Spaceslug - Time Travel Dilemma - (8/10)
Published on April 12, 2017
Genre:Stoner Metal / Doom
Sometimes, it’s worth spending a little bit of effort to get the most out of music. We all know that it takes minimal attention and input to fully comprehend a Taylor Swift song, but there are many forms of music that encourage a brief spell of work before releasing all their secrets, perhaps by repeated listens, the need for concentration, or some extra research. Spaceslug fall into the anti-Taylor Swift category in more ways than one, since their trippy stoner doom isn’t the most immediate of experiences, while their status as unsigned Polish metalheads doesn’t exactly make information easily available. In fact, making a search for Spaceslug, you are more likely to encounter the exogorth, a fictional giant slug from Star Wars that apparently feeds on anything from the minerals of asteroids to spacecraft. That alone might either turn you off or reel you in, so it’s worth mentioning that there isn’t much on Time Travel Dilemma that George Lucas would approve of, though the drift of a giant slug through space is somewhat close to the effect that the three-piece achieve.
There is indeed something lumbering and lonely about the crawl through songs like “Living the Eternal Now” which seems to mirror the scope and desolation of what a space slug would see as it roams endlessly through space. The shuddering heaviness of some of the guitar riffs that take their cues from Sleep sound like the destruction caused by an enormous travelling creature, though these are juxtaposed by airy clean sections that feature support from synthesizers and keyboards on the expansive “Parahorizon”. It is these clean sections, along with some distant and echoing vocals, that supply the mournful edge on many of the tunes, something which aligns Spaceslug with the “transcendental” movements both in doom metal and (to a smaller extent) US black metal, where bands such as Acid King, Ufomammut, and Wolves in the Throne Room include a spiritual slant to their music or vocals.
For Spaceslug, it isn’t entirely clear whether that spiritual aspect is destined for the head, the heart, or the lungs (by way of the bong), yet the themes and vastness of the experience could recommend Time Travel Dilemma to any of the above. Subjects range from the perception of time (“Living the Eternal Now” is about how we cannot truly perceive the future) to actual space travel (“Parahorizon” has samples of President Kennedy’s speech about ‘landing a man on the moon’) to hazier ideas, contained in “Osiris” and “The Great Pylon Collider”. The rise and fall of the album, directed by the regular changes in intensity and the lack of any particular lead instrument, lends itself to musing abstractly on such themes and allowing time to dreamily expand until the slightly meagre 44 minutes feels like a suitably cavernous space.
On this kind of voyage, we aren’t too worried about vocals or hooks, since the immensity of the environment allows every idea and every song to sprawl to massive size of its own accord. Some of the songs have very few stand-out features, simply unwinding a gentle patchwork of grooves and mellow jams until you notice yourself locked inside the churning noise. This means that no amount of guitar work is going to coagulate into a single knock-out riff, even if the shifts from reflective clean playing to heavy riffing show a true understanding of dynamics to keep things interesting throughout the album. There are a few moments that can be picked out from the bulk, such as the powerful riffing of “Osiris” and the lead work on the closing title track, though it’s hard to imagine anyone choosing tracks to listen to in isolation.
What satisfies the most about Time Travel Dilemma is not that it reinvents the wheel, since chunks are certainly borrowed from more experienced stoner and doom brethren, nor that it can lay claim to being the only album that successfully depicts a giant slug’s journey through the galaxies. More than that, its greatest feature is that for all the effects pedals and lumbering riffwork contained within, the whole thing feels free and explorative, which is exactly as this kind of spacey music should. Spaceslug manage a middle ground between heaviness, atmosphere, and creativity that won’t make them the biggest name in the stoner scene, though should win over fans who have the patience to give this three or four spins before making a verdict.