“Desert Rock” has always been an ineffective way to describe a band’s sound. In the early ‘90s, “Desert Rock” was a catch-all term for bands coming out of the Palm Desert scene. The problem, of course, is that bands like Yawning Man, which rely heavily on ornate Psychedelic grooves, are lumped into the same category as heavy rockers like Kyuss.
What Desert Rock has come to mean is any sort of band that blends Blues, Psychedelia, tinges of Latin music, Punk, Metal, and/or Rock.
Generally, that could mean a lot of different things, but it’s a convenient snapshot of The Penitent Man, a relatively new act from Salt Lake City, Utah. While The Penitent Man embodies each of these categories, it’s sound is lithe. This is a five-piece that is 100% comfortable with slow burns, quiet approaches, and performances that rely as much on a backdrop of silence as they do instrumentation. This is a bold move, and it embodies their eponymous first album with a true sense of confidence.
Much of that confidence is deserved. The Penitent Man is only four tracks, but it’s 34 minutes long. In a genre like this, averaging 8 minutes per song generally means the songs are either terrible or experimental, diving deep into Psychedelic or Progressive Rock. But that’s not the case here. The Penitent Man has crafted hard-rocking, straightforward bangers that are consistent from beginning to end.
Take a look at them in action:
About The Penitent Man
The Salt Lake-based band has been around since 2018. The members are:
Steven King – Guitar
Phil Gallegos – Guitar
Allan Davidson – Vocals
Chris Garrido – Drums
Ethan Garrido – Bass
The Penitent Man Album Review
Here’s our track-by-track breakdown of The Penitent Man:
Track 1: The Devil Was Christ
“The Devil Was Christ” opens like it’s stepping onto the ranch. That’s not to say the song is a Country tune. “The Devil Was Christ” has the slow, deliberate movement of the desert, emphasized by the tambourine and chants.
After a gradual open, “The Devil Was Christ” picks up speed around 5:23, when the first guitar solo soars over the desert landscape.
This quiet approach concludes near 6:50. Here, we receive a new bassline—and plenty of new energy. “The Devil Was Christ” adopts a new sort of swagger, as if it was the soundtrack for a bank heist in a 1970s Hollywood thriller.
By the track’s conclusion, “The Devil Was Christ” has the floor-stomping, hand-clapping energy of an old tent revival (a quality that’s emphasized by Davidson’s cries of “My Jesus! My Jesus!”).
Track 2: Purple Kiss
While “The Devil Was Christ” was slow and deliberate, “Purple Kiss” is a determined rocker with a heavy riff—one that’s bound to have you nodding along. The songwriting here is simple but infectious. Get ready to have the riff and chorus running through your head all day after a single listen.
Track 3: Stone
“Stone” opens with a single chord and, for a moment, the track sounds like “Call Me a Dog” by Temple of the Dog. The similarities to ‘90s Rock are short-lived, however. As in “The Devil Was Christ,” the band is content with meandering along, offering listeners a chill jam to relax to.
All of that changes in the second half of the song. At 4:10, the band suddenly erupts into a run. The energy levels go through the roof, guitar riffs ring back and forth, and the band moves at an exciting galloping. If the second half of “Stone” was lopped off and delivered by itself, it would make a compelling single.
Track 4: Buffalo
“Buffalo” opens on many of the same vibes felt throughout “The Devil Was Christ.” Here, however, the emotion is morose, thanks in part to the acoustic guitar woven in and out of the song. The album concludes on a wave of bass and distortion before simmering into the outro of acoustic guitar and soft vocals.
Pros: What’s most interesting about The Penitent Man is the songs don’t feel like they’re 10 minutes long. Each track is engrossing in its own way and crafted to feel fresh and intriguing with every beat. While “Purple Kiss” feels a little outside of the band’s overall aesthetic, it helps to balance the rest of the album and keep the band on course.
Cons: We would have loved to hear more. Only running for 34 minutes leaves a lot of potential song material left on the table, and songs like “Purple Kiss” and the second half of “Stone” show the band can write riff-oriented Stoner Rock with the best of them.