Various Artists – Live in the Mojave Desert
Heavy Psych Sounds Records
Release date: Various
Running time: Various
Review by: Alun Jones
Rating: see below
Hello there! Remember me? It’s me, that bloke who occasionally reviews albums for Ever Metal and spins ropey old yarns about rock’n’roll. Yeah, him. Sorry I’ve been absent for a while, had a few things on my all-you-can-eat buffet plate recently. More about that another time (if the lawyers allow me). For now, recline in your favourite easy chair, and let’s review. With me? Good.
Right then, bit of a mammoth task, this one. “Live in the Mojave Desert” is actually a series of five albums, each recorded live (of course) amongst the sand and rocks of the Californian desert. It’s probably like Star Trek, when Kirk and crew are roaming around the cliffs and valleys – but in the dark, and with guitars and lights and stuff – and no one dies (hopefully).
Up first in my sequence of albums is the legendary Earthless, a band who should need no introduction. I listened to their offering whilst on a trip to North Wales; sadly the surf was flat, but the sonic musings of this three piece fitted perfectly the rolling roads between green valleys and big skies. In the land of druids and standing stones, witches and warriors, this was a perfect soundtrack. The songs are a journey in themselves, awash with psychedelic Hendrix style explorations. Only three songs, but they’re plenty lengthy and offer huge scope. It’s actually quite beautiful. (9/10)
Next on the list was Mountain Tamer, a band I’m not familiar with previously, but a cool name. And a cool name goes a long way with me. The Mountain Tamer sound is raw and in-your-face, with mighty, meaty riffs that clunk around in full-on doom style. There’s also a mind expanding, trippy element to their music, leaving me with the impression of Black Flag in a collision with Hawkwind. This unique approach is best exemplified by stand out tracks “Black Noise” and “Scorched Earth”, but it’s all damn fine. (8/10)
An offering in this series from my old buddies Nebula was very welcome, their brand of psych drenched sci-fi hard rock being something I’m somewhat partial to. This is the album with the most obviously “live” feel – not that it’s sloppy at all, the very occasional tiny imperfections and wall of fuzz give a genuine and celebratory vibe. Opening track “To the Centre” is a feedback drenched, blistering explosion. “Giant” is another standout track with a bouncing, crazy gonzo riff. (8/10)
Spirit Mother are another band I’ve not heard before, and they were a real surprise. Their first song, “Tonic (Exodus Inc)” is straight off the soundtrack of some forgotten Italian/Turkish 1970s horror movie. The band take the standard desert/doom rock and add violin, and everything veers off in a totally unexpected direction. From mournful 70s rock on “Ether” to creating their own genre of gothic Spaghetti Western (“Dead Cells”), it’s like Morricone on peyote orchestrating The Exorcist. Strangely beguiling. (8.5/10)
The album I listened to last in the collection was the debut release of STÖNER, the very aptly named stoner rock “supergroup” which features Brant Bjork (Kyuss, Fu Manchu, solo etc) and Nick Oliveri (Kyuss, QOTSA, Mondo Generator etc etc). With Brant’s drummer, Ryan Güt whacking the tubs. As a fan of these rogues’ other bands, I was definitely curious about this release. No fear here: this is exactly what I hoped it would be: desert rock royalty. “Rad is Rad” features a relentless, rolling bassline that drags the listener along on a head-nodding journey whilst Brant croons in his laid-back manner. The big, groovy bass continues in “The Older Kids”, and the tracks develop a trancelike vibe as it progresses. And strap yourself in for the final song, “Tribe/Fly Girl” – over 13 minutes that will melt your eyeballs. Definitive. (9/10)
That’s it: five albums, five bands, and a mind-blowing excursion into the remote desert valleys. Whether showcasing how it should be done, or abducting the listener in a smoke-filled UFO to be probed in new realms, these live collections are a trip.
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This review was brought to you by Platinum Al in association with Ever Metal.