I didn’t even mean to review this one – I was just idly listening through the few records of note to be released so far in 2017 and halfway through this one found I’d written 500 words. It happens like that sometimes. I think it’s an illness.
So long as there’s awesome instrumental stoner metal in the world I think we’ll be ok. Review over at Echoes and Dust.
Part 9 of a 20 part rundown of my favourite tracks of 2015
I finally caught Elder back in June at The Full Moon in Cardiff. When they took the stage I was slightly disturbed to discover they all look about 12 years old. I may just be getting old and suffering the gig going persons version of, “ooh Mavis aren’t the policemen getting younger?” but it threw me to see such fresh faced youngsters tearing a room in two so effortlessly. It was brilliant, once I’d gotten over a brief moment of staring down my own mortality. I guess this is just how stuff goes as you get older. You have to spent a few more moments thinking, “shit, I’m gonna die someday and I still haven’t got around to curing cancer. Best get to the bar before it gets busy.”
I digress. When listening to Lore I wondered how a 3 piece would bring all it’s multi-tracked majesty to the stage intact. Yet the seemed to sacrifice nothing. Pretty much the whole record was played in it’s labyrinthine glory. Minds were blown. Which cemented my view that these boys are something special. They already had something unusual in stoner/doom circles – three records which sound very different from each other but which all worked in their own right. If you were to make a “Sim Stoner Band”
game playing it would basically just involve tweaking the Sabbath/Kyuss/Blue Cheer/Blue Oyster Cult sliders
until satisfied, locking them down and pressing the ‘acoustic guitar’ button every now and again when you get bored. But Elder seem restless, determined to push forward.
I still think I prefer Dead Roots Stirring to Lore, but then my preferences tend to lean towards filth over precision. Whilst Dead Roots boasted long tracks they didn’t feel as crafted as tracks like Legend, where every note feels deliberate. It lasts 12 minutes and nothing feels extraneous. They manage to be technical without being needlessly showy, complicated without feeling like it’s for the sake of being complicated. It’s the kind of sound I usually have a natural aversion for but in Elder’s hands the honest-to-god Rock Epic actually sounds interesting and vital again. They made a convert out of this skeptic, and all while looking barely old enough to drink. Incredible.
Songs stumbled upon, songs remembered, songs because why the hell not?
I compare a lot of instrumental stoner/metal bands to Karma to Burn, partly because I’m a lazy hack and partly because when listening to 90% of instrumental guitar bands I’d rather be listening to Karma to Burn. They didn’t start out instrumental – they started out with a singer, lost him somewhere along the way (he’s probably down the back of the sofa) and decided just to carry on. In doing so they accidentally revealed a fact so many bands don’t pick up on – if your singer is mediocre he’s just getting in the way. Why simplify things in the verse and chorus just so some goober can sing nothing lyrics at a boring pitch? It’s usually a let down and the moment where for the vast majority of bands under the ‘stoner rock’ banner that I switch off and go listen to something else.
43 does not have that probem. It’s heavy rock at it’s purest – nothing but a bunch of big, dumb, head banging riffs loosely bolted together in a verse/chorus/middle-8 structure without needing to slow down to incorporate a singer. It’s a firework display without any lulls, just the big rockets bursting in incandescent fury non-stop for 4 minutes. Karma to Burn don’t even bother to name their songs – they’re not going to pretend to have anything to say. And why should they? Do you really need to hear some dude rambling about space or weed or, worst of all, bong-addled politics over your hit of fuzzed up guitars? I’ll answer for you: no, you don’t. Unless the guy doing it has the vocal power of a John Garcia or a Daniel Soren or, even more rare, the wit of Neil Fallon, then they should probably shut up*.
When you boil it down 43 is what it’s all about. The rest is just window dressing. I can’t listen to Karma to Burn for long periods – it’s just too pure a hit. And 43 is probably the purest they’ve got. Use sparingly.
*Honourable exception – Scott Hill of Fu Manchu, who made lazy dumb lyrics and vocals into their own unique art form.
Once upon a time the very least you could say about The Sword was, “you know what you’re getting with those guys.” But for their fifth record they’ve decided to change things up. With consistency no longer on their side what have they got to offer instead?
Review over at Echoes & Dust.
When Fck Ldn (not to be confused with the recently launched Vice offshoot with a very suspiciously similar name) asked me to talk about 10 of my favourite psych/doom/sludge/stoner bands currently active in the UK and gave me an excuse to compile another playlist – well, I leapt at the chance. I went away, buried my head in strange, narcotic noise and wrote this little article here.