Sunday, 24 June 2012

Review: Sigiriya - Return To Earth

Drinkin' Whiskey Again

In 2001 the Welsh psychedelic stoner outfit Acrimony called it quits. A decade later Sigiriya released their debut album. Sigiriya consists of all but one of the members of Acrimony. While it might seem odd that basically the same band is reforming under a different name, the change is justified - Sigiriya is no replication of Acrimony. The band themselves say it best: "I’d describe Acrimony as a massive stoned mammoth sitting on your chest while you’re flying backwards through a black hole. I think the main difference with Sigiriya is that the Mammoth is also quite likely to punch you in the face while he’s sitting there!"

While Acrimony most definitely had hard-hitting moments, those sections were balanced out by swirling psychedelia and sun-drenched acoustic passages. While Acrimony seems like something you'd listen to while stoned, your'e better off drinking while listening to Sigiriya. Sigiriya kicks ass and takes no prisoners. While the psychedelic influences are not completely eradicated, they are largely toned down. The main exception to this would be the ten minute behemoth "Deathtrip to Eryri", which is indeed quite a trip. This is definitely the closest they come to sounding like Acrimony. While most of the album is driven by testosterone, this is more spacey and drawn out. Don't get the wrong impression, it still is heavy and rocks quite a bit. It just has an overtly psychedelic vibe and not everything is in your face. The song, which ends the album, appropriately fades out with a passage of otherworldly ambiance. There are some small nods to psychedelia throughout the album, but it rarely becomes very obvious. The only other prominent exception would be some of the guitar on "Dark Fires." While not something to mellow out to, it is clearly psychedelic.

These songs are essentially pop songs, and I mean that in the best way possible. I'm in no way saying these are like bubblegum pop songs you'd hear on a 13 year old girl's playlist, merely stating that they are catchy, well written and nearly impossible to get out of your head. If they were played by a more accessible rock band, they could surely become radio hits. The production is not something often associated with overtly catchy music. It is raw, abrasive and sludgy. Think Kyuss with less mellow spaced-out passages at their catchiest, with production no more accessible than on "Blues for the Red Sun." The whole aura of this music brings images of a run down bar in the middle of the desert filled with wasted bikers. 

Dorian Walters, Sigiriya's vocalist, really knows how to wail. His vocals are filled up to the brim with power, and when he really gets going things get crazy. While he has no problem going into overdrive mode, he knows when to hold back. This is a trait that every good musician should know. Sometimes very talented people decide to show off too much and compromise the song in the process. Dorian knows exactly how to suit his vocals to the music. On the aptly titled "Whiskey Song", he croons "Tonight, I'm drinkin' whiskey again". I wouldn't be surprised if he had a few shots of J.D. before singing that line - he definitely has that kind of voice. Not too far off from John Garcia of Kyuss, actually. 

What would be the point of amazing vocals if the guitar didn't have the backbone to support them? Thankfully for Sigiriya this certainly is not the case. By the first song, "Mountain Goat", this is perfectly evident. While not very complicated, the riffing is consistently memorable. Equally as important as the riffing are the melodic leads. These are absolutely crucial to the band's sound. The drummer also is a noteworthy part of this album. He doesn't really do anything all that crazy, but his sound always perfectly fits in with everything else. He often uses double bass drumming, but not in the full-speed-ahead barrage that many metal drummers are known for. He uses it more like a rock musician would; not in an overpowering way and as a method of creating some pretty cool fills. Not wanting to leave anyone out, it should be mentioned that the repeating melodic bass line in "Deathtrip to Eryri" is absolutely killer.

Sigiriya are a worthy successor to Acromony's throne. While certainly different than their previous band, you can still tell its the same dudes. These are catchy and dirty songs. Simplifying their music and taking out the things that made Acrimony so special actually turned out to be a great idea. Who'd have thought? While the songwriting is very accessible, the same certainly can't be said about the production. Basically what we have is near anthemic catchiness and grit on the same album. 


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