Since they formed in Roma some twelve years ago, Italian fuzz merchants Black Rainbows have racked up a consistent and fairly prolific back catalogue that pours stoner, psychedelia, space rock and doom into a tripped out melting pot of classic 70s influenced rock and roll.
Cosmic Ritual Supertrip is the trio’s eighth album and was recorded on home turf at Forward Studios in Rome and seeks to marry a doom ladened occult feel with a gritty 90s makeover. Produced by Fabio Sforza, who engineered their Pandemonium album, the latest release crackles with a muscular swagger that oozes with well-honed confidence born of countless live shows.
Straight out of the gate they set out their stall with At Midnight You Cry, a towering statement of their power that combines Ozzy influenced vocals, pounding drums, rumbling bass and their trademark fuzz drenched guitars. This is a high energy, ass shaking celebration of rock and roll that will no doubt see live settings explode with frenetic movement.
The band are definitely proud of their roots and influences and Universal Phase sees the Sabbath heritage take a left turn into Cathedral territory with a more doom feel that features a swinging rhythm and sung/almost spoken lyrics about monsters in space awash with sci-fi samples. Not as dirty as Lee Dorian’s crew at their peak as you can still hear the sneers in Gabriele Fiori’s voice and imagine him failing across the stage with his guitar a danger to himself, and everyone else.
The band describe their sound as monolith, and certainly by the end, the combination of Firori, Giuseppe Guglielmino (Bass) and Filippo Ragazzoni (Drums) get locked into a huge slab of Blue Cheer bar fighting MC5s style riffing that’s just a great head banging wall of sound.
Radio 666 is kind of a surf punk vibe that is full of hooks and what the Beach Boys might have written if there was a little dirt under their nails. Its lyrics tell a tale of wind in the hair and vibrant summer days that’s immensely singable. Definitely a standout track on the album that leans on the space rock trippy side of the band and could easily get heavy rotation on college radio if it was released in the alternative universe the band want to tread.
When Cosmic Ritual Supertrip is good, it’s really good and you can feel the unbridled energy coming from the speakers…
Isolation has a similar feel despite being a mid-tempo ditty that could best be described as one of those tracks to get the audience dancing, instead of crashing headlong into each other. To start with at least, before the temptation to let the foot off the pedal and bring back the slamming riffs.
After this strong opening run, the band turn to their more psychedelic side with more retro, echoing experimentation that seeks to combine their heavy side with sounds that wouldn’t seem out of place on some of Dave Wyndorf’s more indulgent sounding turns in Monster Magnet.
Some of these work really well, like Hypnotized By The Solenoid and The Great Design paired together in the middle of the album. Whereas Glittereyzed and Searching For Satellites don’t seem to capture that same magic and undecided if they want to be space rock or go for post Haight-Ashby hippy/folk vibes.
This is probably because they are positioned in between some absolute bangers, including the fantastically titled Master Rocket Power Blast, which sees the band make up for the previous mellowness by turning in their most aggressive track musical, as Black Rainbows take you on a whizzing outer space journey and Sacred Graal with its defiant attitude.
The album closes with another crushing tune, Fire Breather. Sadly it isn’t one of the strong tracks on offer and as such Cosmic Ritual Supertrip could have easily lost the last two tracks and I wouldn’t have noticed.
Black Rainbows are a lot of fun and a solid well-seasoned band, but sometimes it feels like they are afraid to simply play to their strength, whether this is through a desire to push themselves in order to avoid being pigeon-holed or for simple artistic merit only the band can answer.
When Cosmic Ritual Supertrip is good, it’s really good and you can feel the unbridled energy coming from the speakers, but when they’re not so good, they ‘e simply okay; I would hesitate to say forgettable but harking back to my earlier point, this album would be no less being ten tracks than it is at twelve.
It seems overly harsh to say as there is a lot to enjoy here, maybe with a change of the running order, the differences wouldn’t be brought into such sharp relief as after a great start, the second half of the album feels a little inconsistent.
Solid, not spectacular.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden