Joey Toscano: Guitars, Vocals
Andy Patterson: Drums
Recorded and Mixed by Andy Patterson
Mastered by Chris Goosman at Baseline Audio - Ann Arbor, MI
Blues harp on “Opiate Blues” by Bad Brad Wheeler
Artwork by Brian Koschak
Sometimes it’s unbelievable how good Small Stone Record’s taste in good music is. This time it’s the debut album from IOTA, a heavy psych three piece from the USA., which has been released in 2008. ‘Tales‘ consists of five cuts with a different running time between three and almost twenty-four minutes, and it‘s a killer album of super-heavy psychedelic mayhem. An explosive energy rides through jam-like themes which comes on like a maniac Jimi Hendrix at times, yet the songs are still catchy and focused. The hot, liquid, and sweating metal-soaked blues riffs of Joey Toscano, who’s a charismatic singer, too, will make your brain melt for sure. Drummer Andy Patterson and bassist Oz are building the groove-ridden base for J. Toscano‘s mindblowing effect-laden guitar attacks, and their playing is so incredible marvelous as everything else from this band. ‘Dimensional Orbiter‘ explores progressive psych territory in a very varied manner, and although it’s 22:56 minutes long it never becomes boring. IOTA’s sound can be aggressive, mellow, but it’s always tasteful and honest. ‘Opiate Blues‘ features some excellent blues harp playing by Bad Brad Wheeler, and this last track is the perfect ending for an outstanding album. The production is so thick so you can cut it with a knife. Containing a wealth of atmospheric, powerful sounds you can’t really go wrong, if you decide to purchase it. This album is a monster that will grow with every further spin, and I imagine that IOTA must be a killer live band, too. A cosmic album.
With only five tracks weighing in at a full fifty minutes, Iota’s “Tales” finds its fullest expression on the 22 minute, 55 second “Dimensional Orbiter”, an unadulterated cosmic wig-out that offers rebirth of a sort to those space cadets who complained that “Careful With That Axe Eugene” was too commercial and too short. It’s an ambitious piece that builds to an apocalyptic climax, and forms the backbone on which the rest of this seriously heavy and shamelessly cosmic collection hangs. Earlier, opener “New Mantis” leads us in Mastodon-esque style, its thunderous riffs eventually giving way to some vintage psychedelic guitar, while “We Are the Yithians” and “The Sleeping Heathen” are slow-moving atmospheric jams behind distant threatening vocals. Following the aforementioned centrepiece, “Opiate Blues” offers a comparatively sedate comedown, with harmonica supplements instantly invoking Hawkwind’s “Hurry On Sundown”. In 2004 Iota’s debut EP topped Salt Lake City Weekly’s Top Fifty Albums of the year. Stranger things will have happened at sea.
- Neil B
Taking a cosmic route to desert rock riches, the Salt Lake City trio Iota showcase their mammoth sound and love for all things psychedelic via the five-track, 50 minute stoner rock explosion known as TALES. Dipping the blues in acid seems to be a pastime for this band, as "The Sleeping Heathen" demonstrates their prowess for trippy basslines over sledgehammer rhythms with dollops of dazzling guitars guaranteed to elicit numerous flashbacks. Oodles of feedback, a hearty helping of fuzz, and a variety of tempo changes that you can ride for days are just some of the strengths this album boasts to wrap your head around for a while. A perfect amalgamation of Soundgarden, Hawkwind, and Nebula, Iota feeds your head with endless swirls of crushed black sunshine brazen with the pure rock power to send your soul into another dimension. smallstone.com
- Mike SOS
Stoner makes not mellow heads drop droop roll. Rock for nodding vista windswept. Kyuss chores after most take eons forgive fathers and tune down mountain side. Iota three only mostly buzz rat trap cliff dive bean can smoke dust electrostatic sticker chakra. Bless unfettered heads space to foam and all drawers empty moths and bunnies fly out train sights on cargo gunship gray short order more late night pringles can bongless. Dimensional Orbiter twenty three stones along path gone forever twenty three years beard driven and cancel meditate favor trees with twenty three fruit passing cores by noggins huffy day-glo stars and stripes banana seat yourself kojak your cockatiel fred no sparrow he come to gym with baggies attitude. Press on flames till light finds depth in heat of form hand muscle vein cig burns brightly lung a part of holy fire. Strings of copper wire bind dirty feet chaos bringers forge new metals out of concubine teeth myriad troop reformations conceal narcissus goldenrod belladonna centerpiece fortuneâ€™s banquet conquest of heapâ€™s market foretold in lore. Pass ruins run rampant fill pockets take fountain water and please master wishes treasure dynasty crusade. Mock deathâ€™s embrace corner uncertain mistress devourer knock boots hail heaven forfend eagles! Nocturnal deity underground conspirer feed leather smithy minions foul cakes grovel nightwatch split hides reek earth tell blood oath fist odyssey life quest children beware. Come to die die to come. Come.
8 out of 10
- Scott Seward
Salt Lake City's Iota have been unleashing their own brand of stoner rock on the world since 2002, but Tales is their first full length album. Pouring their stoner vibes into a huge metal pot, the band stir in psychedelia, space rock and even blues influences to create a heady sonic stew. The first two cuts, relatively brief, hint little at the storm to come, but are effective nonetheless. A New Mantis is the most typically metal track on the album, solidly written and tightly played. We Are the Yithians follows, with a more minimalist Hawkwind-like groove, heavy riffing punctuated with psychedelic guitar licks. The pace charges into overdrive for the 10-minute The Sleeping Heathen, with more epic riffing, but here the band veers away from its metallic tendencies into an extended jam of stoner sludge and heavy psychedelic madness. But it's the 23-minute long Dimensional Orbiter that is the real showpiece of the album, and certainly the touchstone for diehard space rock fans. Starting with a raging squall of guitar noise from lead axe man Joey Toscano, the rhythm section of Oz Yosri and Andy Patterson kicks in and the band just takes off. This time the riffing is more melodic, and dives headlong into a lengthy exploration of manic cosmic jamming dotted with expanses of spacey psychedelia. Toscano's guitar work is particularly exhilarating throughout. The album closes out with Opiate Blues, which is, as the title pretty much spells out, a heavy, druggy blues workout featuring some excellent harmonica playing from guest Bad Brad Wheeler. With Tales, Iota manage to put a fresh spin on the aging stoner rock scene, with some terrific vibes that will leave you begging for more.
- Jeff Fitzgerald
Small Stone serves up another winning platter of space metal with the debut release from Salt Lake City’s Iota. Ears familiar with the genre will pick up a marked resemblance to Monster Magnet in the five tracks on ‘Tales’ – in a good way.
Kicking off with ‘New Mantis’, the power trio get right down to business with some pile-driving riffs. A fairly brisk tune, like its follower ‘We Are The Ythians’, it sets the listener up for a pair of lengthy tracks.
The band has been practicing its trade (and drinking a lot) since 2002, and it shows in the way they can pull a track like ‘Dimensional Orbiter’ out past 22 minutes without losing the listener’s attention.
Guitarist Joey Toscano is also an able singer whose melodic voice puts the band in the same realm as acts like Torche, Goathorn and the aforementioned Monster Magnet.
It’s a winning debut by any standard.
- Andrew Carver
Quality power trio heavy-rock/space-rock interface for those raised upon Monster Magnet and the mung those drugged peddle hopper stompers dosed on. Ergo, you get the early '70s acid rock thud-fucker thing thankfully big booted into latter Black Flag/Gone and the effect that sorta action had downwind for a couple years (grunge, we hardly knew ye). More importantly, you’ll sup upon the whole goddamn ethic of stonerism as free-your-amp-and-your-mind-will-follow logic, all bandied about in the exact way you want.
Herein, plenty of everything is harnessed to song form from hard rockist blorts "We Are the Yithians" to the Lemme-era Hawkwindian wind-up of "Dimensional Orbiter" which’ll chew up 20 minutes of your day like Voivod's "Jack Luminous" did in its way fifteen years prior. This is the right way to go about things: Strong concept + free ranging execution = quality. The tune talent helps, too.
The tone, recording, and overall vibe (man), have a perfect jammed-together rocked-up hippie/greaser groove and a recorded nude in the "zone" feel which bodes well for the live experience. Have they taken a Big F song, say, "Why," or Flipper's "Life" for a ride? If they haven’t, they could, and we’d all be better for it. Strap’m on for the ride with Litmus, My Sleeping Karma, Earthless, Paul Chain, Los Natas, Strange, and Solarized, for a proper cycling experience.
- Craig Regala
TALES is heavy stuff, very heavy. And the third release from the Salt Lake City based band. Small Stone Records from the states released some of the most important records in my eyes. Stuff like Milligram, Dozer or Five Horse Johnson are still important for the scene, but with IOTA they released their best release so far! And they hit harder and heavier than most of the Small Stone bands. Sometimes like Tummler, but more impressive. The opener NEW MANTIS, the second shortest track with 4.40 minutes, is a heavy bluesy Stoner Rocker and the sheer power is at the first listening unbelievable. Especially the guitars melt through your ears like a bulldozer. The following WE ARE THE YITHIANS starts with a mighty guitar riff and the extreme heaviness will blow you away. The band mixes some of the heaviest Stoner guitar riffs with some blues, space, psychedelic sounds and they have created a monster of a record! But this 2 songs are more compact as the following stuff. The 11 minute long following THE SLEEPING HEATHEN starts fast and again with the mighty vocals from Joey Toscano (he plays guitar too and he is the webmaster of Small Stone Records), before the song turns into a slow crawling Doom machine with a long psychedelic solo-part at the end. The following, 23 minutes long DIMENSIONAL ORBITER, is a journey! Close your eyes and it is the perfect sound to a rocket start! The song was mostly led by some guitar melodies and solos. It is close to some GATHERING stuff! Pure Science Fiction! The last track OPIATE BLUES leave nothing to be guessed, there is even a blues harp to be heard plus some guitar solos. Maybe a real heavy track like the opening ones would gave that record a better closing. And it is the weakest song on that mighty record. But the first four tracks are unique. Put it in your stereo and you will get impressed! Believe me! Essential!!
Genre: Heavy Space Rock
Info: 5 Songs / 50 minutes
Though it may seem to have materialized fully formed from a neighboring black hole (well, Salt Lake City, anyway), Tales, the inauspiciously named first album from stoner rock stalwarts, Iota, has in fact been bubbling in the band's bongs for quite a few years -- a fact which goes some way to explaining its seductively complex, multi-faceted charms. The album's first two numbers keep things relatively brief: "New Mantis" is a bruising stoner rock thumper wrapped in a dark metallic sheen, while "We are the Ythians" settles on a steady, driving, semi-space rock groove reminiscent of Monster Magnet, minus the head-exploding intensity. Then, before you know what hit you, Iota barges into ten-minute workout, "The Sleeping Heathen," which, unlike most epics of its kind (including the ones still to follow), devotes precious little time to loose, lysergic power-tripping, and focuses instead on alternating power chords and haunted vocals reminiscent of Loud Love-era Soundgarden. Next up, the 23-minute "Dimensional Orbiter" does open the psychedelic floodgates, primarily by way of front man Joey Toscano's astounding guitar work, but even its vast middle jam section feels more considered and structured than most -- no doubt because of Iota's lengthy rehearsal room wood-shedding and extensive road testing, beforehand. And Salt Lake City's own Brad Brad Wheeler (yes, there's an intentional echo in here) loans his harmonica to the more rootsy, earth-bound, eight-minute closer "Opiate Blues," whose title pretty much says it all. And that's all, folks! Five songs amounting to approximately 50 minutes may not seem like much on paper, but Iota really do make every second count, and it's not often that you'll hear this much inspired, condensed power emanating from a simple power trio, either.
- Eduardo Rivadavia
Blasting off like a runaway herd of raving mastodons launched into space at warp 9, Iota's new release Tales is an epic undertaking of stoner rock. Pushing the boundaries of the genre through the space/time continuum, the boys unleash a ravenous alien beast of an album, so punishing in its heaviness you'll need to hide away in a nuclear bunker not to be caught in its blast.
Fusing cosmically fuzzed guitars on top of their massively distorted riffs, Tales is an epic sci-fi journey, a concept album the likes of which haven't been seen since Sleep's masterpiece of droner metal. Riding high on Sabbath riffs, pounded through with the occasional backbeat of thrash, Iota take us blasting through the galaxies, meeting the "New Mantis," confronting the alien race, "We are the Yithians" and soaring into uncharted star systems, "Dimensional Orbiter." The vocal work, roughly similar to early-era James Hetfield, is slightly buried in the mix behind the attacking roar of the guitar, so I can't tell if the album tells a single story, but my impression is that this is the stoner rock equivalent of an old 50's sci-fi pulp novel, revealing separate tales of cosmic wonder with each pulverizing song. Pummeling in its intensity, grand in its scope. These guys are not lacking in ambition. Definitely worth checking out for those who like their stoner rock deeply fuzzed and very heavy.
- Racer X
Although this is a national CD review, I am quite happy to say that Iota are from Utah. What we have here is some five fantastic tracks which explore the scopes of space, psychedelic, and stoner rock. Two of these tracks exceed ten minutes in length, one which more than doubles that, with some totally tasty jam sessions that demand repeated listens at full volume. Not only will fans of older stoner rock appreciate this, but their kids who enjoy the sludgy metal will as well. Each song tends to follow its own path, but all of them guarantee a great deal of spacious fills and trance inducing movements that will just urge you to lean back farther in your filthy easy chair, or press harder on the gas pedal. I fully expect this to be heavy in my rotation all summer long. Set the controls for the heart of the sun.
– Conor Dow
Unfortunately I was not at home when the CD by Iota landed on my doormat. It must have been a loud, dull noise with which 'Tales' hit the ground, because this is heavy stuff, very heavy. Spacey even, so if a comparison is needed it is that of a black hole. Extreme heaviness…
The band Iota plays some sort of psychedelic heavy stonerrock, at First sight not really original nowadays. How do you distinguish yourself? Plenty of options: First of all, make sure your record sounds well. Iota succeeded in that. Its basses have this fine loud thud and when played at the right volume your crockery will march out of the cupboards single file.
Furthermore, make sure you have something of a theme. Iota chose some sort of space-fantasy thingy, as proven with song titles as “New Mantis”, “We Are The Yithians” and “Dimensional Orbiter”. No idea what it is all about. Something science-fiction like probably, but it makes you realize that this is how Hawkwind would have sounded, had they just started now and not almost forty years ago.
Iota's Music is not only heavy and groovy, it is also strongly imbedded in the blues. The type of blues made by pale British boys, that is. Especially in the magnum opus “Dimensional Orbiter”, a monolithic, clay footed monster of over 22 minutes, the blues influences can be heard clearly. The closing track of the album “Opiate Blues” leave nothing to be guessed, there is even a blues harp to be heard.
Iota is based in Salt Lake City and has clinched a record deal with Small Stone Recordings, where they share the roster with bands such as Five Horse Johnson, Dixie Witch and the Glasspack. Especially for the blues influences the comparison with Five Horse Johnson is apparent. Apart from that, Iota skillfully manages to steer past the pitfalls of the genre (no conspicuous Kyuss or Black Sabbath imitations), resulting in a very fine debut. For the connoisseurs.
Utah's Iota offer up some serious spaced out excellence on their Small Stone debut. The three-piece pull off some bluesy, groovy riffage, a few walking bass lines, soulful leads, and they've got decent vocals to boot. There's a bit of fast stuff, some moderate stoner goodness, and then the epic, mellow space jams like "Dimensional Orbiter". If you dig Earthless and Nebula, I'd check these guys out.
I don't know what the stoner scene is like out in Salt Lake City, Utah, from whence Iota hail, but listening to Tales, it would almost be worth hitching my wagon leftward to find out. How one band - a band on their debut, no less - can stretch a Kyuss influence into the 23-minute "Dimensional Orbiter" I may never understand, but perhaps the best part of this record is you can either sit for its duration (and longer) trying to figure out just what the hell you're witnessing, or you can approvingly nod your head at the oblivion unfolding from your speakers. Either way, you win.
Strong debut? Ha. Iota run the rings of spacerock Saturn around planet Neurosis and emit a hailstorm of riffer madness to get the eye Jupiter winking in surprise. Metallic space blues? Hyperdrive post-doom? There are so many directions the album could go, and it seems to spread out in all of them at once. Catchy and crushing, memorable and frenetic, Tales is easily the strongest Small Stone debut since Sasquatch's first record four years ago. The more straightforward "New Mantis" and "We Are The Yithians" hold down Fort Rock Your Ass Off while extended pieces "The Sleeping Heathen" (10:42), the aforementioned "Dimensional Orbiter" (an inevitable highlight at 22:56) and closer "Opiate Blues" (8:13) show a push toward sonic inventiveness often unseen in their genre. Aggressive and driving, Tales might prove a stoner metal landmark over the next couple years. In the meantime, it just plain rocks. Miss it and your year just got a whole lot worse.
- JJ Koczan
This new release from Small Stone is a tough one. By that I mean, it's not going to be easy to get into it but once you're past the 3-4 listen mark, you're on your way to buying a backup copy because you're going to play this to death. The first two tracks on Iota's debut album Tales, namely New Mantis and We are the Yithians are regular lengthed and even include traditional metal riffs, at times sounding influenced by High on Fire and even Neurosis. These two make for an in-your-face introduction to what the band can do as far as heavy goes. Songwriting is crisp and the choruses are catchy. Solos are interestingly done and it's during these bits at this stage that they exhibit their psych tendencies. It's like two guitarists jamming with each other, one guy louder than the other, while the drummer and the bassist are grooving. It's a unique take on guitar harmonies and this is just another thing that separates these guys from the rest of the bunch.
The Sleeping Heathen begins with their fastest and the heaviest riff so far, but the band decides to lay back and groove close to the one minute mark giving way to another tasty lead guitar break. Shouty vocals are reminiscent of what you hear on Dozer and by this time the band has taken the slow riff into a drawn out blues metal jam. This song would serve as a sonic transitional piece to the twenty three minute epic Dimensional Orbiter (and if you ask me, could be the perfect introductory song to this band and the album). It's got the lethal combination of heavy fucking metal and leads on to their insanely good trippy spacey jams.
I don't know if I said this before, but this band possesses some brilliant songwriting abilities, and it's mighty evident yet again once you're through to Dimensional Orbiter's beginning with the guitars sounding like alien spacecrafts flying around. Not a single riff change on this album so far has sounded forced and everything that goes on has its purpose. The main riff and melody of this particular song sounds like High on Fire jamming with the Argentinean psych stalwarts Los Natas. Joey Toscano's guitar work shines yet again and he had to have had some great ideas for a monumental jam of this kind. Sure, the groove is great but it's the ideas he brings in as a guitarist and a songwriter that makes this the cynosure of this album. After the chaotic ending, Opiate Blues is a sombre blues track that's even more closer to the kind of thing Los Natas and their ilk are doing. A totally great moment is during the jam after the verse when the guitarist lays some mean fuzzy licks and the blues harp does its thing till about the time when the song ends. Great album closer, and the transformation for Iota from its metal beginnings to its chilled out psych-jam ending is complete. One of this year's highlights and an essential listen. Oh, the cover art is fucking awesome too.
- Srikanth Panaman
Back in the day the album cover was a pretty clear indication of what the music represented. One look at Iota's Brian Koschak illustration and the soundtrack begins to form immediately. Alien ships hover over a throng of devote pilgrims, who once given the sacramental wafer, enter into a unified buzz of Hawkwind-inspired space rock. Iota is a Salt Lake City trio made up of Joey Toscano (guitars,vocals), Oz (bass) and Andy Patterson (drums). Tales is the band's third release and most committed to the psychedelic cosmos. Five tracks with stories filled of otherworldly invasions and tripped-out mind expansions carve up nearly an hours worth of instrumental overload.
They thrash it up in "New Mantis" with chants of "insect murder" and "raise the monolith" before the chugging feedback of "We Are The Yithians" descends like stoned out Metallica. "The Sleeping Heathen" is a pummeling barrage of time changes and fuzzy texture with Toscano's voice echoing in the background. The band showcases their dexterity as they work out intricate, yet bizarre passages that wind around the root beat like a python. The entire record revolves around a significant 22-minute stoner/ blues-metal freak-out called "Dimensional Orbiter" where the invading intruders warn that the only way to survive is to "leave with us." The journey is an acid-jam of immense proportions with the bass and drum leading the way. This time it's Toscano's guitar that runs amuck riding the bass, swirling around the rhythm and darting in and out with lead explosions. Capping the whole thing off is "Opiate Blues" which boasts one of the best odes to summer complete with Bad Brad Wheeler's scorching harmonica.
- Todd K Smith
Melodic, throaty and gritty, big-mouthed and space-filling, the vocals pour forth from the slow-to- mid-tempo throb of Iota’s doom rock. It kicks in a little pace - we're not in the throes of Sleep, after all - but it's on the slower end of heavy music, but it doesn't drudge. Grooves are here, and well they should be -something's got to carry forth the dark psychedelic hard rock motives of Iota, a cloud of rock force that spills in, sucks up the oxygen and sets you free to float in heady hooks and scowling melodies. Stoner rock arrives in this CD as something both thick and airy, dense and spacious - a wall that envelops you? Melodies are used to crush, not seduce, though its not inaccessibly heavy - but probably has more gravity than mainstream rockers will care for. But doomers won't be deterred - this belongs to them.
- Kristofer Upjohn
Dig Yourself! That's Iota's motto, and if you recognize it's source, then your head's already in the right place. If not, then Iota's got the heavy guns to put you in the right musical space and keep you there! This album is absolutely top caliber freak-out/stoner/psych/space/blues/desert metal, and it's one of the best releases ever from a label that has consistently delivered the goods for years.
Upon the my-o-my, how I love this album! Iota has come up with a new definition of heavy space rock, one that incorporates recent desert and psych elements with a respect for musical voyagers like Hawkwind ('natch), pumps you full of alkaloids, then hurls you into deep space with Indy's Ark of the Covenant as your copilot. It'll melt your face off and make you deeply grateful at the same time. The song titles shall clue you: "We are the Yithians" and "Dimensional Orbiter."
But it's not all Fun With Your New Head. The album opener, "New Mantis" actually starts off with a bit o' thrash before piloting its groove. As usual, it all comes down to The Riff, and Iota is brilliant in that department, not to mention the fact that they’re an unsung songwriting powerhouse. The first two songs are more compact, but no less mind altering for that. Small Stone webmaster Joey Toscano's guitar playing is brilliant, and his vocals will put you in mind of the Swedish desert, most notably first class acts like Honcho and Dozer. Oz' bass and newbie Andy Patterson's drums are equal to all the rigors of deep mind travel, and they're put to the test on the record's centerpieces, "The Sleeping Heathen" and the aforementioned "Dimensional Orbiter." This is where Iota really hits its stride: lengthy exercises in mind death heavy space psychedelia that never let up and never get dull, unrelenting pounding heaviness that practically forces you into a hair-swinging frenzy. You can mop that sweat off your brow during the album closer, "Opiate Blues," which will lay you out with some classy blues metal and mean harp. Oh, and check out the album art: it's a notebook-style line drawing of an alien lysergic communion, tailor-made to give off a homemade underground record monster vibe, and dig the subtle use of browns!
I want these guys to stay together for years to come, as long as they keep putting out records like 'Tales.' This is the best heavy space psych metal album since the latest Causa Sui, on par with Earthless and other practitioners of the heavy, mind-altering arts. More than recommended... Essential!!
- Kevin McHugh
Seeing how Iota vocalist/guitarist Joey Toscano happens to be the webmaster of Small Stone Records, I wouldn't begrudge you for claiming cronyism. But you'd be wrong on a couple of counts. First off, Tales is the third release from the Salt Lake City-based band (not including a demo from 2004, there's also 2005's Three Tons and 2006's Frankenstein Earphone Radio God), so if one hand was indeed washing the other, it's certainly taken awhile to find the soap. Secondly – and this is the important bit - Tales not only whomps all over the three-piece's past material, but it also stands out as a highlight of this year's releases.
That's mostly due to "Dimensional Orbiter," the 22+ minute monolithic guitar-based freakout that spews intergalactic stoner-psychedelia all over the place, much like Linda Blair did with pea soup in The Exorcist. And rather than being subjected to a crucifix in the vagina, "Dimensional Orbiter" instead gives you a solid boot to the ass. Repeatedly. It's a stand-up and take notice song, a note-perfect example of what this genre can represent when its not farting around trying to figure out what Sabbath and Kyuss riffs to steal. As for the other four tracks on Tales, they're pretty damn good too. Overall, Iota hits harder and heavier than most of their Small Stone brethren, coming close to Tummler in terms of delivery (the exception being closing track "Opiate Blues," which is more like Five Horse Johnson waking up after a vicious bender), so use that as a starting reference and then proceed without caution. Recommended.
- John Pegoraro