Reviewed: March 2019
Released: 2018 – Wasted State Records
Old Man Lizard have been belting out their particular brand of stoner and sludge since 2011.
Inspired by the rural surroundings of their native Suffolk, the UK based power trio have certainly made their mark on the heavy rock scene, delivering some memorable live shows alongside the likes of Elder, Conan and Fatso Jetson.
Their official releases have been highly praised by fans and critics alike, including their self-titled debut with Heavy Psych Sounds Records, Lone Wolf vs Brown Bear and a split 7” release with Earthmass on Big Riff Records.
Now, after years in the making, Jack Newnham (also in Slabdragger and Meadows), Gav Senior and Dan Beales have returned to the studio to record their third full length album – True Misery, which is available now on Wasted State Records.
The band explain, “this album is a choice selection of material written over the last 5 years, covering a broad spectrum of influences while staying true to our sound. We had an absolute blast recording with the super-talented and eternally-patient, Jason Frye (Century Audio and Harrowed) and we were lucky enough to have bluegrass hero, Pete Allen drop in for a session and lay down some fiddle!”
They go on to say, “Expect heavy, expect tone, EXPECT RIFFS!”
Indeed, True Misery features all of the above, but I would argue the band are doing themselves a disservice by downplaying the breadth of influences contained in this set of songs. There is plenty of hard riffing here, but also a textured subtlety that makes this record all the more appealing.
Shark Attack hovers in on a down-tuned fog, reminding this reviewer of King Crimson before the verses take on a post-rock feel, like some sort of doom Fugazi.
Then, second track, Snakes!!! gallops along refusing to settle on any one part for more than a few bars until Tree of Ténéré grips the listener with its twisting country riff
By this point, it’s clear the band are adept at weaving some idiosyncratic trickery into their Kyuss-like grooves. It’s never overt, but enough to raise an impressed eyebrow and keep listening. Driven by vintage valve tones and maintaining an analogue warmth that suggests the band have taken as much influence from Cream and Zappa as they have from Elder or Baroness, Old Man Lizard seem to have paid meticulous attention to tone.
It is an aesthetic that plays well alongside the melancholy from which the album takes its title. Songs such as Cursed Ocean, Relentless Sea and Misery is Miserable share a desolate, sorrowful lilt. The former is a hazy lament about a “brutal death on my doorstep” that does much to encapsulate the mood of the album, evoking isolation and distance. This is emphasised by the mournful chords of the latter as they drift along, underpinning guest musician Pete Allen’s rural violin.
In fact, much of the music on True Misery sits a significant distance from the “banging riffs” that Old Man Lizard led us to expect.
That being the case, let it not be said that the riffs aren’t present. For example, The Adventures of Rupert Biggins and Trees Fall Down both feature guitar work that would have desertscene alumni such as Josh Homme and Brant Bjork nodding their approval. This album has absolutely no shortage of heavy fuzzed-out moments, and it’s in this contrast that we realise the album’s strength.
With True Misery, Old Man Lizard have crafted a well balanced collection of songs that soar as much as they wallow. Crucially, they remain compelling throughout.