Review Summary: Psychedelic tunes from the mountains of northern Greece
Blending different genres can be an intriguing but tricky business. There’s a reason that specific instruments work better within the context of a particular genre but the challenge of incorporating unfamiliar melodies to a band’s sound can be very rewarding, provided that it sounds unforced.
Villagers of Ioannina City are a product of the booming Greek stoner scene and their debut Riza
is one of the most interesting albums that have come out from the said scene in recent years. The band was formed in 2007 and in the beginning they were just another stoner/psychedelic band with influences from legends such as Pink Floyd and Kyuss. However, as one will easily notice, Riza
is dominated by the sounds of clarinet or “clarino” as it’s better known in Greece. Clarino is a vital component of Greece’s traditional folk music and it’s heavily used in occasions such as weddings and celebrations.
As one can easily understand, Riza
is a highly experimental album. There are moments where the listener can feel the influences from Kyuss and Monster Magnet but at the same time the band utilizes rhythms and time signatures hailing from Greek tradition. Therefore, you should expect slow rhythms and at the same time heavy use of the clarino. Of course, the music is guitar driven as on most stoner albums but you won’t find many guitar solos. The instrument that is used for soloing on Riza
is the clarino as it’s used in Greek traditional music. Its purpose is to create a feeling of freedom and pride to the listener. In addition, the drums, even though basic, are also in the forefront as they determine the rhythm along with the guitar. Moreover, the majority of lyrics is in Greek northern dialect and derives from traditional songs from Epirus (part of northern Greece). Riza
(meaning root in Greek) is so rooted in Greek tradition that it even includes a track (“Tabourla”) that is in a nutshell the history of Ioannina, the band’s birthplace.
As a result of the above, Riza
is an album that needs repeated listens and effort in order to digest. The heavy use of clarino and the Greek lyrics might sound odd to those who are unfamiliar with the said elements and a few listeners will definitely find the rhythms foreign.
However, VIC’s debut is an album that is highly recommended to all fans of stoner/psychedelic rock. Riza
is not an album of cover versions of traditional Greek songs but a modern stoner adaptation of Greek heritage done the proper way. Granted, it might alienate some but the benefits for the listener if this album clicks for him/her are too many to ignore.