America is a strange country.
We blame our presidents and congress for everything from gas prices to inflation, supply-chain issues and even Covid. It’s like we collectively think we’re the cause and effect of everything, oblivious to anything else going on in the world, aside from the latest drama of the UK Monarchy. Never mind the worldwide issues bearing down on the planet: It’s all about (the) US.
We do have a thriving and healthy heavy scene, but just like Hendrix in the 60’s, our best have to go to Europe to get the recognition and concert attendance they need to make a living. Most of Elder lives in Germany for a reason, man. It was almost embarrassing (but cool) to see Elder in a venue that held less than 200. I’m just glad they even bothered. For whatever reason, we ‘Mericans only have room for a handful of artists to make a decent living
So, when it comes time to write about Colour Haze, it comes from the perspective of someone who gets his updates from Bandcamp pre-releases and a smattering of (really good) bloggers and reviewers. We are essentially a third-world country when it comes to basic road infrastructure and music. There is zero chance that the Haze are going to be played on ‘Merican radio anytime soon, with perhaps a slightly better chance to see the best band in the world in some black-painted bar with standing room for 200 people.
I don’t write that lightly, and I sincerely believe that Colour Haze is a once-in-a generation band who has clearly redefined what it is to be a rock band. I call them the “best band in the world” due to two objective facts: they have now released 14 studio albums over the course of three decades, and not one of those 14 albums sucks. No one else I can think of has that kind of consistent output and quality. Elder and King Buffalo are on track, but they have a ways to go.
With their latest release, Sacred, they’ve managed to redefine what it is to be Colour Haze. This time around, it’s heavier, trippier and if possible, a little jammier. New bassist Mario Oberpucher does more than stay in the pocket, and may be the secret ingredient who injects more energy and urgency to the music. I liked Philipp Rasthofer, and felt he was on-par with Adam Clayton (U2) as far as keeping the basslines steady, focused and staying out of the way of the guitar and vocals. In contrast, Mario has swagger. Where Philipp seemed to keep things under control and in the pocket, Mario propels things forward, adding energy into the more laid-back vibe I’m used to hearing.
Or, it could be the musical steroids Jan Faszbender must be taking. That, or Stephen has made a conscious decision to take the gloves off and let this group of elite musicians rip. The keyboards are no longer support or background. Instead, they are front-and-center, in your face and fierce. But tasteful. Always Tasteful.
This is a far more unrestrained outing than I’m used to hearing from the band. There’s more of a middle-east influence on the whole thing, most especially 1.5 Degrees, which comes across like a lost Aphrodites Child track from 666. Especially when Stephen Koglek kicks in with some wicked distortion at the 3:00 mark. It’s pretty cool.
See the Fools is a return to form, and fans of She Said will probably be pretty psyched with this piece. The Haze are adding things, not taking anything away as they continue to grow and evolve, and this song is the best proof of that I can think of. Naturally, the mellotron helps!
Album closer In all You Are simply chokes me up. It’s majestic, up-beat and I swear to gawd, they’re actually showing off how badass they are.
For all the changes, this is still Koglec’s band, and it retains the classic Colour Haze sound. The guitar tone is the result of decades of perfection, and is as distinctive as any other guitarist- ever. They’ve opted to retain the same analogue feel and approach, with one huge factor: it’s recorded LIVE! In the studio, and with overdubs, but the core of this album is in real time. This is definitely a welcome trend lately, with King Buffalo taking a similar route, and I hope it continues.
Only time will tell, but this may be the definitive album from the Colour Haze to date. It’s literally like a Greatest Hits package, but all the songs are new. They’ve managed to take every cool element from 13 prior releases and distill them into one perfect record that does the impossible: Sacred places Colour Haze on an even higher pedestal.
The the meantime, at least we have Dolly Parton being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.