There are two epic songs battling for your attention on Loam and Sky, the new EP from The Elephant Parallax out Friday, and either could launch a fit description of why the record is indispensable.

First, there is the opener, ”The Conscious.” Though it begins with ”Bloody Mary”-style drums and a pixelated, Battles-ish guitar onslaught, what comes to drive it is a mathy alt-metal crescendo in odd time signatures over which the band, frankly, scorches Earth. The 1-2/1-2-3 wallop is the type of anthem you want to shout at the top of your lungs and that’s exactly what the trio does, mixing well-placed, choral oohs-and-ahs with barks that match the bite. How these guys fit so much into four minutes is beyond me.

Then, there’s the closer, ”Incenfeminalgia II,” a sequel-of-sorts to a math-minded monster from the group’s 2010 self-titled LP. This one takes time to catch fire, introducing the soundscape with three minutes and change of moody, cinematic, reverbed-guitar-driven post-rock, the vague sounds of crackling fire. But when it strikes, it strikes hard. Again, the band flashes prog allegiances as much as shows off its alt-metal chops; think Pelican covering Tool or Hella covering The Mars Volta as men with fine voices lament, ”Where did our intuition go?” The eruption here, when it comes, is visceral and boil-inducing — when the band darts into double-time near the close of the song’s nearly-10-minute run-time, after a fiery guitar breakdown, the rhythmic interplay between bass, drums and guitar is to tight, your ears will play tricks on you and you’ll start hearing the explosions as a series of rolling tides. This is intense stuff, some of the most blistering alt-metal you’ll hear this year.

The rest of the four-song EP is an interesting lull, for the most part sparser and more loosely packed, a passageway between mountainous terrain. The tracks, including the moody ”OhRei,” aren’t duds, far from it; there are just no ways the music can measure up to the brilliance of the opening and closing tracks.

The whole EP was recorded at Ocean Way, once a recording home to the Rolling Stones and Michael Jackson, and the attention to hi-fi detail shows. Every guitar chord crunches just so, the vocals (especially the background chorale) are well-mixed, and the little details throughout, like the careful placement of vibraphone in the intro to the last track, indicate this thing was produced more than your prototypical alt-metal demo. It’s not overly polished or gross with studio goo but it works. And it works wonders.

Now, if I could only get those two songs out of my head.

About the Author

Justin Vellucci

Justin Vellucci is a former staffer at Punk Planet and Delusions of Adequacy. His music writing has appeared in national magazines like American Songwriter and PopMatters, alt-weeklies such as Brooklyn Rail, Pittsburgh CityPaper, and San Diego CityBeat, blogs Swordfish and Linoleum, and the Gannett publication Jetty. He lives in Pittsburgh.

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