It seems like only yesterday that I handed in my 2015 end of year list with Mondo Drag’s self-titled album firmly established on it, somewhere between places ten and twenty. It was a dreamlike record; short, flighty, super psychedelic and with more emphasis on entrancing the listener than on rocking out. It was just a great album, worth touring on for a little while at least I would think. And yet, here is the new one already! Coming out so early in the year with guns blazing and with quite a different sound palette. It’s like the band put themselves on the map with Mondo Drag, gathering strength to REALLY blow minds with The Occultation Of Light.
The record’s opener “Dying Light” immediately is the quintessential Mondo Drag song, and it inhibits all the different traits that make this group such an exciting addition to the psychedelic rock world. With its eight-plus minutes it’s a bold first track, but as the song unfolds it becomes clear why they made it. “Dying Light” has catchy verses, hypnotizing groovy parts, rollercoaster-like solos from both guitar and organ, and organ, and organ, and organ. If you should know anything before listening to this record it’s that if you don’t like organ…well fuck you if you don’t like organ, who the hell doesn’t like a good organ?!
There is organ in abundance on The Occultation Of Light, and not just of the Hammond-variety either. There is lots of that Doors-inspired goodness too, but throughout the album there is room for weird science fiction synthesizers, beautifully quiet Rhodes parts, Baroque Clavichords, and all kinds of other keys as well. The good thing about a band like Mondo Drag is that they put the keys up front as a genuine instrument, with as much if not more to say than the guitar. There are not many bands that do that these days, and if you are a fan of Pink Floyd, Deep Purple, and The Doors i.e. bands that invented this use of the organ, you are going to be in for a real treat.
The biggest difference with their self-titled album is that Mondo Drag this time really put emphasis on mining their musical depths. All of the tracks are much more dynamic. They still have a nice pulsating stoned-ness to them at times, but The Occultation Of Light has so much more on display. A song like “Incendiary Procession” portrays that neo-classical prog John Lord taught us, with lots of licks, loops, and time changes, while for instance “Initiation” is a lot more repetitive and psychedelic. The band uses their ability to meander quietly, almost lulling you to sleep, and then suddenly shaking things up again Jack-In-The-Box style with fiery guitar solos and wall-like waves of organ.
All things considered I must conclude that Mondo Drag have succeeded in their little scheme. They did get my attention with their little self-titled nugget last year, and they are swiping me off my feet with this modern classic rock gem in The Occultation Of Light. Can’t wait to see them at Roadburn this year.