Review Summary: Endless, sunlight drenched hills under a vast open sky.
You are standing in a wide landscape, on top of a ridge of hills. Beneath your feet, endless stretches of dry hills, the vegetation on them sparse and yellow from baking in the sun all day. The sky is immense overhead, pressing on you with all of its enormousness. An empty cavity, infinitely going on, even further than you can see. You have never realised just how huge the sky is, and how tiny and insignificant this makes you feel. Standing on this ridge, in the sunlight, looking up into the sky, just a speck of a living thing, in a vast world underneath that towering, empty sky.
After this pretentious beginning, I have a confession to make. I know nothing about this genre at all. Stoner/Desert Rock/Metal (pick your mix) has always appealed to me, yet I’ve never really explored it further than a handful of albums. In those albums that I did hear, however, I can easily find similarities which could be used to describe the genre(s). Words such as fuzzy, warm, sunlight, distorted, grooves, and feedback are highly applicable and used ad nauseam. It is no surprise, then, that they work well to describe Sungrazer’s self-titled debut as well. Hailing from the desert town (ha!) of Maastricht, The Netherlands, their existence was short lived. They released two albums and one split, to dissolve after four years due to ‘inner turmoil’.
Just like with many Stoner/Desert albums, most of Sungrazer’s six tracks feel like long, extended jam sessions. They are heavily focussed on grooves which lean on relaxed yet buoyant rhythms, equally suitable for a slow, Sunday listening session as for a head-bopping and body-shaking gig. Unlike some of their peers, the band manages to keep things interesting throughout the disk's entire runtime. To do so, they often employ contrasting approaches to keep the listener’s attention. One moment their riffs are as heavy as a cubic metre of sand, in for example Somo’s final few seconds, to completely switch gears by the time Zero Zero begins only a few seconds later, featuring an intro that could only be described as jazzy and smooth. Zero Zero for me truly encompasses what this record is all about, with sections flowing nicely together, minding their own business, in such a way that you do not even notice they went from very relaxed to headbanging in a matter of minutes.
The whole album is like this, moving from grooves full of sunlight, dust, fuzz, and distortion (there these words are again!) to jazzy interludes, sometimes even featuring saxophone. You can discern psychedelic influences nearly everywhere. The intro of Mountain Dusk leans towards blues, but the song ventures into straightforward yet delicious rock only moments later. Sungrazer always keep it fun and light-hearted too, never even coming near guitar noodling despite the albums many solos. This easy-going atmosphere is embodied at the album’s end, with the fake-out ending of Mountain Dusk tricking you into thinking it is all over. At first, its mammoth groove slowly starts fading out over the course of three minutes, only to fade back in again after a few seconds of silence. And when it finally resolves into nothingness, it suggests an endlessness that is not at all different from the sunlight drenched hills under a vast open sky on which we began our adventure. At that moment, I want to hear it all over again.