Intensively provocative and demandingly challenging Scarab the new album from Queen Elephantine is a release which it is not too wide of the mark to say will not be for everyone. Consisting of four experimental and expansive landscapes of doom clad laments immersing the senses in darkness bred funereal breaths and captivations, the album is a testing evocation to avoid or embrace, with little in between one suspects. Meditative yet disturbing, seductive yet exacting, engaging yet overwhelming, the album is an uncompromising intrusive dirge but also persistently compelling.
Scarab is the fourth album from Queen Elephantine, a project formed in Hong Kong in 2006 and now residing in Providence, Rhode Island. With several splits also under their belts including releases with Sons of Otis and Elder, the Indrayudh Shome led band has earned a strong reputation with their impacting explorations to which Scarab adds another epically cast uncompromisingly delivered landscape. With bassist Mat Becker, drummers Ian Sims and Nathanael Totushek, tanpura player Srinivas Reddy, and slide guitarist Brett Zweiman alongside Shome and his guitar skills, the band steer the listener into bleak psychedelic threnodies which never allow a breath to be taken in hope or made without an intense melancholic soak.
Opener Veil coaxes the ears with a rhythmic and percussive persuasion initially, an intriguing tempting with slight tanpura caresses and sonic whispers watching on. Once the bass and throaty guitar enters though a shadow clouds over the tempting to chill and inspire the imagination with stronger potency. Taunts of repetition begin laying down their riveting seeds from this point but through a weave which slowly shifts and evolves as the first of the long winding tracks emerges fully. The song like the album has to be taken and assessed over numerous traverses of its heavy presence, it inducing a stronger persuasion and convincing with each taken endeavour. The droning breath of the track which takes over until the equally dragging vocals steal their moment nag and entice, but equally provide an irritant to fear or crowd in with mentally and emotionally. Though the shortest track on the album at a mere eight minutes it makes the listener work for its rewards, or that may be endure for some, but nevertheless it offers plenty for most to feed eagerly upon.
The following Crone as good as emerges from the trailing wash of its predecessor, bass and again dark toned guitar making the first bait of the song. It is a demand on ears and patience at times especially in the first four minute stretch of the eighteen minute submergence into the darkest corners of the soul and emotional depths but a constant lure on thoughts as they unveil their interpretation and feelings on the slow resonating probing. Vocals with a mutually effective monotony to the sounds clasping them add a warmer hue to the narrative if without sparking any change and intent from the labour intensive persuasion being woven around the psyche. There is no respite to the emotional turmoil and restrained but merciless evocative droning, and the track certainly outstays personal limits with its length and full on provocation though within that blanket of sonic murmuring and discord kissed humming little twists and additives spark attention and appetite for the perpetually engaging enthrallment.
The bass sound conjured across the album is a strong tempting alongside the guitar imagination and within the final pair of tracks Snake and Clear Light of the Unborn both make no exceptions in their entangling of the emotions. The first of the two casts ten minutes of minimalistic and progressive searching of those prevailing contemplations of the abyss. Admittedly a surface look provides a similar canvas to the songs around it and it is only, as with all the tracks, an intensive dive into the swallowing tenebrous climate that individual nuances and provocations truly unveil themselves. The song is the hardest most unforgiving listen on the release and often difficult to remain in the grasp of but still provides plenty to be stimulated and gripped by. Its successor from a mesh of chants around a spitting heat leads into an invasive swamp of textures and sounds similar to those which marked the previous track but also stirs up new caustic winds and sonic rubs as it develops its thirteen minute incitement.
Stronger in its first half and a constant depressive questioning, the Heart & Crossbone Records (CD)/Cosmic Eye Records (LP) released Scarab is undoubtedly for a certain appetite but before that kind of hunger is a formidable and impressive progressive doom exploit igniting a wealth of emotions and instincts. Queen Elephantine does not make it easy but they never leave you short on satisfaction and adventure.
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