November 8, 2020

Dune Sea started out as a 2012 solo project for Ole Nogva, a Trondheim-based guitarist/keys player, vocalist and all-round sonic warrior, described then on Facebook as “a true Norwegian post-ironic space stoner”. Later in 2017, drummer Erik Bråten joined him for the first Dune Sea recording, the All Quiet Under The Suns EP. This enjoyed sufficient local critical success in Norway to entice bass player Petter Solvik Dahle to join the band as a permanent member, in time to record their debut album Dune Sea which was released in 2019.

After all that excitement Dune Sea are still a trio, albeit with a new drummer Viktor Olsen Kristensen, and they’re now back with their second album titled Moons of Uranus, featuring a further ten tracks of their psychedelic brand. Whereas the debut album bridged the gap between Space Rock and Stoner Rock/Metal with relevant ease, to me Moons Of Uranus is ironically less space-rock and more stoner, it’s harder and dirtier than their previous effort. The new album sees the band playing ten fairly heavy, riff-based tracks that fall somewhere between the sheer heaviness of Black Sabbath, the psychedelic mantras and textures of Hawkwind, and the groovy vibes of Monster Magnet.

The essential make-up of this band is definitely a garage-style, psychedelic stoner rock, soaked in big, big 70’s influences. There’s lots of trippy, swirling synth sounds, lots of low-end riffing, lots of vocal effects albeit always background in the mix. The main issue some folk might have is the degree of similarity in the song structures – they are all clearly from the same stable and can easily merge with each other. But it is (mostly) all good stuff, like the record label says. (anyone remember a fantastic United Artists sampler album called All Good Clean Fun? – wonderfully wacky and equally psychedelic from the early 70s)

First Contact starts the album off, funnily enough I think its perhaps one of the weaker tracks on here. Maybe the riff simply doesn’t have quite the same mesmeric, stomping “oomfph” of the later tracks, it just feels a bit over-done and messy to me? But don’t let this put you off, Shaman is much stronger, the intro riff mix could be any one of scores of heavy rock bands (Deep Purple, Kiss, Zeppelin, QOTSA, Aerosmith etc) but it really works, it sets a pace and a sense of excitement that hooks you in. Synths swirl around this one, to me, there’s quite a lot less synth than on their debut album, so this new selection is less ‘spacey’ in that sense and more heavy, hypnotic, stoner. It ends with a delightfully dirty set of sound effects that sets your darkest nightmares twitching in your head…

Absinthe Blues is a straight-forward fast-paced piece of stoner-blues. Very simple and unadorned, but great fun – does what it says on the can (or bottle!) Tusken is then where the album really begins to develop a greater complexity, a fantastic riff and powerhouse rhythm underpinning everything but the track expands sideways with some scintillating lead guitar and changes of pace. Moons of Uranus features a whopper of a riff that could be Sabbath at their finest, before the shoegazer vocals come in, followed by more variations on the same riff – actually, the Sabbath influence is really strong on this one, there’s a chunk of staccato guitar chopping that’s straight out of the self titled track on the first self -titled Sabbath album – and I love it!

Draw 4 is another track that reminds me of early Sabbath, in the riffs, chords and time changes. There’s some lovely lead guitar work here, in my head it ends with just the first two chords from Sabbath’s Iron Man? Air has good pace and energy about it, the intro builds well, the rhythm is relentless, the riff swirling around your head, a great one for headphones! There’s a surprisingly “tinkly” keys-led bridge section and great bass-lines throughout!

Oracle is hypnotic, hymn-like, creating a fuzzy droning rhythm that’s still very tunefully melodic. Vocals are again deliberately mixed almost in the background to give that feel of a mantra, before a massive stoner riff takes the door off its hinges to conclude. One of my favorites for the way it builds and builds.

Sarlacc starts off again like it could be Purple, it feels like the twin of Shaman, replete with chanted ghostly vocals (I’ve not got the lyrics so I cant tell you the “story” here). The changes of timing allied to the swirl of synths and pulsating chords gives a nod to their Space-rock roots.

Globe of Dust finishes you off with what for me are more classic monster riffs somewhere between Sabbath and Stoner bands riffs, especially the Sabbath-esque bass-lines and bridge sections. The shoegazer vocals remain slightly indistinct but the overall soundscape is designed around this. It washes over you like a deeply unsettling wave of nervous apprehension.

Okay, this record doesn’t have the greatest range and variety across the song-set. But the power of the playing is meant to be relentless, anyone who loves / loved the heavyweight end of the 70’s in terms of Hawkwind, Stray, Iron Butterfly and most definitely Sabbath will be very interested in this, as will fans of Queens Of the Stone Age, Uncle Acid And The Deadbeats; and the whole Stoner Rock genre. And I would love to hear this lot live and loud!

There aren’t any decent videos of the tracks on this album as yet, so here’s Pentobarbitol and Ethanol from their debut full-length album – it captures the essence of the band pretty well in so many ways!

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