The self-titled debut from Portland, Oregon's BLACK ELK is one of those albums that seeps into the pores and wreaks havoc with the nervous system. The disc recalls the Amphetamine Reptile sound with a generous helping of bands like THE MELVINS and the JESUS LIZARD, not to mention the raggedy punkishness of the early pre-grunge Sub Pop bands, in the way it rattles the teeth and makes one feel a little dirty. Though plenty dissonant and disorienting, the band does not take for granted the art of songwriting, as many of the tracks eventually reveal a good amount of groove and somewhat memorable, if twisted, tunefulness.
The band's chemistry becomes immediately apparent after only a few songs. It is the manner in which the shape-shifting and caustic guitar of Erik Trammel fires off note after note of beautiful abrasions and joins the free flowing, yet not disconnected, bass and drums of Don Capuano and Matt Latorre, respectively. Once you allow the music to wash over you, the organic mix is rather alluring, in an unsettling kind of way. The group will shift gears from the aforementioned natural flow into some incredible tough power drives as well. Several songs, such as "Eyebone", switch gears constantly without losing cohesion, the tune pummeling furiously with heavy-handed drumming and changing up into loping bass lines and choppy chords. Along the same lines, "Elk Takes Night" moves from light picking to ominous riffs to tripped out madness to forceful nut-job slams. And the singer… Tom Close turns what might have once been termed singing into psychotic episodes and the ravings of a madman.
Those not in love with a brand of sludgy hardcore-esque freak jams that must be choked down, at least initially, and that ulcerate the stomach may want to steer clear of this one. Fans of a style that crams the audio equivalent of mental trauma into the ear holes and fucks with the brain are in for hours of fun.