Last year, Polish trio stoner doom trio Spaceslug coughed up two worthwhile slabs of psychedelic and forward-thinking beefiness. They are great albums, but more importantly, they cemented the group’s distinct identity. They aren’t quite your daddy’s bloodshot-eyed stoner metal dirtbags, nor do they strive to achieve soul-crushing gloom via monolithic riffing (though, riff they do). Spaceslug is brainier, better suited for kicking back in a recliner in solitude to feel each movement slither across your eardrums. They’re dense, effect-laden, and layered, begging to be parsed. Their latest, Eye The Tide is no different, and despite the rapid succession of releases, the group finds a way to push themselves into the next stage of their evolution.
Opener “Obsolith” sets Eye The Tide’s more chilled out and relaxing tone. Post-rock has always been a piece of the Spaceslug puzzle, but this go-around displays these colors with a little more shine, to the point where it sounds as if someone slipped Elder a Xanax. Beneath the opening minutes’ riffs and drums quake ripples of loops and effects, a soothing way to acclimate listeners to the depths they’ll experience over the course of the record. Notably, Jan Rutka’s bass lines undulate and glide, maintaining a buttery and thick foundation under the washes of guitars and tenacious drumming. Speaking of, the stylistically agnostic Kamil Ziółkowski’s limber playing sends home each ear-catching segment, delivering with both authority and a fluid calm. The trio’s vocal stylings similarly dabble with some emotive streaks, but usually submit to the confines of a mellower, somber delivery. Stacked vocals evoke memories of Layne Staley’s haunted croons, giving the record much of its cool, distant, and mournful vibe; but even when things pick up a little bit (“Spaced By One,” “Words Like Stones”) these timbres still nicely round things off, dulling the edges and keeping things on a relatively even keel.
In spite of the nearly sedated temperament of Eye The Tide, it remains utterly dynamic and captivating. Slow burning moments like the encircling delays in “Eternal Monuments” flicker out and are swiftly replaced with droves of throaty fuzz. Spaceslug demonstrate a savvy about how they pick their points for transitions and maneuvers through slinky structures. Though they shoulder a more post-rock heavy workload, the builds and crescendos are swift although each track clocks in at a considerable eight-minute minimum. Guitarist Bartosz Janik is a busy dude with a restless approach. Don’t expect dragged-out builds or pretentious minimalism. Instead, engross yourself in how they skillfully morph from acoustic melancholy into blackened climaxes (“Words Like Stones”), connect dots from wave after wave of leads to a monolithic close (“I, The Tide”), and toy with preconceptions of lulling riffing with delightfully timed stops and pseudo-endings (“Spaced By One”). With a rich landscape of glistening chimes and rainsticks (fuck yeah, more rainsticks in everything, please), “Vialys Part I” even plays up the ear-tickling psychedelia in preparation for a wah-ed to hell finish on Part II. Altogether the variety, sequencing, and timing of just about everything on Eye The Tide is on cue.
It’s hard to find fault in something that works so well as a passive listen and still rewards those who dig through the sonic bounty to be found in this record. Stoner metal fans not already familiar with the group are certain to find some intrigue on Eye The Tide. The trio distance themselves further from the more common riff barrages and psychic swirls, and even drift off from their previous work. Their jammy and sprawling nature no longer has them crawling back to a riffy sanctuary, and a naked vulnerability takes its place. They develop and wander patiently, but not too patiently. Peak moments are evident without overshadowing the journey along the way. Each track reveals itself brilliantly and showcases Spaceslug’s fresh spin on a sound that frequently gets weighed down by takes too conventional or absent risk-taking. Without sacrificing too much of the heavy, Spaceslug’s sleepier, smoother, and pliable angle is both revitalizing and somehow …comforting? It’s hard to tell if the music just feels this good or if Eye The Tide is an indicator that the future of heavy stoner jams has just ended up in some trustworthy hands.