Witchfinder brings out another great record with their third full-length album, Forgotten Mansion.
The French psychedelic doom quartet Witchfinder is Clément Mostefai (vocals, bass), Stanislas Franczak (guitar), Thomas Dupuy (drums), and Kevyn Raecke (keyboard). Since their first album dropped just five years ago, they have been on a winning streak with Hazy Rites two years later, and the well-received Endless Garden earlier EP this year. Their newest album is some of the best music they have made so far.
“Approaching” has a trippy, psychedelic ramp that pushes into a classic doom guitar drop. The vocals are cast from the distance in an echoey framing which pulses perfectly inside a mind that has achieved an altered state. The lead guitar segment that first appears is laid back and effective, setting up a tempo shift and that offers a mid-song lift, providing fertile ground for the following Iommi-inspired riff. The construction of the song is a credible integration of psychedelic entreaties in a doom architecture. “Marijuana,” which features Haldor Grunberg adding vocal depth, puts the lead guitar near the front, placing it as a signpost for the changes that follow. Here again we have the beautifully heavy, fuzzy riff and rhythm that carries the water for the ethereal vocals. Excellent. And then “Lucid Forest,” the shortest song so far at a mere five and a half minutes, slides in trippingly and lightens things up a little. It is still heavy, of course. It seems more reflective to me than its predecessors, changing the mood a might. The keys are more prominent in my ears, too, and the lead guitar break stands out.
“Ghosts Happen To Fade” is my favorite track. I like the entire album, but this one lands just right in my ears and brain, touching a place with the guitar that hadn’t been activated yet. The vocals are more sinister here, and that has an appeal as well. “The Old Days” wraps things up and brings back the straightforward doom at the front of the track. The music turns up the psych knob halfway through and reminds us of the range of the band. The album is solid psych-doom through and through. Recommended.
Forgotten Mansion is out now through Mrs Red Sound Records. Bandcamp is the place to go in the US to pick this one up.
Ruby The Hatchet returns with their trademark heavy psych music on Fear Is A Cruel Master.
I am not even going to try to pretend I am not a big fan of Ruby The Hatchet. Truly, one of the very best experiences I had this year was seeing them perform at Psycho Las Vegas. It might sound a little over the top, but I like everything about this band – their sound, their compositions, and they way to approach live performance. The musicians are Jillian Taylor (vocals), Johnny Scarps (guitar), Owen Stewart (drums), Lake Muir (bass), and Sean Hur (keys).
I have heard everything Ruby The Hatchet has released, starting with the early self-titled EP through to Planetary Space Child (Tee Pee Records 2017) and Live At Earthquaker (Magnetic Eye Records 2022). I have been ready for the new studio album for some time now.
Fear Is A Cruel Master has eight tracks, beginning with high-energy opener “The Change.” This song has great single potential with its grooving hook and catchy, singable chorus. You can hear every element working together on this song. “Deceiver” is heavier with a darker story. The echoing lead guitar in the first half of the song casts a lasting spell. “Primitive Man” offers a grungy menace for a foundation and mesmerizing guitar and keys lines, while “1000 Years” lies along a more somber path. Taylor’s voice is the feature here and she sounds better than ever.
Side B opens with “Soothsayer.” It’s an exuberant undertaking with a mystical sensibility. “Thruster” sounds like a dark magician at work on something diabolical, then “Last Saga” slows the pace for melancholy reflections and powerful vocal duet. The final song is “Amor Gravis.” There are vibrant, even speedy elements in this song that complement perfectly the heavier overtones. It is a good vehicle to bring us back to earth at the end of the set. It is always good to have new music from Ruby The Hatchet, and the new album is even better than I expected it to be. Highly recommended.
Fear Is A Cruel Master is out on Friday, October 21st through Magnetic Eye Records in the accustomed forms. Don’t wait if you want any of the physicals because they might not last very long. Links below.
Faith In Jane sets a new standard with their latest album Axe To Oak.
In only ten years Faith In Jane is already releasing their eighth album. Pretty amazing. The trio from Maryland – Dan Mize (guitar, vocals), Brendan Winston (bass), and Alex Llewellyn (drums) – play psychedelic rock on a heavy, grungy plane. Expect extended jams and musical journeys into the unknown.
The first song on the album is the nine-minute exploration “Whiskey Mountain Breakdown.” They are starting off with their trump card – this song is amazing. I have always been a fan of the longform heavy music creations, and this one has to go into the queue for heavy rotation. The song has a pounding pulse and is at the same time beautifully lyrical. Mize’s voice is perfect for this manner of music and his guitar work flows and rages.
“She Moved Through The Fair” comes next, and it is a somewhat contemporary arrangement of a traditional ballad. It is surprising to hear and it fits perfectly in between the opening epic and the following song that challenges first in endurance and ingenuity, “Enter Her Light.” A bit slower in its opening bars, “Enter Her Light” casts a darker shadow with its sinister tones than do the preceding songs. The lilting moments, having a different context here, carry a distinct message and sentiment.
Side two features more radio-friendly lengths in its tracks while maintaining the established sense of peregrination, despite the apparent contradiction. “Heavy Drinker” has a noticeably weighted fuzz and it is indeed a good song to sit down and drink to. I can verify that with personal experience. “How Many Ships Sail In The Forest?” is an unusual piece in that its pace is particularly slow while its length is the shortest on the set. Perhaps that is only notable to me. The guitar is amazing in this instrumental song, as is accompanying bass line.
“Axe To Oak” and “The Seeker” are a natural pair. The former has a heavy groove while the latter is more laid back and very much in the grunge dimension with a big flourish at the end. One seems to flow into the other, and it works in both directions. These two songs are a great way to wrap up an incredible album. Highly recommended.
Axe To Oak is out now through Grimoire Records. Links below.
The new album from Electric Jaguar Baby continues the fuzzed up garage rock trance, Psychic Death Safari.
Since 2015, eclectic duo Electric Jaguar Baby from Paris, France has been creating fascinating vibes. Over the course of the intervening years, a trio of EPs and their debut album have left a trail for music lovers to follow that is wickedly diverse and endlessly entertaining. The identity of the central musical pair remains mysterious, but we do know that there are guest appearances on the album by Luca of Go!Zilla on vocals and organ, and Jed of ZigZags on guitar.
The band describes the new album as “a gangbang between Ty Segall, Josh Homme, Jack White and Ozzy Osbourne, sprinkled with retro and occult 70’s vibes”. If that doesn’t capture your imagination then you must be in a coma.
“Hitmaker” opens with a catchy 1970s rock riff then continues with similarly-styled vocals. It hooks you immediately – there is no way to not hang out and listen. “Flashlight” is a little denser, a bit trippier. It sets a cruise and rolls on down the gently winding highway. By the time we get to “Shiver River,” I had an Amboy Dukes flashback. Every song cooks, and the listening is good.
There is a lot to like on this record. One of my favorite tracks is “Hellcome” – love the lead guitar and the assertive past-central riff. And come on, “Jaguar’s Boogie” is a thing of beauty. If you are into garage rock, 1970s sensibilities, and fuzzed up trippy stoniness, there is no way you can go wrong here. Recommended.
Psychic Death Safari is out now through Ripple Music’s Rebel Waves Records on vinyl, CD, and digital. If you like what you hear, check out the band’s back catalogue at their Bandcamp page (link below).
The new album from Deadly Vipers, their second, is a welcome stop on the international stoner road: Low City Drone.
From Facebook, “Deadly Vipers is a French stoner-rock band from Cabestany.” There really is not much information in the press materials, and I had not heard of this band before so I find myself a bit adrift. On their FB page there is a little more, for those who are willing to browse. We find that the first album was called Fueltronaut and was released in 2017. That’s about it. The music is a fuzzy, bluesy stoner rock affair, and I am all in for that. Drop the needle.
It all begins with “Echoes From Wasteland,” a song that has a slow build leading to, as promised, extra fuzziness. It is a nice intro piece that sets up “Atom” nicely. The vocals are sassy and the guitar is cantankerous. There is a turbulent spacefuzz section where we appear to be wandering in the cosmos. Soon enough, never fear, we gain orientation and everything turns out all right. “Low City Drone” shows up next, with all the expectations that a title track bears on its back. Even without the titular nomenclature, it is clear that this nine-minute song is the center of the record’s universe. As it goes on, the music begins to weigh you down in a familiar, comforting way, nearly building a codependence where anxiety creeps in on the thought of the song ending. The guitar work here is amazing and the vocals are defining.
In other parts of the set there are fascinating nooks and crannies, places of both zest and rest. Take each on its own terms and avoid comparing any instantiation to another because they are not necessarily fellows. “Welli Welloo” is a tasty up-tempo bumper that is worth a second listen. “Last Rise” is a slower track, and it has a wonderfully dooming feel to it that I really liked. The lead guitar will eat you alive. The cool down is “Big Empty,” a well-paced, reflective bit that that shows up at exactly the right time. As I said, I hadn’t heard of Deadly Vipers before but I am glad I know about them now. Recommended.
Low City Drone is out now through Fuzzorama Records. In the US, Bandcamp is a good place to pick it up.
Mountain stoner band Wizzerd throw down the fuzz on their third full-length album, Space‽: Issue No.000.
I don’t know what I have been doing with my life, but I didn’t hear anything from Wizzerd until the Ripple Music split Turned to Stone Chapter III: Wizzerd vs. Merlin. That one turned my head. Stoner mountain music is a real thing. I mean, I always think first of the desert when fuzztones ring, but this manner of music transcends all environments. Doomchild (2016) was the first, followed in 2019 by the self-titled album. And then there are a couple of demos and a string of EPs from Wizzerd circulating in the cosmos – a good chunk of music to make your way through on a journey you will never forget. The band is Jhalen Salazar (guitar, vocals), Jamie Yeats (guitar), Sam Moore (drums), and Layne Matkovich (bass).
The new record has eleven tasty tracks, beginning, appropriately, with “Launch,” which is a ramp of calamity to “Sisters of the Sun.” Listen to the opening bars of “Sisters” and you will know right away which island you have landed on. Happy-go-lucky transforms into a more serious-sounding hammering fuzztone that hangs on to the end, with dashes of guitar enthusiasm. Staying in space, “Supernova” continues the exploration on essentially the same plane. It does feel like the urgency has amped up on this one, and I love the dual guitaring. “Attack of the Gargantuan Moon Spiders” does not take place in space but might as well for the way it fits in with the early tracks. You can feel a down shift, and it is a good, rollicking gear. The psychedelica is kicking in hereabouts and once it gets its tendrils in you, there they stay.
What appeals most to me about this record is the incredible guitar work. The trippyness is fine thing, too, but I will always walk across the room and point at the guitars. There is a loose-form jamminess to many of the passages and those meld better with your psychic self in its altered state, but no alterations are actually necessary to enjoy the music. Watch out for “Space Chase” to give you an adrenaline injection, and “Doom Machine Smoke Break” for a nice hypothetical cool down that is actually a deep dive into the nature of things. This album definitely cooks. Recommended.
Space‽: Issue No.000 is out on Friday, September 30th through Swedish label Fuzzorama Records. In the US, Bandcamp is the easy place to pick it up (once it appears there – at this writing there is only a single showing up … patience).
Philadelphia psychedelic stoner band Grave Bathers regale the world with their debut album, Rock N Roll Fetish.
Since 2018, Grave Bathers have been delighting the stoner rock/metal crowd with mood- and mind-altering music. Their combination of doom, groove, and even boogie produces an alluring aural argument for even more of the same – once you start listening, you don’t want to stop. The band is Drew Robinson (vocals), Jaret Salvat-Rivera (guitar), Steve Capitanio (guitar), Davis M. Shubs (bass), and Sean Lafferty (drums).
The album is massive, with twelve tracks mostly running over six minutes each. The opener “Ghost Em All” is an excellent example of what to expect. A peppy, rockin’ riff up front, a dooming slow down with a killer lead guitar break, then a shift back in the to more up-tempo rock-n-riff posture. And then little guitar-driven boogie side of fries to go along with that. Damn.
So, each song is a journey, but they certainly are not all the same. “Brain Thief” starts with a craftsman riff that is a thing of beauty. The vocals are spacier here than in the first song, and a generally more psychedelic feel obtains. O, and there is a wild drum solo in the middle. “The Mole” stalks into different terrain altogether with an eerie, slow intro that builds into monstrous doom riffs then turns melancholy before exploding as the end nears. “Tarman Cometh” sounds at first like a straight-up doom treatise but careens into Clutch territory. The patterns are dissolving, if they were ever there at all. When the title track rolls, I finally stop trying to anticipate what will be next because this could be Dr. John sitting in on a doom session and I did not see that coming. Fantastic.
I could go on and on here, but I think you are getting the idea and it is better if you go right to listening to it instead of reading more of my musings on the subject. This is a grooving doom album with inventive, unstoppable guitars, astonishing percussion, and, if I haven’t mentioned it yet, amazing bass lines. I don’t think I will never get tired of hearing this record. Recommended.
Rock N Roll Fetish is out on Friday, August 5th through Seeing Red Records.
San Diego prog rock band Birth issue their debut full-length album, Born.
Birth emanated from the band Astra, the latter having released an impressive set of albums, including The Weirding (2009) and The Black Chord (2012). They play progressive rock in a style that might remind you of King Crimson at times, or the deeper moments of Yes. Jazz inlays and ethereal engagements combine with celestial pulses and expeditions featuring ever-present key work and mesmerizing guitars. The band is Conor Riley (keys, acoustic guitar, vocals), Brian Ellis (guitar, keys), Trevor Mast (bass), and Thomas DiBenedetto (drums).
There are six tracks on the new album, beginning with the title song. O man, what a way to kick things off. It is a psychedelic flashback that could be a combination of ELP and Yes with more cosmic energy infused into monumental conceptions of Earth. Illustrious keys and vibrant guitar enterprises give way to thoughtful, languid explorations. It was difficult to resist simply hitting repeat over and over on the first song. “Descending Us” comes next with a more serious-sounding set-up. The vocals transform from bard to soothsayer as the song goes along, and the guitar is a constant reminder of flux, creation and destruction.
Throughout the album, we experience this manner of journey and description at every turn. We are invited, really, to consider what is happening around us at the terrestrial level as well as the celestial one, and all spaces in between. “Cosmic Tears” is perhaps my favorite song on the album as it, for me, showcases best the way in which a paradigm can be constructed – it imagines the edges of understanding then peers within them and beyond. The writing and performance are exceptional. Highly recommended.
Born is out from Bad Omen Records and Metal Blade Records on Friday, July 15th. This is one to mark on the calendar.
Stoner doom band Lucid Grave release their debut long-player, Cosmic Mountain.
Situated in Copenhagen, Denmark, Lucid Grave has been haunting stages for a few years. After a demo and an EP, they have now put together an impressive full-length album for their ever-expanding fan base to groove on. Heavy psych, doom, ritual, and stoner vibes infiltrate every nook in this music. The band is Malene (vocals), Jon (drums), Alex (bass), Casper (guitar and synth), and Kriller (guitar and synth).
There are six tracks on the new album, three long ones and three very long ones. The title track kicks the set off with opening ambient tones and an eerie, emotive vocal. The voice is mesmerizing, having the effect of a chant in this context, rather like ritual metal. It is nearly three minutes in before the first big guitar riff lands, and when it does the impact is titanic. The pace is slow but determined and meaningful. “Old Spirit” follows in a completely different way, reminding me at times of a Nina Hagen – digging in with punk attitudes and contemporary sentimentiation [I made that word up just now]. The lead break toward the end is very trippy.
The differential existence of both faster-paced and slow-paced songs works exceptionally well on this record. “I’m Still High” is next and it has an arc the other songs largely avoid. “I Feel The Fire” is somber and not at all sober. “Stay Away” is a Pink Floyd tonic and the closer, “Curse Of the Crow,” digs in deep. The massive natural musical weight of the composition gains access to your deepest inner self if you have prepared for it properly and if you are open to the experience. The ramp out could be effective in an Ayahuasca exploration. This song, and this album, could change you. Recommended.
Cosmic Mountain is out on Friday, July 15th through Electric Valley Records.