Guild Navigators - "The Last Decade Phase 1: 1991-1997"
(Amblifier 2001, 02, CD-R)
From Aural Innovations #18 (January 2002)
The Guild Navigators, based in Dayton, Ohio, had no official releases up till now, but have been making music for over a decade, as evidenced by the title. The core members throughout these recordings are Chris Mead, Doug McMahon and Gavin Spencer. Most of the material on this disc can be broken down into three phases. The first four tracks were recorded in a studio in '92 when the group called themselves Gouge, and have the best sound quality by far. Stylistically the material leans towards punky industrial rock, psychedelic at times, but previous to the group's taking off on their full-blown Chrome/Hawkwind course. Opener "Acoustic Blackmale" is the best of this bunch, beginning with some cartoonish vocal-looping, but not too different from what Pressurehed was doing at the time, with a great riff and brutal programmed double-bass drums. The vocals throughout the disc are mostly a venomous, often whispered Chrome/Tommy Grenas-type delivery. "Sympathy Wounds" even has some very Len Del Rio-ish keyboards going on, though both the Navigators and Pressurehed were both starting around the time, so I'm not suggesting influence.
The next phase is dominated by live material from '95, the rawest recordings here, which may indicate occasional "boom-box" sound quality that Chris mentions in the liner notes. Still, this is great stuff for the garage-space-punk enthusiast. The vocals are insane low-mix bitter growling, while loads of flange are spewed over brutal early '80s Chrome-ish riffs and relentless bashing. "Cult of the Rotating Cross" has especially oppressive riffing, an evil grooving beat and sickly alien vocals. "Vacuum World" has a slow deadly atmosphere augmented by synths, though suffers a bit from the overly-mixed snare (though perhaps "mixing" wasn't necessarily an option at the time).
The third basic phase comes from the '97 sessions, and is the most Hawkwind influenced, though the drumming is one of the best parts, the way it just keeps you rapidly bopping the whole time in a more classic punk way. "Ghost Of The Cosmonaut" has an epic "Assault and Battery"-type riff and more whispery growling. "Space Ark" is an awesome fuzzy three-chord space-rock anthem, with classic space-synth, samples and pure punk vocals. "Party At The Edge Of Time" is essentially "Magnu" reworked, though permeated with their own riffs, the idiosyncracies of the musicians and the sum of their parts, making similar chord sequences almost insignificant. "Dark Unknown" finishes the disc off on a more somber note.
I dunno... Chris says in the liners that this stuff is just good fun and not to be taken too seriously, which is probably a good disclaimer for many readers to take heed of... on the other hand, despite some derivativeness and lack of recording quality, these are now some of my favorite tunes. So if Hawkwind, Chrome, Pressurehed, F/i, ST 37 and the like are your thing, you can't go wrong with this release. I know I can't wait till "Phase 2".
For more information you can email Guild Navigators at: email@example.com.
Reviewed by Chuck Rosenberg