Saturna are from Barcelona, Spain, and started only in 2010. But the members of the band are not beginners at all, and you can tell this after capturing the different hues of Saturna’s music in the début full-length album The Kingdom Of Spirit. Saturna officially tag their music as “psychedelic classic 70`s / retro-rock”, and that’s fine and correct. Surely the band drew massive inspiration from pristine rock of the 70s but this does not fully define Saturna’s style.
What makes this album grow every time you get into it is the fluid way the band adopted to surf between genres without actually leaving the boundaries of “classic retro rock”, with what this implies. Album The Kingdom of Spirit includes 8 tracks for slightly more than 37 minutes. It eventually comes out quite short after it has pleasantly “infected” you ...
Saturna’s songs are a bit strange. Sometimes they have an almost low-profile start as if the guys were shy for 30 seconds, or else a tricky intro that does not allow you to imagine what will come after (like for example in track Morning Star). Then everything happens, the flower blooms, Saturna’s peacock unfolds its tail and lets you admire its colour parade. Saturna’s songs are very very catchy, they are led by rather plain melodies which are easy to grasp and sing (or moan) along, sometimes almost like those nursery rhymes that stick into your mind for life.
But in spite of the seemingly simplicity of the leading melodies, the band develop their overall sound in a braided way, by smoothly switching between orthodox, “old” hard/blues rock, lysergic retro psychedelia, and proto-heavy metal / traditional doom (with minimal hints to stoner rock as well). So reference bands and names like Blue Cheer, Atomic Rooster, Led Zeppelin, Budgie, Hendrix, Buffalo, Sir Lord Baltimore, Lucifer’s Friend, as well as Black Sabbath, Pentagram, Saint Vitus, etc., come easily to mind while listening to Saturna.
Probably it couldn’t but go in this way …
Earlier I mentioned “new band but experienced guys”. Saturna’s line-up includes four stable members, i.e. Rodrigo Tirado on bass, Patrick Pezoa on vocals, Enrique Vilaplana and Aureli Rubio on guitars (drummer Kris Bar Nus was involved for the release of the album). Rodrigo and Patrick are related to two cool Barcelona-based psychedelic drone doom bands, Under The Tree and Ätman-Acron. The latter includes folks from no less than two cult Spanish doom bands of a recent past, Great Coven and Eight Hands for Kali. Last but not least, Jondix, acclaimed tattoo artist and doom guitarist in the above cult bands (as well as guest musician in Satan’s Wrath, the new band of Electric Wizard’s bassist), is involved in the making of Saturna’s fine cover artwork.
Doom must definitely be like a virus, maybe dormant but always alive. Those of us who were infected by doom as teens know this well enough. So maybe Saturna couldn’t, or didn’t want to keep doom away from their retro rock experience, even if all this started years and years ago to do something “different” from the other projects. In spite of the many lines I am writing about it, doom is surely not the dominant feature in Saturna but it gives so much “thickness” to the sound. Doom is seeping through and camouflaging behind the seemingly easy-going, fuzzy, classic rock groove making up the backbone of Saturna’s style and songs. Doom is introduced by a general downtuning of the guitars, that sound definitely heavier and more “metallic” than expected for “classic rock”. Then doom comes in via bluesy heavy Sabbathian riffs, by means of dark and doped atmospheres vaguely recalling Electric Wizard, as well as by sleazy interplay's between heavy downtuned riffs and strained vocals that evoke flashes of Pentagram and Saint Vitus. Patrick’s imposing gritty and warm voice is another essential ingredient for adding strength and thickness to the songs. In the album vocals are molded, doubled, echoed, distorted just the right amount needed for accompanying the sonic excursions across genres by the fellow musicians.
To go back to the album’s tracks, well, as expected they are hybrids of retro heaviness and groove and they sound old and modern, or better “fresh”, at the same time, because of the avalanche of badass riffs they carry and the way they are combined with pulsating bass, great vocals and lively drumming. Most of the songs are mid- to slow-paced, and in general with minor accelerations, so that they sound rather “compact”. An example is the opening track, Master Of The Secret Arts, or else tracks Light The Candles In Thirteen, Seven Magic Spells or. These tracks are also, for me at least, examples of those simple rhythmic, nursery rhyme-wise hooking melodies with a sort of hypnotic effect. Tracks Light The Candles In Thirteen and Seven Magic Spells are quite “doomy” too. Light The Candles In Thirteen has a plodding bluesy leading melody but its interaction with Patrick’s distorted vocals definitely recall Pentagram to me. Seven Magic Spells is probably the most doomy song of the album right from its dark and buzzy start. The song is groovy and sinister, riffs are rather distorted and the vocal parts as well are strained, doubled and vary between melancholic and aggressive. All in all this track is reminding me of Saint Vitus or Electric Wizard. Track This God Is Wicked is slightly faster than the other songs and it possesses the dynamics of the best fuzzy stoner rock and the vibe of the hottest hard rock. Mountain Woman Ritual is a magnificently infectious ballad led by a powerful fuzzy rock sound.
The ballad is built around a leading, bass-driven, retro-sounding winding, heavy riff over which howling, Hendrixian psychedelic riffs are knitted. Awesome … Morning Star and The Hermes Stone are two other charming ballads. Morning Star has a noisy start lead by a fight between the pulsating bass and a painfully screeching guitar, and then unexpectedly a full-bodied, seducing southern bluesy rock melody develops ... Closing track The Hermes Stone is a passionate blend of retro rock, southern swampy blues e psychedelia reminding of, e.g., Grand funk Railroad, Allman Brothers Band and Hendrix. The hot sound here is made a bit dirty and swampy by distortion and downtuning of Saturna’s guitars. The slowing down of the leading melody in the second half of the track brings on melancholy and introspection. And this is the, I would say, unexpected way this powerful album dies out … It ends and you would go on … Like many things in life, I suppose!
A mention at least is due as well for the lyrics of Saturna’s album, which were entirely written by singer Patrick Pezoa. As the title of album and tracks may suggest, lyrics were inspired by the author’s philosophical and spiritual studies and do fit well with the spirit of the “alternative” cultural movements born back in the 70’s.
Saturna’s The Kingdom Of Spirit is out in vinyl format by Odio Sonoro Records & Seven Snakes Records. Grab it …
Review by Marilena Moroni
Saturna | Facebook
Saturna | Bandcamp
Saturna’s LP | Odio Sonoro
Saturna - "Mountain Woman Ritual"