Julian Cope presents Head Heritage

Masters Of Reality - Deep In The Hole

Masters Of Reality
Deep In The Hole

Released 2001 on Brownhouse Recordings
Reviewed by griddell, 09/03/2009ce

‘I can't make any claim at all to inventing desert rock, or stoner rock, or whatever you want to call it. I make rock n roll records, and hopefully try to make the listener feel like I did when I heard my favourite music.’
Chris Goss 1999

Masters Of Reality are for all intensive purposes one man*.
Probably better known as a Producer (Queens Of The Stoneage/Kyuss/UNKLE), you get the impression Chris Goss is quite happy being perceived largely in the supporting role while quietly putting out some of the best modern rock albums around.
See the quote above from the man. I’ve still to hear a bad MOR album, but with Deep In The Hole everything great about his band coalesced into a true unsung classic.
But enough rhetoric already reader - down to the songs!

‘Third Man On The Moon’ is about as perfect a start to an album as you could want. It begins with a soft keyboard/scratchy guitar intro before - BOOM - a Bonham beat crashes in and you’re into a riff that should be credited ‘Goss/Page/Beelzebub‘.
As you’d expect from a great producer it DOES all sound, er, great. No, make that fucking awesome! Nothing too intrusive, but all the individual parts creating a monstrously catchy song with Goss’s strange voice throwing out surreal lines:
‘Wandering in a parking lot on a rainy afternoon,
Now I am an astronaut - third man on the mooooon.’
Not to mention said vocals hinting at the Beatles jamming with Iommi type sound that will crop up again and again throughout the album! I tell you, this song is indeed a classic.

Alarm/Fire bells clang out over the opening of 2nd number - ‘A Wish For A Fish‘. Those bells should be a warning that if you’re expecting an obvious rock song to follow, prepare to be surprised! The rhythm kind of barges it’s way in. It’s rock Jim, but not as we know it. Would the term ‘intelligent rock’ be stupid and pompous sounding?
Ok, don’t answer that but what I’m trying to say is that very few bands/acts can deliver something so melodious/mellow/ass-kicking at the same time. Just listen to the way the vocals merge here, how Brian May-ish lead bursts just add more harmony instead of bludgeoning you with speed/volume.

M.O.R.’s rockin’ style/cred established, ‘Counting Horses’ introduces another trademark: the ‘Melancholy Melody song‘. Sweetly haunting vocals sit over a generally mellow song, beautiful fuzz bass punctuates the chorus and towards the end you get split speaker guitar inter-weaving that would stimulate both hemispheres of even the most fried brain! Subtle genius.
By now, take it for granted that all vocals sound fantastic, calling to mind Mr Mojo Risin here, Harrison & the other fab 3 elsewhere yet always distinctive as Goss - no song more so than the very brief ‘Major Lance’ that would suggest 80’s uk pop was also on the listening radar of Mr Goss.
It’s a short prelude to some space-rawk brilliance.
‘Scategoria’ is a slow-burner that meanders towards a chorus I can only describe as ‘Sabbath-lite’, it‘s back to the perfect blend of mellowness and energy inspiring riff-age. Hairs on the back of the neck may well be bristling at points due to short lead bursts or more likely those god dam infectious vocals (I’ll try not to mention them anymore!).
All if which provides the light/shade needed for ‘High Noon Amsterdam’, a real straightforward rocker. It’s the only song that undoubtedly brings QOTSA to mind, perhaps because Mark Lanegan adds some fantastic gruffness in traded vocal duties. Rolling along with the air-guitar-inspiring riff is some great piano work and an even better solo that squeezes emotion from every note in righteous Wayne Kramer style. It’s got a ludicrously catchy chorus with a dangerously catchy guitar riff - a stand out even on an album this good.

‘Corpos Scorpios Electrified’ is a weird enough title and it’s more than apt. Things start oddly with a chant of ‘Spirit of the planet of time, spirit of the wandering waste…’ which should really be a sci-fi movie theme on it’s own. In fact, as a side note, credits on the sleeve end with the line ‘in memory of Stanley Kubrick’. For the album as a whole it’s probably a better reference point if you’ve never heard M.O.R. before. I won’t go as far to say ‘if Kubrick made rock’n’roll music this would be it’ - shit, I just have! Ah, well, back to ‘Corpus…‘ - A down & dirty riff brings us back to more earthly realms after the initial chant-a-long. Spiky melodies and more great production abound but it’s really in the middle section that this song takes an exciting diversion - a perfect middle eight break still does little to prepare you for the driving guitars that kick in. As the song zips along to a crash landing the ‘Spirit..’ chant re-appears and it all makes some kind of gloriously chaotic sense.
It also segues into the title track, ’Deep In The Hole’. This is a deceptively sneaky one - probably the most unobtrusive riff/song on first listen, it just kind of rolls along with like the more whimsical Doors/Bowie piano rich numbers. Throw in a ’La, la, la’ vocal section and essentially you have it - no claims of musical ’genius’ here, but did I already mention the vocals & guitar addendum’s?
It certainly fit’s the running order of D.I.T.H. perfectly.
Mainly because the next tune is ’Roof Of The Shed’. A co-write with Josh Homme of QOTSA, it’s back to that melancholy melody trademark, with a haunting picked refrain. There is a chorus (of sorts!), but if you’re the type of listener tempted to skip the slow numbers, you’ll be kicking yourself for missing the best part of ’Roof..’ About the 3 minute mark it plain and simply SOARS into a melodic solo with layers of spaced vocals before drifting back to that sad melody. Bitter sweet and beautiful stuff.
Which only leaves ‘Shotgun Son’, a refreshingly simple scuzz-punk riff. In the wrong hands it could easily have sounded like so much clichéd, rock-by-numbers, generic U.S. mince. Instead it’s a head-nodding, foot-tapping, fist in the air groove-a-thon that leaves you’re ears tingling in pleasure. I promised not to mention the vocals again, but….fuck it, they’re so good it’s impossible.
For anyone who believes that producers should stay on their side of the recording set-up (artists likewise), Deep In The Hole is a glorious two-fingered salutin’ anomaly.

* In the interests of fairness(!), it’s worth noting John Leamy gets a fair amount co-writing credits on D.I.T.H. as well as playing drums.

P.s - The already mentioned view of Goss as a genius-in-the-background might well be coloured by the cover of Deep In The Hole - assuming that’s him peering out from within a guitar?? Whatever the truth, it’s great imagery.

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