Review Summary: Rockin'.
Most genres have a defining album that excels them into popularity, or at least acclaim. Heavy metal became massive with the release of Paranoid
, and progressive excelled with In the Court of the Crimson King
. Rock operas earned high points because of Tommy
, and thrash became known for albums like Ride the Lightning, Reign in Blood, Rust in Peace, and Among the Living
, and punk with London Calling and Never Mind the Bollocks
. And so comes Blues for the Red Sun
, easily the best defining album for stoner rock. An accurate definition of stoner rock, is basically psychedelic with elements of other genres, more than often heavy metal and grunge. When this album was released, with producer Chris Goss proving to be the only one to understand the group's potential, it was met with a massive amount of acclaim. What started as a band still finding their sound, doing several small gigs, turned into sold out arena shows and high chart positions.
This album is as heavy as many have said it as: this is stoner rock at its greatest. Let's start with the instruments. The main electric guitar is one of the most cataclysmic ever seen. The majority of the riffs and progressions tend to stray more towards a metal-psychedelic mix, which, in part, is why this is considered a milestone in stoner rock. The blend of power chords, heavy riffs, and straightforward melodies is pitch perfect, Freedom Run
showing off easily one of the best instrumental sections ever done by this group. The bass plays just as much of a role as the guitar does. It is able to keep up the unusually precise flow of the album's soundscape, showing some deep, downtuned thumping and fretting. The anthemic drum work does a good job of keeping up the attention, showing off Brant Bjork's brilliant manipulation of it, at varied paces, rolls, and beats, which goes well alongside the relentless guitar work. And the majestic, more dramatic sound of the rhythm guitar does improve over the below average vocals of John Garcia, who sounds far out of key at times, though is more tolerable than previous release Wretch. Instead, Garcia does a great job at the rhythm guitar work, the fast progressions of it mixing in well with the bass. Every instrument highlights another, the rhythm doing better at this than most.
Still, with the unusual mix of various genres (psychedelic and metal are evident), what does make a 50-minute LP such a milestone in a genre? What makes random loop of vocals (found in Freedom Run
) worthy of a listening time? Do songs like 800, Writhe, and Mondo Generator
highlight the magnificent first half? Truly, this is an album that you have to experience in order to fully appreciate it, to just get lost into. Each individual member shows off their talents, proving in the various instrumentals and solos that pop up. Even the mediocre vocalist gets his highlights on Apothecaries' Weight
. But for an album that relies on every instrument (unlike some album just depending on one instrument and one only), you'd think the atmosphere would be a lot heavier, more distorted. And that's just what it accomplishes. The lyrics do make you get a sense of hope and angst, as proven multiple times throughout each song, such as Molten Universe
's oblivious lyrical topic.
Perhaps the best thing about the album is that there is no standout: as the album progresses, you continue that same sense of awe throughout, there is no particular one you can choose and love forever, each track has positive and negative aspects. And that, personally, is what highlights the album. Just like its successor, Welcome to Sky Valley
, and to a lesser extent Wretch
, the tracklist here is spot on.
And with that in order, something truly amazing like Blues of the Red Sun can't go wrong, through each amplifier, through each midtempo solo, this album will rarely burn out on you. If its predeccesor showed a band in their early stages, then Blues for the Red Sun
is simply a taste of what made these men legendary. A nicely wrapped up, defining moment for stoner rock. Who knows that could happen in 50 minutes?