Mad Season, Wolf People
Dwellers are a three-piece band from Salt Lake City, Utah that has evolved from the massive psych, blues, stoner rock ashes of Iota. We had wondered what had happened to Iota, who were a fantastically dark acid trip, so we got to seeking them out. We were pleased to find that guitarist/singer/songwriter, Joey Toscana had formed a new band called Dwellers with Dave Jones on bass and Zach Hatsis on durms and picked up by venerable label, Small Stone Records. They have released three albums to date, 2009’s Peace and other Horrors, a 4-track EP of haunting, instrumental acoustics that nudged our interest. 2012 saw the release of Good Morning Harakiri, this album was a fantastic release of heavy stoner blues in the vein of Wo Fat or Sgt. Sunshine. It featured growling blues vocals, trippy guitars a la Wo Fat or Kyuss and plenty of acid jams that harkened back to Iota and the best qualities of stoner rock blues, so naturally we were hooked.
We now have Pagan Fruit in 2014 and we have to admit this album scared the hell out of us at first. The dirty vocals are gone on this outing, as are the massive walls of acid soaked blues. What we have here is a band in transition. What they will become remains to be seen, but Pagan Fruit is not a pure nod to their past, but more of a possible window into their future. They could have easily released another Wo Fat style stoner rock album that might have invariably gotten lost in the shuffle; however, they resisted and took a new uncharted path. Pagan Fruit is slower, more polished, and more melodic; it has a distinct and vibrant quality that adds individuality to their songs. It is on a path to Dead Meadow or a nod to Mad Season, which is not necessarily a bad thing.
From the onset of track one, "Creature Comforts," we noticed a unique vibe accentuated by a more ethereal mellow psych blues. The vocals of Joey Toscano are very crisp; creating a calm and bluesy aura. We were even more impressed with "Totem Crawler," this track throws some infectious blues into the album. On "Return to the Sky" we hear the use of a vibraphone and it really sets things at a new level, this is where the influences of Mad Season come into play. Moving onto "Rare Eagle," this track is very melodic with evolved vocals and harmonies. It is a long song that really pulls you in to the vortex and the addition of the synths toward the end makes the music even more diverse. "Son of Raven" has a 'No Quarter' vibe and even though it’s the shortest one of the bunch, it may be the most dramatic.
The heavy "Devoured by Lions," just melts your brain with desperate vocals, dirty ass blues and stoner rock bliss that is a clear homage to past efforts as it causes involuntary cranking of the dial. Another standout track is "Spirit of the Staircase," this one has amazing vocal range; the use of echo is well timed and inspiring. Couple this with the use of some blissful cello work and you have one hell of a track. The fun vibe of "Waiting on Winter" is appealing and will turn heads to anyone who digs rock music. This will bring to the grand finale, "Call of the Hallowed Horn". Now this 8:23 track is deep and is a great stormy day loner song, it features some blended synth-work, reminiscent to some classic Deep Purple. The song begins as stoner-doom, but at the 4:05 mark it careens into some warped early Pink Floyd meets Graveyard-styled jamming. To cap things off, the track quenches our appetite through the use of the chanting of female guest vocalist Raven Quinn to bring us to a close.
Dwellers have put forth a fine album here that fans of stoner rock should take pause here to appreciate. Gone is the towering psychedelia of songs like Vultures or Blackbird from the previous album. We now see them enter a new phase as they transition and branch away from the pack. - 6/21/2014
Standout Tracks: Spirit of the Staircase, Rare Eagle, Devoured by Lions