Yes, yes. The observant reader will note that The Sleeping Village was host to a review of this single many months ago. But today, the occasion is ripe to break the same dastardly write-up out of the ol’ archives. On March 9th, Detroit Doomsters Temple of the Fuzz Witch will be releasing their self-titled debut under Seeing Red Records--and "Bathsheba," the track we previously spoke highly of, serves as the lead single. If you missed it, here's a chance to remedy that mistake.
As a figure of literal biblical proportion, Bathsheba is an admirably complex character. An obvious victim of David the adulterer, Bathsheba was nonetheless a cunning puppet-master who made the best of a bad situation, solidifying immense power for her bloodline. This is all to say that Temple of the Fuzz Witch’s homage to Bathsheba is significantly more black & white than the character herself. Fortunately, nuance isn’t the goal for these riff-worshippers. Like with the fuzzy witch's prior EP, we’re presented the opportunity to revel in some no-nonsense fuzz induced occult gloom, and boy, does this hit the spot.
When we talk Sabbathian influence, Iommi’s thick riffage is usually the topic in question. Here, however, the bass is pure Geezer. Thick, forward-facing, & nearly recalling Dopethrone in its stoic delivery, the bass provides a well constructed foundation for the titular fuzz. The Electric Wizard influence extends to vocals as well, manifesting in filtered, heavy-lidded howls that prowl low in the mix. Like everything else, the vox lacks frills, but it’s an excellent performance to be sure. The soloing around the 4:10 mark is particularly well conceived. Simple but delightfully timeless in its distorted, steadfast delivery.
These are the sounds that made me fall in love with doom in the first place, & the continuation of that god-given tone is truly a delight to behold. A review of Temple of the Fuzz Witch's debut in full shall manifest shortly, but for the time being, we implore you: spend a lil’ precious time with Bathsheba. And get on that $6.66 pre-order.
Sometimes, a conceptual underpinning is all a song has going for it. Not so in the case of Glow, a walloping track that comes to the Sleeping Village by way of Chicago's own Cloud Cruiser.
Steeped in a thick desert rock fuzz and convincingly constructed around a monolithic central riff, this track chronicles the protagonist--a young man--as he seeks out powers of flight. It's everything one wants out of hard-rockin' desert rock, plain n' simple. A top-notch job in the production job makes for an aggressive low end, and vocals are mournful, gruff, and just reminiscent enough of Red Fang to pass you firmly into the genre's windswept (yet assuredly badass) embrace. It may sound a little trite, but my only critique of this track is that, as a stand-alone, it could definitely use some company. This particular villager eagerly awaits developments in Cloud Cruiser's "I: Capacity" installment.
Give Glow a listen here. For those of you in Chicago, Cloud Cruiser will be playing a show on February 8th at Burlington Bar.
Dirty rock n’ roll--as High n’ Heavy self-describes their genre of choice--invokes a pretty obvious sonic palette: fuzz-ridden guitar, unrestrained bass, cigarette n’ whisky vocals. It’s a form of 70’s worship that works only if you throw yourself wholeheartedly into the aesthetic, and Warrior Queen is a perfect example of that sheer dedication in practice.
With their latest LP, High n’ Heavy creates the medieval equivalent of a biker bar--instead of leather-swaddled Lemmys, picture a crew of six-string wielding knights in rusty armor. If you’re used to clean edges and keen production, look elsewhere. If, however, you like music that remains as fiercely dedicated to the amp as it is to the pipe...your quest is over, friend. High n’ Heavy reminds me of so many different bands from so many different genres, to the extent that listing them all feels, in many ways, counterproductive to actually describing what they sound like. That said, the unrefined edge of early Free or Zeppelin rears a bluesy head, and the Wolfmother vibes are particularly strong, especially in the stylistically overextended vocal delivery. Speaking of vocals, there’s a little bit of Circle Jerk’s gruffness swirling around as well. In terms of the retro scene from which they have spawned, there’s some Killer Boogie in the occasionally boppy riffage, and maybe High Reeper in the general scummy irreverence. Instrumentally, Warrior Queen takes a doomier bent than past outings, with Mike Dudley’s hefty low end bringing the atmosphere to greater depths, and John Steele’s riffage and keys lending the whole affair a deliciously antiquated glow. And while we’re running through the roster, Mr. Perrone keeps things rock-steady whilst maintaining a pleasing presence in the percussion department.
Oftentimes, rock outfits suffer from an unsophisticated spread of talent--in other words, one person clearly rises above the rest. Not so here. As a unit, High n’ Heavy is workmanlike in that everyone seems to contribute substantially to the final product. That said, the vocals are High n’ Heavy’s most unique trait, plain n’ simple. Ranging from the Plant-esque howl of “Grown Tired,” to the punky shouts of “Catapult,” to the discordantly melodic strains of “Lydia,” the variety Kris Fortin brings is impressive, to say the least. A weak moment is evident on the intro to “Join the Day,” where some heavier instrumentation feels necessary to hold his reedy warble, but otherwise, Warrior Queen’s intrinsic rawness is very well balanced.
All told, Warrior Queen is a highly enjoyable album from an understated band, an appropriately grungy dive into the dumpster of rock and stoner trappings. High n’ Heavy’s raw brand is dependent on a certain love for the fundamentally dirty spirit of rock n' roll, and for this commitment alone, I applaud them. Bottom line? This particular villager recommends you strap on your armor, ready your steel, and try the Warrior Queen on for size. While High n’ Heavy don’t smash genre barriers or present monumental songwriting chops, that’s not why they are here. And frankly, that’s not--and forgive me if I'm wrong--why any of us are here either.
High n’ Heavy - Warrior Queen will be released Jan. 25th from Electric Valley Records
This particular Sleeping Village owes a massive debt to Black Sabbath…& not just because we blatantly lifted our moniker from their plunder-worthy supply of deep cuts. Because Sabbath have left such a veritable canyon in the firmament of heavy music, we dedicate every Sunday to exploring their own discography, or to highlighting a lesser-known band that carries the mantle of Sabbathian legacy. Today it's a case of the latter, as we review Fresh Grass, the debut EP from Brooklyn’s GRASS. Slip on those headphones & dim the lights, dear reader; it’s time for Sabbath Sunday.
Let’s not beat around the bush here: Fresh Grass is a remarkable effort. As someone who does battle with a veritable fogbank of stoner metal and doom on a daily basis, take it from me--Grass operate on a very high level of professional musicianship. Frankly, the only real criticism I have to offer is that Fresh Grass is trapped within the miserly confines of an EP. Were there another two or three tracks to flesh things out length-wise, this would constitute one helluva album. But alas, we’re left with a debut that would have blown last year’s Top 10 EP list to smithereens, if only it had entered the Sleeping Village a tad earlier. But that’s enough hyperbole, folks. What’s this thing sound like, anyways?
While they classify themselves as a rock outfit, GRASS plays doom with ample helpings of southern rock’s sleaze and the high-flying swagger of 70’s psychedelia. Permeable groove and simple yet melodic guitar are the name of the game, and, like any devotees of the riff, GRASS keep things moving just low and slow enough to shake foundations. The bass here is of particular note--Josh Peterson’s hefty stylings add a distinct dynamism to the formula. Look to intro track Amnesia / My Wall as a prime case of the bass’s general presence. Here, the riffs are big and the amp is king. And lest they be neglected in our riff-centric musing, the vocals elevate the package wondrously. Phil Anton’s voice is a thing of beauty, combining, somehow, the sultry tones of Jack Bruce’s early-era Cream with the gruff Americana of Clutch’s Neil Fallon. No question: this guy can sing.
The obvious concern with these genre trappings is a certain reliance on repetition, but with subtle variance in tempo and riff structure, each song is imbued with its own character. Take Easy Rider, for example, which remains significantly more laid-back than the hard(er) rockin’ Fire. There’s no real opportunity for boredom to set in, which, given the course of many Sabbathian enterprises, this is no small feat. GRASS have something special on their hands, and if their next release delivers on this promise, we’re in for a show. Need I say it? Fresh Grass comes highly recommended.
GRASS - Fresh Grass will be released Feb. 22nd
Despite Homme’s declaration that Kyuss was inspired more by Black Flag than the progenitors and perfectors of psychedelic heavy rock--say, Blue Cheer or Black Sabbath--the desert rock scene’s worship of the amp and riff are surely tied to the ingenuity of early doomsters. Because Sabbath have left such a veritable canyon in the firmament of heavy music, we dedicate Sundays to highlighting a lesser-known band that carries, in some fashion, the Sabbathian mantle. Today we review Electric Mountain’s s/t debut, straight outta Mexico City on the wings of inspirations aplenty. Welcome to Sabbath Sunday.
At this point in the Sleeping Village’s doomy coverage, it feels a little cliche to declare, but here goes: Electric Mountain doesn’t deal in subtilty. Borrowing Kyuss’ thick riffs and Orange Goblins aggressive percussive flair, this meaty and otherwise fuzz-tastic take on the belov’d stoner rock template remains a highly enjoyable listen, despite zero intention of breaking the mold. And yes, I can harp on the unoriginality here, but while the formula remains consistent, there really isn’t a bad track on this slab. Upon many repeated listens, Going Under and Green Mountain Side are clear standouts, especially if you’re particularly diggin’ the crunchy Black Pyramid vibes. Into the Maelstrom provides that crisp mid-album acoustic flavor, and Free Woman/Space Rocket provide that feisty one-two punch in the album’s early stages. This is a lesson in hookiness--with riffs characterized by near-sensual groove and a near-impenetrable haze, fuzz idolatry is the name of the game.
Gib’s filtered vocals are distance and tinged with a forthright familiarity, serving as an effective sidekick to his joyously energetic guitar. Bouncing from riff to lick and back again, there are no slow moments here. While the occasional riff does recall earlier tracks, each song has its own unique identity. Electric Mountain as a whole squarely hits the mark in terms of length--long enough to satisfy, brief enough to incite a round of questioning: what will they deliver next?
If your relationship with rock of the overt desert and psychedelic varieties can be qualified as mere flirtation, Electric Mountain might not be the introduction necessary to sway you over into the riff-filled land. That said, fans of the genre with undoubtedly find this debut a significantly worthwhile affair.
Upon fishing Psychlona’s debut from the Global Stoner Conveyor of Kyuss-ian psychedelia, my initial (& unfair) impression was that they sounded a whole lot like Fu Manchu, otherwise known as the okay-ist desert rock group of the decade. Upon further inspection, however, something became remarkably clear: Psychlona is not a middling band. The result? Mojo Rising makes a colorful addition to this year’s coffer of pleasant surprises. While this groovy outfit from northern England does feel, at times, like the aforementioned Foo,’ their sonic radius is actually fairly large, & they possess the ability to reach beyond obvious influences.
Take, for example, the back halves on Big River & Burning Cave, which both sound like Jethro Tull & Merlin (referring to band and warlock both, I suppose) had a multigenerational lovechild. Down In The Valley, a slightly cautious shroomy celebration, (This is the valley where the fungi grew/don’t overdo it boy, just try a few,) exudes that fuzz-bathed early Truckfighters vibe to a tee. Black Dog has that groovy 1000mods riffage similarly pegged, before breaking into a mean solo that remains both appealingly trippy & assuredly grounded. A common pattern here is for the back half of each track to revert into instrumentality, which, while always pleasing, eventually turns monotonous--granted, this from the perspective of decidedly sober critic.
In a similar vein, towards the end of Mojo Risings’ 45 minute length, the tracks become less distinct, & thus less memorable, with little variation in tempo. With that said, this is more a critique of the subgenre in question--ultimately, this Sleeping Villager remains suitably impressed by Psychlona’s abilities, both instrumental & compositional. While the album cover honestly tells a pretty accurate story, this outfit still has some secrets. Despite Ripple Music’s already stacked roster, Mojo Rising is certainly unique enough to merit worthy addition. Recommended both to fans of the genre, & to those of you looking to try a fresh-faced band on for size.
Released Nov. 9th via Ripple Music
Psychlona can be found:
A certain groggy-eyed, highfalutin' peasantry