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Tuesday 20 June 2023

Reviews: Yawning Man, Witchskull, Aton Five, Memorrhage (Reviews By Rich Piva, Matt Bladen, Mark Young & Zak Skane)

Yawning Man - Long Walk Of The Navajo (Heavy Psych Sounds) [Rich Piva]

For the most part I prefer vocals in my music, but if I do go for the instrumental, I usually go to either the amazing doomy goodness of Clouds Taste Satanic or the band that Is the topic of this review, the ever-prolific Yawning Man. These guys have been around forever (they formed in 1986 but did not release anything until 2005) and have been one of the most influential bands in the desert rock scene, spawning or playing with several bands of the same ilk. Their sixth full length, Long Walk Of The Navajo, is more of what they do best; super atmospheric instrumental dreamscapes with killer guitar work that transforms you to the desert, or wherever else they are channeling, as much or more than any other band playing this style out there today. The three tracks here are more of the same in the most positive way.

No instrumental band better names their tracks to fit the song than Yawning Man as the title track transforms you to said trail where you can experience the trials and tribulations of people of the tribe in musical form. It is an amazing skill that only a handful of instrumental bands can perfect, but these guys have it pretty much every time. Dreamy, spacy guitars that soar around you like fireflies. Respiratory Pause is super chill thirteen-minute trip that will let you focus on your breathing while basking under the desert moon. Blood Sand is the third and final soundscape, that opens with what sounds like a slowed down heartbeat before you are cloaked in dream guitars for all nine minutes of the track.

If you dig super chill instrumental desert goodness or anything Yawning Man has ever done, Long Walk Of The Navajo will be perfect for you. This is headphones music for sure, so grab the new Yawning Man, your mind-altering substance of choice (or not, I’m not telling you how to live your life) and enjoy one of the premier instrumental desert rock bands that have ever walked the planet. 8/10

Witchskull – The Serpent Tide (Rise Above Records) [Matt Bladen]

Aussie doom-dozers Witchskull look set to destroy your turntables again with their fourth studio album. The Serpent Tide is their third record on Rise Above Records and they are very much in the ethos of this seminal underground label. Syrupy riffs, of fuzz and distortion, sneered/bellowed vocals and songs about the occult. Formed in 2014, Witchskull have been intoxicating people with their rough edged stoner doom, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Marcus De Pasquale, bassist Tony McMahon and drummer Joel Green, filling rooms with smoke and noise for nearly a decade.

This experience shows on this fourth album, the long gestation period of this record leading to some of their most advanced compositions yet, from the impressive thud of Sun Carver, through the Wolfmother-goes-bad heavy rockers such as The Serving Ritual and the stank face causing atmospheric doom tracks like the title track and the brutal crush of Rune Of Thorn. The Serpent Tide and Witchskull on the whole eschew Sabbath worship for the sleazier, louder sound of Sleep/High On Fire worship, they give it a few nuances but mainly it’s this Australian band paying their respects to wild, shirtless riffs of Matt Pike, as loudly as they can. Crank up your speakers and let your whole street hear it! 8/10

Aton Five - Aton Five (Self Released) [Mark Young]

For some the instrumental is something to run from in abject terror. It conjures up images of Rick Wakeman dressed as a Wizard with multiple keyboards and guitar solos that long the roadie changes the strings as its played. Ok, the last one might have been made up. As in a lot. But I’ve nothing against them as I am a fan of Deep Purple, at least the Gillan era and the instrumental / improv approach was one of their strengths on tour. I don’t listen to a lot of it nowadays so I’m keen to hear what Russian instrumental-prog-rock is like. Aton Five’s own statement via Bandcamp:

“Avoiding both the wanton reiteration of the past and the overindulgence in production, we aspire to say something new in the genre”

I’m not entirely sure they have managed the above in all honesty. It is exactly like you would expect, its long, potentially over the top and has got an organ front and centre (steady at the back) and you know what, it’s pretty cool as each track rocks in its own unique way. Trying to avoid the past whilst playing this type of music whilst using a Hammond organ is a big ask because as the first track kicks in, Alienation, is that a Hammond organ I hear? This echoes of Deep Purple at their improvisational best, the face off between instruments as each gets their own chance to shine. It reminds me of the soundtracks you would get in Anime, rising solo breaks against some choice chord movements. It’s a great start and this continues through into Naked Void and Clepsydra.

Danse Macabre, this could be Deep Purple in all honesty, it has the same vibe to it, that mix of classical and the heavy rock. The main thing is that Aton Five have not forgotten that the music should not be boring, it has to be dynamic, and they make sure that this rockets and then we enter the final track, Lethe. Now this is 22 minutes long, and I have to tell you that this made me anxious as it starts with a western theme, which evokes images of a gunfight at the soon-not-to-be-OK Corral. 

This is a slow, measured build as each instrument drops in and out providing support to a repeating guitar line. It builds with solo breaks and continual movement until it reverts back to that subtle intro, building again from this point using the same motifs but not actually being a carbon copy of what came before. Its cracking stuff and despite the length it doesn’t let your interest slide away which as we know is one of the major pitfalls associated with instrumental music.

So, in terms of a score I think its not really that important. Personally, I loved it as a palate cleanser and because each of the songs are unique to themselves. Its well put together and reminds me of Deep Purple without being a pastiche. Yes, it is long, but it manages to overcome that by being continually engaging and keeping that perpetual motion going. And for that, I’m giving it a 7/10

Memorrhage – Memorrhage (Big Money Cybergrind) [Zak Skane]

From the opening track we are getting classic 90’s metal vibes with the drum and bass inspired drum grooves, slap bass riffs pushed into the lime light whilst the guitars take on a more modern jolty approach that would be on the likes of meshuggah to help make a bed for the singers sporadic vocals. Exit channels the frantic energy of old school Slipknot and Coal Chamber with it’s rustic approach to guitar tones whilst holding a young heart. 

Reek still beats a young heart with the modern venom of Lotus Eater and Cane Hill whilst Old Wave throws you back into 2000’s time warp with it’s retro rap vocal delivery and electronic drum beats.  Tracks like Lunge and Utility give us a taste of the commercial with Lunge giving us some classic industrial metal melodies that would idolise the works of Static X and The Defiled, whilst Utility shows it’s radio friendly roots with it’s listener friendly hooks reminiscent of bands like Spineshank, Hobostank and Ill Nino. The closer Ex Sprite bring the album to an electronic closer with its electronic trap beats and trap metal styled verses. 

This album beats a strong young heart whilst throwing you back into the 2000’s, but beware this album can stem from original to gimmicky due to the judgment of the listener. 6/10.

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