Review Summary: Losing a member forced them to up their game and they delivered...
One of the biggest heavy psych rock bands, Samsara Blues Experiment return to once more show everybody how it's done. Four years lapsed since Waiting for the Flood
graced us with its presence and during this relative downtime, bassist Richard Behrens left the group, leaving rhythm guitarist Hans Eiselt to fill this void. As a three-piece, they sought to maintain the same multifaceted atmosphere while also pushing forward into uncharted territory. Album opener, 'Vipassana' brings all influences and directions into one engaging trip by delivering punchy riffs amid ethereal leads and pounding drums. Starting with a short, cool nod to Santana's 'Singing Winds/Crying Beasts', we are soon welcomed by dreamy sound scapes, leading us astray. Minutes later, they let everything soar, until synths take over for an Eastern-inspired segment that in turn gives way to some of the hardest hitting moments in their catalog so far. This is undoubtedly one of the top tracks these guys offered us yet.
Moving on, 'Sad Guru Returns' & 'Glorious Daze' are shorter tunes that nicely contrast each other. The former is a straightforward, barn burning instrumental jam that beautifully merges melodic and aggressive riffs altogether, whereas the latter acts mainly as a more subdued listen. The bass effortlessly builds a groove, enhanced by guitar licks and occasional vocals, then slowly grows into a mid-tempo ditty. Three minutes in, the dynamics abruptly shift, turning the song into a bouncy rocker. Two things stand out from the first listen: Christian's voice gets better with each album, plus, the band managed to compress several sections in order to have more impact as well as maintaining that element of surprise which is very hard to find in this type of music these days. Yes, that means the endless, hazy psychedelia got restrained, however, the newfound clarity is just as good.
As expected, the title track is another all encompassing flight, paying homage to Indian raga music and classic '70s prog. Samsara always pulled these off very well and at this point, they're clearly embedded in their style, being lovely interspersed throughout the LP. The keyboard parts have multiplied, but they bring back that extra layer lost by remaining a trio. Moreover, drummer Thomas Vedder improved significantly during the last couple of records, now being a driving force rather than just accompanying the other instruments. Like a coda to this epic journey, 'Eastern Sun & Western Moon' proves us once more how good is One with the Universe
. In between riffage, synths are doubling the Hammond organ touches and the guitar takes off on final solos. When the last windy notes fade away, you just want to go through it all again. All this time spent in the rehearsal room jamming and consolidating strengths did Samsara Blues Experiment only good. They delivered us an impressive, mature album that doesn't feel stale or boring at all. I can only hope more like these are coming our way.