Sunday, March 01, 2009

Maegashira - The Stark Arctic (Spare Change, 2009)

In an October '08 Invisible Oranges post about Thou's Peasant, the honorable Cosmo Lee averred that any doom band with the right combination of downtuned guitars, amps turned to 11 and a sub-20 bpm drumbeat could yield insta-crush. Agreed, but doom's margin for error is consequently pretty small. Getting the aesthetic right and wielding it well are poles apart. For example: New Jersey's Maegashira (named after a sumo wrestling rank), fronted by Metal Maniacs (R.I.P.) scribe J.J. Koczan, have enough surly attitude and tube-amped, toked-out patience for five St. Vitus tribute albums. Vibe alone does not a great doom album make. The songs on Stark Arctic are so boring that the authentic doom feel doesn't much matter.

A lot of The Stark Arctic is pure Eyehategod sludge misanthropy. Not that I'm opposed to disappointing post-metal fans, but ain't it a little misleading to swaddle an album in desolate wintry graphics and matching album title when the tunage inside is filled to the brim with humid Bayou swamp gas? Especially when you're from Jersey? The album's "Planet Caravan" style drone intro builds anticipation for the frigid Isis waves that will surely follow. But no, it's onwards to 'Nawlins amateur hour, as "Caribou Crossing" kicks in with a shiftless boogie metal groove. Koczan tries his best to inject some interest with a full arsenal of shrieks, bellows and screams, but his bandmates have a tough time keeping up, literally. The instruments here are frequently laughably out of synch -- check the chiming guitar overdub towards the end of the below "Baggage Claim/Skin Slip" excerpt for a really egregious example. 

Good stuff: lyrics to the righteous hipster dis track "Hi From Jersey" ("Silver spoon of your apathy / The implement by which I force-feed...Fuck your band / Fuck your scene / And your sunglasses") and drummer Steven Moraghan's solo at the end of "Baggage Claim/Skin Slip," a forecast of a tight jam that is never to come. There is a certain looseness that we expect from stoned doom bands like Maegashira, and if that's your only criteria for enjoyment of this stuff, maybe Stark Arctic will be the soundtrack to your next visit to White Castle. Me, I'ma find something else to keep me baked as I coast up the I-95. Maegashira still have a ways to go 'til they become yokozuna of the doom metal ring. 

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1 comment:

dschalek said...

It's not a bad album, but it does miss the mark.