Perhaps unfairly given that Hellhammer/Celtic Frost hailed from Zurich, I don’t really associate Switzerland with heavy music. It’s therefore good that Swiss power trio Dead Shaman are here to put my lazy preconceptions of cuckoo clocks, disturbingly punctual trains, bank accounts and Toblerone to bed. I hadn’t heard of the band before, but it seems that they’ve been around since 2011 and Out Of Phase is their third album, although it’s the first to get the full vinyl treatment courtesy of Sixteentimes Music.
Now, I’m always keen to see what press releases say about a band and I’m often surprised how wide of the mark they seem to be, for example: ‘Born and raised on the heavy sound of 1969, Dead Shaman is a swiss band playing high energy rock’n’roll and wild heavy blues. Imagine Lemmy and Iommi having an ugly baby goat.’ I suspect that while we all love Black Sabbath and Motorhead, the prospect of yet another band primarily inspired by them doesn’t exactly send pulses racing. Fortunately, I’m pleased to report that this is the part of the press release I’m a bit baffled by having listened to the album. The earlier reference to 1969 and the suggestions of some high-energy garage rock shenanigans is more to the point, but still it doesn’t do the band justice as Dead Shaman offer something quirkier and more unique.
Out Of Phase seems to mirror the band’s earlier releases, with five ‘normal’ length tracks and one epic jam to close. That should not only translate well to vinyl, it makes my life easier as the album essentially breaks down into two discrete halves. For me, the first half is the more enjoyable, kicking off with Cosmic Trigger. My initial thought it was vaguely reminiscent of Kadavar, but with gruffer vocals and a more garage rock feel to proceedings.
the bass suddenly kicks in with some tasty auto-wah and the guitar strikes some disturbingly funky chords that take us off into 70s porn flick soundtrack territory…
After that, things definitely do start to get stranger and more interesting. For starters, the guitar tone across most of the first half of Out Of Phase is, for want a better word, weird; thin and trebly to the point where for much of the time it takes a twangy back seat to the dominant bass. Second track Mariana Trench really sets the tone for the rest of side A. It settles into a bouncy groove that doesn’t recall late 60s garage so much as some oddball alt-rock from the 90s; topped by vocals that are sort of tuneless but also sort of cool. A bit like when the chap from Rancid used to try and sing.
Valis is similar, locking into a simple but effective groove that all but demands you nod along, and is followed by my personal favourite Monday Sucks. Bookended by some high-tempo stomping garage rock, the middle section is brilliantly offbeat – the bass suddenly kicks in with some tasty auto-wah and the guitar strikes some disturbingly funky chords that take us off into 70s porn flick soundtrack territory. The final song before flipping over is OPK, which is less strange but equally effective.
The second half of the album is a single 19-minute instrumental jam, Sunday’s Psychadelic Breakfast. While it showcases some nice guitar playing and moves along enough to stop things from getting boring, I found it less engaging than the shorter tracks of the first half. The track does ebb, flow, and build to a climax, but the overall dynamic is something that you’ve heard many times before and there’s nothing sufficiently new or awesome to make it stick in the memory. Still, if you’re in the mood for something a bit quirky that still rocks, it’s definitely worth giving Out Of Phase a listen.
Scribed by: Liam Blanc