How many times has rock ‘n’ roll been pronounced dead now? Slumped on the couch, puke running out of the corners of its mouth, Strat in one hand, smouldering Camberwell Carrot in the other, pulse long gone. Many have tried to bury it over the years; the eulogies have been long and extensive. Yet every time the body is cast into the grave and the headstone is in place, a gnarled hand bursts from the soil and soon the lumbering corpse is heading straight to the local hostelry in search of Jack Daniels and a monitor to put its foot on.
Clearly Ben Chasny has never been told of rock ‘n’ roll’s precarious health or the truly tragic prognosis given to the guitar solo. He’s been knocking albums out on a yearly basis for what seems like an eternity under the moniker of Six Organs Of Admittance, and this time around he’s roped in Comets On Fire (who are apparently on a never ending hiatus) to help him out.
From the minute Waswasa kicks in there’s no hanging about. A five-minute guitar wrecking ball, it quickly changes from ’70s riffery into self-indulgent fret-wankery of the highest order. Indulgent it might well be, but it is also utterly captivating. For those who’ve been listening carefully enough there’s been something of a resurgence in unadulterated guitar heroics recently and this opening blast sits comfortably alongside the recent Heavy Blanket album (J Mascis goes rampant for about half an hour) and Tim Green’s finest moments with The Fucking Champs and Nation Of Ulysses.
Things take a turn for the psychedelic on Close To The Sky which initially burns slow with an insistent bassline and dreamy haze. But it’s not too long before the wah-wah pedal takes over and Chasny heads off into the heart of the sun soloing like a re-animated Hendrix. Such indulgence could, in other hands, be epically tedious, yet there are enough changes in mood and tempo to keep things interesting. After such an auspicious start, inevitably everything starts to slow down a little. They Called You Near begins the journey into the cosmic slop with its droning guitars and hymnal vocals while the Pink Floydian prog-folk ambience of Solar Ascent finds the band stoned, emotional and poking at the peripheries of the astral plane.
Even If You Knew possesses phenomenal sense of a menace in its bass and drums pattern and when it opens up it is an exhilarating riot of catch and release dramatics and a perfect example of how the most basic riffs can thrill and excite if deployed with such aplomb. The roaring distortion and thundering drums that bring the track to a close prove that guitar music isn’t dead at all, it still has the power to move mountains and break bones. But after such brutality it’s only right and proper that the album finishes with a woozy shoegaze moment of beauty and Visons (From Lo) provides just such a conclusion, with a Byrds-like tone and hypnotic vocals.
A quite astonishing record then, and one which establishes Chasny as a bona fide guitar god, proves that Comets On Fire are much missed, and knocks the notion of guitar music being dead into a cocked hat.