Austin, Texas is widely regarded as the epicentre for the modern day psychedelic scene as well as having contributed to the original movement in the late ‘60s, most notably through early pioneers the 13th Floor Elevators. The Black Angels are at the forefront of the current crop of artists revisiting the bygone era and the band’s guitarist Christian Bland has long had his finger in many an additional pie.
Bland’s side projects include both The UFO Club and his Revelators outfit, the latter primarily an outlet for his desire to remain playing live in his hometown as parent band The Black Angels grew into a worldwide attraction, subsequently appeasing their expanding fanbase by touring extensively. He also became a co-founder of the now legendary Austin Psychfest – initially a full-on party that sought to bring together fellow psych revivalists – as well as its spin-off record label The Reverberation Appreciation Society, where The Revelators’ debut The Lost Album became its first release.
The Unseen Green Obscene is the third studio offering from The Revelators and the first since 2012’s Pig Boat Blues; The Black Angels tend to mix their ‘60s psychedelic influences with a darker, heavier rock sound regularly featuring the constant drone of a mellotron but The Revelators tread closer to the origins of the movement, often sounding as if they’re a lost band from 1967-1968. Bland in fact states that “this is the best music and it needs to be preserved”.
Growing up listening to his preacher father’s record collection, Bland is heavily influenced by a huge number of acts from the period and the new album sees three of his heroes awarded tribute tracks: Brian Wilson, Syd Barrett and Bo Diddley. Unsurprisingly, Brian Wilson features sweet, melodic vocals following an intro in the style of The Brian Jonestown Massacre and is the best of the three; Diddley Stomp is a short, twanging guitar instrumental whilst Syd Barrett Blues is a slow, echo-laden acoustic shanty furnished with spacey swirling.
The album is book-ended with boredom: opener The Sun Is Fading Away is a sub-two minute acoustic plod and Lifeboat is three minutes of more echo-drenched vocals, acoustic strummings and swirling cymbals. Thankfully, what lies between is occasionally far more satisfying. The Last Summer is a slow trudge through a psychedelic haze but its mesmerising snake-like charm recalls Barrett-era Pink Floyd, another Bland favourite that saw them cover Astronomy Domine at this year’s Psychfest.
When the band veer more towards the heavier sound of The Black Angels, the results are more rewarding. Meandering psychedelic beast Daughters Of The Sun features a chugging beat amidst a heavy fuzz of reverb whilst CB160 – an ode to Bland’s motorbike – is another to feature a thicker fuzz, this time laid over a ‘50s rock underbelly. The more up-tempo Gnostic Blues recalls The Beatles during their psychedelic experimentation – Sgt Pepper is another of Bland’s favourites – but the bombastic short burst of excellent guitar solo would benefit from a lengthier presence.
At 14 tracks long the album inevitably finds itself continuing its life on little more than momentum as the filler slightly dilutes the highlights; it’s a shame because the better tracks deserve some better company. Fans of the now psychedelic juggernaut The Black Angels may come away a little disillusioned but Bland seems to be realising his dream as, overall, the collection distinctly places both feet firmly in his favoured time; it clearly keeps that period alive, but whether or not it reinvigorates it is another question.