A cult video has been circulating in the haze of rock’s underground – part stoner, part myth, part freak, all filtered through the kind of lo-fi grainy lens that begs for a Bigfoot cameo. Just three heavy dudes wielding their brand of improvisational magic, yielding only to the ‘cosmic nod’ otherwise known as the celestial blueprint to the eternal jam.
This here video, through its backdrop of psychedelic whirls and live fan clips captures none other than Whistler B.C.’s Heavy Trip cranking out the opening track, Hand Of Shroom, off their Self-Titled debut. Originally self-released in March 2020 and now set for repressing on vinyl and CD Digipack through Amsterdam’s Burning World Records, this beast gets yet another well-deserved reboot in a time where touring and one-off live shows have taken an unfortunate (but necessary) back seat to mask wearing and social distancing.
Like lost footage from some inter dimensional planetary event, you can watch the band (Cole Jandrisch – guitars, Cole Vibert – bass, Ben Frith – drums) conjure some seriously mind-bending stuff. It’s the type of phantasmagoria you’d expect living inside a shape shifting, tie dyed cotton candy swirl. Although their sound is described by Jandrisch as ‘derivative of a psychedelic 70s trip’, it deserves more than just a cursory comparison to Hendrix or (Eddie) Hazel. It’s a new take on old growth, where the living, breathing organism that is the ‘jam’ has been slathered with the ultraviolet magenta sheen from Lovecraft’s Color Out of Space…and fans of that classic pulp know how the plants grew after that ship landed.
Taking its time like a baby in the womb, Hand Of Shroom spends the first few of its seven plus minute duration noodling through an ethereal mix of chilled blues and doom, setting the mood and hinting at an explosive up tempo climax that delivers in spades – think Unonou era Danava with more Sabbath and less Dario Argento and that’ll give you an idea.
But to get the full impact of this record, you need some good speakers, some open space, and full immersion. The band was fortunate enough to score some top talent to operate behind the scenes – Zach Blackstone, known for his work with AC/DC’s 2020 album Power Up and Joe Satriani’s 2018 outing What Happens Next (among others) engineered and mixed the record with Stuart McKillop covering mastering duties. Blackstone and McKillop’s collective experience paired with the band’s work ethic and meticulous ear was a lethal combination.
Recording for the four track, thirty six minute debut began in November 2018 at the Warehouse, Vancouver B.C. The band, with earlier drummer Tim Horam, set out from the start to capture the essence of what they do live as a strictly instrumental act. Interestingly enough, as improvisational as this record seems (check Lunar Throne for example, with its languid blues assault and accelerated solo freak outs), according to Jandrisch it’s more pre-planned and structured than it appears and definitely veers from the purely improvisational writing approach of the group’s 2021 line-up.
The album is riff and solo heavy, and the weight of the guitars and extensive bottom end give these songs a power that commands your attention…
The album is riff and solo heavy, and the weight of the guitars and extensive bottom end give these songs a power that commands your attention. No more apparent is this than on album closer Treespinner, where the confluence of melodic doom, groove and wah streaked boogie hits a spot so sweet that you can’t help but play it over and over again.
With an emphasis on intuitive performance and the live experience, the band seems to have crafted their songs to allow periods of ‘white space’ for expression. Mind Leaf fully takes advantage of this with the first five of its eight plus minute run jamming through effects laden soloing (which if played live could go effectively anywhere they wanted). The song finishes with a near NWOBHM romp – and the soloing really never ends, again leaving the door wide open for the stream of consciousness to take hold.
It’s fate and a little stroke of luck that the current line-up came together when they did. Vibert and Jandrisch found each other through a shared love of ski bumming, snowboarding and the riff, using Whistler’s unconventional history as a town of tourist escapism and partying as fertile ground for generator jam sessions fueled by ‘heroic doses’ of (fill in the blank) – kind of like the north west’s answer to the So Cal desert rock scene.
Five drummers in, they finally paired with Frith in June 2019, who happened to run Vancouver’s oldest, family owned, independent Record Store, Neptoon Records in addition to his contributions to two other lesser known but sufficiently cool projects Vicious Cycle and Storc. With a solid line-up in place for nearly two years, the group has toured, jammed and opened (pre-pandemic) for more established acts including Earthless, Acid King, and Dead Meadow – indeed, the band has stood and remains in good company which is a testament to their talent and strength as a unit.
And if their Self-Titled debut is indicative of what’s to come (rumor has it that they’ve been recording new material for a follow up tentatively titled Liquid Planet), we may never recover from the sophomore trip. Hopefully as pandemic restrictions ease, the band can find themselves returning to their natural habitat – the stage. As Frank Zappa once put it, soloing in the moment is like ‘me against the laws of nature’… ’it’s a game where you have a piece of time and a chance to decorate it’… this ability to seemingly manifest the impossible – pulling something beautiful and cool out of thin air, is why the classic heroes endure and why Heavy Trip is set to follow in their stead.
Scribed by: Jeremy Moore