It’s the month of December, and there be some slim pickings here at the Angry Metal Guy Fortress. With the exception of a potential End of Year Candidate, it’s the month where bands that you haven’t checked out all year are scrutinized, lists are finalized, and if you are at all like me, you are avoiding all shopping centers as if they were quarantine zones for people struck with ebola. It’s also when labels tend to not release albums because of aforementioned lists being published left and right. Thankfully, War on Music tossed us a bone in the form of A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin, the debut EP from Vancouver upstarts Astrakhan. Will this cause a sudden upheaval in my own Top Ten(ish) of 2014?
No, but it’s far from an unenjoyable romp through some well-worn paths. As soon as the guitar tapping begins on “Cupid’s Fist,” you get a sense that these boys love all things bloody and thunderous. Translation: this is full-on Mastodon worship, but there are subtle differences. Jerome Brewer’s drumming may not be the same level of pummeling godliness that Brann Dailor possesses, but it is thankfully more subdued and meticulously thought out. The riffs of guitarists Adam Young and Rob Zawistowski are thick and meaty, if not entirely original. With all that said, it’s a catchy song, even if it sounds like a b-side from Blood Mountain.
But even with the major Mastodonian overtones on A Tapestry so proudly worn on their young sleeves, there are a few twists in the formula. While there is a vocal trade-off ala Troy Sanders/Brent Hinds, Zawistowski and bassist Dustan Toth thankfully sound more like a young Jaz Coleman (Killing Joke) and… something post-hardcore or screamo. That might look absolutely dreadful on screen, but it kinda fits musically, especially on “Rest In Depths,” which also throws a little bit of Tool in for good measure. So there are good ideas in place, even if it’s not the most adventurous of sounds.
Sonically, A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin has a suitably warm, if a bit brickwalled, sound. The guitars have a thickness to them that’s perfect for this style of music, and the drums are powerful enough. I do wish for a slightly better bass sound, but overall it’s about right for something this sludgy and proggy. The songs themselves could use a bit of shortnening, though (“Blinded By The Diamond Planet” especially), as it tends to bog down quite a bit the longer the songs go. Still, this is a promising start for this young band.
A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin isn’t causing me to swear at my stereo system, making me open up Word to redo my Top Ten(ish), but I can’t say that Astrakhan haven’t shown promise, because these guys are definitely on the right path up bloody mountains to crack some skies. All they need to do is find their own voices first, but once they do, people will definitely take notice. Keep an eye out, folks.