When it comes to riffs, power trio Aawks really don’t mess about. A cut above your average stoner rock band, their debut album ‘(Heavy On The Cosmic)’ did exactly what it said on the tin. Its eight tracks fused Sabbath, Kyuss and classic Monster Magnet riffs with a whole world of phased effects – applied to both the guitars and vocals – to leave the listener with the ultimate in fuzzy, buzzy, mind-bending wonderment. On tunes like ‘The Woods’ which combined driving stoner riffs with slower breakdowns and heavily treated lead guitars, and ‘All Is Fine’ which latched onto a rhythm that sounded like a distant cousin of ‘Silver Machine’, it was even possible to hear a huge influence from early Hawkwind bleeding through the slightly echoey vocals and head nodding riffs. With a touch of doom fleshing out ‘Peeling Away’, it was clear that these guys could do incredible heaviness too. Since almost every moment brought something exciting to Aawks’ chosen style, ‘(Heavy On The Cosmic)’ was potentially one of the finest heavy psych discs since Monster Magnet foisted ‘Dopes To Infinity’ upon an unsuspecting world in the mid 90s.
On this debut EP, The Holy Nothing wield some genuinely enormous riffs. Creating a sound that takes a huge influence from stoner metal and mixes that with a few grungy influences and a pinch of hardcore, their sound shifts between crunchy, sludgy and the groove laden, ensuring this musical trio are often more interesting than your average Orange Goblin, Fu Manchu and Kyuss wannabes.
The first Dead Feathers album – 2019’s ‘All Is Lost’ – introduced the world to a solid blues rock/heavy psych band. With a sound indebted to the last gasps of the 60s and steeped in a classic riffs, the record’s ten songs explored a darker tone and shared arrangements which sometimes sounded like Jefferson Airplane’s moody cousin (‘At The Edge’), as well as hinting at an admiration for the slow and vaguely psychedelic blues of Savoy Brown (‘Smoking Gun’). It even wheeled out some brilliant fuzzy fare (‘Horse And Sands’) and a heavier riff or two in a nod to the mighty Black Sabbath (‘Cordova’). Although never as lavish sounding as the best Ruby The Hatchet works, it was one of those records that guaranteed enjoyment for fans of the style, wherever they chose to drop the metaphorical needle.
Yawning Balch – the collaborative project shared between the members of desert rock band Yawning Man and Fu Manchu’s Bob Balch – unleashed a sprawling giant with their debut release. ‘Volume One’ shared three lengthy instrumentals where the musicians absorbed themselves in a stoner friendly, wavering landscape; it’s improvised riffs going deeper into the desert rock world than many had gone in a long time. It was the perfect record for late night listening, and suggested that, if and when a second volume should arrive, Yawning Balch had the potential to be one of the greatest deep psych/stoner bands ever.
20 Watt Tombstone’s three contributions to the 2016 split ‘Death Blues vs. The Dirty Spliff’ (shared with Left Lane Cruiser) showcased a band who instinctively knew their way around superb riffs. Those tunes straddled melody and heaviness in an almost perfect way, showcasing a band capable of wielding a great, live sounding tone, often matching the likes of Black Label Society and Black Stone Cherry in terms of chunky retro coolness. Unfortunately, they weren’t exactly speedy in following up that recording. A few years came and went without a word, and then a pandemic lockdown delayed any progress a little further.