As much Detroit, the nine-track debut full-length from Italian three-piece Killer Boogie, boasts raw proto-punker tones, upbeat shuffle and relentless groove with just a touch of psychedelia in its scorch, even more pervasive throughout the Heavy Psych Sounds release is a sense of self-awareness. Led by guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori, also of Black Rainbows, Killer Boogie come across as more geared toward the retro-style ’70s rock currently holding sway on the European scene in the wake of Graveyard‘s blues rock supremacy, but their take is rawer than most, and that gives them an edge. They are conscious of it. Fiori, who is joined by drummer Luigi Costanzo and bassist Matteo Marini — though Edoardo Mancini plays bass on the album — is someone involved enough in heavy rock, running Heavy Psych Sounds, booking tours and playing in Black Rainbows and now Killer Boogie as well, that in putting together this new band, the mission seems to be one of aesthetic. Could be that he, Costanzo and Mancini came together as happenstance, whipped up a batch of songs and Detroit is what came out of it, but the album feels more purposeful than that, from the opening rush of “Bad Rebel” to the psych-surge of “Cosmic Eyes,” which is more than twice as long as anything else here at 8:38 and opens side B of what’s clearly a vinyl-minded 36-minute release, smartly positioned in its concept and execution even down to the thick lines and deep orange and yellow tones of its cover art. The sound is raw and natural, but the songwriting has a more than accidental focus. Killer Boogie know what they’re doing, and they chose their name well.
And if there’s romanticism in the trio’s vision of the city of Detroit, they’re thinking way more the land and the time that birthed the MC5 and The Stooges than the empty post-industrial wasteland it has become, landmarks like Michigan Central Station becoming ruined monuments of early 20th Century capitalist ambition. It’s a very specific idea of Detroit that Detroit proffers — the sons of working men picking up guitars, growing their hair, doing drugs and freaking out on the empty promise of straightlaced middle-class life, distortion ringing from open-air stages. Get your motor running. And they do. Fiori‘s guitar features no less prominently here than in Black Rainbows, and on “Bad Rebel” and the subsequent “Riding the Wind,” and his leads are positively searing. “Riding the Wind” burns white hot on a current of rhythmic swing propelled by Costanzo‘s crash cymbal and Mancini‘s bass, but it’s Fiori out front as the driving force, and that remains true for the duration. “My Queen” follows with a progression that will call to mind some of Radio Moscow‘s about-to-fly-off-the-rails-but-never-does unhinged ’70s push, Fiori tossing off another pair of righteous solos en route to “Little Flowers,” a similarly-minded vibe with a more open verse that continues the album’s momentum, which by this point seems like an unceasing forward motion, Killer Boogie rollercoastering their way up, down and through twists and turns of Cactus-minded wallop, but change is soon to arrive as well, and “Silver Universe” — a title it’s hard to believe Hawkwind didn’t already use — is the first sign of its coming. Slowed down, more spaced out, it’s Killer Boogie‘s first real headfirst dive into psychedelic textures, underscored by a tension in the drums that “Cosmic Eyes” pays off in full.
True, “Cosmic Eyes” is all the more a standout for being two-times the length of every other song on the record, but it also brilliantly moves between one of Detroit‘s most fervent stomps in its early verses to Om-meets-Hawkwind-style psychedelic ritualizing in its midsection, all effects swirl, resonant low end and build back up to the impact level of the track’s initial movement. They end quiet and remind some of Kadavar in how they seem to so easily switch modes from purposefully straightforward songwriting to spacious psych rock, but the unassuming “Summer Time” snaps the listener back to reality, such as it is, with a simpler, mid-paced rolling groove that transitions back to the full-throttle grooving of “Golden Age” and “Dynamite,” well placed as the closing duo to bookend the album on a similar feel to its arrival, almost like the excursion to that sprawling sonic elsewhere was a dream. So be it. “Golden Age” is particularly memorable coming out of “Summer Time,” and when “Dynamite” hits to round out Detroit, its rising surge of feedback and ensuing gallop make a fitting capstone to the record’s leave-those-edges-rough sensibility and offer a last showing of Fiori‘s tube-melting solo work. Killer Boogie leave nothing wanting in bringing their aesthetic to life or in the energy with which they pull off these songs, and Detroit‘s live feel is one of its most useful assets in conveying its stylistic purpose. I don’t know how the band will ultimately balance out with Black Rainbows – they have a new album, Hawkdope, due in March — but even if it’s relegated to side-project status in the end, Killer Boogie brings something of its own to the increasingly established classic heavy rock sound, and between the chemistry of the players throughout and its hints at future psych trips to come, there’s definitely enough to Detroit to warrant future exploration.