Vista Chino - Peace
Napalm Records
Stoner Rock
10 songs (57:22)
Release year: 2013
Napalm Records
Reviewed by Goat

Kyuss Lives!

...Er, not quite, thanks to Josh Homme and Scott Reader, meaning that not only is this not the full classic Kyuss line-up, the band can't use that name. Sadly it seems that the personal animosities that broke the godfathers of stoner up are still breathing sulphur, so we're not going to get a proper Kyuss reunion any time soon. Still, when you have John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri together, the results are at least worth listening to, and Peace is that in spades. It's an excellent album, taking you right back to the mid-90s and the era of Blues for the Red Sun and Welcome to Sky Valley. And although not as good as either of those classics, this is still a great album that fans of Kyuss can only enjoy, continuing that band's legacy in a way that, say, Queens of the Stone Age hasn't...

However, it's clear that Vista Chino are a new chapter in the book and not Kyuss 2.0, even beyond the different line-up. Garcia, Bjork and Oliveri are joined by Bruno Fevery, who played with Garcia on his previous 'Garcia Plays Kyuss' tour, and having been in a Kyuss tribute band as a teenager clearly loves this music as much as the others. He slots perfectly in here, playing his heart out but playing his way, not a Homme clone by any means. Instrumentally, the skills of the members are undeniable, especially Bjork's drumming and Oliveri's lovely bass (replaced on a few songs by Bjork and Corrosion of Conformity's Mike Dean, who has apparently taken his place live). Garcia's voice has aged, but aged gracefully, still lighting up these songs and apparently doing a fine job live too.

And the songs are excellent, with both more straightforward and more spacey elements, adding up to a solid and cohesive album, and an album that sounds alive from the nicely raw production. It's to the band's credit that although faint whiffs of Kyuss float up at you from time to time - the floaty bass jaunt that opens As You Wish, for example – Vista Chino don't just try and repeat the past, but allow their songwriting time to breath. First song proper Dargona Dragona (after brief intro Good Morning Wasteland) is full of hooks, from Garcia's wails to the very deep riffs, yet there's a lengthy instrumental section that instantly lets you know this band know what they are doing, something that they prove for the rest of the album, from the compellingly groovy Sweet Remain onwards.

They always seem to be fashioning as they go along, polishing a groove that is catchy here and now but also builds up to make the song itself memorable. Planets 1 & 2 will get the plaudits of many, having enjoyably psychedelic wanderings as if you're off on another 50 Million Year Trip, but even that makes sure to fit the rock hooks in. Brant Bjork performs both vocals and bass here, too, making it something of his baby, and it's a good one. The best thing about Peace is the suitably laid-back atmosphere, coming to the fore in the instrumental sections of the likes of Adara as the band gently jam – you don't have to be a Kyuss worshipper to find it hugely appealing, and the infectious hooks built around these moments add up to make what is a very good rock album indeed.

What's more, it's a grower. The hooks and jams will make it last, but the end of the album takes a turn away towards those jams, Dark and Lovely's slow and gloomy tone a good example, but thirteen-minute finale Acidize... The Gambling Moose even better. Like Planets 1 & 2, it has its rock n'roll hooks, but has mounds of psychedelic fuzz and slows things down to pure doom pace, closing the album well. The shadow of a band as important as Kyuss is one that's hard to escape from, but I think Vista Chino have done more than enough. Get the extended album for two very good bonus tracks.

Killing Songs :
Dargona Dragona, As You Wish, Planets 1 & 2, Adara, Acidize... The Gambling Moose
Goat quoted 80 / 100
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