Fact: You don?t release eight records independently on your own label if you don?t believe in what you?re doing. Palm Springs, California, real-deal desert rockers Dali?s Llama have done just that, with Raw is Real serving as the latest in a long line and taking a somewhat darker approach than other recent offerings. The album continues Dali?s Llama?s production relationship with Scott Reeder (The Obsessed, Kyuss), who helmed last year?s Full on Dunes and 2007?s Sweet Sludge, and the two entities seem more in step than ever before.
Prior to issuing the album, Dali?s Llama guitarist/vocalist Zach Huskey posited that it was their heaviest yet and (as noted above) darker as well. While I only have the last couple to compare it to, Raw is Real definitely lives up to its name, more ideologically than sonically — it sounds clean but there is a cynical bite to the lyrics of songs like ?Theocracy? and the punkish ?Grump? that, political or not, adds thematic heft to the proceedings and stands the album out among its predecessors. Dali?s Llama aren?t the first to politicize stoner music to the extent they do so, but within the context of their work and in particular this record, there is a refreshing amount of honesty and forthrightness coming out in these songs. Hey, raw is real, right?
Regarding Reeder?s production, there are moments on Raw is Real that feel flat and moments that positively sizzle. When the guitar solo kicks in on ?Hell No,? for example, it?s as though the album has come to life. Likewise, the opening riffs of later cuts ?Syphilization? (love the count in with the snare — very death metal) and ?Blackout? are prime grooves, highlighted with Huskey and Joe Dillon?s guitars up in the mix, whereas even on the opening title vibe is there but not as palpable. It works for the more mellow, sweet tones of ?Always? (a mid-album favorite), but the ending movement in ?Eve?s Navel? is begging to stand out more than it does. This is a minor, easy-to-get-used-to gripe, but worthy of note, nonetheless.
Instrumental, largely-feedback closer ?Fluids? shuts down Raw is Real with thick tones from bassist Erica Huskey. Drummer Jeff Howe?s cymbals could stand to be more present (it feels like they?ve been turned down or compressed), but by and large, he gives an impressive if straightforward showing. More or less, Dali?s Llama specialize in desert rock for the initiated. That is, if you?ve already dug into Kyuss, Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, etc., and you understand what the sound is all about, they have plenty to offer. That?s not to say they couldn?t be a starting point for someone just getting into the sound, but they?re best appreciated in the context of what?s come before and parallel to them.
Similarly, don?t be put off by their lineage and the fact that Raw is Real is their eighth album. There?s nothing inaccessible or off-putting at play with Dali?s Llama. They?re just passionate about what they do — which is fortunate, because it means they?ll hopefully be doing it for a long time to come.
Tags: California, Dali's Llama, Dali's Llama Records, Palm Springs