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Mainliner - Mellow Out

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Artist: Mainliner

Album: Mellow Out

Label: Riot Season

Review date: May. 20, 2003

Whole Lotta Love

In three tracks totaling thirty short minutes, Mainliner obliterates everything in its path. “Black Sky” lays down a thick, plodding riff until Makoto Kawabata’s “motorpsycho guitar” and drummer Hajime Kozumi explode four minutes later. In one swift second, a Sabbath-sized weight alights into the air and gravity disappears. When that riff becomes a furious free-for-all, in that single moment of transition, the skies clear and the storm clouds turn sunny. Kozumi rattles on his snare and then drops away.

Not for long, however. Distortion becomes a fourth member of the band, the fog through which recognizable elements sometimes emerge. Drums tumble, crash, and clatter everywhere while guitar scree and squall circle relentlessly. Eventually they regain their footing and return to The Riff while Nanjo’s phantom vocals sit above the bog. These vocals hardly exist; they are shadows without any object, reverberation with little articulated content. Relatively speaking, this could be called a breather, until four minutes later when another eruption pulls the rug out. Around fifteen minutes after beginning, the fury somehow subsides.

“M” establishes a bottomless crunch that would send Blue Cheer hiding behind their stacked Marshalls. Nanjo and Kozumi stick together on a riff and rhythm as Kawabata peels into the fiery heights of his guitar. On occasion he descends from the skies to add more mess to the low end – these are moments when the equipment might just give up the fight. No sound is distinct. The volume is too high, the distortion too thick; the speakers rumble in exhilarated pain.

Originally released in 1996, Mainliner’s Mellow Out quickly sold out its pressing and hid among the ghosts of underground myth and record collector whispering. Those who heard the record proclaimed it as a pinnacle of Japanese heavy psychedelic music, one of the heaviest records to emerge from perhaps the heaviest scene on the planet. Even seven years later, after a few more releases by Asahito Nanjo’s High Rise, and after a mountainous output from the Acid Mother’s Temple, this album should not be discarded as just another record in the genre. Mellow Out is not the speed garage of High Rise, nor the precision prog of The Ruins, nor the cosmic trip of the Acid Mothers Temple. It is a pure distortion meltdown with little regard for the limitations of time, rhythm, or volume.

Asahito Nanjo said that the terrorizing levels on Mellow Out were done out of love. Mellow Out, and perhaps the entire output of these Japanese guitar gods, reflects not only a love of volume, but also a love of inflating every musical excess hard rock had to offer.

By Jeff Seelbach

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