18 Sep 2022 - Thorsten
Heavy Rock, Stoner Rock, Doom | Heavy Psych Sounds | Release date: 30 Sep 2022 | Favorite song: Quicksand Valley
Southern Rock or Southern Metal to me are always difficult genres because, let’s be honest, there are quite some idiots with the wrong sociopolitical mindset out there doing that music. Nevertheless, the appeal of a well-played Southern Rock guitar is appealing because that little extra-twang on the six-string, that slightly muddy sound and the bits of blues and classic rock in there are something else, if done well. It can be heavy without being too machismo and soulful without being too diva-like. Sonic Flower, whose roots are in the Japanese heavy rock scene, now have a record lined up for us that fits that idea to the t. Me And My Bellbottom Blues, y’all!
A few moons ago we already reviewed Rides Again, the comeback record by Church of Misery founder and bass player Tatsu Mikami and his fellows, who all hail from Japan’s (in)famous blues and heavy rock scene – their experience is also audible because the songs, written during the pandemic but never showing it in any way, have that little bit laid-back-ness regularly acquired during a lifetime on stage which results in the lack of wanting to show off or gain anything from a musical project which will never make you millions anyway. These guys are in it cuz they love it but their respect for music in general and this music in particular does not result in any form of holding back only because “that won’t fit the genre” - if it befits the song it’s good!
Straight from the first-second-scream by singer Kazuhiro Asaeda and the riff-driven uptempo stomper ”Swineherd” (a song to get back to all those people high up who only care about themselves), we witness a band that interacts brilliantly and would even do so blindfolded. The way that Fumiya Hattori spins some heavy, rolling riffs around your feet while Tatsu and drummer Toshiaki Umamura ignite your fist-pumping so hard into the air that it might result in bloody knuckles. But especially Kazuhiro and his often-times pressed vocals are really remarkable and will not leave you until you start playing air-guitar and shaking your (maybe long) hair! One song and you will already feel the need for selling your house, get yourself a classic US motorbike, put all you need into a tiny side pack and then ride into the sunset between Monument Valley and the West Coast – this record will turn many people into “Easy Riders”!
Coming back to the Southern Rock thing – listen to the beginning of ”Quicksand Valley” which is probably the clearest reference to the sound developed by the Allman Brothers and handed over decades to people like Kirk Windstein, Laura Peasants, Phillip Cope, Gina Gleason or John Dyer Baizley. Even though Sonic Flower are surely not sludge-metal, do not think that the southern sludgers mentioned here would not nod their heads to the songs the Japanese quartet gives to all of us. The guitar solos often holds that tiny bit of blues surplus that would make Muddy Waters or Eric Clapton – and of course also Duane Allman.
The topics are variable on this record but be sure it’s not always about the ride into the sunset and how to get to know the next girl on the next corner. That is also already shown on the covers for Sonic Flower’s records: Rides Again and now also Me and my Bellbottom Blues show women riding on their bikes. These ladies are not your stereotypical eye candy, they have undergone the empowerment process and ride themselves. In that sense, the Japanese fellows go away from any cliche and that is something worthwhile mentioning as it also shows what they want to do – pay respectful homage to a sound they love but not go along with all the stereotypes connected with it. Me and My Bellbottom Blues is not only for the bikers but for everyone who loves the warm fuzzed out sound that has half a foot in the swamp and the other half on the gas pedal.