Although they have been kicking up dust since the turn of the millennium, PlanetMosh did not properly cross paths with psyched out Greek stoners Planet Of Zeus until they turned up on the Belfast team’s doorstep supporting Clutch on one of the few tours to go ahead in the wake of last November’s horrific IS attack on Paris’ Le Bataclan venue. To say we were impressed would be an understatement…
Even then, despite slogging their guts out around Europe for more than a year in support of their breakthrough ‘Vigilante’ album, the band were nipping back to Athens in between tour dates to lay down tracks for their fourth full-length offering… and this wonderfully – and immediately – hypnotic and transfixing album is the result of those stop-start recording sessions.
While the band to date have been very firmly categorised within the abovementioned stoner subgenre, ‘Loyal…’ sees them live up to its title by adhering to the basic vibe, while not being afraid to experiment and move down less explored paths. While the opening title track is dustier than the climb up to the Parthenon (and, believe me, I’ve undertaken that trek and it took me weeks to get the sand out of my boots), it also integrates massive elements of psychologically disturbing progressive atmospherics. ‘Devil Calls My Name’ follows a more classic rock route and is, strangely, reminiscent of Thin Lizzy, especially in Babis Papanikolaou’s laconic, terse drawl and the pre-chorus breakdowns, while the guitars evoke the catchy non-grunge grunginess of the likes of Stone Temple Pilots, with the two seemingly contrasting styles blending effortlessly.
‘Them Nights’ sees them veer even more left of centre, blending the harmonics of the likes of Foo Fighters with the stabbing funkiness of early Chili Peppers into a relatively genteel subtle dance groove. ‘Little Deceiver’ sees the band experiment even further, with its counterpointed melodies, before they return to more recognisable stoner territory with the pulsating, electric ‘Your Love Makes Me Wanna Hurt Myself’, the dark, dense groove of which elaborates beautifully on the suggestive title.
‘Retreat’ opens in a fuzzed, mournful blues mien, taking the southern sound of Skynyrd and BLS and transplanting it to the environs of an embryonic Mediterranean sunset, rising and falling in peaks and troughs of ambivalent, claustrophobic energy, while ‘Sea Bastards’ seethes and broils with the dense intention of an Aegean storm. ‘White Shroud’ is another more traditional “psych stoner” offering, underpinned by a beautifully elegiac bass line from Giannis Vrazos, while ‘Scum Alive’ reflects its title with its fast-paced funkiness and rebellious vibe. ‘Indian Red’ is another dark blues number, built on a melancholic riff which is soon complemented by a black-as-night depressive main melody, which grunts like a boar in heat and growls hungrier than a straving leopard with the smell of fresh bloods tantalisingly just beyond its extrapolated nostrils.
Closer ‘Athens’ is an homage to the resilience of POZ’s native city, one which has withstood the assaults of the Persians, Romans, Ottomans, Nazis and economic decline to still stand proud and majestic, albeit battered and bloodied. It’s an aural amalgam of dissonant keyboards, counterpointed rhythms and intermingled themes which epitomises the wonderful, eclectic nature of this most unique of cities in a way which is as captivating as its litter-strewn back alleys and ouzo-fuelled tourist traps.
A beautiful album which stretches itself, its creators and the listener.
Tracklisting: Loyal To The Pack / Devil Calls My Name / Them Nights / Little Deceiver / Your Love Makes Me Wanna Hurt / Retreat / Sea Bastards / White Shroud / Scum Alive / Indian Red / Athens
Recommended listening: Devil Calls My Name / Your Love Makes Me Wanna Hurt Myself
‘Loyal To The Pack’ is available now via ihaveadrum.
Live photograph © Marc Leach.