Review Summary: An expertly conceived, bombastic stoner rock album that is bound to blow your mind.
Detroit-based Small Stone Recordings has never ceased to be a reliable source for many under-the-radar heavy rock releases of the 2000s. Being a mother label for such superb underground acts as Dozer, Halfway To Gone and Five Horse Johnson, the company emerges as a major force to be reckoned with when it comes to expertly produced stoner rock releases. The title of this year's most coveted album of the lebel seems to belong to the bombastic debut of Gozu, "Locust Season." Deriving its name from the bizarre Japanese movie, Gozu consists of members associated with such Bostonian bands as Wargasm and Triphammer. Their style can be best described as a top-notch hybrid of groovy stoner rock, melodic grunge and furious heavy metal.
While "Locust Season" might be rather derivative, it never feels generic or mainstream. The band triumphantly blends different genres and approaches towards heavy rock music combining the massive, often metallic riffs with catchy vocal melodies. However, it's the constant need to mutate and evolve that defines this album more than anything else. As an example, "Regal Beagle" starts as a groovy blues rock in order to transform later on into a full fledged piece of Queens Of The Stone Age-inspired psychedelia with falsetto singing. Whereas, the album's highlight "Jan-Michael Vincent" channels sublime soul-induced hard rock into a near-industrial headbanging metal based on killer palm-muted riffing.
On the whole, guitarist Doug Sherman's performance comes as exceptionally diverse encompassing a wide variety of styles that range from bluesy melodic soloing ("Meth Cowboy") to danceable lead passages of Clutch standard ("Jamaican Luau"). He certainly delivers the most memorable guitar performance of the year. The rhythm section comprised of drummer Barry Spillberg and bassist Jay Canava is equally strong crafting a reliable skeleton for every of the band's complex, structurally-varied compositions. The numerous aspects of hard rock that are showcased also find their realization in the powerhouse performance of vocalist Marc Gaffney. He has this rare ability to sound both familiar and totally distinguishable with a knack for infectious melodies that are equally ingrained in raunchy, bluesy swagger and ballsy metal singing.
What definitely works in the album's favor is the decidedly modern, crystal-clear production coupled with a laid-back, fun tone and general accessability. "Locust Season" is a stoner rock album for those who are not really keen on the genre. Given that this is truly the most mesmerizing release of this kind in quite a long time, it's a mandatory listen for every ardent rock music fan.