Wednesday, August 28, 2013
It seems as if the world is slowly starting to wake-up and take notice of Curse the Son’s stellar sophomore effort, ‘Psychache’. The menacing riffs of Ron Vanacore combined with the propulsive rhythm section of drummer Michael Petrucci and bassist Cheech have yielded one of the year’s finest albums to date. The band’s debut, ‘Klonopain’, was a solid slab of stoner-doom, but Curse the Son has managed to push their sound to dizzying new heights with a refined focus on head-nodding groove and bleary-eyed psychedelia. Vocalist/guitarist Ron Vanacore was cool enough to shed some light on the making of ‘Psychache’, the future of the band, and more…
VCA - Hey, Ron, thanks for taking the time for chatting with me on behalf of the Temple of Perdition. I have to say that ‘Psychache’ is easily my most spun album of the year. While your debut, ‘Klonopain’, was a solid album and well worth the purchase ‘Psychache’ seems as if it’s on a whole other plane in terms of progression and musicianship. Is there anything that went into the making of your sophomore album that stands out or was different, or is it just a matter of “practice makes perfect”?
RV - First off, thanks so much Steve. I am thrilled that you enjoy the record so much. We receive messages from people all over the world, telling us how much they enjoy our music and what it means to them. We are blown away each and every time, and I can’t begin to tell you how much it truly means to us.
You are correct in your suggestion that ‘Psychache’ is on a different level than ‘Klonopain’. ‘Klonopain’ was a collection of songs that had been created over the course of 3 years. The music was written and arranged entirely by me, and some songs had been written before I even had a band to jam with!
Subsequently, the songs on ‘Psychache’ were written rather quickly. We wrote those tunes between July and December of 2011. The songs for ‘Psychache’ were written with more of a “band” concept in mind, and some of the riffs and ideas were born just from jamming. The biggest difference between ‘Klonopain’ and ‘Psychache’ was the addition of Mike Petrucci on the drums. He joined us in June of 2011 and all we did was write that entire summer. Mike is a trained musician, and a top-notch drummer. As soon as he joined the band, it was immediately obvious that he was going to help us to grow as musicians and songwriters. His impact cannot be understated! I had known Mike for a long time, and hoped of playing with him in a band at some point. Luckily, the stars aligned properly and we haven’t looked back since.
RV - Well truth be told, there was a false start with the release of ‘Psychache’. It had always been our intention to shop this record in the hopes of landing a record deal, so we wanted to wait a bit before we self-released it. There were some promo copies of the CD distributed at the Stoner Hands of Doom festival last year in New London, CT and some of the songs found their way onto YouTube. The cat was out of the bag, so we just went with it. The first round of reviews/interviews, and the subsequent requests to purchase the CD soon followed.
Our management (313 Inc.) entered into serious negotiations with some labels in the late fall, and it was decided to wait and sit on the record for a bit. Even with negotiations still ongoing presently, we decided that we could not wait any longer. We knew ‘Psychache’ was too good to rot on the shelf, so it was given its proper release a couple weeks ago in the digital download format. It is available as a CD as well, and YES; there is a very good chance that you will see the ‘Psychache’ record on vinyl at some point very soon!
VCA - In response to ‘Psychache’, Ulla Roschat of The Wicked Lady Show and Temple of Perdition has said, “I'm totally hooked. It's of an outstanding beauty, everything comes together as if it's just natural.” I couldn’t agree more with this sentiment. Did the pieces fall into place from the get go? Is ‘Psychache’ the end product that you had envisioned before going into the studio?
RV - That was really cool of Ulla to say, comments like that not only make my day, they make my LIFE!
I was taken aback by the response to ‘Klonopain’. As a musician, you always hope that your creation will resonate with others and make an impact. I was pleasantly surprised with the way that record made its mark. The reviews from the stoner/doom press were overwhelmingly positive and the fan reaction was amazing.
Due to the success of the ‘Klonopain’ record I felt a tremendous amount of pressure when planning its follow up. This was a situation I had never found myself in before, and we’ve all heard of the “sophomore slump”. When mixing began, the feel and vibe of the record really began to all fall into place.
We didn’t want to make “Klonopain II”, so it became very important for us to make this one a different experience entirely. As the mixing progressed, each and every song began to take on its own life. As a perfectionist, ‘Psychache’ became an obsession for me. I poured everything I had into mixing the record. It was a very exciting experience, but also difficult and emotionally draining at times.
VCA - Related to Ulla’s comment about ‘Psychache’ coming together naturally, how much time was spent on the album’s sequencing?
RV - A lot!
When I was a kid, I was so into the sequence of songs on the records I dug. I loved the concept of 2 sides and all the thought that is involved in picking which song leads off, which one is the closer, etc. Again, as the mixing progressed and the characteristics of each song began to appear, it became clearer and clearer which songs would go where.
I sincerely think that the CD ruined the pacing of a record. I enjoy the ebb and flow of the classic records, and have always tried to upkeep that old-school tradition.
VCA - The only real criticism that I could possibly launch at ‘Psychache’ is that the album seems too short, though there can be something said about being concise and leaving the listener wanting more. It’s the same feeling I get after listening to most of Saint Vitus’ discography. Were there any tunes left on the “cutting room floor”?
RV - I always think it is better to leave the listener wanting more, whether that be live or on a recording. Why overstay your welcome? That is another problem that arose with the advent of CD’s. 15 songs on an album? Nah, I dug it when there were 7 or 8 tunes on a record. All killer, no filler…ya know?
No, there were no songs left over. As a matter of fact, a couple of the songs were written in the studio as the session was progressing. I won’t divulge which ones though!
VCA - One of the coolest things about both ‘Klonopain’ and, to a greater degree, ‘Psychache’ is that the riffs are menacing, yet still possess a hypnotizing groove. Was this the ultimate goal behind the formation of Curse the Son, or are the tunes just the end result of three guys getting together to jam?
RV - Well as I stated previously, at one point Curse the Son was just me. I wanted to be super fucking heavy, fuzzy and slow. I wanted a sound that was huge, fat and analog.
The riffs are what they are. I write what I write. I can’t play other bands songs and I never played covers. The only music I play is mine, so the riffs are of obvious importance to our music. There is NOTHING like getting stoned and locking onto some badass hypnotic riffage. Pure ecstasy!
VCA - I remember reading a post on your Facebook page that stated that Curse the Son never tours and you play about four gigs a year. Is playing live a priority for the band? Are there any gigs on the horizon?
RV - Playing the RIGHT gigs is a priority for Curse the Son. I would much rather play 4 meaningful shows a year, than play every other weekend at dive bars just to make a couple bucks. I am a long time veteran of the Connecticut metal scene and I have paid my dues. I’ve learned that playing too many shows can become detrimental to the overall psyche of a band and end up working against you.
We would like to tour if we can find a label that will help us with some tour support. My personal life doesn’t really allow for extended periods away from home, so it is something that I could only do once in a while. We have people from all over the country (and the world) who write to us daily asking us to come play their hometown. I think it would be so awesome to play in different areas and meet the people who know and love our music. Someday it will happen, when I am not sure.
VCA - What’s the music scene like in Connecticut, particularly around your hometown of Hamden, and how does Curse the Son fit in?
RV - The music scene in Connecticut is a victim of its location. We are stuck between New York City and Boston. There are a few really great bands around here, but it is so difficult to gain any traction. There are very few places to play and the majority of the bands around here are death metal. You wouldn’t think it, but it plays to our advantage when we gig with a bunch of death metal bands. We stand out. We make our mark and people remember whom we are.
There are only a few bands in our area that are doing the stoner/doom thing, so there is not much of a scene for our music. Sea of Bones and Lord Fowl are the two bands that immediately come to mind. It is tough to get people to come out to local shows now. There are so many other things that are competing for their attention. Plus, they can always watch it on YouTube the next day right?? All things considered, we have developed a pretty decent following in our area.
VCA - What’s the current status of Curse the Son? Are you guys working on any new material or do you have any plans to record in the near future?
RV - We are currently writing material for the 3rd release. At present time we have 4 songs in the can and hope to begin recording by October/November 2013. I hope that the next record will be released mid winter 2014.
VCA - I can say without reservation that ‘Psychache’ is one of those rare albums that I can reach for regardless of how many times I’ve listened to it or what my mood is and I can still totally get into it. Are there any albums, classic or contemporary, that you never seem to tire of?
RV - That’s a great question! I never tire of ‘Deliverance’, ‘Back In Black’, ‘Sabotage’, ‘Master Of Reality’, ‘Unleashed In The East’, ‘Diary Of A Madman’, ‘Zeppelin III’, ‘Dopes To Infinity’ and ‘Black Masses’ by Electric Wizard amongst many others! I generally only listen to music that was made previous to the mid-90’s. I also enjoy a lot of the early thrash music from the 80’s, like ‘Hell Awaits’ and ‘Infernal Overkill’ by Destruction.
VCA - Any last thoughts on future recordings, the status of Curse the Son, or the big existential questions?
RV - Well, like I said we are currently busy writing material for the next record. We are in a really good headspace right now as a band. The sales and downloads of ‘Psychache’ has been mind blowing to say the least. The best part is that a lot of people who are grabbing ‘Psychache’ are grabbing ‘Klonopain’ too, which means we are gaining lots of new fans everyday. It is a very exciting time for us. We hope to have some record label support by the time the 3rd record is released, but if not, we will just do it on our own again. The music biz has become a very D.I.Y. system and that is OK with me.
Anyone interested can still purchase a copy of the ‘Psychache CD, and we have T-Shirts for sale as well.
The last thing I would like to say is thank-you to everyone who has shown us such love and support so far. Please keep spreading the word about us. Word of mouth is the only way a band like us will continue to grow and so far it has been a magical ride. Keep the faith brothers and sisters and let’s keep the party going…..Get HIGH!!
Interview by Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)
Friday, August 23, 2013
VCA - 2012 was a killer year for doom metal and other like-minded genres and reigning at the top of my year end list was your self-titled debut which still gets spun on the regular. I tried to turn others on to Uzala and I found that the hazy, muddy production tended to polarize listeners. Personally, I found that the production enhanced the album and added atmosphere and really emphasized Darcy’s vocals. Is there going to be a noticeable shift production-wise like there was on the split that you recorded with Mala Suerte on ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’?
CR - The LP got mastered for the AWWFN release in a dark manner. It will be reissued by King of the Monsters Records later this year with Mell Dettmer mastering as well as a bonus 12" single with Cataract and Death Masque included. Essentially the entire Blake Green produced Visual Arts Collective sessions will be available in one vinyl package. Tony Roberts will be doing the LP layout/design this time and there will be slightly different photos/art, etc. It will be a deluxe release, as are all King of the Monsters releases.
Tales of Blood & Fire is different in many ways. Darcy and I wrote everything on this one, for example, and also we had a different vision for how to make the guitars sound. The drums are heavier for two reasons. One, Chuck Watkins was raised on raw meat and punk and metal. Two, Tad Doyle is a drummer and I'm pretty sure he built his entire studio to emphasize heavy drumming. The first record was made in a very big concert venue so there is more space and ambient sounds in the whole thing. Which I feel was perfect for that session. The atmosphere of the session was hazy and the record is too. It's great that Blake could capture the feeling that we were still trying to figure out how to make those songs come to life or pull them over from the other side.
VCA - What was it like recording with Tad? Did he bring anything new to the table as far as influencing your sound or altering the way that you ultimately envisioned the final product?
CR - Tad was great. Very welcoming and laid back. Just kinda "roll it and go for it" kind of style with us. We weren't smart enough to send him a demo so he didn't even have any idea what songs we were bringing him to record. He just went with the flow. He was open to my harebrained ideas for guitar stuff. He did rein me in a bit because of time limitations. If I had it my way there would be nine guitar tracks on each song. I stayed the hell out of the way when it came to drums and vocals of course. My opinions are highly valued only by myself in those situations.
When I recorded the drone/noise wall guitar parts for Tenement of the Lost he just handed me his pedal board and said "try this out for a bit". After 45 minutes or so his voice came over the headphones "I think we've got some good stuff here". I had no idea he was recording! Definitely a good way to keep thing loose and improvisational. I used my Laney gh100s Tony Iommi head for most of the guitar tracks, but there is some Fender Champ on there as well. Plenty of it, actually. Darcy used a Peavey vtm60 that we borrowed from Thomas Wilson from Black Cloud. That thing sounds MONSTROUS and Tad brought out the depth of it. Some of Darcy's guitar riffs sound like boulders rolling over villages. IMMENSE. Her clean guitars were played through a mix of a Marshall Studio 15 that we borrowed from Darren Chase of Ancient Warlocks and a super weird top secret solid state 50 watt amp with the throbbiest tremolo/vibrato sound. Both Darcy and I used Black Arts Toneworks pedals on all of the dirty guitars. I leaned heavily on the Revelation Superbass to create the basis of my dirty sound.
VCA - One of the cool things about your debut was that you and Darcy divvied up the vocal duties among the eight tracks. “Fracture” and “Wardrums” definitely stand out due to the shift in tone and aggression, yet the album still sounds balanced. I thought that those two tracks broke up the album nicely and your berserker wails tended to juxtapose with Darcy’s more ethereal approach. Is that trend going to continue on the new album?
CR - Darcy sings all of the songs on this one. The only reason is because I didn't write any songs that were for my voice. We have a new songwriting cycle starting soon. It's possible that I will sing on one or more of these. It's not really important to me whether or not I use that voice. The important thing for us is to do service to the song. It's never been about individual mastery of an instrument or voice. We only wish to craft good songs that are memorable and capture the mood of the idea behind the song.
The singing on Tales of Blood & Fire is more emotive and expressive than the s/t. With the cleaner mix the vocals sit right above the other instruments. Darcy's range on this one is quite evocative of an older era of singers. Comparisons to Grace Slick have been put forth and I can't really argue with that.
CR - Each song is a story, so each song was inspired individually by the story behind it. Sometimes the initial inspiration came from the histories and myths of the Salem Witch Trials, Aubrey Beardsley's illustrations for Salomé, films, art and songs about Elisabeth Bathory, or dreams. Then the inspiration came from bands as well because we feel rooted in a tradition. You can probably hear the influences almost as clearly as we felt them. We are not here to reinvent the bloody wheel.
On the s/t album we had a long time to write and play the songs live and for the most part the band was based here in Idaho. On this one Darcy and I had many rehearsals with no drums or bass and all of the writing was done by us without much outside influence from other band members. We had a short rehearsal session and then went straight into Witch Ape Studio with Tad. So there is a tension and anxiety underlying the entire thing since it had to be done in six days. It works perfectly for many of the songs since the subject matter deals with being hunted, murder, obsession, vengeance, despair, and loss.
Nick (bass) left after day two of the recording, so that was it for his involvement. He is no longer in the band since his commitments were not with us.
VCA - Is the band still split between Boise and Portland? How does that affect the overall songwriting process and preparation for live gigs? Any plans developing to tour behind ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’?
CR - Chuck Watkins (drums) lives in Portland and we are continuing without a bassist, at least for now. Chuck also plays in Ephemeros. Their new album, All Hail Corrosion, just came out on Seventh Rule and Parasitic Records. They are destructive.
So far as preparing for gigs, recording, etc., we try to split our travels. The reality is that Chuck travels more over this way than we do over that way. We are touring the US in October with Mike Scheidt (YOB, VHÖL) doing his solo acoustic material and part of the tour will also be with Mount Salem from Chicago. The Texas dates will be with the unbelievably incredible Sabbath Assembly. We will play a couple of festivals along the way. Starting with Fall Into Darkness Fest in Portland, Oregon October 13 with Mike Scheidt, Hammers of Misfortune, and The Skull (ex - Trouble) and about mid way we will play Baltimore, Maryland's second installment of Autumn Screams Doom Festival on October 26th with Serpentine Path, Dopethrone, LOSS, Churchburn, and a bunch of others that I will regret not mentioning later. Along the way we will play gigs with new friends and old. Like fucking BONGRIPPER in Chicago?!? HELL YEAH! EAGLE TWIN in Salt Lake City?!? GOD DAMN! We will announce all of the dates soon. Still finalizing two or three towns.
VCA - Your debut was the perfect mix of doom, psychedelia, noise and despair. What’s in store for the listener this time around?
CR - Well, although that's very kind of you to say, I feel there are ways we could have done better on the s/t record and I'm sure that I would have done something differently with the split 7" and this new album given enough time and space between takes of songs. The lens of time can be clearer than the moment in time, so taking all of that into account and also the fact remains that I can't change it...
This album has heavier drumming like I mentioned before. The guitars are clearer although there is still a psychedelic feel to the recording even with the added aggression to the sound. Dorando from Lesbian mentioned to me that he thought we sound like Flower Travellin' Band more with these songs. I had never thought of it before but I reckon he's right. Something in the extension of the high end of the songs and the warble of the wah pedal. Or maybe we are secretly Japanese, from the 60's, and on loads of bad acid and speed.
VCA - I’ve been into music my whole life and I can’t imagine not owning physical copies of alums whether it’s on CD or an LP. In this day and age exceptions are made and I’ll go the digital route if an album is scarce, out-of-print, or a band doesn’t have the means to get their music out in a physical format. Your debut was one of the reasons I dusted off the turntable and sought out a new needle. How important is it for Uzala to put out a physical release?
CR - I actually don't give a fuck about digital downloads. If someone wants to help us further our band and help us to cover the costs of being on the road, in the studio, procuring vintage gear, etc then by all means they are welcome to buy a digital download from us. If someone wants to "steal" it from a download site, so fucking what? They actually "have" nothing, in my opinion. I'm sure that my age has a lot to do with the formulation of that opinion. I grew up listening to tapes and LPs, watching the needles bounce on dual vU meters on my Dad's old Pioneer and Kenwood gear, blasting my eardrums with old eggshell headphones or cranking Bose 301s and pointing them in different directions to alter the sound in the room.
We take great care in the presentation of the physical formats that we present to the world because we want to put out something that we would enjoy owning. A few of our releases have fallen short in the past, but we will correct that with reissues. Our first thirty or so copies of the demo were made in a very big hurry and they look like utter shit. We would like to reissue that someday to make up for the shoddy handiwork on that one. I think that some future releases will go even further into the realm of crazy packaging, but I reckon we will always try to have a "normal" version for those who just want a black slab and a sleeve to house it in. I don't want to do something stupid and so exclusive that only ebay assholes will buy it. We are still a small band so we do smaller editions for economic reasons.
VCA - Both Uzala and Pallbearer (on their ‘2010 Demo’)—among many artists over the past several decades—have recorded versions of “Gloomy Sunday”. Any renditions that you particularly enjoy? What was it that attracted you to that song and are there any other similar indulgences on the upcoming album?
CR - Diamanda Galas was the sole reason that we recorded Gloomy Sunday with the Desmond Carter lyrics. There was no possible way for us to even reach for what she did, but it was inspirational to us and we had to try our hand at it for our own reasons.
VCA - Any other thoughts on ‘Tales of Blood & Fire’ or life in general?
CR - We will be writing and recording more for some splits with a few other bands soon. Look for us in October and November in the US, and we hope to bring UZALA to Europe in the spring. We are talking with some folks about that.
Interview by Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)
Wednesday, August 21, 2013
Lo-fi vibes and orphaned transmissions are tuned-in and then rebroadcast through the aether on Ice Dragon’s seventh long-player, ‘Born a Heavy Morning.’ Seemingly content to move even further from the psych-inflected metal of the band’s peerless doom trilogy, the overall tone of ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ has more in common with last year’s tripped-out ‘Dream Dragon’, but musically lies somewhere between the melancholic folk of the “Season of Decay” single and the moody meditations of ‘The Soul’s Midnight’ EP. Add to that blend heavy and unlikely doses of jangle-pop and whimsy and you might have an inclination of what to expect this time around. AM radio channeled through busted-up, acid-damaged transistors never sounded so good.
Ice Dragon has been uncoiling and experimenting with their sound essentially since their inception, but 2012 marked a huge leap into unexplored territories for the band in regards to recorded output. It’s their collective ability to indulge whims and tread new paths all the while maintaining the semblance of cohesion and consistency that really separates Ice Dragon from the horde.
With ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ the band is seemingly preoccupied with early-to-mid 60’s psych-pop, especially on the first half of the release. The album’s sunny—by way of The Monkees or The Turtles—opener, “Wakin’ Up”, is a fleeting and fanciful tune that could easily have been released by any of the acts associated with 60’s revivalist collective the Elephant 6 Recording Co. “In Which a Man Rises, Washes, and Eats Before Work”, the first of four dreamy and hazy soundscape interludes, reinforces the idea of having a “heavy morning”. “We’ll Go on a Trip, You and I”, initially sounds like the bouncy, whimsical companion piece to the opening track, but the band filters the tune through a sheet of blotter, the results of which seem to bridge the incomprehensible gap between Syd Barrett’s ‘The Madcap Laughs’ and ‘Yerself is Steam’ era Mercury Rev.
While ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ may have its fair share of blissed-out tunes the album isn’t all incense and peppermints. “The Past Plus the Future is Present”, arguably one of the album’s highlights, is a brooding, otherworldly voyage where siren-like guitars wail and moan over a thick bassline for what remotely sounds like, musically, an unearthed Portishead demo. “We are the Hopeless’, with its Birthday Party-like guitar riff and Ron’s baritone Nick Cave croon, echoes the post-punk and goth-rock leanings of the band’s alter-ego, Slow Heart. Adding to the eclectic nature of “Born a Heavy Morning” is the melancholic blues of the outstanding ninth track, “Square Triangle”. Here Ice Dragon layers slide guitar beautifully over a morose, downtrodden groove. Closing out the album is “(I Will) Watch My Hair Grow”, a moving, somber track that captures the dysphoria of a morning comedown.
After Ice Dragon’s appearance at the Scion Rock Fest this past June I was expecting the band’s predilection for doom to be reinvigorated and for ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ to be, well…heavy as fuck. Despite the lack of “heaviness”, ‘Born a Heavy Morning’ is the band’s trippiest and most diverse album to date and the perfect way to cap off a summer. Another killer, eclectic release from the ever-evolving Ice Dragon. Also notable is that this is the band’s first release to be issued on CD courtesy of Navalorama Records.
Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
Warm vintage tones and a predilection for dark, occult themes—a seemingly timeless and complementary combination—unite with a groove-infused, proto-metal swing for Brimstone Coven’s hazy self-titled debut. Over the span of seven tracks Brimstone Coven ably explores the realms of hard rock, doom, and laid-back acid jams with quite a heavy nod toward the 70’s. While the band clearly have not set out to reinvent the wheel, they have succeeded in crafting a solid-as-Hell debut due to strong and varied songwriting and some spectacular retro-riffing. Layer the recordings with some catchy vocal melodies and a dose of soul and you have, in a nutshell, a good idea of what you have in store with ‘Brimstone Coven’.
Fittingly the album opens with “Intro”, a brief, melodic instrumental that sticks around just long enough to pique the listener’s interest before “We are forever” kicks in with an up-tempo, hard-rockin’ groove that would be right at home on the Pentagram compilation ‘First Daze Here’. Though the band clearly has an adoration and respect for 70’s hard rock and early metal, particularly for the bands and sounds that dwell in the shadows on the darker side of the spectrum, it would be hard to dismiss that Pentagram are a major influence. The third track, “The Ancients”, has a hard-driving, galloping rhythm that really showcases the impressive riffing and lead guitar abilities of guitarist and band founder Corey Roth.
Midway through the album the ‘ludes kick in and Brimstone Coven switches gears for “Son of the Morning”, a groovy, soporific jam that easily exudes the band’s most soulful performance, both musically and vocally, and stands out as an album highlight. While the track relies heavily on a laid-back groove, the song still revs up to a frantic pace that is punctuated by some impressive drumming and bluesy, post-comedown, leads. The following track, “LoSt in the oDyssey”, doesn’t quite reach the same heights as “Son of the Morning”, but it still effectively contributes to the change in pace and tone on the album. “Children of the Sun”, the final “proper” song of the album, reverts back to the darker doom vibes of both “We are forever” and “The Ancients”. It’s another upbeat burner that finds the band locked into some serious groove.
Brimstone Coven have released a solid, vintage-sounding record that is sure to please fans of occult hard rock and doom. While it’s unfortunate (and lazy) to simply label Brimstone Coven as a “retro” band, it’s probably also unavoidable due to the band’s influences and their debut album’s production. Apparently the band is already working on their follow-up and I, for one, can’t wait to hear the results. The band’s debut is about to get the vinyl treatment courtesy of STB records.
Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)
Friday, August 2, 2013
I have to start off by saying that I kind of feel like a dick for reviewing this album as I may be the only person in North America with access to the six tracks that comprise Tortuga’s self-titled debut album. When I found out that Julio “Ñaca” Almeida of Reino Ermitaño—a band who incidentally released one of the best albums of 2012—had teamed up with Christian Van Lacke of the now defunct psychedelic doomsters Tlön, I knew I had to investigate further. With the help of Marcos Coifman, also of Reino Ermitaño, I was able to touch base with Julio who, in turn, was kind enough to get me a copy of Tortuga’s debut. While the band only has one song available to stream via their Bandcamp page, the stunning ten minute tripped-out opus “Flores Líquidas”, it serves as a more than adequate barometer for measuring the lysergic depth and groove of the remaining five tracks of ‘Tortuga’.
The band’s overall sound isn’t too far removed from either Reino Ermitaño or Tlön as there is still an unwavering focus on both songcraft and groove, but Tortuga has more in common with vintage, psychedelic hard rock opposed to the heavier doom sound of the members’ other bands. While listening to Tortuga greats such as Cream, Blue Cheer, and The Jimi Hendrix Experience come to mind, as well as bands past and present from the desert rock scene.
The one-two punch of opening tracks “Flores Líquidas” and “Las estrellas y los planetas” is nothing short of stunning. “Flores Líquidas” opens with a seismic, nod-inducing bassline that is joined in unison with a thick guitar riff and Van Lacke’s ghostly vocals which, for a lack of a better comparison, are reminiscent of Jack Bruce’s vocals as sung on the chorus of “White Room”. The track twists, turns, and ultimately shifts from a groovy bliss-out to a sprawling, extended jam replete with blistering guitar leads and in-the-pocket rhythm section swing. “Las estrellas y los planetas” is perhaps the “heaviest” tune to be had on ‘Tortuga’, and it is the sonic equivalent of licking a sheet of blotter after imbibing a cocktail that is equal parts of funk and doom.
The rest of the album continues down a similar cosmic path where hard rock, blues, and psychedelia collide with contemporary stoner-rock. Each track is a journey in and of itself and the variety to be found on even the shortest songs is staggering. The fifth track, “Arbol, cielo, vida”, is the clear outlier on the album. It is a soothing, acoustic number that has more in common with the folk stylings of Cat Stevens than the mind-altering freak-out psychedelia of the 60’s and 70’s.
Tortuga’s debut is a killer release that is, seemingly, not widely or currently available outside of South America. Hopefully a distributor in either Europe or the US picks this up so that fans of groove-laden, blues-based hard rock can enjoy the heavy psychedelic experience of Tortuga. Perhaps more interest will encourage the band to make the entire available to stream and download via their Bandcamp page. Here’s to hoping…
Words: Steve Miller
(Originally published at Temple of Perdition)