One of these days, I’m going to have to visit Belgium. You see, not only did this fine little country spawn my favorite album last year, but it is spitting out a couple more interesting bands in 2019, starting with the horribly-named My Diligence. Honestly, I don’t mean to start a review on such a negative note, especially when the music far surpasses the name, but it’s just not a great moniker. That aside, what My Diligence bring to the table is an intriguing progressive stoner mix influenced by a few solid bands. Think of the harmonious stoner-pop sensibilities of Torche, the progressive leanings of Elder, and a dash of Queens of the Stone Age’s quirkiness, and you’ve got an idea of what this band’s second album, Sun Rose, is all about.
Progressive, yes, but relatively succinct: the nine songs on Sun Rose clock in between the two- and five-minute ranges, never outstaying their welcome. “Resentful” opens the show in hypnotic fashion, and you can immediately hear the influences mentioned above. A slow groove beneath a simple riff drives the song, with effects-laden vocals and a simple yet effective arrangement lulling us into its spell. It’s a captivating opener, and the trio waste no time bludgeoning us with the next track, “Hunt the Hunter,” which attacks us in blistering 4/4 time, again dropping a superb riff and vocals heavily influenced by Torche-slightly distorted, but melodically catchy. In fact, much of this song and others wear Torche influences proudly on their sleeves, almost but not quite to the point of aping that band.
“Flying Poney” might be the most blatant of the Torche-core presented. It could almost fit on Harmonicraft, in fact, the guitar tones and overall feel being dead on. The mimicry in other songs is a little more subtle, evident primarily in Cédric Fontaine’s vocal delivery and some guitar harmonies. Fontaine and guitarist Francois Peeters (both of whom pull guitar and bass duties throughout) play off each other in effective fashion, dropping riffs and short lead breaks with abandon while Gabriel Marlier lays down a thunderous foundation for the pair. Fontaine favors the melodic vocal style and feel of Steve Brooks, and does a great job at it, most notably on the excellent track “So Pretty So Cruel.” Luckily, other influences come into play, making My Diligence more than just a Torche rip-off act. The psychedelic build of “An Asteroidal Arrow” and “Serpentine” certainly invoke Elder, while down-tuned jams like “Unreal” and “Lecter’s Song” are reminiscent of heavier QOTSA fare. Put it all together and it’s one tasty mess.
With a great selection of earworm riffs and catchy harmonies, along with undeniably charismatic vocals, what could go wrong? Mastering, that’s what. While the urge to compress this kind of music into a thick sludge is strong, it must be fought. Even at only 38 minutes, Sun Rose leaves the listener’s ears weary at the end, as the compressed onslaught just doesn’t let up. The instruments all sound great tonally, but at appropriately loud volumes they just fight too much for space, resulting in a feeling like we’ve listened to a 70-minute record when we haven’t. For god’s sake, engineers, let these mixes breathe! Luckily, aside from “Backstabber,” the weakest and longest track, the songs are strong enough to overcome loudness issues.
Apparently, Torche will be gracing us with a new album this year, and that’s something we should all be looking forward to. While we wait, Sun Rose will aptly tide us over. It’s a sweet, concisely written album that’s sure to please prog/psych/stoner fans everywhere, pulling the right influences from a number of bands and melding them into a tight, albeit loud, package. This one’s going to get more than its fair share of spins in Maison d’Huckster in the coming months, whenever I need a break from cheesy 70s rock.