So many of today’s stoner giants – Josh Homme, Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork among them – started out in Kyuss that it’s easy to see this Palm Desert band as, more than anything else, a conduit for later triumphs. But Blues For The Red Sun is genuinely pioneering. Billed as “a fresh bong-load of potent, sticky and hairy musical salvation”, the band's second album is a landmark in stoner-rock.
The quaking sound is driven by both the thunderous rhythm section of Nick Oliveri and Brant Bjork, and the rumble of Homme’s down-tuned guitar, with songs like Green Machine and Mondo Generator owing as much to the unruly noise of Black Flag and Bad Brains as to Black Sabbath or Blue Cheer. The lyrics may be secondary or just daft.
Blues For The Red Sun was released in June 1992, but despite rave reviews from the metal press, it was far from an out-of-the-box success. Sales were poor. ‘You don’t seem to understand the deal’, sang John Garcia on the first line of the opening track, Thumb. It seemed strangely prophetic.
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Every week, Album of the Week Club listens to and discusses the album in question, votes on how good it is, and publishes our findings, with the aim of giving people reliable reviews and the wider rock community the chance to contribute.
Other albums released in June 1992
- It's a Shame about Ray - The Lemonheads
- The Lizard - Saigon Kick
- Sunshine On The Sufferbus - Masters Of Reality
- The Crimson Idol - W.A.S.P.
- Legion - Deicide
- World Falling Down - Peter Cetera
- Hold Your Fire - FireHouse
- Out of the Cradle - Lindsey Buckingham
- Dehumanizer - Black Sabbath
- Meantime - Helmet
- The One - Elton John
- Tools of the Trade - Carcass
- Utopia Banished - Napalm Death
- Black Moon - Emerson, Lake & Palmer
- Somewhere Far Beyond - Blind Guardian
- The Art of Rebellion - Suicidal Tendencies
- Angel Dust - Faith No More
- Singles: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack - Various
What they said...
"With Josh Homme's guitar tuned down two whole steps to C, and plugged into a bass amp for maximum distortion, stoner metal pioneers Kyuss achieve a major milestone in heavy music with their second album, 1992's Blues for the Red Sun. Producer Chris Goss masterfully captures the band's unique heavy/light formula, which becomes apparent as soon as the gentle but sinister intro melody gives way to the chugging main riff in the opener, Thumb." (AllMusic (opens in new tab))
"The name is from Dungeons & Dragons, the kids are from Palm Springs, and the languorously long vibes of the music are from the tie-dye '70s. Blues for the Red Sun, their sophomore outing, suggests Kyuss might just wrap 'em all up into something mystical and magical of its own." (Entertainment Weekly (opens in new tab))
"If you look from the outside, you can easily begin to focus on the environmental influences of these bands and begin to try and create a scene. It seems that the desert bands, if they exist, are different from the grunge bands in that they seem able to keep the level of their notoriety just out of the mainstream. This music seems like the diametric opposites of punk and hippy colliding. At one moment a Sabbath riff present itself followed by psychedelic interludes." (Tiny Mix Tapes (opens in new tab))
What you said...
Mike Canoe: "You don't seem to understand the deal. I don't give two $#@%$ on how you feel!"
With that caustic couplet, Kyuss kicks off their rumbling, grumbling masterstroke, Blues for the Red Sun. Admittedly, I didn't get into this album until the early aughts even though I'd read about it for years as a keystone in desert rock, stoner metal, post-Sabbath whatever.
For being christened "stoner," this music sounds more like grunge on steroids: juddering bass, smashing drums, downturned guitars, growled vocals. If Nigel Tufnel's amps went to eleven, Kyuss have their amps affixed at eleventy hundred. Fortunately, Chris Goss's production generally keeps everything from melting into itself. Favourites include opener Thumb, Green Machine, Thong Song, well, basically any of the songs with vocals.
If there are downsides for me, the sequencing and selectivity could be better. About a quarter of the album is comprised of instrumental songs, and that doesn't include the lengthy intros like the 90 seconds of "effects" that kick off the otherwise awesome Freedom Run. At the same time, relatively short songs like Writhe and Allen's Wrench seem to get lost in the shuffle because their intros are tracked as separate songs.
Kyuss strike me as one of those bands that weren't particularly successful in their lifetime but influenced a lot of bands. In the case of Kyuss, they also carried the sound forward in key bands to the scene like Queens of the Stone Age and Fu Manchu and about a bazillion different Josh Homme projects. Not bad for a band from a little town in the California desert.
Iain Macaulay: Self indulgent nostalgic review here.
I went to college to study music in the mid 90’s. After mucking about in practise rooms with various guys I got asked if I wanted to join what would be quite a heavy sounding, but not strictly grunge, type band. I got suggested to them because they wanted a big whisky stained voice. To tell me what they wanted to sound like, I got given a tape with Temple Of The Dog on one side and Blues For The Red Sun on the other.
I’d never heard of either band at the time, and yet nearly 30 years later I still listen to both albums. And for differing reasons. Kyuss made a big hit that followed into other future bands. The guitar sound, the arrangements, the experimentation. Even the production values. That album is like a snap shot of a DIY scene that was almost dead by the time it hit the U.K. Yet it made such a massive impact on underground music before Homme expanded it and took it overground.
In the end, that college band ended up slightly more on the Chris Cornell side of things than Josh Homme, but, it did have that trippy jam stoner thing going on that Kyuss do very well. Allowing the songs to breathe and expand and flow into different territory and atmosphere with odd time signatures and big sludgy riffs. A fantastic album but maybe not quite as good as Sky Valley.
Uli Hassinger: When somebody asks me, "What is rock music all about ?" this would certainly be one of my demonstration albums.. It's rough, sleazy, full of energy and badass as hell.
The best example is The Thong Song. A very basic song with a totally simple riff but full of power and emotion. The singing of John Garcia is insane. Another example is the intro of Green Machine. The fuzzed bass interruptions makes me shiver all the time. Green Machine is one of my favourite songs ever. Overall, the songs are great. The guitar playing of Homme on this album is not very sophisticated, just simple riffs and distorted solos. But it's exact what the music needed.
Combined with psychedelic parts it's easy to recognise by which bands they were influenced. But it's not just a Black Sabbath spin-off. Beside the fact that the singing is totally different they were playing with some kind of punk attitude, something that only Nirvana managed to accomplish elsewhere. Indeed, when I describe their music I would say a mixture of Black Sabbath and Nirvana.
The rough production fits like a glove. It's just a supercool album. To me 10/10.
Philip Qvist: Funnily enough I have listened to several QOTSA albums, but this is the first time that I have actually listened to a Kyuss album from start to finish.
And my verdict on Blues For The Red Sun? Definitely an acquired taste that probably needs repeat playing - and even then I doubt I will fully appreciate it. Plenty of extended jams and instrumentals, to the extent that singer John Garcia is almost redundant; although his five-second composition Yeah brought a smile to my face.
Guitarist Josh Homme and drummer Brant Bjork did the bulk of the heavy lifting, with Thong Song, Green Machine and Freedom Run being my picks.
An interesting album - but I'm not sure how to rank it.
John Davidson: Having heard plenty QoTSA and never really liked them I was a bit hesitant to delve into Kyuss.
Pleasantly surprised by the heavy grooves they have laid down and the obvious love of Masters Of Reality-era Black Sabbath does them no harm either.
The singing veers between ok and awful to my ears so I enjoyed the songs that were more instrumental for the most part. It might grow on me if I could get past the vocals but at the moment i'd park this under almost but not quite . 6/10.
Adam McCann: Stone-cold classic of the genre. No collection of stoner/desert is complete without it.
John Higham: My introduction to Kyuss was live, supporting Metallica in Australia. It blew my mind. I realised at that gig that this was the sound for me. I quickly went out and bought this album as soon as I could. It was like nothing I’d ever heard. Big fat bottom end, riffs that groove to no end, aggressive yet trippy within seconds, a vocal with pipes of iron, yet could evoke images of angelic melancholy, dried by the desert heat and sand, yet soothed by an oasis of ponds and palm trees. Drums that were hit, pounded, and stayed that way, bottomless base lines that locked in with the groove of the beats and riffs at the same time.
The first album to produce such sounds, many have tried to imitate it, but none have ever matched it. A true hot stoner desert classic!
Brîan Côllins: It changed music for me. The opening warm hum, the crashing drum and riff of Thumb still sends a shiver down my spine. It’s heavy, it grooves, it has chilled, trippy elements and yet has a DIY’ hardcore-punk feel and vibe to it.
They, along with a few other lesser known bands at the time (Sleep, Fu manchu, Monster Magnet) inspired another whole underground scene and genre. I first heard it when it came out when I was 14/15, never tired of it and still play it regularly. And yes, it sounds even better on vinyl. 10/10.
David Heaton: One of the greatest ever intros for an album/first track on Thumb.
Knut André Karlstad: Probably one of my top five favourites of all time.
Mike Fildes: I remember buying this in 1992 without having heard anything by them, purely based on the review in Kerrang (Mörat, I think) and Chris Goss's name on the back of the CD. One of the best decisions I ever made.
Psychedelic, primal, packed full of incredible riffs, pounding cymbals, and so heavy you can feel it in your bones, it sounded simultaneously contemporary, yet also like some undiscovered relic from another era, possibly the Jurassic.
Chris Goss's production is amazing, such depth, a uniquely bottom heavy sound, yet effortlessly trippy. To my mind no producer gets the best out of Homme like he does.
Simply a classic album, one of the best of the 90s, great songs, amazing riffs, a unique style. Trippy heaven.
Greg Schwepe: And the review streak ends here. After listening to all of Kyuss’s Blues for the Red Sun I did not have a “what have I been missing?” moment.
For the record, I like sludge. I like repetitive riffs. I like fuzzed-out guitar and bass with the tone rolled off. I like instrumentals. It’s just that Kyuss didn’t do it in a way that would make me find another of their albums to check out.
There were some songs that got my attention but it was like they just couldn’t get there musically for me on other tracks. Missing a little something. Maybe you need to be in the proper “frame of mind” to listen to Stoner Rock. Heh heh.
Now, to be fair, I probably like all the bands that influenced Kyuss. Black Sabbath, I’m looking at you. After finishing Blues For The Red Sun I listened to a few tracks from Vol. IV and Master of Reality for comparison. Now that's how it done!
Apothecaries’ Weight pulled me in with the bass intro. The tone and bass note selection had me thinking it was Peaches by The Presidents of the United States of America.
The acoustic sounding Capsized provided a different sonic structure. “OK, this is good. A whole song with something else to offer.” Then it turned out to only be a 55 second segue to the next track. I would’ve like that built out into a whole song. As soon as it grabbed me, it was over.
Guess 90s era bands of this genre just not my thing.
Final score: 8.07 (51 votes cast, total score 412)
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