Desert Suns: stoner doom band’s time has arrived with reissue of debut album

Desert Suns

Desert Suns, self-titled, Ripple Music / HeviSike Records (2016)

Hailing from San Diego is a new four-piece stoner doom band Desert Suns whose self-titled debut album was first released independently in 2014 and then re-released in January 2016 on LP/CD by Ripple Music in North America and in a limited LP edition by HeviSike Records in the UK. These dudes are serious acolytes of Black Sabbath whose influence runs right through the album and is balanced with a good mix of psychedelia, sludge metal, stoner blues and some gritty desert Americana.

Intro track “Burning Temples” was originally released as a single and it’s a very strong opener with deep crunchy steel riffs, the moodiest of moody bass lines, and plenty of variety in pace, melody and riffing to please the most particular Sabbath worshipper. The sound is clear enough that stark atmospheres are revealed when the music dies down a little and goes into a reflective, pensive mode; but there’s enough acid grit that the music is also very tough. “Burning Temples” is an excellent introduction to the band but, wait, there’s a lot more here – hard on the first track’s heels is “Space Pussy”, a very Sabbath-like piece of doom psychedelia with lead vocals in-between Ozzy Osbourne and Anthony Kiedis (of Red Hot Chili Peppers fame) and plenty of shrill lead guitar derring-do over thick slabs of bassy miasmic rifferama. “Passing Through” possibly tips its hat to former Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant in the high-pitched singing but what really catches my attention is the driving music, the low resonant guitar drones and those bristling bass riffs. I’m not sure though whether Black Sabbath or Led Zeppelin ever did anything quite like “Ten Feet Down”, a desert blues number with Southern Goth feel and subject matter: this is a very minimal track whose stark lyrics on death and its aftermath have much depth and reveal more than they actually say.

The last couple of songs are a return to hard rocking blues and doom metal, and while not nearly as great as the others, they still hold up very well. The last song especially is a good atmospheric mood piece. The album seems to end on something of a cliffhanger which might leave a few people scratching their heads in puzzlement.

Most songs on this album are potential best-selling singles with incredible hooks, some of the heaviest, crunchiest riffs, flowing music and lyrics of alienation, isolation and perhaps longing for connection. The musicians are a fairly tight unit (though not so tight that the music ends up stiff) and have an ear for good catchy tunes. While there’s plenty of lead guitar soloing, the guys could afford to go hell-4-leather broke on extended improvised jams on some tracks (especially the more psychedelic ones) – a slightly deranged air in some songs might actually help them. Otherwise there is plenty of variety in the music and the singing, with at least four songs drawing influences from different genres. Versatility will be a trademark and a source of inspiration and creativity. It’s inevitable that some people will complain that the band has no definite “style”, as though all its songs have to sound much the same, but that will be a small price to pay.

The only surprise about this album is that it didn’t gain more attention than it did when first released. This is definitely a record whose time has come. Let’s hope that the arrangement to reissue the album on two labels in two continents generates the interest it deserves.

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