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 ). 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.