White Hills - Heads on Fire
From Aural Innovations #38 (Jan 2008)
If Julian Cope wants to release a remixed version of your debut album and invites you to play your first gig in U.K. opening for him, you definitely did hit the right note. And that's exactly what has happened to White Hills. The music is noise indulged heavy space rock by way of Hawkwind anno 2007. Extremely fuelled with distorted bass, swirling synthesizers and long fuzz fuelled guitar solos. This band for sure knows its roots and still manages to reinvent the space-/krautrock genre. This is not like Ozric Tentacles - no, it's the dark side of your mind when on acid. Most songs are high energy rockers, but then suddenly the band submerges into a 26 minutes psychedelic nightmare ironically called "Don't be Afraid". This record is a pure mindfuck - but what a great fuck it is!
Check the band's web sites at: http://www.myspace.com/whitehills
Visit the record label web site at: http://www.myspace.com/rocketrecordings
Reviewed by Tom Knudsen
Their previous release, Glitter Glamour Atrocity, found the band experimenting around with a number of different styles from ambient to Krautrock to Spacemen 3 influenced rock, but on their latest outing, White Hills jettisons the experiments to totally consume themselves in balls to the wall, and yep, "heads on fire" total space rock. It's something like Hawkwind on steroids, with pounding drums and throbbing, catchy bass lines, whooshing space synths, barely heard mantra-like vocals, and of course, oodles and oodles of heavy, crushing, effects-laden guitars.
A pulsing electronic buzz gets things going on the opening cut, Radiate, before a way-fuzzed out bass joins the throb. The drums and guitars launch in as the synths start to dive and swoop. It's a great opening track and sets the tone for things to come. Ocean of Sound (awesome title!) starts out with some heavy metal mayhem until the psycho wah wah guitars cut through it. Add some Hawkwindish chanting vocals and all sorts of heavy riffing going on and you've got a space rock monster on your hands! The amusingly titled Return of the Speed Toilet is actually the slowest piece on the album, really just a brief, droning, feedback wash of ambience that leads into my favourite cut on the album the explosive, 10-minute long Visions of the Past, Present and Future. Indeed, this is sort of a three-part affair. Intense, Hawkwind-in-overdrive riffing punctuated with haunting electronic seagull attacks starts things off, before it falls off a cliff into a swirling sea of electronic ambience, tap tapping drums and more of those seagull-like cries. It all builds though, ever so slowly into a gigantic space jam, with heaps of freaky guitar work pulsing and screeching throughout. Next up is the 27-minute long monster, Don't Be Afraid. The title seems kind of tongue in cheek, considering the song is build around a slow, menacing, and quite evil sounding riff, with howling vocals echoing through it. Scary stuff to be sure! The middle part of the song slides into some serious cosmic, deep space ambience before a reprise of the main riff comes back into play, this time with shrieking guitar soloing and layers of effects to throttle your brainstem. It all ends with an extended coda of experimental noise and freaked out guitars fading off into the night. But wait! That's not all! You won't disappear into the night along with it, because there's one more track on the album, Eternity, an all out rocker, with mad, distorted, time warp vocals and gushing, outer space synths flowing throughout. Whew! It's enough to take your breath away.
All and all, Heads on Fire is an awesome album, with raw, dirty production that still manages to space right out as well. Definitely one of the best albums of the year!
Reviewed by Jeff Fitzgerald