Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Lesbian: Stratospheria Cubensis (2010)

Lesbian is a progressive stoner/sludge/doom outfit from Seattle. I've said before that it's very rare to find a band which combines "progressive" with "doom", so I was very interested to check it out.

Stratospheria CubensisIf you took the guys from Mastodon (circa Remission) and put them in a room with the guys from Neurosis (circa Enemy of the Sun), and just let them jam out together, that would sound a lot like Lesbian. This may seem like a much better idea than it really is--as I said, you just let them jam, i.e., they're not playing any actual songs. And if there was a Youtube video of these guys playing one of their songs, and it was just labeled "Lesbian Jamming", you would think they're a promising band--which they may be. But to put out an "album" of collected jam sessions is kind of pointless. And to let it go on for over 71 minutes is almost criminal.

There is some definite promise here, as many of the riffs are interesting pieces of stoner sludge, with dissonance in all the right places (many of them are also half-baked, as you might expect). They write good clean riffs (they can go for more than 5 minutes without any distortion) better than they do distorted ones. There's also some really cool guitar lead work (check out the solo 5 minutes into the title track). The drums are interesting enough, and you can hear the bass provide its own melodies. The vocals are appropriately Neurosian. But none of it's put together very well, having neither the catchy tunes of Mastodon or the suspense mastery of Neurosis, and the progressive touches are nowhere near flashy enough to appeal to fans of Dream Theater.

The 14 minute instrumental "Raging Arcania" is probably the worst example of a jam (22 minute closer "Black Stygian might actually be worse--I quit about 8 minutes in). But the 12 minute "Poverty and War Forever" is a perfect illustration of how the album falls apart. It starts with clean stoner melodies, with just the right touch of dissonance. Then it starts to build suspense, and they throw in brief progressive leads. But when it goes heavy, it simply loses all focus and degenerates into a jam.

The Verdict: The labels "progressive" and "stoner" are often used as license to simply rock out, and that's the problem here. They could be promising, but I wouldn't hold my breath for them to come out with a classic album any time soon. I give Stratospheria Cubensis 1.5 out of 5 stars.

1 comment:

  1. for the record, there is absolutely no improvisation on this album. each track is 100% composed. if this album was all a "jam" it would be the most amazing thing ever!