Deeper High

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Nova Driver's long, four-year hiatus between first and second albums was a rather bizarre one. Vocalist/organist Mark Miers effectively quit the group to pursue other interests, presumably found them to be less interesting than expected, and then rejoined in time to complete an album -- 2005's Deeper High -- which, at least sonically speaking, behaves as if he never left in the first place! All good considering the Detroit natives' first outing had set a very good precedent; standing out from a rather stale late-'90s stoner rock revival by brusquely shaking (not stirring) equal doses of classic rock, space rock, and their hometown's vibrant, proto-punk legacy around a shiny (heavy) metallic canister -- then spicing it with just a dash of those dangerously excessive jam tendencies. Here, as then, instantly foot-taping nuggets like "You Want Yours, You Want Mine," (an ideal, slow-building opener); "Roll You" (a brutal aural mugging); the memorable title track (affording plenty of soloing room for guitarist Billy Reedy), and "Turn to Stone" (simply a timeless classic rocker) come souped-up for maximum highway-driving enjoyment. And even though it eases off the gas pedal considerably, the semi-ballad "Dark Aftermath" is unconventional enough to keep the listener interested until the dirty garage-psych charge of "Machine" can restart the engines and lead the way into the downright spectacular "Bury Me Alive." A near-perfect example of Nova Driver's fluid songwriting chops, this album and career standout does, however, also draw attention to the fact that, in a broader sense, the band still frequently comes off sounding like a sleeker, tamer, less gonzoid version of Monster Magnet -- as further witnessed by easy flowing, space-groove runs like "Stars After Stars" and "Blackout." Then again, Dave Wyndorf himself would be the first to admit to channeling these same musical devices from earlier sources, dating back as far as the late-'60s, so that the inescapable similarities are only there inasmuch as such things are inevitably cyclical in rock & roll. Moreover, as the feedback creation "Whiteout" fades down to black, the feeling that lingers is how great it is having a new Nova Driver album. Tragically, bassist and key songwriter Jim Anders passed away shortly after Deeper High's recording sessions, leaving yet another major challenge for the band to overcome.

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