Sunday, 9 December 2012

From Beyond - The Color Out of Space EP (album review)

If I had to put my money on just one band from the dozens of great new acts to come out with first releases in 2012 that had a chance of breaking out of the underground and on to bigger things, it would be From Beyond.  Their first EP showed all the right ingredients of 'crossover' potential: clean production, tight songwriting, pounding rhythms, great riffs, a clean vocal style and melodies that are catchy as hell.  They just seemed to have 'It'.  So my expectations were incredibly high for whatever it was that they were going to do next.  What they did was to draft a second 4 song EP and release it almost exactly half a year later.  It turns out From Beyond is absolutely filled with ideas and is the kind of band never content to sit in a corner musically, they want to stretch their legs and move about, meet new sounds.  The four songs on 'The Color Out of Space' EP are as different from each other as the disc itself is from their earlier effort the 'One Year' EP.

Sometime in late August the band pre-released the opening track "Hexagram" with a brief interview on the old Stonerobixxx website.  At that time the 'One Year' EP was still warm on the table, a mere three months old and it was immediately apparent after a quick listen that the band had already moved on from the sonic template of their first release.  But this wasn't a 'quick listen' kind of song this isn't a 'quick listen' kind of EP.  According to the band, the song (and I'm supposing this entire EP?) was recorded in a large empty warehouse (on a stormy night to boot) creating an incredible resonance, especially from the drums.  The song builds slowly and isn't as immediately catchy as what was found on 'One Year', with the exception of the song's coda, "You better run 'cause, God is not here!"  But a song doesn't have to be immediately catchy to be good or accessible.  This song is like a warning shot to the listener's expectations.  The musical ideas presented on this (glow in the dark vinyl!) disc are more complex and challenging than what came before.  Gone are the streamlined song structures and clean straight-forward production, but what remains is the high quality songwriting and the soulful performances.

A couple weeks before the EP was made available for pre-sale on Halloween, the band released a second track, "The Dead Still Ride".  Pre-releasing half an album is a bold move, but no bolder than the sounds of the first two tracks listeners heard.  "The Dead Still Ride" is the ballsy biker rock anthem that the song's title suggests and was still nothing like the (relatively) older material.  The guitar revs up at the beginning of the track and launches down Highway 666, punctuated by a drivin' beat, the song is hard, heavy and melodic with harmonized vocals during the chorus.  Like "Hexagram" it cruised into my top 5 and was a mainstay on the Doom Charts for weeks.

Then the big day finally came when the EP was officially released in its entirety, three full months after the song "Hexagram" was debuted.  Fans of the band finally got to hear the other two songs from the EP and they would not be disappointed.  The first of the two is called "At Midnight (I'll Steal Your Soul)" and at a teaspoon under five minutes long is about a third shorter than its companion.  It shows much of the hallmarks of the first track, heavy dowtuned riff and big resonant drums, adding some new elements into the mix, such as lifeless and mournful harmonized vocals that sound like they were sung by dead themselves and a great nod to classic doom in the Death SS / Paul Chain mold, as the organ gets the dust wiped off it for this one.  A long instrumental section in the middle shines a dark spotlight on the terrific horrorific riff.  This may be the heaviest thing these guys have recorded yet and will become a new Halloween standard.  Of course, the song is good anytime, not just Halloween, especially stormy nights.

The title track, a more subdued number than what those familiar with the band's previous output might expect, is From Beyond weaving a space rock tapestry.  The song starts off slowly much like "Iron Man" before launching into the main riff.  Like all the riffs on this EP, it's not necessarily going to burn into your mind and stay there immediately, but it grows like a fungoid demon in the brain with each successive listen.  The riffs here are titanic and heavy.  Just past the halfway point of this near 15 minute colossus the music breaks down and the band paints a sonic picture of space itself, complete with eldritch and smoky creatures which writhe and undulate through the endless ethereal void, only to be passed on their unknowable journeys at light speed by Lovecraft's color itself on its way down to unsuspecting earth.  The role of the color is played by the band which kicks back in after about a minute or so of ambient soundscape described above.  Towards the end of the track, the band takes one more pass at the main riff of the song.  This must be that very color out of space entering the earth's atmosphere only to land at a lurching halt on poor Nahum Gardner's farm.  Or it could be as the band describe on their website (see link below) as The Color Out of Space landing and ravaging all in its vicinity until all hope seems lost (first 7 minutes), then come three electric warriors who destroy the thing with a wall of sound (return), that final pass at the main riff being the creature's death throes as hope returns to the earth.  I don't know.  Let's just say my interpretation is the correct one.  Musically, one might say it's an expansion and a reversal of the kinds of ideas found in the title track to their previous EP 'One Year', which was about the coming singularity and man's impending machine induced apocalypse.  It's a grim song that left little hope for the future.  "The Color Out of Space" does just the opposite.  Last I heard we have 30 years or so before the singularity actually hits so let's just all put our collective feet up and listen to some excellent tunes in the mean time.

After releasing two terrific EPs in a span of six months I'm very curious to see what this band does next.  It might come sooner or it might come later than we expect but when it comes I'm sure it will knock both expectations and socks off.  Until then there's 'The Color Out of Space', a dark and heavy tour de force by an up and coming band.

Highlights include: "The Dead Still Ride" and "Hexagram"

Rating: 5/5

Total Run Time: 28:38

From: Houston, Texas

Genre: Doom Metal, Psychedelic, Hard Rock, Biker Rock, Space Rock

Reminds me of: One Year EP; Black Sabbath; Death SS; Hawkwind; and is it just me or is there something faintly Black Keys-ish about this band?

Release Date: December 2, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: do yourself a favor and don't investigate any fallen meteorites, let the 'authorities' handle them things

The Story of The Color Out of Space

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