Friday 7 February 2020

Fleeting Arms - Fleeting Arms (2020)

Country: Canada
Style: Stoner/Hard Rock
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 17 Jan 2020
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook

This is a really interesting album but it takes a while to realise just how interesting it is. For instance, it opens up with a song called On the Way Down that initially sounds like the sort of decent but unremarkable music on any number of alt rock stations nationwide. But then it hooks you in because your ears catch something and you realise that it's a little bit alternative rock, a little bit stoner rock, a little bit southern rock and every bit of it heavily rooted in the blues. I only took a few relistens to go from blah to dancing in my chair.

This melting pot approach makes it difficult to throw out decent comparisons and, even when they're overt, they're not particularly useful. For instance, a song like Soulless is so obviously inspired by quieter Black Sabbath songs like Planet Caravan or Solitude that it's hard to hear anything else. Singer Coal Riepma even follows Ozzy's vocal patterns, rising, diving or stretching just as he would. However, it doesn't remotely have that recognisable Black Sabbath doomladen tone, even when the crunch kicks in. Sabbath fans not dig this without that tone.

Fleeting Arms just refuse to fit in one easy bucket. On Day Trippin', which starts out playful with a jaunty bass riff setting the scene, Riepma ends up roaring like Angry Anderson but the song doesn't sound at all like Rose Tattoo. There's lots of Diamond Head on songs like Into the Sun and Demons Within but it's unfair to call either a Diamond Head song. Rust goes back to that quiet Sabbath groove but a few minutes later it turns into a hard rock Metallica. And, you guessed it, the song wouldn't fit with either band.

It's almost like this Edmonton band thought about strange combinations then wrote songs that met them as some sort of intellectual songwriting exercise. What would Bad Company sound like if they covered Black Sabbath? What would Diamond Head sound like if they arrived half a decade earlier and spent the entire time in the studio stoned out of their minds? How would ZZ Top sound with Eddie Vedder on lead vocals? What if Lynyrd Skynyrd had formed in 1989 in Seattle? All these scenarios and more came to mind at points during this album, like it's some weird game of musical mad libs.

But, most importantly, it all sounds great. It's good music to listen to at the bar, six drinks in, but it's also good music to lose yourself in a few feet from the stage, closing your eyes and letting your body move however it wants. It's surface music to listen to in the background, but it's also deep and engrossing music to explore with headphones. What's more, the songs are so varied, even within themselves, that there's plenty to keep us engrossed as we navigate what sometimes feels like the whole last half century of rock condensed into fifty minutes.

Fleeting Arms call what they play "hard blues stoner rock from the depths of oblivion" and I'm not going to argue with that. The blues is everywhere here but it's rocked up even when it's playing possum. The stoner mindset isn't a long way from anything they do, but comes out overtly at points, both mellow and wailing. Rock is a rather simple word for the breadth of influence that the band has, but the depths of oblivion ably captures that obvious fondness for early Sabbath.

I'd love to see this band live in an Edmonton bar, not only to hear them do this justice in a live setting but to watch how they immerse themselves in their own music. Rust is eight minutes long on this album but it's probably a fifteen minute jam on stage. How heavy does Demons Within get in front of people? How playful will Day Trippin' get with an audience to respond to it? Inquiring minds want to know.