Mighty heavy psychedelic doom blues band from Melbourne, Australia delivers an outstanding debut album. Their sound comprises of fuzzed out riffs, spacious organ undertones and stirring vocal melodies.
A dive into the sonic platter of the blues, resonating through with undertones of heavier times. Harking forth a spark from a groove past.
Recommended if you like: Child, Led Zeppelin, Kadavar!
- A1 | Tall Shadow
- A2 | Break The Machine
- A3 | Eyes Of The Mammal
- B1 | Far Away And Into Space Pt. 1
- B2 | Far Away And Into Space Pt. 2
- B3 | Three Walls
- Plated & pressed on high performance 180g vinyl by Pallas Group, Germany
- 111x red white black marbled (Exclusive mailorder edition, handnumbered)
- 200x green
- 200x black
- Deluxe gatefold cover
- Artwork by ADAM BURKE
- Special vinyl mastering
The press wrote.
Australian four-piece Elbrus gave an early but substantial tease of their first album in Feb. 2015, when they released a working version of the track “Far away and into Space Pt. 2” as a digital single (review here). As that song nears 11 minutes and the entirety of their Kozmik Artifactz-issued self-titled full-length checks in just under 40, it’s more than a quarter of the record, if you want to round the fractions. And in some ways, as any individual piece of that scale would, it comes to define the album as a whole, but not necessarily as much as one might think.
In terms of the vibe the Melbourne heavy psych-blues outfit elicit — and make no mistake, the lineup of vocalist/organist Ollie Bradley-Smith, guitarist Ringo Camilleri, bassist Noah Martin and drummer Tom Todorovic elicit plenty of vibe — it becomes even further defined by the languid swing and wavy vocals of opener “Tall Shadow,” the heavy shoegaze-style roll and switches between subdued verses and crashing post-grunge choruses of closer “Three Walls,” and the catchy garage fuzz of “Eyes of the Mammal” between them. All told, Elbrus give their listeners an unpretentious look at the band across what feel like a brief six tracks, working efficiently but with a sense of atmosphere to craft a remarkably molten debut record that, whether taken in sides or as a digital, linear whole, deftly balances impulses between open spaces and grounded tonal crunch. This becomes all the more noteworthy for how naturally it seems to be executed.
Not just in tone. As side A draws to a close following the apex hook of “Eyes of the Mammal,” one can hear some amplifier buzzing, and that would seem to be intended to underscore a live-in-the-studio feel. Whether or not Elbrus actually recorded in that manner — many heavy bands these days seem to do some blend of recording live and overdubbing, as with labelmates and fellow Melbourners Child‘s new and somewhat similarly-minded LP, Blueside (review here) — they successfully convey that sensibility, but their naturalism goes beyond the superficial aesthetics of what they’re doing. From the beginning of “Tall Shadow,” which oozes to life by dipping its toes in the cool waters via a standalone opening guitar joined shortly by drums, bass and soft, sweet-sounding vocals to move into the first verse (there are background vocals as well, not sure whom to credit for them), and through the relative bombast that develops out of the recorded-in-a-room-with-a-high-ceiling spaciousness of the subsequent “Break the Machine” by the time it’s headed for the two-minute mark, Elbrus have established a pattern essentially of playing quiet stretches off loud ones.
They’re hardly the first to do so, and that’s precisely the point, because they nonetheless take the time-honored method of honing a dynamic and make it their own. Bradley-Smith, Camilleri, Martin and Todorovic are positively liquefied in their performance throughout, and so there isn’t an awkward change to be heard on side A or B of Elbrus‘ Elbrus. Nothing sounds out of place nor overwritten; instead, the band conjure organic-feeling heavy blues flow tinged with multicolor psychedelic passages. They meander when they want to — and the fuzzy solo in “Break the Machine,” which is longer than the other two first-half cuts at just under eight minutes as opposed to about five and a half, is a fitting example of that — but never when they don’t, and with flourish of blues harp here and there, the organ, and a far-reaching wash of the kind that emerges in “Eyes of the Mammal,” they display a keen eye for arrangement that stops the album from falling into a trap of coming across as samey or losing sight of the need to keep its audience engaged.
Also worth noting is the balance between their multi-tiered naturalism and what’s clearly a mindful structure of the album itself. Both sides put their longest track — that’s “Break the Machine” and “Far away and into Space Pt. 2,” respectively — as the centerpiece of the individual three-song halves, essentially mirroring each other. Side B, as one might expect, pushes farther outward in terms of its overall sound, with “Far away and into Space Pt. 1” the shortest cut at three-and-a-half minutes acting essentially as an atmospheric lead-in to the expanse that follows, albeit with a surprising uptempo fuzz boogie that’s not to be missed, leading directly via keys into the much-longer “Pt. 2,” which much to its credit holds an underlying verse/chorus structure and a decent forward push despite its additional runtime. It moves, in other words. Elbrus don’t just toss an 11-minute jam in lazily and call it sonic variety.
Rather, “Far away and into Space Pt. 2” brings a subtle straight-line build to bear across its span, but marks its path with its hook, finds a solid foundation in Martin‘s bassline and skillfully uses that as the force with which its momentum plays out. By the time they finish, the fact that they essentially depart from the blues to close with the heavygaze of “Three Walls” feels not only appropriate but necessary — the big-sounding ’90s rollout makes a fitting conclusion to Elbrus because when one looks back on “Tall Shadow,” it becomes apparent just how far, sonically, the band has come and just how smoothly they’ve made the trip. Again, one might find a summary of that in “Far away and into Space Pt. 2,” but it’s only part of the story and should be taken as such when it comes to expressing the whole potential Elbrus showcase in these tracks. As part of a populous Melbourne underground, Elbrus‘ quickly-manifested chemistry and overarching craftsmanship should serve them well as they make their presence felt, and one can only hope that as they move forward they take with them the strengths they lay out here, because they’re clearly worth preserving as the first of hopefully many steps in a progression to come.