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Black Elk

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Album Review

When art rock and heavy metal collide, the resulting pile-up can be pre-tty ugly, but every once in a while, they mesh into the sort of dark beauty displayed by Black Elk's eponymous debut. Starting with their geographical location, the band's Oregonian roots greatly explain their affinity with the pre-grunge alternative metal of Tad, early Soundgarden, and of course the Melvins; but these sonic elements would have little consequence without the more eclectic, unpredictable, and truly gonzo approach to songwriting which the group clearly derives from Chicago noise rock spastics the Jesus Lizard and their possessed lead singer David Yow. Like Yow, Black Elk vocalist Tom Glose distinguishes himself with a schizophrenic array of voices delivered with a Tourette's Syndrome sufferer's helpless fury, and lyrics that boast a mind-bending combination of abstract ("My Lil'"), explicit ("Who Knew?"), and even silly ("When I'm a Ghost") lingo — all of it linked only by inevitably distressing imagery and a pessimistic world view. When both words and music fuse with their utmost power here — and it's not always the case — notable tracks like "Toss You to the Wolves," the absolutely stunning "Eyebone," and "Baby Liver," explode so brightly as to easily transcend the band's obvious source influences cited above; painting musical portraits that are devilishly Dali-esque in their own twisted way. Noise rock and indie metal veterans may scoff at their efforts nonetheless, but Black Elk's first album comes highly recommended for open-minded fans looking for extreme, heavy, genre-defining music.


Formed: Portland, OR

Genre: Ambient

Years Active: '00s

Black Elk, the person, was a legendary medicine man of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) tribe who fought in both the Battle of Little Big Horn of 1876 and the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 -- but Black Elk, the band, perform an eclectic blend of metal, hardcore, sludge, alternative, art, and noise rock. Hailing from Portland, OR, the group is comprised of vocalist Tom Glose, guitarist Erik Trammell, bassist...
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