Ape Machine: War to Head (Self-released)

Better-known for its indie bands, Portland, Ore., also possesses a powerful hard-rock and metal scene. (See Toxic Holocaust, Across the Sun, etc.) PDX quartet Ape Machine, as its name suggests (adding a "T" gives you "tape machine," a nod to heavy music's analog origins), offers organic, bong-worthy bliss for those of us who don't own enough Black Sabbath and Rainbow "background" records with which to smoke epic bowls.

Bluesy, boozy and darkly psychedelic, the band's sophomore effort, War to Head, holds eight shaggy, head-banging originals, plus—you guessed it—a rollickin' Deep Purple cover ("Black Night"). It all charges ahead in straightforward fashion, much like your cousin's old 1971 AMC Javelin—except for wicked, slow-burning blues number "No Sugar in My Coffee."

Singer Caleb Heinze wields the perfect frontman voice, smoky and haunted, even if his nebulous and mystical lyrics seem calculatingly retro. Guitarist Ian Watts has an appropriate last name given the tower of amplifiers he must employ to project such a killer tone. In addition, bassist Brian True and drummer Monte Fuller maintain a crushing momentum. Check out "Downtrodden," which lumbers forward like a drunken Sasquatch lost in the woods near Robert Johnson's juke joint.

I never thought I'd find a stoner-rock group that will appeal to fans of The Sword and Whitesnake, but here it is. No seeds or stems, either.

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