Thursday, 23 May 2013

Black Pyramid - Adversarial (album review)

Cover artwork by Eli Wood.
There's no other way to start a review of Black Pyramid's third album, 'Adversarial' without mentioning the change in line-up, and it's an important change.  Actually, the change took place a while ago.  Before Black Pyramid's second album 'II' came out in January of last year, Andy Beresky, guitarist and vocalist of the three piece had left the band.  In his place now stands Darryl Shepard, a veteran musician of numerous bands and projects over the years (see his profile on Encyclopedia Metallum), including The Scimitar a new side project with Black Pyramid bassist Gein and drummer Brian Banfield (Blood Stone Sacrifice).  The band name was actually inspired by the opening track of 'Adversarial', "Swing the Scimitar", but we'll get to that in a moment.  The personnel shift is significant and changes the overall tone and sound of the band, of course it does, you don't replace a guitarist / vocalist in a single guitar band set up without it having a major impact.

Where Black Pyramid once embraced a hardcore punk / doom crossover sound mixed with the occasional elements of Irish folk, that trademark sound has been largely swept aside, although not entirely (see instrumental "Issus").  On 'Adversarial', Black Pyramid move toward a more head down power doom sound, a sound that is somehow more befitting the band name.  "Swing the Scimitar" successfully evokes images of Arabian desert raids in the Hyborian Age.  A swirling riff kicks up sand storms in the mind.  Men with shrouded faces descend from the clifftops whose blades are swifter than the wind.  As not only the opener but the longest track on the record, it sets the tone and locks it in, while also setting a high standard for the rest of the album to follow.

As I mentioned in my Blizaro 'Blak Majicians' review (read it!), I discovered the song "Aphelion" on the Obelisk podcast for Stoner Hands of Doom XII in August of last year.  It was from a split seven inch single with Odyssey and it was Shepard's first recorded release with the band.  It's a great song that was actually a Top 5 in the pre-blog Doom Charts.  The song has been re-recorded here in a roomier eight minutes plus version that hangs that big riff on the clothesline and airs it out for all it's worth.

"Onyx and Obsidian" continues that Arabian desert vibe that all the longer songs on 'Adversarial' all share, particularly in the middle of this track.  Thumping rhythms and killer octave shifts create a sitar feel from Shepard's guitar.  The album closer, "Onyx and Obsidian" also clocks in at over eight minutes long and is the most adventurous and epic track on the album.

'Adversarial' finds that the band has moved on from what they were doing with Beresky in the fold.  In many ways, it's a meatier sound that is more substantial even with only 5 tracks and about a quarter of an hour shorter than 'II'.  In other ways the usually prolific band may have lost some 'real world' momentum in the process of swapping front men, but that doesn't really matter with the album in your hands and the music in your ears.  Beresky, by the way, has since moved on to Palace in Thunderland and I like what he's doing there now more than what he was with Black Pyramid, while at the same time, I like Black Pyramid more with Shepard in front.  Far as this reviewer is concerned, the situation, musically, is win-win.

Highlights include: "Onyx and Obsidian" and "Aphelion"

Rating: 4.5/5

1). Swing the Scimitar (11:59)
2). Bleed Out (5:39)
3). Issus (3:56)
4). Aphelion (8:32)
5). Onyx and Obsidian (8:23)
Total Run Time: 46:51

Darryl Shepard - guitar / vocals
Gein - bass
Clay Neely - drums / synth
From: Boston, Massachusetts

Genre: Doom, Stoner, Psychedelic

Reminds me of: Stone Machine Electric, Wo Fat

Release Date: April 2, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Arriving at the sand-smothered gates of the ancient ziggurat, scale the outer wall and let the siege begin ...

Better Review:
The Obelisk

Black Pyramid facebook


OR HERE (digital)

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