Friday, March 21, 2014

Ultra Review: Double Shot Friday

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GREENLEAF: Trails & Passes

                  First of all, Greenleaf is not a band I would recommend to someone to try to convert them to “stoner rock”, but rather a band I would recommend to someone who is already into the stoner rock scene and looking for another good band to listen to.  They are not the band that will blow you away and demand your attention; they are the band that will consistently put out well-written, flawlessly recorded old-school rock.  For me, getting a new Greenleaf album is kind of like getting a new ZZ Top album, or maybe AC/DC; you won’t get any huge surprises and you can expect a certain level of quality.  On every Greenleaf album there are a few tunes that I favor over the others, but never any that I don’t like.  On the new album, “Ocean Deep”, “Humans” and “The Drum” are my standouts so far.  Small Stone Recordings’ Bandcamp website claims that guitar player Tommi now considers Dozer to be his side project, where the reverse used to be true.  In any event, “Trails & Passes” is what you would expect: a solid addition to the Greenleaf library of music.  I think the first EP or “Revolution Rock” may still be my favorite Greenleaf albums, but this one is quality rock through and through. 


Greenleaf is:
Bengt Bäcke: bass
Sebastian Olsson: drums
Tommi Holappa: guitar
Arvid Jonsson: vocals



                  I can’t think of many bands who have produced a first album as perfect as Haze by Switzerland’s Black Willows.  It is creative, unique and so well-recorded that you might guess it’s the band’s fourth or fifth record, not its first.  Black Willows’ music is best described as heavy psych.  I hesitate to compare them to other bands because Black Willows doesn’t really sound like anybody else, but the beginning of “Dead Mantra” will remind you of The Doors and there are times in “Doors of Perception” where Aleister’s voice reminds me of Mark Johnson from Snail.  At different times throughout the album I am reminded of Ethereal Riffian as well.  Black Willows’ writing is quite different than each of these bands though.  I recommend playing the album in its entirety while you are doing something else.  You will find the music drifting in and out of your consciousness but controlling the atmosphere in the room at all times.  Black Willows is very attentive to setting mood and pulling you through stages of cognition.  Here’s Black Willows’ own description of their music from their Bandcamp site:

“Black Willows causes an altered sensory experience of senses, emotions, memories, time, and awareness for 6 to 14 hours, depending on dosage and tolerance. Generally beginning instantly after ingestion, the user may experience anything from subtle changes in perception to overwhelming cognitive shifts. Changes in auditory and visual perception are typical. Visual effects include the illusion of movement of static surfaces ("walls breathing"), after image-like trails of moving objects ("tracers"), the appearance of moving colored geometric patterns (especially with closed eyes), an intensification of colors and brightness ("sparkling"), new textures on objects, blurred vision, and shape suggestibility.”

Even though the above quote may seems a bit cocky, the album Haze creates as close to an out-of-body experience as a rock album can, and I think if you give it a listen you will agree that Black Willows is a very cool band.

                  “Dead Mantra”:

Black Willows is:
Aleister Crowley: guitar/vocals
Melanie Renaud: guitar
Kevin Richard: bass
Nicolas Monica: drums

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