- Multi-color Splatter on Orange vinyl
- Silver vinyl
- Vinyl has gatefold jacket
- High to Hell
- The Sacrifice
- Supernova & Asteroids
- Riding Fast Til the End of Time
- I Just Wanna Fire
- The Abyss
- 13th Step of the Pyramid
Release Date: April 6, 2018
Label: Heavy Psych Sounds Records
Largely through sheer force of will, Black Rainbows have become Italy’s foremost purveyors of heavy psychedelic rock. Pandaemonium is the sixth full-length from the Roman trio, and they’ve never sounded more driven or lysergic then they do in its nine-track/45-minute run. Led by guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori, the three-piece run a colorful gamut of high-energy, sopping wet groove, and whether they’re in the maximum-fuzz thrust of “Riding Fast ‘Til the End of Time,” dug into the more threatening lumber of “Grindstone” or languidly making their way through the cosmos on album finale “13th Step of the Pyramid,” they burn and melt classic influences into something of their own; whether it’s culled from Sabbath, Fu Manchu, Nebula, Monster Magnet or Hawkwind, it doesn’t matter. It’s Black Rainbows.
This has, admittedly, been the case on their last couple records. Pandaemonium, which is further marked out by the desert-space-grunge opener “Sunrise” and the megahook that follows in “High to Hell,” was preceded by 2016’s Stellar Prophecy and 2015’s Hawkdope , and with them, it forms something of a trifecta of the band discovering and subsequently building on their distinct sonic persona. That’s not to slight their 2014 split with Naam, White Hills and The Flying Eyes, 2013’s Holy Moon EP, or 2012’s Supermothafuzzalicious!! — or, for that matter, 2010’s Carmina Diablo or 2007’s Twilight in the Desert; though the latter was derivative and that seemed to be the point — simply to say that as time has gone on, Black Rainbows have come more into their own sound-wise, and Pandaemonium represents the to-date apex of that process.
Tone, as ever, is essential to what they do, and Fiori‘s is dead-on righteous in “The Sacrifice” but as Fiori and bassist Giuseppe Guglielmino welcome new drummer Filippo Ragazzoni, they seem to lock into an especially potent trio form. The longest tracks on Pandaemonium are the highlights and show this best, “Grindstone” moving fluidly from its initial lumbering to a tripped out spacious midsection, minimalist and topped with samples but tense and building its wash toward a crescendo that (presumably) closes side A and offers one of the record’s most satisfying payoffs. With “Sunrise,” “High to Hell” and “The Sacrifice” before it, Black Rainbows shift deftly between catchy heavy rock songcraft and more expansive fare, eventually ceding the ground to the Wyndorfian strum of tracklisting centerpiece “Supernova and Asteroids,” which though it’s only a little over two minutes long, emphasizes just how important atmospherics have become as part of Black Rainbows‘ overarching methodology.
The wash of effects, near-constant swirl, and echo on Fiori‘s voice are, of course, appreciated, but it’s what Black Rainbows accomplish by varying their tempos, structures and overall scope that makes Pandaemonium succeed as it does. With vinyl in mind, it’s side A that shows this best with each song developing its own presence while feeding into the overarching groove of the record as a whole, and as it would in homage to the classic form, side B pushes the limits of the band’s aesthetic (not that “Grindstone” doesn’t in its own way). After “Supernova and Asteroids,” the ultra-fuzzed “Riding Fast ‘Til the End of Time” takes hold with full-throttle forward motion, turning on a dime into the bridge and the chorus from itis decamatry verse, an extended solo section marked out by organ in the second half only adding to the sense of build throughout, the feeling that Black Rainbows have become experts at this kind of sonic gamesmanship.
Where earlier cuts might’ve gone back to the hook to finish out, “Riding Fast ‘Til the End of Time” keeps going further out until it just kind of ends, leading to the six-and-a-half-minute “I Just Wanna Fire. Seemingly inspired lyrically by a trip to the desert, it plays up the more open, jammier side of Black Rainbows sound, and by the end of its run, the effects swirl and the depth created are not only evocative of the place, but hypnotic in their own right. There’s something of a return to earth with the stoner rock shuffle of “The Abyss,” but even this is given a due drenching in reverb, fuzz and echo. Still, rhythmically, in its janga-janga boogie, the song recalls post-Kyuss early aughts stonerism, and even finds Ragazzoni half-timing the drums to maximize the open feel in the second half. A steady line of organ — almost a drone, for its consistency — threads through the arrangement, making the shorter cut feel even fuller and hold to the sense of space brought to the proceedings by “I Just Wanna Fire” before.
A long solo section and slow ringout — that organ fading in the process — leads to the cry-in-the-vastness line of noise that starts “13th Step of the Pyramid.” There’s a sample that may or may not come from an old episode of In Search Of, and as Fiori‘s vocals enter shortly after the first minute, the immediate association is with Monster Magnet‘s Spine of God-era liquefaction. This is not a detriment, and as they have with influences all along — the best example perhaps being “The Abyss” just before — they take these elements and make them their own. A drawling, patient roll plays out and builds to a head just as they pass the halfway point into larger, more forward riffing, the nod infectious and the impression clear that, hey, this is it: no coming back this time. Fair enough. It’s been a trip and in the end of “13th Step of the Pyramid,” the listener finally finds out where it’s all been leading.
The answer, of course, is “huge jam.” Fiori seems to layer rhythm and lead guitars for an even more packed arrangement, but it’s even more about the vibe the whole band creates in the process. Choice groove, an emergent standout riff, a final build, and residual effects swirl on a fade when they’ve cycled through the last measure. It’s a patient but still energetic finale, and it’s one worthy of the record preceding all the more because of the underlying sense of consciousness and purposefulness behind it. I don’t doubt that Black Rainbows experiment in the studio. Frankly there are too many effects used in these songs for “happy accidents” to never occur. And I don’t doubt that they jam — you can hear the chemistry even in this new lineup. But there’s intention for all of it beyond simple indulgence, and as distant the ground is that Pandaemonium covers, the band is never unsure how they want to get there. One more reason that, six albums deep and more than a decade into their career, it’s time to consider Black Rainbows masters of the form. Their heavy psych wants for nothing in spirit or sound, and their songwriting has never sounded more assured of its reach. As well it should be.
- The Obelisk