Alternative chill-out

In the last couple of years, my world view went from somewhat overly positive to that of a more realistic, slightly negative outlook. I haven’t found myself entirely pleased with my career track so far, to say the least. My moods haven’t always been the greatest – at one point I was a proper grouch, to say the least.
People have their vices. Mine is music. At my lowest I could took in songs more than ever before and found certain rock/metal/alternative songs to hold powerful leanings. I’ve found myself exploring certain songs and the energies they channel. Here’s where the words ‘alternative chillout’ come in. Chill-out is traditionally the realm of electronic music, mellow in style and no faster than medium tempo, and was originally conceived in order to give ravers a little bit of a break and evokes images of the tide drifting in and out of a sandy beach.

Alternative chill-out isn’t quite the same – it’s just a title for a feature on this blog at the end of the day – but the songs I’m about list I personally find to have that relaxing effect on me. They can still sound heavy, but have that ‘calm down’ feeling about them. It’s open to debate, and I’d be keen to see what other traditionally heavy songs or bands people find to have a relaxant effect on them, if only to try and narrow down ‘alternative chill-out’ or indeed give a little more clarity on what I’m setting out.
So here goes nothing:

1. Deftones – Sextape
[from Diamond Eyes, Maverick, 2010]
‘Sextape’ is an obvious one for me. It begins with that echoey surf guitar sound, akin to looking out across an ocean shore, before Chino Moreno’s vocals ease in. As the song builds to the chorus, Moreno asks to be taken ‘one more time/one more wave/for one last ride’, and then it’s the epic ‘tonight’ chorus. The song’s possibly about some amazing night he had with a girl. I’m not actually reading into that too much. I just find the song completely relaxing.

2. Jesu – Medicine
[from Conqueror, Hydra Head, 2007]
‘Conqueror’ is often regarded as Justin Broadrick’s premier Jesu album, and with songs like ‘Medicine’ its not hard to see why. The opening riff is absolutely crushing, but one Broadrick starts singing, the song elevates to another level and by the end, you’re on another plane altogether. It really does have that lifting feeling about it, almost as if you’re being taken away from this planet. And you can genuinely submerge yourself into this song without any aid in particular.
3. Earth – Rise To Glory
[from The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull, Southern Lord, 2008]
Taking a much different track to the first two tracks named, this track was second on Earth’s 2008 album ‘The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull’, and continued to mark Earth’s return with more Ennio Morricone, experimental and country influence. ‘Rise to Glory’ has a strange, cool down effect on me. Its one of those songs you need to listen during sundown, on a warm summer’s evening, perhaps with a whiskey in your hand.

4. Weedeater – Whiskey Creek
[from Jason…The Dragon, Southern Lord, 2011]
It’s hardly a pounding sludge anthem and it doesn’t sound remotely metal from Virginia’s finest weed monsters. Yes this slab of bluegrass, complete with the sounds of the swamp in the background, is the comedown you need from your reefer-induced trip. Or indeed, from the pounding you probably just took from the whiskey infested sludge feast that is ‘Jason…The Dragon’.

5. Premonition 13 – Senses
[from 13, Volcom, 2011]
This is one for the nights in the desert. Or, perhaps less exotically, in a field on a camping trip, for example. The ones where you’re watching the sundown, as the sky briefly goes red as day turns to night. ‘Senses’ then additionally works as you look up at the night sky. I truly believe any vision of the sunset and the stars could be improved by this trip, layered with echoing chords, and long drawn out bass notes, inspired by Mesoamerican culture.
I’m still padding out this theory of alternative chill-out, or the idea that heavy music can be used to take five and relax. I might bring back this feature with additional suggestions in future but I’d love for people to get involved and discuss this notion. Leave any suggestions for songs or improvement to this potential feature (or indeed how we should define it) in the comments box. Gracias.
Peter Clegg

Premonition 13 – 13

Premonition 13

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Scott ‘Wino’ Weinrich has been at the forefront of stoner and doom metal for a good twenty-five years now, in an incredible career in which he can count himself a part of Saint Vitus, The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan, and many, many more besides. The man is a true living legend, and like all good living legends within the wider rock community, the man just does not stop. Having got extremely prolific lately with his solo projects and Shrinebuilder, he returns here with ‘13’, the debut album by his latest project, Premonition 13.

Wino revealed in a recent interview that he and guitarist Jim Karow had been jamming together for nearly two decades prior to writing and recording ‘13’, inspired by a love of ancient cultures, particularly the Mesoamerican. It begins atmospherically, the gradual, airy build-up achieved through the e-bow guitar, forming the introduction to ‘B.E.A.U.T.Y.’, the album’s longest song, which when it kicks in, reeks of Place of Skulls-esque riffery. It slips back into this ambience further on. Measuring in at nearly nine minutes long, it’s a laid back rocker that could only be created under the desert sun.
The album rocks up a little more with the reckless abandon ‘Hard To Say’, flash with some incredible soloing from Wino, and the heavy stomp of ‘Clay Pigeons’. It then simmers back down into psychedelic territory in ‘Senses’, which creates a real laid-back vibe, given how mellow the song is. The album heads back into typical Wino domain with ‘La Hechicera de la Jeringa’ – building up with a prelude before hitting you with Sabbathian riffage. It doesn’t stand out for me, particularly against Wino’s huge body of work, but it’s still a quality tune nonetheless.
The album loosens up again a little later on with ‘Deranged Rock ‘N’ Roller’, a song somewhat Motorhead in spirit, and the anthemic ‘Modern Man’, which sees Karow given a chance to shine by taking over on vocal duties. He does an effective job and  the song has a simple yet cracking chorus. These forays into good-time territory are unusual but certainly welcome; that is, until closer ‘Peyote Road’ which reclines with Wino almost evoking the spirits of the plains against the hum of the e-bow. You could picture yourself in the desert staring at nightfall whilst listening to this song, it truly creates that impression. It winds the album down in much the same way ‘B.E.A.U.T.Y.’ introduced it, and provides a perfect companion piece in respect.
One sense you get from this album is that Wino is really having fun here. There’s a real passion in his voice, particularly as ‘Clay Pigeons’ kicks in. When he shouts ‘uh!’ , his heart and soul is right in the song. He’s definitely in the zone. On more than one occasion, there’s a real power in his voice, defying the darker approach that marauds his work in Saint Vitus and The Obsessed and the melancholy that was evident on his incredible acoustic album, ‘Adrift’. That’s certainly unusual but it’s not out of place, and his trademark style still has plenty to show here. He’s more than ably assisted by Karow, who doesn’t miss the opportunities to shine; and by the rhythm section of drummer Matthew Clark (Ostinato) and bassist Brian Daniloski (ex-Meatjack), both of whom add significant backbone to the mix.
It’s not quite classic Wino, not by any stretch, but it’s another solid offering involving the overlord of stoner and doom metal, another line on the resumé, and another body of work that fans of his work (and those less familiar) shouldn’t go without.
Peter Clegg