Light ’em if you’ve got ’em folks…
Review by Gary Cordwell
Release date: 7 August 2015
Usually, and especially in the wide, wide world of rock, a band’s name kind of gives you a clue as to what they’re going to sound like. I mean, Cradle Of Filth aren’t going to be the next S Club 7! So, what was I going to get with Austin retro band Sweat Lodge? Are they named after the Native American tents used for spiritual ceremonies and prayer or something erm… pervier? Will my ears be assailed by Morrison/Astbury ceremonial grooviness or a thrash cover of ‘In The Navy’?
It didn’t take long to realise that it was going to be the former. A wash of cymbals and a touch of wah-wah gives way to an amplifier-abusing riff and lyrics about ‘electric secrets’ and ‘feeling your vibrations’. Light ’em if you’ve got ’em folks, we know what we’re in for here. And we’re off, for a 9-track, 35-minute trip into a land of laidback Doomy trippiness.
So what else is lurking in the lodge? More of the same with some subtle variations essentially. Apparently the album addresses the issue of the “metaphysical and psychological plight of modern man through the lens of ancient wisdom and magical practice”… by playing stoner riffs and exhorting you “ride the astral plane” I guess.
These songs are vaguely restless beasts… fidgety sloths. Tempo changes are frequent and often jarring – songs either speed up into Hawkwind-style space rock freak outs or break down into wobbly, echoey, reverb drenched cosmic noodles – before shifting back to their original speed. If these songs were learner drivers they’d be failing their tests for missing gears as they randomly shift up and down…the damage to the gear box doesn’t bear thinking about!
But there is good stuff to be had here. ‘Slow Burn’ is what it says on the tin, a brief, sub 3-minute towering riff monolith. ‘Phoenix Ascent’ ends on a bit of a NWOBHM rampage and ‘Heavy Head’ is a glimpse of what could have been – a fuzzy, beefy bruiser with a great live finish.
Which is a shame because you feel that this album could have been more. Perhaps it’s the production – it all seems a bit weak and aenemic. Despite the tempo changes it all sounds oddly one paced, a little too laid back, it needed a touch more body and attack, the guitars sound too lightweight and scratchy. It also lacks some definition; several of the songs are rather formless, feeling as though they were born from a smoke fuelled jam session. Nothing really stands out as a centrepiece, a defining statement.
But, that being said, this is an enjoyable listen. It’s mellow, easy on the ear and harmless Sabbath-lite fun. Vocalist Cody Lee doesn’t do anything as obvious as an impression but his phrasing and intonation are pure Ozzy. So, if sun-kissed mellow retro psychedelia is your thing then this will be… erm, your thing. Man.
7 out of 10
- Bed Of Ashes
- Slow Burn
- Phoenix Ascent
- Black Horizon
- Boogie Bride
- Heavy Head
- Banshee Call