Sometime in the early ’90s there was a UK band exploring the heavier reaches of prog metal. That band went by the name of Peach, and they are probably more renowned now as the band Tool bassist Justin Chancellor used to reside in.
Well, the band formerly known as Peach has regrouped, added a few new members, and continued their journey into the tripped out world of wacked out prog metal.
Tool have of course been exploring this territory for some time, and many more bands have followed their example with differing margins of success. Suns of The Tundra happen to have made an album that is an unmitigated triumph.
The album itself is divided into four sections, so pretension is certainly a factor. The band has also listed every piece of equipment they use on the album cover. Nothing screams ‘nerdy muso alert’ more, but then that kind of behaviour is openly encouraged in Prog circles. Still, we can forgive them this simply because every song here is packed with big ideas and huge riffs.
Moods swing wildly from first bar to last as the band turn inward for huge sections of introspection before exploding in a stoner roar (and that isn’t an oxymoron).
The trouble with this kind of thing is that just occasionally that ideas run short and songs conversely turn into long drawn out affairs. This simply isn’t the case with Suns of The Tundra, even the densest of the tunes on offer here somehow manage to appear lean, with no superfluous flab hanging off their middle eights. There are times when you’d like to sit the band down with a copy of Spinal Tap, just to remind them how dangerous it is to take yourselves too seriously, but then they go and play something that sounds like The God Machine covering Pink Floyd and you’d forgive them anything (even the slightly embarrassing lyrics to Battersea Rising).
Perhaps the most impressive thing about Tunguska is the sheer size of the sound. The drums rumble like tracks of an approaching Panzer division whilst the guitars chime and grind often at the same time. They occupy several different musical ranges at once, which has the effect of stroking the pleasure centre of your brain whilst simultaneously carrying out a lobotomy with a steel toed army boot.
As with all prog-fused metal, the real fun is to be had when the band start to bring out all the big guns, and this is no more apparent than on the closing sections of the album BIAST (parts 1 and 2). If there is a better reason to pick up a bong and down tune your guitar then I’d like to know what it is.