Reward In Purpose
(War On Music / Sunmask)
After a steady release of one EP per year during 2012-2014, these Canadian progressive sludge metallers have finally decided to unleash a full-fledged debut offering for our listening pleasure. It is not very often that you even hear the words “progressive” and “sludge” uttered in the same sentence, which is just one of the many reasons why this familiar, yet unique and wholly dreamlike sound is certainly worth getting your hands on. Fans of more dreamy material like Floor or Torche should really find something here, especially in what I’d consider a major attention to detail in the musicianship of Adam Young (guitars) and Rob Zawistowski (guitars/vocals), which is what I noticed right from the beginning. In fact, the album starts off with an unreal piece of music in “Omajod” that seems to act like a literal ear-hook of sorts, reeling you in like the catch of the day and begging your attention. Dustin Toth handles the vocals here, and he’s got one of those fairly glassy approaches that’ll remind you a bit of Tool and Kyuss, which definitely goes hand in hand with some of the more thunderous bass grooves that he also hits. Zawistowski adds in some backing grunts and growls every once in a while, reminding me maybe a little of older Mastodon, and in the very best way possible. It soon becomes very hard for me not to hear early Mastodon on a piece like “Turgid Waters” which damn near sounds influenced by Leviathan as much as it is Remission, both records having a clear effect on my youth and feeling well reinterpreted within this piece. It’s actually not too far out of context to say that Reward In Purpose is the kind of record that Mastodon might have made if they didn’t sand down the metal elements quite so much.
Another interesting tidbit about the record, is that you’re actually going to hear some finely crafted guitar solos in addition to the heft and dreaminess. These solos don’t just come right out at you, they’re a bit more subtle, but definitely just as artistically crafted as anything else you’d hear in the metal world. I was quite surprised by how they chose to handle these parts, as well as the rest of the record. Reward In Purpose is a very trance-like listen, but it’s also incredibly meaty and full of firepower. Take “Microcosmic Design” for example. I think I’d love it more than anything if Mastodon jumped on a track like that for their next record, but with Astrakhan doing what they should have done years ago, I don’t think it matters so much. Basically what I’m trying to say, is these four young dudes from Canada have the potential to be the next Mastodon and deliver to us that bite and edge from those guys that we missed. I love Queens Of The Stone Age too, but I miss hearing the rougher Remission style material. So like most listeners, I’m going to want to find a band that does that. Though as I said, as heavy as it may be, it’s also very dreamy and that seems like a bipolar relationship that I can truly come to experience and appreciate. This album actually sounds like it took several years to make, and feels like a band with complete and total chemistry. These guys are all on the same page, and the listen remains awesome because of it. I know that I give out a lot of higher scores, but that’s because I usually pick out the kinds of records that I knew I heard something in. So if I’m writing a review here, you know that I thought it was worth the time taken out of my day to do a write-up on it.
The only unfortunate thing about this job is that I won’t be able to spend as much time with as veritable a masterpiece as Reward In Purpose, but if that means that you’ll be eager to pick it up, take it home and play the living crap out of it; then I feel the sacrifice was worth it. Make no mistake, this exercise in dreamy sludge might be one of the best approaches to it that I’ve heard all year. I have no idea where Astrakhan is going, but I know that after this disc, there’s nowhere for them to go but straight up, soaring into the heavens. Reward In Purpose is definitely one of my favorite records of the year and an excellent debut for Astrakhan. I’m not even sure if it’s possible to top it. (The Grim Lord)