Lathe – Tongue of Silver Review

Tongue of Silver represents two landscapes. It beats down upon the dead soil of the barren American West, empty and lonely winds plastering sun-bleached hills. But it pulses with the beating heart of its folklore, as legendary as it is flesh and blood. It’s a tall tale of the mundane, paying homage to not only Americana, but to the crushing weight of drone metal. The story it tells is not of speedy gunslingers or soul-searching troubadours but found in the negative spaces “somewhere between sand and rust:” a living, breathing, and uniquely American commentary on expansion and decay.

Although drone/doom and Americana may seem an odd fusion to the weary traveler, it has storied history. In particular, Earth‘s Hex and Bees Made Honey… were released to applause but few acolytes, Horseback‘s The Invisible Mountain and Half Blood met jaded drone ears with little fanfare, and Samothrace and Wovenhand offer their own southern interpretations of crushing heaviness. Baltimore’s instrumental trio Lathe offers its own take, its Sunn O)))-esque blistering density never forsaken as spaghetti western tropes in pedal steel, organ, and blues scale abuse build evocative soundscapes and southern rock decadence atop. Describing itself as “a fitting soundtrack to a demolition derby,” Tongue of Silver is another chapter of drone/country fusion, as evocative and ambitious as it is listenable.

What’s immediately noticeable about Tongue of Silver is its tale of three parts, connected by patient songwriting and organic crescendos. Meditative openers “Vinegar,” “Drain,” and “Heat Wave” revel in growth and expansion, simple crushing riffs, bluesy basslines, and atmospheric reverb-laden steel pedal and organ slowly unfold their mysteries. Thunderous drums provide the rock-solid beat with pummeling precision, alternating between doom-influenced plods and surprisingly effective train beats. Emulating Horseback‘s Half Blood sans vocals, these tracks are safely and solidly built, balancing density and twang with professionalism and direction. Lathe‘s more ambitious flavors offer a different tale of corrosive rust and hostile decay: centerpieces “Rodeo Fumes” and “351W” are crescendos of oblivion, beginning with a soundbite of a monster truck rally, a drum beat that blurs the line between a train beat and punk, and flashy riffs, while quickly descending into swaths of pure noise by its conclusion, seamless passage transitions marking the journey. Closers “Cauliflower,” “Journey to the East,” and “Morris” show Lathe cutting loose with tasty decadence. Southern rock features prominently, seamlessly shifting from the most blistering riffs of the album to wailing solos, channeling their inner Def Leppard with reckless abandon. Here also, black metal emerges from this dust devil with a scathing tremolo in concluding portions, layering unforgiving fire atop concrete density.

As Tongue of Silver is divided into three parts, it is a fantastic array but lacks consistency. Listeners may feel whisked away with its first country-centric portion, staggered by the second’s pitch-black experimentalism, and head-bobbing by the southern rock and black metal of the third, but it’s unclear which is the true Lathe. Furthermore, although every note of Tongue of Silver is crystal clear, it is nonetheless swallowed in its own density in tracks like “Cauliflower” and “Rodeo Fumes,” and can feel too claustrophobic when it reaches the destinations of its various crescendos. In a matter of taste, “351W” can feel downright hostile in its two minutes of pitch-black noise. Meanwhile, closer “Morris” feels the most simplistic of the bunch, relying on relatively straightforward drone meanderings with simple flourishes of southern melody.

Lathe‘s potential is out of this world. Creating an immense listen with limitless replay value upon a road less traveled, they join the company of Earth, Horseback, Samothrace, and Wovenhand, fusing earthy Americana with devastating heft. While its production lacks breadth periodically, and its three movements may seem disparate after repeated listens, it manages to unveil country-fried highlights at every turn. Vocals are never missed, as the trio’s vast repertoire of tricks keep Tongue of Silver consistently interesting throughout, and its dynamic ambition is stunningly admirable and professionally executed. Evocative, haunting, rip-roaring, and punishing in equal measure, steeped in its uniquely American flavors while avoiding novelty, Tongue of Silver is one hell of a debut for a band destined for a tall tale of its own.


Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 4 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Grimoire Records
Websites: lathe.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/lathe66
Releases Worldwide: July 29th, 2022

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