Space is the Corpse of Time
posted on 3/2012 By:
For those residing in the bitter climes of Minnesota, instrumental doom dealers Zebulon Pike are minor legends, a charming oddity that opens nearly every show worth seeing while simultaneously cultivating a devoted following of their own. However, in true Northern fashion, they've maintained an underdogged humility. (A trait that was subtly established by dubbing the first song on their debut album “The Iommi Variations.”) After three LPs, their artistic adventurousness and reverence for the riff should've broken them to the wider metallic audience, but a rocky career path has stunted their outward growth.
Weak production held back their ...And Blood Was Passion, their riffiest and what should've been their heaviest. They corrected that flaw on the massive II: The Deafening Twilight, but their momentum was derailed by an crippling lack of publicity, even regionally. (My personal favorite Pike memory? A show in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, where the band pumped out their fifteen-minute epics for a devoted audience consisting solely of Doug "The Head" Volk, myself, and a bartender.)
Their third album, the three-track, thirty-eight minute Intransience, lost itself in unconvincing post-rock ether, and was all-too-lean on the monstrous riffage the band had become known for. It passed with a whisper.
These circumstances have rendered Space is the Corpse of Time as something of a crossroads record for the Pike, a band seemingly on the verge of alienating their base audience while failing to find refuge beyond their nucleus.
Thankfully, Space contains some of their strongest—and strangest—material to date, proving that there’s life yet in Zebulon’s lungs.
Intransience’s post-rock tropes have been scuttled, to a degree, and Space returns to the template found on The Deafening Twilight: Three long-ass tracks, a five-minute breather (which is actually the burner), and a closing epic. In the interim, however, Zebulon Pike has gotten a hell of a lot weirder, incorporating halting rhythms, broken arpeggios, and a strange affinity for slide guitar. These elements have molded them into a sort of blue collar, Stateside Ufomammut: arty and angular, yet solidly grounded.
Trouble is, this band will never come across as well on record as they do onstage. As a critic, this is a bit of a bullshit complaint to whip out, especially considering their nonexistent touring regimen. But the long-running sprawlers that comprise the first half of the album—“Spectrum Threshold,” “Echoic Worlds,” and “Powers of the Living – Manifestations of the Dead”—are more admirable than impactful. (Again, similar to Ufomammut.) The band’s spacious quirk is best applied with thundering washes in open rooms packed with hypnotized revelers, not while doing the dishes or wrangling through traffic.
But when the band leans on their affinity for 70’s swing and just rocks the fuck out, they win, and win big. The five-minute title track—which recalls their mightiest composition, “Behold (The Wizzard’s Fountain)”—is an absolute blast, culminating in a bright, shining, bob-and-swerve riff-feast. And closer “Trigon in Force” also brings the thunder, an eleven-minute march that drops some of the heaviest, liveliest doom bombs you’ll hear this year.
Space is the Corpse of Time is the highest-profile release of the band’s career thus far, and they certainly deliver their unique brand of prog/doom/post with vibrancy and force. However, it’s a bit of a maddening affair; for every killer bassline that stokes your fire, you’ll be forced to endure a few minutes of intentionally-nauseating slide guitar. Zebulon Pike never quite puts it all together on Space, but they’re always on the cusp. On one hand, it’s tragically appropriate. But on the other, it could be the key to their charm.
Leave ‘em wanting more, as they say...
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Zebulon Pike II: The Deafening Twilight
6/10/2006 Zebulon Pike
And Blood Was Passion
6/1/2004 Zebulon Pike