‘EP No. 1’
It’s impossible NOT to love Red Scalp. They play traditional stoner metal with a contagious glee that is guaranteed to make you grin. The Polish stoner scene has thrown up some impressive bands in the last couple of years, and Red Scalp is the latest outfit from that nation to grasp the baton with boundless enthusiasm.
Despite its uninspiring title, ‘EP No.1′ thunders at you like a Siberian mammoth that’s just been thawed out after 15,000 years in a glacier. It’s big, hairy, confused and really, really pleased to see you. The thick, bruising riffs don’t quite date back to the time of the cavemen; rather, they come straight out of the early 1990s, and are delivered with such gusto that they sound as fresh as they did back in the day when Kyuss, Acrimony and Acid King had just begun to melt the universe with their deadly fuzz.
This is the sound of a band in the throes of a stoner metal epiphany: the drums are like horses’ hooves trampling you into the dirt, the guitar tones are – of course – low and fuzzy, the bass is a pan of bubbling stew about to explode, while the much-loved psychedelic swooshes are used sparingly, except on ‘Sweet Pill II’, a song which is perhaps too chilled for its own good. The vocals are of a pretty good standard, mixing classic rock, stoner style and metallic melody, albeit within the singer’s own limitations and with a distinctive accent.
Production-wise, the EP feels slightly claustrophobic – often, this works in the songs’ favour, adding to the vintage vibe, although if the guitar was a little more prominent, Red Scalp’s energy would be more forcefully realised. There are traces of early Judas Priest in the higher-tempo parts, even earlier Deep Purple in some of the solos, a bit of Uriah Heep in the groove. On the final song, ‘Sin City’, the band manages to mix Poison’s sleaze, Trouble’s melancholy and Cream’s panache.
The opening few seconds of the third track ‘Tatanka’ are likely to scare you half to death, featuring some Native American chanting that perhaps ties in with the band’s name and artwork. The song’s subsequent riff, however, will breathe life back into your body and warmth into your soul. Yet again, Red Scalp have concocted a timeless tune that reminds you of old stoner friends, and have added a few of their own twists to keep the momentum going. This EP shows moments of great promise that the band can add character and colour to a blueprint first established 20+ years ago.
Red Scalp’s ‘EP No.1’ is a stoner metal carousel, a huge, rusty metal machine that spins you back to a time when the riff was king. Once you get on, you won’t want to get off.