CD Review: Vista Chino – Peace

Vista Chino – Peace
Napalm Records
All Access Review: A-

Vista Chino - Peace 2013
The names have been changed to protect … well, the brand. After stoner-metal giants Kyuss called it a day in 1995, the group’s following grew exponentially and calls for a reunion grew louder and louder as the years passed.

In 2011, John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri toured as Kyuss Lives! Conspicuous by his absence, Josh Homme, having long ago moved on to Queens of the Stone Age, wanted no part of the much-anticipated reunion. More than that, however, he didn’t want anybody else using the Kyuss name either, and he, along with another former member, Scott Reeder, set in motion legal action to stop them from using it. Evidently, Homme was going out of his way to make damn sure this version didn’t tarnish the Kyuss legacy with some half-baked cash-grabbing nonsense that failed to include him.

Being the hardy desert folk they are, Garcia and Bjork, who played with Sabbath-influenced, muscle-car fanatics Fu Manchu for many years, have decided to carry on under a new name. Say hello to Vista Chino. Tuning down their guitars to deeply resonant levels, while still allowing shape-shifting melodies to drift in and out of a fuzz-toned haze, Vista Chino concocts a murky and strangely intoxicating brew on the musical sweat lodge that is the surging Peace, with the grumbling malevolence and guitar witchcraft of “Dragona Dragona” casting a particularly irresistible doom-laden spell.

Crispy around the edges, Peace is not the work of burnouts living off their past reputations, even if the record’s dank atmosphere is as smoky and close as any seedy drug house. A swirling maelstrom of burrowing, evil guitars, pummeling drums and splashing cymbals, rumbling rhythms and Garcia’s strong, illuminating vocals cutting through the sonic fog, Peace is thick, heady stuff, indeed, but it’s not exactly pretty.

Insidiously infectious and utterly compelling, “Adara” and “As You Wish” ride on hypnotic, writhing movements and grimy riffs into dark, scary places, while the dirty bomb of distortion known as “Planets 1 &2” drives Hawkwind’s space-rock aesthetic down to bad interplanetary neighborhoods and slides into a slow-motion slipstream that drowns all who follow it there in sludge and bong resin. There’s a bluesy feel to Peace that is inescapable, but it’s a dangerous, rough-and-tumble mutation of Cream’s heavy psychedelic visions, as the jazzy “Dark and Lovely” swings and tunnels ever deeper into a disordered mind, its grooves becoming more engorged as every second passes.

It all leads up to the tempest-tossed, mythic 13:25 closer “Acidize … the Gambling Moose,” a gloomy, gathering blues-rock storm whose immense winds blow trash and paper all over a lonely highway, some of it getting stuck in a dead tree’s spindly branches. Portending doom, it’s like a soundtrack for a Day of the Dead march in Mexico, as Vista Chino slows to a seductive crawl and a guitar solo pierces the gloaming of a truly evil-sounding love song. Vista Chino’s fevered imagination has finally gotten the best of them in the most surprising and interesting ways. They let songs and arrangements unfold organically, whereas Queens of the Stone Age seems hell-bent on making incongruous ideas fit, even though they never will. Vista Chino has its revenge.
– Peter Lindblad 

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