Looking back over the last few months, it has been a while since I covered anything that I would consider to be pure space rock… I mean that is probably a contentious term in itself, calling it ‘pure’ I mean… but I hope you know what I mean.
Sometimes I find space rock to be a bit formulaic… another potentially controversial thing to write… but what I guess I am trying to say it that I am really trying to say here is that it takes something special stop me in my tracks… and this is pretty much what this new album from Dhidalah has done.
Released on Guruguru Brain, the imprint run my members of the imperious Kikagaku Moyo, this is the third outing of the band that I have heard after the 2017 10” EP ’No Water’, and their debut LP from 2019, ’Threshold’… which I found to be a massively heavy monster of an album:
”Threshold 発端’, the debut album from Japanese band Dhidalah, is fucking heavy… and it is fucking loud! And if you think it’s like that at the start, just wait until you’ve had 35 minutes of it… seriously if I hadn’t had been writing this in bed I would have had to retire here with a fit of the vapours, my head and its contents pummelled by its relentless pace and energy… it is also a set that has a number of ‘fuck me’ moments… highlighting that this is not just sturm und drang but brilliantly arranged as well.” (https://fragmentedflaneur.com/2019/11/19/album-appreciation-threshold-発端-by-dhidalah/)
Well the same goes for this follow up, except that I feel that the band have added a bit more nuance to their sound and taken it potentially even to the next level from where they were before… and that was pretty high.
That said, the album gets off to a relatively standard start where, arguably, you are not prepared for the journey ahead… ’Soma’, perhaps as the name suggests, is giving you the sonic substance with which to ingest this behemoth. It certainly takes you out there… and once it has you there it hits you with both barrels… and then the difference hits me… it’s the sheer crispness of the guitar that seems to take this band onto another level for me… even listening digitally it stands out so well… goodness knows what it’s going to be like on vinyl… or when I go and see them live next week…. and as this builds momentum the whole band just go onto this massive freak out which is just sensational…oh and it’s heavy… very heavy… did I mention that…HEAVY!? What a track… from humble beginnings to total grooved out excitement!
Wow… follow that… well they have to… and it’s straight into the more earthy ’Invader Summer’… which, to my ears, ingests elements of punk and kraut within its wall of sound… and that’s exacly what it is… close your eyes and you can feel the sound-waves rushing towards you… open them and feel as if there’s a massive structure careering towards you… it’s just so intense… it takes some rhythm section to stand firm while the guitar does all sorts of tricks around it… a stunning sound from just three of them (Ikuma Kawabe – Guitar; Kazuhira Gotoh – Bass, Vocal, Noise FX; Masahito Goda – Drums).
‘Dead’ closes side one of the vinyl version with a relatively short and down-tempo number which is a welcome respite from the buffeting of the previous two tracks… it gives another side of the band as chilled out with the use of acoustic guitar and something of a more kraut feel to the whole thing.
This is perhaps to get us ready for the twenty minutes that is ’Black Shrine’… which I initially listened to with some considerable excitement, because I’ve heard what they can get up to over a ten minute number… this, I thought, could be special. Sure enough it begins relatively quietly, but you can feel it starting to build almost from the off… almost imperceptibly, but it’s there…
Then as the vocal kicks in there is an almost classic rock vibe to it (perhaps another strange reference to put in, but I hope you know what I mean) which is far from generic but redolent of some of the great rock music that has preceded it… at this point (about seven minutes in) you feel that it is really going to take off into the stratosphere… but Dhidalah bring it back into a quiet bluesy state… a real moment of almost tranquility which seems to at the same time keep the vibe and transcend it… and this is what I mean about them being more than the generic heavy space band… I love this long moment of moody melancholia… there so much tension in the air because you know that they are going to take off again at any minute… and sure enough after about around five minutes of scintillating blues the thrusters start to fire again and we are all of a sudden headed spaceward again… not on a linear route towards implosion into the sun like so much space rock… but via a number of ’moments’ which seem to take you into metal and even a dash of folk before, at sixteen minutes, the band finally eject the final section and just completely fucking go for it… BANG!… but then don’t leave it at that and BANG! BANG!! go again… it’s so good and so heavy it’s cleansing… of the mind and soul… and I’m sure the body too when this hits the rib cage live…
I mean… what an album. It is one of those that you just want to put on again straight away (and funnily enough I said exactly the same about ’Threshold’ too) what a band Dhidalah are.. fuzzy yet somehow also fresh… a band who just as you think are dropping into the rules of a genre just totally jump out of them without compromising their sound in the slightest… but most of all leave you feeling totally spent… but also totally satisfied and happy…
’Sensoria’ is available to pre-order now on Gururbrain here.
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