Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Owl - First Album (album review)

Owl is a 70s-inspired hard rock band from Oakland, California.  They're not a stoner doom band per se and they're not so much concerned with low tones or fuzz, but fans of the genre that fall on the 70s hard rock side of things will find plenty to get excited about with this band.

Dynamics is the watch word here.  The band is tight as hell (it's a family affair) and they're not afraid to show off their skills, the best showcase being "Medicine Mirror". A highly syncopated, even pausy, number that never loses but only gains momentum along the way.

"Glaurung" is a hard rock monster of enormous scope with sweeping Kirk Hammett-esque acoustic guitar passages interspersed between battering waves of fire-breathing hard rock.  The song even features that staple of early hard rock and proto-metal / arena rock: the drum solo!  I must say that's the first drum solo I've heard on record from this year.  It's a brilliant song and for all its 10+ minutes never loses the listener's attention.

Opening track "Gypsy River" and side A closer "Demon Ride" are shorter, punkier cuts that bite the neck and give the body a shake.  It's over before you know it.  They take no prisoners.  Short bursts of sandblasting biker rock.

"The Chylde and the Clowne" and "Snake-Eyed Goblin Woman" are dynamic and fun rock outs but the real highlight of Side B is the grand finish "Thunder in the Sea".  Just as rockin' and thunderous as the title suggests, the track starts out with some early Metallica-ish syncopation jacking the song up until it settles into the opening verse-chorus.  The song is like a runaway fire hose and threatens to get away from the band during the jam section, but they keep it together and make for some interesting music.  They even manage to suggest lightning about halfway through with guitars and keys.  Later on, feedback created atmospherics really capture the mood of the sea before the final jam out that ends the record.  It's a slower, longer cut but makes for a nice epic album closer in the grande olde tradition.

The Owl reveal a tremendous ability to write the big riff, which seems to pour out of them like spotlight and beer induced sweat, paying homage to hard rock of all eras, especially the 70s without suppressing their own individual personality as a band.  The best way I can describe their sound more specifically than hard rock is to call it prog punk and if you think that's an oxy moron and the combination wouldn't work then this band will make a fool of you.

Highlights include: "Medicine Mirror" and "Glaurung"

Rating: 4/5

From: Oakland, California

Genre: Hard Rock, Retro Rock, Psychedelic, Prog, hints of Punk

Reminds me of: Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Cream, Heat, Kadavar, (early) Metallica

Release Date: October 6, 2012 / (on vinyl) November 4, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Park the hogs, Jean/Leather jacket party in the back alley.

Thanks to the band Hornss for recommending Owl on Bandcamp

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