Review Summary: It's a different album, yet unmistakably Kyuss. They effectively capture the feel of the desert rock they made famous. Focusing more on the bluesy psychedelic side, this is a mature batch of songs from Kyuss in 2013. Well, Kyuss in all but name.
When Josh Homme and Scott Reeder objected to their former Kyuss colleagues recording under the Kyuss Lives! banner, there was anxiety among metal's inner circle. There was a large appetite for a Kyuss reunion. Or a partial one anyway. Homme was always sceptical when it came to reviving his old outfit, not wanting to tarnish their legacy. But it had been 15 years since Kyuss had disbanded. Their legend had sprawled far beyond the deserts of California, and had seen a cult following develop. Along with countless imitators and projects from former members, such as the John Garcia fronted unida, Nick Oliveri's Mondo Generator and most famously, Homme's Queens of the Stone Age.
Kyuss Lives! stated intentions to tour and record, however original guitarist Homme, sitting out the reunion along with bassist Reeder, decided to begin legal proceedings against the band alleging "Trademark infringement and consumer fraud." The courts forbid Kyuss Lives! to release any recordings under their current title. In response, the band renamed themselves Vista Chino, and shifted attention to their debut album, Peace.
Here we have an album that recaptures the winding desert tones of Kyuss at their best. Opening track 'Good Morning Wasteland' is a minute long instrumental which segues into the distorted riff that begins 'Dargona Dragona.' With new guitarist Bruno Fevery doing an excellent job of recreating Homme's fuzzy tone, the moment Brant Bjork joins in with a little ride cymbal, you know this is unmistakably Kyuss. Garcia is straining to hit the higher notes, but turns in a brilliant vocal performance here. This heavy track was perhaps the first peek many had of Vista Chino, and although a great track, it isn't truly indicative of the album as a whole.
'Sweet Remain' gets underway with more awesome drumming from Brant Bjork, and he really shines throughout the record. Perhaps more catchy than we are used to from Kyuss, the track is a short 3 minute chugger rich with licks and melody. 'As You Wish' is another mellow piece, with Bjork's drumming anchoring some excellent guitar work from Fevery. One thing noticeable from the first listen of this record is the lack of heavy riffs. This is Kyuss in 2013, more mellow. The gargantuan riffs of 'Gardenia' and 'Asteroid' are replaced by bluesy pieces such as the albums second instrumental 'Mas Vino', while other cuts such as 'Barcelonian' and 'Dark and Lovely' are full of trippy licks and interludes.
That isn't to say the album is without it's heavy moments. They may be more few and far between however, in favour of the more psychedelic side Kyuss exhibited. 'Planets 1 and 2' really kicks the record into gear, with a riff eerily reminiscent of 'Green Machine'. The band haven't lost their sense of humour either. The silly song titles are as present as ever. Final track 'Acidize? The Gambling Moose' is an amazing 13 minute track that showcases all styles present on the album. The heavy riffs, the quiet interludes, the quiet vocals from Garcia, showing the full spectrum of his vocal range. There is a more jam orientated, improvised feeling to the songwriting, which suits the more psychedelic material down to the ground.
The production is unfortunately closer to 'Wretch' than the excellent sounding albums that came after it, but it seems purposely stripped down. This is not an annoyance however and is barely noticeable.
Although the album loosely follows a 'Blues for the Red Sun' template with short pieces bridging tracks together, the sound and feel of the record seems to pick up where '...And the Circus Leaves Town' left off. Tracks like 'El Rodeo' and 'Phototropic' would be right at home on 'Peace'. Where the album lacks the pure speed of '100 degrees' or the foot-tapping riffage of 'Tangy Zizzle' it makes up for it with the more atmospheric, bluesy jams strewn over the running time. It makes for an album that should really be listened to through headphones to get the full experience, and not blasted through your car speakers like 'Welcome to Sky Valley' was.
All in all, it's a different album, but one that is obviously Kyuss. It definitely captures the desert rock feel that they made famous. The musicianship is top-notch and new guitarist Bruno Fevery does an impressive job.
-Planets 1 and 2
-Acidize? The Gambling Moose