Written by: Shane Thirteen
First things first: Seven Swords comes out August 21st, and I highly recommend you track down and reserve your copy now from bandcamp. This group from Savona, Italy has laid down a classic. Black Elephant has been around about a decade and as they grow they leap closer to being one of the world's best stoner/heavy psych bands. They describe their sounds as 70's fuzz stacked with Blues Psych Space Rock. All that is true.
What I gather from this album is Black Elephant is deep black warmth. The kind of warmth you feel on the first cold day in fall as you clinch into your bed and curl into the softness of your lover. It is sensual and the music wafts me away like smoke dangling on the rim of a bong. I tend not to think of albums as single tracks I like. But how do all the tracks fit into the feel of the album? What is this piece of music trying to tell me? Where does it want me to go?
Written by: Volt Thrower
Context and expectations are important when listening to an album. Similar to going to a cheap ticket Tuesday movie, (remember those?) and being blown away and thoroughly entertained. A self released debut desert psych rock LP doesn't exactly tip the scales of excitement for one such as myself, but I was looking for a nice palate cleanser after listening to theBible Basher EP on repeat for two hours, and...spoiler alert! German psychonauts Hammada immediately caught my ear, and didn't let go for the entirety of the record.
Right from the get-go on "Occasus," they have a captivating balance, finely teetering between the spacey elements of psych and the heavy push of desert rock, almost doom at times. A huge plus for the band is the standout vocal performance, particularly on "Nox"--which, when combined with an organ laced riff, makes for a terrific single.
Airy, whispery vocals can sometimes lose themselves amongst the music, not a concern here where the leads are absolutely commanding for the most part, while being able to pull back when best suited. There's an impressive symmetry at play as well, which should've been a little bit more obvious perhaps, judging by the artwork. The way the record is broken into four 15 minute sections across the 7 tracks is satisfying, but the way they connect each section with a synthy zip-tie builds a cohesive story from start to finish.
One of the highlights on the album is "Heliokratia," a song that actually comes from their 2017 EP Sfaira, albeit with a little modern polish. Low and slow to start, flourishes of synth buoy an intoxicating bass tone that I would swim in if I could. Some of the softer vocals on the record to start, but they work well to aid the buildup before the full band kicks into gear into a roaring wall of fuzz. They mention desert vibes and atmospheric riffs in their bio, and they are delivered in spades throughout middle tracks "Ether" and "Helios." They bring it back down to earth for the transition into ‘Azimut’. Another solid track, with an organ laced furious finish that would’ve worked well to wrap up the LP in a nice 45 minute bow. Instead, ATMOS gives way to one last final 15 minute epic in "Domizil," a mostly grooving instrumental, until some final transcending chants bring things to a close.
I generally prefer an LP in the 40-45 minute range, but Hammada have no issues providing a captivating listen for a full hour. The initial listen as a palate cleanser did exactly as it should, but the subsequent listens have solidified this as a must listen if you’re a fan of anything psych rock related. A solid debut has them firmly on the radar for future releases. Check it out!
Hammada - ATMOS was independently released June 26th, 2020
Written by: Volt Thrower
Hailing from Brooklyn, with a bluesy sludge sound straight out of NOLA, all topped off with gurgling Russian vocals, Green Hog Band smash any preconceived notion of a stoner doom band. The typical tropes do still apply: see the motorcycle samples, as any good hog-affiliated music makers would utilize, fuzzy riffs, and lyrics about swamp monsters. But the way this 3-piece manage to package it up into a unique beast on this EP is what keeps me coming back for more.
The opening one-two punch of "Eclipse" and "Machine" is so damn good they could’ve made up their own 7” EP. Green Hog Band displays an absolutely suffocating low end throughout, contrasted nicely by bluesy leads seemingly trying to escape from the murky swamp. A spine chilling cattle shriek about 3 and a half minutes into the opener sets the unsettling scene well. The music alone is memorable, but the Russian lyrics sound and feel absolutely poetic. The vocal inflections capping off each line are a story themselves, without even translating. Following along with the English lyric sheet is a completely unique listening experience. We are treated to a haunting tale of a swamp beast in "Eclipse" --beautifully written, but it just wouldn’t have the same rhythmic flow if it were sung in English. Same goes for "Machine," an eloquent takedown of the system grinding us down (if you’re reading in English,) or simply a kickass desert bike riding song if you’re just jamming along with the vibes.
Written by: Volt Thrower
Unabashed stoner doom has always been one of my favorite things ever since I first heard Tony Iommi hacking up a lung on "Sweet Leaf," circa grade 9 out back behind the auto shops. But by now, the book on stoner doom has long been written and published. Through the annals of history, an innumerable amount of bands have knelt at the altar to pay homage with their Sabbathian smoke fueled riffage. Cliches, puns and cheesy lyric runs, all a staple of a genre intended for mind bending fun. Hailing from Kiel, Germany, Earthbong bring us their second full length Bong Rites. Will it bring us towards the crimson light, or will it fail to ignite?
First impressions are everything in a genre overflowing with copycats, and I was instantly pulled in by the album artwork. It reminds me of Slaves BC cover art, but just splashed with enough purple to remind you that you’re “Goddamn High” while being pummeled to death. The aforementioned album opener starts off with a thunderous intro that seems absolutely blistering in pace after it pulls the rug from beneath you, and you're left trudging through knee deep molasses. A hazy atmosphere built on swirling layers of guitar lulls you into a sense of zen before that too is swallowed whole by the demonic vocals rising from the crust of the earth. Two vocal styles, a Dixie Dave Collins like harsh bark and a barbaric cave-echoing howl, work together to deliver some of the finest dope doom riff worship of the new decade.
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.
We Villagers are a busy lot this time of year, what with the silliness of year-end (and decade-end) lists. Thus, Captain Graves has taken the reins in the review department, as of late. Good thing too--the longer he's occupied with killer tunes, the more time we have to dig our own graves. - Ed.
Written by: Capt. Graves
We ate way too much Tumulan fungi last night in the Village. Needless to say, there wasn't much sleep going on. Instead, I spent the night listening to Rabbits by Brume, and down the hole I went chasing that fluffy white rabbit. In that hole I found a wonderland with talking animals and floating clocks.
The first track, "Despondence," brings you in and out of riffs and atmosphere. The vocals here are extremely powerful--they will send you spiraling into the abyss, and shoot you back out the other end. One thing I didn't enjoy about this track was the length. It felt like it was going nowhere by the end, like I'd been listening to the same riff for hours. "Scurry," however, has much more depth in the songwriting, and really starts to bring out the band's strong suits. More soaring vocals to send me deep into space, where I belong. A nice gentle atmospheric interlude to bring you around to an epic, slow, gritty guitar solo. This song feels like it has some nu-metal influence, and I can dig it.
Like any other, our little Village has its little pranksters and jokesters, and theirs is a crude, unsophisticated humor. We don’t get much wit nor deadpan ‘round these parts, so when someone rolls into town possessing the unique ability to keep a straight face whilst performing something capriciously off-kilter, I tend to be suitably impressed.
This isn’t to say that LA’s heavy rockin’ Deathchant don’t take their art seriously. To the contrary, in fact. It’s quite obvious that TJ Lemieux and Company (John Bolino, Colin Fahrner and George Camacho) are very accomplished musicians, and their debut LP is, frankly, quite the stunner. Rather, I’m suggesting that what makes Deathchant so unique is the ability to launch into experimental passages and then out again with nary a glance backward, maintaining the guise that they’ve been playing a standard heavy rock number the whole damn time. At first, the casual nature in which a track--such as opener Pessimist--slips from recognizable psychedelic fare into a passage inhabited by a post-singularity beehive before ending back at Lemiuex’s sultry, fuzz-laden voice is....unexpected, to say the least. Very quickly, however, this becomes a trademark motif. A similar compositional technique rears its head in album highlight Ritual, which turns a seemingly driving intro riff into an extended experiment in psychedelia, before devolving (or evolving?) into pure noise. It's a neat trick, and Deathchant's ability to maintain composure throughout sells the package.
Because these four switch things up so frequently and unexpectedly, it remains difficult to peg them--both in the case of the direction of individual tracks, as well as the general genre. It has the brooding weight of a new-age doom act, but there’s a propulsive heavy metal element, as well as a distinctly avant-garde jazz ambiance. For a prime example of the latter, look to the somber Eulogy. Closer Trigger is the most aggressive track, the most outwardly “metal,” but still, that’s excluding the extended intro and outro, which are entirely constructed from the reverb-drenched strains of an organic brand of industrial noise. Its weird stuff, and from a standpoint of both personal preference and critical awareness, Deathchant’s formula (if it can even be referred to as such) works very well. The unique song structures prevent a dull consistency that I unfortunately have come to expect from both heavy psych and noise. Beyond that, each track is goddamn interesting on its own merits. There isn’t a song here that doesn’t brings its own flavor to the Deathchant universe, and that is something to celebrate.
Despite the obvious jarring nature of the more noisy elements, a melodic and near-harmonious air hangs, hazily, over the whole affair. The vocals are delightfully laid-back, yet richly emotive when needed. Instrumentally, there are no weak links. Drums, as mentioned, possess a jazzy bent--but they also lay it down with a fierce intensity when the occasion arises. The guitar holds that lovely distortion in loving arms, and whether plodding or bursting into an impromptu canter, that sweet psychedelic tone is never abandoned. Despite remaining unpredictable, Deathchant knows how to comfort their listeners.
Critically speaking, the only real item of note is the length. At 29 minutes, this hardly qualifies as a full album in my (admittedly self-published) book. The fact that I want more is, if anything, a testament to the strength of what these rockers have conjured up. While this groggy wordsmith might not have the vocabulary to accurately describe what exactly Deathchant have created here, I will say this with certainty: whatever it is they do, they’ve done it with great skill and aplomb. Needless to say: highly recommended!
Deathchant arrives January 10th of next year, courtesy of King Volume Records. In the meantime, both singles--Hex and Pessimist--are available for streaming. Otherwise, we highly recommend you saunter, levitate, or otherwise ooze your way over to that pre-order. It’s really not the sort of decision you’ll end up regretting.
We provide thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy...and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a highfalutin peasantry!