I’ve been in the mood for some killer stoner rock as of late. Ever since the almighty Kyuss went belly-up in 1995, I’ve been on the lookout for some killer jams to race cars, drink a few IPAs, and clean some demons to. The deserts of California were a ripe breeding ground for desert jams, and Kyuss‘s disbanding left a gaping hole. Roaring down the highway in a souped-up, cherry-red Camaro comes Norway’s El Caco, who bring with them their seventh full-length, imaginatively entitled 7. Do they have what it takes to become the new stoner rock kings, or should you just hush them all away?
Opener “Curious” immediately comes in with a riff lifted right off of Josh Homme’s fingertips, even though those hands are more akin to latter-day Queens of the Stone Age than its older, heavier predecessor. Anders Gjesti does a great job emulating his demon-cleaning hero, while bassist Øyvind Osa has a cool raspy, howl that reminds me of a higher-pitched Blackie Lawless (W.A.S.P. [though, we shouldn’t really have to tell you that… – Ed.]). The energy level is high, the chorus is catchy as all get-out, and you can’t help but get into the groove. It’s a great song to open an album with.
I’m sure you’re wondering if “Curious” is a snapshot as to what the rest of the album delivers. And man, that would have been great. El Caco, translated in Spanish, means “the thief,” and the band is most known for pulling ideas from many acts to try to make their own sound. This is both beneficial and embarrassingly detrimental. When they adhere to their stoner rock influences, like on “Curious” or the Kyuss-worshipping “Ambivalent,” the band is firing on all eight cylinders. But then you have the aiming-for-Tool-but-hitting-Chevelle “Reach Out” (complete with awkward death growls), the too-poppy “The Silver Light,” and the completely unnecessary instrumental “In Space All Huge Beasts Just Seem Tiny.”
The Herbrand Larsen (Enslaved) production, although brickwalled and fatiguing, does a good job bringing Osa’s bass to the forefront. Fredrik Wallumrød’s drums sound loud and thunderous, though the cymbals can sound overly splashy [compressed – Ed.] (the chorus of “Ambivalent” is a good example of this). But the biggest gripe I have is that El Caco needs to adhere to one sound and remain somewhat consistent. When they do this, they land on a goldmine of good rock. So you can imagine my frustration whenever the styles and quality both end up changing dramatically.
While El Caco gave a valiant effort in taking over for our lost sons of the desert, 7 was not the album to do so. Still, there are some good songs and fun times to be had here, so if you want to check out a fun, somewhat uneven, trip, you can do far worse. I like to see what they’re capable of down the line.