Wednesday, 24 April 2013

The Alchemical Mixture - Orange Blossom Jam & Ziz (album reviews)

The Italian psychedelic, stoner and doom scene is one of the richest, most prolific and consistent in the world today.  I thought I'd lift the skirt on the Italian underworld once more and expose two of the newer, not so widely known heavy psychedelic bands that call the country of Italy home.


Cover artwork by Valiu Voodoo
From: Osimo, Ancona.  Highlights include: "Forever High" and "Bees 
Dance".  Rating: 4.5/5
Orange Blossom Jam have got to be the most metal psychedelic band I've ever heard ... or is that the most psychedelic metal band I've ever heard?  Heavy psych taken to extremes, space rock and doom combine to form one of the most unabashedly heavy metal psychedelic combos around Italy or anywhere else for that matter.  This is heavy fuel for doomy fires.

About halfway into ten minute instrumental opening track 'I', the guitar crunches out one of the most ... "fuck yeah" moments you will ever hear in heavy music.  The kind of simplistic riff and syncopated rhythm that makes you wonder why you've never heard it before, or why you don't hear this kind of thing more often.  It sounds so easy.  It's the way you imagine heavy music as an overall concept in your head.  Dun-dun-dun, Dun-dun-dun, etc.  OBJ don't bother trying to overcomplicate the heavy, they've got loads of time to complicate things while toying around with their endless psychedelic ideas, so when it's time to kick ass, they simply roll up their sleeves and take care of business without being shy about it.  The heavy grooves only continue to roll off the band's collective tongues and fingers from there.

"Bees Dance" builds slowly, taking time to construct perfect moments from the most basic of foundations.  It's a confident band that takes this approach.  By not trying to do too much, they accomplish so much more.  The album is bookended by ten minute jams.  "T.H.C." is the second of these and, again, strikes the perfect Black Sabbath chord in the introductory riff.  Once again the vocals are heavy, gruff and forced through a smoke blackened throat.

This is some of the most powerful music I've heard in a while, managing to capture the best of the material and ideal worlds by combining the worldly strength of heavy muscle with the mystic understanding of the psychedelic mind.  A mind that is blown wide apart by the likes of Ziz.  Where OBJ found a mind-body balance, Ziz lets the mind take over.


From: Voghera, Lombardy, Pavia.  Highlights include: "Ziz"
and "... And To Protect".  Rating: 3.5/5
In many ways, these two bands couldn't be more opposite.  Ziz bill themselves as supernatural occult rock, toning down the heavy by degrees and increasing the use of texture.  Ziz adds waves of synth heavy or melodic embellishments to their compositions depending on need.  The outcome of the synth effect is always the same though: otherworldly textures.  While the heaviness is comparatively downplayed or understated, the band finds time to reference Paul Chain / Steve Sylvester style horror doom in places, never afraid of peering into that dark abyss,  but never staring so long of deeply into it that it becomes their obsession.

Instead, Ziz floats like a giant head in the sky broadcasting messages down as from a mind-controlling UFO.  They like to beam down late seventies / late eighties film soundtracks and simply allow the listener to create the images in their heads.  Synth gets a good workout throughout the disc and becomes their distinguishing characteristic.  "Welcome To The Machine" elements combine with A Clockwork Orange sounds to animate the spirit of Ziz, especially on "Tardigrad".  I can't imagine this kind of thing being everyone cup of tea, but those who dig it will probably love it a lot.  Robotic voices speak across the entirety of the disc's 31 or so minutes, sparking a conversation that, ironically, never becomes metallic.  The closest the band gets is to the neighboring skies of Hawkwind on the uproarious closing track, "Space is the Place".

In selecting these two albums to showcase side-by-side I have attempted to display the sheer creative breadth that is flooding out of the country of Italy.  Be it heavy metal or alternative rock, each band puts a little bit more thought into their product to place it on a psychedelic pedestal.  You can listen to both albums on the players below

Orange Blossom Jam is:                                  Ziz is:
Matteo Stronati – Guitar / vocals                    Alessio Bertucci – Guitar / vocals
Nick Soltani – Guitar                                      Lorenzo Trecate – Synth / vocals
Satia Dalia – Drums                                        Daniele Curone - Drums
Andrea Simonetti – Bass                                Nicola Cosella – Bass / vocals

Genre: Heavy Psych, Space Rock, Doom, Metal

Release Date: September 19, 2012 (Orange Blossom Jam); February 18, 2013 (Ziz)

Orange Blossom Jam on facebook
Ziz on facebook

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