Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Balam - Balam (EP) (2012)

Leave it to Rhode Island could churn out a psychedelic outfit like Newport's own Balam. The smallest state in the behemoth that is the United States contributes to the metal scene in a big way with this five piece act. With influences and output ranging from blues to doom, these guys aren't short on style or substance. On their new self titled three track EP, you may hear some familiar sounds. Don't be surprised if you hear echos of Ozzy and Iommi. Floating neatly in the haze of distortion is some of the most classic metal you could hope to find in the 21st century.

The name of the game here is simplicity, but not in the dumbed down sort of way that a lot of modern metal seems to go. The first single from the band, "Soul Scour," builds from a single repetitive bass line. As the drums and guitars explode onto the scene, the aura of doom is apparent, but not overwhelming. Even in the repeating riffs and snare hits, there is a distinct groove. The vocals are airy, though melodic, bringing to mind, for some, classic era Sabbath. Amidst the changing tempos and tone, you will find something a touch to the evil side of things, without a single scream or screech. The melodies, both vocal and instrumental, are haunting, with a ghostly hint to both. The beauty of the track lies in that simple approach, allowing each riff, each bass note, each cymbal/snare combo to speak for itself. Singularly, each one may seem flat or lacking. But together, rumbling through ten minutes of down tempo metal, they carve out a sound that is worthy or a head nods or hair swinging.

Slowly down even further, "Dark Door" comes out of the gate moving as sluggishly as you could imagine, each kick and cymbal crawling through the speakers. Joined by the dynamic duo of bass and guitar, and soon by the soothing vocals line, you may find yourself lost in the bluesy wonder on display. The guitar float in and out, slightly tinged with effects. Vocalist A.C. has a sound unto himself, sounding like a throwback to early psychedelic metal. The guitars chug along, tied at the hip to the rumbling bass. But the piece that caps it off, the part that ties it all together is that voice. It sounds as though he sings from the other side, his voice coming from some otherworldly place on the other side of your headphones. The choreographed stop/start section fools you into thinking it is over, but continues on, until a chant to the dark Lord himself begins. Building from scratch again, the guitars chug and whine in unison, strengthened by the devastating low end of bass and drums. Screeching solo work seems to arise from nowhere, adding another wrinkle to a stellar performance.

The final track is also the shortest one, clocking in at a lightning fast eight and a half minutes. However, it is also the slowest one. "The Followed" starts with chaos, each piece doing whatever it is it feels like, until they meet in a loud crash. It grinds through the first half with little more than a thunder clap. The true tune kicks in shortly after the midway point, once again drawing comparison to the boys of Birmingham, UK. It isn't even that this track, or any of the others, mirror what Sabbath did. But they embody the same tone and definition. Whether it is in the ominous sounding guitars, the never flinching bass groove, or the graveyard vocals, there is something for everyone to look back on. The band is equally strong when the tempo picks up, hammering out an iron stomp that could get any pit or crowd moving. Once again, the stop/start patterns only help to build the momentum, bringing things to full tilt just in time for everything to come to a crashing finish.

Balam has done something here that is worth noting over and over. They wrote and recorded three songs that are entirely their own, a sound that is as much theirs as anyones. But they used their influences in a way that gives the album life beyond 2012. Yes, this album is, in fact, new. It was recorded in the here and now. No, really. I swear. Three tracks, over thirty minutes of epic, classic era sounding metal that could have come from some of the all time greats, from countries that are oceans away. But it didn't. It came from a five piece band from Newport, Rhode Island.


Bandcamp - http://thybalam.bandcamp.com/
Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/balamband

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