Review: Black Rainbows ‘Superskull’

Let me begin the proceedings by offering a full disclosure: I’m a big fan of Rome, Italy’s Black Rainbows. I’ve been on board for a minimum of seven years now and consider them, along with bands like Monolord, Windhand, and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, to be at the very forefront of the global stoner rock and doom metal scene of the last dozen or so years.

Black Rainbows ‘Superskull’ Artwork
Black Rainbows ‘Superskull’ Artwork

Black Rainbows sonic potion of spacey, fuzzy, trippy, and heavy, mixed with liberal doses of garage rock, and heavy psych to be right up my aural alley. All of this is impeccably delivered by the impossibly catchy vocal stylings and down-for-life attitude of vocalist/guitarist/mastermind Gabriele Fiori, who must be considered as one of, if not THE, hardest working man in the business. Along with leading Black Rainbows, who, with Superskull, have now released eight full-lengths, one live album, and a killer EP in the span of a decade and a half or so, he also fronts The Pilgrim and Killer Boogie, the former a vehicle for his acoustic side and latter displays his cleaner-tone, garage rock impulses.

If his musical projects weren’t enough, Fiori also runs the Heavy Psych Sounds label, which, at this point, must be considered at the top of the global mountain for stoner rock, doom metal and their assorted sub-genres, as the roster is absolutely stacked with killer bands from the legends of the scene to the best of the new guard of bands proffering in all that is heavy. And, if all that didn’t keep Fiori busy enough, he’s also found the time to organize and put on the Heavy Psych Sounds Festivals that are now happening in Europe, as well as the USA. To say the man is dedicated to this type of music would be an understatement.

All of this brings us back to Superskull as the band come together in one phenomenal, cosmic, dirty rock and roll package. For one thing, the line-up of Fiori, drummer Filippo Ragazzoni and bassist Edoardo ‘Mancio’ Mancini have now been together for two album cycles, as this line-up was on display for 2020’s excellent Cosmic Ritual Supertrip that undoubtedly played a crucial role in the musical cohesion and approach over the last few albums.

Superskull is a killer record from start to finish…

As always they present a seemingly never-ending display of fuzzed-out riffs throughout Superskull, whether we’re talking the bouncy, single-note riffage of blow-it-wide-open album opener Apocalypse March or the inconceivably catchy riffs and vocals of the practically flawless first single, the amazingly named Superhero Dopeproof, in which Fiori displays his uncanny knack for mixing the heavy and fuzzy, with the melodic and catchy, both in riffs and vocal approach. As well, there’s the heavy, garage-y, head-bobbing spring of second single Child Of Fire And Sacrifices that flows right into the rumbling, dizzying guitar dynamics of the also amazingly-named Cosmic Ride Of The Crystal Skull, in which Black Rainbows take the listener on a riffy rock and roll journey, that features some excellent rhythmic action from Ragazzoni as his drums are both understated and propelling, wherein he’s able to sit behind the beat yet add some subtle ride-taps and timely fills, the band even throw in some distorted, moon-landing soundbites for an extra dose of spacey weirdness.

Riff bangers, as always, are scattered throughout Superskull, witness the charge of Till The Outerspace, or the stomp of Lone Wolf, in which the soaring vocals run parallel with the guitar histrionics. There’s also the previously released Desert Sun, first heard on 2022’s live album Live At Desertfest Belgium, which unleashes a massive, walking main riff, while the drums bash away allowing Mancini to lock the low-end groove in place. Closer, Fire In The Sky features plenty of soaring, flanged riffery with all sorts of swirling cosmic awesomeness, including some wicked, spaced-out shreddery.

However, I’m always down when Black Rainbows decide to get weird. Some of my favorite songs in their vast catalog are The Cosmic Picker from 2015’s Hawkdope, Golden Widow from 2016’s Stellar Prophecy and from 2020’s excellently titled Cosmic Ritual Supertrip, Searching For Satellites Part 1 & 2. On Superskulll, we get The Pilgrim Son, a tripped out, swirling, slow-burn that features all sorts of wicked, fuzzed-out weird riffage, as well as in what has turned into my favorite track on the album, the acoustic-meets cosmic trip-out of King Snake, featuring all sorts of effects and some excellent, slightly distorted vocals. Additionally, Fiori displays some wicked acoustic lead action that calls out a bit to his aforementioned acoustic vehicle The Pilgrim but if shot through an interstellar vortex.

Superskull is a killer record from start to finish, and most certainly one of Black Rainbows best releases. I’m not ready to crown it my favorite record of theirs, but it’s already in that conversation. And, as always, the artwork, song titles, packaging, and entire aesthetic is top notch, Black Rainbows always deliver on the design front and Superskull is no exception. I’m biased, but I’m ready to pencil this record into my year-end list, as it’s that good. Enthusiastically recommended.

Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams