Robots of the Ancient World – Mystic Goddess Review

Sometimes a band name conjures a very specific image or reference before you know a single other thing about it. In the case of Portland, Oregon’s Robots of the Ancient World my mind went immediately to the slightly plump and rather ungainly automata portrayed in the distinctly average film, Hellboy II: The Golden Army. That apparently invincible army was sent to devastate humanity in payment for various slights our race committed against elves and the like. Scroll over to reality and another thing apparently sent to devastate humanity, Covid-19, was playing havoc with Robots of the Ancient World, almost ending their sophomore effort, Mystic Goddess, before it properly got off the ground. The five-piece entered the studio to record the follow up to their 2019 debut, Cosmic Riders, only for producer Jack Endino to fall ill, “wrecked from this weird flu from hell,” as Robots guitarist Justin Laubscher puts it. I think we can all guess what the hell flu turned out to be but, luckily, Endino’s longtime protégé Mikel Perkins stepped up and Mystic Goddess was completed, with Perkins as co-producer. And what, after their personal scrape with Covid-19, have Robots gifted us?

Cosmic Riders was a rough and ready piece of stoner rock that would likely have tickled fans of both Kyuss and The Sword, with just enough of a psyche tinge to pique the interest of followers of Ecstatic Vision. That model is very much continued on Mystic Goddess but refined to add a stronger blues element, and a heavier dose of psyche to the mix. The silky, languorous melody that opens the album (on the title track) sets the tone for the record, as it eases into a gently rumbling bluesy drawl, with laid back percussion and thrumming bass line. Just lightly fuzzed, Robots have as much Monster Magnet about them as they do hints of the more melodic elements of Clearing the Path to Ascend-era YOB.  Completed by the solid, slightly twanging clean vocals of Caleb Weidenbach, that remind me a little of Red Fang, the package feels familiar in a number of respects but is also hard to pin down, as it gradually morphs and modulates over its 41 minutes.

Whether it’s the romping stomp of “Out of the Gallows” or the Ghostride-eqsue tones of “Agua Caliente,” Mystic Goddess has an easy flow to it that runs smoothly across the album, as the psyche elements are woven in, making particular inroads to tracks like “Unholy Trinity” and “MK Ultra Violence.” Then a curious thing happens in the form of penultimate track, “Lucifyre,” which opens in gorgeous blues tones over an insistent, almost doomy beat, growing into full psyche-doom cliffs of fuzzed riffage. This is an excellent thing, however, and not the curious thing. The curious thing is that some eight minutes into this otherwise great song, Robots decide to give us some static feedback and the voice of conspiracy nut David Icke holding forth for three minutes on the apparent societal structures put in place to keep us all enslaved to … oh who cares? This is of a piece with the Carl Sagan spoken-word intro to the opening track on Robots’ debut but, given its positioning, as Mystic Goddess approaches its conclusion, it completely interrupts the otherwise great flow.

In fact, the flow would have been interrupted in any event, as the partially-acoustic closing track, “Ordo Ab Khao,” feels like one of those random (and almost universally poor) ‘bonus’ tracks that get tacked onto albums. This is shame, as the first six tracks and first two thirds of “Lucifyre,” are really strong, with Robots guitarists Laubscher and Nico Schmutz turning out some gorgeous, blues inspired melodies and leads, ably supported by the thick, resonant bass of Trevor Berecek. I don’t love Weidenbach’s vocals, which occasionally sound like he’s really straining, but they’re decent for the most part (“Ordo Ab Khao” aside) and he packs some real emotion into his delivery at times, particularly on the title track. Covid-woes notwithstanding, this album sounds fantastic, with the guitar tone in particular a really beautiful thing. For an album laid down in six days, with producers tagging in and out, this is no small feat and it really is a pleasure to listen to.

It’s hard to overlook, however, the manner in which Mystic Goddess simply peters out part way through “Lucifyre” and completely fails to recover on “Ordo Ab Khao,” leaving a limp and slightly bitter taste in the mouth on what is otherwise a really good album, and big step up from Robots of the Ancient World’s slightly derivative Kyuss-come-The Sword debut. Take those last six or seven minutes off the record – not because it’s too long but because they’re simply not good – and we’d be looking at much better score but they really contrive to flatten the overall experience.

Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Small Stone Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: May 21st, 2021

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