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Tuesday 24 May 2022

Reviews: Cites Of Mars, Drift Into Black, Geezer, Datcha Mandala (Reviews By Rich P)

Cities Of Mars - Cities Of Mars (Ripple Music)

Ripple Music has been on absolute fire the past two plus years releasing the best in stoner/doom/heavy or whatever you want to call it, with zero clunkers in the bunch. This streak will be tough to continue given the sheer volume of the amazing stuff Todd and team put out. I can say with certainty the new Cities Of Mars record continues this trend. The third full length from, as their bio reads perfectly, the “cosmonauts of doom”, continues the epic, doomy soundscapes they create that makes the Swedish band so unique. The self-titled third record takes their trip to the next level, creating a doom epic that is a must listen.

Spacey doom: what a wonderful combination that Cities Of Mars pulls off perfectly and you get this right off the bat with the first full track, Towering Graves (Osmos). Epic and huge are two words that I will always use when talking about this album. It just seems really big, in the best possible way. The production in excellent and seems a step up from their first two offerings. The heaviness is right up front with the rhythm section taking center stage complimented by the haunting, dreamy vocals and guitars, outlined perfectly on the track The Prophet (Methusalem), which may be my favorite track on an album full of great ones. I love the floating background vocals on this track and throughout Cities Of Mars. 

A Dawn Of No Light is a banger that outlines the urgency of our protagonist that COM have been singing about since their first record. Heavy, melodic, and mid-way through brings the doomy breakdown that just works perfectly. The Dreaming Sky (Anur) dual harmonies work perfectly within the context of the song and make you feel you are floating in space with the cosmonauts COM have got you so invested in. The Black Shard (Bahb-Elon) is the perfect closer, giving you eleven minutes plus of all the greatness that Cities Of Mars brought to you thus far, wrapping up this chapter of the story in perfect fashion.

Another Ripple classic. Cities Of Mars have upped their game to produce their best album yet. All that you want from a band that has steadily put out some really strong material but have now taken it to the next level. Highly recommended and will be somewhere on my end of year list. Go listen. 9/10

Drift Into Black - Earthtorn (Black Lion Records)

Time for some heavy doom goodness from New Jersey’s Drift Into Black. With their fourth album, Earthtorn, the trio has produced a concept record outlining what ultimately results in the extinction of mankind, which is a pretty timely topic given the shit show we are currently existing in. Let’s see if this can be the soundtrack to the end times or just another attempt to be heavy for the sake of being heavy while attempting to tell a half-baked story.

Well, this one is not for the faint of heart. Yeah, we got some doom here, but we cross over into all sorts of heavy territory, and even bring some keyboards and ambient landscapes to the table making this an exciting listen with many twists and turns on the journey. I am not going to give away the story that the album tells, but it is a unique and well told tale that you may need the lyric sheet to follow, mostly due to the on and off clean and not so clean vocals. 

 A highlight of this album is the track The March To Oblivion, which brings all of these contrasting styles to the table. You have the clean vocals playing off the heavy growls, you have keys and strings, you have doomy parts, and you have some serious crunch, all with some excellent background vocals. Really breathtaking stuff. At this point in my music listening, I much prefer clean singing, but when you have the back and forth that really is my sweet spot, and Drift Into Black hit that spot perfectly. Angel Of Doom is another standout with some female vocals included into the storyline which is a perfect contrast to the two other vocal styles you get throughout. I also love the keys in this track and would include it in my doom tracks of 2022 playlist (if I had one). 

The tracks are laid out perfectly on Earthtorn both musically and from a storytelling standpoint. You even get a gothic feel (some Paradise Lost love maybe) with the track Weight Of Two Worlds. But while there is a lot of genre-bending musically on Earthhorn, never does it seem disjointed, keeping both the music and the story moving forward. There is a bit of a lull in the middle, but what surrounds it is outstanding.

This album is heavy, extremely emotional, and an exciting journey. I love a good concept album. Good being the key. A strong story to go along with some heavy doom that goes in all sorts of directions. I can see a tour with Fires In The Distance making a ton of sense. Highly recommended for fans of heavy doom with both clean and dirty vocals and something that will make you pay attention to all aspects of Drift Into Black’s latest offering. 8/10

Geezer - Stoned Blues Machine (Heavy Psych Sounds)

Geezer is back, and right on time to bring us some of the stoner grooves that we all continuously crave and expect from the New York trio. Stoned Blues Machine was conceived during the pandemic, but not to wallow in all the crap we were/are wading through, but to give us something to groove to, to shake our ass to, to have fun with while also confronting the pain we are all going through together. What more can you ask from a band who has continually given us this joy for the past decade or so.

The ass shaking commences on the groovy/riffy opener, Atomic Moronic. The trippy guitars, the riffs, but now an even more pronounced groove makes this the perfect opening track, and I am right there with the boys as they want to “burn it down”. Relevant but in no way preachy, it reminds me a bit of the Borracho record from last year but with the politics toned down a bit. The groove continues on with the tracks Logan’s Run and A Cold Black Heart, bringing you more riffage and butt wiggling while the world crumbles around us, which is exactly what I am looking for during some of these crazy times. The latter track gives you the trippy vibes that you expect from these guys and that they provide so well. The title track, another banger that brings some stoner blues riffs with a “Fuck You” attitude that works perfectly throughout this record. 

The Monster Magnet vibes are strong on Broken Glass. I love the riff that is constant throughout the track, and this may be my favorite jam of the bunch. Eleven asks you to “break out the weed and a riff” and to “go to eleven” to escape the hellscape we are currently in. Enough said, this speaks for itself, as does the great trippy guitar work. Party anthem of 2022? Well at least it makes the stoner part of the playlist and it’s a shindig I want to be invited to. Saviours goes lyrically deep, exploring aging and asking that eternal question, “where do we go from here”. A nice contrast to the spliff and turntables on the last track. The closing track, The Diamond Rain Of Saturn, is an absolute banger that is the most trippy jam on the record (more Monster Magnet vibes) and wraps up the eight track record perfectly.

Geezer is not going to suddenly produce a prog metal epic; that is not what you want from these guys. The provide us with a service: stoner grooves and trippy desert riffage, and they do it well. In fact, this is their best record in their discography, showing the growth in their playing, songwriting, and production that was required to take them to the next level. If you dig what they are selling this is a strong recommend. 8/10

Datcha Mandala - The Last Drop (Mrs Red Sky)

Sometimes your press release can be your worst nightmare. Something calling out blues rock, heavy rock, and psychedelic rock seems like something I should eat up and have in heavy rotation at Rich P’s global HQ. This is what the bio for French trio Datcha Mandala’s EP, The Last Drop, calls out, as well as the lead singer’s Robert Plant-esque vocals. Uh oh, I have a bad feeling about this. Let’s see where this goes.

There is nothing psychedelic about this band. They play nice and neat straight-ahead rock. Mentioning Mr. Plant is a stretch to say the least. The opening track of the EP, Janis, an ode to guess who, sounded like it was about to be a cover of T. Rex’s glorious The Slider, but instead of that it veered into a bubbly straight ahead poppy rock tune that did nothing for me. The second track, L.A. Hippie, is kind of a description of what these guys wish they were but could not quite pull it off. Another straight ahead, happy, poppy rock tune that breaks no ground and while initially catchy is ultimately forgettable. I feel like these guys have a bunch of Greta Van Fleet merch in their apartments. 

According to their press release, this EP was supposed to be a tribute to 70s rock, but I feel like they really missed the mark. If that is what they were going for it is way too overproduced and slick for that kind of call back to arguably the greatest era in music. The track I & You kind of sounds like a Steely Dan deep cut, but I am not sure that is what they were going for. When you call a song Carry On, then try to sound like CSNY, but don’t actually cover the song, it is a huge miss. The final track, Hit & Roll, is the best track, an up-tempo rocker that out of all the five tracks on the EP captures at least part of the spirit I think they were going for.

I guess my feedback here is to be careful what you reference in your press, because when you mention words like “blues”,” psychedelic” and “Robert Plant” you are setting up certain expectations that are very difficult to live up to. A high-pitched scream at the end of a song does not make you the next Zeppelin and thus while these guys can obviously play, there is nothing here that I feel I ever need to go back to or can recommend. 4/10

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