Tuesday, 19 November 2013

E.P. Epidemic III

As promised in the introduction to E.P. Epidemic II, here's part III featuring Doctor Smoke, Dozer, The Grave, March the Desert and the one and only Truckfighters ...

DOCTOR SMOKE - Demo 2013 (4 songs / 16:23) - Doctor Smoke came crashing and banging from out of nowhere with an amazing demo and an indiegogo campaign already set up to record their debut full-length.  My head is still spinning from the sudden impact.

The demo consists of three face melting originals and a Pentagram cover.  Between Earthen Grave's blistering cover of "Relentless" and Doctor Smoke's cover of "Pentagram (Sign of the Wolf)" that makes two awesome covers of my two favorite Pentagram songs to get my blood up within the span of a few short months.  But, of course, we're strictly talking Doctor Smoke and it's the originals that are the real draw here.

Doctor Smoke may be fresh out of "meds school", but they seem to have their Ph.D. in fuzz in hand.  The band boots the swinging saloon doors open on "The Willow", and they walk in and own the place.  Women want them, men want to be them and all that jive.  It's a smooth track, heavy, a confident feel from top to bottom, with a perfect flow from beginning to end, a nice wah solo to boot.  Doctor Smoke may not blow your mind with a whole new way of looking at music, they make their hay with some straightforward filthy and extremely heavy doom rock, sometimes that's the hardest thing of all to pull off.  These guys do pull it off and do it well.  While doom is known for it's grinding, dirge-like qualities (I think immediately of the "arrived 45 minutes late to the doom show, didn't miss the first note" meme), Doctor Smoke's identity appears to hinge on high energy.  In the middle section of the demo the band hits their stride.  "Blood & Whiskey" blends directly into "The Seeker" without missing a beat.  Once again, high energy and sleazy riffs up the stakes here to go along with some killer solos, nice dynamics and vocals which are just a touch deeper than Uncle Acid's.  All this combines to make Doctor Smoke a potent blend of the finest smoke.  This demo is available as a 100% FREE DOWNLOAD on bandcamp right now.  Inhale deeply from this demo, doctor's orders!
From: Mingo Junction, Ohio.  Best Song: "The Willow".  Rating: 5/5


Cover artwork by William Ede.
DOZER - Vultures (6 songs / 26:18) - Dozer's first new sounds in five years are actually eight or nine years old.  "Leftovers" from the 'Through the Eyes of Heathens' demo sessions in 2004-05, the six tracks that make up the 'Vultures' EP are strong enough to be most bands' standout career highlights.  "The Imposter", my favorite of the bunch, was a #1 Paranoid hit earlier in the year on my Top 25 song charts when it was released on a split single with countrymen NYMF (and what a strong three song single that was!).

I assume that most Paranoid readers know Dozer quite well, but there are some of us out there who are just getting her going at this party we call stoner rock.  If you haven't had time to go back and sample the above mentioned album or 'In the Tail of a Comet' well you should know that Dozer are legends in the field for a reason.  If you make 'Vultures' your introduction to the band you can hear right away how the band got it's well-earned reputation.  Keep in mind these are the songs that didn't make the grade for their Small Stone Records debut, but they are great!  Melody is a living thing which breathes and Dozer respirates with power and emotion, always.

Well, having now (finally!) listened to 'Through the Eyes of Heathens' I've got some perspective on the 'Vultures' EP, though only a little.  The songs which made it onto the LP surge with power and dynamics, the pre-production demos here that didn't make the cut are positively subdued in comparison with little of the stomp and pulse of those that did.  However, we are talking about demos here and so they aren't as well recorded or polished by their very nature.  That all said, the songs on 'Vultures' are still excellent and not only hold up on their own, but they ought to hold longtime fans over until the next Dozer release whenever that may be.

More than that however, when taken as its own thing, when not compared to the songs that made the album, what you find here is an incredibly solid six song set.  The six "lost" tracks burst with an energy all their own as compositions if not well rendered in the recording.  "Last Prediction" in particular is electrifying in its stop and start structure, featuring an eight bar guitar solo that is just mind-blowing.  The end of each line of the guitar solo overlaps with the pause on the main riff, ringing out before the main riff hacks its way back in.  Really, you've got to hear this, it's incredible!  What's even more incredible is that at the time, the song was left on the shelf.  This is a potential future #1 on the Doom Chart, for what it's worth.
From: Borlänge, Sweden.  Best Song: "The Imposter".  Rating: 4.5/5


THE GRAVE - Demonia (5 songs / 33:32) - Argentinian traditional doom trio The Grave have been on the Paranoid radar since summer time but they unfortunately slipped through the cracks here until now.  Their 5 song EP isn't flashy, there's certainly not a lot of trickery behind what they do, but there is a bit of that Halloween-y trick or treat vibe going on here.  The band treats listeners to a spare accompaniment.  The Grave start with a riff, then add drums.  Later, vocals are added.  Voila.  Done.  There's absolutely no pretension with this band and I love them for it.

'Demonia' has a very raw, live sound that can hardly be distinguished from their later live recording, 'En Vivo 2013'.  As I keep harping on, there's no trickery with this band, just an honest aesthetic with an eye out toward the traditional and metallic doom.  The EP starts off with an eerie and memorable clip from the 1971 film Simon, King of the Witches before spilling out into a pulsing riff on "Lord of Mirrors".  The whole thing is full of film clips and incendiary riffs in the great doom tradition.  Riffs like conflagrations, such as can be heard and felt on "Luciferian Woman".  You start to hear little pops and cracks in the recording and the whole thing begins to take on a "lost recording" feel, which only lends dark power to 'Demonia'.  It sounds as though it was recorded through the other side of a dimensional membrane.  It sounds as though it wasn't recorded so much as forged in a cauldron.  The fidelity is still decent and besides, I like a little wear and tear on my music.  By the time "Luciferian Woman" plays out, the band has you in its power.  Each song then bleeds into the next as you drown in a consumption of riffs.  As I said, not a lot of trickery here, The Grave just plugs in and plays.  The style is all their own, molten riffs, clean and deep vocals which grasp toward the epic and an incredible atmosphere.
From: Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Best Song: "Luciferian Woman".  Rating: 4/5


Cover artwork by Sam Grange (vocals).
MARCH THE DESERT - Waves on the Moon (3 songs / 18:25) - March the Desert erupted onto the Paranoid consciousness early this year with their excellent self-titled debut.  It didn't take too long for the band to re-emerge with perhaps an even stronger performance on three song E.P. 'Waves on the Moon'.  This young band from Brighton in the south of England carry on the sacred English tradition of being heavier than thou.  From The Pretty Things to Cream to Black Sabbath to Electric Wizard and beyond, the country that gave birth to the tradition of upping the heavy ante has found yet another deep rumbling voice in these native sons.  Opening track "Frown Curve" proves this beyond the shadow of a doubt, it's one of the heavier songs I've heard in a long while.  Once again the band revels in a Blue Cheer style riff staged in a doomy dirge setting.  The recording itself happens to fall on the lo-fi side of the coin, but the sound of it only adds to the Blue Cheer atmosphere.

But the U.K. isn't only responsible for some of the heaviest sounds the world has ever heard, it's also the birthplace of some of the most psychedelic.  Again, March the Desert proves they are game to toss their collective hat in among the legends on title cut "Waves on the Moon", a song which may go down as one of the ten "most" psychedelic songs I've ever heard.  And I've heard a lot of psychedelic music, particularly British psychedelic music at its most freaked out.  Heavy reverb on the vocals and a wah blissed guitar lick combine with a funky walking bassline before cutting out to the bridge and beyond.  This song will take you to an underwater world and drown you in reverb.  Final number "Tabula Rasa" finally answers that age old question:  What would Jimi Hendrix sound like if he played doom metal riffs through Blue Cheer's gear?

As three song EP's go, they don't come much tighter than this.  You can name your own price at March the Desert's bandcamp page by clicking the links on the player below.
From: Brighton, UK.  Best Song: "Frown Curve".  Rating: 5/5


TRUCKFIGHTERS - The Chairman (4 songs / 33:48) - Truckfighters' 'The Chairman' is like a single and mini live album in one.  By the time Truckfighters release their new album, 'Universe' on January 24 2014 it will have been about five years since the unveiling of 'Mania', the band's last record.  That's roughly the same amount of time between albums as Witchcraft's recent 'Legend' album and their previous record 'The Alchemist'.  When Witchcraft returned, they did so with a new sound which was little short of a reinvention of the wheel.  They showed the world and the legions of bands who have followed in their footsteps what the next step in the evolution of the Scandanavian hard rock sound could be.  On 'Legend', Witchcraft took Retro Rock into the future, and if that doesn't blow your mind then you might not have much of one to begin with.  The reason I'm going on at length about Witchcraft is because, Truckfighter's new song (the only new one on this EP), "The Chairman" has much the same feel.  Trucfighters have always been a different kind of band with a unique take on stoner rock, but "The Chairman" takes things to another level.  Manipulating tone and melody in novel ways, Mr. Dango shows the stoner rockers of the world how much more effective full-tilt heaviness can be when framed around high toned melody.  Perhaps I'm not as familiar with Truckfighters as I should be, perhaps I shouldn't be as surprised by this song as I am, it wasn't quite what I was expecting.  Fortunately, the surprise is a pleasant one, so don't be surprised how impressed I am with this song.  The new album may be something different entirely, something amazing.

Recorded earlier this year on the band's Australian excursion, the three live tracks here bring the band's live energy into strong focus.  It's a cool document.  Too often ignored by bands, the Australian audience recorded here proves they have energy to match.  Indeed, when the crowd starts shouting the chorus during Truckfighters traditional show opener, "Desert Cruiser", it is positively electrifying, even at a distance of many months and miles.  The crowd is game from the word go, trading call and response with vocalist Ozo on the very first run through the chorus.  The only thing I begin to wonder is whether any of my Australian stoner internet buds were at the show, immortalized on recording.  Next the band plays a terrific version of "Monte Gargano" from 'Mania' and "Traffic" from 'Phi' so that all three albums are represented.  All this makes 'The Chairman' probably the best E.P. in the world.

I grabbed my copy of 'The Chairman' from itunes.  You can also find it on 10" vinyl at the Truckfighters online shop.
From: Örebro, Sweden.  Best Song: "The Chairman".  Rating: 4.5/5

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