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Part psychedelic swirl, part vintage fuzz; Iowa's Mondo Drag is one of the newest additions to the stables at the mighty Alive Records camp, a label that keeps churning out good rock and roll the way it used to sound. The new album from these lads, entitled New Rituals, is a great addition to what Alive already has going for it, adding vintage space rock to the already strong roster of garage and blues artists. With this new record, Mondo Drag has something very interesting things occuring musically as they combine vintage sounds from several genres and morph them into something that is unique in today's rock and roll world. If I had to place them into any sort of category with contemporary artists, I have to admit that they remind me on several occasions of bands including Dead Meadow, Radio Moscow, and at times Swedish proto-metal monsters such as Witchcraft, Graveyard and Horisont but only in some of the heavier groove sections. I wouldn't venture to comparing them to the like of Astra and Litmus, because they are not quite that psychedelic or progressive, however I could see them traveling down these roads in the near future.
New Rituals begins with the title track "New Rituals", starting things off with mid-range drones and accents followed by decrescendos that sound eerily similar to the Who. Suddenly, this track breaks into a fuzzy, analog sounding groove that is driven by John Gamino's vintage organ that gives a strong knod to the likes of the Zombies, Electric Prunes, and Strawberry Alarmclock, at the same time intertwining some atmostpheric breaks and swells that sound a hell of lot like early Pink Floyd. Clocking in at over eight minutes, this song makes a strong statement from the get-go and leaves no secrets as to what kind of beast we'll be dealing with. "Light As a Feather" is a bit more on the heavy end of the spectrum with a bluesy groove and riffs that are in the same vein as Blue Cheer or Shiver, if they were accompanied by the woodwinds and electronic goodies from the classic era of Hawkwind. Mondo Drag break out the acoustics and blues slide work on "Come Through", giving the listener a bit more versatility than most psychedelic/space rock bands care to do these days. "Fade Out" starts out fast and could just as easily been included on a Blue Cheer or even a Jimi Hendrix record, yet trails off into a more spacious territory and improvosational direction. This element of "jam" (though I hate to use that word) is one of Mondo Drag's strongest elements throughout, sounding as though they followed their tangents from time to time and were not afraid to elaborate upon ideas that might have began on whim during the recording process. These improvosational and solo breaks add length to the songs and more of a live feel to the record itself, connecting all of the pieces to the New Rituals puzzle and coming across as a strong work of music.
Mondo Drag is a young band and have indeed made a big statement with this album. Good things can only be in store in their future as they expand their minds and make more of the music that they love. -Andrew Bryant