Monday, March 12, 2012

Elks - Destined For The Sun

Destined For The Sun
Tee Pee Records/Impedance Records

The first thing that struck me about Brooklyn (New York, U.S.) act Elks was the genre tag their label had given them when describing their music - namely astral metal. What the hell is astral metal?
Without further delay, I slipped in the band’s debut E.P. effort ‘Destined For The Sun’ in order to find out what Tee Pee Records were on about, and found that while the four piece act (Comprising of guitarists/vocalists Devin McManus and Josh Scannell, bassist/vocalist Don Stewart and drummer Sean ‘Smokey’ Adams) have a sound that lies primarily within the heavy/sludge/stoner metal genre, lyrically the band really do take the listener on a journey beyond the scope of many acts.
Although the E.P. only contains six tracks, Elks’ debut effort is a conceptual based effort, which recounts a tale of a peaceful planet that is taken over by a hostile expanding empire, imprisoned in a golden ship and sent hurtling towards the nearest sun. While imminent death approaches, a nearby Rift Wurm hears their cries, knocks them off course, where they crash land on an uninhabitable planet, where the unlucky survivors begin to rebuild their society. Eventually, those that remain become nomadic space Vikings, whose sole purpose is to take revenge on the empire.
Conceptually, ‘Destined For The Sun’ is heavy stuff. And as expected, musically, Elks are every bit as heavy.
The opening track ‘White Fang Learns To Hate’ provides the listener with the musical template that the band base their entire E.P. on, and that’s a sound that takes the chaotic progressive rock direction of Mastodon, the raw aggression of Baroness and the energy of High On Fire, and mixes it up into one powerfully tight unit. Vocally, Kylesa is brought to mind with the constant shifts in front men, while the production is really in your face and abrasive. There are plenty of great riffs, and the twists and turns within the rather short tune are great, with the only flaw being that the vocals are a little low in the mix.
The follow up track ‘Two Moons Of Mars’ packs a real punch with its galloping riffs and heavy drumming, while ‘Fall Of The Starchitect’ is a surprisingly catchy tune with its opening riff, but also boasts some heavier psychedelic influences passages as well to really give the song some strange and compelling diversity.
The title track ‘Destined For The Sun’ and ‘Eaters Of The Dead’ are favourites with their no-nonsense rock-styled riffs and straight-forward aggressive power, while ‘Weedwolf’ is a heavy sludge like track that gives the album a suitable crushing conclusion.
I’m not entirely sure that astral metal is a term that sums up Elks’ overall sound, because there’s a whole lot more to the band than sci-fi lyrical themes and metal. But if the likes of High On Fire, Mastodon, Red Fang, Black Tusk, Kylesa or Baroness take pride of place in your music collection, then Elks’ ‘Destined For The Sun’ comes highly recommended.

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© Justin Donnelly