Category Archives: Recommended
By Simon Hadley
Germany’s Carpet are one of a handful of bands on the Elektrohasch label hell-bent on making heavy, psychedelic rock a sizable force in 2013. Their sound is a throwback to the good ol’ days of woozy riffing and spacey-prog organ flourishes, but what makes Elysian Pleasures a triumph is how capably they strike a balance between sun-kissed harmonies and crisp, vintage melodies to create flawless period pieces.
On first listen, Elysian Pleasures provides a lot of dots to connect: There are whimsical patches of paisley pop; power-chord progressions à la Richie Blackmore, and the unpredictability of jazzy, progressive rock. It’s a very British cocktail, which is sipped wholeheartedly by frontman and guitarist, Maximilian Stephan, who shares a vocal similarity with ‘60s kingpins Colin Blunstone and John Lennon, in the way he allows his voice to soar and glide over melodic compositions.
Due to the amount of influences on show, this is an album that sounds best as a whole, where you can get lost in its heady expanse without feeling the need to check the running time. Furthermore, there aren’t any standout singles, in the sense that you’re unlikely to hear ‘Man Changing the Atoms’ played on mainstream radio. Although, isn’t that the beauty of psychdelic rock? Music for the outsiders.
Estonia, through no fault of their own, has had a rather unsettled existence: Ruled by various superpowers in the last 100 years, it’s been under constant siege. As a result, cultural interests went by the wayside, including music.
Sure, there’s been various operatic and Eurovision successes, but rock and metal? Not so much. Liblikas, a metal quintet from Tallinn, could quite easily be the first band from the Balkan’s to make it in a scene dominated by British and American brawn.
Wooden Spaceship, the band’s full-length debut, is full of dynamic swells, meticulous sequencing and an appreciation for what has gone before, and, because of this, the influences are easy to pinpoint: The sludgy chords that define Georgia titans Mastodon; the blunt, riff-heavy assault of Neurosis; the undeniable sound of stoner, and, dare I say it, occasional smatterings of punk and psychedelia.
Differing styles aside, what you have is a straight-forward metal record with unavoidable cataclysms; it packs an almighty punch, leaving the listener in a state of hazy bewilderment.
By Simon Hadley
For those who are sceptical about the return of space-rock, one band that’s always worth listening to is Brujas del Sol. Since their 2010 debut, this Ohio-based four-piece have continued to add new colours to their psychedelic palette.
As a result, Moonliner finally feels like the finished article; they’ve curbed some of their most indulgent impulses in favour of a well-rounded sound that distinguishes them from their contemporaries. What’s more impressive, however, is that the band have stayed true to their game plan: The guitars still have a split personally; spiralling skywards, before descending back to earth in a fuzz-induced rage.
Despite the band’s autopilot tendencies – anyone who’s seen them live will know this – there’s always something that will catch you off guard: a sitar splash, a drawn-out vocal, or even a shimmering solo. Cynics will argue that this has been done countless times before, and, of course, they are right, but Brujas del Sol embodies a valuable notion: In order to move forward, it’s sometimes necessary to look back.
The last few years have seen a renaissance in traditional-sounding rock ‘n’ roll, most of it coming out of Scandinavia. Shoraiders, like countless others before them, have modelled themselves on AC/DC, Blue Cheer, Queens of the Stone Age… You’ve heard this fuzzed-out approach before, but it’s the nicotine-fuelled pipes of Maria Morjes – a sassy, unrepentant presence – that makes this an essential purchase.
In time-honoured tradition, Mail Order Englishmen is, quite simply, just a name. This Nashville trio, who have no direct links to Britain, have sewn together a psychedelic patchwork that takes its fabric from rock’s golden age – There are elements of the Allman Brothers, Free and Neil Young in this hearty debut – and rather than feeling like a history lesson, this warm and woozy collection is as good as any of its obvious influences.
Slim and the Greeks like to keep a low profile: Apart from their album-streaming page, there’s no information out there regarding their members, influences or whereabouts. Lack of key facts aside, this 10-track debut – we assume it’s a debut, anyway – is packed with gorgeously retro, sun-dappled indie-pop that pays homage to illustrious recordings, and despite its ephemeral nature, you’ll be constantly reaching for the repeat button. Quite simply, it’s a work of insidious beauty.
Dinosuar Eyelids’ aversion to post-millennial life prompted a defiant tagline: “alternative rock for a new generation,” – you could almost hear the ostracized members of society screaming in unison. For one reason or another, the band has yet to capitalise on their intent: Winter Solstice came and went, while the reaction to Down a River was minimal, to say the least.
Conflagration, the band’s third full-length, is worthy of such a malevolent title. Evan Staats, a brazen vocalist, who treats his record collection as an extension of personal politics, hasn’t lost any of his intensity; telling the listener to “kill your idols,” to a backdrop of powerful, grunge-like riffage. Like a ‘90s trio who got caught in a zeitgeist whirlwind, Conflagration is a manifestation of emotions: The maniacal and melodic contrasts add complexity and depth – the latter being vital in their pursuit of “change”. Whether this will be enough to start a revolution, however, remains to be seen.
By Simon Hadley
The Exxtras are the type of band that restores your faith in music: Gone are the over-the-top theatrics; the endless social-media assaults – although, they do have a Facebook account – and the need to appear on billboards. Hell, even their choice of format, the cassette, embodies their do-it-your ethic; offering a tangible listening experience, as well as a two-fingered salute to cultural trends. Limited to 250 copies, Waiting for You is crammed with charmingly indelible gems.
By Simon Hadley
The minds of Megachurch draw similar comparisons with inner-city suburbs; they are nice places to visit, but you wouldn’t want to live there: Where the outcasts of society find solace in their distorted, psychological well-being, the rest of us simply pass through.
Megachurch, on the other hand, are perfectly at ease with their macabre residency – they even have a senator in Rick Santorum. What the band aren’t at ease with, however, is the rest of the world: More specifically, American culture. Judgment Day, as the title suggests, is the final reckoning for long-standing ideologies and 21st Century ideals.
Before that, like in any reputable work of fiction, is the unleashing of fury – or in this case, the ‘Resurrection’: 90 seconds of chaos where driving stoner-metal offsets cries of sinister, political frustration; a concept that is prevalent throughout.
Despite the Cleveland trio’s dissatisfaction with modern culture, there are moments of satirical brilliance: ‘Speaking in Tongues,’ for instance, builds to a mind-warping crescendo, while ‘My Father’s Dignity’ includes the juxtaposing thoughts of a sadistic pastor; it’s this unorthodox, anything-goes approach, that makes Judgment Day so captivating.
By Simon Hadley
When they started making ear-shattering sludge, Utah wasn’t anything remarkable: Just two guys raping and bleeding their equipment to death in a studio. Two years on, however, a lot has changed: Utah has doubled in size, leading to a welcome change in direction; the band is more ambitious, more accomplished and simply better. Here, the ideas Utah have offered since Here They come – Bombastic, full-throttle swamp-metal – are realised spectacularly.
The Georgia four-piece juggles motifs and ideas, leading to a refined and more complex assault. ‘Bisontennial’ opens with a space-age swell; launching into a crushing mid-tempo kick-and-tom gallop, before changing tact one more: syrupy, psychedelic hooks swerve and tease, culminating in a slow-burning finish. Elsewhere, ‘Ambian,’ is ostensibly intended as an early breather, while ‘Kneecaps’ is a Southern-sounding sprawl that Zakk Wylde would be proud of. Utah is the first great metal album of 2013, and is sure to gain the band a Mastodon-sized legion of devotees. Seriously, it’s that good.
By Simon Hadley
If you were expecting a mind-warping excursion into psychedelic-rock, then you’re going to be disappointed: gorgeous voodoo artwork that hints at challenging subject matter usually ends up falling into one of two categories: a philosophical interpretation of time, space and the future, or the reworking of a lost novel.
Storm on the Forecourt, the debut release from Black Cat Trail, is neither. Instead, this is the sound of three men on a nostalgia-filled journey: spaghetti Western guitar licks, roots-chewing grooves and country balladry. ‘Dark Night’, for instance, is under-the-cover-of-darkness prison blues, covered by Safe As Milk-era Captain Beefhart, while you can almost smell the stench of dried ale in ‘Harlot’: “Where has the time gone?/I’d do it over again,” muses Jeff Collins. Only the blues can soak firming into your heart.
If you think that denim and leather represents the very apex of Western civilisation, Green Desert Water will fill you joy. Paying homage to the warmth and soul of ‘70s blues-rock, these vinyl-obsessed Spaniard’s groove their way through prog-inspired jams (‘The Hermit’) and Skynyrd-tinged ballads (‘Into The Wild’) with West Coast nonchalance.