Sunday, 21 August 2016

FALL OF AN EMPIRE ~ CROWEATER: AN ECHO IN THE BONE ..... review



When anyone mentions "soul music" I guess the first thing that comes to mind are the heady days of Berry Gordy's Tamla Motown and it's rosta of of stars like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and Diana Ross but if you turn those two words around and add the word "with" in-between then the door opens for a whole gamut of differing artists and genres to come walking on through.
South Carolina's Fall of an Empire, Brent Carroll (Guitar/vocals), Shane Smith (Bass), Cody Edens  (Guitar), Kenny Lawrence (Lead Vocals) and Brad Munoz (Drums), came together in 2012 with a manifesto of putting some much needed life back into the gone a little stale SC music scene and then seeing where things went from there. In 2014 the band released their debut album "Songs of Steel & Sorrow" a stunning mix of stonerized blues and griity hard rock that  prompted one online reviewer to write "This is the definition of honest, bad ass Rock ‘n Roll in its purest form" (Dr. Doom's Lair). This year (2016) with positive praise still ringing in their ears and with the addition of Cody Edens on second guitar, the band returned to the studio to lay down tracks for a new album "Croweater: An Echo In The Bone", six songs of "music WITH soul"


A lone vocal, backed by shimmering sound effects, opens the albums first track "Beyond The Pale". Ethereal, haunting and delivered with soulful Celtic/Appalachian undertones its mournful tale of a death wielding beauty on a pale horse with scales in one hand and a scythe in the other sets the tone for an album that trades as much on its lyrical imagery as it does its musical content. Dark lyrical themes of inner turmoil (Confession), survival against the odds (Croweater), rage,anger and revenge (Uprising) are wrapped in a musical blanket of fuzzy desert/stoner groove injected with elements of bluesy hard rock, polished classic rock and salted with more than a pinch of  gritty southern swagger. Smith's deliciously creamy bass-lines match perfectly with Munoz's heavy hitting percussive bluster to form a bedrock for the guitars of Carroll and Eden to paint sonic portraits around, the two six-stringers filling every space with titanic riffage, ear catching hooks and searingly tasteful solo's. Fall of an Empire's ace in the hole though is the powerful and distinctive vocals of frontman Kenny Lawrence his bluesy clean voice is strong, coloured with little southern country nuances, and takes the bands overall sonic attack to a completely different level especially when being pushed by the equally impressive backing tones of  Brent Carroll. On the heavily blues drenched and torch- like "Bones of Birds" he feels the lyrics as much as he is sings them giving the songs, already emotive grooves, an added depth and gravitas. The album closes with "Burn The Witch" an uptempo stonerized hard rock workout that sees the band bringing all their strengths to the fore, big booming bass, heavy pounding drums and screaming guitars surround a sterling Lawrence vocal performance that leaves the listener with no other option than to hit the repeat button so as to experience the whole album all over again.
Check 'em out .......

Friday, 19 August 2016

KING BUFFALO ~ ORION ...review



Rochester, New York trio King Buffalo raised a few eyebrows among the movers and shakers of the underground rock scene when they released their 2013 "Demo", which had some mentioning the band in the same sentences as The Doors, Neil Young, Fatso Jetson and The Black Angels. The band expanded on that initial interest by contributing three stunning slices of psych rock to a split album  with Swedish retro rockers Le Betre on STB Records (2015). This year (2016) the band, Sean McVay - Guitar & Lead Vocals, Dan Reynolds - Bass & Lights and Scott Donaldson - Drums & Vocals, decided it was time to unleash something a little fuller and a touch more complete upon the world and so have self released their first full length album "Orion" (available here)


Pink Floyd are the obvious choice to compare any band ploughing a trough through the field of psychedelic rock with, but from the first droning note of, opener and title track, "Orion" it is hard not to make that comparison. McVay's Gilmour-esque guitar tones swirl around a background of lysergic rhythm and texture coated in mellow, laid back Floydian vocals creating a groove that although created in the USA has a strangely "English" feel.
"Monolith" jams a similar Floydian groove that takes its cues from the earlier period of that bands career and then mixes into those grooves elements of grungy Americana and shoegaze indie. McVay's warm croon floats majestically over the songs foundation of fragmented guitar chords and arpeggios, superbly backed by Reynolds spacious bass lines and Donaldson's busy drumming, his mellow tones complimented by the drummers harmonious vocal accompaniment.
"Sleeps On The Vine" although not strictly a blues song does however carry a feeling of that genre in its moody and atmospheric execution. McVay chops from his fretboard sharded guitar chords and spatial licks that hang in the air, echoing around the mellow lead  and vocal harmonies. The guitarist soars to even greater heights when in the songs final third the tempo increases and he unleashes his inner guitar hero and takes the song to the close with a searing six string display of emotion and technique.
"Kerosene"  begins with Donaldson laying down a solid backbeat into which Reynolds injects a deliciously seductive bass line before Mcvay's guitar enters wrapping siren-like motifs around an equally delicious vocal. The songs superbly delivered verses are interspersed by moments of heavy psych riffage that at times recalls, Canadian psych cult favourites, Quest for Fire and sees the band hitting a groove a little grittier and a touch more "stoner" than previously heard.
"Down From Sky" changes the dynamic completely with a gentle and largely acoustic number. McVay's voice floats over a backdrop of finger picked acoustic guitars and delicate drum beats, it's blend of folk and Americana the perfect vehicle as an introduction to the next track...
"Goliath" is a two part piece with the first part being an atmospheric instrumental journey tinted with eastern themes and psychedelic colours and texturing that slowly builds until, with a brief pause, erupts like a volcano into the stoner/desert groove of part two. A heavy circular McVay riff, dripping with fuzz and driven by the astonishing rhythmic dexterity of Donaldson and Reynolds hits the listener like a steam train, demanding attention and getting it. The vocal similarities to Pink Floyd, of previous tracks, are here jettisoned for a more shoegaze vocal approach that, to this listener, share tones and shades with Massachusetts stoner/psych noise artists Elder in their less abrasive moments and.give the song a hard edged and almost alt-rock feel.
"Orion Subsiding" sees the band once again step into the arena of bluesy psych, the songs hazy,smokey and heavily lysergic grooves further enhanced with the addition of jazzy guitar interludes wrapped around perfectly pitched  and laid back vocals. Reynolds big bass sound sits on top of Donaldson's restrained rhythmic backbeat allowing McVay free reign to fill the spaces with colourful hooks,licks and motifs. The band move it up a gear for the songs middle section hitting a brief but effective heavy desert groove before everyone falls back into line and the songs initial psych refrain takes things to the close.
"Drinking From The River Rising" begins with a folky, almost celtic, vocal lament over a slowly increasing  droning effect, McVay's voice is mournful, weary and emotive as he sings of "lonely mountains" and "rivers winding". The rest of the band then come in, wrapping the vocals in a blanket of psych drenched groove interspersed with moments of gnarly desert riffage and heavy stoner rhythms. The songs final third sees the band pulling out all the stops laying down a heavy barrage of psych soaked riff'n'rhythm with all three musicians going hell for leather on their respective instruments until collapsing into the fade on a wave of sustained feedback.


King Buffalo have created within the grooves of their debut album "Orion" a music that deserves a wider audience than the stoner/psych and doom underground niche thay currently inhabit whether this will happen is hard to say but if they continue to produce music this good, this exciting and vital then who knows what the future holds.
Check 'em out.....

Tuesday, 16 August 2016

AUGUSTINE AZUL ~ LOMBRAMORFOSE ...... review


Social media can be a funny thing, it can cause debate, break friendships , forge new ones, make us laugh, make us cry and make us angry and in some cases open up whole new career opportunities. About a year ago Desert Psychlist reviewed an album by a Brazilian band called Pathos, this in turn prompted an online Facebook friendship with the bands guitarist Ricardo Marliere. Ricardo would from time to time point me in the direction of other Brazilian bands he thought Desert Psychlist may dig, one of those bands he suggested were an instrumental psych/prog outfit from João Pessoa, Paraiba going by the name of Augustine Azul whose self titled debut EP was available on Bandcamp . Impressed by what I heard I immediately posted a comment on Facebook group Hard rock Revolution's page recommending them to others, the first person to respond to this post was More Fuzz blog's head honcho Tanguy SeFi Duprey. Tanguy was so knocked out by what he heard he included the EP in his personal best of 2015 list. In the following year Tanguy decided that it was time to expand his empire by starting his own label, More Fuzz Records, and his first signing ....... Augustine Azul, his first release.....their debut full length "Lombramorfose".


"Lombranorfose" is a stunning album packed to the rafters with exceptionally good music played by exceptionally good musicians. From the bass line intro of  jazz/prog stoner opener "Amônia" to the heavy desert/psych grooves of " Intèra" Augustine Azul give nothing but 100%. João Yor's guitar howls and screams like a banshee over a backdrop of deliciously sexy bass ( Jonathan Beltrão ) and inricate jazzy drumming ( Edgard Moreira ), the three combining together to create a whole that is so much more than the sum of its parts. Jazz and prog complexity and good old fashioned hard rock grit go hand in hand skipping down fuzz drenched musical paths that at any minute can go off on a tangent leaving listeners breathless with wonder, desperately trying to second guess where the band will take them next. There are those that may be a little wary of a full album of instrumental music, especially when words like "complexity" and "progressive" are being banded about, but Augustine Azul allay those fears by adding into their highly intelligent arrangements and grooves a large dose of good ole' gritty swagger and swing.
Check 'em out......



For more information on More Fuzz Records and Augustine Azul follow these links:

More Fuzz Blog
More Fuzz Records
Augustine Azul








Sunday, 14 August 2016

HOWLING GIANT ~ BLACK HOLE SPACE WIZARD: PART 1 ........ review



Nashville, Tennessee, the home of legendary luthiers Gibson Guitars and the spiritual home of country music is renowned around the world for its contributions to music, and rightly so, its the reason they call it "Music City". It may come as a surprise to some, though, that this thriving metropolis is not just all about Stetson wearing cowboys with acoustic guitars and big haired women singing about losing their men, Nashville rocks too.
A headline in UK newspaper The Guardian recently proclaimed "there are more thrilling new bands in Nashville than anywhere else on Earth." and with so much competition it must be hard for a new band to break out from the pack and get themselves noticed but Tennessee trio Howling Giant went some way to doing just that with the release of their self-titled 2015 EP "Howling Giant", a mix of gritty stoner riffage and spacey atmospherics salted with cool vocal melodies and hooks which garnered positive responses from the underground press as well as the record buying, digital downloading public. The trio of Tom Polzine ( Guitar and Vocals), Roger Marks  (Bass and Vocals) and Zach Wheeler (Drums and Vocals) have, buoyed by this response, just released a follow up to that promising debut with a new EP "Black Hole Space Wizard: Part 1"



First track "Mothership" opens with a rolling guitar motif from Polzine, dripping with fuzz and complimented by Wheeler's shimmering percussion, it is then joined by Marks thundering bass with all three then exploding into the songs main refrain. The songs groove sits very much within a 70's hard/classic rock framework but that is not to say this should be classed as "retro", the band use this groove as a platform from which to take off into passages of gnarly progressive complexity and psych/space colouring that are then coated with superb harmonies and vocal interplay.
If all that doesn't grab you by the throat then the gloriously catchy chorus most certainly will.
"Exodus:Earth" darkens the mood slightly, a mood mirrored in the vocal tones and the songs apocalyptic lyrics of a world coming apart at the seams. The band stay within the 70's blueprint they like to use as their base but that blueprint is coloured with an almost bluesy doom feel that is injected with scorching guitar solo's and a backbone of thundering heavy rhythm. The band cleverly ramp the atmosphere up a notch or two with the use of a narrative from H.G.Wells "War Of The Worlds" around which the band lay an almost Hawkwind-ish groove to takes things to the close.
"Dirtmouth" finds the band channelling their hardcore side on a song that sees sludge-like vocals roared over a backdrop of spacey neo-classical guitar motifs, pummelling  percussion and throbbing distorted bass played at breakneck speed and with a ton of anger and attitude The songs themes of destruction and fear are perfectly portrayed within the 4:20 timeframe and leave the listener in no doubt that the Wizard, in the songs lyrics, does live and he is ANGRY!
"Clouds of Smoke" starts of moody and atmospheric a lone vocal over fuzzy sustained guitar chords, Wheeler's sympathetic percussion then enters with Marks bass thrumming just underneath. The track slowly builds momentum with Polzine adding little touches of six-string colouring and texture as other vocals enter both backing the main vocal as well as harmonising with it. Melancholic and atmospheric the song slowly builds layer by layer until reaching its nadir with Marks deep, deep bass locking in tight with Wheeler's powerful drumming to create a huge wall of rhythm for Polzine to decorate with smouldering solos and smoking licks, it's  not short of nerve tingling!


Howling Giant have, with "Black Hole Space Wizard:Part 1", proved that the promise shown on their first EP was no fluke and that not everything good coming from Nashville needs to be covered in rhinestones.
Check 'em out .......

Friday, 12 August 2016

SHOGUN ~ SHOGUN EP ..... review


Cross-pollination is not an uncommon occurrence within the stoner rock scene, band members hook up with other bands members to do this or that side project on an almost daily basis. What is unusual is when those band members then switch to a completely different instrument, to those they play in their own bands, for these projects/new beginnings
Shogun are made up of Max Muenchow - Bass, Alvin Vega - Drums, Sam Wallman - Guitar and Joe Widen - Vocals and apart from Vega's inclusion are a mash up of members of two of Milwaukee's finest underground bands Ahab's Ghost and Galactic Hatchet. Things start getting a little confusing though when you realise that the drummer in Galactic Hatchet is the bassist and vocalist in Ahab's Ghost but just the vocalist in Shogun and that the bassist/vocalist in Galactic Hatchet is just the bassist in Shogun while Sam Walliman, the guitarist in Shogun is also the drummer for Ahab's Ghost as well as the producer of Galactic Hatchet and the engineer behind both Ahab's Ghost and Shogun! It's like the stoner equivalent of the old "Who's on first base, Watts on second" skit Abbott and Costello made famous.
What is certain though is that whoever is doing what, on what, the resulting outcome these four guys have created with this  their self titled debut is something a little special!


"I Am The Harbinger" opens "Shogun", coming out of the speakers like a  fuel -injected goods train, heavy, powerful and unstoppable The band describe their sonic attack as "riffs upon riffs ,upon more riffs" and its hard to disagree with that statement especially when confronted with the intensity of groove the band display over the next 5 minutes 35 seconds that make up this track. Fuzz drenched guitar and bass riffage assail the senses, driven by powerhouse percussive might which are then overlaid with a vocal so damn good it sends shivers down the spine, and this is just track one!
Next track " Electric Kool Aid (Acid Test)" continues in much the same vein as the first jamming an almost proto-doom groove laced with elements of 70's hard rock and 00's stoner/psych. Widen sings of  a "hypnotic shaman" and a "brown skinned woman" against a doomy, blues flecked, backdrop of booming bass and pounding drums over which guitarist Wallman lays heavily distorted riffage and tasty hooks and solo's.
"Quest for Freedom" slows things down with a bluesy,doom drenched foray into the more lysergic areas of the bands sound. Wallman takes most of the honours here, his guitar soaring and swooping like an eagle on a thermal updraft over Muenchow's thrumming  heavy bass lines and Vega's understated and intricate percussive work. Widen's soulful vocal sits above the groove, full of depth and emotion his delivery perfectly pitched to convey the songs lyrical scope and vision.
"Savage" begins with Vega exploding all over his kit before being joined by Muenchow with a deeply distorted bass line, a touch of feed back from Wallman's guitar and the song takes off into seriously addictive  stoner/desert groove
"Matriarch" sees Muenchow laying down a ridiculously chest vibrating bass line that slowly builds layer by layer until segueing into a pulsating low tuned doom groove. Widen is on top form here his distinctive tone injecting an element of soulful melancholy and aching loneliness into the songs heartfelt lyrical content, he even gets to sound a touch Ozzy-ish in the songs Sabbath-esque middle section.
Album closer "Substratum" sees Shogun putting all their eggs in one basket with stunning effect.The band lay down a groove in keeping with the songs title, low, downtuned and heavy with the emphasis on heavy. Muenchow's bass is once again the foundation on which the band build their sound, his low, pummeling earth shaking four string tones locking in tight with Vegas' busy, unfussy percussive backbeats, the pair building a wall of groove around which Wallman's guitar swirls, swoops and soars, the guitarist painting scintillating psychedelic pictures with his fretboard mastery.
Widen delivers yet another masterclass in soulful rock singing his vocal here is beyond superb,if there were an award for best voice in underground rock then Joe Widen would be up there near the top.


As I wrote on the bands Bandcamp page...
Part proto-metal, part bluesy stoner, part heavy psych and coated with super smooth vocals this is a must have for anyone who loves good intelligent underground rock music
Check 'em out....

Friday, 5 August 2016

ELDER DRUID ~ THE ATTIC SESSIONS ...... review


Warlocks, wizards and witches are usually the chosen lyrical fodder of 70's prog bands and 80's power metal but Ballymena fuzznauts Elder Druid prove that it's not only old hippies that are partial to a magical theme ...ot three.
Elder Druid are Gregg McDowell - Vocals, Jake Wallace - Lead Guitar, Mikey Scott - Rhythm Guitar, Dale Hughes - Bass Guitar and Brien Gillen - Drums, and came together in 2015 in their home town of Ballymena, Northern Ireland with the intention of blending a love of the desert grooves of Kyuss and Dozer with those of heavier stoner metal bands like Electric Wizard and Sleep.
The band so far have three releases under their belt two of which, "Otherworld" and  "Ides of March", are one track affairs recorded live at the Loft, Belfast, the third and most recent is a four track EP recorded live at Attic Studios, Belfast .."The Attic Sessions"


"Sellsword" kicks off "The Attic Sessions" with a delicious circular Kyuss-like desert groove, Wallace and Scott's guitars, drenched with fuzz, laying down an infectious sand blasted riff under which Hughes bass and Gillen's drums lock solid and tight. McDowell's vocals sit above this sandy groove, delivered with wide-eyed ferocity, his tones  harsh and visceral and supplied with a slight rap metre that brings to mind a feral Zach de la Roche (Rage Against The Machine). The track ends in sustain and feedback and gives the listener just enough time to catch his/her breath before taking off into the next track.
"Warlock" eases off the pedal a tad, the groove still very sandy and desert-like but with a touch of sabbathian intensity thrown into the mix. Scott holds down the riff, combining with Hughes booming bass to lay down a thick slab of brooding refrain allowing Wallace the freedom to inject little touches of colour and texture with his exquisite licks, hooks and solo's. McDowell's vocal tone here is a little deeper, still as intense and guttural but tempered with a touch more restraint  Beneath this monolithic onslaught of  voice and stringed instruments Gillen keeps everything neat and tidy with an outstanding display of rhythmic precision and time keeping.
"Red Priestess" opens with a moody guitar motif backed up with a subtle bass line then explodes into a Sabbath-esque groove bolstered by throat shredding vocals, massive dark power chords and Gillen's pounding drums. Heavy, dense and leaning more towards the sludge end of the stoner spectrum than the previous tracks it manages to avoid falling into the realms of extreme metal by utilising a large dose of, good old fashioned, "swing" within its down tuned and titanic groove.
Final track "Reigning Hell" sees Elder Druid taking a stroll down doomier paths. Hughes bass anchors down the songs dark atmospheric groove locking in tight with Gillen 's drums and Scott's fuzz drenched rhythm guitar and allowing Wallace free rein to step occasionally outside the riff and fill the spaces with incendiary solos and hooks. McDowell's vocals once again employ a slight rap metre, his harsh gutteral delivery momentarily dropped in places for a cleaner, but still throaty, tone.
The song is taken to its conclusion with Hughes, Scott and Gillen jamming the songs doomy groove while Wallace solo's overhead then ends on another wave of feedback and droning sustain.


Those that are regular readers of these pages will know harsh and guttural vocals are something not big on Desert Psychlist's radar but there is a freshness and vitality about what Elder Druid do that has found a place in our hearts and caused a re-think. If you like your desert grooves heavy, tottering on the edges of extreme with a elements of sludge and doom well....
Check'em out....

Thursday, 4 August 2016

SHADOW WITCH ~ SUN KILLER ....... preview/review


Back in April, this year Desert Psychlist reviewed a three song promo release of an upcoming album from Kingston N,Y,'s Shadow Witch describing it as " mix of stoner fuzz'n'roll mixed with a little NWOBHM and doom that is then salted with a touch of psychedelic seasoning". Well it's been four months since the band teased us with those three tunes and on Aug 15th (2016) the band will release, via Snake Charmer Coalition, their full length debut "Sun Killer".


From the first moment of screaming feedback that introduces first track "(D.O.A.) Anticipation" you somehow sense you are in for something a little special here. The next  thing you notice about Shadow Witch is they are not a stoner band , they are not a doom band, they are neither classic or hard rock, not grunge, metal or even post -rock....they are all of them! They are the band your big brother listened to , the band your dad loved , the one your sister lost her virginity to, the one your mother screamed for to be turned down, the one you always wanted to be in...Shadow Witch are a ROCK band pure and simple.
Like the history and the present of rock collated into one place Shadow Witch's "Sun Killer" is neither retro or modern but carries within its sonic cannon aspects of both. Desert Psychlist could go through every track on "Sun Killer" pointing out similarities to this band or obvious influences from that band but that would take away the joy of the listener discovering these things out for his or her-self. What can said is that the combined forces of  Anton Van Kleek (drums), ‎David Pannullo (bass/voice), Earl Lundy ( lead voice/mellotron/loops) and Jeremy Hall (guitars) have created an album that has the potential to crossover between genres and sub-genres without the need to compromise. From the depths of the "underground" to the brightly lit "mainstream" there is something here for everyone.
Check 'em out....