There are bands out there of which there are whispers in the wild, bands which have a sound so huge that it invokes images of desert sands swirling and churning, sounds of sped up geology, sounds of stone being eaten at by patient winds and baked by merciless sun. Their music is prone to inducing delirium, lunacy, heatstroke and dehydration, and yet the lure they weave is inescapable once you’ve got the bug. Sungrazer is one such band, a musical arachnid having trapped me all week and fooling me into enjoying the slow melting process their abrasive sound is performing on all my defenses.
You must believe me when I tell you that this band was formed in 2009. I know it doesn’t sound the part – it sounds like something from a ’70s wet dream, something of such sheer size, of such obscene hugeness that only that particular decade had enough room for it, along with Deep Purple, Colosseum, Led Zeppelin and Hawkwind – but it is most definitely contemporary, in more ways than one.
The sound is lo-fi but amazingly appropriate and precisely as clear as it has to be, the grooves are some of the beefiest I have ever heard, and the vibe, that ever-elusive element of rock which is so resistant to definitions and classification, the underlying spirit of the music, animating the riffs, breathing life in the rhythms – well, I haven’t heard such intensity in quite a while. They are positively primeval! Their sound is overwhelmingly generous, so much so that I can only refer to it as “vast”. I have to say, the band name is perfectly chosen – the jammy, psychedelic nerves in the group’s backbone truly conjure images of fantastic, lumbering beasts grazing solar flares (they don’t call it stoner rock for nothing…). But then there’s the hard rock element, the patient bass drones, the carnal guitar riffs, the visceral drumming, all part of that great, bluesy, structured aesthetic – music as masonry, sounds as scaffolding.
This is the Dutch group’s first album, having been followed up last year by a second offering, just as massive and earth shaking. I chose to write about this one though, because of a “first-love” kind of thing, I’m sure you know what I mean. I think what really stuck with me, what really sold me on this album, are the hidden details, the small sounds which show just how much fun and how much work the guys put into making this record. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish these through the sonic onslaught, but they’re there – clapping on the off beat here and there, subtle variations in otherwise apparently airtight progressions, psychedelic noises dosed without falling into a self-indulgent trap – little things which show patience and passion and the ability to take what’s best from a formula and go from there, emulate, explore further. Precisely what stoner/hard rock needs to stay fresh.
I hope, as always, that you’ll enjoy Sungrazer as much as I have, and I’ll see you soon with another surprise!