Wednesday 15 March 2023

Warp - Bound by Gravity (2023)

Country: Israel
Style: Stoner Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 1 Feb 2023
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives

Here's a lively stoner rock album from Tel Aviv that's clearly driven by the guitar of Itai Alzaradel from the very outset, and even though all three members of the band lend voice to the fray, we're never left in any doubt that its natural state is instrumental jam with that guitar always the focus. The opener is The Present and it does different things, even finding a more furious mentality with some punk chord changes midway, but it's at its best when the bass of Sefi Akrish and the drums of Mor Harpazi are laying down a massive backdrop for Alzaradel to solo over.

My other immediate impression is that this is loud music and I mean really loud. I actually turned my volume way down, to the point where it might not disturb a theoretical someone sleeping in a corner of my office, just as an experiment, and it still felt loud. Back up to normal volume, it feels crazy loud. At crazy loud levels on stage, Warp must be quite the experience. Much of the credit is owed to that backdrop, which is cavernous in size, but the guitar easily fills that space.

The vocals don't, which helps the feel, because it seems like they're always struggling to be heard over that mighty guitar. They're never hidden and they're sung in English, but I quickly took them as a sonic texture rather than a set of delivered lyrics. I've listened through a few times and I have no idea what any of these songs are about because it never seems like it matters. What I got from the album is a feel and it's a gigantic combination of punk confrontation and, rather oddly, quite a lively stoner rock approach, because the only threatening done here is by volume. This is a good trip.

Maybe that's because, while of course there's some Black Sabbath here, it's very loose and bluesy rather than rigid and solemn. During the midsection of The Hunger, the bass is delightfully organic and the guitar is happy to follow suit. I feels like I'm in the ship in Fantastic Voyage being hurtled down the rapids of some giant's bloodstream, with a little break in the middle as we transition to a smoother current. Did we just go through the heart and straight out the other side? The intros often highlight different influences too. The guitar that introduces Bound by Gravity reminds of a less self-important Danzig but on Dirigibles it's more like a smoother Celtic Frost.

And, as good as Akrish and Harpazi are here, it always comes back to that guitar. One reason that I think it's so acceptable is that there's fuzz here, as you might expect for stoner rock, but it's a very palatable level of fuzz. Even when a song goes for a more bludgeoning approach, like Your Fascist Pigs are Back, it doesn't have any of the dirtier edges of sludge metal. It's always stoner rock, even if it's so loud that Warp ought to land a support slot on a Manowar tour, and threatens often to go into doom metal. However, it would be fairer to compare them to Iron Butterfly than Candlemass.

I enjoyed the whole album, though the looser it got the more I liked it. I can appreciate a song like Your Fascist Pigs are Back, but I much prefer The Present and Impeachment Abdication, where the guitar just runs loose and shines in its own special light. I also rather dig the closer, I Don't Want to Be Remembered, because it extends that looseness to the vocals, where three voices harmonise in neatly chaotic fashion. There's variety here, if we pay attention but, once we get past the first trio of tracks, the songs do start to blur together a little. This seven minute closer, on the other hand, is stubborn and refuses to blur into anything else. It goes all over the map and can be a little hard to see in entirety, but I love it for that.

I believe this is a second album for Warp, after a self-titled effort in 2019, so I should check that out at some point when I'm not behind on reviews. I'd also like to know what else is going on in Tel Aviv that doesn't remotely fit any expectations we might let bias our judgement. Their Facebook page highlights a whole bunch of others they're gigging with who I'm intrigued to throw an ear at.

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