Vista Chino – Peace
Vista Chino- Peace (2013)
Written by Mark Nagy
We’re not going to start this review with a dissertation about the legal affair that led to the existence of Vista Chino instead of Kyuss or Kyuss lives. I won’t dedicate 3 paragraphs to how Josh Homme is giving Lars Ulrich a run for “Biggest douchebag in the music industry”, and we’re certainly not going to go on and on about whether or not this is a “legitimate” successor to the Kyuss discography or not. I’ve written all of those, and none of them work well as a critical review, so I’ll simply say this: Vista Chino is almost Kyuss, but not quite. Guitarist Josh Homme is not a part of it, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, and if you’re a fan of Kyuss, there’s a very, very good chance that you’ll enjoy Vista Chino’s debut record, Peace.
After a brief and rather empty intro track, the album kicks off with the blazing “Dargona Dragona”. Who knows what the title is about? I certainly couldn’t be bothered to find out, but the riff is thick, and John Garcia’s voice is as good as it’s ever been. This song, perhaps more than any other on the record, benefits from a very raw production style. We’re not talking “just killed a troll with my sword of kvlt” raw, but more, “very organic, sounds like it could have been recorded live in the studio, and makes you forget that it’s a bunch of 40-somethings revisiting the legacy they left when they weren’t old enough to rent a car” raw. It even sounds like it could have been a demo recording that the band decided so perfectly captured the spirit of what they wanted that they just put it on anyways. Think “What St. Anger wanted to be, but brutally failed at”.
As the record moves forward, there’s a variety of songs that reflect the equal variety of musical styles that the band members have pursued since the collapse of Kyuss – particularly those of drummer Brant Bjork and singer John Garcia. Nick Oliveri is present on much of the album’s recordings, but his particular brand of sometimes psychedelic (but more often psychotic) punk rock is not exactly represented here. In fact, in recognition of his extremely successful solo career, Brant Bjork even presents lead vocals on the first half of a suite titled “Planets 1 & 2”. His half of the song is a bit of a re-imagining of the Kyuss classic “Green Machine” (which he was responsible for writing all those years ago). Additionally, “Adara” and “Barcelonian” display the influence of the more ‘relaxed’ blend of stoner rock that Bjork became famous for in the past two decades.
On the flip side, are songs like “Sweet Remain” and “Dark and Lovely”, which exist more in the vein of John Garcia’s out and out metal projects such as Hermano and Unida. It would be a mistake however, to view this album as just a mix tape between the two styles. Brant Bjork’s distinctive drum style, with the wash of crash and ride symbols, and the melodic structuring present throughout, is something that Garcia was never able to find in his later projects. Similarly, the Bjork-influenced songs, while perhaps laid back in tone, are still quite well fitted for Vista Chino’s heavy metal identity, and so the presence of Garcia’s distinctive roar increases their potential beyond what Bjork could have accomplished on his own.
Intermingled with these tracks are those that out and out feel like they would be right at home on the Kyuss records of yore. The final track, a suite titled “Acidize/The Gambling Moose”, is a prime example. While I can’t really explain why the band felt so compelled to put two completely different songs on the same track, perhaps it was a small tribute to them cramming the 10 very distinctive tracks of Welcome To Sky Valley together on three CD ’tracks’ so many years ago. Whatever the motivation, the song is freaking great. The yet-unsung hero throughout this affair is Bruno Fevery, who is a perfect fit to the band’s style. Both able to capture the thick psychedelic sounds of Josh Homme’s Kyuss contributions, along with the aforementioned metal style that John Garcia has gone to perfect, along with Bjork’s subtle melodic structures. On top of all that, he’s extremely accomplished at the art of the “awesome guitar solo”, particularly evidenced by the segue that exists in the middle of “Planets 1 & 2”.
This record has left me extremely satisfied, and a little sad too, for what could have been if Kyuss had survived. The album features two of my favorite musicians, and to see them not only back working together, but creating such a successful fusion of their two styles is encouraging for the future of this project. There’s a lot more to be said (even above what I’ve already said) for this record, but I’ve gone on long enough as is. Argue about whether or not it’s Kyuss until you’re blue in the face if you like: I happen to think it pretty much is. But even if you disagree, if you ever loved the band, Peace will be an absolute delight.