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Wednesday, December 23, 2015

LP Review - 'Sermonize' by Isaak + Interview

Italian stoner-rockers Isaak are back with their latest record 'Sermonize', the follow up to 'The Longer The Beard The Harder The Sound' released in 2013. The album is being released by both Heavy Psyche Sounds on vinyl, and on CD early 2016 by Small Stone Records.

I managed to catch up with drummer Andre, and ask him a few questions about the new record...

It’s been two years since the first Isaak album - what can fans expect from the new record?

They should expect something new! We tried to merge our souls, lives and passions into this record, cause we needed to leave a message as a representation of Isaak. Sermonize fully represent us, also as a live band: it’s authentic and sincere. We can say that we are growing up, day by day, like a human being; we are evolving, our sound is evolving and we are constantly looking for new forms of expression. We are tied to our roots (the Kyuss cover is an evidence) but we love to experiment and risk on a genre, stoner rock, which sometimes could be very self-referring. This is what our beloved fans should expect: the desire to listen the same track tons of time and always find something unexpected!

The new album, Sermonize - can you tell us a bit about the choice of title?

Sermonize literally means: to preach, talk moralistically. The title is tightly connected with the lyrics of the album, which deeply sum up the personal life experience of every band member. The record speaks about loss, pain, passion, sacrifice, change and the necessity to find ourselves. We moved to a heavier sound texture, leaving (at least for this record) our lysergic stamp just to express these concept better, as a rant to the world. Curiosity: the previous title was “Prayers For The Tightrope Walker”!

How was the writing/recording process for this album, compared to 'The Longer The Beard...'? 

The writing process always start with a guitar riff brought by our riff machine Scazzi (Francesco, guitarist), then together we think about how to complete it with the proper intention; there are not such differences from “The Longer..”, basically we have different ideas and inspirations and more maturity to turn them into a more personal and harmonic style.

Richey Beckett contributed to the album artwork - how did you get to work with him?

We all are huge fans of Richey, we do love his works and we always thought about a collaboration; basically we dropped him a line proposing our idea and including some of the new tracks and he made the artwork painting, then our brother SoloMacello created the layout! That’s it!

You guys are from Genova, Italy - how is the stoner rock scene in Italy right now?

The Italian stoner rock scene is growing up strong and bearded! There are many cool bands (as JussiPussi, Humulus, Glory Owl and more) which are contributing to create the awareness that our scene is every bit as good as the American one!

What are the bands/artists that inspire you to make music in Isaak?

We all have different musical tastes and inspirations: Scazzi (Guitars) is more on Death Metal (Carcass, Slayer, Obituary), Gigi (Vocals) prefers more classic rock (Mark Lanegan, Tom Waits), Gabri (Bass) is a grunge lover (Nirvana, Pearl Jam) and Andre (Drums) is a musical whore cause everything could be his cup of tea, from post rock (Vanessa Van Basten) to hip-hop, to Beyonce or Wolves In The Throne Room. But of course we all agree when we talking about Torche, Kyuss, Fu Manchu, Baroness, Mastodon, Entombed, Screaming J Hawkins.. who wouldn’t be!

How would you convince someone who’s never heard your music to check out Sermonize?

Cause Sermonize is the album with the raddest artwork in the world! Ahahaha!

What are the band's plans for 2016? Any tours or festivals planned?

We’ll tour around Europe in March 2016 to promote the album, thanks to HeavyPsychSound; but don’t forget that on February SmallStone Records will release the cd version of Sermonize!

If you could sum up Isaak with three words, what would they be?

Well… Kyuss on steroids!!!

'Sermonize' is packed to the brim with hard-rocking bangers, perforated with grooving riffs and the distinct growls and howls of vocalist Gigi. Like a convertible cruiser in the desert, it races towards its destination with very little let-up, burning rubber all the way. Tracks like 'The Peak' and 'Almonds & Glasses', have the pedal flat down to the metal, which provide a perfect foil for the more exploratory jams like 'Lucifer's Road' and 'The Phil's Theorem'.

The desert-scene influence on Isaak is fully evident, not least with the cover of 'Yeah'! The vocals have a John Garcia laid back swagger, but the overall vibe here is less expansive and psychedelic and way more in your face, up tempo and to-the-point. And that's no bad thing, these guys know how to write a 4 minute smash and grab!

For me, this new record is a real step forward in the evolution of Isaak, having followed their progression since their former life as Ghandi's Gunn. The sound is heavier, more considered, and the song-writing steps away from Kyuss-worship enough to solidify the band's identity as their own. Also a quick mention to the awesome artwork too... such a stunning piece by Richey Beckett.

2016 could be a big year for these dudes!

Follow the band here - Bandcamp | Facebook

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