2 Sep 2016

Flower Travellin Band: "Satori"


Cult heavy-psych from Japan
The mighty Saxon once asked "where were you in '79 when the dam began to burst", but let us turn back time a little further and leave self-referential question for some other time. Let us tune in to early 1971. In England, heavy metal pioneers Black Sabbath had already released their second album, and Led Zeppelin was still gaining momentum through their first three albums. In the US, The 13th Floor Elevators and the first incarnation of Iron Butterfly had already come and gone, and so had the guitar legend Jimi Hendrix.

"the album bears striking resemblance to those previous years of music history..."

In Japan, however, Flower Travellin' Band were jamming cover songs by Muddy Waters, King Crimson's heavy classic 21st Century Schizoid Man, The Animals and - of course - Black Sabbath. Though the band's debut came in 1970, the much more widely spread follow up, Satori, didn't come until a year later, in 1971. Satori was unusually raw and abrasive for its time, the band's heavy-handed inspirations shining through. Refusing to let go of the hefty psychedelia of the previous decade that spawned their idols - and themselves - the album bears striking resemblance to those previous years of music history with long, lethargic jams, fuzzy guitars, ponderous phaser effects, melodic bass lines and high pitched vocals.

And yet they were looking ahead, perhaps sensing where this particular style was going. In most aspects they were a product of their time, but even so Satori was daring in its simplicity and unusually heavy with its jarringly raw guitar tone. No doubt that the talented vocalist Joe Yamanaka was a huge part of the band's signature sound as well - His vocals could be likened to the rough pitch of Robert Plant mixed with Ozzy Osbourne's apathetic howls.

Though the band at this point was more or less a heavy metal band - although with a very dominant presence of psychedelic rock - the band had started out much earlier, as Yuya Uchida & the Flowers, whos debut came in 1969. As such Flower Travellin' Band was almost a direct continuation of that band, which in turn started out when Uchida had come home to Japan after visiting a certain John Lennon in England in the mid '60s, where he had become acquainted with the emerging heavy psych scene of the time. Their style, then, is not much of a surprise - But their sound is, in the fact that it is so ingeniously conceived. With Satori, which by now is a sort of cult album, they achieved a sound which was both well-defined and heavy for its time.

8/10


Released in 1971 by Atlantic Records

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