Not my usual listen, stoner rock combines elements of psychedelic rock, traditional heavy metal and other influences such as acid rock and blues heavy guitars. You could include some sludge metal, doom metal and groove metal in the mix but now we are getting silly with the sub genres. Legendary bands such as Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath could be considered early pioneers of this kind of music but it is iconic Californian band Kyuss that many would say are one of the originators of the stoner/desert rock sound. Vista Chino is a new project that comes from the minds of 2 founding members of Kyuss: Brant Bjork and John Garcia.
John Garcia is the lead vocalist, Brant Bjork is on the drums, Bruno Fevery delivers the distorted guitar sounds and bass duties are dealt with by Nick Oliveri. Vista Chino’s debut release is called Peace and it is a concoction laced with tuned down, distorted guitars, crashing drums and a low key production that gives it a psychedelic edge. The music fuses together hints of the early grunge pioneers Soundgarden with classic Queens of the Stone Age. It also seems to be heavily influenced by one of my all time favourite so called doom metal bands Trouble and, especially, their classic album Manic Frustration.
From the low key psychadelic intro of Good Morning Wasteland we head into the crashing, distorted guitars and manic drumming of the first highlight on the album Dragona Dragona, a swirling grunge laced, heavy riffing monster of a track. The gravelly vocals taking us on a frantic hell ride through to the finish. The aggressive laid back riffing doesn’t stop as we crash into the short but brilliant Sweet Remain, there is a great guitar lick running right through the middle of this track backed up by heavy hitting drums and great higher pitched vocals, the abrupt ending in sync with the rest of the song.
The next track As You Wish strips it back a bit and does without the frantic energy of the previous two tracks, it is held together by a great chorus but I was less enamoured by the running bass line throughout the track. It is very reminiscent of early Black Sabbath. It may just be me but what I do like is the great crashing, fade out of an ending. We don’t stop and the pace is lifted as we rock into Planets 1&2, a swirling guitar running through the song, very low key vocals and that distorted grungy guitar sound present and correct once again. A fantastically psychedelic guitar solo hits us in the middle of the track before we seem to come to a grinding halt and the guitar goes meandering off, screeching and wailing like a wounded animal. This part of the song seems to lack a bit of cohesion and is one of the less edifying parts of the album, perhaps it should have just been Planets and part 2 left in the cutting bin. Adara is a real laid back slice of groove metal, almost melodic (sacrilege I know) that should feel out of place with the rest of this psychedelic, groove rock melting pot but, in main due to the musical prowess of the protagonists, really stands out. Mas Vino is a bass led interlude that seems to serve no purpose other than to fill in one minute and twenty seven seconds of this recording.
A distorted slice of low key, laid back guitar takes us into Dark and Lovely, off beat drums hitting hard in the background before a low, almost mumbling vocal enters the scene. The guitar runs strongly through the track, an almost buzzing sound of stripped back grunge. It is another less than brilliant effort that just doesn’t seem to lift its head out of the sludgy grunge and seems to meander along just looking for an ending, perhaps outstaying it’s welcome. The same cannot be said for Barcelonian where a great, almost uplifting guitar talks to you over a staccato drum and guitar rhythm, it is just over 3 minutes of music that typifies what these guys are all about. Despite the laid back, pared back style you can hear the skill of the musicians who make up Vista Chino. Now we come the end of this journey through the world of psychadelic stoner rock and what an ending it is, strange title aside, Acidize…The Gambling Moose is 13 minutes of brilliance and almost worth the entrance price alone. An opera for stoner, grunge rock perhaps?, the signature, distorted guitar kicks off proceedings before a delightfully low key and very grungy guitar hits us, some very low key but very fitting vocals take us along but you have no doubt that guitar is king, the tempo kicks right back for a while, great fretwork riding along with the excellent vocals, you can almost hear the many years of creative skill that have been put into this work. The guitar then lifts again and takes us off on a wild ride of distortion and catchy licks before we come to a halt once more. It’s almost as if we are having an intermission on this breathless ride but we have no time to think as the guitar kicks back hard once again, a wavering, signature sound running through over harder edged vocals, the crashing drums heavy in the background. We are going on a heavy rock inspired hell ride, reminiscent of Zeppelin at their height, Jimmy Page written all over the guitar sound, the squealing guitars leading us out to the crashing ending.
Drawing heavily on past influences and the innovation and musical exploration of their past, Vista Chino have produced an album that puts them at the forefront of the stoner/desert rock genre once again. A very strong offering in the main. Even if, like me, this type of music is not your usual cup of tea, give it a listen, you might be pleasantly surprised.