Spaceslug - Eye the Tide - (8/10)
Published on June 30, 2018
Genre:Psychedelic Stoner Metal / Stoner Rock
In such a saturated scene, stoner metal bands have to constantly keep it interesting and evolve from the (albeit flawless) template legendary bands such as Sleep and Electric Wizard established decades ago. While a handful of today’s bands simply ape that well-established formula, there are also another handful that are constantly tweaking the formula and breaking its barriers. Poland’s kosmiche trio Spaceslug is one of those bands. With their debut album, Lemanis (2016), Spaceslug proved their devotion to making the listener high without the assistance of any substances. While their sophomore effort and subsequent EP, Time Travel Dilemma (2017) and Mountains & Reminiscence (2017) respectively, were only mere extensions to Lemanis’ strong base, their latest endeavor Eye the Tide is far and away their most experimental and psychedelic journey yet.
Those familiar with Spaceslug know of their tendency to use “explosions” of sound to transition between clean guitars and distorted guitars, chill drumming to loud drumming. Time Travel Dilemma also had the problem of using gimmicks, or thinly veiled motifs, to carry a track to its end. With that said, all of Spaceslug’s material has its own charm, and the first album has a ton of worthwhile pieces to it. I can safely say without a doubt that Spaceslug gets rid of these two rather glaring issues in respect to the longevity of their music, and replaces them with some strong riffs and an atmosphere like no other. The album kicks off with an extremely strong opener that already dismisses the usage of many tropes that were overused by the band in the past. ”Obsolith” introduces Spaceslug’s refined bass tone that is their heaviest and crunchiest yet. A beautiful sprawling guitar tune adorns the background while the bass line digs through the more complex drumming, and when it is time to turn on the distortion pedals, instead of relying on the explosion technique referenced earlier, the band… stumbles, into the amazing blend of psych and stoner metal. Saying the band stumbles into the distortion may sound like a complaint, but a cursory listen of the track will prove that it is the best part of the track. This effectively removes any preconceived predictability to their music, as the in-and-out between clean and fuzz has become vague, as it should be.
The album does have a stronger dependency pedals and effects, however. With that said, when the album does place a riff in the center stage, the riff is a stoner delicacy. This also means a stronger emphasis on atmospheric sections, with singular guitar notes that are flooded with delay, reverb, and fuzz effects. Unfortunately some of those sections do fall flat; the first ~3 minutes of “Eternal Monuments” hinders an otherwise pretty solid musically-emotional track. The transition out of the atmospheric section into the core part of the track is also pretty awkward. Moreover, this reliance and rather heavy usage of effects and pedals causes some of these sections to sound rather samey, however the atmosphere is also elevated thanks to those sections.
There are a few questionable decisions and risks the band takes on the record: some work weirdly well, others not so much. An example of a risk that pays off big time is the… black metal influence? Yes, black metal influence! The fourth track, “Words Like Stones”, has some seriously great black metal infused vocals in it. Not only the vocals, but also the blast-beats in the midsection of the track that weirdly enough work very well with the super clear production. Those risks combined as well as the unbelievably heavy main riff create what might be my favorite track on the album. However, the band also makes the questionable decision of adding an acoustic outro to the track, which while it does not hinder the greater whole, it doesn’t necessarily add anything of value to the track. Another example of the unorthodox decisions is in the track “Spaced by One”, which has a very awkward ending, where the band decided to play a (rather lackluster) jam and fades out around 30 seconds before the song finished, only to continue the jam. This could have worked if executed better, however unfortunately it does not. The album has a strong reliance on the age old mantra of “the greater the risk, the greater the reward”, and much like the mantra implies, it sometimes pays off, and sometimes doesn’t. More often than not, though, it does pay off.
“Vialys Part I&II” incorporates some strong kraut rock influences, while keeping its roots firmly in the psych metal world, making it a standout track as well. the closing track and pseudo-title track, “I, the Tide”, is also a super solid track that showcases the band’s progressive affinities. If there are any complaints, it’s that the title track does meander for a bit.
Overall, the album is a definite step up from all of Spaceslug’s past works. Vocals are stronger than ever; Spaceslug bring back their signature layered vocals with even stronger performances. Where in previous efforts they might’ve sounded monotone, in Eye the Tide, they sound varied and genuine. The productions is top notch, as is always expected and received from Spaceslug: spotless yet natural production that truly aggrandizes the heaviness of the bong infused riffs, with a pronounced bass sound that truly carries the album to a different level. Speaking of the bass, this albums rhythm section is better than ever, the drumming has become more complex and often helps alleviate the constant psychedelic attack brought forth by the guitar work. The bass work is also the most diverse in the band’s career, often grounding the entire album in reality. The guitar work is what you have come to expect from Spaceslug, fuzzy goodness with a strong emphasis of getting you high without any assistance from outside… substances.