I will be honest. I have been overwhelmed by the great albums that have come out in just the last few months, and we still have a few more before we close out 2022. So, when I found out Munich’s Colour Haze, who have been creating their eerily consistent magic of psychedelic stoner rock for an unfathomable 25 years now, were releasing a new album, a part of me just wasn’t ready to handle it.
Colour Haze – Sacred (Elektrohasch)
Release Date: Out Now
Words: Sunil Singh
This reaction is also due to the fact that Colour Haze is one of my favourite bands of all time, and their music is sacred as hell. And I need to appreciate any new output from them when I am emotionally and spiritually replenished–as the last month or so has absolutely drained me with the ridiculous quality of music coming out in the genre of stoner rock. The scene is wonderfully out of control.
So, this review is after three listens of the album. First one, like most listens, was simply in the background as I was attending to finishing my presentation for a mathematics conference in Los Angeles at the end of the month. Music is mathematics, right? We will save that discussion for another time. The second listen had my undivided attention. The third listen was critical, as it let me know how much I missed on the second. The same thing will probably happen on the fourth. Welcome to the dense, layered, and complex world of Colour Haze.
Oh, the album title. Sacred. Yes. I made a purposeful nod to it in the second paragraph.
Turquoise opens Colour Haze’s 14th studio album. Who doesn’t love the colour turquoise, right? It has this calm and healing feel. And, sure enough, this instrumental song opens with a warm, whimsical lightness. All the signature Colour Haze sounds are there, with the perfect amount of drifting. But, the song swells up at the end, and just the right amount. You know that this song is just a teaser for things to come.
Goldmine is a seamless song follow-up. It just comes in with this nice gruff guitar–kind of like a face that has gone without a shave for a few days. And when Stefan finally shows up on the album, all’s right with the world. This mid-tempo song has a riff that feels nostalgic for the earlier days of stoner rock and Colour Haze’s formative presence during that time. And then, just as the song gets going, it comes to an abrupt stop, when you know full well it could have gone on much longer.
Colour Haze rolled the quirky “stop” into the song, Ideologigi, an interesting choice of song title. The song begins with a sentient computer trying to reboot. It’s all tiny effects, but there is this human element here. It’s an opening which complements the abruptness of the last song–like if a cord was unplugged from a wall socket. Koglek’s vocals have this raspy hybrid of Geddy Lee and Jon Anderson on this number. The song noodles around them for a bit before departing into a fitting climax of psychedelic haze.
The one thing we haven’t discussed so far are the lyrics of Sacred. That almost requires a separate review, as they delve deeply into an emotional audit of our world in 2022. So, it seems fitting that the song Avatar, smack dab in the middle of the album, opens with a lyric that resonates with the right amount of unease.
"Do you spend your days in your real life?"
Naturally, the lyrics continue and riff off that heavy question, but damn, is that a great line of existential angst for your mind to wrestle with. The commentary on the falseness of society’s online lives is a heavy subject to tackle, but the music smartly has a whimsical/light bounce to it. This is one of those rare Colour Haze songs where I was more fixated on the vocal performance than the instrumental one. While the latter didn’t disappoint, for me, I wanted to pay attention to the emotions of Koglek’s voice.
While Colour Haze is known for their long, epic songs, using that time to take the listener on a journey of the entire Colour Haze palette of sounds, 1.5 degrees, a very short song, shows the band can still take you on a ride in just a few minutes. The song begins with this buzzing that sounds like part mosquito and part Middle Eastern techno. Acoustic plucking then begins to dominate the song. If the song had done just this, I would have been more than happy. The final seconds of the song has this ticking which comes, foreshadowing that something ominous might be coming. Oh yeah. I don’t know what a tear in the space-time continuum would sound like, but that’s what Colour Haze is trying to replicate here. A dirty-ass guitar just barges in like Godzilla wreaking havoc on Tokyo. Easily one of my favourite moments on the album. What a masterstroke of musical creativity.
See The Fools is my favourite song on the album. The vocals, most likely unintentionally, convey a frustration/exhaustion with the state of things in our fractured and broken world. And yet, the entire song is thoroughly uplifting. Some of the best guitar work on the album merges with the melodic/hopeful vocals in a synergistic fashion. The song just keeps rising. You don’t want it to stop. This should have been the album closer. If it went on for another five minutes or so, it could have rivalled a song like “Love” or “Transformation” as Colour Haze masterpieces. Most of the time, I defer to the band as to what an appropriate time length of a song should be. This is one rare case I wish they would have jammed the hell out of a song.
So, listening to the final song came with mixed emotions. Sure, one more piece of art to listen to, but I had serious doubts if it could close the album without some letdown. But, to be fair, the song actually sounds like a denouement, the band jamming an album outro without trying too hard to “out Colour Haze” itself. The first few minutes are filled with signature jazzy/light psychedelic moments. I can begin to see that there are only a few minutes left when there is this celebratory burst of sound–a perfect tone to end the album on. Heartfelt and soaring vocals and uptempo guitar work is how it all ends.
Colour Haze solidified themselves as one of the great bands of this generation over a decade ago. Colour Haze solidified themselves as one of the great bands of this generation over a decade ago. Sacred is one more album, in an already staggering discography.
Great review – spot on! Here I am in Minnesota listening to yet another ridiculously fabulous album from Colour Haze after being introduced to their music a few years ago from a gal pal. Not usually my genre but the musicality and jazzy/jammy twists and turns in each song won’t allow my ear free from it. Wondering how it is possible that so few people in the US have caught on to their music. Favorite thing to do is to listen to them either running with my AirPods or like today, just sitting on living room couch with vinyl playing (the best!). I’ve also experimented with learning one of their songs on guitar— seems like they play in alternate tunings? Haven’t come across any discussion on that yet.