Album Review: Scottish stoner rock band, Isak, set to release new full length, The Great Expanse

The Great Expanse will be released in late February

Isak is a stoner rock trio from Glasgow, Scotland. The group is made up of Joe McGarrity on vocals and guitar, Gregor Malcolm on bass, and Robert “Twigs” McLean drums. The band has been producing riffy space rock since 2012 and just announced their first full length album, The Great Expanse, via their Facebook page.

The Great Expanse will be a followup up to Isak EP, released in July, 2013, and EP2, which was released in January, 2018. The Great Expanse is a sonically compelling stoner rock album that will take you to the edge of space and beyond. The album tells the story of traveler journeying across the galaxy. As he embarks across the endless cosmos, he begins to wonder if he is alone or if he is being guided. More than half instrumental, but employing the sparse, melodic vocals in a focused and effective way, the album is the soundtrack to the traveler’s story. It unfolds dynamically over the course of 45 minutes and seven tracks. The record was recorded at 16 Ohm Studio in Glasgow, with Tommy Duffin of Cosmic Dead and John McBain of Monster Magnet completing the mastering.

  1. The Great Expanse 6:46
  2. Beyond the Karman Line 6:24
  3. Falling Satellite 11:39
  4. Interstellar 3:05
  5. Ablaze 6:40
  6. Out of Reach 5:50
  7. Call of the Void 4:00

The album opens with The Great Expanse, a riffy track with a driving bass and rhythm section. With thoughtful, melodic lyrics such as “set sail on infinite seas” and “explore the great beyond,” space exploration quickly becomes the theme of the album. The lyrics disappear after the first half (they return on the fifth track), and the band members let the instruments continue the story. A spacey jam finishes things out and it fades seamlessly into the second song.

The Karman Line is the altitude where Earth ends and space begins, 62 miles above the surface. The second track, Beyond the Karman Line, begins low key with a catchy clean guitar line, but then the song builds and accelerates the heaviness, as if it were the second stage of a rocket flinging us into the vastness of space. The track has a creative drum pattern and bass rhythm, topped off by a fuzzy, psychedelic guitar tone.

Falling Satellite is the longest song on the album, close to 12 minutes. It starts with thick bass tones and cymbal swells. The guitar materializes from spacey, atmospheric sounds into a cohesive pattern, and the other instruments develop with it, creating a cosmic jam that plays out over the first half of the song. The second half transforms into a heavier, driving riff with a progressive poly-rhythm that has echoes of Tool. The track continues to form and explore for the last half, featuring a singing guitar lead and progressively building and building before fading out, with the cymbals swells and thick bass tones from the beginning making a return.

Isak formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 2012

Opening with ethereal organ tones and cosmic guitar notes, Interstellar builds into a short but nice bass-heavy progression. The hypnotic pattern continues for a few minutes before fading into the next track, Ablaze, which takes us into more of a crunchier, riffier territory. This track is where the lyrics return, making their presence at the beginning and end of the track. Meanwhile, the band provides plenty of cool stoner rock change-ups, complex rhythm patterns, and plenty of cool, wandering guitar leads that weave in and out of the musical fabric.

Out of Reach starts right in with a swingy, heavy riff. The drums produce a decent shuffle pattern and some huge sounding cymbal crashes alongside a growly bass. While the opening track’s lyrics felt broad and hopeful, optimistically talking of exploring the “infinite seas” of space, the lyrics in Out of Reach come across as more desperate, searching, and claustrophobic, as if the traveler is searching for meaning, or anything, in the empty reaches of space.

At the beginning of the last track, Call of the Void, the band changes it up with harmonic, angelic vocals over a clean guitar line. It’s unsure if the harmonic lyrics represents the voice of a heavenly guide leading our traveler to some kind of salvation, or perhaps the last hallucination of a dying astronaut drifting endless into cold space, but somehow both scenarios seem hopeful, and a fitting end to an awesome stoner rock odyssey.

The album is set for release in late February, and will be available on Bandcamp, alongside their two previous EPs. Make sure to also check out the band on Facebook and Twitter. Check out The Sonic Sofa on StitcherSoundcloudthesonicsofa.blog, and Twitter. Please support the bands by buying their music and merch. If you have music, a band, or an original music review or press release that you think should be featured on the blog or podcast, contact The Purlenaut at thesonicsofashow@gmail.com. If you enjoy the content provided on this blog and want to see more, please consider donating to The Sonic Sofa on PayPal or Patreon. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

Show Dates

Feb 29 Red Crust Winter Warmer – Glasgow, UK

May 10 Red Crust Festival – Edinburgh, UK

1970s style heavy metal on killer debut album by Scarecrow

Scarecrow’s debut album was released on September 13th

A band’s physical location often will influence their sound. One example is how Black Sabbath channeled the energy of the dark and smoky streets of industrial Birmingham, England into some of the slowest and heaviest music of all time. In a similar way, Russian band, Scarecrow, channels the feeling of their home city of Perm. What is this place like? To paraphrase the words of the band, “Perm stands among dank swamps and impenetrable forests, at the foot of the oldest mountains in the world. This is a hopeless place: the region is full of prisons and prison camps. There is a huge number of mentally ill people. The climate is harsh. Winter lasts from October to May and it is a dark, cold time. In the warm months, it rains constantly.” All of these elements and feelings translate to a sense of doom and foreboding latent within the fabric of the band’s compositions.

The trio produces classic-sounding heavy metal, like a cross between Zeppelin and Sabbath, with high flying vocals, crunchy guitar riffs, and a powerful rhythm section. Their debut self-titled album was released on September 13, 2019. The album follows the band’s previous release, an EP called Nosferatu. The bass, drums, guitars, and vocals were all recorded in analog format and digitally mixed by Samuel Turbitt at Ritual Sounds in the UK. The band also added several elements that profoundly affect the feel of the album. Harmonica on several tracks reinforces the bluesy feel of early Sabbath and Zeppelin. Other instruments used include the flute as well as the tamburin, shaker and darbukas which the band obtained from travels to South Africa, adding even more complex textures to their music. There’s also a dark, occult quality to the album, reinforced by the addition of orchestrated sections, which the band was able to add from recordings in the high-quality digital libraries of AIR Studios in London. The intriguing artwork for the album, like the point of view of a scarecrow, was created by Igor Odintsov.

1. Scarecrow Overture 4:38
2. The Journey 5:00
3. The Final Problem 5:21
4. When The Powers Of Evil Are Exalted 3:36
5. Worm of Anger 2:47
6. Autumn Wood 3:06
7. Madman 5:15
8. Scarecrow 6:22

The album has a dark feel, which is strongly influenced by the lyrics. The high-flying vocals come across like a mixture between Geddy Lee and Ozzy Osbourne, summoning feelings of foggy, haunted moors, terrifying scenes of depravity, and maniacs losing grasp of their reality. Occasionally however, the heavy gloom is interrupted by moments of soft repose, like brief rays of sunlight shining through clouds on a stormy day.

The guitars are diverse, laying down bluesy, crunchy riffs, blazing guitar leads, and occasional clean, jazzy tones. Underneath, the rhythm section grooves like a juggernaut. The drums constantly push the songs with driving beats, flawlessly executed drum fills, tasteful double kick patterns, and tribal sounding sections. The bass also sounds consistently great, with warm, rich tones and a swinging feel that adds to the heavy blues vibe. In post-production, the band was able to effectively add high-quality orchestrations and sound clips, creating an even darker listening atmosphere.

If you’re a fan of proto-metal and doom, make sure to check out Scarecrow. Their album is available for digital download on Bandcamp, and the band is working on a physical CD release, which will include digipack and lyrics, projected for release on Bandcamp this month. You can also follow the band on Facebook, as well as Instagram and VK. The band also has Thanks for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

Space invaders spread fear on heavy debut single by Ryte

Ryte will be released by Heavy Psych Sounds on January 17th

Ryte, a four-piece stoner rock band from Vienna, Austria, is one of the latest additions to Heavy Psych Sounds Records, home to bands such as Crypt Trip and Brant Bjork. Ryte recently announced their debut self-titled album, set for release on January 17, 2020. The album will contain four long tracks, written and crafted over the course of a year a half. Invaders, the heavy first single from that album is out now.

Invaders is a massive sounding track, and it’s long, clocking in a 7:55. It’s driven by dual guitars which play in unison throughout the track, creating beautiful harmonies, driving leads, and ominously slow and heavy chugging riffs. The bass is detuned and distorted, confidently grooving throughout the song and cutting through the mix nicely, and the drums sound huge with ringing cymbals and thunderous percussion. Channeling an Ozzy-esque, Hand of Doom quality, the sparse vocals are melodic in an evil sounding way, warning of psychic “night creatures” and “space invaders.” The track has plenty of stoner rock changeups with fast, chugging sections, dual guitar leads, slow and heavy doom sections, wah pedal accents, plenty of complex progressive moments, and even a sick theramin space-battle at the end.

The album is available for pre-order on Bandcamp and on Heavy Psych Sounds, giving you one track now and the rest on January 17th. You can also pre-order the album on vinyl in many styles, including transparent orange, clear water green, as well as black. The album will also be available on CD. All of the physical releases are limited, so get on it. Also, check out the band on Facebook. Thank you for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

The Gig Experiment provides surfy wah pedal and heavy riffs on new EP, Shark Attack

Shark Attack was released on October 29

The Gig Experiment is a three piece rock band from São Bernardo Do Campo, Brazil. The band is made up of Matheus Longhi on guitar, Marcus Moraes on bass and Demian Meneses on drums. They produce a surfy blend of instrumental heavy-psychedelic music with stoner-rock influences. Imagine the surfy flow of bands like Satan’s Pilgrims or Snake Mountain Revival, mixed with a light dose of the heavy riffage of Black Sabbath, and you get the idea.

Their new EP, Shark Attack, was released on October 29 and follows a live album called 220V Ao Vivo which is available to listen to in full by following this link to YouTube. With just three tracks on their new EP, Shark Attack is a short but very sweet ride. The guitar, bass, and drums sound raw, stripped down, and dialed in to deliver the grooves for the entire 10 minutes of the EP. It’s available for digital download on Bandcamp.

The first two tracks, Shark Attack and Poucas Ideia, are driving, wah pedal drenched barrel rides. The bass sounds thick and does several octave drops at key moments in the songs that really add to the beefiness. The drums have depth and come through really well in the mix with crashing cymbals and a full snare sound.

The third track, Três, dramatically slows the tempo and adds a vocal melody to the intro. The fuzzy, overdriven guitar really kicks in as well, adding some muscle to the song, hence the Black Sabbath comparison. A nice melodic guitar lead takes over for the vocal melody, and an upbeat outro finishes up the song.

The Gig Experiment is a three piece rock band from São Bernardo Do Campo, Brazil

All in all, it’s a very upbeat, catchy EP with some heavy moments. Unfortunately, the EP is very short, but it is definitely worth a listen. Keep an eye out for The Gig Experiment as their future releases should be promising. Make sure to check them out on Bandcamp. Also, find the band on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram. Thank for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

Take an instrumental psychedelic journey with Billy Tsounis, on Warp Delights

Based in Southern California, Billy Tsounis is a psychedelic rock guitarist who records and performs with his band, the Amazing Androids. The band produces instrumental, heavy psych music that will take you out of your mind and on a musical journey through the sonic cosmos. If you’re a fan of bands like Dhidalah, you’re going to dig the hypnotic psych sound of Billy Tsounis and the Amazing Androids.

Warp Delights is the band’s eighth album. Released on October 2, 2019, it’s a followup to 2017’s Pimped by the Gods. The album features Billy Tsounis on guitars, Aris Weathersby on bass, Lucas Marquardt on electric cello, and Will Rury on drums. The album was recorded with a mix of analog and digital equipment, and each track was taped live in order to achieve the freshest sound and energy possible. The band went with the first or second take of each song. The experimental tracks take you on a sonic voyage through layers of psychedelic guitar tones, underscored by crisp drums and a beefy bass tone. The album can be found on Bandcamp for digital download. Here’s the tracklist:

  1. Cow Lands Eats Pilot (2:44)
  2. Serene (3:13)
  3. Gone Swamp Shopping (7:51)
  4. Too Nervous to Reincarnate (6:16)
  5. Last Dance Space Boots (3:54)
  6. Babalas Lilo (9:58)
  7. Becoming Butterfly (6:08)
  8. Messy Nostalgia Machines (7:05)

The album is perfect for sinking into the sofa and spacing out with the trance-inducing rhythms. There are long, spacey tracks like Babalas Lilo with it’s driving bass and phasing guitars, and the droney Gone Swamp Shopping; each conveys the album’s live, experimental feel. The waltzy track, Last Dance Space Boots will hook listeners with its catchy guitar lead, and Becoming Butterfly is a dreamy track that will lull you away on iridescent wings.

Check out Billy Tsounis and the Amazing Androids on Bandcamp, Reverb Nation, and Youtube, as well as Facebook and Instagram. Also go to BillyTsounis.com to learn more about the artist and the work that he’s doing. Thanks for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

Howling Giant’s debut full-length, The Space Between Worlds, is a sci-fi concept masterpiece

It’s difficult to believe that The Space Between Worlds is in fact Howling Giant’s first full length album. After three solid EP’s, the Nashville, TN band has released their debut album, adding to their consistently heavy and creative catalogue of sci-fi influenced stoner-rock. Released on September 27th, The Space Between Worlds was preceded by the epic pair of Black Hole Space Wizard Parts 1 & 2 EP’s in 2016 and 2017, and the self-titled Howling Giant EP in 2015, which was remastered in March of this year.

On the new album, the band continues in their tradition of producing tight, heavy music with melodic vocals that tell an epic science fiction narrative. If you’re a fan of bands like Sleep, The Sword, or Torche, you’re going to dig the unique hybrid of those sounds that Howling Giant creates. Since the last release, core members Tom Polzine (Guitars/Vocals) and Zach Wheeler (Drums/Vocals) are joined by new bassist and vocalist, Sebastian Balten. Drew Harakal again lends his keyboard talents which really help to fill out and solidify the band’s sound with a consistent organ presence and many tasty synth tones.

According to a statement by the band, the new album “is a concept album that follows the story of a huntress who travels the infinite metaphysical worlds brought into being by the dreams of humankind. In these realms, she encounters a dream eater which threatens to unravel the fabric of reality by devouring dreamers and destroying the dimensional gateways.” The great thing about Howling Giant’s approach to sci-fi is that they don’t take themselves too seriously. They take an almost comic, Mystery Science Theater 3,000 approach to the content, but then out of nowhere, they’ll touch on something that resounds with the listener in a visceral, emotional way. In short, the sci-fi adds to the experience big time. Here’s the track-list for the album:

1. Comet Rider 4:30
2. Nomad 5:10
3. Ghosts in the Well 2:42
4. The River Guide 5:43
5. Ice Castle 4:37
6. Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express 4:04
7. Everlight 7:57
8. The Orb 7:08
9. Stone Giant 6:17

Vocals and Lyrics: All three members of the band lend their vocal talents, creating beautiful three-part harmonies throughout and are notably catchy on tracks like the opener, Comet, and the sword and sorcery influenced track, Ice Castle, which also features guest vocals by Jason Shi of ASG. The rhythm of the vocals is carefully measured and timed, oftentimes giving the vocals a chant-like quality. A good example of this is the track, Everlight, which even features OM chants. The River Guide is the only track to feature a spoken word narrative, which the album thankfully does not rely heavily upon as in past releases. The vocals can also at times be catchy and hilarious, and you’ll find yourself singing along to lyrics like, “The cables are connecting to my face,” as well as, “My engines run on fuel-injected rage,” on Cybermancer and the Doomsday Express.

The guitars are diverse throughout the album, from heavy and driving tracks like The Orb, Everlight, to layers of acoustics on Ghosts in the Well. Also, don’t miss the heavy, chugging guitar riffs, evident on tracks like Nomad and Stone Giant, which also has a killer double guitar lead. There are awesome leads throughout, and the way the walls of guitars blend with the grinding organ is awesome.

The keyboards sound amazing throughout. They provide a wide range of tones from grinding organs like in the opener, Comet, to sci-fi sounding synth interludes such as in The River Guide. The great thing about all of the keyboard layers is that they complement the songs and the other instruments and add vital layers of texture that, though they don’t always stand out, would be sorely missed if absent.

The rhythm section is powerful, consisting of hard driving drums and an amazingly deep and heavy bass. The drums creatively fill most available free space with all kinds of awesome fills and double kick blast beat action. The drums utilize a full set of toms, range from high pitches to thunderously low ones, but there’s also an obvious awareness of when things need to be simplified to make the song even heavier. The bass pairs perfectly with the drums, sometimes creating a tribal quality, like on Everlight. The bass even takes the spotlight with a slow and heavy bass solo on the track, Stone Giant, propelling the song into one of the heavy riffs on the album.

T-Shirt design by Joe Gettler

The band has some great merch to go along with the new release, including black and yellow color merge vinyl for U.S. orders, translucent green for UK/Euro orders, CD’s, and a brand new T-Shirt design by Joe Gettler. Their products are going fast. You can find the band on Bandcamp, as well as Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram. Thank you for reading the Sonic Sofa. Go in peace and rock on, Sofanauts.

Tour Dates

Nov. 9 Steel and Stone 2019 – Asheville, NC

Album Review: Melvin’s Holiday, by Lewis and the Strange Magics (Plus Interview)

Lewis and the Strange Magics are a heavy-psych band from Barcelona, Spain. The band produces groovy, stylish, psychedelic music, with strong funk and jam undercurrents. The band just released their third full length, Melvin’s Holiday. The album is a followup to the 2015 full-length Velvet Skin, the 2017 full-length Evade Your Soul, and the 2018 EP, The Ginger Sessions.

Melvin’s Holiday was independently released on September 6, 2019. It’s a concept album made up of nine, 1960’s and 70’s inspired, sexy, velvety, groovy, shag-carpeted tracks. Even the artwork by Shaun Miller is a throwback, with its retro style and filmy look. The album tells the story of Melvin, a rich man who divorces his wife and takes off on holiday in the Mediterranean, where he seeks happiness but finds only loneliness.

Musically, the entire album is catchy and easy to listen to, with plenty of creative guitar and keyboard tones. The lyrics are melodic and catchy, roughly comparable to the style of Ric Ocasek of The Cars. The album carries echoes of bands such as Pink Floyd, The Eagles, and Steely Dan, but with the psychedelic style and attitude that makes Lewis and the Strange Magics completely one of a kind. Get ready to sink into a velvet sofa and be carried away with the smooth flowing tracks. To help me get a better idea of the band’s song writing process and influences, I caught up with band leader and multi-instrumentalist, Luis Pomés, for the following interview.

The Sonic Sofa (TSS): Can you tell us a little bit about your recording process?

Luis P (LP): For this album we recorded everything in my home studio, with an audio interface to the computer and some microphones. Everything is digital but we tried to find an old/vintage sound.

TSS: What insight can you give us about the album’s lyrics and the Melvin character?

LP: My first intention was to do an album with songs that had a common theme: a summer and decadent atmosphere. I liked this concept and then when I was working on the final steps of the composition I realized that I could connect the songs by creating a character who lives all of the experiences that the lyrics show. So, I created the rich man, Melvin, and I changed some of the words to make a kind of rock opera. I think I got the idea of this concept, among other things, from a Roxy Music song that describes the decadence of a rich person who has a mansion but no one to share it with.

TSS: What is the band’s songwriting process and how does jamming play a part in it?

LP: I write everything in my mind, then I usually record some demos, or I explain the ideas to my band-mates to make a kind of jam. This last process was the one we used in our previous release, The Ginger Sessions EP. Sometimes I record a song without a definitive demo, making the arrangements while I’m recording, and this is why some tracks can have a jam band sensation.

TSS: What are the band’s influences, both musical and otherwise?

LP: All music I enjoy can be an influence, but for this album I think there’s a lot of Roxy Music, Funkadelic, Pink Floyd, Steely Dan, heavy-psych in general, and cult movies from the 70s, both for the general atmosphere of the film or from their soundtracks. For example, the track Carpet Sun is a direct tribute to erotic movies soundtacks from those years, and the whole album is very cinematographic.

“groovy, stylish psychedelic music”

The album opens with Melvin (2:51), a short track featuring hand percussion, smooth organ tones, a crisp drum sound, and some tasty wah pedal. A Funky feel, harmonized vocals, and some jazzy brass tones make this a catchy intro track. Next up, Sad in Paradise (3:48) brings a tight, progressive, fuzzy riff. This track stands out among the others with straight up catchy vocals and a hook-filled chorus. Don’t miss the cool stereo effects of the double guitar lead.

Jazzy drums and organ set the tone for The Answering Machine (2:11), and heavy effects on the vocals and a crisp ride cymbal gives the song a San Francisco jazz feel. Fashion Siren (5:31) has a great sounding snare drum and crisp, Steely Dan-like tones on guitar. Probably one of the catchiest songs on the album, with creative keyboard lines and a funky, eclectic chorus, self-referencing the band’s “Strange Magic” in the lyrics.

Carpet Sun (2:21) features a dreamy intro, with some great layering and effects from the keyboards. Synthy and velvety, this short musical interlude is a nice, reflective break in the action. Following up, Village’s Wizard (4:32) is a nice, percussion heavy track, with easygoing keyboard tones and guitar and a smooth, Latin-jazz feel.

Driving classic-rock riffs and catchy, love song lyrics set the stage for Only a Fantasy (4:13). This track features a great keyboard lead with some interesting scifi-esque tones. Lounge Decadence (2:27) opens with a great bass line and the song employs plenty of Latin style rhythms. And closing the album, Afternoon on the Sand (6:28) starts off soft, with great sounding vocal harmonies before shifting to a swingy, bluesy style to finish off the album.

Melvin’s Holiday is an album that should be listened to straight through, from start to finish, for the full effect. The album is currently available for digital download on Bandcamp, and hopefully we’ll see a vinyl release in the coming months. Make to support the band by listening to their music and buying their merch. Thanks for reading The Sonic Sofa. Go in peace, and rock on, Sofanauts.