Heavy Psych

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BLOOD CEREMONY The Eldritch Dark Album Cover The Eldritch Dark
BLOOD CEREMONY
4.64 | 18 ratings
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BLOOD CEREMONY Lord Of Misrule Album Cover Lord Of Misrule
BLOOD CEREMONY
4.64 | 16 ratings
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RUBY THE HATCHET Planetary Space Child Album Cover Planetary Space Child
RUBY THE HATCHET
4.68 | 7 ratings
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PURSON The Circle and the Blue Door Album Cover The Circle and the Blue Door
PURSON
4.79 | 5 ratings
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BLOOD CEREMONY Blood Ceremony Album Cover Blood Ceremony
BLOOD CEREMONY
4.33 | 17 ratings
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THE GROUNDHOGS Split Album Cover Split
THE GROUNDHOGS
4.34 | 9 ratings
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CAPTAIN BEYOND Captain Beyond Album Cover Captain Beyond
CAPTAIN BEYOND
4.25 | 21 ratings
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PSYCHEDELIC WITCHCRAFT Sound Of The Wind Album Cover Sound Of The Wind
PSYCHEDELIC WITCHCRAFT
4.43 | 5 ratings
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JEX THOTH Blood Moon Rise Album Cover Blood Moon Rise
JEX THOTH
4.32 | 5 ratings
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BUFFALO Volcanic Rock Album Cover Volcanic Rock
BUFFALO
4.22 | 9 ratings
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GRAND FUNK RAILROAD Closer to Home Album Cover Closer to Home
GRAND FUNK RAILROAD
4.26 | 6 ratings
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BLUES PILLS Blues Pills Album Cover Blues Pills
BLUES PILLS
4.18 | 7 ratings
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PSYCHEDELIC WITCHCRAFT Sound Of The Wind

Album · 2017 · Heavy Psych
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adg211288
Although their formerly shared their vocalist Virginia Monti with the doom metal band Dead Witches and the remainder of the band are also involved with hard rockers Magnet, Italians Psychedelic Witchcraft haven't up until this point been a particularly heavy band themselves. This is in spite of also being easily grouped with acts such as Blood Ceremony through the retro rock connection. With their second full-length album Sound of the Wind (2017), they're clearly set out to change this. This one's a real hard rocker!

With ten new tracks under their belt, the band, whose first album was mostly a straight psychedelic rock affair with the occasional heavier edge creeping in, have near enough fully embraced heavy psych on Sound of the Wind. There's the odd moment where things are dialled back considerably, including the title track which sounds as if it could be a lost Jefferson Airplane number. I'm very much reminded of that band's famous White Rabbit during it fact. Mostly though, this album is all about rocking hard but with plenty of psychedelic vibes throughout. It's even close to metal at points, in terms of heaviness if not technique, though there's a vague air of traditional doom if you listen closely enough.

An improvement on the decent but ultimately less interesting (especially to the heavy rock and/or metal fan) debut, Sound of the Wind is quick to assert itself as one of the best hard rock albums of 2017. Despite this I have to say that it's that title track that sounds out as it's crowning achievement, but it's a strong record from start to finish. Perhaps more to the point it stands out in the crowd of these female fronted psychedelic heavy rock bands that have been (justifiably) quite popular in recent years, thanks in no small part to the increased heaviness of the guitar riff. Along with this potent riffage, the use of psychedelic melodies really pushes the album up a level, as do the charming vocals from Virginia Monti, whose voice fits perfectly and is a real delight to take in.

Overall I'm very impressed by Psychedelic Witchcraft's change in direction to becoming a heavier band and hope to hear more work in this style from them.

HIGH TIDE Sea Shanties

Album · 1969 · Heavy Psych
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Warthur
About as heavy as an album could get in 1969 without being full-on proto-metal, High Tide's secret weapon on Sea Shanties are the nuanced violin performances by Simon House, who prog fans might have heard on albums by Third Ear Band or Hawkwind. This touch of gentle class amid the band's Atomic Rooster-meets-Hendrix whirlwind of acid-drenched fuzz creates an intoxicating mixture, like House is a lone violinist on the deck of a ship in the middle of a violent storm. The album structure might be simple - two comparatively shorter songs sandwiching a longer epic on each side - but the songs are engaging and vibrant and the longer pieces (Death Warmed Up and Missing Out) are incredible proto-prog offerings.

The album's been rather overlooked by prog historians, which is a shame because it's an intriguing point where the hardest of hard rock, the heaviest of heavy psych and the proggiest of proto-prog met up and created a truly unique sound.

ELDER Reflections of a Floating World

Album · 2017 · Heavy Psych
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adg211288
Active for a little over a decade now and US band Elder have certainly changed along the way. Starting life as a stoner/doom metal band and releasing the self-titled debut album Elder (2008) in this style, they've become increasingly more based in psychedelic and progressive sounds, which is the flavour of the day on the group's fourth full-length album, Reflections of a Floating World (2017).

Much like their last album Lore (2015), Reflections of a Floating World is a lengthy album made up of a short track list. Six tracks, each lasting for extended durations where the shortest offering is 8:39 long, with most surpassing ten minutes. The title track of Lore was longer than any of these here, but overall Reflections of a Floating World stands as Elder's longest record to date. With long running times like these it's obvious that the band wasn't writing with catchy tracks in mind, but something more atmospheric and intricate that requires the teeth to be sunk into and given several listens before it can really be appreciated.

Some elements of the band's earlier metal sound is still in evidence on the album, such as during opener Sanctuary, which starts off in such a way that you'd be forgiven for thinking nothing had changed since the debut, but mostly Elder have moved away from metal at this point and are better described as a heavy psych group with strong progressive rock influences in the structure of their compositions. They're still pretty heavy though. Plenty of vocals are used, but quite often there are extended instrumental sections, which prove to be the most interesting aspect of the band's music. Quite the range of different sounds can be heard within the same song from keyboard parts, clean tone guitars and metallic riffs. When the vocals are featured it's of note that frontman Nicholas DiSalvo's singing style has changed a lot since the band's early days, being much more melodic and in keeping with the more rock based music the band is playing now.

Reflections of a Floating World is certainly the kind of album that is a slow burn. There's a lot going on and a listener may be several listens deep before they've even started to get a grasp on the scope of the work Elder has created. It's pretty grand. The biggest issue facing the release though is that despite being very accomplished there isn't actually all that much to give the tracks identity from each other even after several complete listens. This makes it the kind of album that is best taken in a single sitting to get its full effect, but it's long duration may be a barrier to some listeners. The one track that really stands out as different is the much lighter and hypnotic instrumental Sonntag. Though the album as a whole can be described as an atmospheric work, that song takes it even further. Technically speaking though it's the least interesting of the bunch, slowly building and changing up small ideas in what's otherwise a fairly repetitive pattern. Fortunately it's the shortest song, but as mentioned earlier, that still makes it 8:39 long.

An intriguing album that I have to say does live up to its name in the way it inspires reflective contemplation in me, Reflections of a Floating World is not perfect by any means, but it's clear to me that the trio that make up Elder are a group of talented guys. They seem to still be in the transitional stage from their earlier stoner/doom metal sound though and haven't yet completely honed their new craft. For my part I find this album quite the pleasure while its running and can recognise the number of quality riffs found within, but after the event it's failing to leave too much of a lasting impression, and that's the kind of thing that is going to elevate Elder's music to the next level.

RUBY THE HATCHET Planetary Space Child

Album · 2017 · Heavy Psych
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adg211288
Usually counted as a stoner rock and/or metal act, US rockers Ruby the Hatchet have clearly set out upon a different, entirely more psychedelic path with their third full-length album Planetary Space Child (2017). While I quite liked the group's first two full-lengths, Ouroboros (2012) and Valley of the Snake (2015), they did little to prepare me for this third album. This one, I literally feel blown away by. I've been launched up into the cosmos, straight into the atmosphere the music creates. Now it won't let me go, even if I wanted it to. Which I don't. Let me tell you why.

The music on Planetary Space Child is still definable as stoner like Ruby the Hatchet's first two albums, but it's better described as a heavy psych album. This blending of two closely related styles isn't an uncommon thing and in fact Planetary Space Child is actually the third such album that fits into this niche that I've listened to from 2017, after Elder's Reflections of a Floating World and Spaceslug's Time Travel Dilemma. While all three of these albums have their own sounds the thing that all three have in common is their creation of atmospheric psychedelic music. Where Elder and Spaceslug's albums could be said to sit at opposite ends of this little spectrum, the latter being the most metal of them, then Ruby the Hatchet's Planetary Space Child is the album that finds the balance between them. This is first and foremost a rock album, but one that isn't restrained in getting its metal on when the music requires a little extra oomph, with both stoner and doom metal touches in evidence.

A balance of rock and metal elements is nice, but it's not what makes Planetary Space Child such a good album. I often find that atmospheric albums, meaning anything from heavy psych/stoner rock albums like this to atmospheric black metal, often aim to take their listener on a journey and as such are all about the big picture. A common occurrence with such albums is that while many succeed at creating something enjoyable the individual songs suffer from anonymity. This is not the case with Ruby the Hatchet's Planetary Space Child, which succeeds in equal measure having that absorbing quality of an atmospheric album and the creation of individual memorable tracks that rock hard, with vocalist Jillian Taylor displaying a voice that melds in with the atmospheric sounds while also delivering lyrical hooks that stick with you long after the album has ended. The songs stand out as just that: songs. Not chapter selection points in a much longer work.

Aside from some great vocals, the instruments themselves produce many instances of memorability throughout too. A common feature is Sean Hur's organ providing the psychedelic contrast behind the hard rock, sometimes metal, guitar of Johnny Scarps, working equally well in the album's softer sections, of which there are quite a few which serve towards building the atmosphere up. I even feel inclined to mention the drumming, played by Owen Stewart, especially in regard to the third track Pagan Ritual. I'm not someone who normally pays much attention to drums. They're the kind of necessity of a rock/metal band that I would miss if they were not there but take for granted otherwise. In this track though, they really are impossible to ignore, especially in its later stages, bringing beats that really live up to the track's name. And it's trippy as hell.

And that's just scratching the surface as to why I'm so blown away by Planetary Space Child. Another reason is that it proves such a compelling album that giving it many repeat spins is easy, with no risk of boredom or over-familiarity setting in. I myself have listened to it no less than nine times just putting this review together, and expect there'll be many more to come long after this is posted. Ruby the Hatchet have an album here that has that seemingly rare combination of a great atmosphere and memorable songs. For my money I'd say others will struggle to produce a better hard rock album in 2017 than this one.

ELDER Reflections of a Floating World

Album · 2017 · Heavy Psych
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Unitron
Reviewer's Challenge Selection: August 2017

What's worse than bad? I didn't know before, but this album answers that question.

Some people will say that a boring album is worse than a bad one, which I personally disagree with. I'd rather listen to a really boring album than a flat out terrible one, but guess what? This album manages to somehow be both boring AND awful, and how do you ask? Well join me on this masochistic journey, through the seas of mediocrity.

Mastodon's new album mostly rested on the lame side, and Coheed and Cambria has some pretty mediocre stuff too. So take that, and make it worse. Add in some generic ambiance that does nothing but act as filler to justify the long song lengths, making the listener ask where the actual music is, and you've just about got it. Guess what though? The music isn't any better than the droning ambient parts, so you may as well just turn it off and stare at a blank wall. Most of the songs sound pretty much the exact same and follow the same pattern. Synthetic rock riff, emo-esque vocals, droning ambiance, then repeat. It just all sounds so soulless, and doesn't have any riff, melody, hook, or anything that gets me into the music or brings out any emotions. There is one song that stands out though among the boring stuff. That is "The Falling Veil", and it stands out it all the wrong ways.

Why is it so bad? First of all, it takes like two minutes for the actual song to start playing, but when it starts, you'd rather go back to the ambiance. The riff sounds like some sickening happy melody for the newest summer pop hit. It sounds way too flowery for an what an album like this is trying to do. For a little while it goes away, so you just get some more boring riffs and vocals, but it comes back. Oh yeah, this is the main riff, so be prepared to wish that you are falling with that veil and falling right off a cliff. Coupled with a stale polished production, this is not what I look for in a supposedly "hard rock/stoner rock" album. Also, every song is way too long. If you can make it work, go ahead and make an album with all songs being 8+ minutes. However, when you make the listener need to cleanse their ears within two minutes, it's clearly just not working.

There is little music that annoys as much as this album, but when I listen to this album I just feel depressed. Usually I listen to depressing and sad albums when I feel the same to make me feel better. This does the opposite, I was in a pretty good mood before listening to this. Now I just feel annoyed, but maybe it's because this album doesn't sound like what was advertised. This album is considered stoner rock, but it's really not. The only brief moment that is stoner in anyway and sounds decent is a 30 second riff around the 3 minute mark of "Blind". Besides that, it's a pretentious indie/prog rock album that's trying to disguise itself as a stoner rock album. If you want real stoner rock, check out some Clutch or Fu Manchu. Unless you want the Top 10 indie rock hits but made overly long, I would avoid this album.

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