Puta Volcano’s rise from the ashes of an indie-rock former life feels totally inexplicable even after just a quick listen, but that really only adds to the allure that surrounds this band. It’s a fairly regular occurrence with this style of music in general, breaking out the ironclad Alice In Chains riffage that pulls in grunge, blues, stoner-rock, prog and metal wherever it can, but the rise of Puta Volcano both in their native Greece and on the wider world stage has come without a lot of warning. It’d be drastically misleading to say they’re a huge force on the edge of modern rock’s apex, but bands like this typically don’t have the sort of intrinsic stability and push that they’ve displayed so far, particularly off the back of their 2017 album Harmony Of Spheres, and going into AMMA with that in tow is indicative of where Puta Volcano’s strengths lie. After all, they’re currently holding fast in the same way that bands like Kylesa or Blues Pills might in forging an unshakable presence that’s still in the underground, and that’s not nothing within this brand of stoner-rock.
As a result, AMMA comes across as exactly the sort of album that would fit within that bracket, staying consistently solid in cultivating its own dense, smouldering weight, but doing so without ever moving the needle to any real extreme. It’s undoubtedly a stoner-rock album that’s coming with a built-in audience in mind, and that’s not a bad route to take overall; it’s not like Puta Volcano are falling into too many pitfalls or hitting genre roadblocks, and as far as composition and performance goes, there’s more than enough to remain interested in right until the end. AMMA feels as though it does everything it needs to do with perhaps a bit more that’s being more readily strived for, and as far as making that impact goes, Puta Volcano do a good job pretty much across the board.
Still, it’s not like that’s too surprising, not when the musical wells that prove the most fertile already have a good foundation that’s built on in pretty much the expected fashion. That’s not to call this album predictable, but it’s not hard to see the shades of Alice In Chains that effectively coat the metallic crunch of a track like Primative Data or the chugging basslines of Venus Lullaby and Black Box that provide the necessary bedrock for everything else. That immediate familiarity would definitely be more of a criticism if Puta Volcano didn’t lean into it so well, often reshaping their raw materials into tighter, more manageable compositions that can sometimes lean into outside sources (see the palpable trad-metal vibes all over First Light), but generally stand as a series of really strong examples of how to pull this sound off. There’s a lot of meat in the production that couldn’t feel more necessary for the roiling guitars and bass to pick up as much crunch as possible, but the deliberate slow-burn that frequently comes into play is carried out with plenty of dexterity and tact, along these tracks to sear and steam without ever running out of juice entirely.
But above all of that, it’s vocalist Anna Papathanasiou that proves this album’s MVP, and the key element in what pushes Puta Volcano to a band for whom their potential is stacked a lot higher than just another run-of-the-mill stoner-rock band. For one, there’s terrific power in her voice, backed up by a clarity and a tight balance between rugged and ethereal that really starts to shine when a track like Torus provides the space to open up a bit more. As well as the winding way of travelling across these songs that’s almost like a halfway house between Janis Joplin and Maynard James Keenan, the open-endedness and elemental style of AMMA’s writing gives the slow creep of these songs much more density, and while, again, that’s hardly anything new and Puta Volcano aren’t really putting much of a spin on it, the overall intoxicating progression does plenty to make up for that as the album progresses at such a deliberate rate.
That’s honestly where Puta Volcano are getting the most right at the minute – they aren’t really innovating with what they’ve been given, but they manage to arrange them back in such a tight and interesting fashion that it’s hard to complain too much. This is still an album that, as far as engulfing, heady experience go, is still well worth putting in the time to listen to, such is the proficiency that Puta Volcano display within stoner-rock. And for a listen that can thrive off such core elements without being all that boring or explicitly lacking in ideas, AMMA really does achieve the vast majority of what it sets out to do, regardless of how well-trodden those aims might be. Nevertheless, there’s a lot that Puta Volcano have going for them here, and as far as the confines of their scene go, AMMA is the sort of album that could make the sort of waves that become to difficult to ignore.
For fans of: Alice In Chains, Fu Manchu, Kylesa
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘AMMA’ by Puta Volcano is released on 13th March.