Black Elephant – Cosmic Blues (2018) REVIEW

Although Black Elephant kicked off their jams as a rough-chuggin’ stoner metal outfit in 2010 the Sedona, Italy crew leave behind their pseudo-Clutch aggro alternative rock facade for restfully stoned and fuzz-fed psychedelic maturity on their third full-length ‘Cosmic Blues’. Heavily influenced by North American stoner metal from The Black Keys to Kyuss‘ desert rock stable Black Elephant may have grown into their ill fitting alt-rocking Planet of Zeus-like britches on their first two full-lengths but ‘Cosmic Blues’ represents a full sea change that rethinks every aspect of their music; The result is a full-on hard-bluesing stoner rock album that collects the spirit of early Fu Manchu, the space-faring fuzz-rumble of Dozer‘s debut and a heavy chug of acid rock’s finer blues guitarists for inspiration.

‘Cosmic Blues’ creeps in your window with a ruckus like a late 80’s Soundgarden album with a spongy Big Muffed trickle of unshakable blues guitar. Too precise to be pure stoner metal, too meandering to feel anything but a buzz, and with feet firmly planted in the grassy rock spectrum guitarists Max and Alex bring a hairy mountain of immediately familiar stoner rock riffs. You’ll either fall under it’s spell or you’ll be bored off your ass as you ride it’s wah-pedal flailing, spaced out grooves. There is nothing intrepid about Black Elephant‘s sound or style and they fit right alongside groups like Stoned Jesus and 1000mods outside of some heavier focus on Hendrixian freak outs. Where the band really excels is in finding a groove and building that momentum into a ‘ride’ and less a set of singles.

So, it may be a ‘genre entry’ sort of record but ‘Cosmic Blues’ absolutely pulls it off in terms of listenable, entertaining psychedelic hard rock music. Intermittent vocals let Black Elephant‘s springing blues leads do most of the singing and when Alex does chime in he’s usually setting up a bigger riff or offering a minimal chorus. This dynamic makes for a listening experience that moves in and out of the foreground as if you’re walking around an open-air event and catching the best parts of a band’s performance. It makes for some ‘background music’ moments but I would imagine if you’re lit enough this would all be one big swirling, juiced-up fuzzy blues roller coaster.

Though they’re still a hard rock band there is a sublime ‘chill’ that comes from exposure to ‘Cosmic Blues’. I appreciated it’s primally satisfying mixture of blues guitar with familiar 70’s-meets-90’s sonic excess. Black Elephant‘s third might be the most Summer appropriate album I’ve heard this season but not the most memorable trip I’ve heard in this style. In preview I would highly recommend “Helter Skelter”, “Baby Eroina” and if you’re falling asleep after that “Walking Dead” should help shake it off a bit.

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Artist Black Elephant
Type Album
Released June 15, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Small Stone Recordings’ Bandcamp! Follow Black Elephant on Facebook
Genre Psychedelic Rock,
Stoner Rock,
Stoner Metal

Makin’ a ghostly whine. 3.5/5.0

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