Monster Magnet, A Better Dystopia (Napalm Records 2021)

Monster Magnet comes out with a cover album of psychedelic songs you have probably never heard before.

The legendary Monster Magnet was formed in New Jersey on the cusp of the nineties. Creating an innovative fuzzy sound that sparked memories of the psychedelic past, Spine Of God (1991) and Superjudge (1993) are now classics that set the stage for the popular success of Dopes To Infinity (1995) with the radio hit “Negasonic Teenage Warhead.” Best remembered in the mind of society afterwards for Powertrip (1998) and Mastermind (2010), Monster Magnet has always created music on their own terms. The band is founder Dave Wyndorf (vocals) along with Phil Caivano (guitar), Garret Sweeny (guitar), Alec Morton (bass), and Bob Pantella (drums).

You never know for sure what the next Monster Magnet album is going to be like. The Last Patrol came out in 2013 and then the very next year the band released a “re-imagining” of that album, Milking The Stars, with substantially altered arrangements. Then in 2015 Mastermind got a make-over with Cobras And Fire in a similar fashion. Mindfucker (2018) was tailored for the wild turn the world took in 2016 and now we have A Better Dystopia, a collection of covers that many fans will be entirely unfamiliar with. Consider this: Is it a cover tune to the listener if they never heard the original?

An odd choice, this album, but a bold and brilliant one. Drawing mainly from psychedelic-styled work from a by-gone era, the songs chosen by Wyndorf and crew have a contemporary resonance. Some of these were new to me and are genuine deep pulls. Here is the track list to marvel at: “The Diamond Mine” (Dave Diamond), “Born to Go” (Hawkwind), “Epitaph for a Head” (J. D. Blackfoot), “Solid Gold Hell” (The Scientists), “Be Forewarned” (The Macabre), “Mr. Destroyer” (Poo-Bah), “When the Wolf Sits” (Jerusalem), “Death” (Pretty Things), “Situation” (Josephus), “It’s Trash” (The Cave Men), “Motorcycle (Straight To Hell)” (Table Scraps), “Learning to Die” (Dust), and “Welcome to the Void” (Morgen).

The song that interested me most was Dust’s “Learning To Die.” I love Dust and this song in particular has always been one of my favorites. Like all the music on this album – and every album by Monster Magnet – energy and passion blazes through no matter the tempo or perspective. Expect fuzzed-up heavy psychedelic stoner rock. First listen to this album all the way through, then go out and dig up the originals. It is a trip comparing the new versions with the way-back-whens. Highly recommended.

A Better Dystopia is out now in myriad forms to please each and every one of the people of the Earth.

Links.

Napalm Records, https://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/monstermagnet

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

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

Monster Magnet, A Better Dystopia (Napalm Records 2021)

Yatra, All Is Lost review (Grimoire Records 2020)

Yatra release their second set of masterful doom this year: All Is Lost.

The first album from Yatra was Death Ritual, released only two years ago. Blood of the Night followed in January this year, and now there is All Is Lost. The three-piece band from Maryland is Dana Helmuth (guitars and vocals), Maria Geisbert (bass), and Sean Lafferty (drums). The sound they create is fundamental but I wouldn’t call it stripped down. It is heavy with purpose and lithe as a leviathan in the ocean.

Recorded in June this year, All Is Lost is the perfect theme for 2020. The themes are ominous and dark. The lyrics are less about narrative structure on many songs and are filled with vivid imagery. The perfect example is “Blissful Wizard,” which repeats the refrains “blissful wizard / rides the night” and “bless this mountain” to convey the thematic structure while the music fills in the story. This approach puts the listener in a general conceptual frame of mind and allows subtleties to be individually interpreted as the music speaks in ways everyone can experience differently.

The music is doom – heavy guitar riffs, gruff vocals, pulsing rhythms. The opening song is the title track and it starts the set off on the path of fear, uncertainty, and darkness. There is a real feeling of not knowing what is going on but knowing for sure that it is bad. “Reapers ride the blackest winds / harvesting the death foretold.” A blackened prophecy of death seeping in, unstoppable. The lead breaks are potent and brief, as in “Winter’s Dawning,” where it lives between tectonic riff shifts. A track that sticks out in my mind is “One For The Mountain.” It is a dark fantasy theme carried on a veritable river of music created by the guitar in both lead and harmony. This song is the set stone piece for the album to my ears, and it is surrounded by metal that is going to have a lasting impact on heavy music. Highly recommended.

All Is Lost is out this Friday, October 9th and this is one you don’t want to miss. The digital, CD, and limited vinyl (100 copies) are available through Bandcamp. You can get ready for the new one by catching up on the first two albums if you haven’t heard them yet.

Band photo by Nichole Strouse.

Links.

http://yatradoom.bandcamp.com

http://www.facebook.com/yatradoom

http://www.grimoirerecords.com

http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com

http://www.facebook.com/GrimoireRecords

Yatra, All Is Lost review (Grimoire Records 2020)

Black Elephant, Seven Swords review (Small Stone Records 2020)

The fuzzed-out Italian metal blues stoner band Black Elephant comes thundering back with Seven Swords.

The new album is a follow-up to 2018’s Cosmic Blues, which established the band’s bone fides. There is a clear theme for Seven Swords but not a consistent one. Maybe the way to put it is there is a strong theme running through the album. References to Japan appear in nearly every song, ranging from sumo with Yokozuna to art with Yayoi Kusama to solemnity with seppuku. But then there are other apparently entirely unrelated pieces, too, setting the listener on the path of jovial tongue-in-cheekedness which fits in with a stoner perspective quite well. The musicians are Alessio Caravelli (guitar and vocals), Massimiliano Giacosa (guitar), Marcello Destefanis (bass), and Simone Brunzu (drums) – a power rock set-up that delivers heavy desert blues and some sideways surprises.

The albums opens with a soft, spacey blues insinuation title “Berta’s Flame” that drops a heavy foot a couple times between whispers before a guitar lead rips the reality wide open halfway through. “The Last March of Yokozuna” begins life at first as a vacation on a South Pacific island, takes a big stomp, then quietens down again. And then the set really starts to rip. “Yayoi Kusama” has an opening groove that is almost boogie and the fuzziness verily surrounds you, rubbing your ears until you tingle. “Mihara” is a warbling space journey and, while the space journey continues throughout, guitars do rise from the lower decks and take over. “Red Sun and Blues Sun” is a rollicking good time promenade through a summer psychedelic garden with gentle musical shifts at every new blossom. “Seppuku” is heavy blues and deadly serious in its grinding waves, as the title suggest it would be. “Govinda” wraps everything up, and listens like a nine minute guided meditation that swells and shrinks and reveals.

Seven Swords is out Friday, August 28. If you preorder it on Bandcamp, you get “Berta’s Flame” right now and the rest at the end of next week. There are also CD and LP choices that all include digital downloads, too. Get your fuzz on. Recommended.

Links.

https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/seven-swords

http://www.smallstone.com

Black Elephant, Seven Swords review (Small Stone Records 2020)