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Elephant Tree
Habits Tom Coles , April 21st, 2020 07:49

Mixing up psych and metal to refreshing effect, Elephant Tree's Habits is a wonkily likeable record, finds Tom Coles

Performing a curious blend of stoner rock, psych, and extreme metal, Elephant Tree focus treacle-thick riffs and dense sludge grooves into chilled odysseys. In doing so they retain the focus and drive of metal whilst embracing the floaty warmth of psych.

This approach has a curious effect, identifiably metal but inverted, ditching the pomp and swagger for rolling waves of pleasant vibes. This is achieved through knowing heavy tropes and playing them against themselves. The thick riffs still strike with a sledgehammer force but they're lower down in the mix and used as a percussive thrust rather than a devastating force. Guitar solos float up from the dreamy miasma, then crash back into clouds of soft noise. The most metal moment comes midway through ‘Faceless’, where the drums drop out and come back as a sort of alt-blastbeat; it’s a curious way of messing with the momentum, whilst still maintaining the lazy psych pulse.

Habits, then, is tuneful, bouncy, amiable and blissful. There are a couple of concrete techniques they use to really nail this: the steady plod of the bass and the sharp snare snap anchors the tracks, holding them from lurching away, whilst the guitars perform a bulldozer role. Much of the melodies come from the layered, tuneful vocals, a pearlescent wash over the shimmering thunder. Metal’s psych experiments are myriad but they're rarely as successful as this, where mass and volume lurk in every corner, where rich waves of gold flow over the listener, where the tracks are ostensibly formless but on deeper listens are poppy and disciplined.

Previous outings were fuzzy and bass-heavy but leant towards the same relaxed, lazy vibe. Here they've committed to their sound, a warm, good-times stoner wash. This lends itself to memorable songs: single cut ‘Sails’ is dense and lush, the guitar wails of ‘Wasted’ are dramatic and blissful and the syrupy vocals of ‘Exit The Soul’ are a calorific delight.

Stoner rock is sort of affably overstuffed, churning out hundreds of reliable records every year, catalogued by earnest megafans and consumed by thousands of friendly, bearded types. Elephant Tree feel like a total refresh, smart and savvy, delivering a charmingly wonky version of the tropes that make the genre so likeable.