Blues For The Red Sun


Elektra, 1992

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Kyuss, to me, always seemed to be one of those bands that existed just below the radar and could never break through in a major way, like Mott The Hoople in the ‘70s or Prefab Sprout in the ‘80s. Certainly, their heavy rock approach typified grunge with a twist of ‘80s heavy metal, something fans of Iron Maiden and early Metallica could enjoy. It’s hard not to listen to this album and hear the seeds of what bands like White Zombie, Korn and Deftones would do later in the decade.

To many, Kyuss is obliquely referred to as “stoner rock,” or “that band Josh Homme was in before Queens Of The Stone Age,” both of which do a disservice. Anyone who has ever listened to Black Sabbath will immediately recognize that band’s influence on Blues For The Red Sun, particularly the sludgy yet compelling opener “Thumb” and the instrumental “Molten Universe,” but this is only one facet of the band’s approach. More typical is the rock-solid “Green Machine,” which takes what could have been an updated Judas Priest/Metallica tune and downtunes it, adding a bit of murk, then cranking up the volume. It’s probably the band’s best-known song, certainly the best one on this album, and it makes one wonder why this album sold so poorly.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Perhaps the reason for that lies in the vocals and lyrics; the latter tend toward either clichés or standard hard rock fare, while John Garcia’s singing seems designed to emulate James Hetfield to the point of distraction. It could be part of why Metallica invited Kyuss to open for them on some shows in 1993, but it makes it difficult to listen to the cringe-worthy “Thong Song,” though at least these guys have a sense of humor. “50 Million Year Trip” also suffers from this vocally, but the awkward phrasing of the song makes this an obsolete complaint; the tune has a very long introduction, then sort of settles into a hard rocker, then fades out, then comes back, and the pieces just don’t fit together, but it sounds cool while it tries.

Maybe realizing this, Kyuss litters the album with instrumentals, from “Molten Universe” to the bulk of “50 Million Year Trip” to “Apothecaries’ Weight” to the cool two-minute “Caterpillar March,” a fiery blast that sets the stage for the epic eight-minute “Freedom Run.” Probably the most Sabbath moment on the disc outside of “Thumb,” the detuned guitars (run through a bass amp) drag the song through the murk in the best Black Sabbath tradition but with a fiery purpose and a pretty good solo to boot. Garcia barely sings, and when he does it’s tough to figure out what he’s saying, but whatever.

“800” is a neat little drum solo and “Capsized” is a breath of acoustic guitar fresh air that one wishes had been developed into an actual song; it turns out to be a respite between the mediocre “Writhe” and the intense “Allen’s Wrench.” This in turn leads into the closing “Mondo Generator,” a heavy piece with elements of psychedelic rock, jam bands, and detuned guitars cranked the hell up while Garcia wails into a bullhorn somewhere on the other side of the studio.

But here’s the rub. Broken down, the songs don’t always work out, while the undeveloped fragments leave one wishing that maybe the band could have had a true classic if they had tightened up and edited a little bit. But when listened to as a whole, the disc is truly a trip, an intense journey that can stand alongside anything that was influenced by it later in the decade. Many bands would later state that Kyuss had an influence on their sound, and certainly the few fans who have discovered these guys have nothing but good things to say. Perhaps it’s time you do the same, if you haven’t already.

Rating: B

User Rating: Not Yet Rated



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