Es are good, sang the Shamen.
EPs are good, says we.
But they are though, aren’t they? Rare is the EP that goes on too long and rare is the EP that sucks the megabucks out of your wallet, all of which makes the EP a pretty good intro to a band you don’t know, ‘specially at a gig when said band has done enough on stage to commit you to the merch table. Take an EP-sized punt and you’ll feel either i) slight letdown coz it’s not as awesome as the gig, but no damage done because at least you weren’t fleeced for the privilege, or ii) well bloody chuffed coz the new tuneage is as good as what you just saw/heard AND you’ve supported a band who probably need it. Let’s face it, touring and gigging assorted holes round smalltown UK deserves some sort of reward. Or possibly compensation.
What we’re celebrating in EPs pt I is point ii), combining a couple of EPs picked up at gigs this year because, well, 2015 is fast running out and these things need to be shared. Today we just happen to have a south-east double bill – Earthmass and Old Man Lizard. First up it’s
Earthmass supported Undersmile at the Wheatsheaf back in May and they were fckn large. Nothing wildly new, granted, but if you’re a sucker for a slab of post-metal clang ‘n stretch – and who isn’t? – then their Collapse EP from 2014, barrelling out of that early unrefined Isis lineage, warrants a bit of ear time. First track Awake/Crisis is a lumbering barrage of mono-chord reps and storm-whipped vocals, a solid warmer for the rest of the EP. Next tracks Divergence and Weakling begin to add the expansions – space, tracked vocals, twin guitar mini breaks – that bring the colour, and that triumphant Hulk-ing surge at Weakling’s end is boner-fida Isis.
But it’s the 18-minute closer LOOM that’s the centrepiece here, and once you’ve heard it, you can see what the first three were building up to. Billed as a two-parter (i. Drowse, ii. Barren), it’s post-metal Pelican-ism from those Untitled pre-Australasia days and shows what Earthmass are REALLY all about – un-busy stretchouts, nearly-solos borne of a deeper Rock Love, Tool-esque quiet, and bang-on-cue finales. Precise, layered and deliberate but in no way polished or dirgesome, Earthmass move on and in their own time, and the slow-build sequencing of Collision is proof of that. Add some ‘mass to your collection right here
Old Man Lizard: Old Man Lizard
The second EP comes out of one of those gigs where you’re among 8 people watching a new band who, sadly, just aren’t cutting it. And you’re a bit too near the stage to make a discreet exit. And you don’t know the follow-up band. And at this point, it feels like a very long night ahead. And when the next band take the stage, they’re a three-piece with a Victorian handlebar ‘tache on drums and a flame-coloured mane up front. Frontmane wears a baseball cap with a big S-word on it:
Yep, all the way from the deep south-ish flatlands of ingerland we have Old Man Lizard, bellowing and hollering and primal heavy raging … saviours of the night. Thank stuck for the ficks, eh?
Blunt and shouty as they first seem, there’s more than by-numbers metal going on here … not jazz but the odd jazzy chord, not trad but the odd Celt-lick, not blues but of the blues. Hmmm. Young bucks with old-time sources, they’re definitely off-kilter enough to sit outside easy categorisation, and with lyrics that dwell in pits of myth, murder, witchery and duggery of the skull, there’s something out-of-time about them, something a bit mead ‘n moonshine. Miles away from the post-metal space vibe of Earthmass, OML are scratchy dry and rusting metallic, their spidery guitar runs bringing the jitters to that earthly-yet-fantastical storytelling. El Doctor is the bluesiest track and its stripped-back slowdown gives you a shot of the hefty bass that lurks behind, while Old Hag hints at rural prog from the back porch.
Right then, a little Old Man Lizard update. The Lone Wolf vs Brown Bear album is a bigger beast, recorded ‘in the heart of rural Suffolk’ and mastered by James Plotkin … there can only be one James Plotkin so it must be THAT one, right? Tracks like Rum Guts, Don’t Piss in the River and Wolves Wood show off more adventurous arrangements – definitely hear a bit of Ephel Duath in some of those chords, not to mention loose harmonica and hidden banjo – but be warned: the vocals are even more bellowin’.
But the plot ‘kin thickens when you go to the OML bandcamp site because the EP, which I downloaded after buying the Lone Wolf CD and seeing the gig, ain’t there anymore. But there IS a new album, and it looks like a reworking/fleshing out of the above EP but with a bit extra, so maybe the original 5-tracker was a demo …who knows? Either way, there’s plenny of stuff to check, and don’t forget their Essex neighbours Earthmass while you’re at it.
EPs pt II to follow soon.