Review: Vista Chino Work Their Strengths With ‘Peace’

vista chino

Vista Chino, the name that, thankfully, allowed Kyuss Lives to be rechristened under something less ridiculous, is not anything even remotely close to being Kyuss. I say this with all due respect, but it has to be said. Those hoping the boast of more original members might bring Vista Chino into Kyuss glory are sadly mistaken. In fact, Vista Chino is an interesting study in the chemistry of a band.

Currently Vista Chino consists of original Kyuss drummer Brant Bjork, original bassist Nick Oliveri, original vocalist John Garcia, and new guitarist Bruno Fevery. Yep, that is certainly the closest you’ll ever get to the band that brought us Blues For The Red Sun, except, well, except for the glaring Josh Homme hole. Bruno Fevery is a solid player, but he’s not Josh Homme, and the chemistry here is not what it was.

If you move into Welcome To Sky Valley territory with Kyuss, then this band is missing not only Josh Homme, but also Scott Reeder, who replaced Nick Oliveri, and had a huge hand in the genius of that album. Slide into And The Circus Leaves Town, and now we’re missing Alfredo Hernandez on drums, which added another element to the Kyuss sound. The chemistry of those players, is what made Kyuss so special.

Peace, is the debut album from Vista Chino, and its success depends on three major factors. First, you don’t listen expecting to hear Kyuss. Second, you love John Garcia’s vocals because they are mixed loud. Third, you just haven’t heard enough stoner-rock in your life. If you can factor these three reasons into the positive column, then Peace is a monolith, a lumbering giant stitched together from riffs, heavy bass, and big, fat, drums. If not well, then it becomes a rather laborious endeavor.

“Dargona Dargona” begins Peace, and dictates the rest of the album. Big riffs are the blueprints here, but their supported heavily with Brant Bjork’s drumming. “Dargona Dargona” is a grinding blues riff, one that’s indicative of what Kyuss perfected. It doesn’t have the dynamics of a Josh Homme riff, so Bjork’s drumming steps in to fill out those dynamics. Thanks to some crafty tom work in the intro, when “Dargona Dargona” opens up, the lumbering giant awakens.

From that point on, Peace is made up of Bjork’s crafty drumming, Fevery’s by-the-numbers riffage, and Nick Oliveri’s bone rattling bass sound. “Sweet Remain” adds a swing vibe to the groove, allowing for maximum head-bopping. “Planets 1 & 2” is a brain buster, a high rocktane jam, while “Adara” returns to the more relaxed, straight blues riff format of “Sweet Remain”, minus the swing. “Mas Vino” is a mellow, stoner-instrumental clearly inspired by Brant Bjork’s solo work.

As many solid elements as Peace has, the album never comes together. I’ve never been a huge fan of QOTSA, especially the later work, but I’ve always admired that Josh Homme left the Kyuss sound behind. Some things can’t be duplicated, and Peace proves that. With talent like Bjork and Oliveri, it would have been nice for Vista Chino to walk down a different road. The work here isn’t bad, but it is dated.

The second problem is the lack of tunes like “Planets 1 & 2”. The consistent mid-tempo vibe of the Peace begins to drag midway through the album. The last chink in the armor, at least for me, is John Garcia’s voice. As epic as the vocals can be, Garcia’s delivery is a one-trick-pony. In Kyuss, so much was going that Garcia’s voice wasn’t the focal point, it was also mixed lower. On Peace, it’s hard to avoid just how much repetition is going on, plus whoever mixed the album decided to push the vocal lever all the way up.

While some will celebrate the reunion of these musicians, and an album that skirts the edges of the Kyuss magic, I’m not one of them. Peace is too easy. The members of the band never attempt to transcend their roots, or the genre that spawned them. I’m not saying they needed to release a black metal record, but something beyond Kyuss table scraps would have been nice.