Album Review – Sunnata “ZORYA”

Sunnata

Zorya – Vinyl / CD / DD

Self Released – April 11, 2016

 

This is the second full length from the Polish doom outfit, Sunnata.  While in full disclosure, I haven’t actually heard their debut, Zorya is certainly a breath of fresh air from what I usually hear from more modern “doom.”  I hear lots of bands who hear Sleep’s Dopesmoker for the first time, get really high, tune down to G flat, play really slow and think that’s the essence of “doom.”  I hear other bands that take the retro route, and just try to ape the vibe of the first four Black Sabbath albums.  I suppose that’s all well and good, and not particularly awful places to start off in the overall development of a band, though too often it turns into either a bit of a pitfall or a total dead end.  Fortunately, Sunnata don’t fall into this trap.  I personally like to hear bands that are interested in growth, development, experimentation, and bringing other influences into the fold.

This album doesn’t disappoint in any of those departments – it consistently surprised me with the various musical twists and turns, sometimes within the course of the same song, like the lengthy opener, “Beasts Of Prey.”  It starts in a fashion that’s fairly typical of more contemporary doom, with a droning guitar chord and subsequent feedback, while the bass lays down a groovy, slow, slug wading through molasses intro riff.  Soon enough, the guitars join in full force, building the bassline into a mighty wall of dark distortion.  Twice it peaks with a more chiming, repetitive chord, before settling into a more mid-paced and punishing variation of the opening riff four minutes into the track.  From there it cleans things up, with mellow, swirling psychedelic guitars and ethereal vocals delivered in the form of a mantra.  Once things hit full throttle, it seems like there are two vocalists, one delivering a slightly more intense dreaminess, and the other offering a scream/throaty growl in counterpoint.  It’s little juxtapositions like these that make Sunnata’s sound so effective, and it’s what makes them stand out in the crowded stoner doom crowd.

 

Band Live Shot

 

There’s a cool little guitar solo that kicks in – it sounds like slide guitar run through tons of delay, and it builds up the tension quite nicely with its mixture of melody and sheer mind searing noisiness. Nine minutes in, we see the temp once again shift into the faster “doom” realms where bands like High On Fire often find themselves.  The guitars and drums blur more and more into faster, most melodic terrain, eventually taking on a slightly “blackened” timbre with the vocals and tremolo style riffs, before it suddenly peaks and ends.  Wow, what an opener; it’s definitely the album’s highlight for me.  The second song, “Zorya”, is no slouch by any means, though it is a little more conventional, beginning with the disembodied vocals posing the perpetual question, “Have you ever spread your wings to fly?”  Only in my dreams, guys, only in my dreams.  This tune is a bit more repetitive and minimalistic with the riffing, though it works, creating a trance-like backdrop for the vocals to alternate between aggression and contemplation, and there’s once again a really cool psychedelic guitar solo building into a chorus.

The third song, “Long Gone”, brings back the swirling clean tones of the first track, this time more downbeat and drawn out, which really gives them space to breath in and exhale all of their psychedelic goodness.  Suddenly, things pick up into an exotic sounding motif, and we’re off to the proverbial races.  Things get really intense really quickly, with the distortion kicking in along with a wah, which slowly filters the guitar’s tonality from low to high before flowing right into the verse, which follows the same motif and adds the now familiar vocals.  The chorus uses some nice rhythmic and melodic variations, and there’s a section afterwards that uses some sweet syncopation as well.  From their, the song repeats its clean intro, bringing in some tribal style drums a la Neurosis that leads  to another distorted climax and finale.  “New Horizon” starts with a fairly standard, slower doom riff, then shifts into more psychedelic territories with the guitars and vocals, which start out with an eerie chant evoking some cosmic monks on an ergotamine bender.  The initial doom riff kicks back in, and the vocals pick up their typical counterpoint of styles.  It’s a lot like the second song in many respects, more repetitive and trance inducing, though there’s notably a most excellent interplay between the melody of the solo section and the rhythm riff pulsing underneath it in this ascending pattern that echoes many of the themes of the album without speaking a single word.

 

Gold Vinyl

 

They close with “Against And Against”, a song that’s lean and mean from the very start, starting off with a riff that’s right out of The Art Of Self Defense playbook and the album’s most aggressive vocals.  I can dig it.  It breaks done into some of the slowest riffs, punctuated by feedback and weird echoed bubbles of sonic depths yet to be explored.  Things eventually grind to a complete halt in what could be classified as a fake ending, though this is just a tease – they’re not letting you off that easily.  The riffs rehash, then slowly fade out, leaving only the barest of skeletal guitars by the end, buried in murk and reverb.  Once again, this is a tease.  A burst of feedback brings things right back to the forefront.  Big, throbbing riffs and vocal harmonies pave the way for yet another bizarre fade-out, this one punctuated by seething white noise.  It’s an interesting choice for ending an album, and quite an ambitious track.

When all is said and done, this an extremely promising album from a fairly new band.  It’s not just paint by numbers doom – it showcases of a variety of influences and a spectrum of styles, all the while retaining a more modern edge.  Sunnata never disappear down the retro rabbit hole, nor do they consciously ape any other band.  The most apt comparison I could come up with is YOB, though even that analogy falls a little flat for me as well.  It probably has more to do with YOB’s willingness to break the mold and experiment with different sounds and influences more than it has to do with actual similarities in sound.  I’m definitely going to be watching this band with curiosity as they continue to grow, progress, and reach towards the upper empyrean of the doom multiverse….

 

Reviewed By Andy “Ding a ding dang my dang a long ling long” Beresky


Album Review – MANGOG “Mangog Awakens”

MANGOG – Mangog Awakens

Argonauta Records – CD/DD

PREORDER – SAVE 20% – Release date: Jan 9th, 2017

 

Coming together from the remnants of the bands REVELATION and AGAINST NATURE, MANGOG represents the latest in what makes ‘doom’ what it is; riffs that punch you in the chest, bass that will rattle your ribcage and time sig’s that seem to twist you around as you roll along with them through this 9-song debut.

Citing Black Sabbath / The Obsessed / Trouble as their influences, it is no surprise that the feel is dark and foreboding. The clock ticking as this opus begins belies the awakening referenced in the album title and five seconds later, the first power chords hits right between the eyes as “Time Is A Prison” makes its way through your veins with a power and rumble that grabs you and doesn’t let go. Clocking in at just over seven minutes, it is quite the introduction to these four guys that stay their mission as using riffs to turn the air solid and taking long walks on a post-apocalyptic beach with a zombie-bride. By the time you get to the first extended guitar solo, you feel it enveloping. Not wasting a second between, “Meld” comes in faster and shakes you awake with the trifecta of cymbal/bass guitar that leads you through the path they are clearing for the first four measures before Myke Wells’ vocal rises to remind you that is is ‘your thirst to my thirst, your mind to my mind’ and there is no turning back.

 

Band Release Info Montage

 

Full of twists and turns and tales of walking those decimated beaches ‘drunk with fear’, Mangog delivers what promises to be a disc that does not come out of your player anytime soon once you put it in. One of the standout tracks on this is “Daydreams Within Nightmares”, chock full of those time signatures that make it seem like the ‘fills’ are the body of the rhythm line. Closing out this 45 minute opus with “Eyes Wide Shut” demonstrates the roots of mist-filled shadows that gives MANGOG the doom-tag they have assigned themselves. Breathe deep before you hit ‘play’ the first time and keep your eyes open as you never know what is behind you as you wonder if ‘today is a good day to die’.

 

Words by Ric “Sui-Syko” Dorr


Album Review – Neurosis “Fires Within Fires”

Neurosis – Fires Within Fires

Neurot Records – Vinyl / CD / DD

Released September 23rd 2016

 Neurosis_Album Cover

 

         What can I really say about Neurosis?

 

This is the eleventh Neurosis studio album, and quite honestly, they’re as much an institution at this point as a band.  We’re talking here, folks, about a band that is so influential that they’ve literally defined an entire genre, sometimes referred to as post metal.  They started off as seemingly another punk/hardcore band, though by their third album they’d mutated into something we hadn’t heard before. They’ve inspired and served as the primary influence for bands like Isis, Cult Of Luna, and Minsk. They’ve continued to develop their sound and evolve, to take chances, and yet they don’t have a single dud in their rather extensive catalog.  That alone is an accomplishment worth noting.

 

What else can I really say about Neurosis?  I suppose that I should delve into the actual album at this point, and I’ll assure you, Fires Within Fires sounds very much like a Neurosis album.  It’s a bit more cerebral than their last two, and it has a dark, swirling psychedelic atmosphere going on throughout.  I like it as much as any of their recent output. For me personally, they’re never going to top Enemy Of The Sun, though I’ll admit that this is rapidly becoming one of my favorites in their catalog based on the psych focus, dynamics, and retention of their heaviest elements.  At first, my only complaint was the length – five songs at around 41 minutes.  However, there’s no filler; my beef with an album like A Sun That Never Sets was that it was too damn long in the tooth and meandering at times.  In the context of this album, the brevity works wonders for Neurosis.

 

Band Pic

 

The opening track, “Bending Light” initially sounds like a slowed and stripped down version of the early Pink Floyd classic “The Nile Song” for about the first minute, before it morphs into a quieter, more sinister section for a spell.  They re-hash the opening riff in a cleaner manner, letting the atmospheric keyboards and samples come a little more to the forefront, then launch into a full scale assault on the eardrums.  It’s everything that’s familiar about Neurosis: harsh, abrasively screamed vocals, guitar riffs that juxtapose the melodic with the  dissonant, a thick low end provided by the bass, and intense drumming interlaced with tribal flourishes.  All of this is delivered with a weighty emotional intensity and a backdrop of shifting soundscapes.

The second song, “A Shadow Memory” starts off quieter, with pulsing electronics leading into a catchy clean guitar hook.  Soon enough the song opens up into full throttle riffs and the familiar vocal styling.  The opening is rehashed, giving the song some subtle dynamic touches.  Track three, “Fire Is The End Lesson” starts more boldly; the guitars are centered around aggressive hooky chords, though they’re slightly off kilter, which seems to be the theme of the song.  Later on, it climaxes in a glorious barrage of heavier, more primal riffs and noisier guitars.  The keyboards also add to the wall of sound effect that they achieve by the song’s conclusion.

“Broken Ground” is a pretty stripped down track, focusing on a noisy, repetitive riff and melody for most of the song.  Near the end it breaks down into a softer, more psychedelic section. The closing track “Reach” features cool vocal harmonies and an overall softer, more haunting and intimate tone.  The final two minutes of this ten minute track descend into dark, heavy riffs punctuated and echoed by divebombing pitchshifted keyboards before it all just abruptly ends.

Like I said above, if you dig Neurosis, I can’t see why you wouldn’t like this album.  It certainly centers around atmosphere and psychedelia more heavily than their last two, though there is an urgency to the arrangements that heralds back to their earlier work.  There aren’t any glaring flaws, the songs are solid, and there’s also a lot of variety and dimension going on throughout.  I’ll admit that I’m a bit bummed that I can’t find something a bit more creative to write about Fires Within Fires, though my rants and diatribes are usually based around criticisms, and I find precious few here to work with.

 

Reviewed by Andy “Dingbat” Beresky


Album Review – Heavy Traffic “Plastic Surgery”

Heavy Traffic

Plastic Surgery

Twin Earth Records

Released December 17, 2016 – Cassette / DD

 

Twin Earth Records brings us their offering from Heavy Traffic that was purportedly recorded “live to tape” over the course of a March 2016 weekend. Ian Caddick and Tav Palumbo had recorded five albums of material in the two years previous to moving to Brooklyn, New York in 2015, intent on putting a band together to focus on playing live. Two months later this was the result.

First thing I gotta say is the vocal mix is a little too over-saturated and echoplexed to be able catch most of the lyric content on first listen. Leaning heavy on psych rock, combining elements of noise, doom, punk, and shoegaze, most of the songs move along at a tempered slower pace until “Three Stigmata” when the staccato mixes with fills galore lending to a faster pace and listenability that has been missing until. “Medicated Bed” also has a faster pace complete with guitar solos brought into the forefront making this the one I kept going back to as the standout. The bonus song with the release seemingly reflects on two members referred to as White and Green on the band’s Facebook page, presumably Ian and Tav, clocking in as one of the longest songs offered and goes back to the slower tempoed stoner tromp of the first half of this record. The track listing needs to have a smoother flow in and out as they demonstrated they could do with “Acid Sweater” running smooth as glass into “Broth Drain”. We’ll see with the progression of these guys. If they are as prolific as reported, this should be the first of much to come and I hope the polishing continues until it is refined as they find the balance in the vocal mix so the words conveyed are easier grabbed. Seeing Heavy Traffic Live would be the venue to get the full affect in my opinion of this solid debut on Twin Earth Records.   If you like your Traffic “Heavy,” this is release is for you!

 

Band Pic

 

Band Members:
Ian Caddick
Tav Palumbo
David Grzedzinski
Dan Bradica

Words by Ric “Sui-Syko” Dorr


Album Review – Odd Couple

Odd Couple

Flugge

Cargo Records Germany

November 4, 2016 (Germany)/April 2017 (Worldwide)

Avant-Garde/Psychedelic Rock

 

2016 has been a frustrating year musically, but in the best of ways. The amount of extremely talented bands and their material made it literally impossible to keep track of everything. The overall situation further leads me to skip my usual “Best Of” list because of the wealth of great material from a near-endless array of artists, made absorbing it all a daunting task.  That said, two releases managed to separate themselves enough to tie for No.1 Album of the Year. The first is Hill’s magnificent self-titled offering.  Let me tell you about the other right now…..

Let me now introduce you to (The) Odd Couple.  What makes this Berlin duo so enthralling? Everything. Rarely has a full band, much less a duo cover so many musical genres in one place and make it work. At the heart of the machine seems to be a love of 60’s garage and psych, but narrowing down to just that would be a travesty. Throughout each of the fourteen tracks on display, the listener will encounter the aforementioned styles along with: 70’s pop, Krautrock, Grunge, New-Wave, Pyschobilly and yes, even more. By all rights, such a sonic concoction should be a disjointed mess, but that is where Odd Couple shines brightest. They have somehow taken a massive cache of influences and melded them together seamlessly and without any smug, artsy pretense. Amazing.

 

Band Pic 2

 

“Flugge” is a bold, refreshing statement in the world of underground rock. To sit and absorb it is to feel a deja-vu whisper gently in your ears as you simultaneously travel down freshly trodden paths. It deserves any and all accolades it will hopefully receive and is the best that this year’s many musical excursions has brought to me.

(Extra thanks must to go out to Cargo Germany’s A&R rep for the band, Isabel. She went above and beyond in helping me obtain the record and providing information about it. All labels should be this classy.)

Words by David “The Lovely” LaMay


Album Review – Lo-Pan “In Tensions”

Lo-Pan “In Tensions” EP

Aqualamb Records – Release Date – January 13th, 2017 

Limited to 500 Copies – All Pre-Orders come with a 100-page Book

 

From the moment the wheels of this ‘big maroon van’ hit the ground with the first chord from this Columbus OH band’s latest release “In Tensions,” it’s obvious their self-stated mission is true; they are out to destroy everything.

 

Lo-Pan_2017_Band Pic

 

Four seconds into debut track “Go West” Jeff Martin shows his vocal prowess drawing you into their signature time stamps, letting his voice wrap around you like a latex glove. Lo-Pan instantly takes you on a sonic ride this stellar EP represents from start to finish. “Sink Or Swim” shifts gears into a faster spin on the choices we all face when it comes to ‘finding our way’. We get a second to catch our breath during the distorted bass fade-in of “Long Live The King” before the hammering power chords bring the sonic dissonance Lo-Pan has established as a staple throughout their prolific career. “Alexis” lets Jeff go full-range vocally and shows the influence of Tool with the spiraling delivery that is so compelling throughout this release. “Pathfinder” is the final offering and continues along the road we have been traveling as the title suggests and is the kind of track to make the biggest stoner/sludge fan squirm in satisfaction. Plenty of sustain, delay and phase shifting to almost induce a head rush or two. Well worth the wait and makes me want even MORE! Highly recommend!

Words by Ric “Sui-Syko” Dorr

 


Album Review – Sithter “Chaotic Fiend”

Sithter

Chaotic Fiend

Bonten Records – December 9th, 2016

Sludge/Doom/Hardcore Metal – Vinyl / CD / Digital

  

Has any one country ever supported hard rock and heavy metal like Japan? I certainly don’t think so. Since Sabbath crawled out from the primordial ooze, they’ve been there, generation after generation. This would make one think they should be much bigger players in the genre(s) considering their love for it, but that has not really been the case. What they have brought to the table though, has been excellent and underrated. From early hard-hitters such as Blues Creation and Shinki, Speed and Glue, on through to Loudness and E-Z-O, right to today’s rippers like Eternal Elysium and Church Of Misery, they’ve proven they have the goods. That now brings us to Sithter, the latest entry I’ve heard from the Land Of The Rising Sun. Does it measure up to its pedigree?

The answer is, by and large, yes. Rather than taking the more direct, Sabbathized path of C.O.M., “Chaotic Fiend” hops on the road straight to Louisiana and the NOLA sound. Throughout the nine tracks present, there is some serious EyeHateGod (and to a lesser degree, Down) worshiping taking place, and I do stress serious. Snarling, surly vocals, punishing riffs and a slow, grinding pace. The band has it all down quite solidly.

 

Chaotic Fiend_Music Set

 

For better of worse, this all means that the band’s strengths are simultaneously their weaknesses. The record is just too close to E.H.G. more often than it really should be. I have to admit the vocals are a bit of a challenge for me as well; a little more diversity and mood from them would really elevate matters.

Wrapping things up, Sithter has delivered a solid effort with “Chaotic Fiend”, no doubt. I think time will address some of the issues brought up here, but until then, this is a good album you should check out. 

Sithter:
Hyö Kagawa – Guitar
Wahei Gotoh – Bass
Takefumi Matsuda – Drums
Hiroyuki Takano – Vocals, Guitar

Words by David “The Lovely” LaMay

 


Album Review – The Blue Sunshine Family Band “Self Titled”

The Blue Sunshine Family Band

Self-Titled Debut (2016)

Instrumental/Stoner/Heavy Metal

 

Album Cover Deluxe

 

For an artist, it must take a certain amount of fortitude and confidence to decide to ply your trade in the world of instrumental rock. The genre has long been infamous for being over-populated by under-baked efforts, which in turn has caused many to no longer even bother to give anything from it a fair shot. I’m leery of it myself, but keep checking in because I know something stellar will eventually rise atop the heap from time to time, like The Blue Sunshine Family Band.

Forget being impressive for a debut, BSFB’s first effort is impressive period. Whether it’s natural ability and/or endlessly honing their craft, the band already has a firm grasp on how to do, what they do. With six number-only tracks all clocking in around eight minutes, they are wildly successful at holding one’s interest straight through. Building off of a seasoned stoner foundation, the record pulls from a multitude of metallic resources to add color and variation the proceedings- The southern swagger of C.O.C., an endless supply of wicked guitar melodies via Thin Lizzy, and the propulsive, crunchy, doominess of Serpent Throne. On the “IV” and “VI” songs, you can add groove and speed into the mix as well. There’s more I could reference, but I’ll leave something for those reading this to discover.

Bottom line here folks, The Blue Sunshine Band, both the group and record are really, really excellent. When vocals would appear to actually hurt what you’re doing, you can be pretty damn sure you’re onto something. A definite “Best Of” come year end in a few weeks, and arguably the best instrumental offering for 2016 overall to boot.

Words by David “Mad Max” LaMay


Album Review – Child “Blueside”

Child

Blueside

Kozmik Artifactz Records – DD/Vinyl/CD – December 2nd!

 

Logo and Album Image

 

A lot of times I don’t particularly like a band’s name.  I like the name Child for these guys.  They play unabashed, slow-burning, soulful blues.  Blues is really the birthplace of rock, so to think of this Australian three piece as the child of the blues….yeah, that works for me.  What I think totally doesn’t work is their biography, which is something I also often have problems with.  I understand that it’s a PR person’s job to try to hit to all fields, to try to cross promote, though there’s also crossing a line that just doesn’t fit or feel right.  In this case, it’s calling Child a mixture of doom and blues.  There’s no doom to be found here. Zero. None.  These guy have more in common with Jimi Hendrix, Free, Firebird and Gov’t Mule than they do Black Sabbath or Saint Vitus.  Just tell it like it is – no seasoned listener or reviewer is going to listen to this album and think, “Oh wow, this is really doomy!!” I’ll admit that there are a couple heavier parts thrown in for variety, though that isn’t the focus, and it just doesn’t have the feel of doom.  Heaviness and doom aren’t mutually inclusive.  I know “doom” is hot right now, though it’s okay not to be a doom band in this day and age.  Blueside is a great album for exactly what it is, though to connect it with doom is extremely misleading, and I’d never want to intentionally mislead whoever happens to read these reviews.

Child’s sound is primal, thick, fat and full.  There’s a laid back, deep and ever-present groove to the five tracks on this album.  The vocals of Mathias Northway are soaring and soulful, flying above his guitar’s classic blues licks and the rhythm section’s relentless roar.  And man….can this dude rip it up on guitar when it’s time to solo – his leads are like liquid, super fluid and thoroughly expressive.  Drummer Michael Lowe and bassist Danny Smith are equally impressive, providing a swinging backdrop for the songs.  Each member of this trio really knows when to step up when it’s time to stand out, and more importantly, when to just stay in the pocket of the relentless groove.

 

Cool Band Shot_Logo

 

The first track, “Nailed To The Ceiling”, starts out pretty mellow, emphasizing the strength of the vocals.  It slowly building momentum before exploding into a bubbling climax of wah wah guitar and thick riffs.  There’s some swirling organs in the background that reinforce the soulful side of the song.  This track pretty much sets the pace and template for the album, and Child don’t really deviate from that formula, which is a good thing.  Why fix it if it ain’t broken, right??  Sure, the second song, “It’s Cruel To Be Kind” brings the heavier guitar parts to the forefront early in the song, though it quickly breaks down into some clean, Hendrix inspired hooks before kicking the dirt back in for a killer chorus.  What makes this track are the constant shifts in dynamics and intensity, which are really Child’s strong suit.  While the songs are all well arranged, they’re relatively simple blues rock numbers, and they rely heavily on the band’s performances to breath life into them.  They pick up the pace a bit at the end of this one, and cap things off with an extended fuzzed out jam.

“Blue Side Of The Collar” is the shortest track on the album, clocking in at around six minutes.  As you’d probably expect by now, it starts off with laid back, with classic and clean blues licks, and builds up to a wall of distorted guitars on top of the throbbing, pulsing rhythm section.  The vocals really shine on this one, especially in the way that the guitar plays off of and echoes their sentiments.  “Dirty Woman” breaks the mold a bit by starting things off nice and heavy from the start, and has some really cool female backing vocals that make for a different feel.  Child also punctuate some parts of the song with little organ breaks that add a lot also. It’s my favorite track on the album, because it rocks a bit harder than the others, and the intro riff that rears its head from time to time throughout the song doesn’t just sound like a standard from the established blues canon.  Naturally, they break it down for a nice jam in the middle, with a sweet clean guitar solo that allows the rhythm section and the organ to shine through a bit more.  This builds once again into a momentous crescendo of full throttle riffs and leads, ending in some spaced out effects that lead into the final track, “The Man.”  This is the longest track, and by now, you should pretty much know what to expect.  It’s a slow, swinging blues rock track with all the elements I’ve already listed numerous times, so I’ll spare you the repetition at this point.  What I can say is that about three quarters of the way through the song, the drop the album’s heaviest riff followed by some of its most intense soloing.  By the end of the track, all three of these dudes are just going nuts on their instruments, and it’s fine conclusion to the album.

If you’re a blues or classic rock aficionado, I don’t see why you wouldn’t love this album, and while I can see how this may not appeal at all to fans of extreme metal, there’s an intensity and immediacy to Blueside that could easily win over those who are more inclined to heavier fare.  My one critique is that I’d like to see them break away from simple blues rock, and perhaps add in some more progressive elements or quirky songwriting, though that’s really a minor complaint.  Child do what they do, and they do it very well.  This is only their second album, so it’s going to be very interesting to see where they take things from here on in.

 

Reviewed by Andy “Dinkweed” Beresky

 


Album Review – Kayros “Hombre De Piedra”

Kayros

Hombre De Piedra – DD Release November 30, 2016

 

Well well well….it seems that Kayros have been around and flying under my radar for quite some time, as they formed ten years ago and have quite a few albums already under their belt.  This is the first that I’ve heard of this Chilean four piece, and I have to say that I’m quite pleasantly surprised.  All the elements of their complex sound are familiar, yet they combine them in unique and creative ways.  There’s also a lot of slightly bizarre and off-kilter melodic choices in their riffs and chords with lend the songs a certain freshness as well.  That’s good when you’re talking about “stoner rock”, which can often be extremely derivative and uninspired.  The heavy Kyuss influence is pretty obligatory in when you’re working in this genre, though few bands fuse the classic desert rock sounds so seamlessly with the gonzo keyboards of space rock.

First off, this is one helluva headphone album – there’s just so much going on in the stereo field, especially with the keyboards.  They’re not super present on every song, though when they stand out, they really steal the show.  The vocals of Jose Ignacio Mora are in that eerie Ozzy vein, high pitched and with tons of echo.  Mora doubles up with Sebastian Lara (who is also apparently responsible for the stellar keyboard work….)  on the guitar duties, and together they create a down-tuned and totally blown out sound.  The bass of Pancho Pavez seems a little low in the mix to me, though he seems to roughly follow the guitars when I can hear the bass lines.  Leo Mantis handles drum duties, and his tom heavy beats have a sweet interplay between busier parts and more straightforward drum work.  All and all, Kayros seems rock solid and well developed, though I’ll say straight away that I find the production and mix to be a little odd.  There’s not a lot of low end, it’s tough to hear the bass and the kick drum, and the keyboards are always way, way on the top of the mix when they’re doing their thing.  Granted, I like the keyboards, so I’m willing to concede the last bit, though the thin low end is a bit of a detraction for sure.

 

Band Pic_2

 

Song wise, I’ll start off by saying that all the lyrics are in Spanish.   I don’t speak Spanish, so I’m not sure what they’re singing about, though that’s not really a problem for me since the vocals are so atmospheric anyways.  They just seem like another instrument adding a vital ingredient to an already rich the sonic  soup.    Over the course of eight songs, Kayros show their proficiency and deftness for the various elements that make for classic stoner songs: there’s the obligatory downtuned desert rock riffing, exotic hallucinatory melodies, harmonized guitars straight out of the first Truckfighters album, and of course the pulsing keyboards that would make Hawkwind proud to share the stage.  Opening track “Hombre Piedra” is the standout for me, an eight plus minute odyssey through time and space.  It starts off with some clean, sparkling guitar chords and bizarre bursts of synth, then one guitar drops a trance inducing riff.  From there the song builds off some super cool modal melodies until both guitars groove on the riff and the vocals come in.  Around the five-minute mark, they break down the song with some natural harmonics right out of the Soundgarden playbook.  I love guitar harmonics.  After that, there’s a full throttle, far out keyboard solo.  Nasty!

“Crisis RH2” is a short and straightforward track that starts strong with the double axe attack riding a low-down riff for all its worth, and the vocals kick in soon afterwards.  The keyboards are used sparingly on this track; there’s a cool phase shifted noise that really effectively accents the chorus, though I honestly can’t tell if it’s a keyboard or heavily effected guitar.  “Gaza” starts off with one of those aforementioned quirky melodic ideas, like something Queens Of The Stone Age would utilize, though Kayros play it much more trippy.  Eventually the intro evolves into a slower, more simplistic riff, like a Neanderthal driving a dump truck.  The keyboards kick in on top, followed by the vocals.  The chorus adds a bit more melody to the main riff, there’s some more cool guitar and keyboard solos, then the song ends in a slow, primal riff and fading feedback.

 

Album Cover

 

The instrumental “Ciudad Fantasma” begins with some synths inspired by the nearest pulsar, and gradually adds on layer after layer of psychedelic soundscape, effectively challenging the laws of physics for three minutes.  “Circo Infierno” is another more straight up, guitar heavy track, though once again they use the keyboards to punctuate key points throughout.  There’s some great guitar harmonies on this one, and some of the albums most intense riffing.  “Hacia El Avismo” starts off spacey and slow, eventually builds up steam, then alternates between the two approaches.  It’s definitely one of the more straight up space rock tracks, with the wind-like synth sweeps dominating the scenery.  “Caminos Maginales” also starts off with slower, more evil sounding riffs, and somehow Kayros is able to morph into a swinging major key vocals, which reminds me a lot of some of the songs off the first Core record.  They end things with the drum heavy closer “Isanidad”, which starts off in a flurry of tribal toms and adds in lava laced guitars and sinister keyboard melodies.  I thought that they were going for an instrumental add first, though the vocals finally come in towards the end of the track.

            Kayros definitely prove that they’re a veteran band on this release, juggling rugged individuality with the classic influences of the stoner rock canon.  They have a real knack for layering sounds on top of one another, whether it’s guitars, vocals or keyboards, and this allows them to ride out each riff for all its worth through the processes of theme and variation.  I really enjoy this album tremendously.  It’s not perfect, but it’s visionary.  Fans of bands like Los Natas, Gas Giant and Astrosoniq should really get on board with this one, I haven’t heard a record like this since the early days of the stoner rock explosion.

Band Line Up:

José Ignacio Mora – Guitar/Vox • Sebastian Larrea – Guitar • Leo Mantis – Drums • Pancho Pavez – Bass

Words by Andy “Doowahdiddydiddy” Beresky

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