Okay, I’ve got a question: do stoner rock bands write and play high, or do they just cater to those in the world who like to listen to their music while drifting in a haze of smoke? I don’t know any bands of this particular style personally, so I can’t ask them. I do remember Keith Richards once saying, “Don’t play high until you can play sober.” Or maybe it was Jaco Pastorius. Or Jimi Hendrix. Or Thelonius Monk. Or Charlie Parker. Augh, I don’t know! Regardless, it’s a question I have whenever I listen to a stoner metal album, and today’s entry from Polish band Spaceslug is no exception. Did they write it high?1 Did they record it high?2 And can you enjoy it both high and low?
For those like myself who are unfamiliar with Spaceslug, Eye the Tide is their third album in as many years. It brings to a close what they call a personal trilogy, a journey into another dimension. That dimension clearly involves copious amounts of weed, exotic wall hangings, and most likely many trays of takeout nachos. The trio creates a phenomenal amount of fuzzy, psychedelic, extended jams that incorporate moments of post-metal as well as a couple of minor forays into blackened doom metal. Sounds like it touches on a lot, doesn’t it? Luckily (or not), these elements don’t all come into play on each song. “Obsolith” is eight minutes of pure haze, as “stoner” of a jam as one can get, with lazily meandering instruments punctuated with the occasional half-murmured verse. And that’s the opening track, which certainly speaks to the content we’ll be presented within the next six songs.
As if that wasn’t enough, the follow-up song “Spaced by One” is, yes, another eight-minute jam, with the same laid-back tempo, layers of guitars wah-ing and wafting in and out of our speakers, and distorted bass suitably behind the laid-back beat. So is “Eternal Monuments,” although that one is nine minutes. It’s clear that the jam is Spaceslug’s modus operandi, and they do not want to deviate from it except in the direst of situations. Those situations do arise a couple of times on Eye the Tide. “Words Like Stones,” while still in the eight-minute range, introduces some harsh vocals and blast beats to wake us from the stupor induced during the first three songs. The track features a somewhat complex riff around which the song is constructed, meaning this is more of a song and less of a jam. The cheekily-named final track, “I, the Tide,” is both the longest, over eleven minutes, and the most dynamic on the album. Again making use of harsh vocals, the closer begins in very subdued fashion before chugging away in hazy distortion.
The problem with Eye the Tide is the feeling of déjà vu that quickly settles over our shoulders like a quilt of smoke. The jams are extensive but not varied. After a half-dozen listens, I couldn’t pick much out on the album aside from the times when, like on the songs mentioned above, harsh vocals emerge in contrast to the otherwise hymnal-like delivery style that permeates the album. Of note is that all three band members are given equal credit for vocals, and you can hear that in all the songs. It’s a spaced-out, diluted-pupil sound that meshes wonderfully with the tone of the songs. The changeups are welcome, but they are not enough to beat back the blissful monotony of Spaceslug’s style.
Spaceslug has a great vibe and a compelling sound, but the songwriting isn’t up to par with a band like Polish counterparts Weedpecker, whose album released early this year was loaded with memorable riffs and arrangements. Songwriting is a big part of success. Without it, they’re just a jam band — even if they sound great jamming — and jam bands are most effective at basement parties and gravel pit bonfires. But if the jam is your thing, grab some nachos and your bong, sit back, and let Eye the Tide wash over you.