It's Saturday. Quite likely it's been a long unpleasant week at work, at home, at Earth. It's put you in a mood, foul, fetid, and way too familiar. Besides alcohol, weed, or that last pain killer from outpatient surgery a few weeks back, you need something to tackle that mood, to take it and smash it a few dozen times against a concrete wall, to slay it for the sake of sanity. Often, in times like this, you turn to old reliable songs, albums, bands to lighten the mood. Stuff you know you love. But what you really need is a heavy, overwhelming dose of just kick hairy butt metal music. I've got what you need right here. Three new bands, three new albums, plenty of awesome music, so even if you don't necessarily jibe with one or the other of them, chances are there is something here that will hit the sweet spot and spread the warmth, just at the point all your other tools are doing the same. We stay strictly American today, starting off in Yukon, Oklahoma with some big, hairy, heavy metal with a country edge to it. We jet on up to Portland, Oregon for some kick ass rock n' roll before cruising all the way back to Athens, Georgia for heavy psych tripping in dark, murky, and deep metal. The one common thread between these bands besides being American is the size of the instruments they employ. Huge and heavy, mood swinging muthas meant to meliorate the murky mass of megashit accumulated throughout the week in a single riff or searing solo, opening up the pathways through which the invigorating measures of these metal prescriptions can begin to vanquish their vile existence.
In other words, metal is the relief of pure pleasure and enjoyment. Heavy Planet delivers a huge dose to you today.
DARK VALLEY HARVESTERS - "SEED"
Patrick Newkirk - Guitar and Vocals
Mike Newkirk - Bass
Jimmy Mollet - Drums
Joe Davis - Guitar
Just because Dark Valley Harvesters are from Yukon, Oklahoma doesn't mean they were always going to have a little bit of country flavor to their music. I mean, hell, The Flaming Lips are from down I-40 just a few miles and there ain't no country in their flavor. It was only when Patrick, Mike and Jimmy added Joe to the mix did the haunting quality of country ballads find its way into the music of this heavy foursome. It's not an overwhelming trait, but perfectly complementary, adding a unique and enjoyable flavor to their music. The primary and majority style of the music on "Seed" is heavy guitar, ass kicking metal. There's more 70s retro, Northwest grunge, and High Desert fuzz in there than anything Garth Brooks, also from Yukon, would recognize. And that's a damn good thing in my opinion because they've crafted a beautiful, compelling sound that wouldn't be as worthwhile without the high quality elements contributed by all four of these gifted, talented rockers.
The music is muscularly anchored by Mollet's drums, and driven relentlessly by Mike's bass. Melody is plentiful on these songs, proving Dark Valley Harvesters are able songwriters, which feels like their typical starting point on most songs given the quality of the music. They waste no time in proving your investment in them is going to be worthwhile as the tempo is quick, sharp, and enjoyable on the opening track "Dirty Red Blood". Riffs are plentiful and huge throughout, as well as the searing, soaring solos.
"Hook Echo" is a beautiful example of how a haunting, almost mournful tone can quickly segue into something darker, harder, and more sinister by use of elbow grease applied to huge metal guitar strings tuned low for perfect effect.
One of the most beautiful and enjoyable songs on "Seed" is "Wither and Fade", while "Bottle and a Rusty Blade" is a civil war era ballad that substitutes the heavy metal of the balls flying in all directions during battle with the heavy metal of Patrick and Joe's perfectly matched guitars. "Scarecrow" uses emotion to great effect accompanying the heavy strings and relentless stickwork.
Perhaps the best song on the album is "Maginot Line", a fast tempoed, ass kicker laden with hooks and fills to accompany the barbed wire riffs and nut cutter solos. The closer, "Fire and Brimstone" is a close competitor, though, with the same 'jab - jab - hook' tempo as its predecessor and cranking out the fuzziest guitar twang to be found in all the South.
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CRAG DWELLER - "MAGIC DUST"
Richard Vivarelli - Guitar, Vocals
Clifton Martin - Bass, Vocals
Travis Clow - Drums
There isn't much to know about Crag Dweller. They're from Portland, Oregon. They're a three piece band. They play GREAT retro/metal/stoner rock music. This stuff is straight up hard rock, the kind you like the more you listen. The kind where something new, something that is pure enjoyment is discovered years down the road when you find yourself still playing it.
"Chrononaut" kicks everything off, not with a bang, but with an interestingly drawn out intro that suddenly kicks into Crag Dweller gear, and away we go. Riffs, fills, solos, big drums, huge bass, hooks, great rock vocals all go into high gear at the same time. Hell, there just isn't much to say. Crank it up, kick back, and enfuckingjoy.
"So Far, So Good, So What . . . " starts out in fourth gear, slows down for a minute before then kicking into overdrive. Be careful leaning out the window on this one you might lose an ear.
Interplay between bass and solo guitar on the opening of "The Gate" is incredible. I would love to see this one live.
The strength and dexterity of the drums can't be overlooked on this album, and perhaps it's never more obvious than on "Gotta Have It" where the rhythm is crystal clear, primal, and pure.
The closer is "Motel Burnout" where perhaps the bandmembers are feeling a little bit of the effects of being on the road for an extended tour. Crag Dweller throw everything at this one, especially a huge well of pent up energy and emotion. You can just feel them giving those instruments all they got, leaving nothing left on the studio floor. It's huge, it's powerful, and it's a heckuva way to close an album.
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UTAH - "UTAH"
Wil Smith - Guitar, Vocals
Chris Parry - Bass
Chris Holcombe - Drums
John McNeece - Guitar, Vocals
Utah hails from Athens, Georgia, a town you could say is fairly rich in rock n' roll history. These guys are destined to join the ranks of the best and heaviest Athens has ever had to offer.
This foursome play a deliciously heavy brand of psychedelic sludge, with a pace that is rarely hurried, chock full of low tuned guitars that come down on you like a pallet of amps dropped from the eleventh floor of the Holman Hotel in Athens.
"Bisontennial" has tempo, it has a junkyard full of scratchy, edgy metal, all of it sunk low in the mud of eons past, sounding as though its being drudged up under communication of the loud, clear vocals bandied about by Smith and McNeece, and with the relentless rhythm and power of Holcombe's drums, powerful enough to be almost front and center throughout.
Tempo again starts off "Chickamauga", Holcombe again driving everyone relentlessly forward, Smith and McNeese again laying heavy into the riffs and vocals, while Parry deals with everything subterranean. Utah know what they do well, and they do it well again, doubling the pleasure of the slow, cold slide through the muck and sludge of their metal morass.
On "Ambian" the mushrooms have started to kick in and the song is . . . not necessarily more mellow, because with these guitars, and these vocals, and those huge knockers for drums, there is no mellow . . . but perhaps more evenly tempered. "Help" continues the subterranean, low tuned trip, as does "Kneecaps", all of which drag gargantuan guitars through sludge of dark and murky muck.
"Traveler" changes the tone slightly, with a single vocal kicking things off, unhurried but insistent, relating tales of the netherworld, experiences encountered perhaps where light is dim and sound is all powerful.
"Cryogenics" and "Black Sandwich" close out the adventure with a deft delivery of heavy and huge sound interspersed with bits of light and air wafting down through pinholes of illumination from above.
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