Motorpsycho are a hard band to grapple with; their career, as we have told you before, stretches all the way back to the end of the 80’s. They’ve also ping ponged between numerous genres, always fixated upon progressive rock but blending in influences from jazz, pop, country, post-rock, and more. They also appear to be some kind of a cult hit, fairly annoying in more mainstream circles but equipped with an impressive, and passionate, following in certain realms of music. I was a late comer to their fandom back in 2016 when they released the excellent Here Be Monsters, steeped in Pink Floyd influences and vibes. The release after that, 2017’s The Tower was a bit disappointing but now Motorpsycho are back with The Crucible and, let me tell you, they are better than ever.
The Crucible sees Motorpsycho digging deeper into their Yes and Hawkwind influences, especially the more chaotic and expansive works like Relayer or Warrior On the Edge of Time. The album opens with the groovy “Pscyhotzar”, classic, multiple vocal lines mixing with rich synths dripping with nostalgia. This heavier riff bears the aforementioned Hawkwind influences well, taking the path of many a band in modernizing that sound. The end result is a dream-inducing first track that, like the opening tracks on the seminal albums mentioned above, is a cool piece of smoke and mirrors; it lulls into a sensation of peaceful rumination, belying what’s to come. The opening to “Lux Aeterna” is more of the same, announcing itself with morose vocals that might remind us of Wobbler‘s take on progressive rock (a comparison not without merit, since Motorpsycho have collaborated in the past with Jaga Jazzist, an ensemble who’s members also make up Wobbler).
But this track doesn’t stay calm for long; before unfurling into the emotive solos that Motorpsycho have always been famous for, it first goes through a messy, exhilarating, and overwhelming middle segment. Mashing guitars, brass instruments, and drums into a furious cacophony, kind of like the middle passages of the aforementioned Relayer and its eponymous opening track, “Lux Aeterna” then emerges from the other side into a silky smooth outro that screams King Crimson, the synths making a resplendent comeback over the moving vocals.
If it seems like I’m name-dropping, it’s because I am; what I’d like to impress upon you is that Motorpsycho belong among the greats of progressive rock. Any one making this kind of music today would do well to have Motorpsycho as their benchmark; in production, in composition, in sheer power of expression, Motorpsycho are the band to pay attention to in this space today. And if you don’t believe me, just spin the one track we haven’t referenced in this article so, the eponymous closing track. Listen to the perfect blend of bass and lead guitar, to the richness of the composition, to the clever ways in which this track is built. The Crucible is a showcase of a vetern band doing what they do best which, in Motorpsycho’s case, is write incredible, timeless, progressive rock.
The Crucible was released on Feb. 15 via Stickman Records.