Serving up some of the finest retrograde stoner rock imaginable, Radio Moscow’s fourth studio album, Magical Dirt, continues to build upon the vintage power trio exhilaration that such respected ’60s legends as Cream, Blue Cheer and the Jimi Hendrix Experience brought forth. Formed in Iowa in 2003, heavy metal-leaning frontman Parker Griggs provides Radio Moscow with well-executed and completely focused originals full of brooding tension.
Griggs’ keenness for unbridled six-string freneticism, decisive fleet-fingered pyrotechnics, primal garage-punk spunk and fuzz-toned psychedelia advances even his most derivative inspirations. A few diligently performed acoustic respites add contrast to the boisterous venom. And there are no extraneous notes to confound the steadfast flow of Magical Dirt’s entirety.
Tempering scathing hard-rock jams with narcotic mantras and borrowed blues, this ambitious 10-song set has a loose, opus-like schematic. Combining fast and slow tempos, and soft and loud timbres with the greatest of ease, Griggs’ limber outfit (also featuring newcomer Anthony Meier on bass and Paul Marrone on drums) never gets caught in a rut. But it’s the raucous moments that sizzle best, dominating and ultimately galvanizing the frantic head rush.
Aiming straight for the stratosphere, molten psych-blues opener, “So Alone,” revels in its stinging Hendix-derived wah-wah riffage and responsive full-tilt boogie rhythm. Demonic rampage, “Death of a Queen” (play audio above), crosscuts its scurried Hendrix bluster with wiry Stevie Ray Vaughan-inspired glissando licks. Blazing cryptic scorcher, “Before It Burns,” may be the best intergalactic firestorm Radio Moscow’s ever constructed, once more waking the ghosts of Hendrix and Vaughan with siren sonic epiphanies.
Reminiscent of Cactus (another glorified ’60s metal progenitor), the rudimentary “These Days” goes into hyperspace, drifts back to earth, then finally implodes. Griggs’ ile-driving guitar flails wildly above a wickedly stammered drum-cymbal attack on “Rancho Tehama Airport,” a thrashing sendoff to the rural Northern California terminal that’s apparently got the band flustered. Scathingly seared snarler, “Gypsy Fast Woman,” bludgeons the mind like a hellishly wicked Black Sabbath requiem.
When it’s time to get mellow and convey sensitivity, Griggs relies on the haunting Leadbelly-inspired folk-blues moaning of “Sweet Lil Thing” and the similarly backdated acoustical auspices informing the portentous closer, “Stinging,”
Throughout Magic Dirt, Griggs hurls phlegm-throated baritone wails against the insistent musical mass. It’s one thing to just scream and shout, it’s another to be meaningfully expressive while maintaining true defiance. Lashing out with a cataclysmic blast, Griggs gives his darkly penetrative sentiments deeper provocation than the usual head-banging metallurgist.
Radio Moscow appear to be formidable inheritors of a distinct legacy left by some of the greatest hard rockers ever. It’s doubtful any psychedelia-induced metal fan would try to resist them. – John Fortunato / CELEBSTONER