Greek Stoner Rockers Puta Volcano dropped AMMA on March 13, 2020, and we can’t stop playing it. Yes, even though it’s been nearly a month since it’s release, we’re still playing AMMA nearly every day (and that means we’re also getting to dive back into their back catalog).
Before we get into the review, let’s recap on the band itself. Puta Volcano is always good for a tight riff (good enough that they made our list of favorites) and they’re at the forefront of the Greek Stoner Rock renaissance. Although they fit comfortably into the Stoner Rock genre with a tinge of Psychedelic Rock, there’s plenty more beneath the surface. Anna Papathanasiou is a powerful vocalist with a deep, mesmerizing delivery. Alex Pi is a guitar wizard, laying out thick, complex, hypnotic riffs in every song. Steve Stefanidis thumps along on bass, announcing his presence at just the right time. Finally, there’s Bookies, a phenomenal drummer with as much restraint as he has fire.
Together, the band creates incredible albums (and their live performances are definitely worth looking up).
Their last effort, 2017’s Harmony of Spheres, showed a band that had made phenomenal progress over the previous few years, delivering a dark, hard-driving, surprisingly tight songs in an album marked with ear worms. The band set a high bar for quality on Harmony of Spheres, so outdoing themselves with a follow-up certainly wouldn’t be easy.
But AMMA blows Harmony of Spheres out of the water. In AMMA, the band expands their sound well beyond the thresholds established by Harmony of Spheres. AMMA is dark yet bright, bleak yet hopeful, grimy yet clean. It’s a hell of follow-up.
Here’s a track-by-track breakdown.
Track 1: Re-Entry
“Re-Entry” is a soft instrumental track of only 42 seconds. Here, the band uses a few layered guitars to introduce the chord progression we’ll hear throughout track two, “Entropica.” The two tracks blend so well, we thought they were the same song on our first listen.
Track 2: Entropica
“Entropica” is the first hint at how much the band has grown in recent years. The track features some of their most intriguing and complex instrumentation to date, and the growling vocals come through in a clarity that wasn’t quite there in their earlier album. With that extra clarity, the vocals hit a little harder, especially when Anna shouts “I decided to care!” at the 3:30 mark.
Track 3: Venus Lullaby
“Venus Lullaby” opens softer than most Puta Volcano tracks, a buzzing guitar meandering its way over drums and bass as Anna croons over her domain. While softer, the tone and texture are unmistakably Puta Volcano. By the time the song erupts at 1:30, we’re firmly entrenched in Puta Volcano’s world, wrapped in that fuzzy embrace.
Track 4: First Light
“First Light” starts off at a palm-muted gallop, churning ahead with reckless abandon. Anna provides a nice compliment by chopping up her vocals to deliver one sustained syllable at a time. In “First Light,” Puta Volcano demonstrates one of their slickest skills: blending beautiful melodies with ferocious Rock—take a close listen to hear some of Bookies’ range on the kit.
Track 5: Black Box
If you follow Puta Volcano on social media, you’re likely familiar with “Black Box” since the band worked so hard to promote it. Easily the most emotive song on the album, “Black Box” follows a quite-loud-quiet pattern that sucks you in. The song comes with a captivating music video as well:
Track 6: Sugar Cube
Clocking in at three minutes and eighteen seconds, “Sugar Cube” is one of the shortest songs on the album. Despite the short length, the band takes some time to experiment here. Instead of relying on the same formula that has permeated most of their tracks so far, “Sugar Cube” is a deviation. The first half of the song is soft, haunting open marked by foreboding lyrics (“Keep your eyes peeled, never sleep no more”). After the 1:30 mark, the band erupts into action, delivering an exciting second act.
Track 7: Echoing Icons
This minute-and-a-half interlude has all of the sharp, jarring, relaxing edges of Puta Volcano. The tones ring out as abrasive as they are haunting, as soothing as they troubling.
Track 8: Primitive Data
“Primitive Data” opens with a bang. This is vintage Puta Volcano with added growth, but it sounds like it was plucked right out of Harmony of Spheres.
Track 9: Apnea
“Apnea” opens with a wild spaghetti riff. Even when the refrain transitions to power chords, there’s a hefty speed that propels the song forward.
Track 10: Torus
By definition, a torus is “a surface or solid formed by rotating a closed curve, especially a circle, around a line that lies in the same plane but does not intersect it.” Leave it to Puta Volcano to write a song that tries to capture that. “Torus” meanders its way through time and space—in a good way. It’s an exciting ride if you’re willing to sit back and enjoy it.
Track 11: Space Blanket
“Space Blanket” is a good example of what guitarist Alex Pi is so good at: tight, intricate riffs repeated into infinity. There’s a tension in “Space Blanket” that isn’t in the rest of the album, and it stems directly from Alex Pi’s guitar. The strings ring out in a desperate siren behind Anna’s voice.
Track 12: Kassandra’s Gift
The last song on the album is also the longest. “Kassandra’s Gift” gives the band enough to expand in new directions, and they seize on the moment by producing their most ambitious song yet. “Kassandra’s Gift” plays with textures, filters, and layered vocals to deliver an impressive final result. It’s one hell of a way to end an album.
Pros: AMMA is Puta Volcano at their most confident. There’s a certain joyous rebirth in this album, and that energy level permeates each and every song.
Cons: With AMMA, Puta Volcano proves they’re great at what they do, but what they do is largely formulaic. Song structures are nearly identical, and the majority of the songs are between 3:30 and 4:30 (“Torus” and “Space Blanket” are right beside each other—and they’re the same exact length). This itself isn’t a problem, but it’s something you begin to notice after a few listens. Puta Volcano should continue pushing their sonic boundaries.