The best southern stoner doom is intense in a way that makes some death metal bands sound like a Sunday afternoon spent on thebowling greenwith your grandparents. It feels like the heaviest of prog metal bands has been taken over by the spirit of drug-fuelled 1950s jazz. Just why anyone would want to inflict added levels of difficulty when engaging with such an already psychedelic art form is beyond me. But they do. Like, scary, man. I imagine their brains must be held tightly together by chicken wire so they don’t fall apart every time an extra heavy bass line falls. But I digress. Back to the beginning, anyone that has experienced the southern vibes of (highly recommended) Earthride will be familiar with the deep down and dirty bass rock of Josh Hart. Here he takes up the guitar, the mellotron and the theramin as well and travels to another level. For those who don’t know the mellotron is an early sampling keyboard and the theramin is a weird electronic musical instrument invented almost a century ago that you play without touching. And if you think that’s wild then the next 50 minutes will have your eyes rolling backwards in your head.
This is the first full release and Chowder mashes together Rush, layer upon layer of 70s proggie vibes, a bit of Sabbath thrown in at the edges, and enough spiralling guitars and earth tremoring bass chords to have every fan of bands from Earth to Reverend Bizarre chowing down. There are no words other than the occasional movie clip and no easily digestible hooks thrown our way. But, unlike many instrumental albums that have come my way, Passion Rift is never so dense or self indulgent as to make it impenetrable. What they do is mash together what sounds like the best out-takes of several months worth of jamming sessions into a confident eight tracks. At times this is pretty straightforward and more about the elongated breaks and soulful guitar work that you expect from the genre. Things take off nicely with the title track. But then the final 15 minutes seem to pull together all the experimentation that you feel Chowder really embarked on this trip fest for in the first place. This is not for the instrumentally unaware. But fans of the genre will definitely want to tuck in.
(8/10 Reverend Darkstanley)