It’s good to be surprised by a band every so often, particularly when you’re, as I am by this point, a bit of a jaded old hack. Case in point being Wight, a band that would have passed me by at first glance coming as they do from the ‘Stoner Rock’ end of things. Generally the merest hint of that tag and all that it implies in these lazy, derivative times is enough to make me run for the hills. In the case of Wight, however, such a reductionist tag does them an enormous disservice.
Sure they’re made up of three hirsute German gentlemen clearly on more than nodding terms with ‘RAWK!’ and illicit substances who favour big stomping bluesy boogie numbers, aren’t averse to a little shuffle rhythm and have an album cover painted by Arik Roper, patron saint of Stoner/Desert Rock cover artists, but there is a lot more to Wight than mere bog-standard Kyuss-apery and turgid Fu Manchu-ism. A hell of a lot more.
My first exposure to Wight came via a YouTube video preview of the title track of this very recording, ‘Through The Woods Into Deep Water’ itself, and it impressed me deeply. A powerfully understated masterclass of pacing, cavernous guitar, subterranean basslines and measured, hard-hitting drums, all dripping with reverb and steeped in a massive, organic sense of space, reminiscent of Across Tundras at their most atmospheric and expansive.
Turns out that not only is it an excellent piece of darkly moody music, it is completely unrepresentative of the rest of the album as a whole.
Luckily for me, the remaining eight tracks present on Through The Woods Into Deep Water may not share a similar sound and feel to the title track but they are of an exceptionally high calibre all the same. The one thing that all of the tracks here share, though, is a uniformly excellent and incredibly supportive production. This album sounds fantastic – rich in depth and tone, expansive in scope and scale and heavy as hell where it needs to be, going a long way to add an extra edge to Wight that, along with their songwriting skill and monster chops, allows them to effortlessly soar high above the also-rans and never-will-be’s that clutter the ‘Stoner’ genre.
‘Kiss Your Friends Goodbye’ opens the album with a rich droning, eastern-tinged vocal from frontman and guitarist Rene Hofmann that opens out into a minimalist yet staggeringly powerful guitar riff atop which Hofmann intones melodic variations of a simple two-line set of lyrics. Bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and drummer Michael Kluck pound, throb and thrum hypnotically beneath the Eastern drone, never wavering but never plodding. From here, a plangent, crystalline guitar-line – reminding me greatly of some of the clean work on Baroness’ Blue Record – kicks off into ‘I Spit On Your Grave’, right li’l groover that switches between vicious snarling sections and a more open bluesy shuffle before leading out on some smashing harmonised guitar lines. Hofmann has a superbly adaptable voice that soars between smooth melody and a slightly more aggressive rock voice and suits the material perfectly. At times he puts me in mind of latter-period Troy Sanders of Mastodon and, one of my favourite vocalist within this whole psych/stoner/bluesy rock thing, Pearls & Brass’ Randy Huth.
In fact, speaking of the criminally underappreciated Pearls & Brass, that is exactly whom next track ‘Southern Comfort & Northern Lights’ puts me in mind of with its swinging, jazzy rhythm, tumbling guitars and general blues/prog schtick. Throw in some inspired changes in ambience, plenty of extended soloing and wonderful saxophone from Schierhorn and you have a real melting pot of awesomeosity. Naturally, I love it.
Next up we pass through subtle acoustic instrumental number ‘Halfway To Infinity’, a hazy, smeary number with a touch of late-period Kyuss to its unfocussed beauty, before the big-ass stomp of ‘Master Of Nuggets’ literally kicks in. Moving from stomp and swagger to that Pearls & Brass choppy shuffle, taking in a bass-led jammy section, this one plays to all three members strengths – everyone really lets rip here. Killer drumming from Kluck, switching between precise restraint and balls-out smashing, lovely rubbery bass and sweet backing vocal coos from Schierhorn – along with a bloody great bass solo (a real weakness of mine, I can’t get enough of ’em) – and top-notch axemanship with a touch of vocal acrobatics from Hofmann.
‘You!’ is a classic rock scorcher replete with raaaaaaawwwwk-gaaaaawd vocals, Hendrix guitar-tones, a crackin’ lead, doomy trills and a funk/dub/harmonica end-section….yes, you read that right….and the decidedly off-kilter instrumental ‘Big Dose’ has much of the same lunacy that can be found in the odder moments of Kyuss ‘…And The Circus Leaves Town’ running through its short-but-sweet DNA. That leaves one final track before the closing title track – ‘On A Friday’, a fiery rocker featuring some very aggressive playing from all concerned and some nasty shrieking from Schierhorn (I presume) – and then it’s all over bar the shouting, as they say.
Through The Woods And Into Deep Water is proof, if proof be need, that even amidst the weed-choked world of dunderheaded Stoner bilge the occasional diamond still shines, and I for one feel a little less jaded from having heard it. Great tunes, superb playing and wonderful interplay, what the hell more do you need? Do not, however, take this as a license to inundate us here at The Sleeping Shaman with your Kyuss-spawned ‘not-a-stoner-rock-band-honest-guv’ self-released CDs of bands named ‘Supa-Scoopa’ or ‘Conan Troutman’ ‘kay?
Bands like Wight seem to be few and far between, so howsabout you good people out there taking a tip from them and being, I don’t know, BETTER. Why run with the crowd when you can soar on your own?
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Scribed by: Paul Robertson