Groundhogs - Split (1971), 8/10

This record exemplifies everything there is to love about heavy psych, elevated by stellar songwriting in its four-part title track and standout single “Cherry Red”. The epic introduction is simple, heavy hitting rock where Tony McPhee belts and shreds, Peter Cruikshank thuds, and Ken Pustelnik holds it down and flourishes with some pretty wild Sabbath-esque fills. The other standout "Cherry Red" continues this trend with some awesome jamming and hardcore riffs. Even "Groundhog" serves as a beautiful closer; it has a perfect pace and aesthetic to end such a mind-bending experience of a record. While the title track and “Cherry Red” do truly overshadow the rest of the album, especially tracks like “A Year in the Life” and “Junkman”, the album experience does not suffer much from this dip at the tail end, as the energy is suffused and reinvigorated by the closer. There are some intense solos and interplay throughout the first five tracks and the blues-infused compositions are just too strong to ignore even as individual songs, making Split a clear strongpoint for Groundhogs, never to be surpassed in effect. McPhee is clearly at a peak of technical prowess as a guitarist and his vocal style and range fit these themes perfectly, all elevated by the band focusing in on their strengths rather than trying to latch too hard onto their blues background like they had previously. Here they sound free and heavy, but still tight of course. Even considering the direction metal would progress from here, this is an impressively fluid blending of psych, experimental sound, metal and blues that cannot be ignored. All of that aside, it just shreds. The guitar and percussion work are especially impressive. An obvious but overlooked classic.