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  • Jonathan Widran

WHISKERMAN, Kingdom Illusion

Wrapping up with a wildly eclectic, off-kilter bow ten impactful years of helping to revitalize the Bay Area’s dynamic psychedelic rock scene, the crazy fun, high energy five-piece Whiskerman creates with Kingdom Illusion in more ways than one.

If we judged their latest opus just from its first two lead singles, the playful, hard chugging cockeyed romance “Belly of the Beast” and synthy-trippy defiant survival tale “Fuck Yeah,” we might get the idea that frontman Graham Patzner and his crew have created a blast-filled work of supreme raging rock distortion. Those are high impact, brain buzzer tracks for sure, but the deeper sonic, atmospheric and melodic nuances of the album come to light on the other tracks you need to hear to get the full kaleidoscope of influences and musical images.

Like “Rattlesnake,” which begins in languid piano ballad mode with Patzner and co. trying out some Freddie Mercury and Queen like vocal ideas before giving way to a more crunchy, percussive mid-tempo jam that’s a bit more from the David Bowie aesthetic. On another standout track, the exuberant pop/rock romp “The Great Unknown,” they combine those classic styled harmony vibes with the trippy, out there distortion to create the best of both worlds.

As per their psych and glam rock trademarks, they spend a lot of time mixing things up and acting hipster and ultra-cool while experimenting with fascinating sensory overload. All of which makes “Villains,” a no less rockin’ but way more vocally soulful and heartfelt ballad,” a true soaring standout that builds classic rock anthem momentum throughout.

Another slightly more conventional and truly gorgeous piece is the artsy rock-soul ballad, “Something About Love,” which showcases the band’s vulnerable side without sacrificing its artsy sonic touches. Vocally, Patzner balances those emotionally centered gems with more impassioned, Meat Loafesque operatic drama on the seven minute “Be Real” and the nearly eight minutes closing title track, which goes through multiple mood swings on its way to symphonic rock glory.

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