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A Tapestry Of Scabs And Skin EP

War On Music (2014)
Rating: 8/10

The Vancouver-based quartet Astrakhan’s EP comes complete with a nifty piece of cover art and four solid tracks which lean towards the doomier side of things. However, this is very much groove-based gloominess with a hint of psychedelia and dyed with just a sprig of sludge and garage rock combined.

The Canadian band features Dustan Toth (vocals / bass), Rob Zawistowski (vocals / guitar), Adam Young (guitar) and Jerome Brewer (drums), and together they have created a sprawling, epic-sounding slab of cosmic drama boasting gargantuan vocal wails and chords of rolling thunder.

Opener ‘Cupid’s Fist’ has a neat, progressive slant which almost appears too deft to be in any way gloomy or doomy; instead, there’s a distinctive 70s thrill about it as it offers a simple, yet effective rumble in the rhythm section which suddenly drifts off into – and dare I say it – Voivod territory with a jarring aplomb. One moment the vocals are a spaced out yawn, the next a muscular rant as the pallid guitars become flecked with kaleidoscopic nuances which flirt around the stabbing drums. It’s intriguing stuff, immediately made all the more forceful by the two-headed vocal assault. As a whole, it’s a monster that just rolls with such fluidity whether as a form of tight yet angular surges or in its most simplistic, doom-laden angst.

‘Blinded By The Diamond Planet’ suggests this is a band that are going to be difficult to pin down music-wise. The track opens with a simmering, sinister fashion; Astrakhan sort of heaves itself out from the galactic vacuum and none of us know where it’s going to go next, but suddenly the outfit lurches into an almost thrashy chug.

I refuse to label this with the downbeat and negative “stoner” tag, because it’s just too spiky to laze in such clogged abodes. Even as the band slows there is always that air of confidence and bombastic ease as solos worm their way through deep, jagged chugs, and the vocal cries offer up some kind of bizarre combination of power metal glory and hardcore tease – only to be interfered with by that almost cosmic mantra of subtlety. ‘Rest In Depths’, however, does opt for that sludgier side; easing itself into play with doom-laden aplomb and bolstered by Brewer’s enormous stick slams.

Astrakhan is not an animal that will confuse you, but it is one that’ll keep you engrossed until the end of its existence. What these guys have done is almost create something new and that in itself is a feat worth taking note of. By the time ‘The Pillarist’ comes lumbering into earshot, you’ll be marvelling at yet another king-sized riff that sends the competition scurrying back into the abyss of repetition.

A Tapestry Of Scabs And Skin is a mesmeric opus of jarring, doom-laced prog metal that somehow fuses the lesser known and criminally underrated strains of old Confessor, Stillborn and the likes to the result of being hit at a rate of knots by a drug-crazed, psychotic mammoth that has just awoken from its icy lair!

Neil Arnold

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