Another day, another psychedelic jam band. Today’s offering comes from Nashville Tennessee’s Hellbender! With an opener (“Neon Cross”) that tips the proverbial hat to the likes of Blue Cheer and Atomic Rooster whilst indulging in plenty of slap-back reverb on the vocals, they set out to prove they are better than average! It’s not long before I find my head bobbing along the beat, I even caught myself doing a bit of (terrible) air drumming! The standout track for me is the second – “The Ballad of Grey Livers”, musically something that could have come from the thundering fret-hand of Tatsu Mikami (Check out “Sonic Flower” to see what I mean!) – what starts as a colossal thundering riff-laden corker of a track gives way to something far calmer and more esoteric around the 3 minute mark. I must admit that I am a sucker for slide guitar being put to good use in heavy music, and this track does it in spades.
For the organ-addicted (oo-err!), however, it’s the subsequent two-part psychedelic prog epic “Supergiant” (Sorry, but as titles go, this is bollocks!) that will please! Elements of luminaries such as Hawkwind, Captain Beyond and German acts such as Brainticket, launch this song into the stratosphere, and will have you reaching for the peyote and freaking out to the space-echo and frantic drums as they reach a blissful crescendo before slowing to a scattered crawl in the middle, only to relaunch into full 70s riff-o-rama for the second part.
If there’s a criticism to be leveled at this record, it’s the inevitable fact that it’s nothing you haven’t heard before, but that’s probably just a combination of me being a grumpy fuss-nugget and historical context being unkind! Ultimately of little consequence for an album recorded and performed with little to no pretence and a very palpable sense of fun! I’ve added the vinyl of this immensely enjoyable record to my ever-lengthening wantlist, along with their 7” and three tapes – methinks this is a band to watch!
Oh, and extra points for the lovely black and white artwork, featuring a hippie woman adorned with flowers, Native-American markings and a crescent moon! Also, I could have sworn she has a vagina drawn into her forehead, or maybe that’s just me…
Label: Self Released
Scribed by: Saúl Do Caixão