After long last, we slumbering peasantry arise from Rip Van Winkle-hood, back with another edition of our neglected Sleeping Village Sampler.
For those of you not in the know, this is our (regrettably infrequent) column wherein we review, in brief, two of the bands that have escaped the clutches of a full length writeup. Usually there is an underlying current, a theme connecting the two. In other words, a method behind the madness. This time, however, all I’ve got is this: both bands featured here today have the word “Serpent” in their name, and they both requested a review on the same damn day. That’s simply too coincidental to neglect, and so here we are. Pull off your boots, pull up a chair, and stay awhile. You may want to check your boots for snakes later on, but that's life.
We Villagers are a busy lot this time of year, what with the silliness of year-end (and decade-end) lists. Thus, Captain Graves has taken the reins in the review department, as of late. Good thing too--the longer he's occupied with killer tunes, the more time we have to dig our own graves. - Ed.
Written by: Capt. Graves
We ate way too much Tumulan fungi last night in the Village. Needless to say, there wasn't much sleep going on. Instead, I spent the night listening to Rabbits by Brume, and down the hole I went chasing that fluffy white rabbit. In that hole I found a wonderland with talking animals and floating clocks.
The first track, "Despondence," brings you in and out of riffs and atmosphere. The vocals here are extremely powerful--they will send you spiraling into the abyss, and shoot you back out the other end. One thing I didn't enjoy about this track was the length. It felt like it was going nowhere by the end, like I'd been listening to the same riff for hours. "Scurry," however, has much more depth in the songwriting, and really starts to bring out the band's strong suits. More soaring vocals to send me deep into space, where I belong. A nice gentle atmospheric interlude to bring you around to an epic, slow, gritty guitar solo. This song feels like it has some nu-metal influence, and I can dig it.
First, an apology is due. When the self-declared "four grumpy old men" of Swedish doom outfit Malsten got in touch this summer with news of "Torsion," their (fantastic) debut single, I had every intention of spreading the good news. Alas, I did not, and here we are, 6-odd months later, still spinning "Torsion" with the kind of regularity that is frankly remarkable given Malsten's lack of, y'know, a discography. Time for a review, methinks.
"Torsion" is a hefty 10 minutes in length, but, like the best amongst their doomy brethren, Malsten use that time to great effect. The result is a well-constructed track that builds upon itself without every giving into the genre's quicksand--namely, oppressive heavy-lidded dullness. In short: no small task.
Captain Graves is on what we earthlings might refer to as "a tear," and I'm certainly not going to stand in his way. Enjoy his latest treatise. - Ed.
I've been kept busy over here at The Village. They took me to their vomit pits for a glorious session. Watching feeble humans excrete from every orifice is quite satisfying if I do say so myself, and I do.
When The Deadbolt Breaks' Angel's Are Weeping... ...God Has Abandoned... is far from vomit inducing. It's more homicidal/suicidal, and I really get into that. Destroying worlds and making people suffer is somewhat of an expertise for me. The first track "Centering Through Isolation" has a long intro, it almost turned me off from writing this review, but I'm glad I gave it a chance. Its atmospheric and sludgy nature reeled me in. "Blood Born" also has a long intro, but the guitar is trance-like and seems to tell a story on it's own. I do love wet guitar lines. It turns into a sludgefest after that, switching between operatic vocals and deathly screams.
Robots of the Ancient World. If that moniker--and the accompanying artwork--doesn’t conjure a spaced-out and otherwise smoke-afflicted ethos, I urge you to back away from this decidedly cosmic Kyussian watering hole before it's too late. That's right. This impressive debut is comfortably tied to the generator rattlin’ desert rock of terra firma, yet brings enough psychedelic and astral gravitas to give credence to their cosmos-trawling identity. An appropriate Carl Sagan sample only adds to the ambiance--but really, isn't that an inevitability?
Before this particular scribe gets too mired in the nitty-gritty, let’s make two facts abundantly clear: 1). Cosmic Riders is a highly enjoyable album, quite possibly one of the genre’s best this year, and 2). as an up-n-coming stoner/desert/doom crew, Robots of the Ancient World can hang, quite comfortably, with the best of ‘em.
Instrumentally, you’ve undoubtedly heard something of a similar ilk--although perhaps without such a defined sense of nuance. Robots of the Ancient World’s are rockers through and through--pounding drums, groovy bass, and a hard rockin’ pedal-to-the-metal mentality keeps them grounded in the desert department. In terms of the general ambiance called to mind, tracks such as “In My Head” and the aforementioned “Sweet Lady” recall blazing sun and burning rubber, more so than psychedelic starlit soul searching. Given the album as a whole, however, neither “thick” nor “hefty” feel particularly apt, as the riffs remain expansive. Undeniably fuzz-ridden, yet delightfully light footed. Typically an album that actively encourages mind wandering, rather than constantly demanding attention, will fall under my spit-shined critical lens. Not so here. The (comparatively) relaxed second acts of “High and Drive” and the titular “Cosmic Riders” don't constitute mere background noise in the slightest, but their expansive and subtle nature demonstrate a very calming effect. Surely the modus operandi of these interstellar Robots, if the intro to “High and Drive” isn't enough of a hint.
A true highlight of the guitarwork is the solos--few and far between, but excellent nonetheless. See the back half of “Sweet Lady” for a particularly sweet lil’ fretboard diatribe. These exploratory guitar-centric moments work incredibly well to draw the listener in. While the central riffs never feel stale, the solos serve as glimmers of particular interest. The issue with the majority of stoner rock of the astral variety is a tendency to fall too far into the abyss. Robots of the Ancient World are quite proficient at letting you drift, but occasionally reeling in the tether.
This quality is only strengthened by the fantastic vocals, which I've seen compared, interestingly enough, to both Danzig and Jim Morrison. The former is certainly apparent--look, for example, to the self-assured gruffness on “God Particle/Oblivion Stone.” In terms of the latter, while Mr. Mojo fanboyism is, quite possibly, my greatest pet peeve, I'm frankly inclined to agree. A certain chiller-than-thou poise proliferates the entire package, adding a level of emotion that has been unfortunately lacking in the genre’s recent deluge of shout-into-the-void delivery. That said, rather than residing in languidity, he's capable of turning it up a notch--an expansive, distant, and at times mournful howl. When this is pushed to the limit, he tantalizing walks the line, stretching each note to a frayed edge. It suits the tone and shape of Cosmic Riders quite well.
Again, this is an impressive debut. In fact, the only vague misstep in sight is the penultimate “Five Eyes,” which feels overly long given its position in the album's mesh. At six and half minutes, this is an excellent track carrying some unnecessary baggage on burly shoulders. Otherwise, Cosmic Riders remains compulsively listenable and relentlessly enjoyable. It’s a noticeable step up from their self-titled debut, which frankly says a lot on its own. More than representing maturity, however, Cosmic Riders serves as a declaration of Robots of the Ancient World’s intent: to join the impressive entourage of PNW bands toiling to reinvigorate the spirit of rock. To this end, their debut credits the genre’s foundational elements, but doesn’t turn tail when prompted to deliver music that feels just unique enough to spark interest. Cosmic Riders comes highly recommended.
Robots of the Ancient World's Cosmic Riders was released March 26th, 2019.
Providing thoughtful reviews of music that is heavy, gloomy, and loud enough to wake us from slumber. Written by a groggy-eyed, highfalutin peasantry.