Review: Harsh Toke / Joy / Sacri Monti – Burnout

My general love of split LP’s meant that I was willing to give this, what I would consider to be a rather unique album, a shot. In one sense, it goes against all of my principles when it comes to what also could be described as a compilation LP. It’s a niche sound, geographically it’s based around one area, half of the songs are covers. I mean whose idea was this? What were they thinking? As it goes, I imagine it was actually the idea of someone who knows these three bands very well because it works extremely well. If you are a fan of heavy psych rock, read on because these are three bands you have to listen to.

So, what is the deal here? Burnout is the amalgamation of three 7-inch singles by a trio of heavy psych rock bands based in San Diego in California. It almost as simple of that – a taster.

Band: Harsh Toke

Songs: Burn The Flames / Bermuda

First up is Harsh Toke, formed in 2012 and probably best described as acid rock (I guess with their name you are not going to be very surprised that they are West Coast acid rock band). This is the only band on the album to go for two covers and both by the same original artist, Roky Erikson. I am going to presume that most of you, like me, have never heard of Roky Erikson. In the US he is a bit of a cult figure, making a succession of great psychedelic records in the 70’s before personal demons and drug abuse got the better of him.

The first of the tracks covered is “Burn the Flames” and on one level it is pretty true to the original but I have to say I really like Harsh Toke’s take on it. I think that due to the production techniques of the times the original is a great song but Harsh Toke have taken the essence and with the menace and depth of the vocals, giving it a rockier edge. It really brings the song to life as part acid rock and part horror punk. It’s a great cover.

“Bermuda” is more upbeat than “Burn The Flames” and is one of the highlights of this album. Harsh Toke have done well in updating these songs but they seem to have done the opposite here, they have taken the rawer track and really brought out its pop side, making a great rock and roll track as opposed to the original’s “love messed up” vibe

Band: Joy

Songs: Your Time Ain’t Long / Spaceship Earth

As is often the way with these smaller releases, it’s hard to find out much about some of the artists – in this case Joy. Again, they are from San Diego and artwork-wise they have a really great 60’s vibe. Their first song is one of their own originals and it is a belter. Very 60’s garage rock. I love the fuzzed up guitar jam at the beginning, obvious overtones to MC5 and this only continues when the vocals come in. It’s great to hear tracks like this being produced in 2017. Very much a stand up, be counted and punch your fist in the air song – great.

For their cover, they chose Road’s “Spaceship Earth”. A band I don’t know anything about (again) and I was unfortunately unable to find the original. However, based on the merit of this song only, it is another garage rock band, slightly more spaced out and space rocky but with its own charm, as though there is a dark underbelly. Based on these two tracks, Joy are a band to watch out for in the future.

Band: Sacri Monti

Songs: Over the Hill / Sleeping For Years

Sacri Monti are arguably the most technically competent of the bands on this showcase. They have a virtuosity that gives their tracks a more 70’s prog rock feel than the other two acts. A nice complement on the album. The first song is “Over the Hill”, an original that really could be out of the 70’s and what will really strike you is the jam aspect to the band. It’s something you don’t get as much these days. The guitar solo really is something to behold and worth listening to this track for alone.

There is a slight blues feel to “Over the Hill” as well which makes their choice of Britain’s Atomic Rooster and their track “Sleeping For Years” unsurprising. It suits their style very well and you really would think that the same band wrote both songs. What perhaps is surprising is that this is one of the most accurate interpretations on the album, so what we really have with Sacri Monti is Atomic Rooster re-realised and that is not a bad thing.

I think this is a great stand-alone acid rock album and it really works very well with the three different bands. If you want an introduction to 2017 West Coast acid rock, this is a great starting point. If you just want to enjoy an album for its vibe, rock and inventiveness, this is also the taster for you.

Burnout is out now

Harsh Toke: facebook | instagram | bandcamp

Joy: facebook | instagram | bandcamp

Sacri Monti: facebook | instagram | bandcamp

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