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Monday, May 22, 2017

Album Review: Two Headed Beast - "Wizard Mountain"

The world of hard rock, of heavy metal, is wonderfully varied, so much in fact, there are distinct genre silos underneath the hard/heavy umbrella, many of them having filled up decades ago, going nearly dormant as ever newer ones are molded out of the settling dust of their predecessors. Perhaps the granddaddy genre has been the audacious, in your face sound of traditional heavy metal that grew out of progenitors such as Led Zeppelin, Blue Cheer, and Black Sabbath. That heavy metal sound was personified by bands such as Judas Priest, Megadeth, and Iron Maiden, to name a miniscule few. It was a sound that dominated the scene in the mid to late 70s and into the bulk of the 80s before sort of weirdly fusing into the over the top sounds of big hair bands. The excessiveness of big hair, though, prepped us for the wonderful grunge explosion as well as the almost unnoticed rumbling of stoner/desert rock of the 90s. Many other sounds have come, and gone. For anyone exploring for the first time any version of wondrous, amplified metal vibrations, old or new, there is an overabundance of choices. Gifted musicians can draw from an almost limitless supply of inspirational music, the possibilities are endless. This is what ran through my mind when I first heard "Wizard Mountain". Of course, I have no idea how Two Headed Beast may have arrived upon their signature sound, I just know I hear the wonderfully deep, heavy fuzz of stoner/doom rock in their vigorous riffs and searing solos, but, in the blink of a photon, I am ripped back to an earlier era as soon as those incredible vocals of Brian Allen kick in. "Wizard Mountain" quickly concentrates my focus, drawing me deep into its wicked melodies and triumphant chorus, down into the murky depths of low tuned and amplified energy, emboldened by the soaring, invigorating intonations of Allen's vocal time machine. The pairing of traditional metal vocals and bottom dark stoner/doom guitar is somehow brilliant, revitalizing, and emboldening. It's a physical reaction to a spiritual rendering, teleporting me to a time and place of power and potential.

Two Headed Beast hail from Portland, Oregon. Band members include John Hughes, Jason Dunn, Shawn Ferguson, Scott Speelman, and vocalist Brian Allen.

The initial track, "Valley of Skulls", immediately opens with the double whammy of deep, fuzzy guitar and powerfully rendered vocals that is the consistent and persistent hallmark of every track to follow. The tempo is dangerous, the magnitude bold, and the realization you're in for a unique and brilliant ride quickly sets in.

"Two Ton Sky" starts off with bare bones, building up to an all-out assault of power and force. The drumwork here is simply marvelous, pounding out a primal beat of mammoth proportions, propped up wonderfully by the bruising dance of bass and guitar, magnified again by those laser sharp vocals.

The eponymous title track, "Witch Mountain", is like a pugilist stalking his opponent, steadily moving forward step by step, delivering hammer blow after ruthless hammer blow until the sudden sound of silence signals the end.

"Apollyon the Destroyer" changes the pace, flowing down a psychedelic bridge of color and static before charging up a steeper trajectory of power and amperage. "Hail the Chief" is a frontal assault of bad attitude and snarl. "Boneyard" and "Blackball' pay homage to traditional metal in measured advances of ragged vocals and steady riffage.

This brings us to the unofficial closer, "Curse of the White Owl" where Two Headed Beast dust off their stoner rock foot pedals and crank up the fuzz in a magnificent display of hook and heat. The solos soar beyond the stratosphere, while the measured tempos of riff and stick are darkly subterranean. Allen's vocals are exquisite on this track, offering a sing along rendition in which no one can match his gifted ability, but will have fun in attempting to do so.

Two Headed Beast offer up a brief coda that is pinned to the tail end of the penultimate song in "Tail of the Owl", a fun little ditty of psychedelic conclusion.

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