Thursday, 6 December 2012

Blue Aside - The Moles of a Dying Race (album review)

Blue Aside is a progressive / psychedelic metal band from Boston, Mass that cobbles together various other metal influences to produce a very unique sound.  This is their second full-length album, both have been released by Hydro-Phonic Records.

The band paints panoramic vistas with the expansive elements they incorporate into their sound, such as extended jams and solos coupled with odd time signatures, not to mention the very breadth of their various influences.  Melodic vocals are confronted by death metal growls on a battlefield of the eardrum.  Serene bottom-three string chords are ambushed by woolly low end riffs.  Languid, ride happy drums are attacked by the angry bully of double kick on speed, etc.

The album opens with part 1 of a three part suite that the album takes it's name from.  "The Moles of a Dying Race - Part 1" is very classic prog with changing rhythms, a signature riff during the chorus that pops out in relief against the background of the slow, heavy, churning riff that frames it.  It's a good haunting moment to start off the album with and at seven minutes never feels that long.  "The Electrode Man" follows up "Moles - Part 1" in very much the same mood: coolly slithering and crashing rhythm with a nervously paranoid riff and structure which spills into the next track, "Will We Remain Tomorrow?".

On "Will We Remain Tomorrow?" a seemingly stream of conscious ambient soundscape is challenged midstream by turn-on-a-dime stops and starts.  During the opening landscape portraiture the band floats a highly melodic and tranquil guitar line over a cold rhythm, only to pound the drums and launch the heavy during the verse, creating an atmosphere of Antarctic dread.  But at the end of the track, a 'hope theme' is introduced and the listener will escape to brave another day of the album's polymorphic sonic territory.

"The Moles of a Dying Race - Part 2" is one of two tracks over ten minutes and shuffles back and forth between the tranquil and the stressed during long instrumental sections that are broken by a couple vocal parts, the first of which re-introduces the death metal growl on this album which was much more prevalent on the band's debut full-length "The Orange Tree" [2010].  A tense and paranoid second vocal part comes later repeating a single phrase "No way out of here" sung in melodic fashion.

"The Ice Mammoth" is the most immediately accessible number to the casual listener.  It's a great straight ahead stoner rock song in the vein of a Wo Fat with some feeling of Red Fang in the chorus.  Still the band finds ways to paint pictures at the end of this one, from relaxed to jumpy, yet again, which is the running theme of this record: sudden danger.  The mole is safe, warm and content burrowing underground and knows only fear and danger on the cold surface.

Though "The Ice Mammoth" is a nice change of pace, "We Move To Sleep" gets things back in the more regular flow of the album in a way that isn't jarring.  The song picks up near to where the previous one leaves off but re-introduces more familiar progressive elements, such as stop-start rhythms and David Gilmour-esque guitar wailing.  Those heavier elements are subsequently challenged by a more pastoral and dreamlike middle section.  The reversed structure (tense to relaxed) can perhaps be read as 'the moles' confronting their surface tormentors.  At 10:51 it's the longest cut on the album.

From the longest to the shortest track on the album, "The Moles of a Dying Race - part 3" plays a 'triumphant theme', tempered with tones of warning.  The album closes with a respectfully liberal cover of Pink Floyd's mostly improvised classic "Interstellar Overdrive".

Like so many progressive albums past and present 'The Moles of a Dying Race' gets better and more rewarding with each successive listen.  My initial impression of this album was that it had some good moments and a couple standout tracks but after several plays it has become a real favorite of mine.  It's not the kind of thing you put on for background music but a close, focused listen is vastly rewarding.

Highlights include: "The Ice Mammoth" and "The Moles of a Dying Race - Part 1"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 1:02:56

From: Boston, Massachusetts

Genre: Psychededlic, Progressive, Metal, Stoner, Doom

Reminds me of: Pink Floyd, Rush, Snail

Release Date: September 23, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Treading icy plains in search of peace and shelter but always expecting danger.

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