TOP 10 GERMAN STONER/DOOM BANDS: 2. Kadavar

Let’s face it, when it comes to German metal, doom isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You’re probably thinking power metal, perhaps 80′s thrash, or maybe even early trailblazers like Accept or the Scorpions.  But Deutschland actually has a pretty healthy underground doom scene, even if you discount all those false, erm, “gothic doom” bands.  With Kadavar, one of the leaders of the pack, currently invading North American shores for the second time, it’s time for me to count down some killer Kraut outfits that don’t wear tunics or guyliner…

10. Aleph Null

9. Beehoover

8. Wight

7. Whitebuzz

6. Black Space Riders

5. Spirit Descent

4. Obelyskkh

3. Samsara Blues Experiment

2. Kadavar

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On their first two albums, this Berlin-based trio has put forth a solid example of vintage, retro, 70′s-style heavy psych, reminiscent of Black Sabbath but far from being copy cats.  Is it any wonder they’re the only band on this list to take North America by storm?  Here they are in Toronto last year–and no, I didn’t shoot this video:

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TOP 10 GERMAN STONER/DOOM BANDS: 3. Samsara Blues Experiment

Let’s face it, when it comes to German metal, doom isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You’re probably thinking power metal, perhaps 80′s thrash, or maybe even early trailblazers like Accept or the Scorpions.  But Deutschland actually has a pretty healthy underground doom scene, even if you discount all those false, erm, “gothic doom” bands.  With Kadavar, one of the leaders of the pack, currently invading North American shores for the second time, it’s time for me to count down some killer Kraut outfits that don’t wear tunics or guyliner…

10. Aleph Null

9. Beehoover

8. Wight

7. Whitebuzz

6. Black Space Riders

5. Spirit Descent

4. Obelyskkh

3. Samsara Blues Experiment

This Berlin-based quartet is the third stoner jam band on this list.  It seems this semi-obscure subgenre is as German as apple strudel.  Alas, while they’re no strangers to 13+ minute epics, SBE is not an instrumental outfit–guitarist Christian Peters also contributes the occasional vocal, alongside sitar, Moog organ and harp.  That said, their latest album, 2013′s Waiting for the Flood, shows signs of Earthless and their ilk.  Check out the entire album below:

TOP 10 GERMAN STONER/DOOM BANDS: 6. Black Space Riders

Let’s face it, when it comes to German metal, doom isn’t the first thing that comes to mind.  You’re probably thinking power metal, perhaps 80′s thrash, or maybe even early trailblazers like Accept or the Scorpions.  But Deutschland actually has a pretty healthy underground doom scene, even if you discount all those false, erm, “gothic doom” bands.  With Kadavar, one of the leaders of the pack, currently invading North American shores for the second time, it’s time for me to count down some killer Kraut outfits that don’t wear tunics or guyliner…

10. Aleph Null

9. Beehoover

8. Wight

7. Whitebuzz

6. Black Space Riders

Black Space Riders official 2014(Is it just me, or do most of the guys in this band look like Lars Ulrich?)

D:REI, the third album from Münster mashers Black Space Riders, is the band’s most ambitious effort yet–perhaps a little too ambitious.  The 13-song, 80-minute opus is a grueling test of heavy psych, groove metal and industrial rock that makes that bloated new Hawkwind record fly by like Reign in Blood.  This might be the first album to use up every last second available on a CD, though they wouldn’t be the first to issue a record on four sides of vinyl.  Let’s just say I’d take this one over Sandinista! any day…

AMATEUR CONCERT PHOTOGRAPHY HOUR: DEAD MEADOW/Comet Control @ Lee’s Palace, February 20, 2014

There just aren’t that many gigs in the wintertime, which is why it’s taken me until late February to get my first amateur concert photography session of 2014 online.  Twas hardly the ideal setting for shooting, too–Lee’s Palace was a lot darker than usual, as per the headlining artist’s request.  Fortunately “No Flash Photography” wasn’t also on their rider…

I was actually looking forward to catching local opener Comet Control, a psych-rock outfit with both guitar players formerly of Quest For Fire.  There were certainly shades of their previous outfit on display, but they generally seemed more structured, more garage-rock, less swirly.  I dunno, twas only my first impression.  Apparently, Tee Pee liked ‘em enough to be issuing their debut this summer.  (It certainly helped that they had a previous working relationship…)

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I actually hadn’t seen Dead Meadow in nearly two-and-a-half years, although I seem to recall Lee’s Palace being more packed when they’d previously played.  (I’d say there were no more than 150 people in attendance.)  In any case, I relished the familiar rolling grooves of some of their older numbers, while the minimal stage lighting–only the reds!–and shadowy, lava-lamp backdrop created a more intimate performance.  Well that, and I had no sweaty bodies bumping into me, which is always a plus…

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TOP 10 TORONTO STONER BANDS OF ALL-TIME: 5. Quest For Fire

I recently counted down the top stoner/doom bands from Portland, which offered me a valuable lesson in Oregon geography.  Turns out that Eugene isn’t to Portland what Mississauga is to Toronto…although I don’t think they’ve got much of a scene in Eugene.  However, this got me thinking about the best local stoner bands I’ve seen over the years.  Considering that I used to run a little website called TooHighToGetItRight.com, you could say I’ve seen a few.  Alas, in order to narrow the list down to 10, I had to limit it to Toronto-based bands, meaning that acts from Hamilton (Shallow North Dakota), Windsor (Mister Bones, Fiftywatthead) and Barrie (Indian Handcrafts) all missed the cut.  Oh, and there aren’t any bands on here from Mississauga either. ;)

And with no further ado, I give you…

10. Luz Atomica

9. The Womb

8. Nice Cat

7. The Illuminati

6. Sea of Green

5. Quest For Fire

These guys were seasoned vets before they first formed, with past experience in outfits like Cursed and Deadly Snakes, which might explain why they were so great from the get-go.  What I really dug about this band, which officially called it quits early last year, was their use of dynamics.  While their tunes were mostly mellow, they could chuck a barn-burner like “Bison Eyes” or “In the Place of a Storm” at ya, just to switch things up.  But they worked best when they’d drop one of those heavy riffs into an otherwise mellow number like “Strange Waves” or “Confusion’s Home,” to say nothing of the epic closers on each of their two albums.  Did I mention that Tee Pee Records liked ‘em so much they signed the band?

TOP 10 TORONTO STONER BANDS OF ALL-TIME: 10. Luz Atomica

I recently counted down the top stoner/doom bands from Portland, which offered me a valuable lesson in Oregon geography.  Turns out that Eugene isn’t to Portland what Mississauga is to Toronto…although I don’t think they’ve got much of a scene in Eugene.  However, this got me thinking about the best local stoner bands I’ve seen over the years.  Considering that I used to run a little website called TooHighToGetItRight.com, you could say I’ve seen a few.  Alas, in order to narrow the list down to 10, I had to limit it to Toronto-based bands, meaning that acts from Hamilton (Shallow North Dakota), Windsor (Mister Bones, Fiftywatthead) and Barrie (Indian Handcrafts) all missed the cut.  Oh, and there aren’t any bands on here from Mississauga either. ;)

And with no further ado, I give you…

10. Luz Atomica

These guys mighta been a flash in the pan, but what a flash they were!  Their self-titled album was released in ’07 (although I coulda sworn I was at the CD release party in April ’08), and opens with a killer riff that would get stuck in my head for days.  From the more-upbeat heavy-psych of “One-Eyed Jack” and “Steal Baby!” to the mellow grooves of “Desert Sun” and crashing space-rock crescendos of “New World Orbit,” the first four songs on here really rock!

From there it gets bogged down a bit–hey, the thing’s 56 minutes long–but ends on a high-note with a nine-minute epic, “Storms Over Neptune,” that shows some shades of mellower Monster Magnet.  Alas, I think these guys were more into Status Quo and Blue Cheer than Monster Magnet and Kyuss, but on their one and only album, they seemed to bridge the gap between both eras.  Honestly, I’d almost forgotten how good this was…

That being said, I haven’t seen or heard from any of these dudes in at least three years.  I did attend both their farewell and (one-off?) reunion shows, though.  This is probably the best video I could find–and it’s only half the song!

MONSTER MAGNET REVISTED: Mastermind (Napalm, 2010)

Now, despite their sonic similarities, I don’t think it’s safe to say that 4-Way Diablo got Monster Magnet dropped from SPV the way that God Says No spelled the end of their tenure at A&M.  In this case, it was more of a lateral move from European label to another.  But stylistically, Mastermind marked a return to the rock, which is really what matters most, eh?

“Hallucination Bomb” kicks this one off with a slow-rolling groove that hits home like a nuclear Quaalude.   Yuuup, this one’s certainly worthy of the “stoner-rock” tag.  “Bored with Sorcery” picks up the pace, sounding every bit like the Hawkwind-inspired space rock this band used to be known for.  “Dig That Hole” takes a little while to get going, building up tension with a pulsating, pounding riff, before dropping the gear into Fu Manchu territory around the two-minute mark.  I can dig it…

“Gods and Punks,” if I’m not mistaken, is a slightly amplified version of “No Vacation” from the band’s previous album.  At the very least, it has some of the same lyrics—albeit with a much better chorus.  That said, “The Titan Who Cried Like a Baby” would sound right at home on 4-Way Diablo, a mellow piano ballad with hash-hazed lyrics.  But the title track brings back the heavy grooves, a slow-rolling number that you could file next to Clutch.  Seriously, Wyndorf is doing some Neil Fallon-style preaching on this one.  “100 Million Miles” takes elements of stoner and space rock and blasts off into the stratosphere with a pounding, fast-paced chorus…another one for the “mellow verse, heavy chorus” bin.  Pretty ripping solo, though.

“Perish in Fire” is not a power-metal anthem as its title would suggest, but rather a middling, mid-paced stoner/space song.  Not bad, just not great.  Likewise, “Time Machine” isn’t a Dio-era Sabbath cover, but rather a mellow ballad with some slightly psychedelic sounds.  That said, “When the Planes Fall from the Sky” might be the doomiest thing they’ve done, a slow, six-minute head-nodder with at least one Iommi-inspired riff.  Did not see that one coming!

While there’s nothing scary about “Ghost Story,” it is rather morose.   This tune might be the most powerful of the power ballads on here, for what that’s worth.  “All Outta Nothin” ends things on a jangly note, even name-dropping Let It Bleed.  Some definite 60’s worship on this one—not that it’s a bad thing.

MONSTER MAGNET REVISITED: 4-Way Diablo (SPV, 2007)

Although I think I own a copy of this album somewhere, when you say 4-Way Diablo, nothing immediately comes to mind.  Not only did this record not contain a single, or a video, but as Dave Wyndorf told Guitar World a few years later, the tunes on 4-Way “didn’t seem to be the right songs to manipulate into something that would work louder and live.”  So we haven’t heard ‘em in concert, either.  Not that Monster Magnet has even played Toronto since this record came out in 2007…

Sure enough the title track, which kicks things off, is clean and bright, a pretty pleasant three-minute tune that sorta has shades of the Gin Blossoms, and a pretty trippy chorus riff.  Speaking of mid 90’s alt-rock acts, “Wall of Fire” screams Collective Soul to me, albeit with a bit more of a garage-rock feel.  “You’re Alive” brings back that industrial-style chug, complete with danceable drum beats.  “Blow Your Mind” has a laid-back verse that makes “Space Lord” sound frantic by comparison, but delivers the first truly heavy chorus of the album.  Yes, we’re on Track 4.

“Cyclone” has a similarly mellow vibe, perhaps the first song on this one deserving of the “stoner-rock” label—and at five-and-a-half minutes, it’s almost the longest track, too.  Then they hit us with another obscure cover, this one from some unheard-of band from England called The Rolling Stones, heh heh.  In all seriousness, they do a pretty decent job of “2000 Light Years from Home” from the Stones’ psychedelic phase.  (Hey, that record came out in ’67, maaaaan….)  “No Vacation” continues in the mellow-psych state, with some light orchestration backing Wyndorf on a simple, winding riff.  It’s hard to tell where said song stops and “I’m Calling You” starts, as the two tunes are virtually identical.  If that’s not the same guitar riff, it’s awfully close.

“Solid Gold” brings the rock back with a slow, southern-style tune that certainly sounds like The Black Crowes.  But then it’s back to the semi-orchestral psychedelic well with “Freeze and Pixillate” sounding like one of the more mellow moments on a Neurosis record, before it goes all gypsy on us.  So, maybe more like latter-day OM, then?  “A Thousand Stars” has more of a goth/new-wave feel, as if that was the only thing missing from this bizarre mixture.  Finally, “Slap in the Face” brings back the garage-y, grungy Monster Magnet we all know and love.  Hey, that only took 12 songs!  So naturally, the album ends with church organ and Wyndorf singing a eulogy.  Is this a mixed bag or what!?

MONSTER MAGNET REVISITED: Monolithic Baby! (SPV, 2004)

After the bizarre experimentations of God Says No, Monster Magnet returned to the rock on this, their sixth album.  Suffice to say that a lot had changed since 2001—new label, new rhythm section, but same ol’ Dave Wyndorf.  While this record didn’t produce a hit single, it did deliver a music video featuring Wyndorf in a computer-generated space-fighter jet that’s gotta be pretty trippy to see when you’re stoned…

The album opens with “Slut Machine,” a drugged-out space-rocker that still has enough of a hook buried beneath the distorted vocals.  (Yuuup, they’re baaaack…)  “Supercruel” continues the grungy, grimy vibe, another one of those “soft-verse, heavy-chorus” numbers that appears on every album.  But again, man, great chorus.  “On the Verge” stretches things out and slows things down, an acoustically-begun tune that adopts a mid-paced, poppy stride before counting down (like, Wyndorf literally counts down) to a ringing, piano-backed chorus.  Can you say power ballad?

“Unbroken (Hotel Baby)” was the radio single, although I don’t recall hearing it on the radio.  It’s a pretty catchy, crunchy three-and-a-half-minute tune that’s not without commercial appeal, mind you.  “Radiation Day” also offers some good garage-rock grooves, with a doomy, tritone chorus, while “Monolithic,” the de facto title track, is a bit more of a mellow number, but it still has that classic Monster Magnet feel that was missing from its predecessor.

The next two tunes are actually covers of semi-obscure psych songs from the 70’s.  “The Right Stuff,” which spawned the aforementioned video, has a swirling, driving pace not unlike Hawkwind.  (It’s actually a tune by ex-Hawkster Robert Calvert.)  Yeah, I can see why they covered this one.  “There’s No Way Out of Here,” originally performed by little-known British outfit Unicorn, is slower, softer, but equally trippy, with an awesomely anthemic chorus.  In fact, I’m surprised I hadn’t heard the original before.  Let’s just say it blows Aerosmith outta the water…

But “Master of Light” brings things back to Wyndorf’s techno phase, an unfortunate remnant from the God Says No sessions.  OK, so it’s pretty heavy…for a goth-rock song.  “Too Bad” has a jangly, poppy feel, the album seemingly throwing out its throwaway tracks down the homestretch.  Alas, “Ultimate Everything” has plenty of electronic noises scattered throughout its seven-and-a-half-minute runtime, which sorta sounds like someone took some real bad acid.

The album ends on an equally curious note with “CNN War Theme,” although the North American version—being that SPV is a Euro label—also includes a pair of bonus tracks.  That said, neither their electronic-tinged, updated version of “King of Mars” nor their cover of “Venus in Furs” are essential, but hey, they do end the album on a somewhat better note.

MONSTER MAGNET REVISTED: Dopes to Infinity (A&M, 1995)

In a way, you could say this was Monster Magnet’s breakout album.  Sure, it barely dented the charts—the Canadian charts, that is, where it went as high as 61 (though it hit the Top 30 in Sweden and Germany…in case you’re wondering why they mostly play Europe these days).  But it was breakthrough single “Negasonic Teenage Warhead,” an anti-grunge anthem of sorts, that first put the band on the map.  I mean, there’s even an X-Men character named after this tune!  Hey, I’ll admit that I wasn’t cool enough to pick up Spine of God when it first came out, so this here was my first Monster Magnet CD—although I did grab Superjudge shortly afterwards.

But alas, it’s the title track that kicks things off, some sultry space grooves emerging from the ether in true Wyndorf fashion.  (The dude still single-handedly wrote the majority of the material on here.)  Mellow chorus makes its mark without being too potent.  The aforementioned adolescent also starts out slow ‘n spacey, adding a signature fuzz riff shortly afterwards.  While Kyuss might’ve been kings of the underground, this is the closest thing to “stoner rock” that got any kind of airplay…at least until Fu Manchu had a minor hit with “Squash that Fly” a few years later.  In any case, “Negasonic” is still a pretty solid tune after all these years.

Speaking of classic tracks, “Look to Your Orb for the Warning” remains a live staple, a spacey slow stomper that’ll get yer head nodding sooner than you can say “Nod Scene.”  “All Friends and Kingdom Come” is a little less memorable, a mellow, meandering number that kinda reminds me of The Tea Party.  (Canadian alt-rock band from that era, in case you’re ‘merican.)  “Ego, the Living Planet” brings back the heavy riffs, though these ones are noticeably industrial-tinged.  Not a bad instrumental interlude, though it is a little long.

“Blow ‘Em Off” is a lighter acoustic number, sort of a sunnier, brighter “Black Balloon.”  But instead of ending the album, it simply brings us to “Third Alternative,” an eight-and-a-half-minute epic.  This one takes a little while to get going, building up briefly to a nice, slow jam before dropping the tempo back to whisper territory—Wyndorf actually moaning “Shall we fuck each other’s babies?”  Don’t eat the purple acid, kids.

Amazingly, there are still five more songs to go—remember the 90’s, when every album had to be 50+ minutes?  “I Control, I Fly” brings back the stoner-rock, a brisk three-minute romp in the grasslands somewhere between “Negasonic…” and Fu Manchu.  “King of Mars” is a slow-paced space number that does little to distinguish itself, despite a mellow instrumental turn right around the three-minute mark.  “Dead Christmas” doesn’t sound nearly as morbid as its moniker suggests—hell, it even has a flute solo!—while “Theme from ‘Masterburner’” doesn’t seem much like a movie soundtrack, though it’s still a decent instrumental ditty.

Finally, “Vertigo” brings this album to its dizzying conclusion, a collection of swirling psych sounds that’ll make yer head spin.  Dig it till the sun goes down.