Italy’s emergence as a major force on the European heavy music scene has been as triumphant in its growth as it has felt both refreshing and unique in its soundscapes. Spearheaded by the prominence of the likes of psych-doom behemoths Ufomammut and crust-crushing hardcore puritans The Secret, the Azzuri undercard is consistently strong and inventive whilst being able to strike a healthy musical balance between sleeve-worn influences and genuine originality. Deep arrive with no fanfare, no names, no narrative and little more than an intriguing piece of album art and a 7-track Bandcamp page. With mounting stockpiles of praise already attained from the likes of our friends at The Sludgelord and Chybucca Sounds, I was keen to sample the murky, yet unassuming Mediterranean mystery of the Deep.
Opener ‘Sun’ perfectly fits with Deep’s mission to accomplish “dreamy, lysergic stoner/doom/metal”. It’s simply impossible to get fuzzier guitar lines without taking a cheese-grater to a Les Paul and whilst the first half of the track initially wears a bit thin on ideas beyond the ploddingly obvious, Deep quickly morph into a far more ethereal proposition at about the 4-minute mark. God knows who this vocalist is, or how he recorded these, ahem, shamanic hymns simultaneously addressing both the living and the dead, but he’s got a damn good throat for it. As this sleepy ditty bends out of bed with a glorious little guitar solo reminiscent to me of Cough of all people, it’s obvious that there’s far more to Deep than stoner rock alone.
Where ‘Sun’ was a sleepy foray into sloth-speed cactus-clipping, the likes of the immediately and lovably hummable ‘Let It Roll In’ and the aggressive instrumental ‘Long Haired Youth’ simply put the pedal to the floor and jam the shit out of the groove in hand. You need to listen to this loud, damn loud, and potentially you’ll hear the same hints of the stoner rock greats like Lowrider, Fu Manchu and Dozer as I did. The overdrive on both of these tracks is satisfying enough to leave you bouncing around your driver’s seat for hours as that speedometer gets closer and closer to the horizontal position. If you dig the first (official) Kyuss record ‘Wretch’, then these two badboys are for you.
What Deep manages to achieve on ‘Vol.1’ that oh so many desert-dwelling bands fail to grasp is variety – variety that is in terms of both their song structure and instrumentation. ‘The Wizard & The Mountain’ is effectively two separate songs forcibly joined at the hip. The Wizard is an elderly, solemn stroll through a pasture of vintage Witchcraft and the omnipresent crop-circles of Monster Magnet, whilst The Mountain is an adventurous, winding ride up an embankment of dangerous basslines and precariously progressive drumwork. The shroud of intrigue on ‘Nazca’ is a rewarding one as the chugging riffs eventually relent to some more galloping rhythms and triumphant, yet warbled, lead vocals. The result is a hypnotically straightforward fade-out that could go on for hours wallowing in its simplistic bliss.
The fantastically-monikered ‘Hyperventilation Revelation’ is perhaps Deep at their most devilishly and enchantingly accessible. Again, Dozer is a huge point of reference as those magically ghostly vocal lines initially return as if permeating through the walls of the terraced property next door to the jam room. The biggest curveball on the album is thrown at the conclusion however as waves of didgeridoo (…yep!) and California sunset guitar waves intermingle to provide an unsettling finish underneath a cloud of unpredictable and stormy atmospheres.
Expecting a slower-than-thou epic finale with the final song on ‘Vol.1’ I couldn’t have been further from the mark as these carefree Italians have only super-fuzz-speed stonerisms left to grasp by album closer ‘Sonic Mantra’. Or do they? The initially straight-up buzzing guitars bleed abruptly into gently rolled drumbeats and acoustic campfire melodies as Deep leave us as mysteriously an unceremoniously as they arrived.
Perhaps ‘Vol.1’s secret weapon is its production quality: both home-brewed and loose enough to ignore the pressures of the ever-changing, working world, whilst technical and powerful enough to sound positively enormous once those ethereal tendencies seep into the arrangements. Guitars shouldn’t come this fuzzy, but for Deep it works to a tee and they’ve simply charmed the pants of my sand-grazed ass with ‘Vol.1’. If you’re looking for something with a familiar tone, yet with a variety of textures and tastes, then this may well end up being your surprise album of the year. Equally, if you miss Dozer and Lowrider and those irresistible underwater vocal grooves then stick this in your exhaust pipe and smoke it all the way back to Sky Valley.
Scribed by: Pete Green