The Second Coming of Heavy, Chapter One – Geezer / Borracho (Ripple Music, 26 July 2015)
The Second Coming of Heavy, Chapter Two – Supervoid / Red Desert (Ripple Music, 27 February 2016)
“Now it’s time for YOUR Classic Rock” says the title at the top of Ripple Music‘s website, and the slogan is fitting: since its formation back in 2010, the label has made a name for itself as one of the premier sources for stoner rock and metal, psychedelic rock, and all things fuzz-laden. We’ve talked about some of their releases in the past, for example here and also here, but more generally, the label has come to be known for putting out music of consistent quality, within the circles of those styles. And now (starting last summer), they have begun a brand-new series of 12″ splits called The Second Coming of Heavy, which so far has featured some pretty serious heavy hitters, with plenty more on the way. Today we’re going to take a look at the first two of these, Chapter One which came out nearly eight months ago, and Chapter Two which hit the streets at the end of February.
The first entry into this series of records — which came out back in July — really started things off with a bang: it features four songs by Geezer from Kingston, New York (not to be confused with the Black Sabbath bassist or his band, also occasionally known as GZR or G//Z/R), which is a new discovery for this writer but one which I’ll certainly be paying more attention to from now on; and it’s backed with three more tracks from longtime Valley favorites, Washington, D.C.’s Borracho.
The first of these bands seamlessly combine influences from stoner and southern rock, kind of like Monster Magnet covering the Allman Brothers (the lead guitars here often exemplify the Duane Allman slide style), then downtuned just slightly, as though someone stuck their thumb lightly against the edge of the turntable. Their contributions to the split are opening track “Tonight,” featuring lyrics almost reminiscent of “Tonight I’m Gonna Rock You Tonight”; the bass-heavy swamp-groove instrumental “The Whistler”; “Meth Neck,” a low-energy affair that nevertheless is built upon a slowly driving rhythm; and “So Tired,” another lower-tempo song that combines C.O.C.-style southern metal with hints of psychedelia.
Returning readers to this website are surely familiar with fuzzlords Borracho by now (and if not, familiarize yourself!), but on this trio of tunes the band decidedly cranks up the southern rock factor. Cowbell-centric opener “Fight the Prophets”; “Superego,” which opens with a funky wah-bass part and later includes a guitar solo more in the manner of the ABB‘s other original guitarist Dickey Betts against a fuzzy doomy backdrop; and another closing track that incorporates some rather trippy psychedelic vibes (before turning in a more aggressive direction for the remainder of the song), “Shark Tank,” comprise their side of the record.
Ripple Music‘s second Second Coming of Heavy split also happens to feature one group that is very familiar to this writer (and perhaps also to you readers), Supervoid from right here in Pittsburgh, and one that I personally had not heard before, the Twin Cities’ Red Desert.
Of the myriad times this band has been discussed or mentioned on this site, one previous Supervoid release has actually been reviewed — the full-length that followed on that EP’s heels did get included in my list of 2013’s best releases, but a handful of entries on that list (and on the lists from each year since then) have still not received the full write-up treatment. That will eventually be rectified, honest! In the meantime, check out this threesome of songs from these guys (who, since we last heard from them, have been scaled back to a foursome following the departure of a second guitarist and backing vocalist). Despite the arrangements being slightly more stripped-down (there is a bit more breathing room within each song now with the absence of some of the sound effects and miscellaneous guitar noises that were more common in their earlier material), the tripped-out semi-progressive music still spews forth plenty of atmosphere, still evoking the outer space imagery for which this band has always been famous. Mythology-and-archaeastronomy-themed opener “Olympus” kicks things off as Supervoid songs frequently do, with an invigorating riff and showcasing some powerful vocalization (another minor difference fans of the band may notice: while these new songs do often include screams or growls somewhere in the mix doubling the lead part, basically all of the main vocals are of the soaring, clean-singing variety, rather than having lower gutteral roars interspersed in the foreground as they often had done previously). Nearly halfway through the song, they abruptly shift gears with what sounds like either a synth or a bass embellished with some sort of cool synthy envelope filter or oscillator, leading the way into a darker and spacier section that also includes a guitar part in a somewhat more exotic-sounding scale (here is where my knowledge of music theory runs out: all of the various modes or tonal scales guitar players are always talking about end up going completely over my head; I only know how to identify when it’s used in such a way as to give the music a far-off and mysterious vibe.) This same sort of guitar tone opens and then frequently reappears throughout the next song “Wayfarer” — sometimes with a nearly Spanish-sounding flair and elsewhere with a more middle-eastern vibe. Large portions of this song and the one that follows, “The Gallows,” demonstrate that a complex arrangement or an abundance of different layers aren’t always necessary to produce an impressive-sounding end result, as many of the quieter and somewhat stripped-down sections provide a pleasing contrast and signify a job well done in songwriting and/or production.
Minnesotans Red Desert provide the remaining four songs on this release; fittingly (considering their far-northern origin), the first of these (“Frost Giant”) deals extensively with Norse mythological figures and stories — and it overlays its stoner/desert rock foundation (and after all, the barren permafrost of tundra is, by definition, a type of desert) with vocals that echo as though recorded in some sort of ice cavern. With “Hypnotized,” a pessimistic statement on the condition of modern society, and “Revolver,” filled with musings on the purpose of existence and relative meaningfulness or meaninglessness of a person’s life, the band definitely shows a more introspective and philosophical side; similarly on the final track of the split record, “Nightstalker,” they seem to be describing the condition of someone who displays sociopathic tendencies. All of these are delivered in a faraway, dreamy style that lies somewhere between “Opiate” and “No Quarter,” again combined with fuzzy, riffy stoner metal goodness.
Chapter One has gone through two pressings so far, both of which have already sold out, but you can still grab a download here. Chapter Two, released about three weeks ago, is now available in cyan blue right here — but these are limited to just 100 copies so if you want one you’d better hurry! It can also be downloaded here. And you can preview all four bands’ tracks using the two Bandcamp players below:
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