This disc is exciting enough, but Elephant9's full damage is probably done during a...
Martin Longley 2008-07-30
Some combos head back to the grooving organ trio sound of the 1960s and 70s in a cool-headed, urbane fashion, clicking their fingers and setting their berets at a jaunty angle. Elephant9 have set fire to all headgear, shaking free their straggly manes for a deranged session of acid prog headbanging. This might be the Norwegian trio's debut disc, but we already know keyboardist Ståle Storløkken from his many years with Supersilent, and drummer Torstein Lofthus will be familiar to many as a member of Shining, those fellow purveyors of Gothic thrash-prog. It's only bassist Nikolai Haengsle who is unfamiliar outside Norway.
Subtlety is employed only occasionally, as the trio hurtles straight into the maelstrom that is the album's title cut. It's Emerson, Lake & Palmer territory, perhaps. The riffing is single-minded, but the structure is jerkily funky, or maybe funkily jerky. Recording live in the studio, Elephant9 careen along with spiny edges, knocking down any obstacles. The second tune, I Cover The Mountain Top, might hang back for a moment, caught in a ponder, but before long, the meat is out of the freezer, decaying fast. Storløkken revels in the extremity of his distortion, turning Fender Rhodes electric piano and Hammond organ into percussive instruments. The Lofthus approach to drumming is to let the avalanche fall, although not without some complicated wrist-flicks and lightning strikes around his heavy skins. Haengsle's bass is a crushing, cumulative presence.
Some numbers might begin sensitively, but their ultimate destiny lies in a thundering brawl. The only exception is Hymne, which remains in a creepy state. Misdirection is a churning funk snapshot, followed by the cosmic chills of Doctor Honoris Causa and Directions, a double dose of Joe Zawinul composition which takes the trio into its most jazzy state, Storløkken revelling in the physicality of key contact, jabbing out tight bursts of frazzled phrasing. Again, there's a pause for abstraction, but not before the thundering leviathan tumble makes its return. This disc is exciting enough, but Elephant9's full damage is probably done during a live show, in front of a very worried audience.