Lecherous Gaze doesn’t fall into easy slots. The group is heavy as sin, loud as a country snowplow and as unrefined as Uncle Jess. During this album’s “Thing Within” alone we music lovers are treated to epic metal-cum-surf rock (Ride the Lightning-era Metallica gets down with the Ventures) and sweet, Euro-style guitar lines that recall Michael Schenker’s early, brilliant work with UFO. Throw in a dose or two of righteous rage, and the song serves as the essence of what makes Lecherous Gaze worth your time.
The kind of eclecticism that’s evident there and elsewhere on this record ain’t all that easy to pull off. The bins of your local secondhand MP3 emporium are littered with examples of groups that tried to reach a distant beach but only got sucked under and dragged off into the sea of madness. What makes Lecherous Gaze better than that? Commitment, no doubt. The quintet doesn’t strain to hit these marks nor does it apologize for them. Imagine any other heavy rock band going full Doobie Brothers as heard on “The Day the Earth Caught Fire’s” main riff and you probably imagine a disaster. There’s a little magic twinkle in the aural eyes of Graham Clise and Co. as they move this boogie burner along, then set the whole thing aflame with some Ace Frehley-style guitar toward the end.
“Malevolent Shroud” verges on full-blown space rock and prog in certain moments, with riffs and rhythms twisting and turning in unexpected whirlpools of slam-dunk sound. “Blind Swordsman” is the comic relief ballad but hardly a throwaway for its status. Funny and bizarre, it’s a tale you buy into for better or worse, hanging on until the last note rings out. “X City” kicks with the power and R&B-based vibe of the MC5 at their early peak.
Those new to the Gaze’s way of doing things may find Zaryan Zaidi’s sandpaper vocals a little heavy on the sandpaper, but it’s the perfect sound for when hell’s house band moves in next door and kills all living things for three blocks around. That is epitomized on “Reptile Mind” where Zaidi gives on of his all-time great performances, proving that his style isn’t so much an acquired taste as a taste that you earn while shoving your ears into the heart of a table saw, then repeating until you realize it’s not so bad. “Cosmos Redshift 7”, on the other hand, acts as what may be this record’s most accessible tune. It rocks steady and strong from end to end and shows that Lecherous Gaze can be as easy to listen to as the next bunch of guys from Oakland.
Will Lecherous Gaze change your life? Maybe. Will it change everyone’s? Probably not. But this is music that reveals itself nicely to those who are open-minded enough to imagine that rock ‘n’ roll can make you levitate at the right time and transport you to a place where letting down guards and letting the unexpected wash over you may be the best thing you’ll ever do.
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