Monday, 4 February 2013

Atomic Vulture - Planet Emerald (album review)

This past August the stoner rock world was treated to a three song demo of some of the most spaced out and 'authentic' desert rock that one was likely to hear this side of Kyuss.  The band that produced these fine sounds was Belgian trio Atomic Vulture and in no time at all their opening track "Winter Blues" became a staple of the daily hour long commute to work mix.  It was an epic road trip with dynamics that moved along the scale from laid back to downright bloody seething.  The other two tracks on the demo, "Spiders" and "Tunnel Vision" absolutely shredded the pavement with a thousand ccs of doom and displayed a metric tonne of promise overall.  Half a year later, the instrumental group have returned to tell us where they've been without uttering so much as a word.  They've been to Planet Emerald, and it's a different place indeed.  A more organic world with a stronger gravitational pull.

Things open up with a very organic sounding subdued and jazzy vibe on "Space Rat", each successive sound introduced builds upon and grows out of the previous one until the pause-y shock of the middle part unleashes a torrent of the heavy.  At the center of it all is the deep, throbbing heartbeat provided by bassist Jelle Gelle.  His is the voice that leads the charge and allows drummer Jens Van Hollebeke to do more than simply keep time, and allows Pascal David's guitar to speak and sing in lieu of an actual vocalist.  The mood here is exploratory, three stoned astronauts collecting samples and meeting the natives on a new and unknown world.

By the time the band has run through the first full measure of "Missing Link" it is obvious that they have added bags of flour to their amps, thickening the guitar tone in no small measure.  The rumbling and chugging bass of Gelle stealing the show here as the band jump through a couple different parts each with different moods.  This is what happens when the trio explore the jungles of Planet Emerald.  Queue the scenario, up the tempo, this is what happens when the natives come running with spears, etc.  A solid groove workout and excellent use of dynamics to tell a story without words.

Ostensible title track "Emerald" gears things back down a notch from the heavier than thou "Missing Link" to the Trans Am on an empty desert highway stoner vibe felt throughout their previous effort 'Demo 2012'.  In keeping with the narrative theme, this is the triumphant getaway scene, with plundered goods and alien jungle space babes in tow.  A satisfying and headnodding conclusion to a short but enjoyable trip that reads like a Roger Corman picture and for that stoner rockers ought to be grateful.

Brand new Athens-based label D-Drop Recordings will have both "Planet Emerald" and "Demo 2012" out on CD in March of this year.  The demo CD will contain two numbers not on the bandcamp digital download version of the release, bringing it up to a total of five tracks from three.  You can hear both of these songs on the D-Drop youtube channel, the songs are called "Outer Universe" and "King Size Slim"

Highlights include: "Missing Link" and "Emerald"

Rating: 3.5/5
Total Run Time: 14:51

From: Bruges, Belgium

Genre: Stoner, Instrumental, Desert Rock

Reminds me of: DSW, 1000mods

Release Date: January 10, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Through the vine choked thickets of palm fronds, one could see the gleaming prize at the heart of the spearmen-guarded temple

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