posted on 10/2009 By:
To be perfectly honest, I've always liked the idea of supergroups better than the real deal. It's certainly something that's fun to speculate about with friends, but more often than not expectations seem to outweigh reality, ushering in that distinctly unwelcome scent of disappointment. But, as a big fan of modern stoner/doom metal, it would be nearly impossible not to get giddy as a schoolgirl over the prospect of this particular meeting of the minds. A supergroup with an illustrious pedigree that includes The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, Sleep, OM, The Melvins and Neurosis? That's a hesher's version of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team, folks. And anyone with a keen familiarity of the above-mentioned bands has probably spent the last nine or ten months with the "Wino + Scott Kelly + Al Cisneros + Dale Crover = BOING!" formula running over-and-over again through their heads.
And now it's finally here. The shrine is up and the four 60-foot granite busts of these titans stare down upon us from On High. And biblically speaking, "it was good." Not quite something I'd consider facepeelingly kick-ass, but a really good, chill album that reflects the influence of every player present. If I had to guess which of the four I think had the greatest influence on these tunes, however, I'd probably point a finger towards Scott Kelly. His is the only voice found on every tune, and I'd say the atmospherics found throughout the record lean more towards the Neurot Recordings end of the spectrum as opposed to what we've heard from the Wino or Cisneros side of the camp.
"Solar Benediction" bumps from the gate sans any sort of intro with Dale Crover's warm, heavy rhythm pushing right into a nice groove alongside shared vocals between Wino and Kelly. The psychedelic mood that permeates the entire record is initiated early through a fuzzy, wah-wah'ed guitar that slowly leads the tune into nearly 5-minutes of quiet atmospherics. Al's bass casually bubbles, Dale's drums comfortably patter, and Wino and Kelly build layer-upon-layer of snaky, floaty, simple leads; it's an approach used freely throughout the rest of the record in one manner or another as well.
Follow-up, "Pyramid of the Moon", was the first sample thrown down on the band's website, and although I was initially a bit unenthusiastic because of its lazy pace, it's grown on me considerably over the course of the last week. I love the glimmery lead that breaks through the haze near the 4:30 mark, and Cisneros gets a nice opportunity to throw down his cool, meditative stamp for its closing 2-minutes.
Wino's touch is most boldly displayed on "The Architect", with its swaggering, near classic rock start and deliberately slow rhythm at its heart (sidenote: A+ for the wonderful drum sound on this record: it's as close to perfect as you can get). And although Wino takes center stage vocally, Kelly's gruff voice makes for an excellent companion during the song's repeating chorus. A nice long, rippin' lead strikes at the tune's half-way point as well, and it quietly drifts to a close with just Al's sweetly percolating bass -- definitely a song that sounds as if it were ripped from a lost Hidden Hand b-side.
As far as I'm concerned, "Blind for All to See" is really the only true soft-spot on the record, which is a bit of bummer considering it takes up nearly 8-minutes of an already too short album (under 40-minutes). It's also the most wholly mellow, trance-like tune of the bunch, but there's just not enough action going on to save it from simply drifting past without any sort of hook. Perhaps it's best suited for those "staring at heaving walls while tripping balls."
The album ends on a high note with the 9.5-minute jam of "Science of Anger": the only tune to feature vocals from Wino, Kelly and Al at varying stages, and a tune that seems to mix the varying background's of all four players most handily. It starts off much more animated compared to the rest of the offerings, but smoothly pulls to port in its last half with a really nice 'n' hazy, meditative groove augmented by Al's calm, abbot-like vocals and occasional "oooh's and aaaah's" folded into the background.
In the end, reviewing something as hugely anticipated as Shrinebuilder seems almost silly. Anyone who counts themselves a fan of the individual member's other projects is sure to check out the album based purely on the impressive collective pedigree alone, and no hair-brained metal critic will ever stand in the way of that. All I can hope to do is open the forum for further dissection and discussion, which I sincerely hope I've accomplished here. Shrinebuilder is a good psychedelic stoner record well-suited for a lazy, hazy Sunday afternoon, but it's not something that's likely to land on my year-end top ten list as I genuinely hoped it would. Perhaps if the focus fell more towards heavy doom grooves and bright leads and less on establishing a hallucinatory trance? I suppose time will tell. As it stands, I'm definitely left wanting to hear more, and the album does continue to grow tendrils with each passing listen. Should be quite interesting to hear what they come up with next.
Register to post comments.