The Ripple Effect Review
AAWKS is one of those bands that comes along every once in a while and completely changes your perspective on the landscape of the modern heavy underground. Self-described as “the product of four acid casualties united by a love for high fantasy, psychedelics and heavy rock music,” their influences range from Sabbath to Monolord, Melvins to Pink Floyd, Windhand to Electric Wizard. While some bands wear their influences on their sleeve and kowtow to them, AAWKS instead presents a sonically enrapturing melting pot, taking the power of their influences and shaping a new sound that’s original, interesting, and worth repeat listening. Their debut full length, “Heavy on the Cosmic,” due to be released on June 10th, delivers on the promise of their two initial singles. As I can attest from personal experience, it’s an album that you’ll spin on repeat.
From the very start of the album, AAWKS positions themselves comfortably straddling the lines between doom, stoner, and psychedelia. The album kicks off with a sound clip mentioning the effects of psychedelics, a theme that runs throughout the album alongside fantastical references. Album opener “Beyond the Sun” is an Electric Wizard-influenced adventure straight to the horizon of stoner doom, pushing the limits with its fuzzed out dual guitar attack. The vocals on this track set the tone for the rest of the album, adding far away melodies that dance playfully like colors on a psychedelic adventure. “Sunshine Apparitions,” a standout on the album, is a sped up sonic journey that mixes guttural and chugging power chords with rifftastic explorations up and down the fretboard - this is, to put it frankly, stoner doom at its most vibrant and youthful. “The Woods” is a heavily fuzzed out groover that takes you down memory lane to artists such as Deep Purple and The Stooges before gracefully devolving into a psychedelic dirge. “All Is Fine” interweaves its guitar brilliantly, bringing to mind Thin Lizzy in the midst of a nightmarish trip. “Star Collider” begins with an ominous reverse recording before segueing brilliantly into a riff that brings to mind Sleep and New Orleans sludge. Album closer “Peeling Away” is one of the heaviest AAWKS has given us, a fuzzed out hammer to the face of doom.
Singles “The Electric Traveller” and “Space City” are arguably the two standout tracks from the album. The first is a retro throwback to Black Sabbath, beginning with the sound of rain before the fuzz kicks in and we’re thrown into a chugging DMT trip of a ride into the landscape of psychedelic metal. While some bands who utilize psychedelia simply drop it into the midst of a song for a bridge, AAWKS instead makes this a centerpiece of their sound, interweaving wah-heavy guitar in the background to create a nightmarish journey. “Space City'' is arguably AAWKS at their most Electric Wizard-esque, beginning with a truly evil riff that becomes increasingly crushing. Vocalist and guitarist Kris Dzierzbicki is at his very best on this song, moving from a scream to an enchanting melodic hum that somehow manages to both jar and lull the listener into a warm, comfortable headspace. “Hazed out of my mind/as I watch the sun unwind” reminds you of the best of 60s psychedelia, demonstrating that AAWKS is aware of their history and their roots. All around, these songs are beyond killer.
As a whole, “Heavy on the Cosmic” is in my opinion an early contender for album of the year. It perfectly mixes doom, stoner, and psychedelic into a rifftastic, bludgeoning experience that explores the dark knowledge of a mushroom trip. Jefferson Airplane once sang “Feed your head” and listening to AAWKS is like going to a buffet for the mind. While there are times that their influences come through a little too clearly, this is done in celebration, not mimicry. Their focus on mixing melody with riffs is truly something that should be acclaimed. Make sure not to miss this one when it’s available June 10th via Black Throne Productions.