Gas Giant - "Pleasant Journey in Heavy Tunes"
(Burnt Hippie Recordings 2000, BHR003)
From Aural Innovations #13 (October 2000)
Stoner rock has gone worldwide, no doubt about that. And no better evidence of this than the emergence of Gas Giant from the somewhat diminutive nation of Denmark. This foursome, though, puts out more than enough sound to fill up not just the air over Denmark, but perhaps a couple other European countries as well. The problem Gas Giant faces is that it's going to be hard to make a name for themselves amidst a genre already bursting with dozens of new acts each year. On the other hand, the band might benefit from the more established stoner bands touring the globe, providing a ready-made audience if they can grab up some support slots in their corner of northern Europe. A number of these bands are thanked in the acknowledgments, so perhaps that's already happening. For me, I really want to hear something new that hasn't already been offered by other pre-existing bands. And I think I hear too much of the Fu Manchu/Nebula approach to say that Gas Giant fully succeeds in this aspect. (For now anyway.) But what they do, they already do better than many of their predecessors, and exactly half of the eight tracks presented here really work for me. As it turns out, these ones are all in the 6-8 minute range (compared to the others at 3-4 minutes each), so timewise it's more like two-thirds.
'Heavy Tunes' kicks off with one of the very best stoner anthems ever, titled appropriately "Too Stoned." What starts out as a looping light guitar riff colored by layers of swirly, gurgly synth effects is quickly replaced with the fuzz-heavy crunching riff of the chorus. Fabulous. And one thing that Gas Giant definitely has over Nebula is that Jesper Valentin is ten times the singer that Eddie Glass is. Well, if you ask me, anyway. Valentin actually knows how to put a nice lyrical line together to accompany the testosterone-laced music. At least when it's warranted. For "Freak Sensation," another standout track, he sticks to the semi-monotone method, quite appropriate in this case I'll concede. And on this one, guitarist Stefan Krey chimes forth with a couple spaced-out solos, the delay and wah pedals seeing plenty of action. "All Creatures" is another more highly-evolved track, with Valentin providing an introductory vocal soliloquy that sounds decidedly Dave Wyndorf-ian. The album (as advertised) closes with the stately and thunderous riff of "Storm of My Enemies," which quickly gives way to the climbing guitar statements that underlie the opening verse. The thunder returns for the chorus and begins a back-and-fourth dynamic that continues until the free-for-all outburst that rounds out the eight minutes of stoner bliss. An excellent finale! Oh, wait, here's that hidden track thing again ("Holy Walker" I'm guessing it's called).
Gas Giant's debut succeeds in producing a number of major highlights, each of these a tune requiring some thought into its creation, as opposed to just laying down a simple hard-drivin' riff with the fuzz on full and shouting over top of the whole mess (translation: dullsville). The rhythm section of Thomas Carstensen on bass and Pete Hell on drums are capable and solid, though (as is often the case with these bands) they are hardly given the opportunity to step forward. Giving these guys more of a 'voice' might be a way to expand what Gas Giant can do on future works to help separate themselves from the pack. And perhaps even bringing in a guest on synthesizer might lead to some new compositional ideas. You can tell that I'm anxious to see somebody take this whole 'stoner genre' someplace fresh in the next couple of years, now that it has been so firmly established with several labels entirely devoted to its existence. Gas Giant is one of the few that has the potential to succeed in covering some new ground I think. Please do it! 'Cause if I start to hear the same old thing over and over again, I'll get bored with it all very shortly and ignore the whole lot. Just like that whole 'alternative' thing a decade ago.
Pleasant Journey in Heavy Tunes is distributed by Burnt Hippie. You can visit their web site.
Contact via snail mail at Sankt Jurgen's Alle 7, st. th., 1615 Kobenhavn V., Denmark.
You can visit Gas Giant at their web site.
Reviewed by Keith Henderson