Some space is what we all need right now, that and a chance to look to the heavens and escape from reality for just a short while. What better way to do that than to head back to when extended rock-outs and mind-bending pharmaceuticals were not just a way to get totally off your box, but also allowed you to explore both inner and outer space. Time travel not being yet possible and teleportation to other dimensions being the thing of dreams, one way to shift reality is to indulge in the all encompassing thrum of incessant psych rock wig outs, which is where Madmess comes in.
Initially formed in Porto, the band relocated to London where, over the last few years, they’ve been honing their sonic dreamweaving into a cloud of what appear to be incredibly loose stoner jams. However, on further inspection the five songs that populate Rebirth are in fact expertly crafted explorations that draw on a range of inspirations. Naturally there’s a fair bit of Pink Floydian exploration, but rubbing up alongside that are dusty desert drones, massive Black Sabbath riffs, new wave of British heavy metal inspired soloing, and when they really get firing on all cylinders (such as on the title track) Madmess are essentially heading into the cosmos straddling a rocket, in search of a Space Ritual.
Opening track Albatross sets the tone of what is to come, starting life like a Wish You Were Here period Floyd track, before sliding into a slowburn build towards and out and out cacophony of intense riffing and pounding drums. As the song progresses, Madmess throw ever more influences into the mix, often with a kind of blink and you’ll miss it abandon. The influences that form their make up are in evidence from the opening moments, but there’s plenty of Madmess’ own DNA interwoven to ensure that Albatross (or indeed any of these songs) is more than straight up homage.
Mind Collapse throws some vocals into the pot, adding another layer to their usual approach of sledgehammer riffing and scorched blues solos, but they really don’t need vocals at all, their ability to say all they need to with their fined hones riffing is more than enough. The title track takes them back to straight up riffing and solos, complete with washes of flanger to give the whole thing shimmering, slightly out of focus feel. About halfway through, there’s a moment where the guitars kick in with a totally filthy sense of purpose. It sounds as if the band are grinding the rust of their strings using heavy artillery, even as if they might explode.
The appropriately titled Shape Shifter starts life as a smoky laidback jam and somewhere around the midpoint, it bursts into life and heads out on the highway. You can imagine the band all crammed inside a silver machine, tanking it through the desert, out of their minds on mushrooms. Despite these distinct stoner elements to their songs there’s an admirable level of control at play here too, which allows the band to morph their riffs slowly into new shapes without any apparent effort.
Having piled out of their desert transportation to puke along the highway berm, they turn their faces to the sky for the final track. Stargazer darts back and forth between delicate guitar motifs and all out bombast (and a riff that sounds not unlike The Riverboat Song). Vocalist Ricardo Sampaio growls about “electric skies” as the band skip carefully on along the county lines dividing blues and metal. For some reason they decided to fade out the song just as it hits its peak of blitzing solos and relentless riffing, where it should have exploded like a dying star. It’s a small gripe, but it seems like a strange decision to pull the plug just as the band start to really cook.
There’s very little not to love about Rebirth, and Madmess have come up with a really solid stoner album here. Having explored the deserts and the starry skies already, it’ll be interesting to see where they head next.