Review: Tigers On Opium ‘Psychodrama’

I first stumbled upon Portland, Oregon’s Tigers On Opium sometime over the last few years due to a Bandcamp recommendation as I was following a tag for ‘garage doom’. I thought the band’s name and aesthetic were cool, and bought their first two EP’s, 2021’s 503​.​420​.​6669​.​vol_one and 2022’s 503​.​420​.​6669​.​vol_two and dug ‘em both well enough to keep an eye on the band.

Tigers On Opium 'Psychodrama' Artwork
Tigers On Opium ‘Psychodrama’ Artwork

Both releases offering quirky, fuzzy, driving, heavy rock and roll with ample nods to ‘90s style garage punk and roll with just enough weirdness to make proceedings more unique than your average, run-of-the-mill, stoner rock band.

Seemingly led by the overall vision of vocalist/guitarist Juan Carlos Caceres, Tigers On Opium caused enough of a stir deep in the underground, that it was only a matter of time before all-world stoner rock label Heavy Psych Sounds came calling to scoop the band up and add them to their absolutely stacked roster. So, upon seeing their debut-full length Psychodrama dropping on said label, I threw my hat in the ring for the opportunity to review it.

Right off the bat, I’m instantly struck by the evolution of their sound, seemingly taking a quantum leap on Psychodrama and the results are immediately on display. The ten tracker opens with some gentle, acoustic action, and vocal crooning from Caceres with Ride Or Die, before giving way to Black Mass, a five minute-plus exercise in melodic riffs, vocal harmonies, occult lyrics and rhythmic dynamics.

Diabolique is another example of their evolution as this song is truly a rock and roll journey as Tigers On Opium are all over the place, even breaking into a vocal cadence during the chorus, that is lifted straight from one of the most annoying songs in the annals of rock and roll; Styx’s Mr. Roboto. There’s no way that this isn’t intentional, and frankly, if this song wasn’t such a fuzzed-out, cowbell-clanking, driving and creative fun-ride, I would drag the shit out the band for their blasphemous use of irony in rock and roll, BUT it absolutely works. The blazing, fuzzed-out shred near the end of track on its own is enough to have me overlook the Mr. Roboto ridiculousness.

The band proceed to unveil another layer in their sonic journey with the stellar, dreamy Retrovertigo, a catchy, breezy track featuring all sorts of awesome guitar interplay and lead work from Caceres and fellow guitarist Jeanot-Lewis Rolland, and here the Queens Of The Stone Age influence, oft-mentioned with Tigers On Opium, makes an appearance, as the song carries a similar energy, if not necessarily overt sonics.

Psychodrama is a truly jaw-dropping testament to the band’s ongoing musical evolution…

Sky Below My Feet is also in the QOTSA wheelhouse as it’s a bashing, soaring, catchy, stoner rock and roll fuzz-fest complete with some amazing, dueling, guitar harmonies and plenty of weird left turns that keep the listener on their toes. We definitely get more QOTSA vibes on Paradise Lost with the lead-squeals sounding very Homme-esque, to say nothing of the rock and roll rhythms.

Radioactive is a seven-minute odyssey featuring all sorts of melodic, soaring vocals with proggy rock and roll breakdowns that proceed to build, all while making plenty of twists and turns, keeping the listener engaged throughout, however, sure as shit, the rock and roll irony makes another appearance as the final vocal exclamation point lifts the ending line from Stairway To Heaven with this ‘and the atom bomb will blow us all to heaven’. Are we being ironic, or giving the ‘70s hard rock giants a nod? Perhaps a bit of both.

Wall Of Silence is a melancholic, piano-infused semi-ballad with really great and sincere vocals from Caceres that really accentuate the songs somber mood, to say nothing of the wicked, face-melting lead work sprinkled throughout. It’s a standout track on the album as it again displays the bands jaw-dropping development. The penultimate Separation Of The Mind is a proggy, fuzzed-out, riffy, swinging stomper, that initially seems to harken back to the bands early releases, while unleashing a mind-melting breakdown that leaves the listener’s head spinning.

The final track, Ride Or Die (Reprise), is the perfect closer, picking up where opener Ride Or Die left off, it also dwells in a somber, acoustic realm with Caceres sounding uncannily like Cave In’s Stephen Brodsky, underscoring the fact that he can really sing, as if that wasn’t evident already.

Man, the sonic jump, and dizzying creativity Tigers On Opium have displayed on Psychodrama is pretty amazing. The band had some serious chops and originality before, but this album blows all of that into the stratosphere. As mentioned, I initially had some issues with the Styx and Led Zeppelin nods, they felt unnecessary and distracting.

However, after repeated spins, I got on board as they’re certainly serious musicians who are well-schooled in all things rock and roll, and if throwing a Styx call back serves the song, which it does, then fuck it, go get ‘em guys, who the hell am I to argue as it most certainly worked. Psychodrama is a truly jaw-dropping testament to the band’s ongoing musical evolution as it is a weird, fun, dizzying testament to heavy rock and roll, and I’m here for it. Recommended.

Label: Heavy Psych Sounds
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams