Dust Prophet’s debut release ‘One Last Look Upon The Sky’ presents some immediately classic stoner metal, doom and desert rock sounds. Taking cues from Black Sabbath, Orange Goblin and Kyuss, the band instinctively knows how to make very familiar riffs immediately effective, and the sprawling nature of their material conjures a love for stoner rock’s forefathers almost as brilliantly as Black Elephant, Acid Mammoth, and Devil Electric before them.
One listen to ‘When The Axe Falls’ is all that’s required to love this band. With a fuzzy riff fading in against some tribal drums, the track immediately sets up something atmospheric, and from the opening of the very Orange Goblin-esque riff that swiftly follows, there beats the heart of a very traditional sounding stoner metal band. Bringing in a little extra sludge for the slow and heavy riff that links the verses further shows a commitment to a classic sound, and guitarist Otto Kinzel’s choice of cleaner lead tones helps to ensure that one ear is kept on a melody, no matter how heavy things might get going forward. On first listen, the music signifies something first rate; there doesn’t seem to be much in the way of Sabbath-derived goodness this band can’t handle, and the descent into quieter desert rock spookiness for a lengthy interlude shows them to be more than one dimensional. When the standard heavy riffs subside, a brilliant lead bass from Sarah Wappler placed against shimmering, clean guitar notes and psychedelic synths shows an equal love of desert rock, and the two styles come together to create a near perfect opener. The vocals, on the other hand, take a little adjustment; in a world where a lot of stoner comes with deep, droning voices, to hear a man who sounds like a mangled version of Electric Six’s Dick Valentine comes as a massive surprise – but it actually works.
At the album’s most abrasive, ‘Dear Mrs. Budd’ removes all warmth from the stoner sound and replaces it with something that sounds more live. This thrusts drummer Tyler MacPherson into the spotlight as he smashes snare drums and cymbals in a way that calls back to the Kyuss debut ‘Wretch’, and also gives the guitars an extra edge. Looking past the less pristine mix, the music is just as impressive as before, when fuzzy lead guitars jostle against semi-sludgy riffs, Electric Wizard style, and a weird croon appears to spit lyrics like a defiant mantra. Opting for something even heavier, the track’s instrumental break ushers in a little sludge, but this is counterbalanced by a moment of reflection via a bass led bluesy groove and more neo-psych love where clean guitars call against a natural rhythm. In blending doom, sludge, heavy psych and more here, Dust Prophet really hit their stride. Similarly, the lengthy ‘Hourglass’ demonstrates a classic stoner metal sound, bringing out the power in the Dust Prophet power trio set up. Despite being “identikit” stoner metal – or perhaps entirely because of that – this track was chosen as the lead single ahead of the album’s release. For those looking for some really trad stoner, it really doesn’t disappoint: it has the Sabbath via Electric Wizard tones; the bluesy guitar leads are drenched in distortion, and a weighty rhythm section thunders through a slow groove with intent. Perhaps the only real deviation from the obvious comes through a multi-tracked vocal that occasionally sounds demonic, and a couple of keyboard flourishes that sound like a burst of electrical anger. At heart, this is a near perfect example of the genre, and although it doesn’t show the full range of Dust Prophet’s immense talents in the same way as ‘When The Axe Falls’, it’s a recommended listen for anyone who mightn’t have the time or patience to digest the whole album.
For those looking for something a bit perkier, the shorter and slightly more commercial ‘Put To The Question’ is a punchier number where elements of ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’ era Black Sabbath meet with Brant Bjork during an untypically punchy opening verse, before descending into a classic stoner vibe where a mid tempo riff underscores a jazz guitar accompaniment and moody voice. In less than two minutes, the band have revisited a timeless sound, making this track a standout before hitting upon a very obvious Sabbath lift where the heavy riffs take on a definite swing. Moving back into extended jams, ‘Bury Me Before Noon’ takes a detour further into desert rock with occasional Eastern influences within the main riff and a more spacious sound. These quieter moments experiment further with a deep psych approach that comes much closer to being influenced by a Gong deep cut and Gilly Smyth’s weird space whispers. Naturally, there will be people who don’t like this at all; for those people, Dust Prophet seem only too keen to add more Electric Wizard derived heaviness when the time comes, but to ensure this sounds very different to the rest of the album, they’ve also applied some heavily treated vocals from the world of satanic doom, and…it’s horrible. Bizarrely alluring, too, but definitely horrible. Finally working some great sludge, the track introduces some of the album’s heaviest sounds and with that, those bad vocals become a memory. It’s likely those unsure listeners will head for the hills at this point, but those who remain will love Dust Prophet, no matter what.
Elsewhere on this great album, you’ll find ‘A Storm In Space & Time’, a two part instrumental that teases with traditional piano, a few trad metal lead guitar harmonies and a mood that’s much clearer than typical Doom Prophet and ‘Song 4’, a lengthy instrumental lurch through a pure stoner metal world where the riff is king. These come closer to being more ordinary, without completely abandoning Dust Prophet’s great sounds, and ‘The High Capital’, a very traditional stoner metal workout provides another example of the trio’s riff-based skills that’s not quite on a par with ‘Hourglass’. Although this shows the band at their most generic, it will still provide massive amounts of enjoyment for the stoner rock fans.
In terms of doom laden stoner metal and desert rock, Dust Prophet have a world of riffs to share, but almost nothing new to offer. This, of course, really isn’t a criticism: with an album absolutely loaded with top notch mid tempo grooves and fuzzed up noise, they’re guaranteed to catch the ear of genre fans everywhere. Stoner rock and metal is a genre where originality needn’t be at the forefront of everything, and ‘One Last Look Upon The Sky’ is a top notch debut that deserves to put this trio firmly on the stoner rock/metal map.