Album of the Week 27-2015: Kyuss – Blues For The Red Sun

Europe’s current heatwave inspired me to pick up what is arguably the best music for hot weather in Rock history. Because really, the desert is everywhere on Kyuss’ sophomore album. I can see why Kyuss has always preferred the term Desert Rock instead of Stoner Rock; the incredibly heavy, trance-like music on ‘Blues For The Red Sun’ probably better qualifies as a heat stroke rather than any drug high. Where Kyuss also seems a little more level-headed than their Stoner companions is their ability to write dense, complex songs that manage to stay interesting for their entire run. This album completely deserves its classic status.

The first thing you’ll notice upon hearing ‘Blues For The Red Sun’ for the first time is the massive wall of guitars and bass – the difference between Josh Homme’s downtuned guitars and Nick Oliveri’s rumbling bass is sometimes hard to define. That’s the most important ingredient to the hypnotic nature of Kyuss’ music and it’s also a testament to the genius of producer Chris Goss, who seems to favor performance over sonic perfection. For the untrained ear, the results can almost seem unbearably heavy, but give this some time and it’ll be one of the most overwhelming listening experiences you’ll ever have.

Many bands associated with the Stoner Rock scene lose themselves in drug-fueled jams and noise exercises that don’t go anywhere. For some reason, even when Kyuss moves into that direction stylistically (‘Freedom Run’ comes quite close here), they know how to create structure and maintain momentum. The album is quite heavy on instrumentals, but especially those are the ones that are remarkably complex and thought out. How tight Homme, Oliveri and drummer Brant Bjork sound and how well they follow each other on tracks like ‘Apothecaries’ Weight’ and ‘Molten Universe’ just shows how clear the ideas were in their minds.

By contrast, most of the vocal songs are somewhat more simple by comparison, so that John Garcia – still one of the best Rock singers on the face of the Earth to this day – can shine despite his modest place in the mix. ‘Allen’s Wrench’, opening track ‘Thumb’ and the band’s masterpiece ‘Green Machine’ are straightforward, driving Rockers with great choruses. Bjork also has a tendency to respond to Garcia’s vocals really well. What also sets the band apart from the majority is their sense of humor; from crediting all the lyrics to the instrumental tracks to Garcia to letting him sing “I hate slow songs” for the biggest innovator in slow Rock music since Black Sabbath, it’s subtle, but it’s awesome.

Kyuss’ fan base is still conflicted on whether this one or the following ‘Welcome To Sky Valley’ is the quartet’s greatest achievement. I wouldn’t be able to tell either, as both albums are simply masterpieces, but ‘Blues For The Red Sun’ is rightfully hailed as the record that put Desert Rock on the map. The album was often imitated, but never exceeded and that exactly is the mark of a classic album. Due to the band’s songwriting skills and Garcia’s amazing clean but raw vocals, the record may even impress people not normally into Stoner Rock. It’s timeless, heavy Rock music.

Recommended tracks: ‘Green Machine’, ’50 Million Year Trip (Downside Up)’, ‘Freedom Run’

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