"The Edge of an Era"

(Tee Pee)

01. Closing Time, Last Exit
02. The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast Pt. I)
03. Shadows (The Beast Pt. II)
04. Society of Barricades
05. Pelham Blue
06. Land of Freaks, Home of the Brave

RATING: 7/10

From all appearances, one can only surmise that all of BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA's wildest musical dreams came true through the creation of their 2013 full-length debut, "The Edge of an Era".

After all, shortly after signing with Tee Pee Records and unveiling their preceding EP, "The Storm Generation", a few months earlier, the Parisian trio was handed one-way plane tickets to Los Angeles, packed into a studio with former KYUSS, THE OBSESSED and UNIDA semi-legend Scott Reeder acting as producer, and encouraged to record the best desert rock album that their hearts desired.

Heck, where do the rest of us sign up for a similar stoner rock fantasy camp experience?

The end results, wind blown across vast landscapes by marijuana sandstorms and shadowed by mescaline dunes, are, needless to say, thousands of miles and several dimensions removed from the Champs ?lys?es; so drop your fondue and borrow a camel for what's bound to be a long, sticky-hot caravan through BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA's star-struck Mojave soundtracks.

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A jarring narration by award-winning Gonzo poet, Ron Whitehead, prefaces the first of several lengthy, languorous stoner rock jams, "The Obscurantist Fiend (The Beast, Part I)", which is simultaneously let down by somewhat tentative vocals (how do you say "my mouth is full of sand" in French, anyway?) and uplifted by oscillating bass hammer-ons that simulate a realistic acid trip sensation.

Then, "Shadows (The Beast, Part II)" confirms the suspicion that the four-string implement operated by fabulously named bassist Antoine Morel-Vulliez will indeed be the dominant force throughout the album, as guitars, drums, even vocals all obediently fall in line behind its hypnotic thrust, merely contributing embellishments that wrap the song's thrumming core in Eastern-flavored scales.

This is true even in the more pronounced, urgent guitar attack displayed by "Society of Barricades", the naked singing on "Pelham Blue" (a song that, at times, recalls HIGH ON FIRE at half speed), and in closing, psychedelic epic "Land of Freaks, Home of the Brave", which spikes its canteens and deliberate march with heavier punctuations and trippy guitar wah-wahs that finally build towards extended solos.

By now, it's obvious BLAAK HEAT SHUJAA's intercontinental desert rock template owes much to the Indian raga-inspired work of Argentina's LOS NATAS (see the twin "Toba Trance" albums for proof); but the Frenchmen's songs generally produce enough compelling attributes of their own (occasional vocal issues notwithstanding) to justify most listeners' dreamlike journey into the wide-open, quiet wastes.

Or at the very least the band's charmed journey from the city of light to the dark sands of the Mojave.


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