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Deep Space Destructors, II: Beneath the Deserted Planet

There’s a touch of space-rock theatricality to “Spacy Phantasy,” the third of the four extended cuts on Finnish heavy psych rockers Deep Space Destructors‘ second self-released album, II, but even that is mitigated by the warmth of tone in the band’s low end, provided by bassist Jani Pitkänen. Pitkänen also handles vocals where and when they pop up throughout the aptly-titled sophomore outing, backed by guitarist Pete and drummer Markus Pitkänen as well, and the band ranges in that regard from the guttural psychedelic chanting of the chugging second half of opener “Beneath the Black Star” to the echoing Finnish-language incantations toward the end of closer “Sykli.” By and large, the songs are jam-based but not without structure to their parts, and II‘s flow is open and easy accordingly.

So what we have is a four-track/38-minute European heavy psych record with jam-minded songwriting and warm, thick tonality in the guitars and bass propelled by organic grooves and classic rocking rhythms. Hardly new terrain in the grand scheme of the current wave of Euro acts, but the Pitkänens and Pete have also shown significant development since the release of their first album, I (review here), last year, branching out stylistically here and there while presenting a more complex songwriting modus all around, as demonstrated on “Beneath the Black Star,” which is genuinely plotted however jammed-out its parts may sound. This move toward premeditation works to the Oulu trio’s favor almost as much as the Markus Räisänen cover art, the rich blues and intricate design of which effectively mirror the band’s engrossing style. As “Beneath the Black Star” stomps to its finish and album highlight “Deserted Planet 2078” opens with a jazzy bassline from Jani and Pete‘s open strumming,Markus’ drums answer back with natural-sounding thud, marking the launch of a gradual progression that plays out over the course of the track.

Tonally, “Deserted Planet 2078” isn’t so much fuzzy as it is covered in hair, and the progressive vocal treatment in its initial verse strike as a surprise the band puts to good use in giving the impression that, although they’re still a relatively new band — having formed in 2011 — they have a clear idea of where in the niche they want to reside. For what it’s worth, Deep Space Destructors write long songs that don’t feel long. Working in movements as much as parts, “Deserted Planet 2078” locks into a ride-it-out bridge groove before stepping back into the initial verse line in the second half, and then — as Markus switches to a faster push on his ride cymbal — launches into the space rocking that will only become more prevalent as “Spacy Phantasy” takes hold. In short, it’s the jam. But even here, the band hasn’t lost their sense of direction, and the jam is leading somewhere rather than plateauing and holding steady. Just before seven minutes in, “Deserted Planet 2078” comes to a halt and introduces a classic rock riff that it essentially pounds on for the next minute and half to end the song. There was little to presage its arrival, but with the shifts in rhythm around it and the repetitive cycling, some riffs are their own excuse for being. With the open vibes the band has on offer, it’s not like it seems out of place, even leading into the echoing reaches that open “Spacy Phantasy.”

I never had a space fantasy other than, well, going there, so I can’t exactly say what Deep Space Destructors are getting at with the track, but the vocal melody hits on what might happen if Torche covered Hawkwind, and the groove is tighter than it seems on a cursory listen. Toward the midsection, Jani, Pete and Markus let things get a little weird with some bass wah and vocal arrangement quirk, but still they hold to a build and drive toward a late ’60s psychedelic churn, impressively managing not to lose themselves as one part leads to another leads to another before — similar to “Deserted Planet 2078” — the song breaks before introducing its outro riff and riding it to an effective conclusion. Dense fuzz abounds here, with just a touch of retro ’70s soul, but though I might want Deep Space Destructors to develop that and see where the jam leads, they cut off and move into the closer, “Sykli,” which continues the cosmic thematics of “Spacy Phantasy” musically while embarking on their most ambitious progression yet. The title translates from Finnish to “Cycle,” and while one might infer from that that the three-piece is going to end up back where they started, “Sykli” instead runs almost entirely linear, enacting a track-long build that proves as patient as it is ultimately satisfying, Pete‘s guitar work and Jani‘s bass playing splendidly off each other in power-trio fashion while Markus holds the song together.

Settling into a nod-worthy groove, Markus announces the final run with a drum fill as the guitar and bass drop out for just a second and Deep Space Destructors launch as a unit into the album’s ending movement. They’ve done so now in roughly the same structural fashion on three out of II‘s four tracks, so the move isn’t exactly a surprise, but Jani emerges from the fray with a echoing verse in Finnish and Deep Space Destructors feel like the masters of their own destiny — that is, that they know what they’re doing and what their reasons are for doing it — as a higher-pitched voice jars by coming on suddenly with the album’s last vocalization before the instruments carry out the last 90-plus seconds of the song riding out that same riff. The band are obviously still developing their style and their approach, but II taps into formidable heavy psych grooving, and ultimately it’s the band’s loyalty to the idea of structure that allows the record to succeed in hooking the listener. Acts this spaced-out are rarely sedentary, so I’ll look forward to seeing where the solar winds carry them next time around.

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One Response to “Deep Space Destructors, II: Beneath the Deserted Planet”

  1. […] reading: The Obelisk: REVIEW: Deep Space Destructors, II (Courtesy of JJ Koczan / The […]

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