As its title suggests, ‘Legends of The Desert Vol. 3’ is the third an ongoing series of split/compilation releases bringing together material from various cult stoner rock/desert rock acts. By presenting a couple of the underground’s better known acts, this third instalment automatically runs rings around its two predecessors, and the promise of new material from the mighty Fatso Jetson automatically ensures this disc will become a favourite with genre fans everywhere.
Despite never reaching the levels of popularity enjoyed by Kyuss and Fu Manchu, Fatso Jetson are often credited as being one of the originators of the stoner/desert rock sound, and the four tracks that take up the first side of this split are a welcome reminder of why that would be. ‘Night of The Living Amends’ leads off with a thin and unsure guitar sound, but it isn’t long before the band find their groove, and by hitting upon a hard but melodic riff that takes the guts of early Queens of The Stone Age and adds a bluesier slant, they’ve caught their audience’s collective ear with ease. Moving from the verse arrangement into a busier riff where jazzy drums underscore ringing guitars, they inject a little garage rock into their dusty desert heart, before returning to the main riff where a huge 70s swagger is joined by a second soaring guitar, bringing a pleasing melody against a hard edge. A final return to the jazzier groove reinforces drummer Tony Tormay’s less rock-based interests, and his general flair goes a long way to making this instrumental cut incredibly enduring.
When introducing the late 60s haziness of early Spirit to the Fatso sound – something reinforced by light drumming and soft, mournful guitar work – ‘Angels Flight’ shows how much broader the band’s influences are than most. The vibe is very much of a vaguely distracted desert jam joining forces with a world of AM radio rock from the 70s, but there’s plenty within the half-stoned vocal harmonies and riffs that connects with classic Jetson material. Tackling a heavier mood, ‘Todas Petrol Blues’ is an obvious stand out when crashing drums collide with strange, soaring guitar sounds before an even swampier guitar riff takes the melody into a world where you can hear a massive influence upon QOTSA. There isn’t always much separation between the instruments, but there’s still plenty of power in the main groove, and the pointed lead work captures some of the best desert sounds this side of Brant Bjork. A couple of listens in, and fans will surely be in their element.
For those looking for something a little more direct, ‘One of Seven’ opts for a much punchier sound when a classic desert rock sound fuses with the melodic edge of ‘Colour & The Shape’ era Foo Fighters. The riffs call back to various elements of alternative rock from the 90s in a very cool way, but it’s the way Mario Lalli pushes forward with a natural, repetitive vocal that makes the track. This really is about placing a song centre stage: there are no flashy solos, no really arty diversions, just a massive groove and hook. It’s the kind of thing that’ll make you wonder why Fatso Jetson were never in the same festival playing, million album selling league as Homme and his cronies. It isn’t particularly original, at least sound-wise, but it’s one of the tracks that makes this split release a risk-free purchase.
Up against stiff competition, the lesser known Dali’s Llama also come up trumps with a set of riffs that evoke some of the very best stoner/post-Sabbath moods on a few tracks that cement their place in an (oversubscribed) world of slow, heavy riff lords. The heavier of the two bands, they waste no time in reaching for peak swagger on ‘Coyotes In The Grave’, a number that takes the guts of Down and amps them into a world where strange, crooned vocals make everything sound as if it’s come from a swampy outback. The vocals may be iffy, but the main riff is absolutely stellar – strong enough to carry absolutely everything with ease, and for those who dig Sabbath derived gold, it’ll be a favourite. There’s much to love even before guitarist Zach steps up for an overdriven solo that sounds like a twisted take on something from 20 Watt Tombstone.
In terms of production values, ‘Lizards’ is a lot cleaner, but that doesn’t make it any more commercial. If anything, a slower tempo makes it even darker, and the band’s approach to a sound that mixes a Crowbar heaviness with a hint of Southern Rock sass seems absolutely effortless. Over a funereal groove, Zach throws out fuzzy guitar leads, whilst bassist Erica continues to explore a bottom end thud – never wavering from the get-go. In terms of heavy swamp rock, this shows how basic ideas are sometimes the best, and dragged across six minutes, this number really gives genre fans plenty to get their ears around. With ‘Rarified’ exploring a Sabbath tone subjected to supercharged snare sounds, and ‘Hypnotic Wind’ never feeling a million miles away from an early Melvins jam (albeit one that sounds like it were fronted by a man doing a wobbly Les Claypool impersonation), Dali’s Llama have ensured their short selection of tunes has variety, but still feels unified. In terms of a great primer for the unfamiliar, these four tracks work together perfectly.
Stoner/desert rock is one of those rock/metal based subgenres that’s practically unkillable. Eighty percent of the bands that emerge from the scene are automatically good thanks to classic sounding riffs. Occasionally you’ll discover one or two where the vocals make everything unpalatable, but in the main, the riff is king, and for those hopped up on post-Sabbath/Orange Goblin vibes, there’s new stuff to enjoy on a week in and week out rota. This, however, is a cut above: several pieces of wazzed out rock that should be the poster child of why such things are great. This is better than Josh Homme’s looser Desert Sessions collective; marginally superior to a whole world of Pyramid, Black Rainbows and Truckfighters influenced acts, and almost equal to the rare Man’s Ruin Kyuss & Queens split, despite not always being quite so heavy. In short, it’s a recording that needs to be quickly absorbed by stoner fans everywhere. Grab it at your earliest convenience – you won’t be disappointed.