US band KARMA TO BURN and UK band SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI have been around for a good few years. The former have been around since the mid 90’s, while the latter appeared just after the millennium. Both bands are still active, as far as I know. What is a bit special is that the bands have collaborated a fair bit over the years. They have released a small handful of split singles together, and at some point members from both bands formed the side project Alpha Cat. Earlier this year they assembled the “Trilogy Boxset”, collecting the material from those split releases alongside the three songs that was created by their side project Alpha Cat. It was a rather limited release too, the two bands shared 200 copies of the full box set between them, consisting of vinyl singles, a CD with all the tracks, a massive booklet and other odds, ends, bits and pieces, while German label H42 Records had a limited run of 40 copies of a strict CD version of the box set for sale. At the time of writing the latter is long sold out, while 2 copies remains on sale of the former more luxurious box set available from the bands themselves.
This kind of production will always be one primarily of interest to existing fans, as you pay for and get a product revolving around much more than the mere musical contents of it. As such, I rather suspect that any coverage of this box set will also be of a more limited interest to people not already in any of the bands existing fan base. But, as there is a chance that someone might stumble upon this product second hand or from a niche retailer, as well as people being curious about what this bands are all about, a description of the music itself is of course in order.
There really isn’t all that much that separates these two bands in terms of sound or style, and much the same goes for their joint side project. The style of music is generally described as stoner rock, although I see some use the moniker desert rock instead, and both bands and the Alpha Cat side project are instrumental – as in no lead vocals. Both bands will use sampled voices and voice effects from time to time however. The differences that can be found are relatively minor, at least for those without a passionate interest in stoner rock and all matters related.
Karma to Burn comes across as a more modern stoner rock band. They include some aspects of post-punk to their material, certain recurring details on the cut Fourteen does bring early Killing Joke to mind for instance, and are otherwise more oriented towards 90’s stoner rock and grunge in the material at hand on this production.
Sons of Alpha Centauri comes across as a band with more of a vintage orientation. They have a more liberal inclusion of psychedelic elements in their material, and have more of a 70’s classic doom metal tinge to their compositions.
Both bands comes across as fairly similar by and large, and the differences are of a subtle and nuanced nature rather than up front and dominant. There is an occasional overlap as well, but these are the general tendencies, at least as I experienced them.
Their side project Alpha Cat is one more case of being rather similar but with perhaps a nuanced difference. In this case my perception is that Alpha Cat has more of a vintage sound, retaining the psychedelic elements of Sons of Alpha Centauri, and with a bit more emphasis on blues and possibly late 60’s and early 70’s garage rock – as explored within a stoner rock context mind you.
All bands comes across rather well developed entities, well aware of how to effectively combine riffs, solo runs, effects and drum patters to maximum effect for their chosen take on stoner rock. Instrumental stoner rock will always be something of a niche venture I guess, but for those with an interest in such excursions both these bands comes across as artists that merits a check by those who enjoy this specific type of material. The box set itself is, as I regard it, mainly of interest to fans. But if you should come across it at a reasonable price it is well worth acquiring as long as you have a taste for this kind of music.
My rating: 78/100
Karma to Burn: Fourteen // Sons of Alpha Centauri: 65 // Karma to Burn: Fifty Five // Sons of Alpha Centauri: 71 // Karma to Burn: Six // Sons of Alpha Centauri: 66 // Alpha Cat: The Flying Dutchman // Alpha Cat: Fire // Alpha Cat: Last Day of Summer