Sound — 9
"Peace" is apparently the debut album from Palm Beach rockers Vista Chino. I say apparently, because Vista Chino is actually Kyuss Lives!, who in turn are really '90s stoner rock behemoths Kyuss. Well, Kyuss without Josh Homme anyway, who nixed the reunion and dropped a lawsuit on his former bandmates which resulted in them being unable to use their old name. Its a strange situation for messrs John Garcia and Brant Bjork (alongside newcomer guitarist Bruno Fevery) to find themselves in, especially as Peace often feels like a Kyuss album in all but name. The record effectively picks up from where "...And the Circus Leaves Town," Kyuss' 1995 swan song left off. By way of unrelenting balls-to-the-wall riff-fest "Dragona Dragona," the spaced-out free form jam segments of the aptly titled "Planets" and the epic (if bizarrely named) 13 minute album closer "Acidize The Gambling Moose," Vista Chino unashamedly bring the hallmarks of the classic Kyuss sound to the table. The album is pure, old-school stoner; as sludgy as the Louisiana Bayou, heavy as the hammer of mighty Thor and with enough melodic flourishes to keep it away from dirge territory. Brant Bjork, evidently elated to be back behind the kit, is hitting as hard and grooving loose, with Mike Dean doing a more than capable job of rounding out the rhythm section in place of Nick Oliveri (who supposedly retains "honorary membership" in the band, in spite of his absence from this record). In replacing Josh Homme, Bruno Fevery has some pretty big boots to fill. His playing will undoubtedly be the most scrutinized aspect of the record by the Kyuss faithful. Yet, he undertakes riffing duties with fuzz-soaked aplomb, fitting into the desert rock vibe with a seeming effortless proficiency. Vista Chino's apparent willingness to return to Kyuss territory could have led to them treading over old ground. Yet, the palpable enthusiasm, stellar playing and accomplished song craft that are present throughout the record means that "Peace" feels as fresh today as it undoubtedly would have done if released eighteen years ago.
Lyrics — 10
One of the major reasons that Vista Chino manages to sound so vital on this latest release is the seemingly age defying vocals of John Garcia. Time has been a harsh mistress on the lungs of many a hard rock singer. But, at 42, Garcia still manages to belt it with a vigor and intensity usually reserved for men half his age. His distinctive snarl remains as powerful as it ever was and on tracks like "Sweet Remain," his vocal range somehow manages to soar above his efforts from Kyuss' heyday. Part of Garcia's gift is a vocalist is his ability to effortlessly lock into the music, and his synchronicity with Bjork, Dean and Fevery is apparent throughout "Peace." He knows exactly when to hold-off and when to spit the words out hell for leather.
Overall Impression — 9
Vista Chino may have had to drop their former monicker before they could release "Peace," but the album stands as proof to the claim that their old name had made. Much as Josh Homme might protest it, Kyuss does indeed live and can still throw down with the best of them. Confident, crushing, and already classic sounding, this might just be the comeback of the year.