Album Review: Elephant Tree – Habits

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In recent years there have been a few record labels that have consistently released records that push the boundaries of what can be done within the realms of heavy music. One of my personal favourite labels that does just that is Holy Roar Records.

This week sees the release of the superb new album by London’s Elephant Tree who joined the Holy Roar roster last year. The band has been around since 2013 and, to quote their bio, they combine “the sonic density of doom à la Pallbearer with the vivid psychedelia of contemporaries such as Elder. 2020 and beyond is somewhat of a coming of age moment for Elephant Tree as they move from a band in their infancy to magisterial mongers of their world within and outside of genre confines.” That may sound like typical PR waffle, but this time it’s absolutely on point.

The album opens with a pulsating throb which lulls the listener into a false sense of security before Sails erupts from the speakers with its doom-laden riff and spaced-out vocal. The guitars could be taken from an early Smashing Pumpkins record and the rich production really brings the heaviness to the fore. But don’t expect an aggressive metal album. Elephant Tree’s sound is almost calming in nature thanks to its psychedelic overtones and slower tempos.

Faceless continues with the huge, sludge-laden riffs and airy vocals but adds another layer of heaviness that is balanced by melody and restraint. It’s a combination that rarely works quite so effectively as it does throughout the album. Guitar solos drift in and out of the mix but never dominate, and the bass and drum work holds the whole thing together perfectly.

There are gigantic guitar sounds throughout almost every song. The crushing conclusion to Exit The Soul being a particular highlight. It’s followed by a rare moment of calm on The Fall Chorus before Birds takes everything up a notch with a quite magnificent song that must sound extraordinary when played live. The track is enriched by John Slattery‘s atmospheric synths and Jack Townley and Peter Holland’s signature vocal harmonies.

Their fuzzy, stoner-rock is at times reminiscent of bands like Kyuss and Electric Wizard in its heft but with an ethereal quality that instead of attempting to bludgeon the listener into submission, uses it to mould a trance-like atmosphere simultaneously heavy and uplifting.

With Habits, Elephant Tree certainly seem to have found their place within the world of heavy music. This is music for big speakers and I for one can’t wait to witness these songs in a live setting. Hopefully, word of mouth will take one of the UK’s finest underground bands to a whole new audience and see this album on many year-end album lists.

Steve Gerrard

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