It’s not often Tee Pee Records puts out an album by a band that’s described as black metal. Hell, they’ve probably never put out an album by a band that’s described as black metal. If you’re not familiar, Tee Pee’s wheelhouse is more along the lines of psych, stoner, punk, or garage rock. So when I caught wind that they were putting out the debut album from the “bi-coastal black metal / hard rock band” EERIE, my curiosity piqued. Featuring former Twilight guitarist (and tattoo great who also created the killer album art) Tim Lehi, bassist Dave Sweetapple (Witch), drummer Moses Saarni (Futur Skullz) and vocalist Shane Baker (Pins of Light, Alaric), EERIE’s brand of blackened sludge is greater than the sum of its parts. They avoid the typical pitfalls of many stoner rock bands. Too often we hear vanilla Sabbath worship without any boundary-pushing, tired riffs that get beat to death, and uninspired songwriting. Instead, these guys slather doom with enough jammy psych and black metal to turn this into something that stands alongside their polymorphic contemporaries.
Album opener “Hideous Serpent” wastes no time dragging listeners down into their murky depths. Within the first twenty seconds, it’s evident EERIE have a different approach. Lehi immediately tears into a ferocious lead, and Baker howls over a grimy stop-and-go riff. Sweetapple’s bass works as a sort of compass, guiding the group through unpredictable fogs of solos and jams that always seem to come out of nowhere, making transitions unexpected, yet seamless. Lehi’s playing is off-the-cuff, spontaneously spinning webs of solos that bring to mind Earthless madman/guitarist Isaiah Mitchell. This being said, Saarni works as an ideal companion to Lehi, as every twist and turn in the album is crammed with some wild fill or fiery lick – they really seem to feed off one another, giving the album the feel of a live band that’s in the zone, there’s no restraint or subtlety in their play. The abundance of double-kick drumming on this caught me off-guard, especially when the minimalist approach has become the norm. We’ve heard more than enough spartan drum work plodding songs along, so I can’t stress how nice it is to hear someone take the reigns and really give it the beans.
“Master of Creation” and “Blood Drinker” show the band at their blackest, with misty tremolos that bleed into doomy riffs or extended jams. It demonstrates some restraint in that they never really sound like a conventional black metal band, instead opting to bake it into most of what they do. There are no blast beats, and croaky or shrieky vocals have no place here when a more distinct Ozzy/Buzzo/Wylde-type bellow works this well. The mix captures the blackened haze that clouds the band’s sound without getting treble-heavy. Sweetapple’s groovy bass is always beaming and never washed out, the guitars have bite without getting tinny, and the drums sit a little high in the mix so you can hear Saarni get at it with every drum roll and fill. It all plays to the strengths of the band as their more vintage rock leanings have them frequently meandering past the six-minute mark with an array of tempos and dynamics that deserve quality production. The nearly ten-minute “Yeti” is a Passover-era Black Angels-esque stomp dusted with a black metal aesthetic, showcasing their proggier rock tendencies with an abundance of solos (both blistering and bluesy) atop a serpentine structure. In a similar fashion, “Immortal Rot” is a no-nonsense bluesy and sludgy groove that serves as a bite-sized portion of what the rest of the album offers, minus much of the blackened accents and wandering structure.
As everyone becomes less conservative with genre guidelines, we’ve been hearing some really cool and fresh new sounds within the past few years. Skeletonwitch, Inter Arma, and Kvelertak immediately come to mind as some other (and very different) bands that have incorporated some black metal into their DNA. EERIE are no exception. Instead of using it as a gimmick, they’ve conjured up a nasty horror-themed record that uses these qualities in good measure, and without heavy-handedness. This record won’t do anything to convert trve kvlt BM fans over to fuzzed-out rock, but it’ll easily introduce a swaths of heady music fans to bullet belts and corpse paint