Review: Hermano ‘…Only A Suggestion’ [Reissue]

Whilst the scene rightly still mourns for the loss of the legendary Kyuss, the fallout of that breakup has given us a fascinating insight into the musical philosophies of its members; from the punk-infused danger of Nick Oliveri, the laid-back soulful funk of Brant Bjork and of course the stadium filling sounds of Josh Homme.

Hermano '…Only A Suggestion' Artwork
Hermano ‘…Only A Suggestion’ Artwork

However, arguably the most wide-ranging member is former vocalist John Garcia whose collaborations and multiple personalities have seen him work with The Crystal Method, Danko Jones and was even tipped to be the singer for Karma To Burn’s eponymous Roadrunner Records debut. Alongside his acclaimed solo work and bands such as Vista Chino and Unida, he would create three scintillating albums with producer Dandy Brown under the banner of Hermano (Spanish for brother).

Originally consisting of Garcia on vocals, Brown on bass, drummer Steve Earle (Afghan Wigs) and guitarists Mike Callahan (Disengage) and David Angstrom (Supafuzz), the band formed in 1998. Originally tipped as the next great ‘supergroup’ they were poised to unleash their debut on Man’s Ruin Records. However, due to the label coming to a sad demise at the end of 2001, those in the know would have to wait until 2002 before the band got the chance to release …Only A Suggestion on the independent TeePee Records (home to notable releases by the likes of Sleep and High On Fire).

Despite never having met, the band members came together in Ultrasuede Studio in Cincinnati to work on the material that would later go on to be described as ‘classic Kyuss strained through a Soundgarden at 100 miles an hour’. This special chemistry would go on to create a further two records (with Supafuzz drummer Chris Leather’s replacing Earle after the first album after he chose to pursue a solo career), 2004’s Dare I Say and 2007’s Into The Exam Room.

The band developed a dedicated following and carved out a reputation for legendary live shows that were rapturously received, rightly earning sellouts across Europe and the United States. This status would see them still held in high regard despite being most active over a decade and a half ago, with their last live performance some six years previous at 2016’s Hellfest.

In news that would have their fanbase salivating, finally having been able to take control of their own back catalogue the band signed with Ripple Music in order to release remixed and remastered reissues of their entire back catalogue. Having searched through ‘crawlspaces, closets, attics, storage buildings and cigar boxes’ across two continents to track down the master tapes, this project has been lovingly brought to life by Ripple founder Todd Severin along with his passionate team and now all three albums will be given their rightful glory alongside their Live At W2 set and an exclusive 10” release.

Consisting of eight tracks that clock in at just twenty-eight minutes, Hermano’s debut is both an exciting and frustrating glimpse at the prowess of the band and the promise of what was to come.

an album that stamps the authority of Hermano on the stoner scene, cementing their legacy as musicians who possess that special je ne sais quoi…

Starting out of the gate with The Bottle, the difference is immediate for those who held the original copies. Earle’s deep toms and thumping drums set the scene as the guitars build and the bluesy riffs slink out of the speakers, the guitars cycling effortlessly around the picked interplay between Callahan and Angstrom whilst Brown provides the anchor for the thick, fuzz-drenched sound.

Then of course is Garcia’s voice. At once commanding and unmistakable, that deliciously melodic rasp that changes from rapid-fire spitting of refrains to holding and stretching the melodies easily demonstrates why the man has long been one of my favourite vocalists in the genre.

This is nothing new to those who have heard the album before, but here, given the effort put into updating the album’s sound, it’s cleaner, clearer, heavier, and yet somehow dirtier at the same time.

The album flashes by in an absolute rush of joy that recalls the first time I heard it but turned up to the proverbial eleven, the likes of Alone Jeffe with its snaking guitar lines and pounding rhymes nestling alongside the punk speed rush of Manager’s Special.

The two-part centrepiece of the album, Senor Moreno’s Plan with the garbled intro and then the hard-hitting grooving, in-your-face aggression of the main song with the pulsing verses and space rock swirling of the instrumental breakdowns, still pummels the senses two decades on, only this time it bristles with a newfound sharpness that almost makes it feel like a brand new release.

The three remaining tracks, the smokey Landetta (Motherload) with its urgent verses and anthemic chorus, the classic boogie of 5 To 5 and the slamming closer of Nick’s Yea ensures the tempo and quality never drops as the band race to the finish. It is undoubtedly an album that stamps the authority of Hermano on the stoner scene, cementing their legacy as musicians who possess that special je ne sais quoi to elevate them beyond mere mortals and carve their name into history.

I said earlier it was a frustrating release and that is merely born of a selfish desire to lose yourself in the music for more than half an hour, which in terms of the prospect of the remainder of the series makes this the perfect teaser as the album never outstays its welcome and leaves the listener wanting more.

Simply outstanding and credit to Ripple Music for the beautiful presentation and hard work that has gone into it.

Label: Ripple Music

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden