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Across Tundras are an oddity of the metal genre and to my knowledge, by far one of the most capable bands in the modern day era. This artists genre tag is itself as intriguing as the music found on their records, including this effort, ‘Western Sky Ride’. According to Metal Archives, Across Tundras should be considered all of the following; ‘progressive psychedelic doom’, stoner’ and even ‘rock’. To an extent, all of these tags are true, but there is so much more to Across Tundras than changeability and durability. It was the very fact that this bands music spans across several genres, as well as it’s expanding and interchanging style that forced me to listen to this band in the first place. ‘Western Sky Ride’ is, although vastly different from, a continuation of ‘Dark Songs Of The Prairie’, and as compelling, which I deemed was a metaphor for their brooding and dark material that intensely portrayed the music wandering across the prairies in search for sonic splendor. ‘Western Sky Ride’ offers varied emotional contents, a fine vocal performance and experimentation with lyrics with a lexis relating to colour, nature and to delight the already flooded sense:
“Nite owl in the branches so high, pale yellow eyes of dying light.
Looking down you can see the hellfires burning bright, I know I do.
Smoke travelin' like a long black train to the sky.
You sleep with one eye open all through the nite.”
There is an avant-gardé feel to the atmospherics which are admirably audacious, as well as soundscapes that encompass the true nature of Across Tundras. Songs like ‘Thunderclap Stomp’ with it’s unbelievably catchy lead guitars, which seems to be a new addition to the Across Tundras sound, and superior vocals which sound just as mellifluous as the melodious instrumentation, which often expands beyond the boundaries of experimental content by using acoustics, emotive atmospherics (shown explicitly well in songs like ‘Low The Daystar Hangs‘), as well as a demoralising dosage of crashing cymbals and snapping snares. Although, as with the first record, the bass isn’t as effectively enhanced as the other elements of instrumentation, including the vocals, it does play a pivotal role in backing up the emotive side to Across Tundras sound which, again, is perfectly shown in songs like ‘Low The Daystar Hangs’ with it’s emotionally crushing distorted lead guitars, evocative clean vocals and perfect soundscapes which toy with concepts of fantasy and reality. Another song which indicates the influence that bass could have had is ‘Follow Me To The San Luis’, with it’s brilliant dual vocal performance which reminds me of the gloriously depressed ‘The Old Sexton’ from the first record. Songs like this show Across Tundras in a new light, punishing the listener further more with marvellous emotive sections that set this record apart from any other of this nature, of which there isn’t many.
‘Western Sky Ride’ and songs like ‘Follow Me To The San Luis’ in particular, are dazzling depictions of Across Tundras brilliance in playing with the listeners emotions and how they can effortlessly shift between one branch of music to another. Vocally, this song is a splendid example of the American outfits ambitious, but yet triumphant style. Across Tundras are interesting more so than anything else, especially in terms of the unique vocals on display. Their music shifts from one emotional output to another, allowing the guitars to lead, then the percussion and even the vocals take charge of the mellifluous machine that drives forward through wind, rain and snow. The production is one again perfected by Across Tundras. It isn’t exactly clean, but does allow each segment of the instrumentation to be heard over the distortion that damages the emotional capacity of the listener, who is drained as the record progresses to it’s end. The production has dark qualities attached to it. Whilst ’Western Sky Ride’ isn’t badly produced, the record doesn’t enhance the uplifted soundscapes well enough because they do exist and sometimes struggle to force the deep seeded happiness and joy to seep through the seductively torturous soundscapes. Dissonant, disturbing and often depressive in it’s approach, this luscious effort doesn’t allow the listener to become tired of their approach. Thoroughly enjoyable.
An album that lasts close to 70 minutes you say? Another post-metal band you say? The only reason I pre-ordered this was because the guys were selling it for dirt cheap and it even included an awesome shirt. But the fact is, this turned out to be a really worthy purchase and I've been constantly spinning this since I got it in Feb.
Western Sky Ride is Across Tundras' second full-length, and they have a few things going on that end up giving them their own sound. First of all, they're all about their roots and everything they do is inspired by it. The album art, the inner sleeve is all overflowing with the look and feel of the Western. The music though, can't just be talked about in a simple sentence. Sure, they're influenced by Neurosis but there's a lot more to it. The rhythm playing isn't all that metal. It's fuzzy and noisy, it's progressive and it has a lot of chordal, arpeggiated and single note work going on along with the standard order power chords. There's also a lot of reverb/echo-laden clean and semi-dirty guitars throughout the album to help give them the melancholy and the spacey sound. It's all about intricate guitars but with a psych-jam feel to it. The songs are elaborate and often meandering.
My picks are Carrion Crow, which happens to be one of the names we thought of for a band we were starting, which also happens to also have this awesome metal riff with a damn whistle. Great, but let's just make sure Klaus Meine doesn't hear it and gets influenced to write another platinum hit. Another pick is Song of the Sullen Plains. Fans of the noisy Crazy Horse material might be able to dig this as well. But one should not expect anything like modern day Earth or even the awesome soundtrack that Neil Young provided for the awesome Dead Man. It just isn't that minimalistic, among other things.
I like how the instruments sound individually, but I'm not entirely convinced with the whole sound of this album. I had the same problem with Baroness' latest. Could it be Scott Hull's infamous mastering job that the death metal types keep complaining about? Don't read too much into it because it's only a minor peeve. I liked the way they have the vocals buried in the mix though. The music is all driven by guitars, and these yelling and sombre vocal lines that's made to sound like it comes from deep down in a well, just acts like another instrument for the most part, and it really works with the sound they're gunning for. The album is a tough listen mainly because of its length but it's definitely damn good.
Originally written for http://www.kvltsite.com