Another week, another band without a bassist. Yes, it seems that the finger plucking four-stringer is fated to go the same way as the dodo and the Sega Saturn; consigned to the dustbin of history with only the odd crusty old vulture interested in picking through the dusty bones. Purists may grumble that anything without a bottom end is nothing but topping and can never be considered heavy, but have you noticed just how many of these bass-sans-bands call bullshit on this sentiment and prove to be disgustingly louder than almost everything else? Salt Lake City residents Eagle Twin are a case in point, and their new album “The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale” shows just what two men can achieve with a guitar and a drum kit in terms of sonic punishment.
Sitting somewhere on the sludge/doom spectrum between the apocalyptic churn of Rwake and the ritualistic drone portal of Blood of the Black Owl, Eagle Twin come armed with riffs, lots of them, all de-tuned and twisted out of shape like the knotted arms of some ancient brooding oak tree. First track ‘Ballad of Job Cain’ is so monstrously ugly that it had to be split in two, with ‘Part I’ sounding like Matt Pike trying to remember how to play all of “Dopesmoker” while whacked out of his skull on moonshine and peyote. Vocalist/Guitarist Gentry Densley croaks all over the stuttering discord of ‘Part II’ like a bullfrog with a hangover, occasionally conjuring a southern-fried lead from the tar-thick riff cloud seething underneath.
The meditative ‘Adan (Lorca)’ drifts by on desert winds reeking of weed and Neurosis, still maintaining the level of threat and power in Densley’s strangled riffs but with a slightly more restrained edge. This leads into the towering ‘Snake Hymn’, a tortuous dirge of stop-start, writhing filth compromised of regurgitated Crowbar riffs and stab-you-soon-as-look-at-you downbeat vibes. This is all underpinned by Tyler Smith’s urgent and chaotic drumming, forcing the lumbering guitarwork along like a gaoler escorting a condemned man to the gallows.
After four tracks, each around the ten minute barrier, the introspective yet restless stoner-doom of ‘Horn Snake Horn’ and ‘It Came to Pass the Snakes Became Mighty Antlers’ fly by in an instant with Densley intoning tales of the serpent amid the crashing cymbals. Playing us out is the corrosive drone and meandering riffage of ‘Epilogue: Crow’s Theology’, circling the sandblasted wilderness like its carrion seeking namesake.
The ragged, improvisational feel of “The Feather Tipped the Serpent’s Scale” gives Eagle Twin a menacing aura; you feel like anything could happen and that the members could down instruments and start hurling abuse through your speakers if you don’t like it. The relentless, crushing waves of sludgy noise are overbearing, but in the way aficionados of the genre love all too well, and the lack of a bassist seems an irrelevance after hearing just how much devastation can be wrought without one. For those who like their music ugly and uncompromising.