Heavy Psych Sounds, the Italian label specializing in all thing’s stoner, doom and everything in between, run by Black Rainbows Gabriele Fiori, have made quite the name for themselves over the last decade or so. The label has released many stellar albums by up-and-coming bands that have left a mark on the underground scene. In the last year alone, records by Geezer, and Hippie Death Cult universally had tons of praise heaped upon them. As well, the label has made quite the impact signing legendary artists like Brant Bjork, Nebula and Dozer, in addition to re-issuing classic LPs by these artists.
So, when HPS announces the release of Ultra by brand-new-band Kadabra, seemingly out of nowhere, without any knowledge of the band except they’re from Spokane, Washington (the only other band that I could think of from Spokane was garage punk mavens, The Makers, who made quite the reputation for themselves in the 90s and early 00s). Guitarist and vocalist Garret Zanol and bassist Ian Nelson are long-time friends, veterans of local Spokane bands like Blackwater Prophet and The Ongoing Concept and the two of them specifically wanted local drummer Chase Howard to round out the power trio.
Being that this band formed within the last year, and HPS is ALREADY putting their record out, one would assume that it’s good, at a minimum right? Yes, I can say with conviction that HPS has another solid release by another killer band on their proverbial hands.
Ultra checks all the boxes with what one looks for in a great stoner rock album. Fuzzy-tones? Check. Behind-the-beat drumming? Check. Thumping, distorted bass? For sure. Wailing, echoey vocals? Absolutely. Riffs galore? From start to finish. Ultra roars to life, after a bit of feedback, with crushing first single Graveyard, a rolling, catchy, riff monster, highlighted by the main riff and Zanol’s vocals. Graveyard, while anchored by the main riff, takes the listener on quite the journey, a theme that will re-occur throughout Ultra. The middle, pysch-breakdown part, featuring a great walking bassline from Nelson, show Kadabra are not just content to bludgeon the listener with the same riff over and over. I can see why the band chose this as the first single, it’s a great introduction to their entire sound and aesthetic.
Faded Black begins with a nice slow-burn before Kadabra drop into a thick, thudding main riff. Zanol and Nelson really lock in, as Nelson sits behind the beat, the end result is some great riff-hypnosis. Plodding and slow, but catchy as all hell thanks to Zanol’s vocals and ear-worm riff, Faded Black makes excellent use of its 7:30 running time. Eagle 20’s switches gears, changing the tempo and kicking things up a notch. This song has a real late-60s psych vibe to it, and its sequenced well, following the opening two riff-monsters.
This is as good of a debut album from a stoner rock band that I’ve heard in the last few years…
Bean King was released as the second single. It’s a bouncy, riff-y, fun song, that shows another side of the band. Featuring another ear-worm riff from Zanol, but it’s a much less menacing attack, from what they’ve offered up to this point. Death, for my money, is the centerpiece of Ultra, and my favorite song on the record. It’s a sprawling, epic, riff monster, that display’s Zanol’s gifts as a guitar player, vocalist and songwriter. The song itself is harrowing, really conjuring up a mood. Nelson and Howard shine on this song too. Their rhythms allowing Zanol to let loose.
Coyote is a catchy basher, that leads us into album-closer Settle Me. Kadabra switching gears again and dropping back into the slower-tempo presented at the beginning of the record. It’s a spacey, psychedelic song, featuring at least three memorable riffs before the inevitable, epic breakdown, before the band goes full circle, riding the main riff to the end, as the record trails off.
Kadabra’s influences are on vivid display on Ultra. The obvious Black Sabbath influence exist, but the band have mentioned an affection for Dead Meadow, and that is apparent too, most certainly in Zanol’s vocals. However, Ultra gives off a slightly darker vibe than Dead Meadow’s psychedelic garage tendencies. There’s just a hint of an ominous vibe permeating from Ultra, that not only recalls the aforementioned Sabbath, but the entire 68-73 Proto-Metal vibe that bands like Jerusalem, Leaf Hound, and Pentagram gave off. There’s also a definite Blue Cheer-esque wallop to the low end on Ultra as well.
This is as good of a debut album from a stoner rock band that I’ve heard in the last few years. Well written, well-performed, with riffs for days, a thudding rhythm section, and a vocalist who knows what he’s doing, Heavy Psych Sounds definitely knew what they were doing snatching Kadabra up. This is another killer release this year, that will most definitely end up on my year-end list. If this is what Kadabra offered up for their debut, I will be anxiously following this bands trajectory.
Scribed by: Martin Williams