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Smoke Signals

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Album Review

Heavy Hands' debut is psychedelic rock, early 21st century style — certainly indebted to some past influences that knowledgeable fans can detect and name-drop, but with a certain loose diffidence that marks it as a product of a different age. That kind of almost offhand, winsome casualness is especially evident in the vocals, which refreshingly lack the earnest bluster of so many guys who try to pace hard rock/psychedelic crossover outfits, past and present. It's also present to some extent in the playing, which has a bit of the jammy flavor you might expect of a latter-day psych group, but reins it in with more structure and focus. In these respects they might be seen as throwbacks to some of the work by late-'60s/early-'70s bands like Blue Cheer and SRC, who weren't quite metal or flower power. You can throw a little Doors, Hendrix, and Yardbirds into the pot, too (especially as a few of the passages bring to mind the kind of extrapolations the Yardbirds put into "Smokestack Lightning"). Yet while Heavy Hands mix power chording and guitar leads with a distorted tone into their psychedelic hard rock with skill, the best riffs on Smoke Signals aren't quite up to those bands' level. The record's not overtly trying to match those sounds, however, which is a good thing.


Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '00s

Firmly rooted in the sounds of late-'70s proto metal, early-'70s prog, and '60s psychedelic rock, even to the point of performing as Steppenwolf at a Halloween show, Heavy Hands lists Can, Hawkwind, Deep Purple, Blue Cheer, and 13th Floor Elevators among their many influences. As a stoner rock power trio, members Sterling, Mitch, and Matt perform under the monikers Ambassador Hazy, Mystical Revelation, and Cristal Voyager. In 2008, founder of Drag City subsidiary Language...
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Smoke Signals, Heavy Hands
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