Sunday, 3 March 2013
Utah - ST (album review)
Utah let loose with their burly sound on "Bisontennial", a toxic waste spill of fast-paced riffery and snare rolling stoner rock and things only get heavier from there. "Chickamauga" thickens up the affair like sawdust on an oil spill, but there's just no cleaning up that toxic fuzz spill. It covers the listener, destroying cells, changing DNA, corroding what's on the surface and before long Utah is inside the mental mainframe with no chance of ever getting out.
After the first song or two, the listener thinks they have a bead on this band. "They're a stoner band with elements of doom". Tidy. But, Utah complicate matters with their songwriting wizardry and their sonic explorations. Utah remind me of the Fantastic Four (but I won't say which member is Invisible Woman), scientifically pushing past perceived boundaries, entering hidden realms, previously undreamt of dimensions and only the most interesting parts of the limitless cosmos. They explore different worlds and sometimes get lost in those worlds (see the ending of "Black Sandwich"). Sounds and noises flap by low in the mix but are never simply background elements. They are the small details that stick out in the mind like little cultural differences when travelling, taken for granted by the local populace.
All these different worlds make for an album that needs to be heard with headphones to be fully appreciated. Is all this to say that the album lacks focus? That would depend on what you mean. Most of the individual songs on this album lack what one might call 'polish' or 'seasoning' in terms of focused song structure. The overall impression the band leaves however is one of a strong and individualistic identity. If identity equates to focus, then this band has it in spades. But if focus more accurately equates to polish, then look elsewhere for focus. This is experimental and exploratory music, only, these guys have hooks, great riffs and they don't shy away from the odd harmony (see the epic and superlative "Traveler"), and so once again it's a hitsophrenic smorgasbord.
Utah play a nearly perfect blend of stoner rock and doom metal, welded together along the center by the ubiquity of da fuzz. The song "Ambian" is a good example of how the band like to paint pictures, slow things down and speed them back up to create many totally different sonic experiences within a single song. There is a constant experimentation from beginning to end of the disc, trying on different styles and structures, 'sound painting' intros, tempo shifts, mood swings and understated acoustic folk passages floating out of songs like ghosts from cooling bodies. Don't expect to lay back on the couch, dig into an ass groove and get comfortable with this album, this is edge of the seat stuff.
Highlights include: "Cryogenics" and "Traveler"
Total Run Time: 52:28
Wil Smith- Guitar, Vocals
Chris Parry- Bass
Chris Holcombe- Drums
John McNeece- Guitar, Vocals
From: Athens, Georgia
Genre: Stoner, Doom, Experimental, Punk
Reminds me of: Egypt, Fantastic Four (Lee / Kirby era), Ice Dragon
Release Date: January 8, 2013
Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Pilot your experimental rocketship through the cosmic rays and see what happens
Temple of Perdition
Welcome to the Void (in Greek)
Power Metal (in German)
Utah on facebook