Fire Down Below - Low Desert Surf Club

Angry Metal Guy 60

Ever since Huck N Roll tragically jumped his mountain bike into a combine harvester, I’ve been missing my buddy dearly. Out of everyone among the AMG staff, his taste and mine aligned the most, especially around prog, psychedelic and stoner. So it’s only right for me to carry on his legacy and dive into the new Fire Down Below. The predecessor Hymn of the Cosmic Man nabbed his Album of the Year back in 2018, but I failed to give it due diligence at the time. Giving it a spin in preparation for the subject at hand, I found myself 87.5% in agreement with Huck, with only the mediocre vocals a significant point of contention. But will Low Desert Surf Club win my heart as Cosmic Man did his?1

Claiming Fu Manchu and Kyuss as chief inspirations, Fire Down Below trade in bright and sunny stoner with a healthy dose of psychedelics. No trace of the latter for the opening salvo, though. “Cocaine Hippo” sets the bar high with a rager of a riff, and follow-up “California” channels Atomic Bitchwax with a hooky chorus and bouncy rhythm. Personally, I’m not a fan of overt Cali-philia but it does set the beach party stage effectively. Later tunes such as the Monster Magnet-inspired rocker “The Last Cowboy” ensure that the fun factor never drops too low even after the edibles kick in during “Surf Queen.” This is where the first traces of jamming begin popping up as the instrumental sections start taking increasingly elaborate detours and the horizon turns a particularly purple shade of hazy.

Low Desert Surf Club by Fire Down Below

Unfortunately, this is also where the record starts getting a little more patchy. “Surf Queen” itself is a wonderful piece, distributing the psychedelics among the warm catchy reverb well. But an uninspired chuggy chorus keeps interrupting the otherwise infectious groove of “Dune Buggy,” and “Here Comes the Flood” blocks momentum highway entirely, killing the good vibes with too many meandering echoes and an overload of vocoded vocals. “Hazy Snake” is a solid instrumental piece, the psychedelics gradually increasing in focus until culminating in a sweet riff, but its placement after “Here Comes the Flood” means it’s pushing a car uphill from standstill. Just as the record is finding its feet again, my attention span undergoes another full frontal assault by way of 16 16-minute closer “Mantra,” which sticks 2 disparate tracks into the middle of a third. With a little too much repetition in its compositions, the epic doesn’t quite manage to make the amalgamation worth its extraneous length.

These issues don’t make Low Desert Surf Club a bad record, just one that is not as good as the great start suggests. Most of the riffs and solos are gold, and the production does them fully justice since the guitar tone is perfectly fuzzy, crisp and warm. The guitars sit comfortably in the mix without drowning anything out, which highlights the lovely interplay with the full-bodied bass. The vocals still won’t win any awards, but now they’re decent at best, and innocuous at worst, which is a step up from Hymn where they drew the comment section’s ire right away.

Low Desert Surf Club’s peaks are very high, but the valleys are a bit too swampy, miring the music in psychedelic jam sessions that don’t seem to have figured out entirely where they want to go. Perhaps it is a result of the less distinct concept; Hymn of the Cosmic Man was a story from beginning to end, while this just has a general ‘beach and desert’ theme.2 The fact that I can still wholeheartedly recommend the album, particularly for fuzz fans, is a testament to the quality of the musicians, the riffcraft, and the solid production. I just hope Fire Down Below figure out the stumbling blocks next time. They still have another Great in them.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: PCM/WAV
Label: Ripple Music
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: September 8th, 2023

The post Fire Down Below – Low Desert Surf Club Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

Thu Sep 21 11:44:38 GMT 2023