Posted in Whathaveyou on October 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
In the wide world of heavy rock sloganeering, there are few urgencies as compelling as ‘Trip on the Ship.’ The invitation, courtesy of reliably brash Texas trio Mothership, is set to be renewed in the first part of 2017 with the coming of a third album. As yet untitled, one can only imagine it’ll be called Mothership III in the spirit of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but that’s by no means confirmed, so don’t go quoting me on it or anything.
Whatever it’s ultimately named, the third Mothership record will be preceded by a new 7″ single, and as they did prior to the last outing, the trio of bassist/vocalist Kyle Juett, guitarist/vocalist Kelley Juett and drummer Judge Smith have started to play new material live. One can’t help but wonder how the significant amount of road time they’ve put in since Mothership II — touring alongside Corrosion of Conformity, labelmates Wo Fat and Brant Bjork, among others — will have factored into their songwriting. It certainly produced a leap forward their last time out, and for a band with the kind of vital delivery as theirs, it’s all the more a crucial part of the growth process.
Ripple put forth a quick line about the coming of the single and the album, and I hit up the band for some comment on the impending doings. You can see what they had to say below:
Mothership new 7″ and new full-length album coming early 2017!
Mothership on their next record:
“Our third offering is fueled by the same supersonic intergalactic heavy rock and roll music that has brought us together today. We are confident this new batch of tunes will solidify your being on board with us, and motivate you to invite others to take a trip and join us as well. These songs perfectly capture the next chapter in our saga across this great planet and beyond. We are currently playing a few of these songs in our set, so come out and hear ’em LIVE before they are released!”
Mothership is: Kelley Juett – Guitars/Vox Kyle Juett – Bass/Vox Judge Smith – Drums
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
A scant couple months after rounding out the summer with a run through the Midwest, Houston-based dark heavy rockers Doomstress will head out on their next tour, this time hitting the Southeast on a run dubbed “Southern Bounty.” Sure enough it’s harvest season, and by the time they go, Doomstress will have released their new single, Wicked Woman, on limited vinyl through DHU Records, so all the more appropriate in terms of their timing. In October, they’ll also make a hometown appearance at the End Hip End It fest, alongside Radio Moscow, Mondo Drag, Crypt Trip and a vast assortment of others.
Worth noting that bassist/vocalist “Doomstress” Alexis Hollada and lead guitarist/backing vocalist Brandon Johnson will be joined this time around by a different drummer and second guitarist, rounding out the latest lineup of the four-piece. I’ll be curious to see how their lineup ultimately shakes out past this second single and headed into whatever might be next, be it an EP, full-length debut or what. Till then, tour starts Nov. 4:
DOOMSTRESS – Southern Bounty Tour
Doomstress “Wicked Woman” 7″ vinyl from DHU Records officially released on Halloween adn we are hitting the road again! DOOMSTRESS – Southern Bounty Tour to cover 6 states across southeastern US beginning with our hometown debut in Houston, TX at End Hip End It psych fest and spreading across the gulf coast into Florida and Georgia
On this tour, the DOOMSTRESS lineup will consist of: Doomstress Alexis – bass & vocals Brandon Johnson – lead guitar & backing vocals Andy Kaos Vehnekamp – drums (Texas Massacre/H.R.A./The Guillotines) and Davis Jumper – 2nd guitar (PuraPharm/Saxon King)
10/22-Houston/Old Town Spring, TX @ End Hip End It psych fest (www.endhipendit.com) 11/4-Lake Charles, LA @ Luna Live 11/5-Hattiesburg, MS @ The Tavern 11/6-Lafayette, LA @ Steam Press Cafe 11/7-Birmingham, AL The Nick 11/8-Atlanta/Macon, GA @ tba 11/9-Jacksonville, FL @ Shantytown Pub 11/10-Tampa, FL @ Lucky You Tattoo 11/11-Ft. Lauderdale @ Kreepy Tiki Bar 11/12-Gainseville, FL @ Hardback Cafe
[Click play above to hear a new track from The Well’s Pagan Science. Album is out Oct. 14 on RidingEasy Records.]
In 2014, Austin trio The Well offered up Samsara (review here), their first full-length, on RidingEasy Records. The album wasn’t a revelation in style from what they’d accomplished on their 2012 single, Seven (review here), or the subsequent First Trip EP, but it was a definitive step forward and, to my ears, represented a key piece in the arrival of a new league of US bands ready to take up the mantle of heavy rock.
With the follow-up, Pagan Science (also on RidingEasy), guitarist/vocalist Ian Graham, bassist/vocalist Lisa Alley and drummer Jason Sullivan confirm that supposition. They’ve put in no shortage of road time in the interim, and that would seem to have affected the songwriting in making their material tighter, with shorter, crisply executed songs that manage to fit four more tracks in and still only be five minutes longer than the preceding outing at a vinyl-able 44 minutes.
Not only that, but the arrangements of Alley and Graham‘s vocals, as heard on songs like “I Don’t Believe” and the closing Crosby, Stills and Nash cover “Guinnevere,” as well as the flow between tracks particularly earlier in the proceedings, how “Skybound” picks up from the curiously but rightly placed second-track interlude “Forecast” and leads directly into “A Pilgrimage”‘s tales of gypsy woes all speak to the growth the three-piece have actively undertaken over the last two years, and it makes Pagan Science an expansion of reach even as it seems to have tightened the reins on some of the loose, jammy feel of the first LP.
As in the best of cases, songs feel written to stand out and run together in kind. The band returned to work with producer/engineer Chico Jones at Micro Mega Studio (Mark Deutrom also worked on the last one) earlier this year, so there’s some consistency in overall sound. From the harmonies that signal the beginning of opener “Black Eyed Gods,” The Well still skulk around a murk somewhere between garage doom, heavy psych, classic stoner and yet-undefined Sabbath-born impulses.
Riffs lead the way through the shuffle of “Black Eyed Gods,” and the effect of pairing that with the 41-second low-end noise wash of “Forecast” isn’t to be understated in giving Pagan Science an open sensibility immediately.
The drive of the speedier “Skybound” is introduced and from there, The Well dig deeper into the heart of what their second record is all about — Graham and Alley coming together vocally over Sullivan‘s steady roll busting out memorable tracks that remain spacious in their intent and echo while working around a deceptive structure that even in a longer cut like “Skybound,” which is one of four songs to top five minutes, though none hit 5:30, holds the material together even as they directly tie songs into another to create the whole-album spirit.
“A Pilgrimage” has a landmark chorus and laid back solo that should translate well to the stage if it hasn’t yet, with Alley and Graham trading parts back and forth to conversational effect and though “Drug from the Banks” seems to shift the narrative, its build and chug balance an airy feel in the verse and far-back hook that keep the momentum going, underscoring the efficiency that’s taken root beneath the spiky leaves of The Well‘s sound.
Further in that argument, the chants that mark the arrival of centerpiece “Byzantine” make that song feel all the more appropriate for its position and its gradual unfolding, but it’s still under four minutes long, despite leaving a much grander impression.
I’m not sure where the vinyl split is, if it’s before “Byzantine” or after, but that track is a definite landmark for Pagan Science either way, and “One Nation” picks up with Graham‘s vocals introducing the hook before the rest of the band crashes in with a two-and-a-half-minute nod of some lyrical social comment cloaked in suitably ethereal language.
Could that be The Well showcasing a punk side? Possible, but it fits nonetheless, and “One Nation” ends with a cymbal wash that leads into the ultra-languid bass-highlight start of “Choir of the Stars,” the back half of the album’s own instrumental (save for some samples that may be shouting, may be dogs barking; it’s all pretty obscure) that works to a mirror the effect of “Forecast” in broadening the context of its surroundings. Again, it’s just three minutes, but the effect is longer lasting.
With a sort of Eastern minor-key flair that draws on Om without directly emulating them, “Brambles” introduces the closing trio with a purposefully repetitive course no less memorable than that of “A Pilgrimage” earlier, and “I Don’t Believe” provides immediate complement in that regard, with its long-since-dropped-out-of-life righteous vibe and sing-along section in the second half leading to a faster charge to close out.
Might be fair to think of “Guinnevere,” since it’s a cover and since “I Don’t Believe” caps with such a push, as a bonus track, but it works exceedingly well with the rest of the material here and offers one last vocal highlight from Alley and Graham while taking the central progression of the original and turning it into a more malevolent, thickened riff backed up by atmospheric noise.
It ends Pagan Science on a somewhat understated note, but if anything, The Well‘s second offering makes the clear point that the band is ready to keep rolling onward on their forward course, progressing and expanding and refining what they do as they go, but going most of all. As a part of that up and coming surge in American heavy rock, they only prove themselves more crucial here.
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 8th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Kind of nice to post some US tour dates for a change. Don’t get me wrong, I love covering stuff from Europe or happening in Europe, and as regards this fall, that’s clearly where the party’s at, what with the 7,000 festivals — exact number — happening every weekend and all, but it’s nice to know that as the heavy underground turns its focus toward the old world, the new won’t be entirely bereft of good times.
To wit, the teaming up of Oakland psych-proggers Mondo Drag, who’ll be out supporting this year’s The Occultation of Light (review here) after a European run this Spring, a residency in L.A. and a stop at Psycho Las Vegas, with their RidingEasy Records labelmates in Austin troublemaking trio The Well, who’ll have their new one, Pagan Science, out on Oct. 14, and San Marcos upstarts Crypt Trip is sure to take some of the sting out of not being in Switzerland, or Belgium, or Germany, or wherever on any given day. It’s nice to know somebody still cares, that’s all.
Hope you go to a show and make it worth their while, because that’s how tours keep happening. You don’t need me to tell you that shit. We’re cool. It’s all those other jerks we need to worry about.
RidingEasy announced the dates thusly:
Mondo Drag, The Well and Crypt Trip are hitting the road! What show will you be at???
10/7/2016 Rock Island, IL @ Rock Island Brewing Co 10/8/2016 Chicago, IL @ Cobra Lounge 10/9/2016 Detroit, MI @ El Club 10/11/2016 Pittsburgh, PA @ Spirit 10/13/2016 Cleveland, OH @ Now That’s Class 10/14/2016 Asbury Park, NJ @ Wonder Bar 10/15/2016 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus 10/16/2016 Baltimore, MD @ Metro 10/17/2016 Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage 10/18/2016 Richmond, VA @ Strange Matter Thursday 10/20/2016 Atlanta, GA @ Drunken Unicorn Friday 10/21/2016 New Orleans, LA @ Siberia Saturday 10/22/2016 Houston, TX @ End It Fest Sunday 10/23/2016 Austin, TX @ Hotel Vegas Wednesday 10/26/2016 Phoenix, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room Thursday 10/27/2016 San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar
Posted in Reviews on September 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Austin-based heavy rockers Bellringer have been kicking around since showing off a since-retracted self-titled demo EP (review here) in 2014. Changes in personnel involved have given an added sense of intrigue as the band trickled out singles in videos like “Von Fledermaus” (posted here), “Click Bait” (posted here), and “Art Thief” (posted here) throughout the second half of 2015, but they went relatively quiet after that until announcing their debut full-length, Jettison.
As has been the case all along, at the center of the project is Mark Deutrom, known for playing bass in the Melvins during their major label period (arguably their peak era) as well as his solo work under the Mark D moniker, bands like Clown Alley, production work for early Neurosis and Melvins, The Well, and so on.
Here, Deutrom is credited with writing, recording and mixing the material, as well as providing vocals, guitar and various keys throughout, so he is very much at the core of the proceedings, though the rotating cast around him makes formidable contributions as well, be it on bass, drums, flute, vocals, or other. What’s most striking about Jettison isn’t necessarily the lineup, though. It’s how much Bellringer‘s album material willfully seems to remove itself from the prior singles.
None of those songs are featured on Jettison, and apart from opener “The God of Roosters Does Not Forget,” Deutrom works in a much more open creative spirit, veering into lounge lizardry in the back half of “Inner Freak” and calling out The Doors and others in the lyrics to the subsequent “Cowboy Fight.” Things get strange, and as the six tracks/36 minutes of Jettison play out, that strangeness only becomes more welcome.
Looking at it as a two-sided release gives some context to “The God of Roosters Does Not Forget,” which is the shortest cut included at 2:55, in that “Cowboy Fight,” which would start side B, is also shorter than the two songs that follow it, and maybe more straightforward in its easy desert bounce and emergent thicker push. It cycles through twice at a slower pace than “The God of Roosters Does Not Forget,” which seems to show some of Deutrom‘s underlying punker roots, but if one is expecting Bellringer to do the same thing twice, that just doesn’t seem to be the band’s modus or purpose.
Nonetheless, it’s a pointed turn when the Angelo–Badalamenti-circa-Twin-Peaks synth line starts the eight-minute “Quitter,” holding a long note as the sort of grumbling guitar tone kicks in, rolling out an immediate nod that it maintains for most of the duration, Deutrom joined by vocalists Chico Jones and Jennifer Deutrom (the latter of whom also did the album art), as well as drummer James Flores, bassist Brian Ramirez and percussionist/vocalist Monique Ortiz — who is also listed as contributing fretless bass, but I’m not sure if that’s here or on “Inner Freak” or “Double Yellow Line” or “Demon,” on which she also appears — as he switches from the mellow but heavy verse to a chorus of “aahs” that makes up in memorability what it lacks in lyrics.
In the final third, an extended version is underscored by a guitar solo, not overdone, but drawn out and playing with sentiment in a similar fashion as the keyboard intro. That dreamy line is how Bellringer end the song, immediately showing more patience than anticipated. With drums, more percussion and a funked-up guitar line at its start, “Inner Freak” is about the groove, presenting its verse as a duet between Deutrom and Ortiz. It’s right at the four-minute mark that the song breaks and shifts into bizarro-jazz territory, Bryan Kennard adding flute along the way to the noodling guitar and shuffling snare. The bass and guitar follow the flute as “Inner Freak” ends, giving way to the aforementioned “Inner Freak” at the start of Jettison‘s second half.
And “Inner Freak” does well in regrounding the proceedings somewhat, reminding me of Chris Goss‘ most desert-y work with Masters of Reality as Bellringer has in the past. What makes the following “Double Yellow Line” a highlight, however, is its ethereal tonality, its spaciousness, its mellotron, and its languid flow — completely different from everything on the album to that point and yet not at all out of place in style or substance.
A mellow vibe pervades, with just a hint of foreboding before the second verse, but it’s carried by Deutrom‘s vocals from there and Aaron Lack‘s drums do well in giving them and the guitar plenty of room to breathe and spread out as they do. I doubt they were an influence, but it’s the kind of hypnotic effect that Sungrazer‘s Rutger Smeets could often produce during quieter jams, or that seems to come so naturally to Gary Arce of Yawning Man. Of course, the context is different with “Double Yellow Line,” but it’s an otherworldly excursion that greatly broadens the reach of Jettison overall.
Its subdued vibe continues into the start of closer “Demon,” though with more prominent bass fuzz and a horror-flick organ line, repetitions of “demon” and lines derived therefrom, the mood shifts as well. The organ disappears and returns at around four minutes in, and then an angular start-stop line of thicker guitar provides transition into an extended solo that serves as the album’s final movement, closing instrumentally with a couple last measures of chugging insistence and keys, which are sustained until everything else has stopped, then cut short as well.
I’ve been trying to come up with a solid reason Bellringer might call the record Jettison, and I can’t decide between a few. On the one hand, it’s a synonym for “release.” Might as well call the album “Album,” but it would fit with some of the sonic quirk in the material in its subtle cleverness. There’s also to jettison in the sense of shooting outward or letting go. A somewhat more satisfying notion is that Deutrom, as the force behind the songwriting, is letting go of this material by releasing it in the first place — the notion of jettisoning these songs to attain some kind of catharsis.
I don’t know if that’s the case, obviously, but if Jettison is the result of Deutrom feeling these ideas needed to get out, neither am I inclined to argue with the results of his efforts in that regard. His will to defy expectation and change approach becomes one of the record’s most satisfying aspects, and while it seems superfluous to point out again this is a debut given his pedigree, to think of Jettison as the beginning of an exploration, one can only hope that exploration will continue.
[Click play above to stream Quin Galavis’ My Life in Steel and Concrete in full. Album is out now on Super Secret Records.]
True, the new double-LP My Life in Steel and Concrete from Austin-based singer-songwriter Quin Galavis might be singular in the construction of its title, and in the moniker of the performer who indeed is at its core, but it’s far from a solo offering. Long ways off. The Super Secret Records release, which spans 20 tracks/75 minutes of has-a-lot-to-say varied craftsmanship, instead often boasts the sound of a full four-piece, if not more, and like Galavis‘ prior work under his own name (as opposed to his work with bands like Nazi Gold, False Idol and The Dead Space), it brings in a host of guests from around Austin’s populous weirdo scene, including Thor Harris (Swans), and in the past, Eva Vonne of Sans Soleil.
Songs jump from style to style easily, from the joyous and string-inclusive Wes Anderson-ready indie of “Can’t Erase” to the more raging noise punk of “Dead Born,” blown out vocals and all, but being disjointed seems to be part of the fun for Galavis and company. Each side of the 2LP receives a subtitle — A is ‘The Tragedy of Miss Foster,’ B ‘The Long Walk of Mr. Morrow,’ C ‘The Tears of Lady Guadalupe’ and D ‘The Ancient Fire of Northway’ — but if there’s some narrative connecting them, I wouldn’t dare speculate as to its plotline.
Also worth noting that none of the characters mentioned in those subtitles are Galavis himself, so it’s entirely possible that My Life in Steel and Concrete, despite its autobiographical and somewhat indulgent veneer, isn’t about Galavis at all. Not knowing is part of what ultimately makes the record fun, in a similar fashion to how, as one track moves into the following à la the post-grunge crunch of “Distaste” going right into the Angels of Light-style neofolk of “Glorious Man,” it’s never quite clear what’s coming next. These shifts are stark, as noted, but what anchors My Life in Steel and Concrete across its considerable breadth is the songwriting.
No matter in what form Galavis and company — in the past his band has included Graham Low on bass/cello, Shelley McKann on keys/glockenspiel/vocals and Matt Hammer on drums, but the exact lineup here is unclear — choose to express this kind of post-modern disaffection of caring too much to care at all, it comes through with a defined structure, each track a world that seems to have its own rules and parameters that become clearer as it progresses, from the stomp and jangle of foreboding opener “Hand of Light” through how “Manuel’s Rose Garden” and “Powell’s Rose Garden” seem to mirror each other despite the varied theatrics contained within them.
Galavis is hardly the first songwriter to show range, but even more impressive are the turns of mood My Life in Steel and Concrete makes as it plays out and the fact that as the darkened echoes of “Turn You In” and the wrenching intensity of “Hate” move through the push of “Be Patient” into the minimalist pastoralia of “A Gift for Salt,” there’s no dip in the quality of execution or the seeming purposefulness of the arrangements. As easy as it is to tag Galavis as “experimental” and be done with the issue of classification — about as descriptive as tagging the moon as “round” — there’s very little even in the feedback peppering “Vile and Disgusting” that feels accidental.
Each side ultimately has its personality, though I’ll admit that’s harder to get a handle on in digital form than it probably would be on the vinyl, and a darker ambience unites much of the material, but Galavis saves some brighter moments for the final movement. “Idumea” — the title from a region in Southern Israel — is a retitled take on the 18th century hymn sometimes simply called “And am I Born to Die,” which Neil Young, Steve Von Till and Current 93 have also recorded in years past. Galavis‘ version is a stunner of a violen-led duet following the poetic drama of “Powell’s Rose Garden,” duly mournful but effective in capturing the feeling that they might be leading a chorus in a small, box-shaped church.
The subsequent tracks, from the swinging “Tree Burning” to the banjo-inclusive ramble of “Those Little Dreams” and into the Elton John-esque piano ballad of closer “Wake Up” let go of some of the severity of earlier cuts like “Dead Born” or “Hand of Light” or “Hate,” and if there is a narrative thread telling a story in My Life in Steel and Concrete, one imagines the album’s final side is where that story finds its resolution. In this way, ‘The Ancient Fire of Northway’ becomes a kind of exhale through which Galavis et al can at last breathe out, and the sense of relief is palpable from “Idumea” onward to the end.
Could it have been two albums instead of a 2LP? It probably could’ve been three, each with a different aesthetic, but the diversity of the songwriting and the immersiveness of the work as a whole would lose impact were such capitulations toward accessibility made. It’s supposed to be a challenge. That’s the idea.
Posted in Whathaveyou on August 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
The title of Texas duo Stone Machine Electric‘s latest album, Sollicitus es Veritatem (review here), translates to ‘nightmares are real,’ and yeah, that sounds about right for an early September drive through West Texas into Arizona and New Mexico. Hope the air conditioning is working in whatever vehicle the two-piece are using to make that considerable drive.
They’ve got four shows lined up, two in TX, one in Tempe and one in or near Albuquerque still TBA (if you can help there, get in touch with the band via Thee Facebooks), and in addition to stuff from the new album, they’re apparently already looking to road-test some new jams via improv or I guess however they might come out. Their style is pretty open and I’d imagine at this point, Dub and Kitchens can pretty much just plug in and go for it. All the better.
Two things I really, really dig about the announcement below. First, they refer to themselves as “two-piece weirdos,” which is something I’ve insisted on doing for the last several years nearly every time I’ve written about them, and two, they not only made a poster, but they made an awesome poster that involves absolutely zero cartoon boobage. Kudos all around, gentlemen.
STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC – Hot+Sweaty Weekend
Hurst, Texas two-piece weirdos, Stone Machine Electric, are set for a small tour westward over the Labor Day weekend. They’ll make their way through Texas, into Arizona, and hopefully survive the trek through New Mexico.
Stone Machine Electric will be playing songs off their latest album, Sollicitus Es Veritatem, along with their usual/unusual improvised transitions. There is always the possibility they might play something new, since they’ve got some in the works…
Hot+Sweaty Weekend Dates: September 1st – Depot Obar in Lubbock, TX September 2nd – The Sandbox in El Paso, TX September 3rd – Tempe Tavern in Tempe, AZ September 4th – TBD around Albuquerque, NM
Posted in Reviews on August 17th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
A fervent undercurrent of metal runs beneath the progressive atmospheres of The Search. It extends even to the liner notes of the CD, which not only contain the full lyrics, typed out clear with credits, but notes included for which of the two guitarists — Maurice Eggenschwiler and Jan “El Janni” Kimmel, both also vocals — is taking the solo in that place. More often than not, it’s one, then the other. Shades of oldschool thrash there, but the debut full-length from the Houston, Texas, four-piece owes much more of its crux to prog metal and heavy rock than to anything so raw as younger Slayer. Still, the dogwhistle blows to those who might hear that particular frequency, and the spirit of precision that was always an undercurrent both of thrash — underproduced as it was — and the NWOBHM manifest in these vinyl-ready six tracks/41-minutes, topped off with artwork by David Paul Seymour.
The band was founded by Kimmel, Eggenschwiler and drummer Cory Cousins in 2014 following the hiatus of Sanctus Bellum, and in bringing on board bassist Gabriel Katz, they’ve also shifted their sonic focus toward grander fare. Tonally, The Search, which was recorded and mixed at Lucky Run Studio in Houston, adopts a heavy rock feel, but as it’s presented in such a clean, clear style — and maybe standard tuning? — the overarching impression becomes that of the band’s reach rather than their heft. That’s fitting for the traditions in which they’re working, from Uriah Heep to latter-day Opeth — also noteworthy that Kimmel handles keys, specified by the band as Nord, which Opeth‘s Per Wiberg also used — and with the shared vocal duties, they bring something of themselves fluidly to what winds up being an ambitious debut release.
Variety in the songwriting extends to within individual tracks as well as between them. With the exception of the penultimate title-cut at 9:45, songs range around five to six minutes long, but as Blues Funeral show immediately with the blend of Thin Lizzy bounce and proggy lead work in opener “Autumn Dream.” A previously posted live version had reminded me of Beelzefuzz, and though that’s less the case tonally on the record, some element remains, though the context of The Search immediately broadens with “Harbinger,” the shortest track at 5:19, which takes the central groove of Black Sabbath‘s “A National Acrobat” and successfully repurposes it to suit a rhythmic base for vocal harmonies dressed out with flourish of acoustic guitar, choice ride work from Cousins and later thickening of tone behind the soloing of Eggenschwiler and Kimmel.
Something of a darker feel results than anything either “Harbinger” or “Autumn Dream” before it offered, but the rush of “Planet Void” and the urgency of its push assure Blues Funeral aren’t mired one way or the other. With more impressive dual-vocal work and nods vocally and in the riff to Iron Maiden, it’s Katz‘s low end again that holds the proceedings together as the guitars are prone to launching into momentary fits of scorch, only to return to the verse shortly thereafter, as though nothing ever happened. The vocals are dry at least for the most part, and I don’t think some treatment of reverb would hurt, but as it stands they effectively emphasize harmonies when intended, as in the chorus of “Planet Void,” which is revisited just before a final solo — from Kimmel — brings the first half of The Search to a close.
Kimmel adds organ to “Paragon of Virtue,” and with the creepier doom vibe that follows, it would seem to mirror the Beelzefuzzing of “Autumn Dream” while, again, putting its own ’70s-inspired spin on it. The organ rises to prominence in the mix before all drops out leaving light, intricately-plucked Akerfeldtian guitar as the bed for an instrumental midsection — solo included, naturally — that builds guitar harmonies in layers before shifting into its next phase of lower-toned chug behind another solo section. A little Ritchie Blackmore circa Rainbow would seem to be the initial basis for the start of The Search‘s title-track, but there’s a more patient take in the album’s longest cut — it meanders a bit, purposefully — before sweeping in with organ to its first verse at around the two-minute mark, and the classic heavy rock style still holds its complement of metallic vibe, Katz‘s bass getting a moment to shine early for its heretofore underappreciated tonal warmth.
With more spacious vocals, “The Search” offers a hook as well as proggy expanse, and even after it veers into a more extended organ solo, it takes the time to bring back the chorus and keep the composition itself as the focus, rather than the execution. One might’ve expected Blues Funeral to follow it by ending with a lighter, more melancholic feel. They go the opposite route. “Palmdale” rounds out with nigh-on-thrashy riffing and a leveled-up push from even what “Planet Void” brought to bear, delivered with a down-to-business efficiency and a Candlemass-style soaring vocal that serves to highlight how skillfully the band is able to mesh their influences together.
By the time they get there, of course they end with a solo-topped big rock finish. Well earned. Keeping in mind that The Search is their first outing — preceded by no recordings so far as I know — Blues Funeral meet their considerable ambitions head on, while also setting themselves up for stylistic expansion in any number of directions. They effectively bridge gaps between the classic and modern, rock and metal, and metal and prog worlds, and, most encouraging of all, sound like they’re only going to keep growing.