Greenbeard, Variant (Sailor Records 2022)

Greenbeard gives us Variant, a bluesy album with heavy desert grooves and many unexpected turns.

From Austin, Texas, Greenbeard is Chance Parker (guitar, vocals), Buddy Hachar (drums), Pat Seals (bass), and Joe Samson (guitar). They have been stalking the stage for a few years now and have released several albums, including 2014’s self-titled EP, Stoned At The Throne (2015), Lödarödböl (2016), and then another EP, Onward Pillager (2018). The new set covers quite a bit of ground, and showcases both the songwriting and performance talents of the band.

Let’s track-by-track this one, shall we? “Creatures of the Night” charges right at you with a groovy hard psych attitude that is almost like a fuzzy surf version of acid rock. It cooks, and the lead breaks are a joy to hear. “Burns Like Basketweave” is spacier than the opener, with a pushing, buzzy throb. The dream sequence just past the center is a tribute to psychic exploration. “Get in the car. No time to explain.” Now this is a driving song, and I guess that shouldn’t be a surprise given the title. There is a slow, catchy vamp in the middle that goes bluesy and walks back that driving-down-the-road feel in exchange for a whole different vibe. The backing vocals will give you chills.

“Diamond in the Devil’s Grinder” is a slow heavy blues number. A beautiful song with amazing guitar segments and an unforgettable saxophone. The tempo gets whipped up in the final third for a big finish. “Sanitario de la Soul” sends you on a long, deep path of self-reflection. “Exodus” brings back the push and the heavy roll. The buzz in the guitar is on the roar again. It has a great climbing chorus that sets up a blistering lead guitar break-out.

The last song is “Bare Bones.” It starts with a clang and rings on with high energy riffs that sound amazing even when lights come back on. Put me down for a “hell yes” on Greenbeard. This album is excellent. Recommended.

Variant emerges April 9th through Sailor Records in the US and Kozmik Artifactz in Europe.

Band photo by Dave Creaney.

Bandcamp, https://greenbeardtheband.bandcamp.com/

Greenbeard website, http://www.greenbeardtheband.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/greenbeardtheband

Sailor Records, https://www.sailorrecords.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Greenbeard, Variant (Sailor Records 2022)

Spiral Skies, Death Is But A Door (AOP Records 2022)

Radio-friendly heavy psych band Spiral Skies release their second album, Death Is But A Door.

Centered in Stockholm, Sweden , Spiral Skies is a band of mystery. They released an EP in 2015 called A Queendom To Come, and their debut full-length album, Blues For A Dying Planet (2018), attracted good notices. Their musical style is an amalgam of 1970s and 1980s European rock themes combined with a light version of heavy psych, perhaps designed to reach a broader audience than a heavy stoner vibe likely would. The band is Frida Eurenius (vocals), Dan Svanljung (guitar, key, didgeridoo), Jonas Lyander (guitar), Eric Sandberg (bass), and Daniel Bäckman (drums).

There are nine tracks on the album, starting with “The Endless Sea” which begins sweetly then turns toward the aggressively dramatic before you have a chance to get fully settled in. The shifting landscape in this composition signals what is to come. Not every song plays with this much variety, but a good deal of ground is covered throughout the set. “Into The Night,” for example, is a peppy, radio-friendly song, and a diversion from its predecessor. It reminds me a little of some of the music by Demon I used to listen to in the eighties, except more lyrical and, well, better.

“Time” is a track to look out for as it has nice lead guitar work. The closer, “Mirror Of Illusion,” is quiet and reflective, and it turned out to be a favorite of mine as well. The music is very listenable. Frida Eurenius’ voice is beautiful to hear, and the compositions are engaging and approachable. The guitar-driven light stoner vibe is just the ticket when you are in that place in your head. Recommended.

Death Is But A Door is out through AOP Records on Friday, March 25th. Links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://spiralskies.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/spiralskies

AOP Records, http://www.aoprecords.de/

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Spiral Skies, Death Is But A Door (AOP Records 2022)

Fostermother, The Ocean (Ripple Music 2022)

Psychedelic Texas doom band Fostermother offer their second full-length album to the expanding universe.

I liked Fostermother’s first album, the self-titled one that came out in 2020. It is an excellent stoner album and, while I wouldn’t call it light-hearted, it had a kind of buoyancy to it, a sort of groove. The new album is a bit slower in tempo and a touch dimmer in tone. Whether in a loud moment or a quiet one, you can feel the doom surround you. It will definitely appeal to the band’s fans, and will gather up a new crowd among those who had been standing around the edges. The credited musicians on The Ocean are Travis Weatherred (vocals, guitar, drums, and synth) and Stephen Griffin (bass, keys, and guitar).

“Sunday” opens the show with a tentative pulse. A better way to put that is the music makes you feel tentative and on edge when you hear it. The vocals have a mystical and somewhat unsettling tonal quality – they seem like they might be a warning. The riff is heavy, buzzing with shadows. We know at the gate, then, that this is a doom album in the stoner lane that also has a dark shade to it. “Seasons” goes even deeper in a heavy, fuzzy trudge and the next track after that, “Hedonist,” punches it up a bit in the first look before quietening down and going ethereal. The journey we are on with this music is becoming a shifting kaleidoscope of blues and reds and yellows.

Each next step puts you a little off balance with a new tilt, and while there is familiarity in every track, I did not get the feeling of being in loop. Some of the songs have a grungy feel to them, like “Dark Desires.” Others force an insistent dismalness, like “Arrival.” Each port that is visited has its dangers and its charms. Put Fostermother on your must-hear list from here on out. Highly recommended.

The Ocean is out now from Ripple Music. Bandcamp and Ripple’s website are where you can get the details.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://fostermother.bandcamp.com/album/the-ocean

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/fostermother

Ripple Music, https://www.ripple-music.com/

Fostermother, The Ocean (Ripple Music 2022)

Matt Pike, Pike Vs. The Automaton (MNRK Heavy 2022)

The newest music from Matt Pike takes the form of Pike Vs. The Automaton.

Matt Pike is an icon of heavy music. I we are all familiar with his work in High On Fire – one of my all-time favorite bands – and Sleep. I saw him perform with Sleep at Heavy Montreal in 2018 and with High On Fire at Psycho Las Vegas a couple years ago. Damn. He is an amazing talent. Now, in addition to Sleep and High On Fire, Matt Pike has a new project, Pike Vs. The Automaton. The reference in the title is to Talos, a giant bronze robot of Greek mythology that was established as a protector of Crete, patrolling the island and chucking enormous boulders at any invaders. This music fights against the protectors of the establishment, then? Sounds right.

The new album is a little more on the psychedelic side, according to Pike, than his other work. It does sound a bit different, but in the best possible way. There are all manner of divergent moments sprinkled throughout, including the thoughtful and quiet “Land.” This is a heavy album, though, and make no mistake. The vocals are forceful overall, and the unforgettable guitar work goes straight for your spine and sets it alight.

There are ten songs on the album running over an hour altogether. My favorite tracks are the longest ones, but that is a peccadillo of mine that runs deep. Still, “Trapped In A Midcave,” “Apollyon,” and “Leaving The Wars Of Woe” are all truly inspired compositions that clock over eight, nine, and ten minutes, respectively. Look, I know what I am doing, here – when I hear these long songs, I imagine seeing the live performance, and longer pieces where Matt Pike is leaning into it and wailing on the guitar are my favorite concert memories.

To be clear, you don’t want sleep on the short ones. “Acid Test Zone” is a savage little rager, and the opening song, “Abusive,” is a mood-setter if there ever was one. So, yeah, this album does sound a little different from the others we’ve heard so far yet still it fits right in. Fans of High On Fire and Sleep are going to love it. Highly recommended.

Pike Vs. The Automaton is out now and available everywhere. Check out a stream then pick up a physical product from MNRK Heavy while they are still available.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://pikevstheautomaton.bandcamp.com/

MNRK Heavy Records, https://mnrkheavy.com/collections/pike-vs-the-automaton

Matt Pike, Pike Vs. The Automaton (MNRK Heavy 2022)

Earthless, Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Heavy psych-metal trio Earthless are back with a new two-track, sixty minute album: Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons.

Earthless is a trio that play guitar-driven, primarily instrumental, music. You could call it stoner, and that counts, but heavy psych makes a little more sense to me. I am a huge fan of instrumental heavy music, and Earthless has been a favorite of mine since I first heard them – so label them however you like so long as you listen to the music. The band is Isaiah Mitchell (guitar, vocals), Mike Eginton (bass), and Mario Rubalcaba (drums).

Earthless is known for long instrumental pieces, as on their seminal on albums Sonic Prayer (2005) and Rhythms From A Cosmic Sky (2007). More recently, on 2018’s Black Heaven, they created shorter songs, many with vocals. While the singing was a surprise, I liked that album a lot, too, because it still had the amazing musical compositions I had come to expect from the band. On One Hundred Demons, it is back to the long form.

According to the band, the new music was sparked by an ancient story. “The album and its title were inspired by an ancient Japanese legend in which a horde of demons, ghosts and other terrifying ghouls descend upon sleeping villages at night, once a year. Known as Hyakki Yagyō, or the “Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons,” one version of the tale states that anyone who witnesses this otherworldly procession will die instantly—or be carried off by the creatures of the night. As a result, the villagers hide in their homes, lest they become victims of these supernatural invaders.”

There are two tracks on the new album. The title track is forty minutes long and split into two parts. The second song is “Death To The Red Sea,” a mere twenty minutes. The short one was released in advance of the album, so I heard it first. It is an incredible high-energy heavy metal guitar jam sustained over the entire run time after only a very short on-ramp. It is simply incredible. It don’t know how the musicians can do it, frankly, especially Mitchell, whose fingers must have been on fire by the end.

“Night Parade of One Hundred Demons” begins more slowly and has a beautiful opening section that builds quietly, hopefully. The tempo turns sharply about seven minutes into a more dramatic posture and urgent style and pace. There is a roaring guitar movement near the fourteen-minute mark that is the inevitable result of the preceding arc. The second movement takes off in the mysterious direction and leads us along the ever-blurring path of nighttime and the cosmic realm. The incredible guitar passages are here, too, of course, and the finale is a grand exposition.

Earthless delivers on every level with this new album. The extended, intricate pieces are absorbed into your psyche while you listen. This is top-form work. Highly recommended.

Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons is out now through Nuclear Blast Records.

Links.

Website, https://www.earthlessofficial.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/earthlessrips

Nuclear Blast Records, https://www.nuclearblast.com/eu/earthless

Earthless, Night Parade Of One Hundred Demons (Nuclear Blast 2022)

Madmess, Rebirth (Hassle Records 2021)

The debut album from Portugal’s Madmess is an ambitious sashay in the psychedelic universe.

Madmess is from Portugal, and they are currently stationed in the United Kingdom. Plying their trade in the crowded psych-rock scene, the band – Ricardo Sampaio (guitar), Luis Moura (drums), and Vasco Vasconcelos (bass) – stomp a heavy groove. It is a weighty sound with a treble edge and plenty of fuzz. They released Madmess in 2019, a long EP. Rebirth is the band’s first full-length album.

There are five long tracks on Rebirth. The echoing “Stargazer” breaks the frozen surroundings with its glow and has the feel of intergalactic exploration. Forceful rhythm allows for sharp lead guitar attacks. The lead break toward the end is particularly raucous and benefits from exploiting two aligned yet independent tracks. The title song starts out quieter but doesn’t stay that way for long. In fact, they drop a riff so heavy that it would feel comfortable in a doom scene. The guitar sparkles in the gloom and brightens the track immeasurably.

“Albatross” has a mournful ply. It is not as sad as Zappa’s “Watermelon in Easter Hay” but it made me think of that song for some reason even though it doesn’t sound like it at all. The music throughout is essentially instrumental in that vocals are not a large part of any track and this song is the set stone of that ideal. “Shape Shifter” is comfortable rollick with languid, easy-on-the-ears guitar work.

“Mind Collapse” made my think of a long drive on a lonely highway at dusk, just a person alone with their thoughts as they wander and focus and move around to this and that. This one might be my favorite of the bunch but I have to say all five songs resonated with me. I hope Madmess head over to the US in 2022 because this is a band I am aching to see perform live. Highly recommended.

Rebirth is out Friday, December 10th, through Hassle Records.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://madmess.bandcamp.com/album/rebirth

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/madmessband

Hassle Records, https://store.hasslerecords.com/

Madmess, Rebirth (Hassle Records 2021)

King Buffalo, Acheron (2021)

The second album of a proposed trilogy from King Buffalo is Acheron.

King Buffalo is a heavy psychedelic rock trio from Rochester. They have been quite prolific in the last lustrum, and their new album is the second of 2021. They excel musically at the long form and Acheron is a welcome showcase for their talents. The band is Sean McVay (guitar, vocals, keys), bassist Dan Reynolds (bass), and Scott Donaldson (drums).

Each song on the new album is about ten minutes long, and there are four of them. “Acheron.” You hear dripping water, running water, then a guitar. Percussion and rhythm. Gentle vocals in a surprisingly upbeat tone for a song sung in a cave (the album was recorded underground at Howe Caverns in New York). Punctuating coarse intrusions do not despair the languid underlying currents, even when the roughhousing guitar takes the lead for an extended time.

“Zephyr” has a different attitude, a more active demeanor. Still there is the gentleness, which we can begin to interpret by now as intrepidness. The guitar leads are expansive, as if moving toward an ideal that has been established by the keys. “Shadows” I find to be more reflective than the first two tracks, more introspective. It ticks and pulls at your inner core.

“Cerberus” is the deepest song, in my hearing. It feels dank and unsettling, a little frightening, even. The distorted lead guitar claws at the fabric of reality, searching for a way out (or maybe a way in). The tension grows and builds all the way to the end where the riff gives no respite. The music is dramatic and powerful.

There is no telling where the third part of the series will land. So far, though, with the first two sessions locked in, it looks for all the world like the totality will be something special. Make sure you hear The Burden of Restlessness and then go spelunking with Acheron. Highly recommended.

Acheron is out now. Look to the band’s website or Bandcamp for hardcopies and/or stream it wherever you stream.

Live photo by Wayne Edwards, State Theatre, Portland, Maine, 2021.

Links.

Website, https://kingbuffalo.com/

Bandcamp, https://kingbuffalo.bandcamp.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/kingbuffaloband

King Buffalo, Acheron (2021)

Clutch, Stöner, and King Buffalo at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, October 3, 2021

Clutch’s 30 Years of Rock N Roll Tour came to the State Theatre in Portland, Maine on Sunday.

Clutch

Has it really been thirty years? If you look over the discography Clutch has created then it seems like it must be at least that long. One classic album after another, dozens and dozens of unforgettable songs. Not to mention the amazing live performances. I see Clutch six or more times every year, and I have the same thought at the end of every show: I can’t wait to see them again.

On the current leg of the tour, Clutch is supported by King Buffalo and Stöner. King Buffalo opened with thirty minutes of heavy psych music. The band recently released The Burden of Restlessness, one of three planned albums for 2021. They played a mellow set that grew in intensity as it went along, providing a nice ramp up for the rest of the evening.

King Buffalo

Stöner is Brant Bjork, Nick Oliveri, and Ryan Gut, the former two being original members of Kyuss. Their music takes a heavy stoner jam angle – it is the kind of thing you can easily get lost in.

Stöner

Like King Buffalo, Stöner is a trio. The solid basis for their music is guitar, drums, and bass, forming the lines and color for narrative vocals. They were definitely crowd-pleasers on Sunday night. Their current album is Stoners Rule.

Stöner

One of the more amazing things about Clutch’s live show is the set list changes every night. Sure, there are a lot of songs they play on the regular, but they do not have a fixed set they play for each stop like most bands when they are touring. They always post the set list after the fact on their Instagram account so you can look back over previous shows and see what I mean.

Clutch

In Portland they opened with “The Promoter,” one of the dozen+ hits from Blast Tyrant. An excellent choice to get the crowd fired up. Not that it needed much encouragement. They were Clutch fans, these people who gathered on Sunday night. And sure, you expect Clutch fans to show up at a Clutch concert, but this crowd knew the music by heart and were heavily into it, more than you would likely see on any given night. The energy of the fans combined with that of the band to generate a burgeoning synergy and create a crackling atmosphere.

Clutch

I am never disappointed with any Clutch song, but I can say that I am very excited to hear a couple of my favorites pop up that don’t make every set, including “Elephant Riders” and “Mice and Gods.” And the encore was magnificent, featuring “Electric Worry.”

Clutch

There was no controversy among attendees that the show was everything fans wanted and a whole lot more. There are still some dates you can catch – check out the band’s website for tour info. After this leg, Clutch is doing their usual holiday run between Christmas and New Year’s, too. Get out there and see them. I have seen them twice this year and I am hoping to double that before 2021 is done.

Photos by Wayne Edwards.

Links.

Clutch, http://www.pro-rock.com/

Stöner, https://www.stonerband.com/

King Buffalo, https://kingbuffalo.com/

State Theatre, https://statetheatreportland.com/

© Wayne Edwards.

Clutch, Stöner, and King Buffalo at the State Theatre in Portland, Maine, October 3, 2021

King Buffalo, The Burden Of Restlessness (2021)

Rochester New York’s King Buffalo return with their third album, The Burden Of Restlessness.

Not quite ten years ago, heavy psych rock band King Buffalo formed as a three-piece unit. The band is Sean McVay (guitar and vocals), Dan Reynolds (bass), and Scott Donaldson (drums). In these few years the band has released a number of EPs and two previous long-players. The plan is to record three full-length albums this year. Quite an impressive feat, that is.

“Heavy psych” is a broad category, but you get the idea. You expect friendly riffs and extended, laid-back passages. You do get that here, along with the band’s exclusive approach to composition. There is a set-up for each song, a solid rhythm platform, and often a piercing corollary line. These elements frame the steady vocals and lead guitar work, and the rambler bass lines as well. The effect is mesmerizing.

I am especially enthralled by “Grifter.” The heavy riffs overtake the punching line and soak your mind. “The Knocks” is another favorite with a great lead work, and also “Loam,” which is soulful and ambitious with a rapturous center. I find the entire album enthralling, I must say, and I will be gathering up the back catalogue immediately while I eagerly anticipate those two more albums this year. Right now we have this new one. Highly recommended.

The Burden Of Restlessness is out now. You can get CDs, vinyl, digital, and merch in the US at the band’s links below and in Europe from Stickman Records. King Buffalo is on tour in the Fall, crisscrossing the US and then doing a few shows in Canada in the new year. Judging from the new album, you don’t want to miss the live shows. Tour details are on the band’s website.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://kingbuffalo.bandcamp.com/

King Buffalo store, https://kingbuffalo.bigcartel.com/

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/kingbuffaloband

King Buffalo website, https://kingbuffalo.com/

Stickman Records, https://www.stickman-records.com/shop/king-buffalo-the-burden-of-restlessness/

King Buffalo, The Burden Of Restlessness (2021)

Moon Coven, Slumber Wood (Ripple Music 2021)

The return to full-length form for Moon Coven brings more thoughtful melodic doom into the world.

The band is from Sweden and has been around for nearly ten years. They released a series of EPs leading up to the self-titled long-player in 2016. Slumber Wood is their second full album. The music has changed a little over time and now the sound produced has a very clear doom intent, the way I hear it, no matter what narrative element might be running at any given time.

The opener, “Further,” and its spiritual companion, “Ceremony,” establish a slow and deliberate pace of heavy stoner psych highlighted by and with the vocals which hover on the light side, and the ethereal. Then suddenly “Potbelly Hill” quiets the rumble down but keeps the doom going with softened sounds for the first minute before taking a turn by introducing a surprisingly turbulent riff that changes the tone of the song entirely. It is a bit dizzying. By the end of third track you don’t know what to think.

Next up is “Eye of the Night” and it sounds like a crime story. The short piece “A Tower of Silence” is a transitional passage to “Bahgsu Nag,” which starts off with a strum. The song has a very different sound, something all its own and apart from the others on the album. Bringing us ultimately to the last two songs, “Seagull” and “My Melting Mind,” which are more in line with the early tracks. The anchor song has a special resonance – maybe it is the phase shift – that ties a knot around you and hangs on. Truly, I can’t get it out of my head.

You can take this album in a number of different ways. The steady ardent doom with surprising bulges and flares is the way I took it and it settled in well with me. Recommended.

Slumber Wood is out now. Vinyl and CD versions are available, as well as the digital download.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/slumber-wood

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/mooncoven

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products

Moon Coven, Slumber Wood (Ripple Music 2021)