German five piece Wendigo have been sighted around the wilds since their first surfacing in 2012. Seven years on, the band with the monstrous name, steeped in the lore and sounds of desert rock and stoner/doom/classic rock influences, this monstrously named quintet certainly have a lot to live up to given how ‘high’ the standards in the desert/stoner style are these days… With that dreadful pun out of the way, it’s time to listen to the stories of the wasteland.
As mentioned above, there are a lot of influences and tells to the sound of Wendigo. Like many of the desert/stoner rock bands, there is a heavy classic rock influence which is steeped in the 70’s. Occult vibes, Sabbathian influences and even the Teutonic take on Led Zep with some Kingdom Come styled moments, it’s an ambitious blend for a debut full length and you certainly can’t fault Wendigo for throwing everything they have and seeing what sticks.
“The Man With No Home” is the psychedelic tinged opening laced with Sabbathian riffing and Ian Gillan inspired vocal snarls and wailings. Boogie-friendly groove riffs, ascending and descending tricky lead moments and a real surging paced chorus all point to a band who know how to come up with hook-laden moments whilst the follow up “Desert Rider” lays on the moody psychedelic blues vibes and boasts some fantastic storytelling in the vocal delivery. In these two tracks alone, you get a good representation of how the rest of the release will pan out and from the bursts of classic rock thunder to mind bending blues moments, the delivery is consistent throughout. Tracks like “Iron Brew” add some real power to the way Wendigo bring their take on the stoner/desert stylings whilst closing track “Mother Road” lays everything in the bands blues-inspired approach out on the table, resulting in some of the best guitar solo work on the album.
The downside to this rather varied approach though is how the band has spread itself rather thin at times. Approaching it as a “Jack of all trades/master of none” means that whilst there is versatility there for the band to exploit and plenty of influences, the fact they haven’t totally focused in on their approach or prioritized some approaches over others means that there are weaknesses in the sound. Vocals can have character, you can try to emulate the talents of Gillan, Plant and other classic wailers, but unless you really put everything into it, you will get caught out and that does happen several times across the album. Bluesy lead guitar theatrics can cover a whole range of delivery styles, but they can be fairly predictable at times and sometimes, drawing sequences out for atmospheric impact is something best left to bands with a reputation for that or those who dwell in the progressive realms.
These things aside, “Wasteland Stories” is a good effort. Over ambitious in parts, spot on in others, it is a release which shows some promise for a band who are pretty commonplace at the moment, something which will both help and hinder Wendigo if they don’t refine their approach.