On paper there’s nothing I shouldn’t love about Snake Mountain Revival, the Virginia Beach psychedelic/stoner trio who after two successful EPs released their debut full length Everything In Sight back in November of 2021. Late one night before the release I listened to the available singles and made a judgement call, preordering the vinyl. Almost seven months later I finally got that vinyl, and listening now I can hear things that are appealing, but there’s a sameness to the tracks that, when taken as a whole album I’m finding frustrating. Was this always the album, or was the frustration of waiting contributing to my less than enthusiastic attitude toward the band and album? I decided to listen again song by song and see if I could get to the bottom of it.
After a swirl of wind and an opening that’s suspiciously like Cream’s “White Room” the album kicks off with the 60s blues boogie of “Satellite Ritual.” Bassist/vocalist Ryan Chandler is awash in reverb, and over the repeating riff there’s some nice high harmony vocals. When the chorus comes things kick up the slightest of notches, but where it should slam you it merely sits in the same sonic atmosphere as the verse. There’s more of a dynamic shift when the song slides to a moody, psychedelic break, the cymbal hits of drummer Josh Woodhouse accenting the section nicely. From a production standpoint the first thing I thought of was the debut from Witchcraft, which buried fantastic sounds in a vintage production that – while cool – did little to elevate the songs. There’s a similar thing happening here.
“Moon Baron” fares better, with a wicked riff courtesy of guitarist Zack Trowbridge, and it leads me to wonder if I just really react better to the heavier moments. This is a dirty, heavy rock song, and the dynamics are much more evident, sweeping during the choruses and settling back down during the verses. Great solo as well with some heavy wah pedal pushing the notes forever onward to a promo-metal bridge to the outdo. There’s a suitably trippy video, as well:
Things settle firmly into a psychedelic wash for “Just a Feeling” and I’m again reminded of that Witchcraft debut. Despite the consistency of the riff and overall tone of the track, it works much better than “Satellite Ritual”, maybe because it’s a slower, more downbeat number. Maybe it’s just my dissatisfaction with the opening track because while Side A closer “Graveyard Grove” has some of the same compressed dynamics to its shuffling doom groove (though it really kicks into gear in the second half) it also works much better. Again Chandler layers some nigh falsetto harmonies over his head vocals to nice effect, and the snarling fuzz of Trowbridge’s guitar is a welcome change to the more laid back tones generated on earlier songs.
Moving onto Side B at this point I really think it’s just the utter lack of anything sticky with their choice to open the album with “Satellite Ritual”. It start with the title track, and the acid rock is particularly strong with Sabbath-like riff that moves into a fuzz bass groove that hits a gothic vein. For a minute I was hearing bands like Unto Others and The Wraith as much as the 70s stoner bands Snake Mountain Revival is channeling. Then we hit a surf solo and although you can argue “Everything In Sight” has a bit of an identity crisis I’m okay with it.
The rest of Everything In Sight the album takes a bit of a breather. After the moderate rock of “Pheromone” comes the grooving instrumental of “Water Moccasin” which has a cinematic feel to its simple but insistent arrangement. Then we close with “The Valley of Madness” which if I’m honest kinda gets lost in the shuffle every time I listen to the record.
Maybe at that point I’m in a nice haze of chill, who knows? But take away the dull opener and closer and there are dis pretty solid songs to speak to the way Snake Mountain Revival can grow into a ferocious rock machine.