Monday, May 27, 2013

Tumbleweed Dealer - Tumbleweed Dealer (2013)

Stoner metal is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you're going to get. Never have the words of Forrest Gump been so true, especially as it pertains to one of the more convoluted sub genres of the metal tapestry. Ask ten different metal fans what their favorite stoner band is, and you'll likely get ten different answers, including bands from ten other sub sects. Without any firm definition as to what places a band into the stoner category, it is nearly impossible to contrast and compare them on their merits. But Tumbleweed Dealer, a two piece from Montreal, may best define what it means to be a stoner metal band in the eyes of Sorrow Eternal. The two sides of the coin are both represented: the artist side, on which you get the notion that drugs were involved in the writing and recording of the album. And the listener side, where you get the inkling that drugs are intended for the best listening experience. But sober or not, this self titled full length debut is one that will get you as high as you've ever been.

The bending guitar strings on "Opiates" are far more than a cheap gimmick to grab your attention; they form the backbone of what guitarist/bassist Seb Painchaud brings to the table. His understated grooves set a tone, one that finds itself as the string that holds the album together. This isn't merely a commentary on his guitar work either; his bass lines bring so much to the mix, often carrying the melody. It all has a calming effect, a lazy high that pulls you in. It is that mood that permeates the entire offering, with songs like "How To Light A Joint With A Blowtorch" feeling like a strung out jam session, in the best possible way. The low end dominates your periphery, driving the guitar work home. It's all happening so effortlessly in front of you; the track has an ebb and flow that is insanely catchy, and even more cohesive. It is in the winding guitar and bass parts that you hear a strong blues influence, relying on the strengths and talents of Painchaud to execute properly. It speaks to his dedication as a musician to create such a free flowing piece of work. The true victory is taking the same basic structure and stretching it into a nearly ten minute jam epic, without ever feeling forced or drawn out. By contrast, "Trudging Through An Egyptian Swamp" has just as much packed into half the run time, with the guitars now swirling around in well stacked layers. Drummer Carl Borman, for his part, nails down the rhythm portion without ever really flexing his percussive muscles. The metallic ring of cymbals does just enough to hold it all together.

Unlike so many stoner bands, there is a clear direction to the music, with songs like "March Of The Dead Cowboys" serving as a fitting middle ground. The bass takes the lead once again, with layers of guitar in full support. Painchaud builds his house of cards; so delicate, yet never faltering. You can clearly hear classic blues tenets scattered throughout, a refreshing change from the norm. What is absent from the album, for better or worse, is the psychedelic themes that have flooded modern stoner metal. Sure, there are moments where things go slightly off the deep end, as they do on "Sons Of The Desert," but never in an irreversible way. Painchaud and Borman always manage to pull you back to center in the arc of each individual track. By keeping both themselves and the listener grounded, they allow for the mellow nature of their music to be fully understood and enjoyed. It wasn't until "The Sacred Mushroom And The Cross" that the modern day western tone really sunk in, with the smooth bass and strummed guitars lending themselves well to a movie setting. It all seems so simple as you break each layer into it's own separate chunk. But the skill with which they are put together is what makes this so profoundly entertaining. And the fitting "Dark Times A' Comin'" completes the journey, at least for the time being. The mood has changed, noticeably, thanks to a switch in the tone Painchaud takes. It cruises, in a cloud of smoke, to a melodic end.

We've spoken for hours on end about the correlation between classical music and metal, one that has been studied and debated for decades. But the relationship that is emerging between metal and the blues, forged at one time by Dethklok into the most brutal art form the world had ever seen, is just as intriguing. Tumbleweed Dealer fly both flags here, and they do so with some of the most deft and creative pieces that you could hope for. What solidifies this album as a must hear is the expressiveness of each guitar riff, each silky smooth bass line. They speak for themselves throughout the recording, saying so much more than a contrived, hazy vocal ever could. It's staggering hwo easy they make it seem, even with an undertaking that would prove to be too much for other musicians to handle. What results is an album suited for a desert car ride, or sunny day in the confines of your home. In either case, the only prerequisite is to have a comfortable place to sit, one where you could lean back and enjoy the riffs blowing passed you. Hell, it's summer. Go outside, hit play, and watch the trees bend like guitar strings.


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