Asheville, North Carolina. A bizarre cultural potpourri famous for its beer, food, music scene and road construction, Asheville is one of those strange places that is both cripplingly flawed and difficult to resist. It’s a fascinating place, and it has my heart. So it should come as no surprise that I Bask in the glow of III, an Americana-spiked hard rock album that comes direct from my current hometown. We write infrequently about stuff from or within spitting distance of this city, but it seems like every time we do we like what we get—I direct you to Aether Realm and Undrask, for starters—and Bask‘s latest continues the trend.
Unlike the other bands I mentioned above, Bask are not a melodic death metal band in the slightest. The closest comparison I can give for this Ashevillian quartet is, funnily enough, Moon Tooth—a band that comes from my original home of Long Island1 with hard rock influenced heavily by the urban bustle of that general area. If Moon Tooth characterize the intensity of Northern big cities like New York, then Bask revel in the laid-back mood of the Appalachian South. Utilizing heaping scoops of Americana and just a pinch of country, III feels like a lazy afternoon on the porch with a big mason jar of homemade sweet tea spiked with your neighbor’s moonshine. I may still be a proud suburban-raised New Yorker at heart, but even that image warms my face and soothes my soul.
Most of my reviews use this paragraph to describe how an album starts, but I wanna talk about how III ends. Closer “Maiden Mother Crone” is the brilliant highlight of Bask‘s third full-length, led via folksy banjos and propelled by poetic lyrics delivered by a soulful set of pipes. It’s absolutely breathtaking and it might just swipe my Song o’ the Year slot, which until now belonged to another candidate without question. “Maiden Mother Crone” is somewhat unique in its composition, yet it is the perfect conclusion to an album littered with beautiful details like the flawless transition between airy opener “Three White Feet” and energetic follower “New Dominion.” More details like the light but sludgy stoner riffs from “New Dominion” and “Noble Daughters I – The Stave,” the country twang of “Noble Daughters II – The Bow” populating the Southern landscapes on display, and smart drumming which often threatens to bleed into blasts yet never does affords the record the ideal measure of danger. “Stone Eyed” in particular strikes my fancy with organ-driven psychedelia that allows the track to bloom in layers of delicately balanced sound. Moreover, when these songs are imbibed in unison they exude a unique homegrown personality which develops and blossoms as the record progresses, proving that Bask prioritizes songwriting over anything else.
Such a knack for expressive music is Bask‘s bread and butter, of that there can be no doubt. Unfortunately, there just isn’t enough of it on III. The album needs maybe two additional songs that match the closer in quality, but as it stands the admittedly tight thirty-three-minute runtime feels underfed. Minor bloat in the midsection compounds the issue, oddly enough. “Rid of You” is an evocative post-rock-tinted piece of American hard rock, but the chorus repeats far too often in the final third, eliciting many a glance at the wrist where a watch would be if I wore one. “Noble Daughters I – The Stave” suffers as well through a lack of overall energy and repetitive musical framework, which ultimately qualifies it as the weakest track on III. An album this short can’t afford moments that drag like this, as they stick out more prominently and pull me out of the experience without fail.
Nevertheless, Bask have succeeded in garnering my attention with their Southern brand of hard rock, and I will happily frolic in their back catalog after my time with III. The record is such a breath of fresh mountain air, and also happens to be one good-sounding breath at that. Aside from the occasional bout of lethargy, III is strong enough to warrant a recommendation thanks to its entrancing personality and honeyed songsmithing. Now close your eyes, feel the warm breeze, and Bask.