Tuesday, 7 April 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Absolva, "Side By Side"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 17/04/2020
Label: Rocksector Records

“Side By Side” CD//DD track listing:

1. Advocate Your Fate
2. Burning Star
3. The Sky's Your Limit
4. Side By Side
5. Living A Lie
6. Legion
7. Eternal Soul
8. End Of Days
9. Heart Let's Go
10. From This World
11. 2 Minutes To Midnight (BONUS TRACK)
12. Heaven & Hell (BONUS TRACK)

The Review:

Absolva are a British metal band that combine a good dose of melody with the finest steel. They are a modern day heavy metal band- think Priest, Accept, Maiden, Saxon.... and then bring it up to 2020 via bands like Alter Bridge. If 2017's “Defiance” was a weighty affair, then “Side By Side” is a little slicker. Opener “Advocate Your Fate” is anthemic and driving in equal measure, “Burning Star” pulls the same trick at a faster tempo.

Similarly, the title track is a catchy melodic beast with some power to it as well. The likes of “Living a Lie” and “Legion” offer up a little more metal and a little less hard rock. The performances are excellent throughout, with Karl Schram and Martin McNee forming a lock tight rhythm section for Chris Appleton to weave some magical and soaring guitar work over, ably assisted by Iced Earth member and brother Luke Appleton.

The Maiden influence comes in strong on “Eternal Soul” with some incendiary instrumental sections. You can clearly see that Absolva wear their influences on their sleeve (after all, three of them are Blaze Bayley's backing band) but are also forging forward with a hybrid of hard rock and heavy metal. “End of Days” is a very strong and catchy track down the back stretch with a  triplet time feel making it stand out.

“Heart Lets Go” is a serviceable album track, but not up to the strength of “From This World” which closes out the album. With ethereal acoustic work and a well delivered vocal, it's a very strong way to finish the record. As a bonus, the band have also covered “Two Minutes to Midnight” and “Heaven and Hell”. It's a bold move, being as both songs are absolute classics of the genre. The Maiden cover is the pick of the two, as “Heaven and Hell” has the tempo picked up just a tad which alters the dynamic of the track a little. That said, that's two strong bonus tracks for the fans so no complaints.

Where “Side By Side” will sit in Absolva's canon, I am not yet sure. It's certainly better than “Flames of Justice” and “Never A Good Day To Die” and I think stronger- but less heavy- than “Anthems To The Dead”. It's perhaps more finely crafted than “Defiance”, but with less adrenaline fuelled material. Time will tell where it sits, but one thing's for sure this is a release of the finest quality with a bright and live sounding production being the icing on an impressive cake. It's great to hear a young British metal band that can compete with the old guard and the Americans. A strong album. 

“Side by Side” is available HERE

Band info: facebook

Monday, 6 April 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Testament, "Titans of Creation"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/04/2020
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Titans of Creation” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Children Of The Next Level
3. Dream Deceiver
4. Night Of The Witch
5. City Of Angels
6. Ishtars Gate
7. Symptoms
8. False Prophet
9. The Healers
10. Code Of Hammurabi
11. Curse Of Osiris
12. Catacombs

The Review:

Testament are back, four years after “Brotherhood of the Snake”. What kind of album do they have for us this time, well, it's a thrash record. The days of thrash/death/black/power/trad bands having to change up their sound to appease current trends is thankfully long gone. If Testament went through a rather fallow patch in the early to late 90s, there is no sense of such a thing here. In fact, the last three Testament albums (“Formation of Damnation” onwards) have all been uniformly good to great. For me, “Brotherhood of the Snake” is the pick of the last few albums, so let's delve into what is on offer from the bay area giants here...

“Children of the Next Level” kicks things off with all expected facets present and correct; it's technically flawless, well executed, almost epic in length and the band sounds great- if you look at the line up, it's no wonder. The production is also top notch; crystal clear and not too compressed. It's an aural pleasure for sure.

“WW III” follows up and is an absolute banger- speedy and hooky. From there the album proceeds through “Dream Deceiver” (riffy/groovy) and the excellent “Night of the Witch”- bringing a real old school thrash feel. It's one of the best tracks on the album and really encapsulates what Testament do best.

“City of Angels” is more than serviceable with its slower pace and menacing lyrics, while “Ishtars Gate” is also decent but doesn't quite catch fire. “Symptoms” benefits from Steve DiGiorgio's bass taking a more prominent spot but is a little sluggish for my taste. The mid album dip is exactly that, though. After the lull, there is the excellent “False Prophet” with its thrash styling and then the great “The Healers” which has a storming main riff and excellent changes throughout. Of course, Gene Hoglan is superb on every track, Alex Skolnick supplies virtuosic solos and Eric Peterson lays down some excellent riffage.

At twelve tracks (one is a short album closing instrumental), the album is two tracks too long- that's a rather mean spirited criticism as you get more for your money- it could have been edited down to ten mostly-killers. “Code of Hammurabi” is again decent thrash, but “Code of Osiris” is much better, proceeding at a speedy clip with Chuck Billy and Hoglan really coming to the fore. Billy remains the most versatile thrash vocalist and therefore arguably the best in the genre- it's a discussion for another day, but there are few that can match his vocals in any form of the metal styles he chooses to deliver in. By the time “Catacombs” closed the record with two minutes of vocal-less atmosphere, I was a happy Testament fan.

In summary this is a good to great thrash record. It's up there with “Dark Roots of Earth” and “Formation of Damnation” and for me just a point behind “Brotherhood of the Snake”. The great tracks are really, really great. The mid album dip is at the very least still decent. Many bands would be proud of having a whole record of tracks like “Code of Hammurabi”, but Testament are a band capable of “Curse of Osiris” or “WW III”! Testament remain one of the greatest thrash bands of all time and they have put out another very credible entry into their discography here.

“Titans of Creation” is available HERE

Band info: Facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Beggar, "Compelled to Repeat"

By: Peter Morsellino

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/04/2020
Label: APF Records

Compelled to Repeat” CD//CS//DD//LP track listing:

1). Blood Moon
2). Anaesthete
3). The Cadaver Speaks
4). Black Cloud
5). Trepanned Head Stares at the Sun
6). Custody of the Eyes
7). Tenantless The Graves
8). Matryoshka Brain
9). Compelled to Repeat

The Review:

With groove laden riffs and demonic aggression, London four piece Beggar provide us with the soundtrack to the most fun apocalypse imaginable. A doom-laden slop that can be danced to all night, “Compelled to Repeat” is a party record for the rest of us.

Low tuned guitars and walls of distortion, a godless howl soaring high above an unforgiving back beat. It sounds familiar, doesn't it?  But just like discovering that your grandmother's cookies contain the same butter, flour, eggs and sugar as everyone else's, we realize that the raw ingredients make up only the basis for the thing we love so much.

So what is it, exactly?  Well, reader, I would have to say that just like the heaping spoonful of love that your dear gram tossed into her cookie dough, the answer lies much deeper than the genre standards presented here. I think the success of this one lies within the band itself and the good time that just can't be hidden by the grimy sludge piled on top of it.

Every riff on this album drips with swagger. There is a persistent groove to every fuzzed out, doomsday invoking riff. This is an all that just wants to keep you moving, regardless of the end times presented by the musical narrative.  You just can't help but feel the beat. It might be apocalyptic, but it's a really good time.

I for one have absolutely no problem with this. There will doubtless be purists who disagree with me, either shouting from their podiums that fun had no place in the doom and gloom that they have come to love, or even flat out denying the good times present in these delightful grooves. That's ok. Everyone has an opinion.  This is mine. 

With its fuzz drenched riffs, chest caving beats and chaotically screeched vocals providing imagery of fire and brimstone raining down on a world gone wrong, punchy grooves provide a medium for us all to dance ourselves out the door.

Beggar's Compelled to Repeat” is the feel-good hit of the biblical revelation, and I compel you top give it a listen.

“Compelled to Repeat” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Friday, 3 April 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Homecoming, "LP01"

By: Peter Morsellino 

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 01/12/2019
Label: Independent

“LP01” CD//DD track listing:

1). Planeswalker
2). Rivers of Crystal
3). Interlude
4). Return
5). Five

The Review:

I'm not one to stand up and shout against the oppression of genre based music in metal. Genres serve their purpose, allowing us to neatly organize and place artists we'll want to listen to together tidily. Sometimes it's nice for things to fit well into a box. Still though, there is something to be said for those few artists that truly cannot be labeled. A band so diverse in its offerings that it simply cannot fit neatly into any of those boxes. Homecoming place themselves firmly into this category.

With tonal notes falling in every far corner of the musical spectrum,”LP-01” is certain to have something for everyone.  These three folks come together in what can only be described as perfect harmony.  Mixing elements of Stoner Rock and Technical Death Metal from members previous projects, Homecoming is an interesting little experiment in the collision of musical worlds. 

Guitars reach from tripped out acid riffs to full on metal mayhem with sneaky hints of jazzy melodies and chicken picked twang strewn throughout for good measure. Drums are masterfully crafted throughout these five tracks, fluidly shifting from destructive blast beats to swinging grooves.  A highlight of the album for sure, this is one of the most talented and eclectic drummers I've heard in a very long time.  A very musical bass sits comfortably in the mix, admirably holding down the low end and providing a very solid ground for the rest of the band to stand on.

Opening track “Planeswalker” offers up some beautiful diversity,  serving as the perfect thesis for what is to come.  With rocking riffs and soaring vocal melodies, this one is sure to satisfy any desert rocker while providing without pigeon holding itself into any one category.  Harder hitting while still well rounded is “Rivers of Crystal”, really showcasing the eclectic grooves in the drum work.  An instrumental interlude comes next, offering what I will only describe as the single greatest track in the long and inconsistent history if songs named “Interlude”. “Return” leans a bit heavier into desert rock, though with a band this diverse that is an admittedly trivial classification. Putting the vocal range on display, “Return” let's every member really spread out, to wonderful effect. The album closes out with the perfect conclusion in “Five”. An all-out jam with heavy riffs, Pink Floyd style leads and a sound that plays hopscotch with genre boundaries.

The debut album from this French trio offers up a taste of what I'm sure will be an amazing career. With such a wide array of sonic variations presented on “LP-01”, I honestly cannot imagine what will come next from Homecoming, but I sure can't wait to find out.

“LP01” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Garganjua, "Toward the Sun"

By: Peter Morsellino

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 17/01/2020
Label: Holy Roar Records

“Toward the Sun” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Transcending
2). The New Sun
3). Mire
4). Transcendence
5). Light Bearer
6). Controlling Waves
7). To Ascend (Awakening)

The Review:

The true mark of an album of substantial creativity is the listeners ability to interpret it and form their own connection with it.  Garganjua's epic “Toward the Sun” provides a perfect example of one of those albums. While I cannot say for certain what the group was leaning into in creating this piece, it's floating highs and crushing lows certainly create a narrative that simply begs to be interpreted. In my opinion, this is an album about darkness, and how it can swallow us whole.  More so, it's an album about the light that peeks through that darkness, and how we can grab on to it.

Introductory track “Transcending” offers up a beautiful overture for the listening experience ahead. Solemn guitars create a dreamy atmosphere while an ominous voice over introduces the bleak tone of the album.  The New Sun” continues down this path, offering glimpses of darkness with fleeting moments of light.  Anger consumes the deep sadness presented in the music before falling back into its persistent melancholy. 
Like angels intermingling with demons, this hard soft dynamic provides the centerpiece of the album. Beautifully melancholic melodies intertwine with crushing low tuned doom riffs.  Light, ethereal vocals float gently atop the crushing sludge.  All of this comes together seamlessly, painting a bleak portrait of the depressive mind.

Transcendence and transformation play a major thematic role over the course of “Toward the Sun”.  This is played to perfection in the penultimate track, “Controlling Waves”. With a much more triumphant tone than the preceding pieces, Garganjua sheds its darkness with a newfound fervor that carries into the beautiful closer, “To Ascend (Awakening)”.

“Toward the Sun” is an emotional onslaught of beauty and despair that begs to be interpreted. Give this one a listen and give it your full attention.  Garganjua want to show you something within yourself, and if you let them, you just might learn something.

“Toward the Sun” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Thursday, 2 April 2020

TRACK PREMIERE: Heavy Harvest, "Candy"

Heavy Harvest is a noise rock trio that combines influences from noise rock, hardcore punk and stoner rock to create loud, angry and energetic songs that often feel like they’re bursting at the seams.

Following the release of their debut album “Rats” in 2017 the band have pushed their sound even further into the realm of noise rock and sludge with fast power chords giving way to dissonant guitar bursts and lyrics dealing with personal themes now dealing with more abstract subject matter: man vs. nature, man vs. machine, nature fighting back, man becoming machine. This new batch of songs was recorded at REC Studios in Geneva and the resulting album “Iron Lung”, a full-on assault on the senses and sees the group at its most unhinged both musically and lyrically.
“Iron Lung” is set for release on April 24th and can be preordered HERE. You can check out their explosive track “Sugar” below. 

Band info: facebook || bandcamp || instagram

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

TRACK PREMIERE: Desert Storm, "Pain, Grief & Suffering"

UK sludge quintet DESERT STORM have been making a name for themselves since they formed in late 2007. From the beginning the band have worked hard, with four albums and relentless touring of the UK & Europe with the likes of Karma To Burn, Nashville Pussy, Peter Pan Speedrock… and appearances at Bloodstock Festival, Hammerfest, Hard Rock Hell, Desertfest London and Berlin & Roadkill Festival

In early 2018, the band released their fourth album 'Sentinels’ to much acclaim and would see them forge a new relationship with upcoming  label APF Records.  Having spent much of the proceeding years on stage in support of the album, as well as members going to form the band The Grand Mal and releasing their debut (also on APF Records), the band somehow managed to enter the studio again in late 2019 and will return on 1st May 2020 with their fifth album 'Omens'

While 'Sentinels' was described as their darkest and heaviest record to date, 'Omens' sees DESERT STORM reaching a whole new level in terms of songwriting and storytelling. The five piece have found the balance between their trademark menacing sludge anthems and introspective, melody-driven moments. DESERT STORM’s new album ‘Omens’ out May 1st on APF Records and you can PREORDER now.  You can also check out the brand new track “Pain, Grief & Suffering” below, so turn your stereo up to 11 and watch your speakers die.

Matt Ryan had the following to say about the track "Pain, grief, and suffering" is that place where you are numbed to everything and so disassociated with life that you crave hurt just to feel alive. When you are completely lost, only the hardest emotions can make you feel again.”

Band info: Facebook || Bandcamp || Twitter || Instagram

Tuesday, 31 March 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Orphan Donor, "Old Patterns"

By: Peter Morsellino

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 13/03/2020
Label: Zegema Beach Records

“Old Patterns” CS//DD track listing:

1). Hamsteria
2). Salvia Is A Beach
3). New Patterns
4). Pole Disdain
5). Mind State Dependency
6). Old Stains
7). Planks
8). Body On Fire
9). Profound Loss

The Review:

Allentown's Orphan Donor brings noise music to uncharted territory with “Old Patterns”. With a dense, unforgiving atmosphere and breakneck speeds, Orphan Donor offer up the perfect record for present times.  Give a listen. I think you'll understand.

From the first moments of album opener “Hamsteria”, Orphan Donor's intentions are clear.  Grating feedback is quickly met with a chaotic drum solo before coming together in a fast paced cacophony.  “Salvia Is A Beach” offers up the same onslaught of sound while offering up a little more structure and melody.  This is one you can move around to a little better. “New Patterns” is generally a more mid paced number, which makes the return to the albums brutal speed all the more appreciated. Other stand out tracks include “Planks”, with its slowed down doomy atmosphere standing in stark contrast to the rest of the album, “Old Stains” with a breakdown that allows the bass to stand out in the mix, and the impressive closer, “Profound Loss”.

“Profound Loss” is at once the most dissonant piece on the album, while also showcasing a lighter sound, with much cleaner guitars being picked throughout it. The sad plucking of these strings provides the perfect backdrop for the continued driving pace of the album. They break the tension and provide “Old Patterns” with the perfect ending.  Like a bleak acceptance after you've burnt through your angry energy. Truly beautiful song writing there.

Musically, this album truly is something to behold. With a sound reminiscent of the modern black gaze movement, Orphan Donor chooses to not contrast their dirty sound with a beautiful melodic piece, but rather with slowed down passages.

Throughout these tracks, one constant holds true. That is the beauty that can be found in dirt and disharmony.  This is loud, abrasive music, yes, but it's true beauty lies in its representation. Not everything ugly has a beautiful counterpoint. Not every low is resolved with a high.  Sometimes things are just bleak.  It's not a fun thought, but if you can rationalize it you are in the perfect space to appreciate the music that is presented here. Orphan Donor gift us with a soundtrack to our despair without offering any false hope, and in a world full of false hopes and promises, I am grateful for that.

“Old Patterns” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

ALBUM REVIEW: Spell, "Opulent Decay"

By: Chris Markwell

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 10/04/2020
Label: Bad Omen Records

“Opulent Decay” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Psychic Death
2). Opulent Decay
3). Sibyl Vane
4). Primrose Path
5). The Iron Wind
6). Dawn Wanderer
7). Deceiver
8). Ataraxia
9). Imprisoned by Shadows
10). Saturns Riddle

The Review:

Season of riffs, and mellow moshfulness… we find ourselves in times where music is needed now more than ever to soothe the soul, and send the mind to higher, happier planes.  There has never been a more apt time to discover new music.  Never. 

May I humbly recommend Vancouver heavy metal trio Spell

April 10th 2020 sees the release of Opulent Decay”, their fourth album.  It’s a true nostalgia-fuelled romp through the gardens of Sabbath, with sojourns through Dio valleys and the Thin Lizzy rivers.  It’s a journey your ears deserve to take, because you’ll find new, virgin audioscapes on which to traverse. 

Let’s get to the work itself: Spell are three gents who look like they were forged from three ingots of original heavy metal, and make music that resonates with that classic sound of old.  But it doesn’t sound outdated; far from it, in fact.  It feels new, and refreshing, and vital.  It’s like being a treasure hunter and finding a horde of plunder.  Except, this time, the whip and fedora aren’t required to find this plunder… although I’m sure they help.  Ahem. 

The music itself is ten tracks of glorious metal, spacier than an orbiting satellite, and riffier than Steve Harris of Iron Maiden chugging with Gary Moore and Tony Iommi.  Album opener ‘Psychic Death’ has this radiating, rolling drum beat which pulls the bass and guitar around as though it was their chariot, driving them onward to the battlefield that is your speakers.  Personal favourites for me include ‘Sibyl Vane’, which is a “Bad Reputation”-era Thin Lizzy rock song, with some truly mesmerising bass licks, courtesy of Cam Mesmer (great name), and ‘Deceiver’, which has this opening riff that reminds me of Annihilator’s ‘Never, Neverland’, before slamming into this powerful, Dio-era Sabbath style heaviness.  But get this: Cam’s voice on this track sounds like Simon Le Bon from Duran Duran.  And it works!  I don’t know how; I don’t know why… but it just works.  Hybridisation at its most magical. 

Spell’s latest album “Opulent Decay” is an enchanting slice of expansive heavy music.  The soundscapes breathe, move like a living being, and carry you along in their arms.  It’s a comforting journey, made with love and real craftsmanship.  Spell deserve to cast their magic on you.  On April 10th, 2020, let them. 

“Opulent Decay” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Monday, 30 March 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Phantom Hound, "Mountain Pass"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 28/03/2020
Label: Independent

“Mountain Pass” DD//LP track listing:

1). The Northern Face
2). Thunder Am I
3). Irons in the Fire
4). You Don’t Know Death
5). Grace of an Angel
6). Mountain Pass
7). Devil Blues
8). The Southern Face

The Review:

American trio Phantom Hound present a sound some way between Soundgarden and stoner/doom bands like Sixty-Watt Shaman and Roadsaw. You get eight tracks of blues inflected grooving rock.

Opener “The Northern Face” sums up the band's sound pretty well, while “Thunder I Am” is a solid slab with some time changes and extensive solo passages. The solo sections favour the strict trio format- no rhythm guitar under it. The guitar sound is a treat- thick and fuzzed out, although the drums are a little lacking in power. The sound is raw and live, but the drums are a little thin sounding.

No matter, there is nothing wrong with the playing at all and the material is uniformly strong throughout. “You Don't Know Death” is a fine track and then “Grace Of An Angel” brings acoustic guitars and bridges the first half of the album with the second. The epic title track is eight minutes plus of downbeat Soundgarden-esque rock but it is bettered, in my view, by “Devil Blues” which is a wonderfully dynamic track with excellent guitar work.

“The Southern Face” closes the album out with close to eight minutes of very dark rock, the driving main section is effective and very strong. Overall, this is a solid release of stoner rock that is as American as apple pie. If you like any of the bands mentioned above, give this a try. I assume you've got some time on your hands currently to do just that!

“Mountain Pass” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook

Sunday, 29 March 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Elephant Tree, “Habits”

By: Andrew Field

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 23rd April 2020
Label: Holy Roar Records

“Habits” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1). Wake.Repeat
2). Sails
3). Faceless
4). Exit The Soul
5). The Fall Chorus
6). Bird
7). Wasted
8). Broken Nails

The Review:

Listening to “Habits” in advance of its release has remind me of the first time I heard Nirvana’s “Nevermind”, knowing that I was about to lose one of my favourite underground bands to the masses. A mix of joy and sadness pervades. On the one hand I’ll be able to say I was there at the beginning, watching them play tiny venues like The Unicorn in Camden or the Alma Inn in Bolton. On the other hand, I now know they’ll shortly no longer be our little secret. I’ll now have to share them with thousands (maybe tens of thousands) of others, because this album is going to catapult them into the stratosphere.

Elephant Tree have taken their time with this album. These seven songs have gestated during the four-year period since their eponymous second release in 2016, with the band honing them on the road and Riley Macintyre unleashing the multiple tools at his disposal at Church studio in London (U2, Paul McCartney, Radiohead). And boy does it tell. “Habits” sounds like a hundred million dollars. We’re not just talking about just the kitchen sink being in these grooves, they’ve fitted a whole house in there. Musically, “Habits” is a five-course meal. It sounds like it was recorded in a cathedral, or on a mountain top, and is musically uplifting and wondrous.

Lyrically we’re in polar opposite territory. This is one very dark record. Thematically it touches on loss, regret, fucking up, self-loathing, depression, loneliness, anxiety, paranoia, and the inevitability of death. Only “Bird”, with its refrain of “soft wings brush the cloud up above, soaring high - welcome rays of sun, fly, fly” offers any respite from the emotional murk and melancholy which seeps from almost every word Pete (Holland, bass and vocals) or Jack (Townley, guitar and vocals) sings.

A sense of sadness and poignancy is there from the first line of “Sails”, which follows introductory instrumental “Wake”: “So long, fading, don’t leave me alone” Jack sings and you instantly want to give him a hug. Then they springboard into far darker territory with the caustic “Faceless” (“crawling the walls, sapping my soul…. vision tunnelled, fluorescent black hole”). “Faceless” encapsulates all that is thrilling about Elephant Tree: a slow burning build-up anchored by multi-part harmonies and Sam Hart’s simple hi-hat shuffle, followed by a Jack Townley Dave Gilmour-esque guitar solo which will set your spine a-tingling. But that’s just a starter for the main meal, which comes in the second half of the song: the biggest, most head-noddingly savage passage which sees the main riff gently, teasingly bend around a single note, exploring either side of it before exploding into an almost orchestral, heavenly crescendo of widescreen sonic musical blancmange before fading in a drawn-out Krautrock keyboard drone. It is, quite simply, breathtakingly good.

“Exit The Soul” explores reflections on living and dying, and how we come to realise there’s an end point for all of us. It’s a seven-minute ethereal epic which makes you feel like you’re bathing in sound, eventually erupting into a palatial snail-pace drone and choir-of-angels Phil Spektor-eque wall of sound. “The Fall Chorus” is an achingly beautiful acoustic-driven number with harmonies and strings and Tow nley'sbest vocal yet. It brings to mind the soundtrack to a spaghetti western starring Clint Eastwood, wide open plains and the Rocky Mountains shimmering in the distance.

“Bird” is the album’s money shot: a mid-tempo soaring chorus with monster harmonies is the album’s high point and sole spirit-lifting moment.  Wasted” is a waltz about what goes through your mind when you’re coming down after a massive bender (“I can’t stand the way I destroy everything in me”), built around fat, grinding dirt-under-the-fingers-nails guitar work from Townley.

The album closes with “Broken Nails”, which is the best thing the band has put its name to and hopefully an indication of where they’re headed next. It’s a brave and unique song, starting with an acoustic guitar recorded so close to the strings you can hear them scrape and slide, building via a passage of clashing dissonance into a full-blown space opera. It sounds like no-one else, takes a while to make sense, and leaves you wanting much more of it.

The weight of expectation after their last album must have weighed heavily on Elephant Tree’s shoulders. They needed to make a stunningly good record. They can rest easy in the realisation that they’ve done exactly that. “Habits” is an exceptional piece of work and an essential purchase. What a band they are. What an album this is. Sheer sonic perfection.

“Habits” is available HERE

Band info: bandcamp || facebook