White Manna return for another chance to prove just how deep is their thrust. Dune Worship, the Arcata, California group’s sophomore album, follows in the vein of last year’s self-titled debut with another batch of primal, outward-bound jams that reek of eternity.
“Transformation” channels prime-time Hawkwind, evoking that sense of zooming headlong in endless flight with your every atom buzzing. Like the best space-rock songs, it intensifies and ascends ever higher as it goes. “X-Ray”’s staunch, towering riffs are as foreboding as the next report from the EPA. This is White Manna’s idea of a power ballad… until it accelerates in the last minute and leaves you blissfully charred. The speedy yet smooth “I’m Comin’ Home” should be the recurring theme for that impossible sequel to Easy Rider, while the 10-minute “Illusion Of Illusion” simmers with astral, meditative menace. It’s a massive, billowing specimen of rock that glows like the earth’s inner core. Their most cosmic track, “Illusion” might be White Manna’s peak. The epic finale, “Solar Returns,” is as majestic and momentous of a climax as you’d expect from these profound pros, whose singleness of purpose remains irrepressible and righteous.
White Manna plays space rock using a scorched-earth policy. The Arcata, California, quartet may telegraph where they’re coming from and where they’re going to take you with their track titles, but knowing the itinerary doesn’t dampen the thrill of their excursion into stellar depths.
Opening track “Acid Head” is not false advertising. It begins with an amiable boogie-rock amble before tumescing into stentorian, Loop-like riffing. You know that you can count on White Manna enveloping your head in the Asheton brothers’ genius string thuggery and convulsing you with the primordial throb harnessed by the Stooges (and, later, Hawkwind), before sonic irony was invented.
For most of White Manna, the group focuses on mantric riffs that accelerate into speed-freak, headbanging frenzies. But on “Don’t Gun Us Down,” they throw a change-up, setting the science-fictional scene with billowing solar winds before shifting into a mantric cruiser over which a wah-wah guitar articulates a hedonist manifesto—something along the lines of “fire all of your guns at once and explode into space.”
White Manna don’t dazzle with eclecticism; instead, they’re monomaniacs with the irrepressible ability to soar out of the mundane and into the unknown via tried-and-true methods upgraded to modern 21st century specs.