Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Wheelfall / A Very Old Ghost Behind The Farm split (album review)

Wheelfall's 'Interzone' album is one of the major stoner rock / doom releases from 2012 that for one reason or another, I missed.  I was well aware of it at the time and the incredibly high praise it was getting on websites around the world was more than enough to pique my interest but, for some reason, I slept on it.  I don't know what to tell you ... there were plenty of other amazing albums out around the same time to preoccupy me.  What can I say?  When news came down that one of my favorite French bands, A Very Old Ghost Behind The Farm (AVOGBTF) were releasing a split album with Wheelfall, well the time for making excuses was over.

AVOGBTF's 2010 full-length album 'Primary Septagon' was an agressive blast of sludge, crust and doom with just the right amount of psychedelic sprinkling and the song "Bareste" is one I still listen to regularly.  So after such a long wait to hear some new sounds from a favorite band and an opportunity to finally catch up with another band that had been on my radar but passed over, I dove in and was immediately lost in the record.

After a short spoken word and metronome ticking intro, "Induction", that is literally meant to hypnotize the listener, the thick tones of "Hangman's Laugh"s stoner doom floats across the speakers like hot box vapor and truly does accomplish the feat.  Warm tone fuzz envelops and immerses the listener in a fugal state.  While A Very Old Ghost Behind The Farm separate their half of the full-length record into three full songs the mere fact that Wheelfall devotes its half to two songs and an intro lets the listener know that they don't screw around.  That's not to say that AVOGBTF screws around either, but if there were any doubt that these two bands were interested in anything other than establishing their identities with strong tracks it burns away immediately.  The temptation might be there to put on more shorter songs than fewer long ones for the listener to get a sense of the band, but Wheelfall understand that they are best suited to the longer format songs.  It's something in the tone and tempo that begs for their songs not to stop, not unlike classic Electric Wizard but sounding nothing like them.  "Hangman's Laugh" is a ten minute hypnotic inducement with a churning polyrhythmic bassline and downtempo drumming which ramps up to a midtempo gallop.  As on 'Interzone', Wheelfall is all about the epic riff, the epic song and the mood must be set just right for them to work their magic.

"Hundred Blank Stares" does nothing to wrench the listener from their miasmic fog.  Wheelfall's extended track length has more to do with their emphasis on hypnotic midtempo rhythms than any flights of improvisational or structural fancy.  All in all, though Wheelfall's section features songs recorded over a year ago, presumably prior to the recording of 'Interzone', it was strong enough to motivate my lazy ass to grab up 'Interzone' while I could, which I did.

An eerie and mournful tune is whistled heralding the beginning of AVOGBTF's section of the album and their first offering, "Stuffed With Straw".  Guitars and cymbal flourishes slowly build up like the first licks of flame on the newspaper before the wood kindling catches and a blaze is started.  The difference between the two bands isn't incredibly striking initially but each band does an excellent job of establishing its own unique identity.  The guitar tone here isn't as thick or as warm as Wheelfall's, AVOGBTF's is sharper and there's more going on musically and instrumentally on the latter half of the album as well.  The vocals are the biggest distinction between the two bands, the line in the sand if you will.  Wayne Furter of Wheelfall opts for a cleaner, low key, high-as-a-kite, stoner rock approach while Lundi Galilao of AVOGBTF vacillates between a death metal screech and a chest pounding doom metal shout.  It's the death metal screeching that we hear first from this band and is the first knock against the skull to finally wrench the listener from Wheelfall's deadly spell.  AVOGBTF have designs to weave their own.

It's well worth noting here that this is A Very Old Ghost Behind The Farm's first release in just a bump over two years and is their first with new rhythm section Victor Bestiole (Bass) and Ignace Tardeus (Drums) joining Lundi (vox & guitars) and Gloria Tetanos (guitar, voices).  Does the band sound amazingly different having turned over half its number? No, all the familiar elements are there.  At times it seems as though the band has so many ideas that they try to 'get through' as many as possible in as short a period of time as possible.  That's not to say that the music is chaotic, bloated or confused, just sprawling and at times, possibly, exhausting, like a good work out.

The band moves through an impressive multitude of styles for just a three song, 23-minute outing, hitting on  thrashier, hardcore elements on "Back To The Skull River", a suitably crusty follow-up or sequel to "Cross The Skull River" from their 2010 'Primary Septagon' album.  (A side note: one thing the band must be commended for are their often imaginative song titles and indeed the band's name itself is particularly evocative, if unwieldy.)

Transitions between songs are virtually nonexistent and sound wise, it's is as complete and focused a package as one could hope for from a split.  This thing is Highly Recommended.

Highlights include: "Hangman's Laugh" and "Navigating on the Seas of Dementia"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 42:31

From: Nancy (Wheelfall); Toulouse (AVOGBTF), France

Genre: Doom Metal, Sludge, Stoner, Hardcore

Reminds me of: Abrahma, Baptists, Beastwars, Conan, DSW, Grave Siesta

Release Date: December 21, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Take a guided tour of the Martian tripod with very old ghosts and other certified tormentors behind the farm.

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