Peace is the debut album from L.A.’s Vista Chino but the members involved are far from novices. The band is comprised of musicians who have spent at least 20 years in the underground rock scene and the album actually sounds like a hybrid of 90’s Fuzz Rock and 70’s Classic Rock. The overall production has a low fidelity feel to it which gives the recording some character though the drums suffer to a small extent from this choice. The drum tone sounds a bit stale on some tracks more than others but the actual execution of the drumming is done with great mastery by Brant Bjork who has perfected the art of “the groove” and also provides lead vocals on the first half of “Planets 1 & 2.”
The very first track “Good Morning Wasteland” is merely a mock field recording with echoing, effected guitar notes that lead into the first actual full band composition “Dragona Dragona” which opens with an overly compressed distorted guitar riff that bends and mutates into multiple themes before settling on a song structure that is a clear indicator of what this band is all about.
Lead single “Sweet Remain” comes out swinging with a pummeling juggernaut of a rhythmic synergy between the guitars and drums carrying some of the strongest and most caustic lead vocals on the album while the guitars on the following song “As You Wish” slither across the rhythmic framework during the verses then build momentum in the pre-chorus only to avalanche through the “hook” in a stop/start manner which perfectly resolves all tension throughout the song. Faux-closer “Acidize…The Gambling Moose” (“faux” because the record wraps up with two bonus or “encore” tracks) revs up slowly with a fuzzed out guitar riff laden with a smoother and cleaner vocal approach and runs the gamut from Space Rock to guitar Jazz then traditional Blues with accompanying harmonica for taste, finding parallels with artists such as Radiohead along the way before finally blasting into a Led Zeppelin-esque Blues/Rock jam session in an almost half-time feel until the end. The track lasts almost exactly 13 minutes and puts every second to impeccably good use.
This record sounds huge and expansive but almost suffocating at the same time, as if it is filling not only the seemingly infinite stretch of space for miles ahead but also the space directly in front of the listener’s face. The guitars are pushed up front in the mix but not overly aggressive in style due to the swagger of the groove set by the drummer and the hypnotically rhythmic sympathetic resonance injected by guitarist Bruno Fevery who also provides some of the most technically proficient yet tunefully unique lead playing I’ve ever heard. Vocalist John Garcia still peels paint off the walls with his signature rugged, high pitched rasp but ventures into cleaner, prettier vocal territories as well which I would personally encourage him to explore further on future recordings.
The album features bass guitar contributions from three different players including the band’s own drummer Bjork, Nick Oliveri (of Queens of The Stone Age, Kyuss, and Mondo Generator fame) and Mike Dean (Corrosion of Conformity) but you could hardly tell that there is more than one bass player throughout the record due to stylistic consistency. Granted the bass is not the most audibly prominent instrument for much of the album’s nearly hour long running time but it always blends in and helps set the stage for the vast expanse of the soundscape that Vista Chino is making and considering that two of the members of this band are founding members of the long-defunct “Desert Rock” powerhouse Kyuss with contributions from a third founding member, it’s no wonder the music sounds this big and is this good.
Peace is easily a top five rock record for 2013 and comes highly recommended for anyone interested in hearing this type of music without the stigma of radio rock insipidity.