Sahara Surfers - High Lands

6 songs
37:00 minutes
***** ***
Sound Zero


Four years is a long time between releases, and in these times where countless new records are released every week, independent artists might run the risk of soon being forgotten. Austrian stoner rock band Sahara Surfers quickly released two albums in 2010 and 2011, so consider my surprise when I got their new one so many years later.

In the past I rather enjoyed their female fronted stoner rock, especially since it is a rather unusual thing to hear a woman sing in such a band. On High Lands, their third album, the title can be considered a pun between the Alps region where the musicians are from and... well... getting stoned. But apart from that little moment of humour, the music sounds quite serious. The album comes with only six songs, most of which are rather long, like the seven minute opener Traces which is a competent piece of stoner rock, showing a matured band that has learned to improve on their sense of dynamic tension in the last couple of years. The slow/fast switching is maybe nothing new, but when done well, can still give a song more power. The following Feels Like Riding builds up on what preceded, and it is here where you should notice at last how much Julia ‹berbacherís vocals have improved since the preceding album. Not that here performance was ever bad, but she has finally managed the nonchalance of deep, monotonous singing. The groovy Grey Spring is comparably shorts at four and a half minutes, being one of the bandís straighter songs.

Lesser bands would have run out of steam already, but the halfway point is where Sahara Surfers are finally thriving. Charma, a six and a half minute track, may not be that different on the surface, but the songwriting feels all of a sudden much crisper. Guitar and bass are playfully building up tension, the vocals achieve a greatness unknown hitherto. Without resorting to vintage synth sounds, the band still manages to add a psychedelic ambience that elevates the song to the next level. The same can be said for the ten and a half minute epic Ghost, which brings the psychedelic side of the band to the top. The stoner and psychedelia elements are flirting with Nineties alternative noise rock, something the Austrians were really good back in the days, if you happen to remember Sans Secours. The concluding three minute acoustic guitar ballad The Thief may not be the albumís highlight, but is still a nice conclusion to the album, considering especially how intense the last quarter hour was.

The first half of High Lands sees a matured band, but itís only the second half that all of a sudden makes clear to the heights this band can ascend to. If this is how Sahara Surfers want to continue, I would be more than happy. High Lands should receive praise from well outside their Alps republic.

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