Heavy Psych

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BLOOD CEREMONY The Eldritch Dark Album Cover The Eldritch Dark
4.60 | 18 ratings
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BLOOD CEREMONY Lord Of Misrule Album Cover Lord Of Misrule
4.61 | 16 ratings
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PURSON The Circle and the Blue Door Album Cover The Circle and the Blue Door
4.85 | 6 ratings
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RUBY THE HATCHET Planetary Space Child Album Cover Planetary Space Child
4.67 | 8 ratings
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UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS Blood Lust Album Cover Blood Lust
4.61 | 5 ratings
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BLOOD CEREMONY Blood Ceremony Album Cover Blood Ceremony
4.28 | 18 ratings
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CAPTAIN BEYOND Captain Beyond Album Cover Captain Beyond
4.25 | 22 ratings
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THE GROUNDHOGS Split Album Cover Split
4.33 | 10 ratings
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PSYCHEDELIC WITCHCRAFT Sound Of The Wind Album Cover Sound Of The Wind
4.43 | 5 ratings
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STRAY Stray Album Cover Stray
4.39 | 5 ratings
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JEX THOTH Blood Moon Rise Album Cover Blood Moon Rise
4.32 | 5 ratings
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BUFFALO Volcanic Rock Album Cover Volcanic Rock
4.22 | 9 ratings
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NINGEN ISU Taihai Geijutsu-Ten

Album · 1998 · Heavy Psych
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Taihai Geijitsu-ten is the seventh album by Ningen Isu. It features the return of Masahiro Goto on drums, who had previously played on the fourth album, Rashoumon in 1993. The album was released on the Trycle label, their only album with that label. After the band's contract with Meldac expired in 1994, they released an album on an independent label in 1995 and then were fortunate enough to release their sixth album on Pony Canyon thanks to a collaboration with a manga artist. But after that, they were still without a regular label and their drummer, Iwao Tsuchiya left the band.

The album title translates as "Degenerate Art Exhibit" and was inspired by the Nazi exhibits of modernist art in the 1930's as examples of degenerate art. Guitarist Shinji Wajima reckoned that rock and pop music were also a type of degenerate art and thought it would make a good album title.

The music here has taken a retro turn once more. The guitar sound is decidedly old school, early seventies, and at least a couple of reviewers have called this album very heavy psych. The opening track, Tainai Meguri, begins with some punchy chords and Goto's psychedelic/early seventies/Ginger Baker-inspired drumming. The album stays pretty close to this approach and wraps up sounding very much like a lost gem of 72/73.

As is usual for a Ningen Isu album, there are heavy stoner rock / early doom metal tracks with a strong Sabbath influence. "Ahen-kutsu no Otoko (The Man in the Opium Den)" and "Dunwich no Kai (The Dunwich Horror)" are two tracks that hammer low and heavy. But there's more to the album than just that.

"Kuzouzu no Scat" is a grooving, hard rock track whose title was inspired by Heian Period Buddhist art in Japan that depicts in nine frames the stages of decay of a human corpse. Wajima's "Chu, churu, chu-chu-chu-chuu, yeah" sounds strangely like Jim Morrison. Suzuki's "Chinurareta Hinamatsuri (Blood-soaked Dolls Day)" is a unique cross of progressive heavy rock and traditional Japanese singing. It also includes what I think is a Taishogoto, a type of koto, a traditional stringed-instrument. Meanwhile, "Kikuningyou no Noroi (Curse of the Chrysanthemum Doll)" is probably the only Ningen Isu song to have any keyboards, but only at the end, and "Ginga Tetsudou 777 (Galaxy Express 777)" is the only track in their catalogue to include horns.

Two other tracks that stand out for me are "Mura no Hazure de Big Bang", a song that captures the band's humorous side. The lyrics open with, "Today is the Sheep's Sports Day / One Sheep, two sheep they jump over the fence". The song's chorus mentions an explosion on the outskirts of the village. It's a pretty fun song. I also really like "Tentai Shikou-shou". This roughly translates as "Celestial Body Dysguesia". Dysguesia in the condition some women experience when they're pregnant and their taste preferences change, though in this case it's the title of a short story. This is possibly one of the band's most melodic songs. It's pretty cool because it begins with a drum pattern and slightly distorted guitar and the bass guitar comes in played high up the neck and the bass strings humming the main melody. It's also unusual because it's one of the very few Ningen Isu songs to include hand claps.

This album gets very high ratings on the Internet with one person ranking this in the number one position for 19 of Ningen Isu's 21 albums. My first reaction when I heard it was that it was indeed their best album. However since then, I have found I like quite a few of Ningen Isu's albums as well and possibly even better. Still, for fans of early seventies heavy rock and progressive rock, this album satisfies very well considered it was released 25 years after the phenomena of this music had passed.

NINGEN ISU Mugen no Juunin

Album · 1996 · Heavy Psych
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After self-producing their previous album and releasing it on an indie label, Ningen Isu's Shinji Wajima and Ken'ichi Suzuki were wondering what their next move should be. They at least had a permanent member for a drummer now with Iwao Tsuchiya, who joined the band in time for 1995's 'Odoru Issun Boushi'. They still had their management office as well. But no label.

As luck would have it, manga artist Hiroaki Samura was a fan of the band and contacted them about doing a collaboration project. The deal was that Wajima and Suzuki were free to write any songs they liked so long as the lyrics could be imagined as being part of Japan's Edo Period. Lyrics mentioning cars, phones, and pachinko were out. Samura would illustrate the album cover and inner sleeve. The album would be released by Pony Canyon, a major label, with a one-time-release contract. The two song writers threw themselves into their work, relishing the new experience of writing for someone else. Commissioned work! Sort of.

Though they were given free rein over what kind of music to record, they naturally stuck with their early seventies heavy rock style with some exceptions. Wajima came up with the idea to feature a bit of traditional Japanese music included in 'Mokko no Komori-uta' as well as a dash in the title track. Of their 21 albums, this seems to be the only album to venture that far into traditional Japanese music territory. I think it's a nice touch, at least for one album, and a refreshing new sound in their catalogue which until this album had been a smorgasbord of seventies-influenced hard rock, heavy rock, heavy psych, and heavy prog with some eighties metal as well.

Song lyrics always had to be considered. How about 'Jigoku', a song about Hell? Well, the Japanese Buddhist concept of hell was around back then for certain. 'Baka-yoi Kurui' (Bacchus Drunk Crazy) was about alcohol, so they were safe there. 'Kuroneko' (Black Cat) with a Sabbath-worship heavy riff was also in the clear. The one song that needed justification was Suzuki's 'Uchu Yuei' (Space Swim). Suzuki was heavily into Hawkwind at the time and couldn't resist writing a Hawkwind-influenced song complete with spacey sounds. Wajima's logic was that space has always been around so it was okay to include that song on the album.

A few cool tracks to mention for the music, "Sarashi Kubi" is a great opening to the album with a circa '79 NWoBHM riff. "Baka Yoi Kuruhi" has this great swaggering doom riff that breaks into a heavy chugger. This is quite typical of Ningen Isu's style. One of my favourite tracks is "Tsujigiri Kouta Mushuku-hen" which is just such a fun song with some lead guitar melody that sounds like some old hero/action movie theme music. And yeah, Uchuu Yuei has its spacey charms.

I feel is a very strong album and one that is at once unique in the Ningen Isu canon and also true enough to the band's style that it doesn't stick out like a sore thumb. Though not usually considered their absolute best work, 'Mugen no Juunin' is still rather highly regarded. It's unfortunate that this album is out of print and a physical copy is hard to track down without paying a steep price. However, it can be heard on iTunes and YouTube and I think also on Spotify. If you're interested in hearing some unique Japanese heavy rock / heavy prog or want to hear more from this phenomenal band, why not give this album a listen? I'm very thankful that I was able to get a hold of a used copy in very good condition from Yahoo Japan Auction.

BLUE CHEER Vincebus Eruptum

Album · 1968 · Heavy Psych
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The birth of Heavy Metal. In simple terms, metal was born out of a combination of heavy blues rock and psychedelic rock. While metal has gone in several different directions, the earliest forms of metal from the 60's and 70's still live on, especially in the doom metal, grunge, and stoner scenes.

Blue Cheer might not have been the first band to make a metal song (that honor goes to either Riders of the Mark or Clear Light), but to my knowledge they were certainly the first metal band and Vincebus Eruptum the first metal album.

Vincebus Eruptum is one of the heaviest albums ever recorded, as it's dominated by such a wall of distortion that it sounds like their amps are about to blow. The recording technology at the time couldn't even pick up the pure volume. It works though, the playing is so frantic and primal that it all sounds like pure instinct.

The booming cover of Summertime Blues was their only hit, and it's good as are the other covers, but it's the original songs where this album shines. There's no better showcase on this album for heavy metal in full force than Doctor Please. The anxious vocals, booming distortion, the speed of the bridge, and the dark theme of the song all show the beginnings of the genre. Out of Focus and Second Time Around are great too, with the latter shining with wild drumming.

If there's any complaints I have, it's some of the jamming. I'm fine with jamming to an extent, but sometimes it sounds too much like noodling and gets a bit annoying. The following album Outsideinside would improve the band's sound, cutting the annoying jams and improving the production (Even though the production works for how this album sounds).

If you're used to the metal sound of the 80's and 90's or even the 70's, this might be a hard listen. It's really noisy, but every metal fan should hear this album if only to hear the genre's first real album.


Album · 1973 · Heavy Psych
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siLLy puPPy
Early hard rock and heavy metal was primarily limited to the British scene with obvious candidates like Black Sabbath and Budgie wresting control of the style away from its heavy psych origins however it didn’t take long for American bands like The Stooges, Blue Oyster Cult and eventually Van Halen to take the heavier aspects of hard rock into more demanding territories. One of the more interesting bands to emerge from this early blossoming of proto-metal was not from an English speaking nation at all but rather from the small nation of Iceland which found a power trio generating an excessively heavy sound for the year of 1973.

ICECROSS has been referred to as the first black metal band due to the album cover depicting a human skeleton, a monstrous counterpart along with a frosted over cross which represents some sort of anti-religious stance but despite the imagery forged in black and white evoking a future world that would adopt similar artistic expressions as a means of communicating more extreme misanthropic visions, ICECROSS’ sound was more akin to the early years of the NWOBHM which at 1973 was ahead of its time sounding as if the band’s sole self-titled album was recorded and released somewhere around the 1978-79 timeline. While borrowing from the early heavy psych of the 60s along with the heavier aspects of Leaf Hound, Sabbath, Pentagram and Uriah Heep, ICECROSS surprisingly developed an interesting early porto-type of metal outside the English speaking world.

The band consisted of the trio of Axel Einarsson (Guitar, Vocals), Ómar Óskarsson (Bass, Vocals) and Ásgeir Óskarsson (Drums, Vocals) and was something akin to an early Icelandic Rush without the Led Zeppelin influences. ICECROSS’s sole album is an amazingly confident ride through sizzling guitar riff passages, heavy percussive freneticism and distinct bass grooves that hinted at the influences from across the pond but offered a darker sound that took the gloomier moods of Sabbaths, a tad of King Crimsonian dystopia and melded it with the blues rock and heavier drives of bands like Elias Hulk, Iron Claw, Jerusalem. Dust and dozens of other early heavy rockers only ICECROSS increased the speed and volume creating a powerful display of early metal bombast.

Although hailing from Iceland, ICECROSS wisely selected English as the language for the lyrics and chose to craft all original tunes with no covers like many bands of the era outside of England were doing. The band was popular in Iceland but with a population of only a few hundred thousand found more success once they moved abroad to Copenhagen, Denmark where they recorded the sole album. Due to the band’s short existence the original album had become a desired collector’s item for decades before a long due remastered reissue emerged in the 21st century as interest in the early 70s material has risen. ICECROSS cranked out eight strong tracks that ranged from heavy metal rockers that incorporate blitzkrieg lightning fast guitar solos which wouldn’t become popular until the latter half of the decade. The band also crafted catchy bluesy rockers as well as darker doom laden passages that emphasized darker intent.

Everything is great about ICECROSS’ sole release. Heavy passages change it up with mellow more contemplative sections. Einarsson’s vocals are powerful and attack a wide octave range whereas the musicianship of the members is extraordinarily brilliant especially on the drums where Ásgeir Óskarsson delivered a more sophisticated style of playing not experienced in the heavy rock world at this stage. In many ways this band could be deemed a predecessor of the 80s scene except that probably nobody ever heard of them outside of Iceland and the Danish capital. While the heavy metal world may have caught up with ICECROSS without hearing their early powerful style of playing, this album has become a cult favorite for many seeking the origins of the metal universe and is not to be missed. While not exactly some long lost masterpiece, the album is surprisingly strong in its heavy metal stomp through an album’s worth of material. This is one band i wish would have stuck around longer.

PURSON The Circle and the Blue Door

Album · 2013 · Heavy Psych
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Purson is one of those bands which is essentially the vehicle for the creative vision of a particular purson - er, I mean person. That purson - sorry, person - is singer-guitarist Rosalie Cunningham, the band's only constant member, and she's set her aesthetic sights firmly on the heavy prog-psych sound of the early 1970s.

The Circle and the Blue Door is an occult-tinged visit to a time when heavy metal, psychedelic rock, and prog hadn't quite diverged into three entirely distinct musical streams yet - an era where it made absolute sense for a label like Vertigo to have acts as diverse as Catapila, Affinity, and Black Sabbath on it and describe them all as "progressive rock".

As time passed the meaning of that term evolved, moved on, and was redefined, as the prog scene focused more on technical wizardry and compositional complexity and the proto-metal scene got shaken up by acts like Budgie or Judas Priest injecting more speed and aggression into the style. Cunningham, however, clearly knows her musical history and understands that there was a time when a heavy psych album could skip its way through early proto-prog/proto-metal territory as the whim took it.

We've seen this before, of course - Blood Ceremony base their entire schtick on it - but this debut album delivers this style in masterful fashion. There's an ugly tendency, especially in prog or metal circles, to question the credentials of frontwomen and to attribute most of the musical and compositional proficiency of a band to male band members, but it's absolutely clear from her guitar's prominence and from her lead role in the songwriting that Cunningham isn't just there for aesthetic reasons.

No, this is clearly music she believes in passionately, and by the time you're done listening you'll be a believer too. With those drum rolls, fuzzy guitar, and production touches, you might even believe that Purson were right there in 1971 opening for Jethro Tull or Black Widow.

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