Sunday, November 24, 2013

Review of Vista Chino's Peace

It takes a lot of balls for a band to reform without its leading contributor though maybe less so if it eventually opts for another name.  Much like the relationship between Black Star Riders and Thin Lizzy, Vista Chino was formed when members of Kyuss attempted to reunite without guitarist Josh Homme but had to change their name after a legal dispute between the two parties. The resulting album is a great effort that may have worked better had it been released under the Kyuss banner.

No matter how you feel about this group’s existence and name politics, you can’t deny that the guys in Vista Chino knew exactly what made Kyuss such a unique fixture of the stoner metal scene. The guitars are as bass heavy as ever, John Garcia’s testosterone-soaked howls hold up despite his age, the drums work in a number of fills, and the songs cover the usual fields of driving rock to zoned out psychedelia. It certainly helps that guitarist Bruno Fevery played in a few Kyuss tribute bands before coming here but he is a solid riff writer on his own terms.

It also helps that a bunch of the songs on here do sound like classic Kyuss. Lead single “Dargona Dragona” and “Planets 1&2” are the leading offenders as the former is a percussive opener in the vein of “Thumb” while the latter has a “Green Machine” chug with a few extra tempo changes thrown in. Of course, there are more distinct moments such as the radio friendly “Adara,” which oddly sounds more like something that Homme would’ve put together for Queens Of The Stone Age…

But when compared to its alma mater, Vista Chino has a more straightforward presentation. There may be a couple interludes and signature spacy tangents throughout, but you won’t find as many of them and the ones here rarely go for as long as they did before. The album is also surprisingly rawer though that has more to do with the production and Garcia’s huskier voice.

In a rather odd move, I’m more than happy to accept Peace as a twenty-first century Kyuss album but it’ll take some time and evolution before it can be judged as a true debut. It’s another good example of a new band having famous members to justify a derivative sound but fans may actually like it more than what Homme himself is doing nowadays. It’ll be intriguing to see where things go from here but nothing will replace your copy of Blues For The Red Sun anytime soon.

“Dargona Dragona”
“Planets 1&2”
“Acidize… The Gambling Moose”

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Review of Melvins' Tres Cabrones

Coming off the heels of 2012’s Freak Puke and the Everybody Loves Sausages cover album, Tres Cabrones is the latest in a series of the Melvins’ odd lineup experiments. Buzz Osborne and Dale Crover are still here but Crover has been moved to bass duties to make room for original drummer Mike Dillard’s first recording with the band in decades. The resulting effort doesn’t betray the sounds set up on their most recent outings but does offer up its own set of tweaks.

With this lineup being the Melvins’ most conventional in over a decade, this album’s sound is somewhere between the laid back rock of Freak Puke and the chaotic noise on their Big Business collaborations. The guitar is the most dominant instrument as Buzzo’s signature riffs and odd structures define many of the songs on here. Dillard’s playing doesn’t quite match Crover’s bottom heavy tone and Crover himself isn’t a flashy bass player, but the rhythm section is quite adequate with Dillard in particular offering a more punk-influenced approach.

And even though most of the songs on here were previously released on a few different EPs, they all feel cohesive as a whole and go through a neat cycle of styles over the course of the album. It starts off with a series of heavy straightforward rockers, progresses to more experimental jams, and then ends on an energetic note with a couple punk covers. A few goofy recitals of traditional songs also pop up as interludes of sorts; it’s a rather odd move but one that would’ve been much less fun in the hands of another group.

The first three tracks may be the album’s most powerful as “Doctor Mule” provides some strong bursts of swagger while “City Dump” and “American Cow” feel like they could’ve been part of their early 90s repertoire. From there, “Psychedelic Haze” does have an appropriately groovy set of riffs and the one-two punch of “Walter’s Lips” and “Stick ‘Em Bitch” closes things out quite nicely.

Overall, Tres Cabrones is as hard to recommend to new listeners as ever but makes for a surprisingly enjoyable listen that is quite refreshing when compared to the more underwhelming releases that have come out this year. Some songs do feel like they should be heavier and one does wonder how the “main” lineup would’ve sounded playing this material, but the actual writing does make it worth checking out. I still think Melvins Lite may be the better trio but this works as a heavy alternative.

“Doctor Mule”
“City Dump”
“American Cow”
“Psychedelic Haze”
“Walter’s Lips”

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Review of Warbringer's IV: Empires Collapse

As indicated by the more intriguing cover art and the absence of a “W” title, Warbringer’s fourth album is a stylistic game changer. Guitarist Jeff Pots and bassist Ben Mottsman have been recruited from Mantic Ritual and the band is finally acting on the experimental side that has been bubbling since Waking Into Nightmares. Fortunately, this album’s mix of the familiar and unfamiliar keeps it from being a stylistic train wreck.

While Empires Collapse is a thrash metal album to the core, it seems to combine the genre with several others throughout. “Horizon” and “Towers Of The Serpent” show off extreme metal riffing, “The Turning Of The Gears” has a pounding rhythm reminiscent of classic Ministry, “One Dimension” and “Iron City” have some punk influence, and things go to a doomy pace on “Leviathan.” The variety does run the risk of inconsistency but the album stays cohesive and is their most song-oriented release to date.

It also helps that the band dynamic hasn’t changed a bit. Even with the member swaps, the guitars have a solid crunch and the bass heavy approach from Worlds Torn Asunder has been retained. There’s also vocalist John Kevill’s performance to consider; say what you will but it just wouldn’t be a Warbringer album without his Mille Petrozza style shrieking.

But with the changes on here comes the hunch that they could’ve gone into an even more grandiose direction with this effort. The songs on here are all well written but there’s nothing that quite matches the epic scope that was predicted on tracks like “Demonic Ecstasy” and “Shadow From The Tomb.” It also would’ve been cool to see another one of their instrumentals at work but the closing acoustics on “Horizon” do capture a similar feeling.

Overall, Warbringer’s fourth album is a small step from their first three but the variety results in what may be their most accessible release. Some may dispute the changes but they do keep the album from sounding stagnant and don’t affect the band’s presentation all that much at the end of the day. Other bands like Megadeth and Testament made better albums under similar circumstances but Warbringer may have had one of the smoothest transitions.

“The Turning Of The Gears”
“One Dimension”
“Towers Of The Serpent”