Sunday, 13 September 2015

Sweat Lodge - 'Talismana' (Album Review)

By: Joosep Nilk

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 07/08/2015
Label: Ripple Music


With such mean songwriting skills as is on display here it’s rather difficult to pick favourites. ’Talismana’ definitely brings stand-out tracks but the band with their strong sense of vision and penchant for killer riffs and catchy hooks all coated with stirring vocal melodies manages to blend it all into one cohesive whole. This is one superb debut from this Texan group and definitely one of this year’s not to be missed out on.

’Talismana’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Tramplifier
2). Bed Of Ashes
3). Slow Burn
4). Phoenix Ascent
5). Talismana
6). Black Horizon
7). Boogie Bride
8). Heavy Head
9). Banshee Call

The Review:

Sweat Lodge is a relatively new band that brought much anticipation toward their full-length with their demo’s release. On their debut they crank the temperature equally high as is common for their home base of Texas and establish themselves as one of the finer bands to come out of the blistering heat. Opening track ’Tramplifier’ is a proto-guided kamikaze of a tune that gets straight up electrified with an infectious vocal hook. Perhaps most evidently one surely can’t hold back the comparisons to Ozzy. Entertaining such a comparison, on ’Tramplifier’, Sweat Lodge pull it off as if you were spinning Sabbath at 45rpm, though the elevating vocal delivery of Cody Johnston brought forth simultaneously pained and focused.

The vocal hooks hardly stop there. They carry onto ’Bed Of Ashes’ which is a groovy, classic guitar licks number. Or take arguably one of the stronger tracks ’Slow Burn’ where the riffs thunder with a slight lethargy remaining to the smoking fury. Contary to the title there’s of course nothing slow about this scorcher of a tune. Reeking of fatalism at hand fit for true biker mentality, Sweat Lodge prove they’re able to light the fuse and keep it burning hot on both ends when the tune sets into a trotting frenzy with muffled singing toppled inbetween. It’s difficult to refrain from pointing this out again and again but the vocals, echoing piercing words, is enough to send chills down the spine.

Having delved into the wittiness of lyrics and heard the clever twists and turns and off-kilter outbursts that really set these tracks apart from your regular hard-rocking tunes, it becomes obvious that ’Talismana’ is aeons smarter than what one would perhaps expect firsthand. This sentiment is especially on point on the next track which offers probably the most original solutions throughout the album. ’Phoenix Ascent’  brings an explosive sound, keeping you consantly on the edge of your seat (or saddle!) and introduces a new brand of psychedelia through its odd time signatures. Some solid bass backbone is provided by interludes which are a solid head-nod toward Al Cisneros. Here takes to the song’s finish one of the few guitar solos, which, as proven again by it’s fade-out, are never lone in the focus but trimmed down as seasoning for the songs themselves. What little taste the band do give of solos is solid and promising though, with definite room to elaborate on their sophomore, which is not to say the tracks are at all tarnished by their exclusion. All is in its right place and flows straight into the title track, the opening chords of which quickly establish it as the heaviest track on the album. It’s headbanging galore whilst belting out the harshest of riffs. A bass heavy guitar solo carries into a mid-way breakdown, as the tunes melt down and bring your mind along.

The band has admitted that their name is foremost a reference to the atmosphere of kinship experienced at shows, with the spiritual indian practise as more an afterthought. What is perhaps most admirable though is that both approaches to the name work and are done perfect justice to. ’Talismana’ is equal parts mirages of native tribes with a backdrop of scrunge collected on your leather shoes and jacket in the dry desert heat, as it is pub anthems for whiskey-spilling, exhaust-fume-huffing, acid-dropping hippie-bikers.

What really provides a solid backbone for the whole album is the lyrics with strong imagery, carrying slightly occultist undertones. It’s all so well considered and close-knit, making it a more familiar-sounding pub-rocker of a tune like ’Black Horizon’, rather a high-octane revelry,  is not out of place alongside a tune like ’Boogie Bride’, where the band also bare some soul. The last of which, although beginning quite mild, is another Sabbathian-inspired groover. The songwriting on ’Talismana’ is great throughout but the composition on this track might just be the best at showcasing what the band is capable of. The line ’Help the snake to shed his skin’ could be no more fitting than on this tune that developes in a slithering manner, allowing the band to show the most diversity. The chorus’ repetition acting out almost like some sort of enchanting threnody, with vocals delivered to the last possible breath making it sound authentic and truly diresome. Here the band never sound any less than in total unison, which may also be attributed to the production, that must be acclaimed, is on point throughout the album. The band really picks up the pace towards the track’s apex, bringing some superb guitar licking solos, with lyrics playing contrast to the almost joyous tone of the riffs and surely pummeling it all down at the climax.

What really makes ’Talismana’ such an enjoyable listen is the atmosphere. Like the whistling on ’Heavy Head’ that is capable of taking you straight to high country if you let it. Just one look at the title, the infectious rhythm and the more obvious mention of burning trees, makes clear this one’s as a  true stoner anthem, which could also easily challenge the opening track for it’s energy levels. The proto-metal interim coming totally out of left-field. Another fine example of Sweat Lodge’s aptitude of knowing how to put together a memorable tune with smart lyrics yet leaving room for surprises. Full release, indeed. The culmination is left for ’Banshee Call’ that starting off benign in ballad-fashion invokes burning midnight oil, nighttime blues and envisioning cowboy ghosts. Although down-tuned and blues-minded, the truly anguished singing on this track brings the whole album to its glorious peak.

With such mean songwriting skills as is on display here it’s rather difficult to pick favourites. ’Talismana’ definitely brings stand-out tracks but the band with their strong sense of vision and penchant for killer riffs and catchy hooks all coated with stirring vocal melodies manages to blend it all into one cohesive whole. This is one superb debut from this Texan group and definitely one of this year’s not to be missed out on.

’Talismana’ is available here




Band info: bandcamp | facebook

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