Monday 18 March 2024

Emergency Rule - The King of Ithaca (2024)

Country: Australia
Style: Stoner Rock/Metal
Rating: 8/10
Release Date: 9 Feb 2024
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | Metal Archives | Official Website | YouTube

Metal Archives lists Emergency Rule as a southern metal band and I guess we can't go much more southern than Adelaide, South Australia. However I found this, their debut album, listed as stoner rock and that rings truer to me. There's definitely a southern flavour on The Hook, which kicks off the album, and there's as much metal here as rock, the majestic Something to Say as close to the old school Black Sabbath sound instrumentally as I've heard recently. However, I'd see Clutch as a powerful comparison, both in tone and approach, so hard/stoner rock seems to fit best. Of course, the band's own description of "Sabbath with attitude, Skynyrd with power" is pretty accurate too.

The other reason I'd call out stoner rock here is because there's also a powerful psychedelic sound here, starting in Garden and reaching its peak on the intro to Ulysses. The guitars—plural, even if many stoner rock bands are trios—get all mellow during verses on the former, which allows singer Doug Clark to endow his voice with some notable attitude. That only grows further on Bartender, which is a performance for him more than it's merely a song. Everything on this one is nuance for him, which is admirable because he's also the band's bassist, so is always doing far more than sing.

I can see Bartender being a lot of listeners' favourite song, but mine is Something to Say, because it's so impeccably old school that even the opening silence sounds like it was recorded in a studio in 1972. It starts out stoner rock but finds quintessential Sabbath riffs. Clark growls this one, so is nowhere near any of the various vocalists Sabbath had over the years, but I love that guitar tone and there's a glorious instrumental section, as indeed there is on a number of these songs, which benefits from there being two guitarists, Chris G and Callum Wegener. It reminds me that, even if a band has an obvious and strong lead singer, they can still absolutely deliver instrumentally.

It's why I always think of how tight Clutch are instrumentally, even though Ned Fallon often leads songs with his vocal phrasing. The same holds here and Emergency Rule are imaginative on that front. The mellow Sabbath guitars in Garden are part of that and they return on From the Grave, though that song also features perhaps the most overt southern riffs, along with what may be a banjo at points. So is that glorious psychedelic opening to Ulysses. Another is the inclusion of an unlikely instrument for stoner rock on Abuse, namely a string section. That's a cello, I believe, to provide the intro and there's a frequent underpinning of violins throughout the song. The cello especially works with this sort of heavy material.

The album starts strongly with The Hook and continues to be strong through the eight tracks most of which run in the five or six minute range. Something to Say was my favourite from my very first listen and that hasn't changed maybe seven or eight times through. However, which I'd pick as my next choice has changed often, because this benefits from each song being subtly different but of a pretty consistent quality. For a while, I'd have gone with The Hook or Ulysses, but gradually the second track has enforced itself. It's called Garden and it's a real grower, that does all the things I love about The Hook and Something to Say in one four minute song, with a neat psychedelic edge.

Emergency Rule have been around for a while now, having formed way back in 2011 with their line-up still intact from that time, but this is their debut album. It's obviously not their oldest material because their first two singles, Flag and a Medal and The Zealot, aren't included, so I'd dearly like to know why it took them this long to get this far, only to suddenly nail everything right out of the gate. And I'd also dearly like to know that we'll see another album in a couple of years, instead of waiting another decade and change.

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