Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Crag Dweller - Magic Dust (album review)

From the artistic haven of Portland, Oregon reside three Crag Dwellers bent on unleashing rugged waves of rhythmic punishment and scorching blasts of guitar accelerated pyrotechnia.  A Crag Dweller sounds like some kind of mountain troll, one with enough burl and brawn to confront Conan the barbarian himself (The trollish crag dweller would still lose the fight unless he was wise enough to join Conan in his unending quest for regency and good times, and what a soundtrack that crag dweller would devise for the Cimmerian's adventures).  Seventies grooves and early eighties shredding combine to convince heathens and "True Believer"s alike that YES! Rock & Roll does save!  Rock & Roll IS the answer!  An album like this should be the new DSM-approved prescription to treat depression and lethargy.

The Conan reference is not by accident as this band possesses much axe-swinging appeal.  Not in the Conan (the band) or Gates of Slumber way, but closer to High on Fire's caveman brand of rock and definitely through a seventies looking glass.  The lasting impression this album will leave on listeners is the high energy and swagger the band possesses.  The energy doesn't necessarily come from speed, though most of the album's 34 minutes are spent uptempo, it comes from the momentum of the performances, the feel of a riff sliding into a quick solo then back again, building songs organically in layers which build precariously.  This is downhill running music, snowball sounds, pyroclastic flows of molten ash metal.

Throughout the affair, Crag Dweller find a way to keep the energy levels high ... and then up the ante.  The band set new standards for excellence for guitar based music and leave one asking the question of every other band, "yeah, but can you shred?"  Crag Dweller guitarist / vocalist Rich Vivarelli can and often does, throwing down at a moment's notice.  Opening track "Chrononaut" is an absolute scorcher and is an excellent showcase of what the band can accomplish in just over five minutes.  Wasn't there a Twilight Zone or something where someone had a camera that took pictures of the past?  Well if not, there should have been, but anyway, that's what Crag Dweller is like.  It's like a snapshot of the moment Judas Priest and AC/DC fans discovered the raw and visceral speed of punk.  "So Far, So Good, So What ..." and "Gotta Have It" are further uptempo highlights, the former providing perhaps the catchiest chorus of the affair while the former packs a ton of momentum and energy.

The band has some slower, groovier material on showcase though.  "The Gate" is a doom-y track, akin to High on Fire's well-known take on the genre while "Madness" also finds the band getting their slow groove on, highlighted by bass / vocalist Cliff Martin's solid lead.

Though the disc itself is on the short side of the time ledger, Crag Dweller take their time with their compositions, never rushing through a song.  Four of the seven tracks break the five minute barrier and each track feels fleshed out and complete, built in ever thickening layers of shredding guitar and pounding and rolling rhythms.  Drummer Travis Clow finds perhaps his best showcase in close-out track "Motel Burnout", a dynamic song with varying tempos punctuated by searing leads and pauses.

Crag Dweller have amassed seven blistering tracks to melt the air guitar in your very hands and they call it 'Magic Dust'.  Everything, from the killer and slightly mysterious artwork by Adam Burke on down is a confirmation that everything about Rock is king.  Crag Dweller have tapped in to that mystical era of when I was young and metal was fairly young too and the sweaty and burning-eared excitement of running around my uncles' basement suite listening to records and freaking out, not intellectualizing it, but feeling the music, letting it possess me.

Highlights include: "Chrononaut" and "Gotta Have It"

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Run Time: 34:43

From: Portland, Oregon

Genre: Hard Rock, Stoner, Old School Metal

Reminds me of: AC/DC, Harvester, Saviors, Thin Lizzy

Release Date: November 27, 2012

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Start from a sharp, jutting and rocky outcrop and strut as giants would strut, across mountain tops.

Better Reviews:
Ride With The Devil

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