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Sons of Otis : X

It seems as if underground metal is more and more extreme these days, with sludge and death elements infiltrating the stoner/doom community left and right. I've got my share of faves with all that, but I'll tell you that it's damned refreshing to get a new album from blues space doom stalwarts Sons of Otis that is a smart continuation of everything they've done right in the past, with heavy nods back to the glory days of the late 90s. The lesson here is that you might improve it if it ain't broke, but you sure as hell don't need to fix it.

The album's title, 'X', is a reference to the fact that Sons of Otis have been recording in one form or other for 10 years, despite an almost unbelievable string of bad luck that some might term "The Otis Effect", labels going bad, industry duplicity, and an ever-changing series of drummers that has solidified only in the past few years tells only part of the story. And despite the group's name, which refers to a character in the almost pornographically violent and depressing classic movie Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, the ever-evolving Sons of Otis tale is that of a group reaching for the doomed mysteries of deep space, aided by a pharmacopoeia of illicit substances. The results have gone from the angry, edgy vibe of their initial release, the 'Paid to Suffer' EP, through the space doom blues jams of the classic 'Templeball' and 'SpaceJumboFudge' releases.

Sadly, we haven't heard much from The Sons' lately, but this excellent release from Small Stone - "the patron saint label for all criminally under-appreciated heavy on the heavy rawk bands" - will rectify that in a big way. Like all of the band's best music, SoS.'s tuneage this go 'round is psychedelic, heavy, spacey, and doom-laden, only this time its more focused, an effect Small Stone seems to have on many on their group roster. Not that the lengthy jams of old are absent, they're just more... compact.

Highlights from 'X' include 'Relapse,' a nod to the group's history in the form of a re-make of the leadoff tune from 'Paid to Suffer'. As you might expect, this time it's both spacier and slower, but still faithful in intent. 'The Pusher' is a re-make of the Steppenwolf cover that first appeared on their beautiful vinyl-only picture disc a few years ago, and the effect is not unlike that of 'Relapse.' 'Eclipse' is so spacey and filled with echo that it sounds like it was recorded in Thingol's Cave, far underground. 'Liquid Jam' is just that, a 14 + minute slab of blues-based sludge doom colliding with 'Hendrix circa 'The Cry of Love' or 'Band of Gypsies'. You dig? Ken Baluke's vocals are not unlike Dave Wyndorf's, only transmitted from a dust cloud in deep space, while the bass n' drums will blow your hair straight back and reprogram your heart.

This is Sons of Otis's best album yet, though I'll always have a soft spot for 'SpaceJumboFudge'. Really, it incorporates everything that's made them a staple for bong owners everywhere, regardless of the changing shifts in the winds of underground musical fashion. As such, it's probably the best introduction a neophyte could have. So spark up: the jeweled forests of Venus are closer than you think.

Reviewer's rating: Unrated


Tracklist :
1. Way I Feel
2. Relapse
3. 1303
4. The Pusher
5. Help Me
6. Eclipse
7. Liquid Jam

Duration : Approx. 55 minutes

Visit the Sons of Otis bandpage.

Reviewed on ??-??-???? by Kevin McHugh
Hate Your Guts Records
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