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In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree


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Album Review

Give Los Angeles trio Chingalera some credit for embellishing their entirely self-released debut album, 2007's In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree, with extra trimmings like a bonus DVD and attractive artwork — things that always help legitimize a piece of physical product stand in the face of the digital music revolution. Unfortunately, it may not be enough, since it all feels somewhat at odds with the modest, frequently monotonous, overly simplistic sounds emanating from within, which the band describes as "progressive stoner metal" — even though it hardly seems to "progress" anywhere at all. All of the album's five tracks range from eight to 12 minutes in length, and feature excruciatingly elemental, mid- to slow-paced guitar riffs, bass licks, and drum patterns, which are then gradually, almost casually, given additional layers of sound and sporadic shouting. Opening number "Trust Us True Believers" includes some semi-industrial wind-shear noises, deadpan vocals, and proves why Helmet kept their songs short and sweet; "O.T.B.D." is as featureless as its title; "Black Palm" gets off to a promisingly urgent start before sinking deeper into boredom than anything else on hand; and, aside from a few intriguing chants, the most exciting thing about the wah wah enhanced closer "Better Living Through Chemistry" is its title, which of course was stolen from Queens of the Stone Age — oy vey! After all this, the discovery of an additional, unlisted track, "You Have the Fear," would appear to add insult to injury, if it weren't the LP's best moment, alongside all-purpose doom behemoth "The Occidental Apology," which finally delivers some outright surprises with its wailing Theremin squeals, abrupt tempo changes, roiling magma midsection, and, yes, more ineffectual vocals. Incidentally, all of the above were (not) produced by the notoriously hands-off Steve Albini, and it's a good thing he is seen in the accompanying DVD, or you'd think he never showed up at all — especially on the not infrequent instances when Chingalera threaten to swerve out of time. As for that DVD, it contains some mildly entertaining interviews and generous studio footage of the band going about their repetitious business, including what feels like hours of drummer Tommy Holt banging his sticks together. And that about does it for In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree: an album you want to like, but can only hope to escape before succumbing to a comatose state.


Formed: 2005 in Los Angeles, CA

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '00s

Los Angeles, California's Chingalera is comprised of Dave Gibney (guitar, vocals), Ben Shirley (bass) and Tommy Holt (drums), and their debut album, 2007's In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree, melds such disparate influences as the Melvins, Helmet, Tool, and Black Sabbath,...
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In the Shadow of the Black Palm Tree, Chingalera
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