• Screaming From the Heavy Underground

    Transonic Science Releases "Psychobulb"

     



    If you're the slightest bit familiar with the underground German stoner rock scene, chances are you've heard of Transonic Science. 

    The moment I heard the band, I was instantly hooked on their sound. It's some of the most infectious, energetic, feel-good stoner rock I've had the pleasure of hearing, and my go-to jam when I need a mood or energy boost. Not only that, but the band's sound and energy is very much their own; when Transonic Science comes through your speakers, you immediately know who you're listening to. This is a band that's been on massively heavy rotation for me since I first heard the Bulldozer Blues EP in 2023. 

    These guys have been making music since 1997, nearing their third decade of cranking out their unique brand of stoner rock, marked by alternatively melodic/gravelly vocals, vibrant riffage, and infusions of psychedelic rock, blues, desert groove, and grunge. The band released two EPs (Sunshine Baby Home in 2000 and Bulldozer Blues in 2020) and one full-length album, Mind Strippin' Sun, in 2003. Transonic Science has also played a plethora of gigs alongside names such as Dozer, Girls Against Boys, and Blackmail. Unfortunately, the band lost co-founder Gerald Kirsch in 2018. Acquiring strength through a tribute concert for their friend and band mate, Transonic Science welcomed bassist Manuel Estrada. 

    By 2020, the band was itching to make a comeback, and comeback they did with their latest LP, Psychobulb, a highly-anticipated album that saw the light of day on May 3, 2024, via Argonauta Records. 

    Now, let's dig into this juggernaut track-by-track: 


    Psychobulb



    1. Fear of God

    This was the first single Transonic Science released from Psychobulb in April 2024. Fear of God was not only a phenomenal choice for a first single, but it's an equally great way to start the album, blasting right out of the gate with Transonic Science's trademark dynamism. Lyrically, Fear of God is about an angel who rebelled and was abandoned by God. After the angel returns to ask for forgiveness, God rejects him, ultimately leading to the angel's suffering. That rather grave situation is skillfully recreated in this track's sound. Fear of God actually starts off in a very groovy way, complete with some upbeat piano. After the first verse, however, the song escalates into crashing instrumentals and vocal wails, during which it's easy to envision the angel being cast out and falling from heaven. Just as quickly, the second verse regains the groove, only to collide with cruel fate again. This is reminiscent of two opposing sides: a clashing together of wills, repeated failures, and consequences. Fear of God ends with guttural, growling vocals (God is pissed, after all), and heavy, formidable guitars, signaling God's rejection and the angel's unfortunate end. The crazy part is, in spite of the seriousness of the situation at hand, this song is incredibly infectious and very immersive due to its light and dark layers. In a word, it feels very powerful. 

    2. Stereo One

    This track starts out with slow, hypnotic bass and tranquil, yet mournful vocals that sing of regret, solitude, and perseverance. Stereo One picks up just before the halfway point with a quick interlude of bright, soaring guitar and confident vocals, before giving way to that dismal vibe again, repeating twice. The song ends on a hopeful note, with some wailing guitar solos and lighter, sunnier riffage. However, based on the lyrics and alternating mood here, it feels like a forced sense of optimism; you might as well keep going because you have nothing else to lose. 


    3. Kain & Abel

    The second single from Psychobulb has a way of lumbering in, low and rumbling, moving into swinging verses and more melodic vocals behind scintillating guitar. However, it just wouldn't be a Transonic Science song if we didn't answer that with gruff, shouting vocals and kick up the heaviness tenfold in the chorus (and I mean that in the best way). This, of course, creates a sound like an argument in tone, a back and forth between reason and rage, light and dark, good and evil. This makes perfect sense because Kain and Abel, like Fear of God, is about opposing sides...polar opposites in this case. According to the band, Kain and Abel acknowledges that good and evil will always be at odds with each other, and is "how they keep each other alive and ensure they...will always exist." This is another passionate performance from both vocals and instrumentals, adeptly conveying the contrast between good and evil with music, words, and voice. And, as always, the song is super catchy in spite of the heaviness of the subject matter. 


    4. Cherokee Smith

    Now this one is a straight-up, feel-good, upbeat stoner rock jam with some hints of surf punk. Quite the ray of sunshine after the stormy conflicts Psychobulb began with. Ergün Aktürk is doing what he does best, delivering a fiery, impassioned performance atop the uplifted, vibrant instrumentals. This song includes a great showcase of guitar work as well. 


    5. Scarscraper

    It appears I spoke too soon. Scarscraper is an incredibly broken-hearted song, carried by trepidatious bass and cautious, sorrowful guitar. Even more than Stereo One, Scarscraper conveys a mental and physical struggle. The difference is that this one has much more dejected feel; the subject is far less content with his situation. 


    6. Wildest Frame

    On Wildest Frame, the mood is lifted with one of the most rollicking tracks on the album, featuring some triumphant, blazing lead guitar. This is classic Transonic Science. 


    7. Dusty

    Dusty's riff and vocals on its verses snake about like a lone serpent on the sunbaked desert, interspersed with wailing lead simulating the blinding sun overhead. In fact, if I could describe the mood of this song in two words, it would be "desert blues". 


    8. Satellite Blues

    Satellite Blues is so delightfully fuzzy, a thick layer of the stuff over a grumbling down below from the bass. Vocal effects are used here, amplifying Aktürk's gravelly tone in the best way. It seems I've spoken too soon again... If Dusty is desert blues, then this is desert blues on steroids - a badass, Mad Max kind of situation, complete with a foot stomping rhythm. Heavy, fuzzy, sandblasted, delicious. 

    9. Jaycoon 

    Jaycoon, overall, is very much a retro rock ballad, unlike anything I've ever heard from Transonic Science before. Like many of the songs on Psychobulb, Jaycoon is layered with the contrast of husky vocals and heavier instrumentals on the choruses. This time, that contrast isn't so great that it implies a conflict or opposing forces; the spirit of the song is maintained with a certain woebegone tone that is ever-present. As the song fades with the same grief-stricken retro rock guitar it entered with, it feels a bit eerie in the best way, ending the album on a haunting note. 



    Final Thoughts

    Let's be completely honest: I knew I was going to love Psychobulb. Transonic Science continues to bring their trademark energy, vocals that can go from melodic to throaty growls at the drop of a hat, and their own brand of stoner rock tinted with psychedelic blues and a hint of grungy goodness. The remarkable thing (and the thing that frankly makes me a bit emotional), is that flame of passion the band has always had is burning just as brightly as it was over 20 years ago, when they released their first full length album. Aging like a fine wine, Transonic Science proves on Psychobulb that they never went anywhere and, in fact, aren't planning on going anywhere anytime soon. While these pillars of the German stoner rock scene are still holding steady, they're not content to stagnate. On Psychobulb, Transonic Science delivers an incredibly impassioned, thoughtful, layered performance that demonstrates that their sound has only continued to grow and develop over the years. I would say job well done, but I feel like that would be the understatement of the century. My primary feeling, to be honest, is one of immense respect for this amazing band. 


    More About Transonic Science


    Transonic Science Is:

    Peter Begerow - Drums
    Markus Bongardt - Guitars
    Ergün Aktürk - Vocals
    Manuel Estrada - Bass


    You can follow Transonic Science/check out their music at the following links:
    Go forth and show Transonic Science some much-deserved love! 




    Best New Releases April 2024

    There really isn't a super elegant way to say it: April absolutely killed it with the new releases. I mean, across the board: stoner, desert, garage, grunge, psychedelic...some traces space as well; it's all here! Needless to say, it was a busy month of keeping up with everything and blogging as time permitted. Of course, when you feel very strongly about an album, it makes the writing process infinitely smoother and more pleasant, and I would have happily written about of all the albums listed below if I could! 

    That said, I hope I can do these awesome albums justice with these little blurbs, and the reviews I did manage to complete will be listed with its corresponding album below. 

    Here is exactly what I submitted to the Doom Charts for April 2024, in ascending order:


    1. Yeast Machine - Sleaze




    Oh, Yeast Machine... My heart still hasn't recovered from this one.

    I'm sure it doesn't come as a huge surprise to most that Yeast Machine's Sleaze landed firmly at #1 for me this month; it certainly wasn't a surprise to me either. What was a surprise is just how it's possible for Yeast Machine to top the sheer beauty, delightfully nostalgic 90s grunge vibes, and raw emotion of their first two EPs, but they did...Oh, did they ever. 

    I could write an essay (or more) about this album, and in fact, I did just that. You can go on a crazy, deep, heart-wrenching, therapeutic deep dive of Sleaze with me here. We'll laugh, we'll cry, unlock some core memories...but most of all, we'll give this gorgeous album the time and spotlight that it deserves. But if you take away only one thing from this post, know this: Yeast Machine outdid themselves in delivering on their promise to give us something "louder, fuzzier wilder. Calm becomes tension and dissolves into sensation." 🖤

    Favorite Track: Garden Wall





    2. Stonerhead - Running High



    Stonerhead delivers a very developed, polished, and refined version of stoner music. Not only that, but they do it while tapping into various styles, including stoner rock, psychedelic rock, progressive rock, doom metal, and stoner metal. Vocals and instrumentals alike deliver a powerful, emotive performance that seamlessly moves from clean and melodic to heavy and riffing to trippy and psychedelic. Running High indubitably proves that stoner music can be incredibly sophisticated with an intricate, thoughtful composition. Stonerhead is a band made up of legitimate musicians whose hard work, creativity, and meticulous attention to detail are palpable throughout this album. 

    Read my full review HERE.

    Favorite Track: Super Mario

    A huge thank you to the band and Broken Music for sharing this amazing album with me!

       



    3. Sunface - Cloud Castles 



    There are so many amazing new albums being released today, but I definitely want to shine a big spotlight on Sunface's highly-anticipated new release, "Cloud Castles". 
    Make no mistake, with its overall maximum chill, dream-like sound, "Cloud Castles" is the atmospheric fuzz-drenched psych rock we know and love from Sunface. However, this album takes on a more airy, diaphanous vibe than the band's previous work. I mean this, of course, in the best possible way. "Cloud Castles" is an unbelievably immersive, sensory experience. It's what the feeling of filling your lungs with crisp, fresh air or jumping carefree and headfirst into a turquoise tropical pool sounds like. These atmospheres form gossamer clouds that float languidly alongside light and breezy vocals. However, it's the almighty riff and a beautiful array of percussion from around the world that provide the tether that keeps these sonic landscapes grounded to the earth, ensuring that they never float away entirely. 

    Favorite Track: Tall Trees




    4. Tet - Tet



    Tet is a heavy psych band from Poland whose debut self-titled EP tends to have a thicker undercurrent of dark, heavy riffage running beneath it than many other bands in the genre. Beautifully garnished with dazzling lead guitar and grounded with prominent bass and pulsing percussion, this album gives psychedelic rock fans the best of both the darkness and the light, never straying too far in either direction. 

    Favorite Track: Dom w cieniu gruszy

     





    5. Spacedrifter - When the Colors Fade



    This four-piece genre chameleon from Sweden certainly pays homage to Homme with their debut full-length album, When the Colors Fade. However, it won't take the listener long to discover that there are a plethora of influences here, including garage, stoner metal, alternative rock, psychedelic rock, grunge, and punk. With these influences to guide them, Spacedrifter's adaptability and ability to play multiple genres shine brightly on their debut, all while providing a bit of a nostalgic 90s feel. 

    Favorite Track: Through the Desert


     




    6. Monolith - Horizon 



    Bremen's doomy retro rock trio Monolith is finding themselves at least waist-deep in psychedelic territory with their new album, Monolith. Previously leaning more on a doom-laden retro rock sound and heavier guitars, the band is lightening things up a bit with their latest release. While keeping their signature captivating vocals, retro sound, and weighty instrumentals, this is interspersed among the lighter, kaleidoscopic vibes of psychedelia. As a relatively new psychedelic rock fan, I greatly appreciate this palpable vein of darkness in a genre that is often very light and atmospheric. 

    Favorite Track: Neptune's Daughter

       



    7. Eleanore - Full Throttle In All Directions



    Full Throttle In All Directions
     reveals a more sophisticated, well-rounded sound that clearly demonstrates the band's ability to play more than garage rock. I think it's safe to say that Eleanore is putting the final touches on that "wall of sound" that they strive for, adding a massive amount of dimension on this album, honing their craft while developing new skills. This is a band with a ton of ambition and a willingness to always expand their repertoire, and that's palpable on Full Throttle In All Directions. Furthermore, they always manage to keep things very down to earth with their approachable lyrics and by incorporating elements of the music many of us grew up on. That being said, listening to Full Throttle In All Directions feels like catching up with an old friend you haven't seen in a while. There are many things that are familiar, some things that are new to you, but that fundamental core that established the friendship will always be there. 


    Read my full review HERE.

    Favorite Track: One For The Road

    A big thank you to the band for sharing this one with me and for their continued support of the heavy underground scene as a whole!

       



    8. Cactusfizz - The Ruins



    In spite of the brevity of The Ruins, Cactusfizz adeptly manages to provide us with a complete thought; four full songs that progress very naturally. These songs not only leave one marveling at the musicianship present throughout the album, but they certainly inspire a bit of thoughtful contemplation as well. Happening upon The Ruins was the most pleasant surprise for me, providing a digestible but quality sampling of heavy psychedelia with a garage rock flair. I would recommend this album to any fan of psychedelic rock, but I think it makes an especially good album for fans who are just starting to get into the genre or those who don't have the attention span for those 10+ minute psych rock tracks (I'm guilty of that, myself!)

    Read my full review HERE.

    Favorite Track: No Life Found





    9. The Cosmic Dead - Infinite Peaks



    Infinite Peaks is the highly-anticipated ninth full-length album from Scotland's psychedelic space cadets The Cosmic Dead. Bringing together sonic portraits of both the barren, windswept dunes and the vast, daunting beauty of the cosmos, The Cosmic Dead has created something truly awe-inspiring. 

    Favorite Track: Space Mountain - Part I: Desert Djilo







    10. No Man's Valley - Chrononaut Cocktailbar/Flight of the Sloths



    Chrononaut Cocktailbar contains songs that have a very retro feel; bluesy, sexy, loungey, and post-punky, with a bit of a rockabilly/alternative rock flair. It certainly has a dark feel, but in a very intriguing, and often, a very relatable way. Best of all, said darkness is delivered in a really fun manner with the incredibly infectious instrumentals and smooth, clean vocals. 

    Then, of course, you have the other side of the coin: Flight of the Sloths: a fifteen minute meditative psychedelic rock jam that is both structured and improvisational in style. Accompanied by a beautiful, immersive, calming AI video, this combination is downright theraputic to watch.

       

    Even though these sides of the album are polar opposites, it's quite easy to see how they fit together once you listen to everything in its entirety. If Chrononaut Cocktailbar explores darkness head on, particularly the darkness of the human experience, then Flight of the Sloths is the healing; the proverbial therapist you'll need after all of that other stuff. You can certainly see how this material was written during the pandemic; a bleak time that made the world reexamine how we treat ourselves and each other, shining a much-needed light on mental health and self-care. As silly as it may sound to legitimately recommend a song as a therapeutic tool, I feel that I can safely do just that with Flight of the Sloths, especially in the realms of mindfulness, meditation, and self-reflection. And seriously, major props to No Man's Valley for creating such a thing. 

    Read my full review HERE

    Favorite Track: Orange Juice






    11. Kintsugi Empire - Shun



    Kintsugi Empire is the brainchild of multi-instrumentalist and songwriter Pieter Holkenborg from the Netherlands. The album is (delightfully) both a smooth and pleasant and jarring and thought-provoking listen. Incorporating elements of post punk, indie rock, alternative, and experimental rock, Shun lyrically serves as an expression of solace and empathy for those on the fringes of society. 

    Favorite Track: Into Nothing



    12. Kolonel Djafaar - Getaway 



    I'm back at it again with my jazz! This month, it's jazz in a more prominent form, but still a jazz fusion nonetheless. 

    Belgium's noteworthy brass ensemble, Kolonel Djajaar, is back with their second album, Getaway. Here, they combine Afrobeat, Ethio jazz (eerie undertones of traditional Ethiopian music combined with the soulful tones of its more familiar counterpart), and psychedelic rock. The Afro beat and Ethio jazz elements make this an incredibly unique jazz fusion. The jazz elements together with psychedelic rock's uncanny ability to paint sonic imagery allow the listener to easily conjure views of urban life in the not-too-distant past, with an undercurrent of apprehension. 

    Favorite Track: Urban Dweller 



    That was quite a month! It may take me a while to recover from this one, and to listen to all of this music. While I'm busy doing that, don't forget to show your favorite underground bands some much deserved love! Follow, share, and support them at gigs and on Bandcamp whenever possible! 


    Juke Cove - "Tempest"

     


    Juke Cove is a trio from Leipzig who very aptly describe their sound as "trippy jammin' meets groovy riffs, punk energy, and doomy heaviness." Before we get into all that, first you must know that these guys aren't just messing around; Juke Cove's members come together with a notable amount of experience in heavy music. Maxim (drums), has a background in jazz drumming and has played in punk and surf rock bands as well. Dima (bass) has played in several Russian rock bands, including the established psych rock band The Grand Astoria. Mateusz (vocals, guitar), has played in hardcore and rapcore bands, and currently plays drums in Insekt, a hardcore punk band from Leipzig. 

    Juke Cove formed in 2018 and released their first album, s/t, the following year. This was followed by their second album, Remedy, in 2021 through Interstellar Smoke Records (a label we all know and love around here). Remedy made its way to the #23 spot on the May 2021 Doom Charts

    Since then, the band has stayed incredibly busy, playing a massive amount of gigs in Germany (supporting some big names and some of my personal faves including King Buffalo, Rotor, Weedpecker, Valley of the Sun, Mars Red Sky, and Dopelord), as well as completing two short tours in Poland. Juke Cove began recording their third album, Tempest, in early 2023 and is gearing up to release this kraken to the word on May 3, 2024, again via Interstellar Smoke Records. 

    So, without further ado, let's get into Tempest track-by-track:



    Tempest



    Tempest contains 8 tracks:

    1. The Path

    The Path starts with low rumbling instrumentals, like a behemoth creature stomping around. Bright psychedelic guitar joins in while that rumble continues in the background. Booming drums and crawling bass give the feel of thunder and an impending storm. Vocals here are a half spoken/half sung medley of a melodic chant and a guttural demonic growl. This song unquestionably provides a sense of impending doom, or maybe even a quest to outrun something. This anticipatory vibe builds into some epic guitar work that rounds out the last half of the song. 


    2. Hypnosis

    This track has more of a stoner sound to it. A wicked bass line snakes about throughout the song while vocals that begin as an echoing chant seamlessly merge into melodic punk. Hypnosis is aptly named; that bass line alone is incredibly mesmeric, especially when combined with the stoner riffage and some lighter, spacier sound peppered throughout. This song is a lovely commingling of the heavy and the light, and is definitely one that you'll get lost in. 

    3. Wait

    Wait is a song that gorgeously ebbs and flows, beginning with bright lead guitar over thumping bass, crashing percussion, and melancholic vocals, creating a sense of cautious optimism in the midst of trepidation. Just past the halfway point, however, building energy from the vocals and instrumentals culminate in heavy, rumbling confidence. 

    Check out this cool visualizer for Glow: 



    4. Confined

    This one starts with punky vocals over burly stoner riffs, evoking a sense of being trapped or shouting to be heard over chaos. An abrupt tempo change gives way to some bluesy guitar and the now melodic vocals have a melancholic tint; almost like resigning oneself to the calamity heard earlier. Some killer lead guitar solos follow, leading into a fast-paced heavy alternative rock ending to the song. This gives the notion that while the chaos will always be there, you'll eventually find your own niche within it (willingly or otherwise).

    According to the band, this song has to do with the "diverse feelings of living and working in the digital age" (Ah, so I wasn't far off!) Certainly something the vast majority of us can identify with. 

    5. Tempest

    Tempest begins with another spellbinding spotlight on the bass. Thunderous drum rolls and scintillating cymbal over the lumbering bass again paint a stormy sonic landscape. Heavy metal guitar enters, hushed but menacing as the song swells into a delightfully turbulent, faced-paced jam; Juke Cove's signature brand of metal/hardcore. The momentum continues until the song ends, fading out like a storm disappearing over the horizon. Tempest is yet another appropriately named song that brilliantly highlights some of the things Juke Cove does best: those bass lines, the hardcore-influenced sound, and the turbulent crescendos.

       

    6. Glow

    Glow was the first track I ever heard from Juke Cove, and the one that got me insanely curious about the band. This is because, within a single track, the band effortlessly manages to play at least three separate genres of music. The song starts off fast and furious with almost thrashy instrumentals and some hardcore punk-esque vocals. Before you can catch your breath, Glow flawlessly transitions into melodic doom, vocals included. At this point, the lead guitar slowly brightens this trudging cadence into a psychedelic groove that's to die for. 

    Furthermore, when I learned that Glow's lyrical meaning has to do with developing a sense of optimism in the very conflicted, warming planet we live on, it makes perfect sense. This happens in stages: anger, sadness/hopelessness, and finally, acceptance, expertly mirrored by the style change-ups in the song. 

    Here's an awesome live version of Glow from Juke Cove's YouTube channel:


    7. Burst

    A short, two and a half minute number, Burst begins in a way that makes you think it's going to be more of an upbeat, bluesy, proto-metal song, but the vocals are heavily punky throughout. Who knew punk could be so groovy? It works! 

    8. Xanadu

    Xanadu delivers thick, viscous hard rock to start. While it surrounds you with its sludgy stickiness, it's still incredibly easy to coast along on the riff. This abruptly morphs into some very classic-sounding punk vocals and instrumentals. You'll find yourself sing/shouting along; this portion of the song is insanely energetic and infectious. As quickly as that happened, we switch gears again to the polar opposite: ethereal, atmospheric psychedelic rock. Only Juke Cove can metamorphosize from angsty, high-octane punk to such a placid, dreamlike mood so quickly. The song ends on this note, accompanied by some more great lead guitar solos. 



    Final Thoughts

    Wow! That was a killer ride! 

    First off, the energy on Tempest is absolutely off the charts. In fact, this album was perfectly named...Its sound, like a storm, has different kinds of energy sweeping through at different paces. There might be rolling thunder to start (doom), lightning (punk), driving rain (stoner/metal), and glimmers of returning sunlight as the storm passes (psychedelic rock). As no two storms are alike, nor are any two songs on Tempest

    The album also delves into thought-provoking subject matter. According to the band, Tempest's lyrics focus on "themes of fate/fatelessness and action/inaction". Just how large of a role does fate play in our lives, if it's even real at all? And, if it is real, how much of it do we actually have control over? 

    It goes without saying that the most distinguishable aspect of Tempest and Juke Cove in general is the band's unparalleled ability to play multiple genres of music. Not just multiple genres across a whole album, but usually at least three genres within a single song. My favorite thing about this, however, is how seamlessly Juke Cove makes these transitions. It's done so smoothly and in a way that befits the mood of the song so well that it takes you a moment to notice the switch. Combined with the vocals and lyrics, these style change-ups work together beautifully to create a state of mind and send a powerful message about the human condition and the world we live in. 



    More About Juke Cove

    Juke Cove Is:

    Mateusz - Guitar, Vocals
    Dima - Bass, Vocals
    Maxim - Drums

    You can support Juke Cove by purchasing and streaming their music on Bandcamp and Spotify, and by following them on InstagramFacebook, and YouTube.

    Be sure to check out Tempest when it releases on Friday, May 3 via Interstellar Smoke Records! 

    A massive thank you to Juke Cove for sharing your awesome music with me! 



    Yeast Machine - "SLEAZE"

     


    I've been waiting for this one. 

    Tübingen's grungy stoner rockers Yeast Machine, with their uncanny ability to steal my heart, announced at the end of last year that they were working on new music. This came mere months after I came across the band in the fall of 2023, following the release of their gorgeous EP Rise of the Yeast, and fell head over heels for the band's authentic grunge sound and heart-wrenching lyrics. With that being said, it shouldn't come as a surprise that Rise of the Yeast landed securely in the #2 spot on my Top 25 Underground Releases of 2023 list. Since then, I've been closely following the updates from Yeast Machine leading up to their new album, SLEAZE, (released on April 19, 2024), their first full length album upon signing with the awesome Tonzonen Records. 

    First, Yeast Machine released a series of teaser videos for the first single from SLEAZE, called Rip It Off, emphasizing the "ripping off" of a literal and metaphorical plaster. This little tidbit was enough to clue me in that this song, in typical Yeast Machine fashion, was going to cut deep emotionally. What REALLY got me was the following text from an Instagram post the band made shortly before officially releasing the single:

    "Imagine, you're sitting in a weird old uncomfortable armchair, thinking about the last years, realizing that your little music project which started with one creaking guitar on a balcony, has become a real band with concerts, traveling, merch, smaller and bigger stages and people who are actually listening to the made-up stuff you wrote. 

    Imagine, you're sitting in a weird old uncomfortable armchair, thinking of the next couple of weeks and months and the first album you're throwing into the world, hoping for some people to enjoy it. 

    Imagine, you're on the brink of a new stage of life and the one you're in right now feels like an old, dirty plaster and you just want to...

    Rip it off." 



    Isn't it funny how armchairs, particularly the weird and uncomfortable ones, have a way of searing themselves into our core memories?

    Can you imagine? Something that started as little more than a past time or pipe dream, but also something that you poured your heart and soul into, not only taking shape but taking off? At first, it's your bandmates, then a handful of people at gigs, then more and more people all over the world, who, in their hearts and minds, can intensely identify with what you're doing. The words you write and sing, the way you sing them, the music you play, the mood it creates, and the memories it unlocks have a unifying and healing effect on people you never would have met otherwise. How beautiful, how mind-bogglingly amazing is that? Well, it gives me an immense amount of pride and sheer joy to announce that the members of Yeast Machine find themselves in just such a predicament. People are noticing, and, more than anything, people are feeling what they're doing. If that's not the ultimate life accomplishment, I'm not sure what is. Rest assured, SLEAZE is packed full of moments that each and every listener can identify with in a big way. They're not always easy to digest (keep some tissues and a cozy chair for contemplation handy), but they're always immensely therapeutic. 

    I have to admit, I wasn't sure that Yeast Machine would be able to churn out an album that was emotionally on par with their previous EPs Behind The Dead End (2021) and Rise of the Yeast (2023), but they did. In fact, they actually went above and beyond the call of duty and somehow made an album that is essentially emotional catharsis in music form, while being (as the band promised) "louder, fuzzier wilder. Calm becomes tension and dissolves into sensation."

    Ladies and Gentleman, I'm beyond honored to present to you SLEAZE by Yeast Machine, track-by-track. I only hope that I can even begin to do this album justice. 



    SLEAZE


    SLEAZE contains nine tracks:

    1. Intro

    The intro is an eerie, haunting performance, a bit of a cautionary tale:

    "The train arrives
    Hold your breath
    To escape
    Your little death

    The evening came
    Unexpectedly 
    The hour demands 
    The usual fee"

    Definitely not the style I envision when I think of Yeast Machine, but I mean that in a good way! This is a very interesting way to start an album, as it leaves you with no idea of what to expect, thereby psyching you up and hooking your attention.

    2. Universal Avatar

    Universal Avatar begins with a glorious electric buzz from the guitars, booming drums, and driving, heavy bass. This song already feels heavier than Yeast Machine's previous work, leaning more into heavy stoner/desert and darker alternative rock territory, the low rumble from the instrumentals rattling your insides. The vocals here are confident, almost smug. This fits in seamlessly with the lyrics, which seem to delve into narcissism: 

    "Kick in the door
    Spread like kudzu
    The room is full
    The room is overfilled with you

    Do what you want to 
    Do what you are
    Universal Avatar

    And oh
    I come along in every shape
    Show me love or
    I'll dissolve in space"


    3. Banshee

    This track begins with a chugging fast pace, heavy on the hi-hat, building anticipation. There are many starts and stops that culminate in howls (Banshee wails?) from the vocals. Just past the halfway point, Banshee slows down considerably, causing you to stop rocking out long enough to realize you're actually listening to a rather evocative narrative. This song is more progressive in nature, effectively telling a story with constantly evolving vocals, instrumentals, and pacing...it almost gives a musical theater feel. This is another style I wasn't expecting from Yeast Machine, but it's a very pleasant surprise that shows off their skills when it comes to sophisticated composition in particular. 

    "And the story unfolds
    By the eternal stones
    Of the dead and the cold
    Where the children hide
    Cause they made friends with the ghost
    And they are calling her name"

    4. Garden Wall

    Here we go... Garden Wall, guys. Can you tell from the wall of text below that I have feelings about this one?

    I remember when I got the news that this single was out, I was in my kitchen making a cup of coffee when I decided to give it a listen. Bad idea. Make sure you have a soft place to fall, emotionally and perhaps physically as well, before listening to Garden Wall. Let's just say by the midway point of the song, having managed to stumble to a chair, I was just sitting there with my head in my hands saying, "Wow...oh wow," over and over. 

    This haunting, heavy ballad, as the title suggests, focuses on what beauty lies behind a self-constructed wall. In my mind, a "wall" can be many things, physical or mental, that are preventing you from reaching your full potential. We put walls up as defense mechanisms, as a way to keep ourselves safe, but they often end up doing much more harm than good. Primarily, it becomes easier to remain placated, albeit stagnant, behind what a wall of lies... It's something that tells you you're not good enough, and you'll never be able to climb over it. However, if you're lucky, a crack will appear and clue you in to the "Shangri-La" that might be on the other side. Surmounting the wall is terrifying, and you may lose your footing a few times along the way, but it's always worth the climb. 

    Vocal and instrumental building is utilized brilliantly on Garden Wall (and on SLEAZE as whole, I'm beginning to notice), remaining rather melancholy and doubtful in the beginning, picking up slightly in the first chorus as the initial glimmers of hope are realized, growing angry, then confident and powerful, culminating in some soul-crushing screams at the end. Those screams, quite frankly, were an audible representation of the emotions building up inside me as I listened, and were released at the perfect time in the song. That energy, the good and the bad, just had to be purged. I don't think I have to tell you that, based upon my physical response alone, I can massively identify with this powerful, touching song. However, it's that identification, combined with the way the vocals and instrumentals rise and fall in line with physical response of the listener, that makes Garden Wall so potently relatable, it's almost eerie.  

    Yeast Machine made an incredible short/film music video for Garden Wall. This video really helps the listener to fully envision the meaning behind the song. I also applaud the creative choice of using the childlike, masked characters and whimsical imagery. For me, it's a great physical representation of the time in our lives when many walls and insecurities are formed: childhood. And, in my mind, the masks are representative of self-deception. 

    "Your wall has been a liar
    People told you about the wires 
    But you don't listen anymore cause you hear the whisper's call
    And the crackling of the fire 
    Your garden grows 
    Behind the wall
    The words shine bright
    You could have it all" ❤


    5. 1st of July

    A lovely, acoustic song with gentle, mournful vocals. This song picks up a bit at the end and leaves us with some beautiful vocalizations, ending very abruptly. Of course, this only adds to 1st of July's haunting effect, leaving you on the edge of your seat.

    "I tend to be
    In a pretender's body
    I feel light
    When you shine on me" ❤


    6. Brittle Pillars

    Brittle Pillars begins with thumping bass and percussion that brilliantly commence and maintain the momentum of the song. The guitars join in to brighten things up and totally rock out. The tone of the vocals, a bit more grave for the most part, tend to reel you back in and remind you that there's a tale being recounted here. In this case, it involves a plea for help from a long-lost sibling. There's a spoken word part in the middle that escalates in intensity, frantically building into the second part of the song, and peaking in a huge way. 
    The last two minutes of the song utterly blast in with some gorgeous, ultra heavy, grunge/alternative-tinted guitar work and melodic yet powerful vocals that threaten to blow you away. However, you hang on tight, and they totally surround you as you get blissfully lost in the melody. These two minutes, in fact, were so lovely yet so intense, they made me a bit emotional, creating some kind of feeling for me that I can't quite identify..."marvel" and "enchantment" are the first words that come to mind. In fact, the story within this song and its imagery could easily be another theater piece. Brittle Pillars holds rank as my second favorite song on SLEAZE, second to Garden Wall, of course.

    "Days open like a flower bed in Spring
    Blossoms falling off my heavy wings
    I catch your breath and you try to catch mine
    Two lost birds fly perfectly in line" ❤


    7. Circling Bird

    This one has an even more charged opening than Universal Avatar, more upbeat and downright danceable (I have no shame in admitting I took a short dance break here). Among the bright, high-voltage hum from the guitars, there are some spots of low reverberation. Vocals alternate between a no frills, post-punky croon and powerful, rock n' roll screams. Circling Bird proves that stoner/grunge/rock can intermingle with a lively, dance-worthy rhythm that not only compels you to move but is sure to be a song that you find yourself singing at the top of your lungs. 


    "The final drop 
    Time to divide
    To be the prey
    Or Vogel sein

    But in the end
    It's all the same
    And my wings
    Go up in flames

    Above our heads 
    Engraved our names
    Above our heads
    Our rotten graves"

    8. Rip It Off 

    Here we go! Rip it Off was the first single Yeast Machine released from SLEAZE, and, as touched upon earlier, implores the listener to rip of the figurative plasters that are holding them back. 
    Rip it Off starts off with a bang, making you wonder if we're in for another groovy number. As it turns out, while there's undoubtedly a tidal wave of stoner groove here, this song is ultimately one of Yeast Machine's trademark heart-wrenchers. Instrumentals alternate between delicate guitar and (primarily) fiery riffage, while passionate vocals relay sage advice:

    "You gotta rip it off 
    Send rivers down your arm
    You gotta rip it off 
    It won't do you any harm

    Through the rabbit hole
    A new chapter has begun
    You gotta rip it off
    Said the mother to her son

    ...

    You'll walk another line which I haven't 
    drawn
    And you'll walk alone, my love
    You gotta rip it off..."

    I've listened to this song many times since its release, but when I listened to it in conjunction with the rest of the songs on SLEAZE, it became even clearer to me that the message Rip It Off conveys is the very spirit of the album as a whole. More on that in a minute. 

    9. I Can See 

    I Can See is another acoustic song that begins in a very muted and placid manner, the guitar having a bit of Middle Eastern/Desert flair. Vocals grow increasingly fervent, brightly highlighted against the softened, bare-bones instrumentals. I've always greatly respected the skill of Yeast Machine's vocalist, but hearing it in such a standout way here made me appreciate his talent even more; he has quite a knack for being able to move his voice from gentle and melodic to commanding and resonant at a moment's notice. 

    "My concrete walls 
    Feel safe and warm
    On the other side
    Rages a storm

    When my eyelids fall
    I can see..."


    ❤ = Lyrics that hit me squarely in my feelings 

    Final Thoughts

    First of all, my heart is so happy. Is it weird to say that I'm insanely proud of these guys? I am. I mean, I don't know them personally or anything, but I'm proud as hell. 

    In that same vein, I love seeing good things happen to good people. I was downright giddy when I read that Yeast Machine signed with Tonzonen, literally jumping up and down with happiness when they announced their new album, and all but screaming when they did a gig with Giant Lungs (a band that most of you know is very near and dear to my heart). Now, as Yeast Machine continues to tour in promotion of the album, people's reactions have been massively positive. Following this amazing band's journey as musicians for the past several months has been inspiring. These guys have been working hard, and it shows.

    SLEAZE is still filled with all the reasons we love Yeast Machine: the spot-on 90s-influenced sound, powerful grungy vocals, and instrumentals that masterfully vacillate between soothing, heavy and riffing, melancholy, and downright groovy. And of course, this album is still brimming over with those heartfelt lyrics that have the ability to clench at our hearts and deeply resonate with us. However, much to my amazement, SLEAZE manages to not only give us an even more raw and heartfelt experience, but it builds upon it in several ways. The core of the album seems to be a personal journey of growth; primarily of building confidence and knocking down mental and physical barriers. However, there are also a few instances of the band utilizing storytelling, interspersing lyrical narratives among the more typical "Yeasty" tunes. As mentioned earlier, these narratives are reminiscent of artful, theatrical pieces, keeping in line with the album's primary theme, but in a metaphorical way. The acoustic interludes accentuate this quality as well, serving as palate cleansers of sorts in between acts. 

    Of course, I also can't fail to remind you that Yeast Machine certainly delivered on their promise to give us something weightier with SLEAZE. The band's prior work fit snugly in between grunge and stoner rock. Now, we see Yeast Machine turning it up tenfold and venturing further into the stoner, heavy alternative, psychedelic rock, and occasionally stoner metal territory. Needless to say, this is so cool to hear, and I'm certain that SLEAZE is going to make for a killer live show, especially with those Yeast Machine classics (Time is a Weird Place, Sievings, The One The Sun) folded into the set. The bits and pieces of live gigs that I've seen on video so far are infectiously energetic, so if you have the opportunity to see Yeast Machine live, DO IT!

    Stoner rockers, grunge kids, alt-rock aficionados, human beings: Yeast Machine makes it abundantly clear on SLEAZE that they have all of our backs. Not only does this band continue to pull on our tattered heart strings, but they provide a soundtrack for you to heal to and relate to. With SLEAZE, now more than ever, Yeast Machine also gives us something to rock out to like no one is watching. If this band was holding anything back before, that's all gone now. The proverbial plaster has been ripped off, and Yeast Machine bears their heart, giving us their strongest, most genuine performance yet. SLEAZE is like a raw nerve, an unhealed wound that's been left to fester in a lot of darkness and neglect. The time has come to "rip it off" and talk (scream) about it. The healing will come after. 

    More About Yeast Machine

    You can follow Yeast Machine/listen to their awesome music at the following links:
    The band is currently on tour! Be sure to follow their social media pages for updates and upcoming gigs!


    And finally, a HUGE thank you to Yeast Machine for sharing your amazing music with the world. My life is certainly a little brighter having heard it. Not only are you creative geniuses who know no bounds when it comes to making open and honest music that dives deep into the human experience, but you're incredibly sweet, supportive members of the heavy underground! Rock on! 

    Go forth and show Yeast Machine some much-deserved love! 





    Cactusfizz - "The Ruins"

     


    Admittedly, I can be a bit of an unobservant person, but it seems to me that Copenhagen-based band Cactusfizz just kind of blasted their way into the heavy underground scene out of nowhere. The band really created a buzz in the stoner/doom community when their latest album, The Ruins, was featured by the always awesome Weedian in mid-April. A little digging tells me that Cactusfizz has actually been releasing music since at least October 2022, with their debut EP Dust and Religion. They've also been playing a plethora of live gigs both locally and abroad, including providing support for March 2024 Doom Charts favorite Skraeckoedlan. 

    The Ruins was released on April 3, 2024, a project on which the band collaborated with friends Jye O'Sullivan and Maria Baez. The album contains seven tracks (including an intro, interlude, and outro) and has an almost twenty-two minute runtime, but trust me when I say there is a LOT packed into this relatively short masterpiece. Let's get into it:



    The Ruins




    1. Intro

    2. Tunnel

    The howling winds of the intro lead us into Tunnel, which begins with drums (delightfully heavy on the cymbal) and some psychedelic, desert-tinted guitar. Heavy bass begins to rumble from beneath, creating more dimension. Bubbles of brightness rising up from the cymbals and guitar are the icing on the cake, creating a multi-faceted psychedelic desert trip. Vocals come in at the halfway point, starting off in a smooth, soothing tone, but quickly building and swelling along with the instrumentals in a crescendo that culminates when a heavy amount of fuzz is dropped. Lots of variety in the pacing of this track always leaves you wondering what's coming next. 

    3. The Mould 

    This song takes on a much faster pace and a funky, 70s psychedelic tone. The vocals play a much larger role here, including some spoken word parts interspersed between some melodic singing, creating a feeling of frantic apprehensiveness that keeps the listener on their toes. The overall vibe here is quite trippy, the funk factor and groove remaining constant.  

    4. High Tide

    This is a gorgeously eerie interlude track that features low background male vocalizations with beautiful, haunting, standout female vocals hovering above them. You can't help but think of a siren song. 

    5. A Long Wait

    A Long Wait is an infinitely darker song on which the lyrics focus on some of the bleakest problems in our modern world. Vocals alternate between a half-singing/-half-spoken cadence, melodic and mournful singing, and more spoken word. Instrumentals are likewise more melancholy overall. This one will certainly put you in a contemplative mood. 

    6. No Life Found

    This is a really great follow-up to A Long Wait. Still colored with darkness and uncertainty, No Life Found feels like a natural continuation. The highlight here is the bass guitar that again has a sublime way of rising up from the depths to be the shining star here; you feel it rumbling in your body, immersing you both physically and emotionally in the song. Somber psychedelic rock guitar and cautiously optimistic percussion beautifully complete the mood. 

    7. Kodu (Home)

    On the outro, we hear the howling wind again behind a spoken incantation, bringing the album full circle. 




    Final Thoughts

    In spite of the brevity of The Ruins, Cactusfizz adeptly manages to provide us with a complete thought; four full songs that progress very naturally. These songs not only leave one marveling at the musicianship present throughout the album, but they certainly inspire a bit of thoughtful contemplation as well. Happening upon The Ruins was the most pleasant surprise for me, giving me a digestible but quality sampling of heavy psychedelia with a garage rock flair that I was able to both thoroughly enjoy and mentally process in one afternoon, leading to this article. I would recommend this album to any fan of psychedelic rock, but I think it makes an especially good album for fans who are just starting to get into the genre or those who don't have the attention span for those 10+ minute psych rock tracks (I'm guilty of that, myself!) Above all, hearing what Cactusfizz is capable of on The Ruins has made me very eager to see what the future has in store for this immensely talented band! 

    More About Cactusfizz

    Cactusfizz Is:

    Cesar Quintela - Guitar, Vocals
    Lev Koval - Drums, Backing Vocals
    Julen Ordenana - Bass, Synth, Backing Vocals

    You can listen to/follow Cactusfizz on the following:
    Get out there and show Cactusfizz some much-deserved love!