I'm glad I stuck around for the main event.  This tune rocks.

All in all Continuum is, for the greatest part, exactly what it claims to be, "an introspective journey of abrasive and ambient progressive electronic alt rock."  The only change I made to the quote is I dropped the word "epic."  I disagree on that point alone.  It IS "most excellent," BORDERING UPON "pretty freakin' awesome," but I would NOT QUITE qualify it as "epic."

It's not a perfect album, but it's certainly worth checking out, and a solid effort from a damn talented band, I rate this outing an 88 out of 100.

Sons of Alpha Centauri on Bandcamp
Sons of Alpha Centauri website

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Sledge birthed from the ashes of Hjortene, ready to drop debut On the Verge Of Nothing

Releasing on June 15th, The Sledge's debut On the Verge Of Nothing is a kick-ass sonic ride through the psychedelic desert of soundscapes created by this new group, risen from the ashes of another band like the proverbial Phoenix of lore.  The Sledge are created from the rubble of what once was Danish fuzz-bomb band Hjortene.  They made a name for themselves opening for the likes of Valient Thorr, Truckfighters and Fu Manchu and developed a following in Scandinavia.  "We added Magnus on vocals and the new songs are way more tuned down, and slower and heavier, but of course you can hear where we come from musically," said the band.

On the Verge Of Nothing was recorded live in the studio over the course of just two days.  All of the basic tracks, guitar, bass, drums, were played live and done in one room live with no headphones and no stuido windows "to obscure the energy," the band explained.  It was just amplifiers and drums.  Afterward the band dubbed vocals and invited friends to contribute.  Lorenzo Woodrose (Baby Woodrose On Trial) "is all over the album.  He just came, hung out and delivered... a lot of percussion and harmony vocals."

Bo Morthren from stoner psych legends On Trial  did vocals for a blue, paired down track, and Lorenzo backed him up.  "It was like bringing On Trial together for a song again."

That track I feel certain is "Curtains" and is among my favorite tracks on the record.  It, jazzy closer "Flammehav" and lead single "179 Liars" are the standouts, and the hilarious "Like Shit" track, but honestly it's probably intended to be a 40-some second long lark.  The band is having us on.  But anyway.

From the Sabbathesque stomp of "Tantra I: War Wig" to the  Black Keys style blues number "Curtains," it's clear that The Sledge want to experiment with a variety of genres of rock on this record.  "We were not setting out to make a classic stoner album... and we think you can hear that."

"Death Drome Doline" actually reminded me of a lot of Primus' "Wynona's Big Brown Beaver" and I
really dug Claus' heady bass and the bottom heavy guitar riffing on this one.  The bluesy "Curtains" follows.  The Hammond organ is a really nice addition here, it compliments the four piece without stepping on toes.  It's just noticeable enough, a deft touch.  And the jam at the 4:10 mark, oh man, I thought the song was going to carry on that way to conclusion a la "Paradise City" but it took another turn and surprised me.

"Running Down the Mountain" is a short and sweet jam that gets us on to the first single "179 Liars", a hellacious cut.  Fades in with that organ again, then bam, guitar, drum kicks in and we're off.  This is one of Magnus' strongest vocals.  He really stretches himself.  You can hear Lorenzo backing in places very nicely.  Palle's guitar solo has an awesome psychedelic effect thrown on it near the conclusion.

What can I say about the brief interlude rap "Like Shit" except to say maybe that it sounds "Like Shit" and I mean that in a good way.

The longest track with vocals is the bluesy rocker "Yet Untitled."  This is probably the most "stoner" moment on the album.  It's clearly owes a debt to the likes of Sabbath, Aerosmith, Zeppelin, even Deep Purple, but so too to some of the bands the members have been touring with such as Fu Manchu and Truckfighters.

Finally we come to the nine and half minute closing instrumental track, which is a jazzy, spacey, hot number.  I love the effects, and Claus' bass just rips at the beginning.  There's a sax solo, Kim beats the drums like hell throughout.  It's not until after the sax solo really that I took notice of Palle's six string acrobatics, with range from mellow and smooth to smoking hot.  I LOVE this cut.

All in all this is a terrific album I rate it a full on 90 out of 100.  It's a really great listen.

From The Sledge's Press Info: Anders Onsberg Hansen (Baby Woodrose, Spids Nogenhat) did the recordings in Copenhagen and for the mixing and mastering the band brought in some heavyweight champions in the rock business: Matt Bayles (Mastodon, The Sword, Isis) did the mixes in Seattle, and Dave Collins (Soundgarden, Fu Manchu, QOTSA, Black Sabbath, Metallica) did the mastering in Las Angeles.  "We wanted to take everything a step further, and did no compromises in choosing who to work with."  The Sledge will release their debut album On the Verge Of Nothing on 15th of June via German label Kozmik Artifactz on heavy gatefold LP.

Kozmik Artifactz Facebook page.


Sunday, May 27, 2018

Spurv produces a "wordless exploration of the enigma of existence" with transcendent second album

On June 1 Oslo, Norway's Spurv (Sparrow) will drop their latest long-player Myra (The Marshes) and I Talk To Planets was fortunate enough to spend some time with with this album this past month and let me tell you, it is nothing short of breathtaking.  The music is resplendent, it's moving, it's enchanting, it's haunting.  It is everything you would want out of an emotional post rock/metal album.

The album purports to be a "wordless exploration of the enigma of existence through intense and melodic instrumental music, noisy drones, (and) orchestral clusters..."  Myra, however, is not entirely wordless.  The final track, the English translation of which is "Everything Ends, Even at Night," begins with an excerpt from a speech given by seminal Continental philosopher Martin Heidegger of Germany.  In that excerpt Heidegger says, "Die Sterblichen sind die Menschen."  What that translates too is, "The mortals are the human beings."

Now, Heidegger's principal work is Being and Time and I'm going to give a crash course in the German philosopher's work because what he did in his lifetime so informs what Spurv is trying to communicate with Myra that I think understanding his primary teachings lie at the crux of enjoying their music thoroughly. Heidegger's philosophy attempts to conjoin two main thoughts: 1) is the notion that all beings are found in the world (including the world itself), but the idea of Being had never been examined before; and 2) building upon the work of fellow kraut thinker Edmund Husserl who coined the phenomenological slogan "to the things themselves," Heidegger ran with that idea and came up with his notion of Dasein, or the being for whom Being is a question.  Heidegger thought that all experience is grounded in "care."  That became the premise for his "existential analytic" in Being and Time 
Photo courtesy of Lars Opstad.

How does all this relate to Spurv's new album?  In the band's own words, "Ultimately Myra is about
life and death, about that which is and that which perishes. Art poeticizes and co-creates our understanding of life and death, of the world, existence, and the human being's place among animals, plants, twigs, moss, fungi and mud. And in a time when the boundless sovereignty of the human being, the inevitability of progress and eternal growth without decay is the myth that increasingly steers humans from all corners of the world, it is up to artists to show the porous fundament of the myth, the the world is immensely more unfathomable than it appears at both first and second looks, that nothing lasts forever, but that everything gets its end, also the night."

The album consist of eight tracks, one of which, opener "A Lift In Case" (perhaps something was lost in translation), is only about 43 seconds of prelude, mostly sounds of a babbling brook, building to the horn introduction of the next track, "And a New Forest Is Brought Forward."  The sounds are vivacious and spirited.

I really want to take note of Hans-Jakob Jeremiassen's bass work on the 8:26 long "From the Depths Under the Stone."  It cut across the other instruments and stood out to me.  The song, the third track on the album, is really a quite lovely piece that flows right into the following synthesizer driven fourth cut on the album, which may be my favorite, it's so relaxing and calming, such stillness in the middle of this album that wants you to take time out and think about life and death, this tune gives you the opportunity to do that before moving on into the more heady parts of the album.

"A Pale Light Sounds" was released ahead of the full album and this is the album's penultimate track, everyone is at the top of their game, such wonderful melody, excellent harmonies, the rise and falls of the music so beautifully executed.  This is perfect music to meditate upon the transcendent, ineffable qualities of life, and death.

Photo courtesy of Lars Opstad.
It's track six and seven that really captivate me, "From the Myrtle Temple" and "The Voice Of the Old Man Breaks."  The textures are just so beautiful and hauntingly sad.  There is some wonderful guitar work here, not the screeching solos and flamboyant riffing I'm so used to hearing in the genre, but some gentle strumming and picking.  The harmonies cannot be overlooked either.  "Ole-Henrik and Kari Ronnekleiv have come with invaluable contributions that fill out and bind together the album, while Tore Ylvisaker and Ole Aleksander Halstensgard from Ulver have filled in details that draw out harmonies that we did not know were to be found in our music," noted founding member Gustav Jorgen Pedersen.

My recognition of the harmonies and soft guitar work, however, doesn't mean there isn't any riffing going on on this record.  Take the final track "Everything Ends, Even at Night," for example, there is some serious riffing going on here.

Heidegger's speech is delivered over some light piano at the outset.  The piano picks up in intensity and is joined by a cacophony of sound, suddenly the drums slice through the wall of sound, then the guitar in a traditional crushing metal riff kicks in.  This track by far is the most metallic cut on the album, but even it is melodic, and filled with wonderful harmonies by the group, and the band's use of instruments you wouldn't typically find in a rock band persists even in this, their heaviest song.

Photo courtesy of Lars Opstad.
This is one of the most melodic, trippy, transcendent albums I've heard this year, and I loved every second of it.  As far as contemporary releases to date in 2018, I compare it to Weedpecker III, Trail's Spaces and to an extent, River Cult's Halcyon Daze, all great records.  I rate this album a 93 out of 100.

"The album was written in the years that have passed since Skarntyde (No Forevers 2016) and recorded in the first weeks of 2017. With Skarntyde we felt we had come as far as we could, almost on our own, and with Myra we have taken a huge step, if not forward, then deeper, towards what we want Spurv to be," relayed Pedersen.

Spurv was founded in 2011 and consists today of Gustav Jorgen Pedersen - guitar, Hans-Jakob Jeremiassen - bass, Herman Otterlei - guitar, Simon Ljung - drums, Eirik Orevik Aadland - guitar, and Simen Eifring - trombone.  Also contributing to the album are Ole-Henrik Moe - picoletto, violin, viola, cello, Kari Ronnekleiv - violin, Cathy Donnelly - cello, Tore Ylvisaker - synth, Ole Aleksander Halstengard - fx and synth.

Spurv on Bandcamp.

Sunday, May 13, 2018

Eagle Twin making early bid for Album of the Year

In the beginning was the scream... and it was good.  The duo that comprise Eagle Twin, Gentry Densley (guitar and vocals) and Tyler Smith (drums), have been making music together since 2009 under that moniker and The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn is their third long-playing offering, the first being 2009's retelling of the creation myth via crow iconography The Unkindness Of Crows and the second 2012's conversion of the avian characters to the serpentine, The Feather Tipped The Serpent's Scale.  The third album see's the band move the tale further along the food chain, dealing with herd animals of the mid-western United States, such as prong-horned antelope, the mighty elk, the buffalo, etc.

The story so far, on the debut album Densley spins the tale of the Crows, borrowing bits from several sources, including Upton Sinclair, Japanese Haikus, Mormon hymnals, Native American myths, and heavily from poet Ted Hughes who penned the Crow and is husband to Sylvia Plath.  On The Unkindness Of Crows  the birds waged a war on the sun and were burned, they fell to earth blackened and writhing and took the form of snakes.  During the course of the second album the snakes balled themselves up and sprouted horns and became herd animals.  That's where we come in on The Thundering Heard: Songs Of Hoof and Horn.  Okay, you're all caught up.

Drums and Tuvan throat singing grab the listener by the balls upon the needle first dropping on the opening track, "Quanah Un Rama."  This tune means business. Densley possess a growling, guttural vocal delivery, and considering the towering mythological subject matter, and it's distinct manliness by nature with its hunting overtones, it suits.  The guitar riffs are aggressive and match, nay, exceed Densley vocal's.   And Smith's drumming is just so complimentary.  He goes unnoticed in much of this review, I have noted upon rereading it, but it's because of his skill, not because of a lack of talent.

(Editor's Note:  An interesting aside,  I attempted to track down the meaning of "Quanah Un Rama" and found that Quanah Parker was the last Comanche Chief, named chief by the U.S. government not by tribal council, and that his first name was given to him by his mother when he was a child and he kept it to honor her as an adult and it meant "stinky one.")

"Elk Wolfv Hymn" starts in a much more peaceful manner compared to the previous tune, more on the psychedelic side of Eagle Twin's palette of sound.  It builds in intensity as Densley tells tale of wolves tracking down and encircling a great stag as crows look on and keep watch.  I love his story telling, and his vocals, Lemmy would be proud.

 Side Two.  "Heavy Hoof" was the lead single for this record and with good reason.  "The heavy hoof clips, the heavy hoof clops.  The heavy hoofs dance on your grave."  The guitar is just so menacing here, with a such a sludgy low end, and considering there really is no bass, its all the more impressive.  The soloing on "Heavy Hoof" is just the most exciting on the record, and on a record of this caliber, that is really saying something.  This track just KILLS!

"Antlers of Lighting (Hooves of Thunder)" closes out the album, as a mighty storm stirs up and lightning strikes the great stag's rack of antlers.  This track features soaring, searing guitar riffs, matching the electrified lyrics, "white veins of lightning."  Indeed.  Some of Tyler Smith's best drum work on the album comes in this song near the end of the lyrics in my opinion, right before the soloing starts to escalate into a white-hot burn. 

"I live I die I bleed."

This circle of life seems complete, but where will Eagle Twin go next?

What a thrill ride in 41:32.  Flip this sucker back over and play it again. This is a true candidate for Album of the Year even at this early stage in the game.  It's a little odd in subject matter, but I think that's a bonus.  I'm not in a habit of giving out perfect scores for records, but damned if this isn't two already this year, 100/100.  Get this album.  You'll be glad you did.

And, if you would like a primer on where to start with Eagle Twin's back catalog, here's the 411.  On the debut, I recommend the 15-minute epic "Crow Hymn," "Carry on, Carrion King" and the album's denouement, "And it came to pass that birds fell to earth as black snakes."  If you can find it, there is the split disc with Pombargira that includes the pulsating "I Come From a Long Line Of Dead Men."  Track two also comes from Eagle Twin, the jazzy "Blackfoot Messiah / River Girl Song."  It's worth checking out as well.  Jams to groove to off the second full length release include the counter-point to the debut's mid-point, the aptly titled "Snake Hymn" this time which checks in at over 12 minutes in length.  Also, the repetitive "Horn Snake Horns / It Came to Pass the Snakes Became Mighty Antlers."  The second half of the split, which consists of the final two minutes, is purely instrumental jam and some of my favorite riffs on the record.

It's taken Eagle Twin 10 years to advance the story line this far and the mind boggles at where philosophically the tale may be heading next.  But in the meantime, we have Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn to tide us over.  It is destined for a number of those end of the year Best of Lists in my opinion.  The record has already worked it's way into high rotation here in my collection since the hard copy arrived last week.  Sadly, I'm a late-comer to Eagle Twin, only discovering them with this release.

From the band's web site:
Eagle Twin is two beasts, operating in a spectrum of duality.  Eagle Twin is finesse and power.  Eagle Twin combines the power of the riff with the freeness of jazz.  Eagle Twin is the serpent and the crow.  Eagle Twin is Gentry Densley and Tyler Smith.

Eagle Twin's Home.
Eagle Twin on Bandcamp.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

Holy Mushroom's sophomore album conducive to meditating, medicating

Pink Floyd, The Doors, Jimi Hendrix, these are just a few of the influences the members of Oviedo, Spain's tripped out foursome Holy Mushroom cite as inspiration for their psychedelic psilocybin lovin' anthems that comprise the new album Moon.

Moon, a spaced-out sophomore trip at 44 minutes in length, consists of five songs, largely instrumental in nature, although bassist Alex Castro does sing on occasion.

Let's dive right in.  The first offering is a trippy little ditty titled "La Caverna" which translates as "The Cavern."  It begins with a bit of Spanish dialogue from a film, I believe, though I'm not certain what movie it is from.  The Spanish speaker says, "Al salir y ver al fin / Aquella sucia tarde de otro tiempo / El sol azul por vez primera / no era el sol, sino nostros.*"  What that roughly translates to is:

          "Going out and seeing at last / That dirty afternoon of another time /
          The blue sun for the first  time / It was not the sun, but us."

A peculiar passage for certain, one to ponder upon if you're partaking, or meditating, as you sit back and let the sounds of Holy Mushroom flow through you.   The jazzy guitar and airy percussion work, along with a soulful bass line, bring this tune together as it builds and builds and finally explodes into a Floyd-esque guitar solo.  Then the percussions go a tap, tap, tap like rain on a tin roof, before a drum roll and then another scintillating solo, one maybe borrowing more from Jimmy Page this time rather than David Gilmour.  All in all a tripped out, fuzzy and and full on psychedelic ride.

Drummer Pablo Argüelles really shows his jazz chops and keyboard player Enol Cuesta tickles the ivories on "Birdwax Blues."  This is one of the few places where Castro stretches out and expresses himself vocally.   He has a a distinct European singing style.  What I mean by that is that traditionally, Europeans have treated the voice like a musical instrument itself.   His delivery is nasally and to me at least, that is problematic.  Reading through fan criticisms on YouTube, the ONLY negative thing ever said about
this group is when it comes to the vocals.  A few negative comments pepper the YouTube comments section about the said vocals.   The vox, however, are not the dominating aspect of Holy Mushroom by any stretch of the imagination.

Don't believe me, keep listening beyond "Birdwax" and you'll become a believer.   The nearly 13 minute long epic "The Preacher" follows and it is magnificent in its slow, elegannt  climb.  Floyd like in its opening, with dreamy keys and bass.  Yes, Castro does sing a bit, but it's a minor distraction here.  Just listen to that bass and it builds and scales upward.  When Alberto Arce joins in on guitar for a little tease then fades back into the mix you long for him to cut loose.  Well I assure you, it's coming, in bombastic style, it's coming.  He breaks back in from time to time to let you know he's still there, then with six minutes left in the song, there's a pause as the bands collects itself it seems.  When they kick back in the jam is different, with Arce taking more of the lead role.  A few more lines of vocals near the end and were done.  Whew!  A near religious experience is "The Preacher."

The song "Eufrates" was previously released as a single, but just in case you're not familiar with it yet we'll hit the highlights.  The first couple minutes the band plays light jazz bits, building for what is to come, which is a tribute, if you will, to many of the bands the inspire them.  At the two minute mark I'm hearing The Doors plain and simple.  I can picture Ran Manzarek on the keys, John Densmore working the kit and Robbie Krieger on guitar here.  Then around the three minute mark the band shifts gears and channel their inner Pink Floyd for a little over a minute.  Psychedelic sounds of Rick Wright's keyboards, Nicky Mason's skins, the bass of Roger Waters and guitar work of David Gilmour shine through, with around three minutes left in the song Arce breaks free and its time to pay respects to Hendrix.  The band closes it up in the final minute with an all out jam.  This tune is the album's centerpiece in my opinion, a stupendous piece of work.

Finally, we reach the closer, "A Grand Finale In the Blind Desert."  The opening riff actually reminds me a little of the Bond Theme.  There are some other complexities going on around the riff, drum rolls and fills, and a bass line, but still, it insists itself upon my memory until the tune rearranges itself a bit about three minutes in.  I actually am reminded of many of the desert set films I've seen, Lawrence of Arabia, The Mummy, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and others.  At 3:45 the tune changes again, to almost a festive atmosphere, and the saxophone joining in the mix REALLY reinforced the movie memories.  A snazzy little solo flare to finish and the album comes to a close.

This is a brilliant album to just throw on and relax to, not a complete psychedelic freak out, but a definite light mood enhancer that will mellow you right the fuck out if you're having a bad day or just need some time to decompress.  Have a drink, or if yo live where it's legal, something stronger, and enjoy Holy Mushroom's Moon.  95 out of 100.

Excerpted from the band's press material:
Holy Mushroom is a Heavy Psych band from the north of Spain.  Formed in 2016 by four musicians from 19-23 years old, it combines classic sounds of the sixties psychedelic music with modern styles. 

*Spanish dialogue provided by Holy Mushroom, translated via Google Translate, after my own paltry Spanish skills produced a VERY BAD translation.

Holy Mushroom on Facebook.
Holy Mushroom on Bandcamp.


Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Cosmic Fall joins the space race, releases In Search Of Outer Space

Cosmic Fall found themselves in a unique situation coming into the creation of the new record, In Search Of Outer Space, having to replace departed guitarist Mathias Rosmann.  Enter Martin Morawski.  He joins the founding rhythm section of Daniel Sax (drums) and Klaus Friedrich (bass/vocals) on one of the band's most ambitious releases to date, In Search Of Outer Space.

I tried to familiarize myself with Cosmic Fall's back catalog of work before launching into my review of the new record and I must admit some frustration.  At the insistence of Rosmann, the band has removed its previous releases from its Bandcamp page so I had to look elsewhere for  material.  From 2016's debut First Fall I was only able to track down two tunes, "Sun Of a Gun" and "Jam I."  From the 2017 follow up Kick Out the Jams, I found three tracks, "Earthfull," "Interstellar Junction," and "Cosmic Conclusion."  Finally, from the Cosmic Fall/Apodyl Starsplit I was only able to run down the song "Overhead Intelligence."  I wanted t at least be passingly familiar with the body of work the band had produced with its previous axeman so I could see how it has grown with the addition of Morawski.  Well, I'm here to report, the band's guitar duties are in safe hands indeed.  I heard hints of some of the greats while listening to In Search Of Outer Space, Jimmy Page, David Gilmour (particularly during "Purification") and Saint Jimi to name a few.  The band hasn't just replaced a guitarist, I believe they have taken a step forward in songcraft from what I was able to sample and I think Morawski is a fine fit.

On to the album.

"Jabberwocky" connects instantly.  It's a tale of swordplay and weed worship, wrapped in low pitched, swirling psych guitar.
          "He knows she comes with vorpal sword
          And he is praying to the lord
          The only thing that still remains
          Is smoking weed in wasteland plains"

And then we're treated to some more of that low end guitar growl for a few moments before we get the second verse, and denouement:

          "At least refreshing and last hope
          That everything can solve the dope
          He doesn't want to catch and bite
          Just sharing with the girl his pipe

          "Unlucky stoned Jabberwocky!"

I LOVE the lyrics to this song, even if I have to dock Friedrich a few style points overall for the vocal delivery.  His monotone, slightly nasal, traditional Krautrock singing voice just isn't my cup of tea.  But Cosmic Fall makes it work, focusing primarily on the jam, the lyrics and vocals are secondary to the album.  In fact, only two tracks, opener "Jabberwocky" and closer "Icarus" of the six tunes on In Search Of Outer Space have vocals.

The second tune, "Narcotic Vortex " sees Freidrich hold down the low end while Dan  plays some light jazz on the skins and Martin  gets positively psychedelic and spacey with his picking and playing, building toward a nice and rather unexpected Sax drum solo, before the band comes together to close things out.

"Purification" could easily find itself at home on a Pink Floyd album, but Morawski is channeling his inner Hendrix on "Lumberjam," as he blazes a trail of fuzz and distortion, soloing all the way. 

The next to last track is the trippy "Spacejam."  With all the studio effects laid on top of the band's instruments on this particular track, it makes for some  truly spaced out experimental psychedelia and I'm a huge fan of this particular track.  Martin's guitar sounds like a piano, the drums have an echo on them, the bass is tripping all the while.  This may be my favorite track on the record.

We close with the tale of "Icarus."

          "You tried to fly so high, touching the sun
          The vision of being on top with the gods
          Such a great dream was never done
          Icarus' wings burned by the sun."

It's a familiar tale for certain.  Wings made of wax, melted when they got too close to the heat of the sun and man plummeted to the ground and his death.  Man wishing to touch the divine.  Cosmic Fall does this tale justice, swirling psychedelic guitar, driving bass and pounding drums.  Then everything mellows for the lyric break and delivery for verse one and two (editor's note: verse two not reprinted here.)  Then the song picks back up and turns back into the frenzied beast it was during the opening section for a few moments before evaporating, thus bringing a most excellent trip to a close.

I eagerly anticipate the vinyl release of Cosmic Fall's In Search Of Outer Space.  Pre-Orders for that hot ticket begin on April 30, and the vinyl itself will be released on May 30.  For now, I'll will have to satisfy myself by connecting my iPhone to my stereo and blaring the mp3s version of In Search Of Outer Space over my stereo speakers until I can drop the needle on the physical product.  It's a physical product I deem worthy of adding to my personal collection, by the way. which means it rates at least an 85 out of 100.  In actuality, I score it a lofty 95.  This is an amazing record.

Lyrics and photos provided by Cosmic Fall.
Cosmic Fall on Facebook.