Monday, July 12, 2010

Across Tundras - Western Sky Ride

It's a relatively rare occurrence in the metal and hardcore world to hear a band that sounds genuinely unique. Brutal death metal gets traced back to Cannibal Corpse and Morbid Angel. Sludge and doom sounds like Eyehategod and Neurosis. And of course, melodic death triggers an instant At the Gates reference. That's not to say that all forms of heavy music lack innovation and originality; it's just that the relatively tight genre constraints of metal and hardcore often leave little breathing room for these ideas to prosper.

And that's where Denver's Across Tundras fits into the picture. These guys take a strong Neurosis foundation and mix it with Black Sabbath and folk influences to create an interesting mix of what has been appropriately touted as "countrified doom." Sparse instrumentation based around twangy, slightly psychedelic guitar work is combined with prominent low end and meandering vocals, resulting in nine sprawling soundscapes that could only be collected under a title like Western Sky Ride. Across Tundras may not be redefining an entire genre, but their western twist on doom metal will certainly grab the attention of a wide range of listeners.

With Western Sky Ride running nearly 70 minutes in length, Across Tundras has plenty of time in each track to show off their love of everything from Neurosis to Neil Young. The disc's opener, "Carrion Crow," plays around with plodding vintage rock riffs before its midsection locks in a period of metallic riffing accompanied by whistling. "Follow Me to the San Luis" and "Two Black Clouds" both keep the disc firmly rooted in folk influence, with the former displaying subdued female vocal accompaniment and the latter offering substantial guitar twang over noisy ambience and drum rhythms. "Song of the Sullen Plains" displays some of the disc's most abrasive moments, provided by thick guitar riffs and a few stronger vocal lines.

Across Tundras simply does a remarkable job cohesively blending such a wide range of influences on Western Sky Ride. However, the disc's vocal performance leaves a bit to be desired, displaying that the band has not completely fine-tuned their clever combination of genres. Much of Western Sky Ride's singing feels like an afterthought, and since most of the tracks are rich in instrumentation and the vocals are so low in the mix, it appears that the band would also agree. And in order to preserve the folky, vintage feel to Across Tundras' brand of psychedelic, doomy rock, the vocals should, in fact, be buried in the mix. Despite this, it's hard not to notice that much of the singing is all over the place, ranging from apathetic droning to background shouting, ultimately giving the record a bit of an unsure feel at times. Across Tundras' singing is an acquired taste of sorts, but given its place in the mix and the album's instrumental feel, it shouldn't prove to be that great of a barrier to appreciating this interesting take on the doom genre.

Bottom Line: When Across Tundras advertised that they were mixing Neurosis, Black Sabbath and Neil Young, they weren't joking. Western Sky Ride offers sprawling compositions that combine vintage rock, folk, and doom metal and the result is a release that stands out from the pack in terms of ingenuity and originality. If the band gets a stronger vocal performance on their next record, they could be unstoppable.

(Taken from here...)

My most loved album from Across Tundras. Read the review and get the tunes, you won't regret it! Enjoy!

 [ Myspace | Saw Her Ghost Records | 2008 | Sludge | CBR @ 320 ]

01. Carrion Crow (08:38)
02. Thunderclap Stomp (07:55)
03. Low the Daystar Hangs (08:56)
04. Badlands Blues (08:12)
05. Follow Me to the San Luis (03:49)
06. Song of the Sullen Plains (08:20)
07. Run With the Wolves (06:21)
08. Two Black Clouds (08:22)
09. Gallows Pole (08:12)

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