It’s not often I get a record to review that leaves me slightly stumped as to what to say about it!!! Featuring members of cult bands Iota and Subrosa this debut album offers up 6 lengthy tracks of fuzzy, psyched out hard rock that sit on the edges of Small Stone’s usual good time rock and roll and imbues it with an “out there” vibe more consistent with bands such as Tia Carrera. Why am I struggling to say anything about it? Well, on the one hand this is clearly a fine album but at the same time isn’t an album that grabs me by the short and curlies and pulls me in tight to breathe fetid whiskey fumes in my face…and as perverse as it may sound I kind of want that!!!
Opening track “Secret Revival” is a decent enough introduction. The “thundering, monumental low end” referred to in their bio is certainly present and guitarist Joey Toscano has a neat line in fuzzy, spacey riffing. Things do start to raise the heat on next track “Black Bird” however as the cosmic vibe is brought down to earth with a dirty southern style blues guitar complete with some nifty slide work and a gutsy vocal from Toscano. This down home “ribs and wings” vibe is carried forward into the next tune, “Vultures” which exhibits an almost Black keys style influence in the hazy sliding riff. At a shade over 10 minutes, however, it becomes evident that Dwellers could maybe use a little more focus in their approach to song writing. Some of the more rambling sections of songs would benefit from some judicious editing. Personally I would rather hear 10 shorter, more concise songs that highlight the band’s flair for writing some killer dirty, heavy blues riffs than wading through some of the more esoteric and formless passages that see my mind a driftin’!!!
“Ode To Inversion Layer”, despite the odd title that may hint at another rambling work out, is actually one of the shorter tunes on offer here and is a lovely dark, demonic blues with Toscano’s gruff howl. This track is stained with the mud of the delta and reeks of the sweat of some New Orleans basement dive. More of this please guys!!! Similarly “Lightening Ritual” is a killer, three and a half minute stomper that shows the band can lay down a thick and tasty groove. It is not without hints of C.O.C’s “Deliverance” album immersed in some dark voodoo blues.
Finally “Old Honey” is another lengthy slow burner that builds gradually and rolls along on a snaking riff. Dark, forbidding psychedelia lies at the heart of this song topped off by Toscano’s throaty roar. At close to ten minutes though it does test the patience a tad.
I do like this album more with repeated listens and, while the albums that grow on you tend to be the ones that stay with you longer, in today’s “quick fix”, ADHD driven society those albums that don’t grab you immediately don’t often get their chance to unfold themselves before the next slab of noise rolls along the conveyor belt to surpass it. There’s no doubt this is a fine album, but not a great one from a band that have a truly magnificent album lurking within them. I’ll certainly be keeping my eyes and ears open for album number two!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall