It was perhaps a quiet nail bomb explosion in rock music in general, although, initially it was not so widespread, not to mention Greece, where sociologists and psychiatrists can surely one day conduct wonderful experiments about the psychopathology of culture fascism. I remember the Iron Maiden concert in 1995, where police were happy to hunt people around the venue like a sick predator-pray game, but none of these were actually reported. The rock genre was almost as censored as soft porn movies by any medium whatsoever. There was that feeling, if you belonged in such an audience during adolescence in Greece, that you would receive a lot of hatred by society just because of the music and style. Going back (through the 80’s) things were even more brutal. I know people who were expelled from school for both their looks and their musical tastes. Of course, in 1994, still the greatest revolution ever called the Internet, was just beginning. I remember the scarcity of information about good music at that time in Athens, Greece but never in a nostalgic way. New music was valued almost as high as decent quality drugs, and this was the frustration for a music junkie. Nevertheless, thank God we had cassettes that were circulating in honorable gentlemens’ walkman’s.
In 1994, desert rock as a genre was probably only a niche name, somewhere in the neurons of early Kyuss’ fans. The dominant “hard” music scene at the time, where mainly metal bands, the well-known Big 4 (Iron Maiden, Black Sabbath, Metallica and Anthrax) but also other less knowledgeable bands (at that time) that released albums now called masterpieces, or points of references on a genre, which is reasonable if you consider that i.e. Sepultura released ‘Chaos A.D.’ that same year. Grunge was also of course huge, especially commercially. However, none of those ever had the freshness and authenticity that Kyuss offered massively through ‘Welcome To Sky Valley’. The quartet’s third album revealed the potential of the band both as a team and individually. From Homme to Garcia, each musician is not simply performing but gives the exact impression to the listener of those moments when the pieces where recorded.
To all those hungry ears out there, who were literally crawling for raw, dense rigid pieces of good music. The biggest value of this album, is the notion of the desert concept. And it is a concept not because it is parted into three suites, but because the listener can almost feel the atmosphere of the recording, the resulting outcome of bourbon and herb consumption and that lager essence that floats in the studio; and it is so fresh and pure that it blows your speakers off by the first ‘Gardenia’ seconds running.
At least it was all of the above for me. An almost subliminal message that enclosed both downtempo guitar themes and vulgar riffs, yet not as sharp as in metal sound. Then comes ‘Supa Scoopa And Mighty Scoop’ which lifts the tempo just when you believe you cooled down a bit. Simple , but unfolding the hardness of anything that is simple yet amazing. ‘100°’ comes in furiously, reminding the big influence of both metal and American southern rock in Kyuss’ music, especially the cuts and bridges that form the piece. And then ‘Space Cadet’ leans your back to chill out for a bit. Closing your eyes can make you feel the grandiose of the desert spirit. Lots of ‘doomness’ there, some underlying extracts of 70’s quality prog rock remind you a lot if you have ever listened to Lemmy’s early Sam Gopal.
‘Demon Cleaner’ follows and it’s self-explanatory; The ‘demon’ is that Homme’s guitar lead that sticks in your brain and flows for quite a while, especially if appropriately intoxicated prior to listening. Yet the journey is not over yet and through those desert bushes come ‘Odyssey’ and ‘Conan Troutman’, a two part ascending stoner riot that reveals that the band spent a lot of time in Sabbath and their enlightening doom. ‘Conan Troutman’ could stand alone; fast, sharp, angry and unstoppable. Speaking of which, ‘N.O.’ drops it just a bit in speed, using a repetitive double guitar lead that again stays in your head for a respectable amount of time. After this intensive hick up in your ears, there comes ‘Whitewater’ The slow ascension, steady but slowly fills in gradually building up its rigidness, holding it till the end. Then, just strengthening gradually, it hits you with one of the most influential groovy riff in stoner genre, that keeps on and on. I guess Garcia spat a bit of his inner soul out on this one. Accordingly, in my ears, it was as if I was suddenly on the peak of a beautiful quiet ocean wave that you never see coming but it’s there, backed up and starting slowly coming my way, with all its energy, and then decompressing in my cerebral, in a definite grandiose.
After all that, yes, ‘the desert’ started getting familiar….