Altered States, with Dr. Space

Posted in Altered States on November 29th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

In his latest column for The Obelisk, Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Danish psych jammers Øresund Space Collective takes us through a gem of obscure Japanese psychedelic heaviness, the 1987 debut LP No More Pain, by Tokyo trio Doom. Please enjoy:

Doom, No More Pain (Explosion Records EXP-HM283Q24)

DOOM were an amazing Japanese three-piece band that made some pioneering records in the ‘80s and early ‘90s. They were led by fretless bass player Koh Moroto, who sadly passed away in 1999. No More Pain was released only in Japan and came in April 1987. I received a copy on a promo tape earlier in the year and then the real vinyl copy arrived in April. I ran my own heavy metal fanzine called Metal Madness from 1984-1988 and followed the Japanese scene closely due to a good Japanese friend.

Anyway, I was totally blown away by this record and still am today. The band had previously released a 7” also on Explosion Records in 1986. This record starts off with the very intense, “Death to Wimp!” It has a slow looping Japanese drone, drum intro as the sound gets louder and louder and faster and faster then, bang – it just hits you full-force (especially if you have it cranked up loud!). Takashi Fujita was the brilliant riff master and psychedelic guitar solo deliverer and also the vocalist. The riff is heavy metal, thrash but then Takashi plays these really intense solos like in the slow part of this opening track which then suddenly switches after the slow section into Slayer-like thrash metal. Very intense stuff.

The record production is also really excellent and powerful. “Body No Body” starts with some really intense bass before the main section takes off at a fast pace. It is really the bass and intense time changes that drive this track. The solo section takes you to some otherworldly dimension as the sound floats over the top of the clear and intense bass lines. This was clearly way ahead of its time and some of the first what I would call psychedelic experimental metal. The spacey section in this track is just so cool. They had dynamics.

“I ‘m Your Junky Doll” is probably my favourite track on this record as it has this hypnotic rhythm and just cool strangeness to it and a killer guitar riff. Wow, what a powerful number. “Cry of You No Long Life” ends side A. The riff is very influenced by the fast songs of Slayer and Metallica of this era but has a really complex rhythm, amazing bass and dynamics. Again, Takashi plays some really psychedelic shredding and crazy guitar. You have to remember these guys were a three-piece and did not have two guitars so Koh, his bass playing is so powerful, they could just drive the tracks without the rhythm guitar when Takashi was soloing.

Flip the record over and you have the title-track, “No More Pain.” It starts slowly and quiet with a solo melodic guitar line, some ideas and things you hear on the first Dark Buddha Rising LP appear (I wonder if they ever heard this record) and the bassline comes in alone and then the band takes off with a massive intensity, but only briefly before a super-cool beautiful guitar section and an almost whispered vocal is mixed to a quite psychedelic effect.

Again, amazing dynamics. And the midsection is totally psyched-out with crazy guitar and voice and other effects, getting really intense before the beautiful parts return and repeat several times. “Iron Card” is a fast one with more cool bass and the band is tuned in a different way on this track, giving it a different sound. It is a bit like Motörhead almost at times. “Kick it Out” has a heavy riff and changing rhythm like Metallica, but they do it in their own way, and “Til Death” is a super-fast thrash number. Takashi returns with that really cool psychedelic guitar soloing sound that just lifts the solo out of the sound somehow.

This might not be for everyone but it was the first metal that I heard that I considered psychedelic. Two years ago, Victor in Japan rereleased four of the band’s CDs from the Killing Fields EP (1988) to Human Noise (1991). This record has still never been re-released. The CD is available in Japan with the first EP on it as well.

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Altered States, with Dr. Space

Posted in Altered States on October 3rd, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

One thing about Scott Heller (aka Dr. Space): The dude loves him some space. In his second “Altered States” column for The Obelisk, the Øresund Space Collective jammer takes a song-by-song look at the underrated Pleasant Journey in Heavy Tunes, released in 2000 by Danish outfit Gas Giant. Heller was intimately familiar with the band from their days as Blind Man Bluff, and one can almost feel the grooves of the songs themselves reading his review.

Hope you enjoy:

GAS GIANT- PLEASANT JOURNEY IN HEAVY TUNES (Burnt Hippie Records BHR-003/Loudsprecher LSD043)

While this Danish psychedelic stoner space rock band does not officially exist anymore (the three main guys still play together and make music), in 2000, they released this all time classic record. I met the guys back in 1998, when the band was still called Blind Man Buff. They started BMB in the mid-‘90s after disbanding the ZZ Top cover band, Tube Snake Boogie. These guys were really hard working and from 1995-2001, were meeting three days a week to jam and make songs and listen to Fu Manchu, Monster Magnet, Kyuss, Black Sabbath, etc… They would occasionally come out and play live as well but not that often.

In 1999, I started hanging out with the band and recording a number of their rehearsals and all their live shows. In January, they entered the studio with local soundman and producer, Ralph Rjeily, (who recently passed away and I wrote a tribute piece to here on this site), where they recorded at the local Black Tornado Studios. These were some intense days as they jammed and laid down the basic tracks for this classic record. The big muff sound on the bass and guitar, with Stefan’s vintage Sound City head and late ‘60s Marshall cabinet was a mean, dirty, fucking heavy sound and pretty well captured on these raw recordings.

One of the things that made the record so intense was the really raw and in your face sound of the guitar and bass, which was mixed really up front, leaving the drummer Pete Hell, in the back but still audible.

The CD starts off with what is now a stoner rock classic, “Too Stoned” (it was the first song on the High times Magazine compilation, High Volume: The Stoner Rock Collection [2004]). The band had previously recorded this song on the Blind Man Buff EP two years before but were not totally satisfied with it. It starts off with the sound of a water pipe as the main guitar riff enters before the killer bassline kicks in. The delays on Jesper’s voice also give it a really psychedelic feel. The main chorus arrives with a powerful Kyuss-like riff and Jesper ramps up the intensity in his vocal delivery as well. The midsection is very spacey and then the tune just takes off with a heavy groove and an uptempo ending.

“Sit Down” starts with the heavy bass before the monster guitar riff kicks in. The lyrics are always very interesting and strange and Jesper delivers a very powerful performance on every song with a catchy chorus that you can sing along to. This one is very raw, a bit looser, grooving but focused on being heavy. Stefan starts to let loose some guitar solos but just teasing you to start. Down the Highway has one of the most nasty guitar and heavy bass from this time period to start this track in this slow grooving track. The mid section slows almost to a stop and there are some spacey sounds before Pete kicks in with the drums again and Thomas leads the groove with the heavy bass line. “All Creatures” starts off with a very psychedelic effected vocal part before the killer groove just takes off again with that really fuzzed out, raw nasty sound. The mid section is really spacey with a lot more effects, delay vocals, cool guitar and heavy bass and then they just rock out like a mother fucker! ”The celebration is about to begin, may I have this dance…”

“Super Sun Trigger” is a very short, catchy and powerful song built on the killer flange guitar riff and sing-along chorus that just gets you hooked. Jesper sings in a bit more laid back fashion until the chorus, “Rescue me/The super sun trigger is coming to you.” “Desert Call” is actually quite an old song of the band’s dating back to 1996. It slows things down a lot but has a real basic easygoing feel and you eventually get hooked. Thomas’s bass line is so intense in the mix, really in your face. “Freak Sensation” is another fuzzed out number with a catchy groove. Jesper has an added effect on the vocal and like “Down the Highway,” the band space out in the middle (live this was often really far out and cool), with Thomas playing some wah bass and Stefan some nasty soloing (what a sound!) before they kick it into high gear and take off again.

The regular CD ends with one of my favourite Gas Giant songs, “Storm of My Enemies,” which used to develop into monster jams live, sometimes over 20 minutes! It is a slow, psychedelic track and when the main guitar riff kicks in complimented by the bass, it is very powerful. Thomas even plays the didgeridoo on this one in the sections before the main riff takes hold. Heavy, intense, psychedelic. The CD features an unlisted track called “Holy Walker,” which was completely conceived in the studio. It is a sort of an electric ballad that came up very spontaneously and features some great guitar and passionate vocals.

Unfortunately for those who never got to see this band live, they were a real mean machine and the songs here were never played like they are on the record and Stefan always did a lot more guitar soloing live and jamming. Lucky for you guys, I recorded nearly ever live concert they played from 1999 until 2005. You can find them at www.archive.org under the Live concert archive. Check out the concert from Leipzeig 2002 for a real blast. The band who made the Mana record (Elektrohasch, 2003) have reunited for a couple of special shows here in Denmark in 2012 but it is unlikely to lead to a full reunion as the guys are busy with other music projects and family obligations.

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Altered States with Dr. Space

Posted in Altered States on July 24th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The doctor is in. For his debut column for The Obelisk, Scott Heller — aka Dr. Space of Copenhagen space rock improvisors Øresund Space Collective — embarks on a cosmos-bound trip with a glance at UK trio Dead Flowers‘ third and final album — appropriately-enough titled Altered State Circus. As you’ll see, he likes it spacey. Please enjoy:

Altered States with Dr. Space

Hello everyone. I hope you are all doing well this summer. Thanks to JJ, I will begin to write a monthly column about classic psychedelic rock music. I have been writing about music since 1984, when I wrote a heavy metal fanzine called Metal Madness (Albuquerque, New Mexico). One of the contributors to the fanzine from Chicago started getting me into Hawkwind and through my tape trading with Chuck Wax in Michigan, I became fully immersed in the UK psychedelic rock scene that flourished in the ‘80s producing many cool space and psychedelic rock bands like Omnia Opera, Ozric Tentacles, Mandragora, Ship of Fools, Sundial, Strobe, Magic Mushroom Band, Poisoned Electrick Head, the Bevis Frond and Dead Flowers, just to mention a few.

The one record from this time period that really blew my mind was Altered State Circus from Dead Flowers. This would sadly be the Newcastle band’s best but also last record ever. It was released on Delerium Records in 1994 on both vinyl and CD (DELEC LP/CD022). It also had an amazing album cover, which fit perfectly with the vibe of the music. The band’s previous two records were more raw acid rock excursions, while Altered State Circus was more spaced out, psychedelic and fully engaging.

The LP opens with “The Elephant’s Eye was Eerie.” Cool title. It starts with some spacey synths and the delay guitar kicks in with a cool lead line and the Steve Hillage/Ozric Tentalces-like main riff. The drummer appears quite loud at first and then the groovy bassline starts. The vocals are whispered as the head mix really builds with more synthesizers layered in and spacing around. The title-track, “Altered States Circus” is next. It starts with a really cool guitar that starts in the right channel and then both channels and then the bass kicks in. A bit heavier guitar riff but then it gets a bit spaceier and they repeat this sequence until the guitar break, which they have a nice delay on, then the riff becomes much harder around three minutes, as the track builds up. You can hear on the YouTube video below, where someone has added a film clip from 1928 and made this the soundtrack.

“Warmth Within (Chemical Binoculars)” is another 10-minute piece that starts a bit like the opening track, but the vocals are sung, not whispered. A melodic thread runs through as the spacey wind synths cruise from speaker to speaker, a lead synth line entering a bit later but the main drive remaining the spacey push of the guitar line and steady bass and drum groove. At about 6 minutes, the pace really picks up as the guitar becomes moves further out and the synths become more complex and integrated. “Slouch Factor” has a really cool wah guitar with a really stoned laid backed groove and vibe throughout. The vocal is also really stoned and calm. Steev Swayambhunath plays some really great guitar as well as the spacey synth of Chris Barnett — really floating and psychedelic. “Full Fist” is the shortest song and a heavier guitar riff and angrier vocal are a perfect follow-up to the calm, spaced-out cut before.

It gets really spaced out at the end. “Free the Weed” is eight minutes, starts with a spacey synth mixed quite loud and the delay guitars a bit further back. The vocals go back to a more laid back style, and this track really builds up over time. The lyrics are really excellent as well and not just about marijuana but broader freedom. “Vodophone in Oz” is a 12-minute, really spaced out track, with some hand drums and samples as it slowly builds up the groove. It has hardly any guitar, but is a really trippy electronic track by the end, showing a bit of the direction, Steev would take his music after Dead Flowers with 3000003. Almost like early trance techno without the thump! If you are fan of Ozric Tenacles, Steve Hillage, Mandragora and other head music, give this a chance.

You can also read my reviews if you join my blog, Writing about Music.

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