For a blogger who just completed a thousand words on Black Sabbath that very morning, the serendipitous penetration of the bunker by a postal delivery -from no less than the Seth Man himself, of no less than Ryan Kittrell-as-Pyres of the Oregonian’s full length debut, a CD fulla the same things I was still grooving on from last week’s emanation- could seem to hold greater weight. After heavy mediation on the heaviest ur-text of my entire music writing career, how restorative to be given a behind-the-curtain look at what the next generation are doing with the Sabbath text, filtered through another generation of hyper-politicised speech, sketchy wars, lying governance. If the oil fires of the Gulf war and the Clinton years coupled with silicon valley and the first four Sabbath albums (American versions, natch, with more groove and fewer covers of groove) created Dopesmoker, and the continued output of Sunn O))) was nothing but the emotion of the post September 11th Bush years distilled into sound like a jet turbine eating a planet made of tar; what would eight years of Obama and the slow legalisation of hyperapparent Sweet Leaf produce in the latest green-fingered first-bearded generation of Melvinites; along with the consumption of all those great works in addition to Sabbath’s own?
The result is alarming. I can see why Kittrell snuck a few tracks out on Soundcloud, and why they were largely thicker versions of Sleep as distilled by his unique worldview, a Venus Dose with the comfort of super-groovy guitar freakout to cling to and a more High on Fire thudder to complete. It’s dark, it’s thick and heavy. Hybridian I naively thought could be a festive tribute to the standing stones of Lewis; behemoths standing against the Atlantic assault for thousands of years, but it layers coat upon thick drying coat of Krispy Kreme sugar onto my prone form after hitting me with a metal chair until all sound and light is hopelessly extinguished, like viewing the surface from the flying bridge of the Titanic. Without meaningful vocals to grasp tentatively onto like the hand of a rescuer and only the screams of fellow lost souls (or possibly guitar wails) all hope appears lost.
Kittrell’s only mistake, though I could hardly blame someone responsible for such a solid and dependable messianic chunk, is his youth. When the chemical balance is right, or when the stars have aligned and he pushes the speed needle into the red truly great things lay there, in the road, waiting, but all too often (on a few tracks, which are still legitimately great, but just not as life-transforming as the others) he pulls back or slows down, dropping familiar elements into the mix, lightening the load at a time when my knees are most begging to be crushed under the billion watts of amplification. Thuddingly excellent it is though; deeply professional, heights of ecstasy found through willed understanding, fierce yet with form and indicative of a special understanding of the importance of those earlier works. At its very best it stops time in really large chunks, with pendulum swings of guitar wah and a stinging punch. Any minute failures can’t be held against them, after all, Sabbath were a trad rock band before they found the faith, and Sleep’s first outing was nothing to write home about, the Melvins took three full-length albums before Lysol came out. Keep mission control locked on Pyres of the Oregonian, if we correctly identify the true deity in time we may have another high-volume blowout-live performer with dozens of records to collect and obsess over and another Weedian priest to outdate our Iommi/Pike/O’Malley shirts again.
Written under duress by Steven.