Over the last decade or so, there has has been a revival in the heavy psychedelic acid rock scene with many new bands adding a modern and updated twist, creating a heavy stoner crunch with occasional aggressive leaps. Bands such as Uncle Acid & the Deadbeats, Kadavar, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, and Demon Eye have taken the bridging elements between late sixties heavy psych and early seventies downer rock and recreated them in an up to date sound scope.
One band who have very successfully encapsulated that sound in their music, enhancing it with an underlying flow of Pink Floydian tones and applying a progressive approach, is Belgium’s Murky Red. Their debut Time Doesn’t Matter was released in 2012 and has been described as Black Sabbath meets Pink Floyd. By the band’s own admission though, the first album didn’t truly capture the sound they were going for. Keyboardist Yolanda Flaming goes as far as to say three of the tracks are today not even fit to be called Murky Red music.
Their new album No Pocus without Hocus, released just recently as a digital download for now (CD to come once sales of the digital album reach the goal), sees the band developing their sound more in the intended direction with vocalist/guitarist Stef Flaming stating that the final track Elena is where the band has really managed to flesh out the direction of its sound.
The music on this 11-track offering is quite a treat for anyone who loves music as described in the opening paragraph. Wonderful modern day heavy psych guitars abound with heavy prog tendencies. The rhythm section provides a solid pounding when required with drummer René Marteaux doing an excellent job of driving the heaviness and aggressive edges home as well as appropriately handling the trippier and more melancholy parts with Marie Vancamp augmenting the percussion . However, unlike a lot of bands who concentrate on the heavy stoner side, Murky Red deliver lighter songs as well such as She’s Crying Diamonds, Bad Wolf of the Pack (a kind of Pink Floyd meets Planet Caravan and Green Grass and High Tides Forever number) and Wild Flower. In a way, the concept behind the name Iron Butterfly is quite suitable here with Murky Red showing their lighter Butterfly side against the heavy Iron side. It’s my impression though that the heavy side wins out with some excellent guitar riffs of the stoner rock variety showing up in Pixilated Friends, Stoned and Horny and Collateral Damage, as well as in many of the other tracks. You can also look forward to some note and mind bending guitar solos courtesy of Patrick Dujardin.
Special mention must go to Stef Flaming’s voice. Though he aspired not to be the band’s vocalist, his deep, almost Johnny-Cash-goes-ominous-elder-hippy quality suits the sound of the band just perfectly. Flaming guested as vocalist on Corvus Stone’s cover of Murky Red’s song Boots for Hire and in turn, Corvus Stone guitarist Colin Tench plays lead on this album’s track Collateral Damage. In fact, Tench was responsible for the mixing of both Murky Red albums, and I believe he’s done a stellar job of rendering their sound.
A review of this album album would not be complete with saying a few words about the lyrics. Though I honestly haven’t listened carefully to each song’s lyrics, the humorous and quirky ones do tend to stand out. “I smoked all my hashtags with some pixilated friends,” from Pixilated Friends is the first to have arrested my ears. As the amusingly titled Stoned and Horny floats through a spacey segment, Flaming utters, “For those who don’t understand this song, this is the stoned part, yeah”. “The trick is to get back to the horny,” he muses. A Wooden Groove begins as a song with lyrics but soon Flaming tells us that, “from now on, this song will be strictly instrumental”. Indeed it is with a thundering, cantering thrash conclusion. I have to say that Mermaids is also an excellent tune combining the lighter side with the rockier and including the image-conjuring lines, “Mermaids, m-m-m mermaids / fish tails everywhere / mermaids, m-m-m mermaids / fish sticks in the air”.
The album No Pocus without Hocus is an excellent piece of work and fans of heavy guitar rock with a thick stoner crust and a Floydian mantle will surely enjoy this. However, those who prefer a more progressive aspiration will not be disappointed, particularly with the closing track, Elena.
Murky Red is:
Stef Flaming: Vocals & Guitars
Patrick Dujardin: Guitars
Luk Lantin: Bass Guitar
René Marteaux: Drums
Marie Vancamp: Percussion
Yolanda Flaming: Keys
Artwork by Stef Flaming
Mascot: Maurice le Murk