Sungrazer, Mirador (2011)
About a decade ago, The Atomic Bitchwax wrote a song called “The Passenger” which featured the lines, “I always thought you’d come around/Realize where your home really was…” and went on to talk about filling the space with fuzz. When it comes to certain bands calling it quits, “Realize where your home really was” continues to ring in my head. I guess that, since they broke up in 2013, I figured that the three members of Netherlands-based heavy psych rockers Sungrazer would spend the next however many years working their way back to each other. Different projects would come and go, whatever personality or creative conflicts that might have been insurmountable at the time would fall by the wayside, seen at last for how minute they actually were in comparison to the special collaboration between the three of them. Eventually, one way or another, Sungrazer would get back together.
I’ll allow this was a fan’s denial. Between 2010’s Sungrazer (review here) and 2011’s Mirador (review here), I had them pegged as the forerunners of the next generation of European fuzz. The band who could take the lessons of Colour Haze and maybe push even further into something new, turning influence into something truly individual and thus becoming an influence in their own right. When they disbanded after 2013’s split with The Machine (review here), it was hard not to feel like there was potential going to waste. Here was a band who, already so clearly with something special to offer, could have done so much more just blatantly refusing to do it.
It was heartbreaking to learn earlier this week about the passing of former Sungrazer guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets. Genuinely, and not just because I dug the band he used to play in or the band he went on to play in afterward (that being Cigale). I don’t know what Smeets‘ circumstances were, but it’s almost too easy to read into, which is an impulse I’ve been trying all week, mostly unsuccessfully, to fight against.
And so, we close out the week with Mirador, the second and final full-length from Sungrazer. There was really no other choice, and to be honest, I haven’t put on much else since Tuesday. I remember getting a review copy of Mirador and listening to it in the morning a lot, even after I wrote it up, and though I wasn’t even really done yet with the self-titled — still not, as it happens — I recall thinking what a huge step forward it was for Smeets, bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders. How they had managed to develop so much chemistry between them in just a year’s time, how natural they sounded, and how fluid the whole experience of hearing it was, from the ultra-catchy “Sea” into the progressive harmonies of “Behind,” the molten explorations of “Mirador” itself and the playful spirit of “34 and More.” Between these and the early patience established on opener “Wild Goose,” the fade-in of which seems to pick up right from where the debut left off, the instrumental “Octo,” and “Goldstrike,” which is like the gateway to the expanses to come, Mirador remains four years later an album that stands out as a high point in the style. In light of Smeets‘ passing, it seems even more precious, and we should be all the more grateful to have it.
The loss is bigger than we can know. I’ve already expressed my condolences to family, friends and bandmates, but again: Heel veel sterkte. Gecondoleerd.