Heavy Psych

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BLOOD CEREMONY The Eldritch Dark Album Cover The Eldritch Dark
BLOOD CEREMONY
4.67 | 22 ratings
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BLOOD CEREMONY Lord Of Misrule Album Cover Lord Of Misrule
BLOOD CEREMONY
4.62 | 18 ratings
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BLOOD CEREMONY The Old Ways Remain Album Cover The Old Ways Remain
BLOOD CEREMONY
4.92 | 5 ratings
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PURSON The Circle and the Blue Door Album Cover The Circle and the Blue Door
PURSON
4.83 | 6 ratings
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RUBY THE HATCHET Planetary Space Child Album Cover Planetary Space Child
RUBY THE HATCHET
4.67 | 8 ratings
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UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS Blood Lust Album Cover Blood Lust
UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS
4.57 | 6 ratings
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BLUES PILLS Lady In Gold Album Cover Lady In Gold
BLUES PILLS
4.41 | 9 ratings
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BLOOD CEREMONY Blood Ceremony Album Cover Blood Ceremony
BLOOD CEREMONY
4.29 | 21 ratings
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CAPTAIN BEYOND Captain Beyond Album Cover Captain Beyond
CAPTAIN BEYOND
4.26 | 25 ratings
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THE GROUNDHOGS Split Album Cover Split
THE GROUNDHOGS
4.33 | 10 ratings
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AVATARIUM Death, Where Is Your Sting Album Cover Death, Where Is Your Sting
AVATARIUM
4.33 | 8 ratings
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BLUES PILLS Blues Pills Album Cover Blues Pills
BLUES PILLS
4.29 | 9 ratings
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BLOOD CEREMONY The Old Ways Remain

Album · 2023 · Heavy Psych
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Warthur
The Old Ways Remain! And it's good to know that, because for a while there it looked like Blood Ceremony had fallen off of the radar; after consistently putting out an album every 2-3 years, the long quiet from this doom-tinged heavy psych group was beginning to feel ominous. No need to worry: Alia O'Brien, Sean Kennedy, and the reliable rhythm section of Gadke and Carrillo are back. If Blood Ceremony have dialled back the quantity of releases lately, at least they are making sure the quality is top notch, with this occult rock tour de force as usual combining a solid heavy psych underpinning with O'Brien's distinctive presence on vocals, flute, and organ, delivering a defiant folk horror manifesto. Unless you are one of those for whom Blood Ceremony lost their charm when they dialled back the doom metal side of their sound in order to amp up the psych, there's plenty to love here for anyone who's already familiar, and if you're not it's a perfect statement of what thry are all about.

THE MASTERS APPRENTICES A Toast to Panama Red

Album · 1972 · Heavy Psych
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While “Choice Cuts” was a slice of hard boogie rock with psychedelic folk extras and offered a glimpse into the world of progressive rock, THE MASTERS APPRENTICES’ fourth release A TOAST TO PANAMA RED ramped up the prog attributes a tad while tamping down the harder boogie rock. The result was an album that many consider one of Australia’s best prog albums of the 70s except at this point the band was more British and Aussie! Well actually the band was a bit of both. It would be the band’s final album at least in this first formation until a reunion album surfaced in 1988.

The time between “Choice Cuts” and A TOAST TO PANAMA RED, which refers to a Central American variety of marijuana, was a stressful time as the band was approached by the new UK label Bronze but still in contract with EMI Australia. Trying to negotiate and pit the two labels on a bidding war, the whole thing blew up in the band’s face and ultimately ended up staying with EMI. The album was recorded under band member tensions and didn’t go as smoothly as “Choice Cuts” therefore this period was the beginning of the unraveling of the team spirit which sustained the band for a few years. Ultimately it meant back to Abbey Studios to release what would be the band’s final album of its first run anyways.

A TOAST TO PANAMA RED hit the music market in 1972 and featured everything that made “Choice Cuts” so delectable for those who heard it. Once again the band mixed prog, hard rock, psychedelic folk and a bit of boogie rock. While still rooted in catchy pop hooks, the compositions this time around were a bit more dreamy and more sophisticated which made them a bit more difficult to follow. With bluesy guitar riffing and medieval folk moments, this fourth album stood apart proudly from its predecessor that sucked you in and wouldn’t let you lose interest for the entire album’s run. A TOAST TO PANAMA RED seems less easy to grasp upon a single spin. The subtle complexities added a whole new dimension and while not full blown prog as went many bands around 1972, the influences are undeniable.

While the harder rock is still present such as on the opening “Answer Lies Beyond,” the distortion is turned down and tones are warmer and more varied. Likewise Keays’ vocals are less agitating and overall the band just sounds more relaxed. While on the opener Keays sounds a little funny like he just huffed on a helium balloon, subsequent tracks reveal a more nuanced approach that allows the proggier constructs to unfold. The tracks also feature some jamming segments such as “Beneath The Sun” which unleashes a cool bluesy guitar riff over a funky bass groove. In fact it the bass reminds me of that Ted Nugent song “Stranglehold” which didn’t come out until 1975 although granted the tempo is sped up a bit.

A TOAST TO PANAMA RED is certainly the favorite album for those looking for the most progressive attributes. This is definitely a lot mellower overall than “Choice Cuts” as the folk aspects are extended and the rock parts often are dreamy and verging on space rock. The heavier rock is almost completely absent and when it does turn up the tempo a bit, it’s more of a controlled burn rather than a ferocious attack which “Choice Cuts” allowed. Unfortunately this album didn’t sell very well despite once again being praised by the critics. It seems the hideous album cover art scared a lot of potential customers away and admittedly it’s not the most pleasing album cover to look at! In fact it seems totally unfitting for the music that’s inside. Overall another great album from THE MASTERS APPRENTICES who once again steered their band sound into a different arena. Unfortunately this was the end of the road for a while.

THE MASTERS APPRENTICES Choice Cuts

Album · 1971 · Heavy Psych
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Australia’s THE MASTERS APPRENTICES won a free boat trip in late 1969 to England and spent a few months free from touring duties and any pressures of releasing the second album as all the material was recorded and ready for release. This gave the band the opportunity to refresh their creative mojo and given that London was ground central for the burgeoning prog and hard rock scenes back around 1970, these Aussies became smitten with the wealth of musical expressions that London offered and spent their time in the UK advancing their art form beyond the cheesy playing catch up garage rock / pop of their first two albums. The results amounted to a massive leap in creativity which finally found the band latching onto its own style and place in the greater music scene.

Totally impressed with the superior recording studios and music scene in general, the band ended up staying in London and soaked in the sounds of everyone from King Crimson, Jimi Hendrix and Small Faces to the psychedelic folk sounds of Donovan and Free. With an arsenal of fresh tracks to work with, the band landed in Abbey Road studios and recorded, mixed and mastered the newest album in only a month and then CHOICE CUTS (released simply as “Masters Apprentices” in the UK) came out in 1971, just a year after the anachronistic predecessor “Masterpiece.” Sounding primarily like a 70s boogie rock style of hard rock, the band still retained a whiff of their earlier psychedelic leanings as well as a mix of folk based songs such as the single “Because I Love You,” which made use of the acoustic guitar in the style of Led Zeppelin. While the band was aiming to strike it big in the UK, the single only charted in its native Australia.

The album opens with the Latin flavored shuffle groove of “Rio de Camero” and then followed by the acoustic ballad “Michael” which showcases THE MASTERS APPRENTICES’ continuation of a variety of styles that range from heavy to soft however this time around the tracks flow together smoothly and the album as a whole feels cohesive. “Easy To Lie” and “Catty” showcase the band’s boogie shuffle abilities with heavy rockin’ guitar riffs and nice leads. Jim Keays vocal style had improved remarkably since the last album and on this album sounded something like a mix of Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant and Free’s Paul Rodgers. Likewise some of the grooves were right out of the Free playbook as well. In fact the band had crafted an interesting sum of influences that went into a style of their own making. Overall the tracks came out extremely melodic with the instrumental interplay lights years beyond the album of a mere year prior.

“Death Of A King” is a tribute to the great Martin Luther King Jr. and the track sounds like an usual mix of the Groundhogs and Zeppelin’s acoustic side with perhaps a touch of Van Morrison. “Song For A Lost Gypsy” goes for a heavy blues rock and funk style with a contrasting falsetto vocal performance. “I’m Your Satisfier” is a fun little boogie number that rock the jew’s harp and all! “Song For Joey - Part II,” wait! Where was part one?!! It’s nothing more than an acoustic outro that ends the album. Despite all the rave reviews from the critics the band really didn’t make much of a splash with CHOICE CUTS most likely due to the glut of fresh prog and harder rock clogging the record stores in 1971 London. Whatever the case the album remained an obscurity until collectors rediscovered it in the 1980s and it became an underground favorite.

It’s really hard to believe that this is the same band that released the outdated “Masterpiece” just one years prior. CHOICE CUTS may not have been the most original sounding album on the scene during 1971 but it did stand out in a few ways. First of all the percussion was more dynamic and varied than most hard rock album as it utilized Latin rhythm styles and likewise the diversity of guitar licks and leads made this a more varied album than the typical blues based hard rock band of the early 70s. While not exactly prog, the influences did creep in with tones and textures and the desire to make the chord progressions a bit more spiced up than usual. Basically a folk-tinged heavy psych album, CHOICE CUTS delivered the goods where previous endeavors had failed. Against all odds, THE MASTERS APPRENTICES had come of age but unfortunately that wasn’t good enough for any kind of breakthrough success. The band would push on for one more album and then call it quits. This is probably their crowning achievement.

ANDROMEDA Andromeda

Album · 1969 · Heavy Psych
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One of the original power trios that ushered in the hard rock 70s, ANDROMEDA was formed in 1967 by the legendary guitarist John Du Cann best known for his stint with Atomic Rooster. After two years of releasing singles in the psychedelic freakbeat band The Attack, Du Cann shifted gears and wanted to form a band that was both heavier and jumping on the progressive bandwagon. After recruiting his buddy and bassist Mick Hawksworth, later of Fuzzy Duck and Alvin Lee plus drummer Jack McCulloch who would soon be replaced by Ian McLane, ANDROMEDA was born and haunted the London circuit with a new heavier blend of psychedelia and more aggressive rock.

The band was enthusiastically supported by none other than DJ John Peel who was trying to woo them onto his Dandelion Records label however Cann was swayed by the self-producing aspects that RCA promised and the band released its first and only self-titled album in 1969 however RCA didn’t really know what they got themselves into and didn’t have the expertise to market a heavier band as the hard rock proto-metal sound hadn’t become a commercial enterprise at this stage. The lack of promotion and label support ultimately caused Du Cann to accept an offer to join Atomic Rooster leaving ANDROMEDA a thing of the past.

A truly powerful and for the most part heavy album for 1969, ANDROMEDA prognosticated one of the major developments of the psychedelic rock scene in the late 60s and that was the increased heaviness of the rock paradigm. More hard rock than prog, the latter is showcased in the excellent three suite “Return To Sanity” which showcased Du Cann’s more sophisticated songwriting aspects which would win him a slot in Atomic Rooster. The album begins with the heavy rocker “Too Old” which showcased what these days sounds like typical 70s hard rock but this was 1969 before these types of bands existed. ANDROMEDA somewhat served as one of those bridges between the heavy psych of bands like Cream and Blue Cheer and the whole slew of proggy hard rockers such as Captain Beyond, Stray, Groundhogs, T2 and beyond.

The album features plenty between blistering hard rockers with heavy fuzz laden riffing, beefed up bass grooves and a drumming technical prowess that was above the 60s norm. The opening “Too Old” introduces the brave new world of souped up heavy psych but the band also delivered a softer side as heard on the “And Now The Sun Shines” but these tracks are overshadowed by the power surge that amplifies the heavier moments that sound like Jimi Hendrix on methamphetamines. Another highlight is the closing three-part “When To Stop” which pulls out all the bluesy hard rock touches prog style. The album is actually pretty diverse in its approach even though it pretty much sticks to the blues rock paradigm and the exclusive instrumentation of the guitar, bass and drum.

While a flash in the pan as far as bands go, ANDROMEDA nevertheless has been recognized as one of those albums that provided the perfect transition between the heavy psych 60s and the hard rock 70s. Of course Atomic Rooster would take Du Cann even further into prog territory with the inclusion of a prominent keyboardist but ANDROMEDA was well underway into a complete metamorphosis into a prog butterfly. The original vinyl album LP fetches an insane price these days but luckily the album has been reissued many times including a newer remastered version with an extra disc of demos, bonus tracks and all kinds of goodies. All in all, ANDROMEDA delivered a hard rockin’ album that was the perfect way to say goodbye to the psychedelic 60s.

SLIFT Ilion

Album · 2024 · Heavy Psych
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Expanding the limits of stoner rock and taking it into the vastness of space, the final frontier like an episodic Star Trek journey into the unknown, the power trio SLIFT has continually been improving upon its unique concoction that borrows an ingredient or two from various strains of acid rock, psychedelia, space rock and the world of stoner rock / metal for eight years now. Having only formed in 2016, the band has unleashed a new expansive stylistic approach that ambitiously has reached into the world of progressive rock with its latest installment of the SLIFT canon called ILION.

One of the staples of the modern Toulouse, France underground, SLIFT featuring Jean Fossat (guitar, vocals), Rémi Fossat (bass, vocals) and Canek Flores (drums) has become one of those bands that has managed to retain the immediacy of its raucous garage rock days only now infused with the savoir-faire of a seasoned prog band on its latest album ILIION. Presumably the title is a reference to the ancient Greek city set to the 21st century and the ultimate adventures into the galaxy and beyond narrating the decline of humanity and the imminent rebirth as our species ventures out into the limitless expanses.

SLIFT’s musical palette has expanded this time around with the addition of three seasoned performers adding the saxophone, synthesizer and what they refer to as heavenly vocals, the extra icing on the cake that takes ILION light years away from the previous 2020 release “Ummon.” That release established the band in the greater world of modern heavy psych and general and pointed to the stars for new paths that once forged has culminated in the birth of ILION, the band’s most triumphant release yet. While only featuring eight tracks, the album’s playing time is expansive as its ambitious nature by creeping past the 79-minute mark. This is one for the most dedicated sonic explorer whose attention span can endure a majestic journey of this nature but highly rewarding for those who buckle up their seatbelts and take this rocket ship into the depths of space.

Starting out with the 11-minute title track, SLIFT displays its sophistication without hesitation as the musicians take the familiarity of the heavy guitar, bass and drum garage rock heft into more atmospheric realms. While the musical style continues what the band has established on its previous releases, the compositional fortitude has undergone a serious evolution in expansiveness and nuance as the tracks meander from the established guitar rock heft to soft sensual spacey moments reminiscent of 70s Gong or Pink Floyd. While the playing time may seem unfounded, it actually allows the compositions to pulse and flicker and seep slowly into your soul without feeling rushed. This is an album that requires patience as the repetitive nature of riffs and passages are designed to cast a hypnotic spell rather than bedazzle the senses with technical ingenuity.

SLIFT has crafted an amazing work with ILION. This album may be long but encapsulates a wandering journey through the myriad styles of space rock, heavy stoner rock and futuristic prog. Think of what King Gizzard & The Wizard Lizard would sound like if jamming with Elder, Goat, King Buffalo and Earthless and you can get the gist of how SLIFT has slinked into a new chapter of their colorful career. Don’t let the freaky astro-aliens puking red spaghetti on the album cover throw you off. This is top notch space rock of the ages with more than enough creative mojo to justify the album’s 79-minute run and that’s saying something for yours truly who often shies away from album’s over 45 minutes these days. Exemplary work here!

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