Volcanic Rock (Vertigo Records '73, Aztec Music '05) Rating: A-
Bands with names like Mastodon or Buffalo are supposed to be heavy. And this Australian combo is indeed HEAVY, especially given when this “legendary lost proto-metal stoner rock classic” was released, 1973 to be exact. Volcanic Rock is one of those albums that didn’t sell diddly during its day (in part because its controversial album cover made potential distributors uneasy; take a look at it and you’ll see what I mean!) but is being rediscovered due to file sharing (yes it’s true) and word-of-mouth accolades from Internet sites like Rate Your Music. And by and large the hype (if you can even call it that) on these guys is largely justified. Sure, given that these songs generally range from 5 to 11 minutes long there are some lulls along the way where the band’s psych-prog tendencies take over, but by and large the music is kept simple and pummeling. Led by guitarist John Baxter’s big fuzzy riffs and Dave Tice’s rugged biker dude vocals (bassist Pete Wells and drummer Jimmy Economu also form a formidably bludgeoning rhythm section), this is the type of music that will put hair on your chest and make you want to drink beers by the case load. My favorite songs are probably “Sunrise (Come My Way),” the most accessible and dare I say it poppiest track, “The Prophet,” which really grooves along, enough so to make a man find religion, and “Shylock,” an intense, fast-paced, thudding, mean mofo of a song. The album isn’t perfect due to the aforementioned lulls (mostly on the still quite good “Freedom” and the “Pound Of Flesh” extended instrumental intro into “Shylock”), plus “’Till My Death” is a bit more generic than the rest (definitely a “Black Dog” influence on that one), but Volcanic Rock is aptly titled, this beastly band from down under delivering a raw, uncompromising near-masterpiece of molten early heavy metal. Play it LOUD or not at all.

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