Written by: Volt Thrower
Stoner rockers Psyclops come out of the gates swinging with their debut LP Amalgam. Blending elements of prog, psych, stoner, doom and hardcore, the 4-piece out of Portland, Oregon certainly have created an amalgamation of sorts with their first long offering. What that process of fusion has yielded remains unclear to me, but it is an enjoyable process to figure out.
The soft opening instrumental of “Fabricated”, being overlaid with a thunderstorm in the background, does a pleasant job of setting the scene in the Pacific Northwest. A bluesy little riff by guitarist Guerd Alberts gets the party started and we are off to the races with lead vocalist Chris Jackson coming out of his spoken word intro, to guide the band with a howl charged assault. A straightforward rocker comes to a close with a hardcore frantic finish. Before you have time to think about what just happened, the rhythm section of bassist Brandon Peterson and Alex Flatt on drums, are guiding you through the ultra groovy psychedelic intro of the un-googleable track “ ”. Another straightforward if unremarkable groove rocker, which does finish with a nice solo and full band freak out, ending in feedback.
You know that you've hit the highlight of the album when you hear a sampled barbaric shriek of “I AM THE COMET, I BURN THE IMPURE”. Which, according to my google-fu, is a line by the character Victor Saltzpyre in Warhammer: Vermintide 2. I’m a sucker for a good sample which helps make “An Arena!?!? They Have Time for Entertainment!?!?” a standout track on this album. The fact that it also contains their best riff, a catchy, hooky chorus, another good solo and the best balance of aggressiveness and polish overall, produces a banger made for the live stage!
All the balance found is thrown in the garburator with the next two tracks, however. “Social Psychosis” is a harsh belter of a tune, it might have been my favorite track as a stand alone but just seems to lack context and flow to the rest of the album. That bent over, wobbly leg run you do when you pick up a bit too much steam going downhill, is a little bit how the first half of “Call Off the Haunt” feels like, with its soft spoken lyrics and an airy chorus which just feels like a bit of a face-plant compared to the track prior. The second half again brings back the growls, which I do enjoy, but they just feel like a part of a different song or even band!
Balance is once again restored with a refocused march on the last three tracks! “Icarus Dies” has a Tool’esque bass intro leading into a hard charging instrumental, cut in with faint, barely-there chants in the background, giving it a nice haunted run in the forest feel. One of the best grooves on the record, it fades nicely into the minute long instrumental interlude “V O I D,” which is another haunted, creepy sounding string scraper and works really nicely to tie in the stomping finisher of “Hot Coals”. Soaring bluesy leads combined with their darkest and most down-to-earth lyrics, makes this a really nice run to finish things off.
Overall, this album is a good listening experience. It has great tone and production. Individually each musician definitely has chops, a singer with big range, but putting it all together, it just doesn’t quite seem to be all that cohesive. I’m admittedly biased towards preferring either harsh or clean vocals and not both, unless it’s done extremely well. This psychosis-inducing amalgamation just doesn’t quite hit that high bar. It’s definitely good, but not great. Worth a listen at only 37 minutes, and name your price on bandcamp, Amalgam sets a solid foundation for future growth which I look forward to!
Psyclops - Amalgam was released March 20th, 2020
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!