"Dark Songs of the Prairie"

(Crucial Blast)

01. Ramblin' In the Shadows
02. If God Wants You Down
03. Western Wind
04. The Old Sexton
05. Ode to George, Parts 1 and 2
06. Dark Flower of the Prairie
07. Cosmic Retribution
08. Aura Lea, Maid of Golden Hair

RATING: 7.5/10

Lonesome winds howl, animals shiver in dank burrows, dust chokes dry river beds… the world of ACROSS TUNDRAS is a bleak, desolate prairie, inhospitable to travelers and as grim in its own way as any snow-choked Scandinavian forest. Somewhere between doom, sludge, the art-ravaged psych crunge of YOB, and the otherworldly soundscapes of prime ISIS, with the added influences of old-school folk and country records listened to while drinking cough syrup, ACROSS TUNDRAS are definitely… different.

Guitars are echoey, melancholy, chiming things on these long, rambling songs. The drums are shambling and loud, while the vocals are buried in the mix, seemingly coming from some faraway place like a stranger's voice carried on the wind. The overall effect is lonesome and vast, NEUROSIS in a Larry McMurtry Western novel, doom metal meets Americana in some weird place where PELICAN listened to more THIN WHITE ROPE albums and did a lot of 'shrooms while camping in South Dakota and slowly going batshit crazy from the sheer emptiness of it all.

As you might imagine, this is the sort of trip you embark on wholeheartedly or not at all. ACROSS TUNDRAS is hardly a "singles" band, or one for background music. Give in to its dusty psychedelia, though, and block out an hour for the whole record to wash over you – hell, go through it twice — and you'll be glad you went on the journey. Atmospheric and a bit disquieting, as indebted to early 90's shoegazers and Neil Young at his most crankily experimental as anything metal, ACROSS TUNDRAS are far too young a band to sound this fried and mind-blown already.

That's a bit worrisome — if they're this delightfully and evocatively out-to-lunch on their friggin' debut album, where is this band gonna be taking us in five years? The mind boggles. For now, though, "Dark Songs of the Prairie" is quite the travelogue for open-minded adventurers not afraid of some wide-open-space rock.


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