Mondo Drag: Through The Hourglass [Album Review]

Mondo Drag
Through The Hourglass
RidingEasy Records [2023]

Over the last several years RidingEasy records has gained a reputation for great reissues of obscure hard rock, heavy psych, and proto-metal albums, especially their fantastic Brown Acid compilations (co-released with fellow Los Angeles label Permanent Records). But RidingEasy also has a solid roster of modern bands, most of which fall into the hard rock or metal categories. Mondo Drag, though, has always stuck out a bit amongst those other acts because of their spacier, heavily prog-influenced sound, a distinction they maintain on their new album Through The Hourglass.

The album begins with the two-part opener “Burning Daylight,” which fades-in with the sound of pounding surf and tinkling wind chimes before a heavy guitar riff and thunderous drums crash in. The intro settles into a floating minor-key dirge, with mellow electric piano runs, organ, and guitar textures building back up to reprise the initial riff. The track picks up a bit for part two as the rhythm section gets to set up a slightly funky groove that provides a solid underpinning for John Gamiño’s haunting vocals. It’s an impressive start, but the album shifts into a higher gear with the final track on side A, the 11-minute epic “Passages.” The instrumental feels like a slightly more sinister sounding version of Wish You Were Here-era Floyd, with spaced-out synths, majestic organ chords, gently plucked acoustic guitars and soaring, bluesy electric leads ebbing and flowing to multiple climaxes.

Side B opens with the title track, a melancholic meditation on the passage of time that once again shows off the band’s ability to shift dynamics. The song’s verses are slow and deliberate, but the band eventually gain momentum before unleashing some blistering guitar solos. “Death In Spring” continues in a similar vein but builds the track around a looping guitar line, which allows the keyboards to stand out a bit more. This is particularly true on the chorus, where the lead synth more than holds its own against the guitars. The album comes to a close with “Run,” a song that continues the somber mood but changes up the sound ever-so-slightly, putting some effects on Gamiño’s vocals and bringing the bass up in the mix. Even though it shares a lot of similarities with the album’s other tracks, it still manages to feel like a proper finale and brings the album to a satisfying conclusion.

There are plenty of bands out there channeling that late 60s/early 70s heavy psych sound, but far fewer seem to aim their sights on the prog rock era. That alone makes Mondo Drag’s approach fairly unique, but they’ve also got the songwriting chops and artistic commitment to match. The album’s downbeat tone may strike some as monotonous, and others may be turned off by the clear Pink Floyd influence, but Through The Hourglass wears all of those elements on its sleeve. It’s an album that aims for—and nails—a very specific atmosphere, one that any listener who’s found themselves drawn in by Dark Side of the Moon should be able to appreciate.

“Passages” / “Burning Daylight Pt. 1” / “Through The Hourglass”

Pink Floyd / Porcupine Tree / Hooveriii

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Simon Workman

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