Prophets of Saturn
Retronauts

The second album from English groove doom heavies Prophets of Saturn practically screams, “Listen to me while high as possible, please!”  The four tracks that comprise the weedy, peer pressuring Retronauts are overloaded with groove, drippy psyche-wah solos, sleepy monotone vocals and a rhythm section that is fresh out of high school.  In terms of groove they’ve got Cathedral, Acrimony and Electric Wizard on their minds (in theory).   They at times (in theory) almost bring back fond memories of spending many hours listening to Sloth’s underrated Voice of God LP masterpiece.  There’s no doubt the base materials here are culled from pretty stern stuff and it doesn’t take that long of a listen to pick up on those ideals.

Despite possessing strong fundamentals of the brain swimming, electric eel blues these guys are REPETITIVE even by doom standards.  Shit man, Burning Witch has more song/riff variety than anything that happens here.  That’s not to knock on Burning Witch…fuck, great band but if Prophets of Saturn could tweak their dynamics a bit they’d be hitting you with hurricane force.  Instead we get April Showers…  The title track starts things off and it’s got a hulking, infectious riff that goes on for nearly 9 minutes without any variation whatsoever.  Vocally, percussively, sonically, etc. there isn’t a single drop of rise n’ fall to be had.  There are a few moments when guitarist Ben rips a scuzzy acid drop solo or the riffage grinds to a murky, Maryland peppered biker doom slog but even then I swear the drummer doesn’t change the pattern even one singular beat.

“Ultra Wizards” swings more up-tempo in the way Iommi, Ward and Butler did whenever they focused on fully fleshed out blues.  It’s catchy but sloppy in a way that’s about as charming as kissing a big fat fuckin’ bullfrog on the smackers.  The main riff is decent and eventually drops off into a fathomless reef of watery, wet brained drug doom where the vocals are shaky and unsure, especially when stacked up against slimy grooves that aren’t nearly as satisfying or menacing as they should be.  Getting down with a shorter 3 minute swinger on “Witch Rider” the same problems continue to plague these Elmer’s glue sniffers (they need better glue).  A groovy riff goes nowhere…the rhythms are sloppy to the point where they aren’t even in time…and some sandpaper on eardrums vocal phasing FX completely sinks the singing down to a goddamn noticeable nadir.  Cross pollinating Om with Sleep, the Jesus Christ long closer “Damavand” goes from softly whispering psychedelia to explosive riff-a-rhea several times throughout its 17 minute course.  Again these guys just seem to be plugging away with zero of their own identity even if there are at least some pleasing curveballs to be found in the structural department (the late game, twang-y southern rock guitar is a highpoint).  George (vocals) is trying so hard to be Al Cisneros on this one that it just makes you want to say “Fuck it” and put on Conference of the Birds and satiate the mind with the real thing.

Let’s face it…you can’t be original ALL of the time but one can’t help but feel that Prophets of Saturn are trying too damn hard to be twenty different bands that they aren’t.  Yeah, a shit-ton of doom sounds like Sabbath, yet a lot of cats find a way of putting their own spin on it and giving us diehards at least a somewhat unique angle on the traditional method.  There is none of that here…moments, glimpses of a powerful band lurking deep beneath the brine that has unfortunately not yet surfaced on the piecemeal, passion-bereft Retronauts.  If Prophets of Saturn were more aggressive, the sloppiness might make for some really endearing crusty sludgy doom…unfortunately their take on the blues is so loose they need a belt to hold up their saggy britches.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
August 18th, 2015

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