Special Features: Limited edition of 250 copies on bronze vinyl.
- The Ultra Wizards (of Neptune 9)
Release Date: July 17, 2015
Label: HeveSike Records
Modern technology, eh? Where would be without it? Somewhere sadder than here, no doubt. Because it’s down to boffins that there are enough phasers, fuzzers and flanges in existence to make this album sound really, really old. Because it does. In fact if there is a more aptly named album than Retronauts released in 2015, I’d love to see it. This out-there outfit from Leicester in the Midlands of England are as retro as the space race. Unashamedly, resolutely, long-hairedly, valve-ampingly retro. It’s like the band lurch about clad head to foot in man-made fibres, in houses with avocado-hued bathrooms, genuine leatherette sofas and – gasp! – colour television, while Blue Cheer plays during breakfast.
Prophets of Saturn are so single-mindedly backward-looking that on the first couple of listens to this release, their second, I thought they may struggle to stand out from the hirsute crowd. For all their echo-drenched vocals and self-admitted influences of “bad acid trips, occultism and electrified doom”, especially in a year where there have already been some knockout psych-fuzz releases, let alone 40-odd years of archives to trawl through. I thought they didn’t add much to the party: like the sonic equivalent of alcohol-free beer.
I was wrong. And I found out by (and this is an embarrassing confession, for a music website, anyway) hearing Black Sabbath’s Master of Reality – the blueprint for doom metal – in its entirety for the first time. Ever.
And having heard the tinder-dry sound of Ozzy and Co’s masterpiece, Prophets of Saturn‘s clever and liberal use of effects came into focus. From old templates, they have made something current. Take the caveman stomp of ‘Retronaut’, which opens the album. The satisfyingly head-nodding riff sounds exhumed from 1969 and the beat could have been snatched from the Sonics’ archive. It is a swirling trip back in time.
‘Ultra Wizards’ starts with a boogie that hasn’t been fashionable since people in flares quaffed Cinzano (this is a compliment, in case you were wondering) and ends with unnerving, clomp, clomp, clomp riff and lyrics like “legions of the lizard lords” low down in the mix to echo the proto-doom of Sabbath’s Paranoid album.
Next up is ‘Witch Rider’, which is a far more straightforward rock ‘n’ roller and barrels along at quite a pace, while George Sanderson, the vocalist, enjoys some harsh singing to limber up his pipes for the closer, which is a 16-minute, sit-down-and-pull-up-a-mug-of-
It’s called ‘Damavand’ and it builds nicely with an echoey bass before the guitar crashes in with a lurching doom riff. It has some cues from music approaching the 21st century, like the extended spooky breakdown in the middle, which is shattered by more doom, as well as retaining some hallmarks of ye olde psychedelia, such as phased vocals and a staccato fuzzed-out guitar solo. On top of all that, the lyrics, featuring lions and dragons, all add up to a heady brew. It is a good end to the album and the variety (and length) of the song lifts it to another place, beyond mere decent psychedelia.
So be warned: this album may be only four tracks long, but it takes time to appreciate and you may even have to dig into the past to do so – and if you are patient with this, you might just hear how new some of this old-sounding stuff is. - Matt Butler (Echoes and Dust)