We've gotten so used to "prog" being used as a catch-all for any band who can kick a thousand notes down a flight of steps, or sport frilly shirts while diddling away on boards both key and fret. How about using it as a root of the word "progressive" — a band that takes preconceived notions of what genres are supposed to sound like and gleefully tosses them away, creating weird and otherworldly audio soundscapes without resorting to nimble-fingered showoffery or a narrowly-defined brand of "technical" that itself has become too clichéd to matter?
ADMIRAL BROWNING is a batch of Maryland hessians call themselves "instro-metalists." They do share a lot of tendency for dirt-fried stoner grooves with another mostly-vocal-less band, KARMA TO BURN, along with a MASTODON-like penchant for tasty tempo-shift riffing and the occasional MAIDEN flair for metal theatrics (see the shambling twin lead hook in "Golden Spiral" and the positively beautiful acoustic first half of "Zeekle"). They create these sprawling, gloriously lo-fi metal epics with rumbling percussion and hypnotic guitar riffs, and what sounds like a heavy dose of psychedelic improvisation, making music that is at once earthy and riff-rockin', and cerebral and spacey.
Their dirty sound and expansive vision bring them akin to TOTIMOSHI and STINKING LIZAVETA, but really, there's no one out there doing what ADMIRAL BROWNING is pulling off here. They leach all the fun creepy vibe of musty early '80s metal vinyl into bong-rattling SABBATH lope, and then occasionally allow the whole works to veer off into these trippy improv excursions (the ten minutes or so of drum-fueled freakout at the end of the CD, uncredited with a song title, simply has to be heard to be believed). And how to explain the otherworldly chords that make up the haunting, dense and swirling climax to "Rags"? It's stoner meets prog meets "Bitches Brew" in a cloud of malevolent psychedelia and frozen asteroids. Even the lone track with vocals — a rumbling, pitch-shifted BAL-SAGOTH grumble that kicks off "Bastard Fish" — seems to soak into the canvas like just another fuzzed, fried instrument of coming-down-the-mountain lysergic jam-session abandon.
ADMIRAL BROWNING is not gonna be for everyone, but for those who get it, this is a band that will blow minds and change lives. They're too goddamn good to be playing half-empty bars in Baltimore, but such is the nature of strange and undiscovered (and probably unmarketable) genius in an age of instant gratification. Don't let their obscurity deprive you of the tripped-out bliss of traveling along their sonic exploration routes, because ADMIRAL BROWNING may be the most impressive and stubbornly unique band of forward-thinking metal alchemists toiling in the underground today.