Do you like to throw your ears to the whim of open, swirling compositions? Or are you just a sucker for the fuzz? Either way, the debut long player from Brooklyn’s River Cult has you covered. At a glance, Halcyon Daze is a dirty, bluesy, and doomy stomper of a record. Thickness in tow, it hits like a champ enough to satisfy those strong of neck. At the same time, it’s complete with loose, jammy structures, gradual and dramatic builds and breaks, fat tones, and freak out solos – it has all the ingredients for a truly great heavy psych record. With five tracks at a hearty seven-minute minimum, it gives you plenty to get swept up in without compromising their unique vision that brings these worlds together. Lucky for us, these dudes break from the (what can be) formulaic nature of these genres, and come out with a truly spectacular 2018 record. Head on over the jump to stream the entire thing!
Opener “Likelihood of Confusion” takes a seemingly standard swampy stoner metal romp to places it wouldn’t normally go. The Iommi/Pike wah’d leads, melty bass lines, and clean pocket drumming vanish into a haze of delay and effects that feel much closer to 90s shoegaze or post rock. “The Sophist” picks up on this spacey trail, and directs it to unexpectedly heavy territories with a colossal, lumbering doom riff and pounding, tom-heavy rock drumming. Guitarist Sean Forlenza’s borderline-harsh vocals fortify the group’s sound with attitude and energy in favor of the mumbled, washed-out, or reverb drenched vibes that have all but become psych-rock standard. Suddenly, squeals of feedback cut through before we’re sucked into a sea of effect worship and trippy leads, tides of noise, and amoebic chaos. They give a needed energy boost and focus to psychedelia’s space cadet personality without getting regimented. Check closer “Point of Failure,” which sounds like an early Nirvana interpretation of The Black Angels.
“Seething” and the title track display how River Cult can straddle the lines of woolly stoner metal and deep psych so damn well. While not quite as burly or menacing as doom all-stars like Electric Wizard or Sleep, These guys get in that ballpark tonally and never fail to impress with how fucking crushing they can be. As a three-piece, bassist Anthony Mendolia’s rock solid foundations fill much of the mix with body-buzzing low end that meshes nicely with Tav Palumbo’s meaty, steady kicks and slogging tom hits. Similarly, the regularity with which they break structure (and go so, so, so far out of orbit) is equally impressive, it’s a miracle they’re able to get back to their sea legs to shellac us with more megaton riffing. Forlenza gets absolutely rabid with some of his solos (ala Earthless’ Isaiah Mitchell), but offsets it with some sage layers of kaleidoscopic guitars, too. They have a tasteful way of directing these songs from uber-heavy to cinematic to ambiguous and bewildering. The balance here is crucial, and they absolutely nail it.
On paper, reconciling the most extreme reaches of doom and heavy psych (and to a lesser degree: garage, post, shoegaze, and desert rock) wouldn’t seem like an unreasonable task. Paradoxically, Halcyon Daze accentuates the stylistic gaps while giving listeners an even listen, finding juuuust the right frequency to vibe on each level. Over the course of the album, River Cult uncovers corners of the doom world that have been largely ignored by their contemporaries who are fixated on riff worship and dry fantasy. They also make the case that wandering psych could use a little shaking up with a smidge of aggressive energy and personality. It’s the perfect kind of sprawling album to toss on and get lost in; it’s somehow as seamless as it is raw, and ear-piquing as it is comfortable, certain to dole out some awe-inspiring moments. So go ahead, dig in, it’s definitely one of the best debuts of this new year. You’ll wanna spend some time with this before it’s officially out tomorrow on Nasoni Records (vinyl), Blackseed Records (cassette/CD), and Magnetic Eye (digital).