I don’t read other blogs,1 but I do follow plenty of people on Twitter, and once in a blue moon one of them makes a good recommendation. In this case that recommendation comes in the form of Palace in Thunderland, a group of fellows out of Massachusetts who ply their trade through an intriguing blend of doom, prog, and stoner rock. The band’s third full-length, The King of the Empty Aeon, is a concept album that takes the story of the Maitreya and transposes it into the 21st century, amidst the age of information. And depending on how you want to interpret it, the album is either one song split up into segments, or a number of songs that tie into one another. Either way, it’s a captivating listen, and something we shouldn’t have missed.
The King of the Empty Aeon is really five songs, with four segues sandwiched between them. Unlike many other albums, the segues here really do push the musical story and add interest. In fact, in keeping with the idea of the whole album being one song, the interludes do a great job of bridging the gaps between the five standout tracks. Andy Beresky, singer/guitarist of now-defunct Black Pyramid, and Adam Abrams, bassist here, guitarist of Blue Aside, lead the band through a number of ambitious cuts, and along with second guitarist Monte Newman, they demonstrate a sublime knack for creating catchy songs. The title track and the closer “The Word Unspoken” are borderline brilliant, and everything in between grabs you and holds on – for the most part.
Thick and aggressive production lends itself well to the style presented, with bass-and-guitar riffs and crashing drums bludgeoning us throughout. The album is mastered about the same as everything these days, but the compression doesn’t hold the music back at all. In fact, the downsides to the album have nothing to do with production. First, with only five actual songs, I was left wanting more. The overall album length of 48 minutes is about right, but it feels a lot shorter. The bigger flaw is the fact that Palace in Thunderland seem utterly incapable of ending a song. Poor little El Cuervo was lamenting this fact with me during a rainy drive through the Canadian Rockies this summer. I lost track of the number of times we said “Okay, it’s ending now. No, now. Wait, okay now.” But the songs wouldn’t end. It became kind of comedic, but tightening that up and adding in another song would have been amazing.
Look, this isn’t a perfect album, but what is?2 Despite a couple of misgivings, The King of the Empty Aeon is an engaging, energetic romp through doom-encrusted psychedelic landscapes, with plenty of compelling moments that make the album fly by. I would have loved to review this when it came out, and in fact I’ve played it more than the majority of albums I was saddled with this year, but better late than never. Hopefully we aren’t left waiting another four years for Palace in Thunderland to throw us another bone.
Tracks to Check Out: “The King of the Empty Aeon,” “Vicarious,” “The Word Unspoken.”