A mysterious gang of (presumably bearded) riff-welding brutes from London, England, BULL ELEPHANT already sounded like the finished article on their self-titled debut last year. Superficially, there's nothing drastically original going on here: a wild, nasty hybrid of lumbering doom, eerie post-metal and scabrous black metal, with a hit of arcane weirdness and a persistent stench of cheap alcohol. It's well-trodden territory, but this band charge across it with total disregard for niceties or norms.
The opening title track neatly encapsulates the BULL ELEPHANT approach: woozy slow-motions riffs, regularly ambushed by bursts of jaw-wrenching, crusty grind, and a thick streak of CROWBAR-like red-eyed melancholy thrown in for bad measure. "Oneiromantic Rites" is another feast of mutant dynamics, with a gently, shimmering groove that ebbs and flows as a tense but gritty melody plays out overhead. You may detect the widescreen bluster of alt-rock giants like JANE'S ADDICTION lurking somewhere in the six-string melee, but that all-important SABBATH-ian spine remains straight and true, allowing crazed layered vocal and lysergic lead breaks to spiral around it.
"Created From Death" is just as heavy and weird as its predecessor, but it's blessed with sharper hooks and a much greater sense that BULL ELEPHANT have nailed their identity. "Lebensraum" is a churning, sludgy affair, but with a soupy, haunting mid-song detour and a rapid-fire burst of jagged riffs that never quite sounds like anything else. "Cult of the Black Nemesis" is a grubby gem: three-and-a-half minutes of scabby-knuckled old-school subversion, with a ghostly, fog-shrouded lead break and a climactic pile-up of riffs and bellowing that would give (early) MASTODON a run for their not inconsiderable money.
Elsewhere, "Last Defilement" is the album's gleeful nosedive down a doomed black hole, replete with cudgeling blastbeats and some distinctly NWOBHM-tinged soloing; "Escape to the Arctic" is as epic and wide-eyed as its title suggests, but with a lurching noise rock underbelly and a faint whiff of madness. The closing track, "Wayfarer", is the best of the lot. From icy, post-rock drift to strident mid-paced thump, it's another song with a robust melodic core, but lashings of the strangeness and charm that BULL ELEPHANT have at their disposal.