Blood of the Sun’s “In Blood We Rock”

By Ken Shimamoto

SST Records insider/Rock and the Pop Narcotic scribe Joe Carducci doesn’t like the idea of record collectors in bands, but he loves music that rawks, so one wonders what he’d make of Blood of the Sun, who just released their smokin’ sophomore CD (first with this lineup) In Blood We Rock. They’re a band that wears their highly esoteric ‘70s hard rock influences on their collective sleeve while tearing the roof off every room they’ve ever played. I mean, fuh cry sakes, they took their name from the title of the opening song on heavyweight (in all senses) guitarist Leslie West’s Mountain album (the “solo” one BEFORE Climbing), and one of the best tracks on their new disc is a cover of Wilson Pickett’s “99 ½” that they freely admit they cribbed from Boomerang, organist Mark Stein’s obscuro post-Vanilla Fudge unit.

The contents of their rekkid collections aside, Blood of the Sun has a bloodline as impressive as it is all-over-the-map. Drummer-vocalist Henry Vasquez is a veteran of heavy outfits Porn, Sourvein, and Archie Bunker, while guitarist Rich Hurley has opened for deceased punk Uber-nihilist G.G. Allin as a member of 3 Men and a Baby Jesus (“His guitar player played a gold top [Les Paul] with used tampons dangling from all the tuning keys, that he had collected on tour”) and played with Me-Thinks frontman Ray Liberio in Guy 2000, a band Ray describes as “Confusatron, Villain Vanguard, and Sleeplab before it was cool.” Keyboardist Dave Gryder has drummed with both death metallers Rotting Corpse and prog godfather Bill Pohl (in the late-‘80s trio Morning Thunder and the more recent fusion cover band Mad Jack McMaddd), released a prog-y solo album called Covenant, and led a hard rock band called Storm At Sunrise. Bassist Roger Yma and lead guitarist Ty Tompkins complete the line-up. They’re all stupendous.

They’re also total throwbacks to a strain of music that I’d almost forgotten existed, but was the core music of my life for a time in the early ‘70s, before the corporate suits got hold of the Rawk and fabricated shite like Boston, Journey, Foreigner, and Styx. You’re probably too young to remember, but long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far, away, when most people would have laughed at the idea that 30 years hence, the most influential bands from the period would be Black Sabbath and the Stooges, there was a strain of blues-based hard rock that hadn’t yet morphed into metal, kinda tangentially related to Southern boogie, but then again, a lot of the style’s practitioners came from the UK. The sound was heavily reliant on the distinctive tones of Les Pauls through Marshalls, and often, Hammond B-3s through Leslies. We’re talking about stuff like the first three Ian Gillan-era Deep Purple albums, the first Captain Beyond album, Cactus, Trapeze, and Fort Worth’s own Bloodrock (of whom Rich Hurley is such a fanboy that he actually owns some of guitarist Lee Pickens’ old stage clothes). In the ‘90s, “stoner rock” figureheads like Kyuss and Nebula drank deep from this well, but there isn’t a 2007 band mining this lode that does it better than Blood of the Sun.

Seen live, these guys epitomize Heavy (and Loud – earplugs might not be a bad idea). With twin Les Pauls blasting through Marshall and Orange amps, plus keys, there’s not a lot of empty space in this soundscape. Like his pal Trinidad Leal in Dixie Witch, Henry Vasquez sets his drums up front-and-center and physically dominates the stage like an angry Viking god. Plus, he’s a consummate Rawk vocalist whose tonsil torturing reveals the connection between Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and the early ‘70s blues-based belters. To his right, Rich Hurley and Roger Yma run through the catalog of Big Rawk stage moves, while to his left, Ty Tompkins recycles every good lick ever played at the Texxas Jam. Lurking in the shadows behind his bandmates, evil genius Dave Gryder secretly controls the Universe from atop his bank of keyboards.

With In Blood We Rock, they’ve done a good job of transferring their live fury to shiny silver disc. The songs, all originals in the grand old style with the one previously-stated exception, feature lotsa interesting dynamic and tempo shifts and plenty of hot solo-trading between Tompkins and Gryder; there’s a lot more going on here than just brute force and ignorance. Top o’ the heap at my house: the full-on rave-up “Squeaky Wheel,” absolute stoner rock archetype “Wizard,” nifty dueling-solo vehicle “Bring It Home,” and thunderous closer “Road King” – the latter a song with much topicality, since as I type this, Blood of the Sun is gearing up for a European jaunt. The Old World better be ready.

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