Fire Down Below
Viper Vixen Goddess Saint

Cacti blowing by in the distance at 90 mph on an open desert road, Camaro pushing the engine to the breaking point and the unholy grasp of mescaline taking control…we must be in California?  We certainly aren’t because quartet Fire Down Below and their debut Viper, Vixen, Goddess, Saint is straight from the hidden Sahara in Belgium with these cats having that shit-kickin’, psychedelic desert riff-rock down pat.  Fans of Smallstone, Man’s Ruin, Meteorcity, Game Two Records, Capricorn Records (Captain Beyond, Hydra, etc.) and the band’s own flagship label Ripple Music should have a blast with this one.

Acoustic guitars and crickets after dusk set the tone for instrumental opener “El Viento Del Desierto;” the band just waiting to jam on the throttle for the full power, flesh-burnin’ riffage of “Through Dust and Smoke.”  Right from the get-go this is that classic fuzzy, bluesy riff attack that’s hard to replicate these days without sounding like a fridge full of Limburger.  Contemporaries such as Dozer, Magnified Eye, Brain Police, Roadsaw, Nebula, Kyuss, Suplecs and Tummler are solid points of reference.  The twin guitar attack of Jeroen Van Troyen and Kevin Gernaey pile on an avalanche of fuzz while drummer Sam Nuytens bone-cracks his snare fills into overdrive; all the while Bert Wynsberghe maintains a formidable, densely constructed bass presence.  Jeroen’s voice is that classic howling, desert dirt coughing melody contingent with some gruffer shouts chopping through the mix.  The punk-speed riffs owe a few glasses of Jack to Lemmy but there are some nice Grand Canyon-sized dips to the guitar-work for maximum groove quicksand which soon sucks into noisy, pinched excursions of vision quest psyche.  …And unlike a lot of modern stoner bands there are killer instrumental and vocal hooks strewn throughout with just the right amount of shred-y soloing.  If Black Pussy left me cold, then this is REALLY hitting the spot.  Calling Frank Kozik…restart the label to sign these cats!

“Roadburner” lets rip with a crunchy staccato Helmet-y riff and drums that bash an accent atop of every chord.  It’s not long before the hazy 110 degree heat kicks up, a dust storm obscures your view and fuzzy riffage forms a feral sandy blackout against those warm bass licks.  This cut is all high-grade-diesel with forceful riffs exploding into angular solos.  Vocally, the verses adopt a natural flow shifting all mirage-like into infectious pre-choruses that collide into ruthlessly- riffed aggressive chorus action.  I’m getting that Dozer Through the Eyes of Heathens vibe all throughout this nasty, pissed off stoner combo and said vibe is welcome and refreshing.  They bring things home with a classic 2-step riff sure to blast vultures out of the sky with a tommy gun and then setting up camp to chew on cowbones for lunch.  If you gave up on traditional stoner/classic/hard rock, welcome to a band who will bring you back kicking and screaming into the best the style has to offer.

Vibrating amp/pedal shriek opens the floodgates to some ultra-phased, ultra-heavy bass dirge in the opening moments of “Universe Crumble.”  It sets a tone of impending dread that the ground beneath your feet will crack and swallow you at any moment.  Tribal hand/tabla percussion psychedelically morphs with sustained, ringing guitar chords drenched in reverb, echo and delay.  The undulating progression continues adding a series of bouncing psychedelic riffs sure to please Captain Beyond/Monster Magnet/Red Giant/Operator Generator fans.  Note arrangements continue to become more delirious and intoxicating as the tune goes along; constantly building towards a forgotten mesa on the distant horizon.  Heavily effected, whispered vocals eventually enter the mix for a mesmerizing melodic feel that’s the sound of eating massive quantities of hallucinogens when the only thing you ate for dinner was a burger n’ fries.  The drumming goes nuclear hard as does the riffage before the music transforms back to powerful, ethereal psychedelic mantra.  Hell, Nuytens one beat is practically an altered space blast which triggers the entire band to launch into some of the hardest, balls out stoner this side of the 2000s…fucking ace.

Funky, crystalline guitar lines and playful bass groove combine with a Texas shuffle beat during the megaton swing of “Dashboard Jesus’” interstellar opening.  Once the fun lovin’ swagger subsides, the boys nail into a riff so thick and aggressive I thought I was listening to a Tummler record for a second (concrete tough riffs, middle finger rhythms and gruff melodic vocal coyote calls).  Squealing feedback/pedal board manipulation color in the background with imploding noise while the vocals open up into expansive choruses followed by piercing lead licks.  Eventually, the guitars drop out, highlighting the rhythm section and those deep diving, memorable vocal hooks.  Once the guitar kicks back in there’s that omnipresent funk shunk happening again before the riffage grinds like Tummler and Red Giant after polishing off a case of Wild Turkey.  That trippy, deep space floating outro brimming with diamond sharp clean guitars is the proverbial icing on the cake for this masterwork.

“Resurreccion” provides respite with a twin acoustic country lament overflowing with atmosphere.  To back up the acoustics a pinch of electric lead makes the piece much more than a by the numbers intermission.  At 11:24, the gargantuan “The Mammoth” is a closing track that means business.  It runs the gamut from a drippy psychedelic intro to late 60s/early 70s nerve frying psyche-rock (with an overload of melody) to heathen doom riffing to explosions of acid freak-out noise.  Honestly, it’s everything you could want in a sprawling endnote jam.

Rock n’ roll ain’t dead…stoner, classic, psyche, late 60s/early 70s style, etc., you just gotta look for the good stuff.  Fire Down Below’s Viper, Vixen, Goddess, Saint is pound for pound one of the best the style has to offer in current times.  Like any great album from way back, listening from front to back cover is practically a necessity.  I feel like I’m getting spoiled lately but this will be fighting a battle in my year end list as well.  Check it!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
August 15th, 2017

Comments

  1. Commented by: AR

    This sounds great, I was pleasantly surprised. You are spot on with the band references too, but I also hear a very slight touch of The God Machine (so underrated) in the vocal department. A little Only Living Witness too. This is really killer.


  2. Commented by: Jay

    Glad you’re digging this AR and glad I was in the ballpark. This really took me back to when this kinda stuff was coming up and there was so many bands writing killer tunes in the style.

    The God Machine were super underrated. Not nearly enough love for their 2 long players and now that you got me thinkin’ I can hear some OLW and Jonah in there as well. This album just kicks total ass from front to back which is refreshing


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