Eye the Tide by SpaceslugRelease date: July 20, 2018
Label: BFSD Records
Spaceslug seem like a band in a tremendous hurry. In their three short years they’ve released two records and an EP, with Eye the Tide being their third release in just eighteen months. And these aren’t just early tossed out sketches either; Spaceslug sounded like they’ve been around the block a few times, with a clarity of focus many veterans in their field don’t possess, right from day one. And they’ve only gotten more impressive from there. Eye the Tide rounds out what the band describe as a trilogy of albums but it feels less like an ending than a beginning for them.
All three band members contribute vocals to the record and whilst many stoner bands struggle to find one member with a voice worth hearing Spacelug have three, boasting a trio of vocal styles that mesh together beautifully. At times when they come together they sound like Crack the Skye era Mastodon – the stunning opener ‘Obsolith’ is not a million miles from ‘Oblivion’ in both name and sound – and with their mellifluous, malevolent low/high harmonies they occasionally come across like an alternate dimension Alice in Chains who have a taste for hallucinogens instead of heroin. Which is a boon that can’t be overstated: how many times have you heard a great opening to a track by a stoner band and waited anxiously to hear whether the vocals ruin it? With Spaceslug you’re always in good hands, with the three of them bring to mind other famous harmonisers Cream and Songs of the Deaf era Queens of the Stone Age across the record. The vocals are the not-so-secret weapon in their arsenal that elevate them to another level.
And they gel beautifully with Spaceslug‘s shift towards darker, heavier sounds. There were hints towards doom and post metal on earlier works but their debt to Neurosis and Isis has gained significant interest on Eye the Tide. The chugging guitar that gives ‘Spaced by One’ its weight is pure Neurosis, and there are frequent moments where the bass takes the lead that echo Isis’ underrated final album Wavering Radiant. But they haven’t left their stoner roots behind entirely: ‘Eternal Monuments’ is a mannered, almost elegant implementation of desert rock vibes, conjuring images an alien desert planet where little gray men hold generator parties beneath twin suns. But rather than being pure riff driven works every song is structured meticulously, albeit using the same building blocks – effects laden build, big riffing vocal parts and lengthy contemplative jamming sections. There’s nothing so gauche as a solo – it’s all about the mood. It may be space flavoured but it’s more Asimov or Philip K Dick than Star Wars.
Many stoner bands look to space for vibes but Spaceslug aren’t interested in a space-is-awesome stoner psyche trip – the usual signifiers are largely present but it’s as if the fuel’s running out, life support is failing and the crew is turning on each other. ‘Obsolith’ closes with synth drones that conjure pure astral terror, like dropping into orbit on a planet only to realise it’s alive. Their one vice is being a little one paced, though they do a little to redress that on ‘Words like Stones’ which repeatedly hits the afterburners and goes into full black metal hyperdrive with blastbeats and appropriately harsh vocals. And on the 11 minute closer ‘I, the Tide’ there’s some lengthy jazz-inflected pace shifting fast/slow parts, with the rhythm section dialled in and the guitar going rogue, switching the groove in disorienting ways. They may not up to the sheer skill levels of Elder or Mastodon as yet but they come impressively close on this track before the record comes to an appropriately slow, doomy end.
The only other criticism is that it sounds a little too considered and measured at times, lacking a little of bite in the mix that would have made the post-metal elements shine. Instead it’s seemingly mixed for a laid back headphones-centric experience with drum rolls rattling from ear to ear. But for the majority of the time that suits them just fine. It’s more of a downer of a record than most of their erstwhile stoner rock peers would come up with, a grungey post-doom voyage of space-sick contemplation. It’s a bad trip, but it’s a fine record. And for Spaceslug it feels like an arrival.