Thursday 2 April 2020

Diarchy - Splitfire (2020)

Country: India
Style: Stoner Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 27 Mar 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Official Website | Twitter | YouTube

For a stoner rock band from India, I heard a lot of Budgie in opening number Kamal Hossen. However, Diarchy, as the name perhaps ought to suggest, are a power duo rather than a trio, with Prakash on vocals and guitars and Gaurrav on drums. They generate rather a lot of energy for a duo (though there are additional guests here) and, once again I find myself really wanting to see a band live who I have very little chance of ever seeing live.

Then again, for a stoner rock band from India, there's actually quite a lot here to explore and it makes me wonder about their influences. Their About page on Facebook just lists the expected stoner rock bands, like Kyuss and Clutch. Sure, there's some expected stoner rock here, albeit mostly on the most straightforward and least interesting songs (though that sounds a lot more dismissive than it should), but Splitfire grabbed me most when Diarchy really mix it up.

Tirunelveli, for instance, kicks off as old school psychedelic rock with an inherent Indian sound that wasn't that unusual in San Francisco in the late sixties, and it only really heavies up as it's wrapping up. I might believe that Diarchy have absorbed that through later bands except that Home shows up a few tracks later and that's an intricate sitar-flavoured guitar workout that's clearly Diarchy's Embryonic Journey. Oh yeah, they're listening to older stuff too!

In fact, the album only gets more interesting as it comes towards its close. Kraanti is a highlight for me and, for a stoner rock song, it sure sounds a lot like an early Genesis instrumental for three of its four minutes. Then, just like Tirunelveli, it heavies up at the finish. As we come to terms with that, Diarchy wrap up with Best Way Out is Always Through, a folk chant sung almost a capella, with the majority of the accompaniment being finger snaps. It's a song I'd expect to find on a Jolie Holland album.

In between are the more expected songs, which are all less worthy of comment beyond highlighting that Prakash finds an agreeable amount of worthy riffs on this album. The best may be on the title track, which is the longest on the album by far at almost six and a half minutes, but even the songs that I like least include impressive riffs and grooves. This band would be a lot of fun on stage just jamming guitar against drums for an hour, with any vocals that show up being a bonus.

I really dug this. It's fair to say that Kamal Hossen isn't too far from the sound I expected from an Indian stoner rock band and that made me happy, the nods to Budgie icing on the cake. It, along with Splitfire and much of Gone Too Late, was exactly what I was looking for when I pressed play. However, Diarchy pleasantly surprised me by giving me a lot more than that and I left the album enthralled.

The downside is that not everything is elevated, so otherwise decent tracks like Badger and Sunny Side Up, which are relatively routine stoner rock with a little punk attitude in the vocals, start to feel like filler. On another album, they wouldn't seem like negatives but, a few listens into Splitfire, I found myself skipping over them from Home to Kraanti. That's not good.

I left this wanting more, so I now need to find Diarchy's debut, Here Lost We Lie, released in 2017. If only Diarchy had been one of those bands with a few decades behind them, so I could spend the next couple of days exploring their back catalogue. In time.

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