Wednesday, November 17, 2010
Review: Black Math Horseman - Wyllt (2009, Tee Pee Records)
Black Math Horseman are an LA based post/psych/stoner rock/metal band. They have released their first full-length, Wyllt, in 2009 through the great psych/stoner rock focused label Tee Pee. After the jump you can read my review of this album.
In the last few months (middle 2009), I’ve been going through the catalogue of the NY based psychedelic-rock/metal and stoner-rock focused label, Tee Pee. I’ve found many gems there and one of my finding was the LA based psychedelic/stoner-rock/metal band Black Math Horseman. In April 2009, they released their debut album, Wyllt.
There seems to be a pattern in this album. In each song, there are sections that differ in pace and intensity and those alternate as the song proceeds. The band presents to faces: a calmer, slow and relaxed side that is somewhat in a stoner rock or even sludge/atmospheric-metal mold (depending on the heaviness) and a fast, raw, loud and aggressive side (which could be said to have its influence from bands like Isis and Pelican). These two planes of the band create an interesting overall sound. One might say I am over-analyzing their sound and that this is one continuous style, but listening to the album, this is something that came up in my mind in several songs.
Now, while this works nicely and the songs as a whole define a particular sound of the band, there is something lacking. While this psychedelic/stoner approach works fine for me and I like their style, I am missing a creative spark from them. I feel as if their songs could benefit from an added development and exploration of song structure for instance. The instrumentation makes their sound rich enough, but I’d love to hear songs like Tyrant and Deerslayer not end like they do and receive further attention from the band members. Otherwise they could just do songs like Origin of Savagery, which is a great short song in the same mold as these two and does what they do, only in a more concise and efficient way in my opinion.
Allow me to focus on these two songs as an example:
Tyrant start with ominous sounding drumming and then joined by delicate guitars and bass (which should be brought further to the front of the mix). Two minutes in does the band reveal its rawer side with the sound of the crunchy guitar riffs and full power of drums. This song, a repetitive movement alternating between a softer section and an aggressive one, is a fine mood setter for the rest of the album.
Deerslayer start slowly again, but soon gathers up energy and speeds up when one guitar provides powerful rhythmic riffs and the second one plays a segmented pattern over it. This section soon is going a reset to the opening segment. And the alternating pattern is resumed here as well later on.
Throughout all of this, the female vocals are in the background, in a chant-like manner with an echo. It’s too bad that it stays the same way throughout the album and doesn’t change. It gives too much of a “same-y” impression, feeling as if all songs are alike. Changing a bit the singing style and adding some backing vocals from the guys could add a lot to the mix. For instance, when Sera screams (still in the background) in Bird of All Faiths and None / Bell From Madrone, it really distinguishes that song from the rest, making it feel as if the band is going a bit out of their path to try something different.
The drumming fits perfectly the mood and dark vibe of the album and the guitars sounds send a chilling sense of mystery and gloom. When the band accelerates the tempo, they sound very tight and it’s very hard to resist the vigor and beat of the music. For instance, Torment of the Metals at around 5:30, when the guitars announce the arrival of a faster section and the drums soon join in on the parade; that is some passionate playing that is very appealing. But it doesn’t lead to any real climax or any change of direction for the song and it ends soon afterwards. It’s a fine song, but I’d love to hear more being made out of it.
The last song, the eleven minute Bird of All Faiths and None / Bell From Madrone is an example where they do try and explore a bit beyond what seems their comfort zone, while still being firmly rooted in their style. Around the sixth minute comes an alternate section that stirs matters up and offers a glimpse at what this band can come up with that is beyond what this album showcases. Which is why I look forward to future releases from them.
Considering all my above ranting and comments, this is a fine piece of psychedelic/stoner-rock/metal album, with good hooks and tight playing. I love their brand and style of music and what they do, they do well.