Cities Of Mars, Cities Of Mars (Ripple 2022)

Heavy fuzz doom trio Cities Of Mars self-title their third long-player.

Sweden’s stoner doom band Cities Of Mars began in 2014, releasing an EP, Celestial Mistress, a couple year later. The music falls squarely in the land of doom, but the subjects and trajectories of the compositions align with the stars. Joining their first two full-length albums, Temporal Rifts (2017) and The Horologist (2019), the new record continues the sure-footed journey. The band is Danne Palm (bass, vocals), Johan Kuchler (drums, vocals), and Christoffer Norén (guitar, vocals).

“Before The Storm” is a beautiful spacey opening for the album. Patient, building slowly, the song introduces an ethereal voice signaling the beginning of the journey and, importantly, the need for it. Gentleness gives way to heavy doom guitar riffs on “Towering Graves.” The vocals are still mysterious but much more menacing now. The massive riffs continue on “The Prophet,” growing tall enough to block out the dim setting sun on the red planet.

“Song of a Distant Earth” is an acoustic piece; a mood shift before the devastating “A Dawn of No Light.” The tempo picks up and the rhythm is more assertive, and the lead guitar freer in its explorations. “The Dreaming Sky” has a forlorn quality to it. Harmonizing vocals and melancholy guitar lines waken suppressed feelings. “Reflected Skyline” is an airy piece, and sad, too, in my hearing.

“The Black Shard” is the twelve-minute final word on the album. In some ways you could see it as a reinterpretation of the ideas earlier expressed. You could also see it as a furthering of those notions. It is an exceptional piece and, if nothing else, you should listen to this one. It has many powerful moments, and regular returns to altered pace, attitude, and sentiment throughout. Much like the album in its totality. Recommended.

Cities Of Mars is out now through Ripple Music. Bandcamp is always a good place to pick up the goods.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/cities-of-mars

Website, http://www.citiesofmars.se/

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

YouTube, https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCavaUFPTEDKYjAxJ8Qapbeg

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

© Wayne Edwards

Cities Of Mars, Cities Of Mars (Ripple 2022)

Wo Fat, The Singularity (Ripple Music 2022)

The seventh album from Texas stoner doom band Wo Fat is a world of its own, The Singularity.

Wo Fat hit the ground running with their first album The Gathering Dark (2006). It is legendary now, and it set the stage for a blistering run of records including Psychedelonaut (2009), Noche del Chupacabra (2011), and The Black Code (2012). The band plays psychedelic stoner doom rock that sounds like it was anointed by the cosmos. The new album is another chapter of astonishing guitar-based music that beguiles the listener and holds them in its sway.

The new album has seven big tracks, with a run time averaging over ten minutes each. You can hear “Orphans of the Singe” in the distance. As the music gets closer, you bend toward it and fall in. Down the rabbit hole. This is desert groove jam music; sounds that way to me. There is magic here, the kind that coalesces from nowhere just as the sun is disappearing beyond the horizon. Incredible jams over inspired rhythm. And then some.

I don’t know how it is possible to be so engaging over such a range with this level of endurance. It just keeps getting better as you listen. Skipping ahead a couple of tracks (about twenty minutes or so), “The Unraveling” claps its sinewy hands on you and gives you a good shaking. It is an up-tempo, high energy push. “The Witching Chamber” follows and you feel enchanted but not inveigled. Riffs bigger than the Mississippi is wide form an encampment where you could live for the rest of your days if you wanted.

How could there be more? Then the title track queues up and you know that you are still in it and the journey is not over yet. “The Oracle” ends the set on a sixteen-minute parable of psychedelic swamp doom that has no peer and faces no rival. The musicians have a breathtaking command of composition, improvisation, instrumentation, and elevation. I feel bad for anyone who has not heard this album yet. Highly recommended.

The Singularity is out now through Ripple Music. Check them out on Bandcamp or the Ripple site. What you should really do is subscribe to Ripple Music on Bandcamp – if you had done that, you would have The Singularity already.

Links.

Website, https://wofat.net/

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

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

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

© Wayne Edwards

Wo Fat, The Singularity (Ripple Music 2022)

Stone Axe, Stay Of Execution (Ripple Music 2022)

Rock preservationists Stone Axe release a collection of rarities, Stay Of Execution.

Tony Reed started Stone Axe in 2007, a band that plays with a 1970s rock sensibility. A lot of music has been released under this moniker, including two full-length studio albums to go along with the EPs, splits, and live sets. I have listened to everything I can get my hands on that has come out from Stone Axe and I have never been disappointed.

The best description of the new album comes from Tony Reed himself. “Stay of Execution is an album of unreleased recordings and tracks we like that were hidden in the grooves of vinyl that was released in very limited numbers with little or no promotion. All songs were recorded between 2008 and 2011 and cover a wide spectrum of styles in that seventies vein we were known for. The musical concepts of proto-metal, southern rock, psychedelic rock, and folk rock are well-explored in this collection. Seven of the eight tracks on the album feature the usual studio collaboration of Reed / Brinkerhoff, while the last song includes all four members of the live band. I feel like these tracks are as strong as anything on our other long players. It’s great to see them finally get released.”

The first two songs released from the album are “Fell On Deaf Ears” and “Lady Switchblade.” The former is a fast-moving getaway with piercing guitars and the fluid vocal style fans appreciate so much. “Lady Switchblade” takes a softer approach, despite the theme and lyrics – “Lady, Lady Switchblade / I feel your steel on my jugular vein.” The slower pace does not take the edge off the guitars at all. In fact, rather like Thin Lizzy used to do so well, the slower song has a deeper emotional component and delivers a big impact in the end.

And of course there is lot more. “Sweet Sweet Time” is a bluesy, soulful piece of wonderment. “Metal Damage” is an energetic affair that puts me in mind of Gillan a little it, and that is a good thing. “King Of Everything” sets you straight on the way things are, and when you hear it you know it is right. Playing this album will make any day a better day. Highly recommended.

Stay Of Execution is out now through Ripple Music. Have a look at the possibilities – links below.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/stay-of-execution

Facebook, https://www.facebook.com/people/STONE-AXE/100063740078934/

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

© Wayne Edwards. All rights reserved.

Stone Axe, Stay Of Execution (Ripple Music 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)

Obsidian Sea, Pathos (Ripple Music 2022)

Bulgarian proto-doom trio Obsidian Sea bring their fourth album into clear view: Pathos.

Obsidian Sea came together in 2010 in Sofia playing a classic rock style layered into doom horizons. Prior to the new record, the band released a demo at the beginning and three long-players since – Between Two Deserts (2012), Dreams, Illusions, Obsessions (2015), and Strangers (2019). Their musical approach relies on melodic passages and extended diversions set in sweeping idiomatic paradigms of venerable rock and roll. According to the Metal Archives, the band is Bozhidar (drums), Anton (vocals and guitar), and Delyan Karaivanov (bass).

There are seven songs on Pathos, each hovering in the five-to-six minute range. Well-worn, reliable set-ups are played as bedrock formations holding up incredibly well-executed guitar work and impressive compositional talent. You can expect fuzzy guitars on the regular and softened melodic expressions that form a low hedge for the greater guitar adventuring.

Some of the song titles are quite grim. Witness the first two tracks, “Lament the Death of Wonder” and “The Long Drowning.” The music itself, while living in the land of doom, is not depressingly-oriented and the vocalizations are more earnest and dramatic than they are dreary and dank. Dark fantasy more than horror, you might say.

My favorite tracks include “The Revenants” and “Mythos” as they both highlight the features I have just mentioned, and I appreciate the sternness of the guitar moments. The former song especially has a mystical sensibility. The final piece is “The Meaning of Shadows,” and it approaches the avant-garde in comparison to its fellows. It also has a delightful noir aroma, a sinisterness. The song builds toward the end into an urgent finale, functioning as a gleeful capstone to the set. Excellent, all the way around. The music is not what you might typically think of when doom is being discussed, but it has a legitimate place in that world. Recommended.

Pathos is out now through Ripple Music. Snap it up at the label’s website, Bandcamp, or any of all those other places you can get music.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/pathos

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

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

Obsidian Sea, Pathos (Ripple Music 2022)

Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult (Ripple 2022)

The universe has needed a new a Blue Öyster Cult tribute album for a long time. It is finally here: Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult.

The idea for this recognition and tribute to BÖC was initiated by the late Steve Hanford (Thee Slayer Hippy), in conjunction with Ian Watts of Ape Machine. The album is being released by Ripple Music, and this is how they describe the evolution of the project.

As Poison Idea’s drummer and producer, Hanford, lived the hard road of the rock veteran. He played on two highly influential hardcore records, ‘War All The Time’ and ‘Feel The Darkness,’ and worked as a producer on indie rock projects such as Heatmiser (with Elliot Smith) and punk albums for notable names like The Hard-Ons. Following struggles with addiction and a seven-year prison sentence, he turned his life around, starting work in a music program and playing drums first in The Skull and then joining Ape Machine as drummer and producer. While on the road with Ape Machine, Steve decided to produce a tribute record to one of his favorite bands, Blue Öyster Cult.

Hanford was an accomplished and respected musician, able to round up a star-studded cast of bands for the tribute. Passing away in May of 2020, he didn’t see the project’s completion, but he completed most of the recordings, leaving Watts to gather the final pieces.

The album, then, honors and remembers a classic band and the proceeds of its sales are going toward a good cause.

For fans, knowing what’s in the box is a big deal, so here it is. “ME 262” – Mondo Machine; “Flaming Telepaths” – Great Electric Quest; “Dominance and Submission” – Cosmo-Daemonic Telegraph Company; “Godzilla” – Howling Giant; “Transmaniacon MC” – Tony Reed (Mos Generator) with Thee Slayer Hippy; “Wings Wetted Down” – IT; “Tattoo Vampire” – Mondo Generator with Thee Slayer Hippy; “Veteran of the Psychic Wars” – Ape Machine; “Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll” – Zeke; “Stairway to the Stars” – War Cloud; “Fireworks” – Year of the Cobra with Thee Slayer Hippy; “7 Screaming Diz-Busters” – Fetish; and “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper” – Spindrift.

I am approaching super-fan level for Blue Öyster Cult so I have a lot of opinions about hypothetical tribute albums. Which songs should be included? I can tell you. Which bands should perform the songs? Hey, just ask. When I first saw this list for this new record I had an instantaneous rush of reactions. Some of the biggest hits from the band are included, as expected. I was shocked to see a couple of my favorites songs on the album that I didn’t think would ever be included, like “Transmaniacon MC,” “Tattoo Vampire,” and “Wings Wetted Down.” Respect.

The take the bands had on the songs was typically in line with the originals. It is always a choice, isn’t it, how closely to replicate the song you are covering. Different fans will have different opinions, naturally. I liked every track. While I will always prefer the originals, it is also great to hear the well done iterations.

Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult is out now through Ripple Music. Take a look at Bandcamp or on Ripple’s site.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/d-minance-and-submissi-n-a-tribute-to-blue-yster-cult

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

Döminance and Submissiön: A Tribute to Blue Öyster Cult (Ripple 2022)

Buffalo Revisited, Volcanic Rock Live (Ripple Music 2022)

Australian metal pioneers Buffalo, performing as Buffalo Revisited, release their first live album, called Volcanic Rock Live, to celebrate the 45th anniversary of the studio original.

Buffalo is a band a lot of fans today never came across but I am convinced they would be happy to hear them if they got a chance. The Australians released five full-length albums back in the 1970s, the most well-remembered being Volcanic Rock (1973). Founder and front man Dave Tice has been performing in recent years as Buffalo Revisited, playing songs from the early albums. Interestingly, Buffalo never released a live album. Until now.

Recorded on June 6, 2018 at The Bald Faced Stag Hotel in Sydney, Buffalo Revisited plays the entire Volcanic Rock album. Troy Scerri (guitar), Steve Lorkin (Bass), and Marcus Fraser (drums) joined Dave Tice to make it happen.

Some of my all-time favorite music was created in the 1970s, so I figured I was going to be on board with this one, too. I had heard Volcanic Rock before, and a couple other Buffalo albums, so I was ready.

What you realize immediately about this music is it’s a great stoner record. Laid back riffs and weathered lead guitar work seep easily into your readied head. By the second song, “Freedom,” I had settled in. I remember having a fleeting thought hoping the album was playing on a loop because I did not want to get up. Tice sounds great, and he and the other musicians celebrate the 45th anniversary of the classic album in style.

Whether you have heard of Buffalo before or not, you should listen to this album. If you are a fan of the Ripple Music catalogue, then this is for you. It fits right in. Highly recommended.

Volcanic Rock Live is out now from Ripple Music and available at Bandcamp or through the label’s on-line store.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/volcanic-rock-live

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

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

Buffalo Revisited, Volcanic Rock Live (Ripple Music 2022)

Mother Iron Horse, Under The Blood Moon (Ripple Music 2021)

The sophomore album from Salem’s own Mother Iron Horse is a sludgy revelation.

Mother Iron Horse is a doom/sludge quartet from New England. They released an EP called The Curse in 2018, followed by the long-player The Lesser Key in 2019. Adam Luca, the band’s vocalist and guitarist, described the approach they took to the new album this way in a recent Metal Injection interview: “Our first album was recorded in a way that we could play live. I remember the mindset being that whatever we did on that record we could do live without missing a beat. Now, facing the notion of not being able to play a live show for the foreseeable future[, o]ur approach was much different. Instead of bringing our world to the listener. Our goal was to transport them from wherever they may be and bring them to ours. For better or worse, this album is escapism in its purest form.”

The music is gritty, with growling vocals and palatably heavy riffs. The set cracks open with “The Devils Work,” a fierce and competitive story. “The Witches” has a penetrating seriousness in its rhythm and a soaking eeriness in the vocals and the accompanying partnered guitar. “Old Man Satan” grabs the reigns next and it is a mid-tempo carriage ride through a leafless forest. We are definitely in the band’s hands by now.

Sometimes the music takes a slower, more grinding approach, as in “Samhain Dawn,” or even an ethereal one, like “Samhain Night.” I hear doom in every corner, and the singing brings strain and a feeling of violent energy. We frequently witness dread and feel the menace but somehow it does not seem like a threat because, even as listeners, we feel like we are part of it. I think that is what the band was going for, and they pulled it off. Recommended.

Under The Blood Moon is out now through Ripple Music. Pick up one of the physical incarnations or groove on the digital.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/under-the-blood-moon

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

Mother Iron Horse, Under The Blood Moon (Ripple Music 2021)

High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon (Ripple Music 2021)

Groovy, fuzzy, and ever soulful, High Desert Queen brings its music to the masses with Secrets of the Black Moon.

Austin, Texas desert rockers High Desert Queen are fairly new to the scene but have already landed a firm position in the melee. Mystery surrounds the band with only sparse photographic evidence and in-person experience to speak on their essence. Setting aside the who, what, and when, listening to their music is what really pays off.

There are seven songs and a quirky element on Secrets of the Black Moon. First up: “Heads Will Roll.” Confident riffs greet you along with a general fuzziness and a welcoming vocal entreaty – you gotta roll my head, it says. All right then. “The Mountain Vs. The Quake” is the story of achievement and “As We Roam” echoes a secret without revealing it completely. All of this is wrapped in an irresistible package of hypnotic guitar rhythm and lead. It is hard rock, indeed, and desert rock, for sure, and you might find there is a state-altering component too if you listen for it.

Side two road a little harder on me, and I liked it. “Skyscraper” offers up a very heavy riff at the start paired with gentle, coaxing vocals. “The Wheel” has the swing of doom, broadcasting as it does a deep and somber tone and vocal melancholia. “Bury The Queen,” an ode, churns slowly like the purposefully roiling of the primordial ocean, manifesting a formless creation to the endless wonder of a newly interested universe. The music can be thought provoking if you want to take it that way, or you can just ride along and let it be part of you. The choice is yours and there are no wrong answers. Recommended.

Secrets of the Black Moon is out now through Ripple Music. You can snag your copy from the label’s Big Cartel site or through the ever-ready Bandcamp.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/album/secrets-of-the-black-moon

High Desert Queen website, https://highdesertqueen.com/

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

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/high-desert-queen-secrets-of-the-black-moon-deluxe-vinyl-editions

High Desert Queen, Secrets of the Black Moon (Ripple Music 2021)

Crystal Spiders, Morieris (Ripple Music 2021)

The second Crystal Spiders album, Morieris, is an even bigger deal than the first.

The duo Crystal Spiders released their first long-player just last year, Molt. I listened to that album as recently as two weeks ago. It has been on my mind ever since it came out. There is just something about the music that mesmerizes and lingers in your mind. The phrase “highly anticipated” doesn’t really capture my state of mind leading up to the drop date of the new album, Morieris.

The band is Brenna Leath (bass) and Tradd Yancey (drums). Joining them for the session on guitar is Mike Dean. There is also a guest appearance by High Priestess Nighthawk of Heavy Temple on cello.

The first song of the set starts out spacey and groovy, leaning into the mystery with hypnotic vocals and spell-casting guitar. That’s the title track. “Septix” comes next and lays a commanding bass up front to set the stage, turning into a rambler after ninety seconds or so – the perfect accompaniment for a drive down a dark country road at night alone.

“Harness” brings the doom and then shifts to high-test. The middle section of reflective solo work is a breath before the charge starts again. Indeed there is a lot of up-tempo music on this album, offering an excellent balance to the more ethereal passages. “Pandora,” for example, is a two minute rager that perfectly sets up the epic “En Medias Res,” a song that takes all the time it needs, offering desert overtones and tantalizing strings over eight sumptuous minutes.

“Maelstrom” and “Golden Paw” are the final two songs, the former being a super fuzzy, adrenaline-fueled spectacle and the latter a contemplative cool-down. Having heard Molt we might have been able to anticipate the general form on the new album but we could not have known its breadth and depth. Morieris is excellent in every way – concept, composition, and execution. Highly recommended with no reservations.

Morieris is out now through Ripple Music. Bandcamp and the Ripple store are linked below. You know how this works – the physicals often go fast so if you are a collector you want to jump on it.

Band photo by Marissa Straw.

Links.

Bandcamp, https://crystalspiders.bandcamp.com/album/morieris

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

Ripple Music, https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/crystal-spiders-morieris-deluxe-vinyl-editions

FFMB review of Molt, https://flyingfiddlesticks.com/2020/09/28/crystal-spiders-molt-review-ripple-music-2020/

Crystal Spiders, Morieris (Ripple Music 2021)