Duel – Valley Of Shadows
Heavy Psych Sounds
Release Date: 17/05/2019
Running Time: 38:00
Review by Alun Jones
Duel have been on my radar for quite a while. Despite hearing a few tracks via the band’s social media, I’d never sat down, ear-goggles locked in place, to listen to a full album. So, I was pretty stoked to have the opportunity to review their latest album: “Valley Of Shadows”, released recently by Heavy Psych Sounds.
Hailing from Austin, Texas, these four fiends are responsible for an almighty stoner doom racket; full on heavy rifferama with psychedelic and classic metal references. In case that description alone doesn’t grab you like a graveyard ghoul on the way to an unholy shindig, their whole aesthetic is tripped out in the sort of late-night, B-movie gore that’s lurid enough to make your eyes pop.
It’s like Dracula Has Risen from the Grave sound-tracked by a bunch of longhair ne’er-do-wells, and that’s just how I like it.
‘Black Magic Summer’ opens up the proceedings with some appropriate rain-soaked sound effects, before launching into the heavy-as-a-crypt-door attack. There’s a brilliantly melodic middle section too, adding some light to the gloom.
Second track ‘Red Moon Forming’ has a direct, driving pace that’s infectious and purposely concocted to inspire the raising of horns. ‘Drifting Alone’ has a real classic desert rock vibe, with a cool head shaker riff.
‘Strike And Disappear’ comes on like the vampire Western that Tarantino needs to make. A slower, bluesy pace with a dusty feel, it’s the first taste we get of a very different – and effective – approach. It melts into a ferocious, face pummelling section that screams blood and violence.
Songs like ‘Tyrant On The Throne’ have a classic metal, almost (gasp!) Iron Maiden feel to them. Otherwise, the sound explores more of the head-banging, smoke induced groove of bands like Trouble and The Obsessed.
But just like the best stoner metal movers and shakers, there’s always room for some ZZ Top-style boogie, which particularly comes to the fore in the final track, ‘The Bleeding Heart’.
As always, my sound comparisons are only meant as genuine compliments. Duel manage to create an album full of their own spirit and character, and it’s one hell of a fun ride. At turns hypnotic, fist pummelling, and sombre; “Valley of the Shadows” pulls the stake out of the stoner doom corpse and brings it back to bloody life again.
The last time I actually was involved in a duel, it was a case of duelling banjos. I was on a canoeing trip with some buddies out in the Appalachian back country. We ran into some unsavoury redneck types, one of whom challenged me to a banjo showdown. Of course, I threw in some licks that my old mentor Jimi Hendrix had shown me, and the creepy little weirdo had no chance: I was victorious.
Unfortunately, the locals weren’t too happy and we had a bit of a run-in of sorts with ‘em later. It was all fun and games really, and we were on our way home soon enough. But I tell you: just whatever you do, don’t mention piggies to my buddy Bobby!
01. Black Magic Summer
02. Red Moon Forming
03. Drifting Alone
04. Strike And Disappear
05. Broken Mirror
06. Tyrant On The Throne
07. I Feel No Pain
08. The Bleeding Heart
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