Elephant Tree released their newest self-titled album back in April of 2016 but it recently received a bigger retail release. All the more reason to talk about this tripped-out fuzzfest! They’re not quite a metal band, but they certainly draw from metal influences. According to their Facebook page, their earlier endeavors were in London’s metal scene and it’s only recently that they’ve switched to their bluesy stoner rock sound. You can hear their metal past in the way they completely overdrive their guitarwork, using their riffs as a foundation for everything else in their songs.
Above the distorted wall of sound rests Elephant Tree’s most unique feature: their beautiful, harmonized vocals. Many stoner metal acts utilize clean vocals reminiscent of classic 1970s rock acts but Elephant Tree’s vocalists would fit in just as well in Fleet Foxes as they would an opener to Black Sabbath in the 70s. In addition to giving the record a more modern feel, the vocals provide an emotional range that isn’t found in most modern throwback acts. The opening track, “Whither”, is complete ennui while “Dawn” creates an atmosphere of pure awe with a little hint of rage. Like with Pallbearer’s new album, the more average riffs and solos benefits greatly from uniquely well-performed vocals that have real emotion in them.
On top of the refreshing vocals, Elephant Tree sure can write a good hook. “Aphotic Blues” will leave you singing “BLOOD RUSHES OUT” for days. “Echoes” also holds some epic 90s hard rock moments that contrast nicely with it’s chilled-out blues verses. Poppier moments like this happen right next to drone metal sections that sound like they’re right out of Lysol and never feel out of place. Elephant Tree incorporates their wide range of influences without ever mugging to the camera or sounding like any other band besides themselves. Their time spent absorbing the London scene clearly paid off.
The album does occasionally give off a sense of “sameness”. Despite an expansive palette of influences, Elephant Tree doesn’t take enough big risks. “Circles” stands out significantly and awkwardly as the only track that doesn’t rely on the same formula as the rest of the album. This is the problem with assuming the role of the “retro band”. Without true vision, like the handful of bands that have broken out of that label, it’s easy to get stuck as a vintage museum piece and not a serious band. Elephant Tree is still young and this early work suggests they may have what it takes to be one of the few that breaks that mold.
Elephant Tree is available now and can be purchased via the Bandcamp embed above.