Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Chris and Strawb Take Over: Doom/ Stoner Part III

Across Tundras Sage


By: Chris Davison

Across Tundras are from Denver, U.S. of A. I don't know pretty much anything about Denver, or indeed Colorado. Being from Merry Olde England, (you know, the place depicted in Marvel Comics as being wall-to-wall Tudor houses and the population still dressing like medieaval serfs), I don't really know too much about Americana at all. I do have a mate that did American studies, but he now lives in Dundee, Scotland. I'm not sure what use he gets from his American Studies degree – probably about the same amount that I get from my Philosophy degree. Ho Hum.

Why am I rambling about Denver? Well, I wish I knew more to be able to say how much the location may or may not have influenced the music on Sage. As the resident doom and stoner fan here at the Metal Flows In My Veins towers, it befalls me to comment on Sage. Across Tundras are, ostensibly, a stoner metal band. This may indeed form the basis of the work here, but there is so much more to it than that. This is an album that reeks of what I assume is Americana; a frazzled, burned out after image of country and western music as experienced through a pair of 3D glasses. The lenses of the glasses project twin images: 1971 Black Sabbath and Johnny Cash. All of this while experiencing a particularly psychedelic acid trip.

(Editor's note: An eagle eyed reader pointed out that Across Tundras formed in South Dakota, and currently reside in Nashville, Tennessee. Thanks.)

The twinging, twanging reverberation of the guitars while interspersed with slowly echoing electronic sounds bring to mind the vastness of the great American wilderness – an effective musical companion to The Lone Ranger, if The Lone Ranger wasn't so much a crime-fighting do-gooder, but a burned out ex-hippy seeking spiritual rediscovery. The psychedelic nature of the prolonged wig-outs on the album is certainly less formulaic than many of their peers, and the introduction of the Cowboy spirit into the music is certainly a brave – and for the most part effective – move. The vocals are clean, and frequently echo in a spectral fashion, while the guitars portray both power and desolation, in tones which can vary between typical stoner fodder and a higher, haunting vibe not unlike country rock. The rhythm section is worth some special attention too. The bass is higher in the mix than I am used to, and hence I am able to say that the playing is subtle but effective, while the drumming has some basic, but again haunting, work.

My only complaint would be that I don't find a huge amount of metal here. As a piece of atmospheric rock, Sage is an absolute cracker, though the aggression and bite that you would expect from a heavy metal album are sometimes buried underneath the rambling roll of the desert-dirges. This is really a bit of a pointless whinge; only the most ardent genre Nazi would insist on listening to only one kind of music. So unless you have a penchant for pigeon holes, then this should be an enjoyable ramble through the dusty road less travelled.

Across Tundras MySpace

Dave's Underground Laboratory

It's practically right down the street!!


nickabe57 said...

I'm sorry to be that guy--i dont really think it invalidates your argument, but rather reinforces it--but Across Tundras reside in Nashville, Tennessee now. As far as 'origin' goes, they formed in South Dakota. Not trying to be a knowitall or anything, just thought to clear that up.

The Dragon of M87 said...

No worries! Thanks for clarifying!

Chris Davison said...

Ah! Thanks for the information - the dangers of Metal Archives! Respect.