Asteroid “III” – Album Review

Asteroid

III

Release Date: November 11th, 2016. Label: Fuzzorama Records.  Format: Vinyl/CD/DD

 

            Asteroid’s appropriately titled third album, III, is pretty badass.  It’s been awhile since these Swedes put out an album, six years to be exact.  Hey that’s cool. They’ve matured, like a finely aged cheese, and so has their sound.  They don’t actually sound all that cheesy, unless you’re burned out on the whole retro psych thang.  I for one welcome our new aging stoner overlords.

There’s a lot of things to like about this record.  Firstly, for me, it’s definitely a breath of fresh air.  Despite the fact that it’s being released by Fuzzorama Records, it’s not an outright fuzz-fest.  Sure, it’s got those warm and fuzzy moments, but there’s also a lot of cleanliness (which is supposedly next to godliness) and texture going on throughout. It’s thoughtful and dynamic. Secondly, it explores many of the influences that are acknowledged by many stoner and psych bands, but they’re kind of fringe elements.  You’re not going to hear a lot of Kyuss worship on this one, and I’m cosmically kosher with that, because it’s 2016 and Kyuss worship is more played out than our current election cycle.

Bundle Package_Fuzzoramma Records

 

Let’s take the opener, “Pale Moon”, for starters.  It’s my obvious jumping off point because it’s the lead track, though my real point is that it’s a total Pink Floyd homage, with a thumping, trance-inducing bass line and watery slide guitar reminiscent of Gilmore’s finer moments.  Asteroid aren’t reinventing the wheel by any means – this is basically a toned down take on the Floyd classic, “One Of These Days” with some soulful singing at the end.  Similarly, the second track, “Last Days”, reminds me a bit of Uriah Heep, a band that most retro aficionados will frequently name check though rarely emulate.  If you’re legit into the Heep, I’m into you, dig??  They start to throw in some faintly fuzzy, vaguely doom-ish riffs on this one, so I feel like they’re hitting a bit to all fields.  The lyrics also take a turn towards the dark and morbid, which is sure to please more metallic minded devotees.

This is a short album, it’s 7 songs in 36 minutes, so let’s just go track by track, shall we??  “Til Dawn” reminds me a bit of their fellow Swedish rockers, Graveyard.  It’s a bit more of an upbeat and straightforward song, which totally works after the previous two tracks.  It strikes a nice balance.  Next we’re treated to “Wolf And Snake”, which isn’t just a catchy title.  There’s a brilliant initial interplay between the ringing clean chords and the increasingly crunchy Wino inspired riffs.  From there, the tempo picks up, and Asteroid launch into full fuzz mode with one of those licks that makes me think, “wait…. didn’t I hear this exact riff come out of Sweden 15 years ago???”  Yet they can get away with that generic part in my book, because it’s the exception, not the rule.  At this point in their career, Asteroid are far from a one riff wonder, so it shouldn’t come as any surprise that they bring the tempo way down and doom-y before ending with quiet, melancholy guitars.

“Silver And Gold” is a slow burning ballad dedicated to Lucifer, Patron Saint Of All Things Heavy.  Eh, a bit cliché, for sure, and I’m going to digress for a bit.  No one seems to realize that equating the name “Lucifer” with the devil isn’t an accurate analogy.  The term means “Lightbringer”, as most of you probably know.  So how is The Devil, The Prince of Darkness also the proverbial “Lightbringer”???  He’s not, people!  The word “Lucifer” is used twice in The Bible – once to refer to Venus, The Morning Star, which was used as a metaphor for the Babylonian king Nebuchadnezzar.  In the second instance, the moniker “Lucifer” is used to refer to the savior Jesus Christ, “The Lightbringer.”  This obviously makes more sense when you actually stop to think about it.

We have the illustrious Saint Augustine to blame for this debacle.  Augustine wasn’t always super with it, perhaps because he was a booze guzzling hedonist before God Almighty began having close, personal conversations with him. He wasn’t able to grasp the subtlety of the phrase “Lucifer, how far thou art fallen” in relation to Venus and Nebuchadnezzar, and thus thought “Fallen???  Must be Satan!!!” Somehow that stuck with early Christians, because Augustine was some big time saint and therefore regarded as a wise dude and hip to these mythological musings. As usual, I’m digressing, though all of you budding Satanists should really read Satan: A Biography, by Henry Ansgar Kelly before you start writing lyrics about The Devil or one of his dubious monikers.  And I know what some of you are thinking, “Don’t you write lyrics about Lucifer, Andy??”  Yes, I do, though I clearly understand both the cliché and the cognitive dissonance involved in such an undertaking.  Also, I routinely have alcohol induced interactions with all forms of entities, Augustine be damned.  When God talks to me, he says definitely don’t drink domestic, so who is the fucking wise one now??

 

Band Pic_Landscape

 

Lastly and most relevantly, let’s face it – many of you are total suckers for this kind of pseudo-Satanic bullshit, so I like to throw it out there in various forms because people eat it up despite their lack of context.  In our next review, perhaps I’ll manage to tie in how Ronnie James Dio, despite all of his obvious accomplishments as a vocalist, did not actually invent “throwing the horns”, and what those actual origins, meaning, and symbolism are.  These little tidbits of esoteric knowledge are always a fun topic at parties, and the main reason why I will always have a date every Friday night who will most likely find me obnoxious well before midnight arrives and I turn into a pumpkin.  Or a gremlin.  Or something to that effect.  It doesn’t matter anymore. This review has now officially gone totally off the rails.  I’m okay with that, but let’s reign it back in, shall we??

The next song, “Them Calling”, once again intertwines blown out fuzz with clean, trippy tones, though this time around there’s more of a tense intimacy.  These transitions are both more adept and abrupt, illustrating a striking disparity and a heated reconciliation.  It’s like the sonic equivalent of make up sex, when the couple just aren’t sure if frustrated love or repressed hatred are the current predominant emotions they’re expressing through their lustful act of carnal knowledge.  Do I mean coitus?  Yes, I like it too, Mr. Lebowski.    The pace picks up into a bluesy groove, culminating in a catchy yet creepy chorus.  The final track, “Mr. Strange” starts up with a rolling drum beat, and slowly adds layers of increasingly harmonic guitars before stripping things down for the soulful vocals to take the lead during the soaring verses.  When the main riff returns, it’s accompanied by a layer of haunting vocal chants.  This is my favorite vocal performance of the album.  The song really illustrates one of the things that Asteroid pull off so well on this album – they never let anything get old or stale, there’s this constant sense of theme and variation that’s reflected in both the crafty arrangements and the constantly shifting tonalities.

I don’t often give glowing endorsements, and I’m trying not to make an exception, because this isn’t going to be for everyone.  It’s not the heaviest thing ever, that’s not what they’re going for so you’re not going to find it here.  And despite their evident mastery of the style and the fresh air they breathe into it, this is still “stoner rock”, complete with all its limitations.  Like I mentioned earlier, they’re not treading any new ground, rather they’re retracing the footsteps of past masters, so if you’re looking for the next big innovative, forward thinking rock album, look elsewhere.  If you are looking for a cool collection of seven songs that drift through various retro psych stylings with ease and grace, then hop on the Asteroid express folks…. it’s one helluva ride.

Words by Andy “Dingleberry” Beresky

*Andy Beresky’s favorite comic is the “Lucifer” series, which he reads religiously.

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Review – The Balls ‘Self Tilted’ Album

The Balls
‘The Balls’
Self Released – CD/DD

 

Band Logo

 

In the last review I wrote, I essentially defended a band’s decision to name themselves something silly and/or generic. I’m not going to do that here. I’m going to break character here a bit, because this part isn’t exactly a review, it’s friendly advice: change your fucking name. Immediately, while you’re not branded with it yet. This is your opportunity to do so with the minimum of consequences. It’s not only a stupid name, it not only lacks any descriptive quality to reference the band’s sound, it’s not only completely ubiquitous to the point of rendering any Google search to find any info on your band completely pointless, there are also other, more established bands named The Balls….for some odd reason. One is some self-proclaimed old guys playing instrumental biker prog surf rock, whatever that is, and they’ve been around awhile. One of them is from Worcester Mass, pretty close to home for me, and they’re some kind of juvenile sex joke punk band, for which the name is actually fitting. My 2 cents – let them have it, you’re better off without it. You’re risking the potential to be confused with, lumped in with, or even sued by one of these existing acts. See the bands Middian And Husky for details on that last bit….

With that out of the way, I can take off my asshole hat, and dawn my reviewer hat. As indicated above, I had a bit of a hard time tracking down any actual information on The Balls, though I believe that they’re a power trio from Melbourne Australia. I have no idea who is in the band, or who plays what. They sound like a meat and potatoes rock band coming from the old school stoner rock tradition, with the post-Kyuss style of vocals, down-tuned guitars, and a big rhythm section. The singer reminds me a bit of the guy from Dozer. I’m not a huge fan of that style of vocals, though I tolerate them because they’re also ubiquitous when it comes to this style. That being said, the vocals on this debut album are The Balls strongest suit.

Pic of Band

 

The album kicks things off with “4th Of July”, a ripping riff-fest with some dark, heavy vibes racing through the melodies. It’s got a propulsive groove that’s set in motion by a bass intro before the guitar goes full throttle. We’re talking about that kind of up-tempo biker rock that Orange Goblin so effectively harnessed with their breakthrough album, The Big Black. In my mind, this is the territory where these guys are at their best. Throughout the course of the album, they definitely try a few different approaches stylistically. The second tune, “Not A Word”, is a bit more mid-tempo, though it retains the dark melodic senses and highlights the soaring vocals. They lose me a bit with the third song, “Runaway”, as it’s a bit more plodding during the verses and a bit more buttrock in the chorus. It’s a partying, AC/DC kind of tune that reminds me of the first Bad Wizard album, bare-bones, bluesy and mean, though I for one miss the darker overtones.

Things slow down and get a bit more atmospheric and slow with “I Forget”, which showcases a bit of the singer’s range and versatility in the lower registers as he croons through the first portion of the tune. They follow that up with another slow burning ballad, “Tragedy”, which once again features some most triumphant vocals in the chorus and a decent yet minimalistic guitar solo, one of the album’s few, and an addictive, groove-laced ending. They bring things back to the quicker tempos with the last songs, a one-two punch of “The Easy Truth”, which is easily the album’s heaviest (and shortest) track, and then “Alibi”, the album’s longest track. “The Easy Truth” is my easily favorite track on the album, as the guitar work is the most distinctive and original, the singing is really over the top in that blown out, shredding your vocal chords kind of way, and the arrangements aren’t predictable. It covers a lot of ground for such a short tune. “Alibi” is pretty much in the same vein as “4th Of July” stylistically, although more drawn out and dramatic in the spacious ending.

This is a solid debut from an up and coming band that has a lot going for them. It’s obvious that they’re a newer band trying to figure out what works for them, and I’d personally like to hear a bit more fretboard pyrotechnics from the guitar department. Adding a second lead guitarist could be a smart move, adding oomph to the overall sound while allowing for some more fiery, energetic solos and clever arrangements. That’s just me though, as what they’re doing now is working well enough to expand upon. If you’re into any of the bands that I’ve name dropped throughout the review, do yourself a solid and give these guys a listen.

Reviewed By Andy “Dylan Thomas” Beresky
Editor – Taste Nation LLC