Colour Haze

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of Use )
Chopping Machine (1995), 4/10
Seven (1998), 5/10
Periscope (1999), 7/10
CO2 (2000), 5/10
Ewige Blumenkraft (2001), 5.5/10
Los Sounds De Krauts (2003), 7/10
Colour Haze (2005), 6/10
Tempel (2006), 6.5/10
All (2008), 5/10
She Said (2012), 6/10
To The Highest Gods We Know (2014), 5.5/10
In Her Garden (2017), 5/10
We Are (2019), 5/10
Sacred (2022), 4/10

German's power-trio Colour Haze, fronted by guitarist and vocalist Stefan Koglek, debuted with an amateurish revival of psychedelic hard-rock of the 1970s on Chopping Machine (1995) and Seven (1998), where they plagiarized Led Zeppelin and Jimi Hendrix. Kyuss.

They sound much more mature on Periscope (1999), originally recorded live in studio and then re-recorded in 2001. If opener Always Me and closer Transmiter sound simply like a poppy version of Blue Cheer, and if Pulse is a bit too hysterical with drumming in overdrive, the ramifications of the other songs are unpredictable and engaging: the nine-minute Antenna is truly hazy and raga-tinged, shifting into funereal mood towards the end; Sun begins as a tedious Indian-esque litany (probably enjoyable only if you are really "stoned") but soars to an anthemic infernal refrain; and the crescendo of Periscope leads to a cosmic bacchanal worthy of a jam between Helios Creed and a free-jazz band, with an Hendrix-ian coda in Periscope (Breit Return).

By comparison, CO2 (2000) pales. The eleven-minute CO2 feels uninspired (despite the vanity guitar solo), while Get it On and Motormind try again to "sell" their stoner-rock as poppy and mainstream. The mildly interesting moment of the album is the rock'n'roll All Right a` la Led Zeppelin's Communication Breakdown.

Ewige Blumenkraft (2001) is another minor work. Stefan Koglek impersonates a wild soul shouter in Freakshow, and the band seems to imitate southern-rock of the 1970s in Almost Gone, and Goddness almost falls into Bon Jovi territory. Smile 2 generates plenty of combustion at manic rhythm (especially at the end) but the 19-minute Elektrohasch takes nine minutes before accelerating into a sideral orbit (thanks to another great guitar solo) Much of the rest is filler that recycles the stereotypes of the genre with little imagination. Besides the guitar solos, the work of drummer Manfred Merwald also stands out.

They returned to form with the eleven-song double-disc Los Sounds De Krauts (2003). The granitic rocker I Won't Stop, the burst of punk-rock Other Side (even reminiscent of Ministry's Jesus Built My Hotrod), and the blues-jazz jam Z.E.N. are outliers. The core of the album is instead constituted by abstract and free-form psychedelic jamming. In the eleven-minute instrumental Plazmakeks the bass rumble typical of stoner-rock is mostly missing because the piece is mostly a subdued dialogue between guitar timbres and drumbeats. The 18-minute Weltraummantra wanders, rambles on, rises and falls, more like the post-rock of Godspeed You Black Emperor and Talk Talk than like Kyuss. The wavering blues litany of the 17-minute Overriding morphs into a werewolf-kind of howling which triggers the cosmic guitar solo du jour and a soul-jazz organ joins the final jamming. The results are not always positive: the ten-minute Sundazed creates the suspense but then wastes it in a rather mediocre melody.

Colour Haze (2005) is an album in search of the ideal meeting point of their three fundamental forms of expression: punk-ish charging, diluted jamming and massive riffing. Mountain and Tao Nr 43 are the best results. Love is a bit too scattered. The 22-minute Peace, Brothers & Sisters display their entire arsenal of tricks, but the martial crescendo, the fiery guitar solo, the Black Sabbath-esque refrain, the slow and diluted jamming and the final frenzied boogie make it feel like a diligent collage of "things we expect from Colour Haze". The closer, Flowers, is the real experiment: an attempt at country-fying their sound.

Tempel (2006) is a more serious effort at rejuvinating their sound. Aquamaria is a sophisticated summary of their career in just nine minutes: a crescendo of ethereal melody, seismic bass and convulsive drumming. Tempel couples an almost whispered jazzy beginning with their loudest doom-metal barrage yet. Meanwhile, Fire indulges in their blues obsession, the instrumental Ozean is a romantic psychedelic trip, Stratofarm reveals their mellow folk subconscious, and standout Gold & Silver is surprisingly derivative of Traffic's soul-rock of the 1970s (with an old-fashioned organ joining the final jamming).

They moved into an even mellower and laid-back sound on All (2008). Moon begins as a soul ballad, Turns is a poppy lullaby, and Stars is an odd sitar-based elegy. Lights is another inspired incursion into soul-rock of the 1970s with prominent organ, but Silent is mere routine, the 15-minute All goes nowhere with its logorrheic solos and fat bass lines, and the ten-minute Fall fails to survive the lame falsetto singing.

The 82-minute double-LP She Said (2012) displays both virtues and vices. The first side is occupied by the 19-minute She Said, which is basically a suite in four movements: melodramatic overture, latin-jazz middle, Santana-esque solo, and crunchy finale. The second side is mostly taken up by the 17 minutes of Transformation which comes alive with a hymn-like guitar solo followed by a parade of stately riffs, culminating with a horn fanfare (courtesy of Martin Homey). The mellow tones of the previous album dominate the first half of the twelve-minute Breath, with backing vocals by Mario Knapp, before the shoegazing intermezzo and the jazz-rock finale. The fourth side is split between the transcendent crescendo of Stand In and another multi-part suite, Grace, whose leitmotif is first played by neoclassical acoustic strings and then by virulent distorted guitar and bass and then in raga-rock and jazz-rock fashions. Piano, strings and horns embellish a style that was becoming routine. There are no concessions to poppy melodies. There are many moments of impressive interplay, but it's hard to pick a favorite, given that each piece is overlong and has redundant, self-indulgent sections. There are similarities with the parable of Motorpsycho.

To The Highest Gods We Know (2014), a short album by their standards, feels like a collection of leftovers: Ueberall winks at "kraut-rock" of the 1970s if not at minimalism; the Indian-esque melody du jour pervades Call; the eleven-minute To the Highest Gods We Know is the experimental piece, a gentle acoustic sonata of neoclassical and folk cues.

The 72-minute In Her Garden (2017) is a festival of uninspired music and dejavu melodies: the jamming on the eleven-minute Islands sounds first like a tribute to Hendrix and then simply like a tired nostalgic middle-age man reminiscing about the old times; and the ten-minute Skydance, which is already repetitive, is sabotaged by the vocal melody. Sterile horns join the nine-minute Labyrinthe that has been languishing for most of the duration; and trite string arrangements propel the pastoral singalong of Lotus. There are nods to old-fashioned prog-rock (Magnolia and the Yes-like Arbores) that yield very little.

They veered towards catchy songs on We Are (2019), but We Are, I'm with You and Life won't give them a top hit and instead seem to derail their jams, They do slightly better when their "post-pop" jams are configured as intellectual lieder, like in Be With Me.

Sacred (2022), with the electronic keyboards much more prominent, feels like it was composed and recorded under duress. It is just a confused and listless work. Koglek's solos and Merwald's drumming have never felt so stale. New bassist Mario Oberpucher is hardly a replacement for the wall of bass sounds that Philipp Rasthofer was.

(Copyright © 2023 Piero Scaruffi | Terms of use )