Tom Hayes 01-Dec-2004 Alientar

In a lot of ways this reminds me of the original incarnation of the UK festival group Mandragora (e.g. “Head First”), before they found their niche on albums like “Temple Ball”. Another parallel are the vocals do not add any kind of value, and they seem like filler to lengthen the songs (and Mandragora wisely dispensed with them). And one last comparison is the somewhat poor production, which doesn’t bode well for music like this (another area that Mandragora immensely improved upon later). There are also plenty of style changes between the tracks. There’s some Allman Brothers southern rock with a Gong mid-section (‘Good Luck’), Blue Oyster Cult style rock (‘Bizarre’), booze-fueled Doors (‘Kraz-E NayBR’), Pink Floyd meets alternative (‘Stuck to Earth’), Eloy symphonic/prog (‘Hypnosis’), Dead/jam rock (‘Sonic Wave’, ‘Letting It Ride’) and, finally, what they seem to really be trying to accomplish -> space rock. It’s this latter element where Alientar really shines. The second track ‘Music Box’ is an incredible Eastern/exotic, primarily instrumental, fuzz guitar led tour de force… reminding me of the best contemporary space rock acts like Pseudo Buddha and SubArachnoid Space. Almost all of the tracks have superb instrumental breaks with guitar/keyboard leads (fuzz, phased, wah-wah, organ) that are definitely from the Krautrock/space rock school, which is precisely why I think this is the group’s forte and primary interest area. I really do admire their willingness to expand the boundaries of, and break protocol from, the numerous Hawkwind imitators in play today. I think they need to tighten the ship a bit though, get a better production, rethink the vocal idea, and put more emphasis on composition and intensity. I’m anxiously awaiting their follow-up. This one, though, is cautiously recommended to most and highly recommended to some.

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