Sacri Monti – Sacri Monti (Tee Pee)

Sacri Monti - Sacri Monti (Tee Pee, 2015)It’s official, Tee Pee is on a roll. While last year Detroit’s Small Stone had a remarkable run of releases for such a small label, rivaled only by the UK’s Rise Above, this year is all about the New York based Tee Pee. They’ve put out some landmark releases over the decade, including Sleep’s Dopesmoker, the first Graveyard album, The Skull, Comet Control, Joy, Naam, Ancesters, Kadavar and Earthless. But in 2015 alone they’ve put out Ruby The Hatchet, Death Alley, The Atomic Bitchwax, FOGG, Mirror Queen, and next month, Carousel. Now there’s the debut from California heavy psych band Sacri Monti.

While their heavy psychedelic rock sound is technically retro, there is no one particular band that they sound like. Not quite a supergroup, the band does have some experienced veterans from the scene, particularly their rhythm section, bassist Anthony Meier of Radio Moscow and drummer Thomas Dibenedetto of JOY. I imagine they dreamed up their sound by starting with the classic 1968-72 era when psychedelic rock morphed into prog, proto-metal and hard rock (Sabbath, Purple, Zep, Crimson) and added their own quirky obsessions with particular underground rock like German kosmische along the lines of the more guitar-shredding moments of Amon Düül II and Guru Guru. along with the space rock of Hawkwind and Nektar. So we’ve got lots of shredding guitar solos, and relatively disciplined use of old school organs and zapping synths, particularly in the context of the fairly sprawling songs averaging seven minutes each.

The album kicks off with a fiery performance in “Staggered In Lies,” which I imagined has been successful in starting off live shows too, with layers of guitar riffs on top of swirling organs and intense vocals. The album builds up with two highlights in a row, the rifftastic “Glowing Grey,” and even catchier “Slipping From The Day,” with a lead guitar lick that could have come from a 1968 psych band, but with a much more insistent buzzsaw tone. It’s the song that perks my ears up the most whenever it comes on. If you crave more, it was scaled back from it’s original 12:00 long demo version. This is heavy shit, but not of course in terms of modern extreme metal standards. But it’s pretty much exactly what I love most in this kind of music, aside from the fact that their songwriting chops have yet to approach the level of, say, Graveyard. But this is a great start.

The next two cuts, “Sitting Around In A Restless Dream” and “Ancient Seas And Majesties” are solid rifforamas, but despite the epic sounding titles, not quite up to the level of the others. Interestingly, they’re both the shortest tracks at 5:05 and 5:37. The album ends with another highlight, the longest cut, the 12:01 “Sacri Monti.” A song sporting the name of your band certainly has to be something special, and it is, with a lovely chord progression that reminds of of Blues Pills’ excellent “Little Sun.” This one of course has a much longer, spacier build-up, and then focuses on a new guitar riff just before the three minute mark and some nice instrumental interplay before the vocals come in at 3:30.

While Mirror Queen and FOGG explore some somewhat similar territory (that would be an awesome triple bill!), Sacri Monti have added a new voice and twist on heavy psych that many will welcome with open arms, raised fists and eventually sold out tickets.

The Psychedelic Psummer continues! See the feature on other top psych releases for summer 2015.

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