Season of Mist’s artist dichotomy has changed a lot over the last couple of years.  Adding killer cult riff slingers Kylesa, Floor, Hark (ex-members of underrated UK doom/thrashers Taint), Weedeater and Saint Vitus has certainly deepened the label’s moat and fortified its already armored bunker.  The imprint’s latest riff-heavy signing, Wildlights, features guitarist/vocalist Jason Chi from North Carolina’s long-running skyhigh stoners ASG and drummer Johnny Collins (Thunderlip!).  With Jason’s soaring, Geddy Lee pitched vocals at the helm, there is no doubt this project contains more than a few similarities to his main gig.  Still the Wildlights are a heavier, denser proposition than ASG despite the absence of a bassist and they provide enough individual qualities to render this Self-Titled debut far more character than just basic “side-project” status.

“Anchors” kicks off with Collins smashing his kit to molten chunks and Chi running a 90s stoner riff off the road with a bulldozer.  The concrete solid riffer-y roams and wanders into valley wide open melodies chockfull of placid, ringing notes as Jason’s croon assumes a crow’s nest watch over the instruments.  Overall there are nods to Torche, Floor, Soundgarden, Monster Magnet, Skynyrd, Black Sabbath, Kyuss and the first Queens of the Stone Age record alongside Quicksand’s jagged hardcore turns and Rush’s galactic melodies.  Easily quantifiable as the best 90s rock single to come from the wrong era, “Rebel Smiles” is drenched in beefy power chords, Seattle hooks, smoldering minor key melodies and  Johnny’s hand in the pocket rock n’ roll thunderclaps giving way to boulder-rolling fills.  Those monster Sabbath riffs in the song’s second half could hold their own in a Sumo wrestling match.  As intricately lathed as the pop elements are in this tune (especially those arena vocal melodies), there is more than enough heft and edge to appeal to rockers looking for the real deal.  This is easily better than anything Homme’s done since the first QOTSA album for my money.  He could do well to take some notes on this album and maybe he’d record something that full on rocks again.

Downhome, southern guitar twang bewitches “Part of the Sea,” and the song mimics the vast expanse of Earth’s oceans by plunging into aquatic psychedelia and thoughtfully layered post-rock ripples.  Chi capsizes this vessel; launching numerous bottom-heavy torpedoes into its hull while peppering a spray of constant deck-gun fire in the form of subtle little leads, noise washes and drones that constantly puncture the background.  Collins barrage of Texas shuffle beats, precision rolls and acrobatic fills (that work the snares and toms equally) make sure this shipwreck won’t have any survivors.  “Snow Song” is the album’s Milky Way psyche ballad, an obvious choice of single thanks to its reliance on a bouncy percussive backbone, Chi’s expressive verbal interplay and the endless star fall of meteoric, melodious guitar lines that liken themselves to the aftermath of a red giant implosion.

The Eastern acoustics walk through a tangled rainforest of overgrown riff-groove during “Hellfire Forever.”  Verses are big on the blues while the trippy pedal FX chorus raids the magic mushroom stash.  Numerous jam sections see Johnny hitting with Bunyan like strength, taunting Chi to throw out a kitchen sink of Mason Dixon moonshine leads, Campbell’s chunky low-end and lardy wah-enhanced 70s rock riff-burgers.  Sounding like it was culled from Valkyrie’s recent classic metal masterpiece Shadows; “Pictures” has the mid-tempo, classic metal trot down to a science with dipping double-stacked harmonies cutting a swath to counterpoint solos.  It’s a great companion piece to the sand-shifting, dust-storm desert metal covering “Onward Upward.”  There’s a lot of startling tempo/groove changes happening here and polyrhythmic drum carnage that sees the snares/cymbals heading one direction and the rest of the kit taking a different path.

The vocals approach a falsetto delivery against a battery of well-hung riffs when “Lights Out” comes barreling in.  That opening riff is all business, possibly the album’s best and the squealy lead repetitions keep the attention span in check.  Again the drumming continues to impress, leaving spaces between strikes and then going Rambo whenever called for.  After a soft reverb n’ echo intro of sparse notations, “New Year Repeat” goes into those booming, subwoof riffs that the Floridian stoner/doom bands are recognized for.  As usual these guys put their own specialized tie-dye, blacklight spin on the proceedings and dose the melodies on fistfuls of LSD and rumble through captivating caveman riffage.  Stop/starting its way to victory, “Climb in the Throne” sharply redirects its riffs into different keys and groove permutations; maintaining a bruising knuckle-drag throughout yet still retaining a highly melodic focus.  “Lions’” punchy, punk tempo jabs and Chi’s intoxicating vocal melodies add up to one of the album’s best offerings…it reminds me of the first QOTSA record pumped up on steroids.  Closer “Big Frontier” radiates a My Bloody Valentine wall of sound before pulling out all of the stops on a peppy, poppy stoner/punk combo that I’m enjoying a lot more than Torche’s last few releases.

This album was a pleasure from start to finish.  No, it’s not the heaviest, nastiest, most kill your mama sludge to ever come down the pike but those looking for a killer classic rock throwback with modern touches (that avoid retro cliché) and plenty of psychedelic shading and BIG riffs the Wildlights’ Self-Titled is a fuckin’ stellar pick up.  When the sun is shinin’, the pavement is hazy with heat and I’m burnin’ rubber down the turnpike, you can bet I’ll be following up ASG’s Blood Drive with this baby.  It’s a damn good ‘un well-worth a check from 70s rock loyalists.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
October 14th, 2015


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