Thursday, June 13, 2013

Sleestak - Book Of Hours (EP) (2013)

What's in a name? No, seriously, what meaning can we derive from a band name, if any? For every band that seems like a virtual throwaway in that department (Jizzlobber), there are a treasure trove of bands that hold personal meaning in that moniker. So when a band chooses a throwback to mid-seventies television as their name, one must wonder where the inspiration came from. And then you hit play. Milwaukee, Wisconsin's Sleestak have found some sort of harmony between name and sound that is both pleasant and surprising. Taking their name from the insect/reptilian inhabitants of the Lost City in the short lived, but long remember TV series "Land Of The Lost," this three piece managed to capture so much of that green, scaly appearance in each and every note of their ten year career. With albums inspired by and about the Altrusians, the ancestors and descendants of the Sleestaks (it's complicated. Go watch the show and the time-loop might all make sense) their taste for the bizarre meets squarely with seventies psychedelic grooves on their new EP, "Book Of Hours."

When an opening track makes you feel like you are standing front row at a live gig, you have something special on your hands. And so, the intro track "Appeasing The Gods" begins. The booming drum sound pounds through your speakers with a variety of groove laden guitar riffs at its side. This is a foot stomping, head nodding two minute welcome into a world you might not be fully prepared for. That world, one of psychedelic haze, is brought into full view on "Seven Sorrows." Guitarist and vocalist Matt Schmitz gives you the first glimpse at his retro vocal style, one that may bring back memories of seventies psych-prog bands. Just as important as his voice, though, is the trail of insanely catchy guitar riffs he leaves in his wake. It becomes a non stop assault on your senses, sometimes feeling as though you've stumbled into a rainbow of sound and visual. That smokiness continues well into "Five Million Years To Earth," becoming a canvas for an interesting vocal turn. The tone may stay the same, but it is the lyrics that captivate you here, telling tale of travelers from a distant world, coming to over all that exists.

The rhythm section dominates in the best possible ways when necessary. During "Lone Wolf," bassist Dan Bell leaves his mark with an infusing of smooth, low end notes. His bass lines become the glue between the guitar and keyboard parts, holding them together with an unwavering melody. With Schmitz bending and flexing his way through riff after riff, the accompanying anchor is a must. If not, the jazzy groove that strikes just after the three minute mark might go in an entirely different direction. The one constant is always drummer Marcus Bartell, who not only keeps the time atomicly accurate, but adds a depth with each roll and fill. When the music has ended, it will be "Blacklight Communion" that stands apart from the rest. With its tremendous guitar work, and otherworldly vocal delivery that could recall the ghost of Jim Morrison himself, the band have hit a stride that might as well be a cocky strut. A tim e machine of a keyboard solo complete the effect. The EP is rounded out with an interesting reprise of "Lone Wolf." The music remains the same, but what the "Patriot Version" adds a revolutionary lyrical take on the song.

For the duration of five tracks, you feel as though you've been caught in a time warp. Could this really be a new piece of music, or have the ghosts of the seventies psychedelic titans come back to haunt us? But alas, it is the former. The recording and executon of this EP alone leave a lasting impression; they've captured the sound and feel of nearly three decades of change and evolution in every note. But the substance is just as important, and just as impressive. Schmitz, Bell, and Bartell aren't riding the wave of some cheesy gimmick that should have been discarded a decade ago; they are making it work in their favor. The music fits the concept, the concept fits the lyrics, and the lyrics fit the sound. It is a perfect circle of musical theory. Perhaps they, like their namesake, are merely the present stages of an evolutionary time loop. They are the descendants of seventies prog, while also being the ancestors of a 21st century prog movement that has yet to come to fruition. Insect/lizard men, dinosaurs, and decades old TV shows aside, "Book Of Hours" is a time machine I'd be happy to try.


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