"He gave off a lot of magic. But he was sort of a changeling. He seemed to change every time I saw him. He seemed ageless..."
Squeaky Fromme isn't exactly the barometer for outling philosophical conceptions of higher beings, and perhaps she and Charlie Manson have no place whatsoever on this blog. But her quote has always stuck with me, standing out from Bugliosi's Helter Skelter as the perfect characterization of a man wearing countless faces. Don't get me wrong, his approach didn't exactly work in a society demanding order, reason, and common interaction. But he managed to get some ordinary Janes to do some crazy shit.
Immersed in Surrounded By Shadows, the latest from Phoenix-based sludgers Sorxe, I just couldn't let that "changeling" term escape. You might say these nine tracks collectively diagnose a mood disorder, but that'd unfairly detract from the quartet's deft placement of note, progression, track... There's coiled angst, swollen intermissions, elemental showcases from every corner, and ultimately an all-encompassing experience pushing and pulling in more directions than we knew existed. Sorxe funnel their personalities into one supremely commanding heave.
Immediately evident among the gargantuan buzz of Steamroller is a head-first riff clinic. Canyon-wide vocals swathe those repeated thumps, but the band won't hesitate to tap those rusty brakes. Hooded chants encroach and introduce a womb-like ease, but we're abruptly unsettled as the buzz returns. Oh, but are we talking about mere movements and tempo shifts? Not exactly.
A vocal identity crisis reveals itself on Her Majesty, but the ease in moving between jarring and jagged to cool, ethereal tip-toeing is a marvel in itself. Cosmic low-end thumbings wreathe a dying fire, but licks eject in every direction just in time. The swell into a primitive march, however, when immediately met with the spiral into chaotic rhythmic explosion, is just beginning to illustrate today's entire thesis. At varying levels, Sorxe flatten landscapes and abruptly rip us from the grips of comfort.
Smoke Signals' progressions have their low-tide origins, but the static storms promise destructive cascades of slow-motion horror. This nine-minute, ever-expanding instrumental stoner session crushes at its midpoint, steadily thrusting into a spiraling monsoon and marrying punishing skins and fleeting fretwork. Spacing into Make It So, we're knee-deep in the disc's most formidable of tandems. Bursts of violence juxtapose Smoke Signals' cool passages, churning and spitting angst before growing to a tapered purr. Each slow breath bloats, though, assuring relapse with a hazy, early-morning march. Sure enough, we're abruptly slapped with hot-acid guitar amid organized chants. I'd swear these sounds have been watching me for years.
Sorxe reserved their crowning achievement for the thick, untouched scope demonstrated on the album's closing track, The Mountain Man. With progressions patient and churns simply sludgy, this awesome exercise ushers in vocal waves atop undeniably blistering guitar licks. Boasted as the album's coolest song, Sorxe hit every soft turn and sharp hook with an incredible balance. They've more than delivered on their promise of devastation.
So many bands dishonor their ambitions by over-inflating and doing too much with too little. Sorxe clearly have the stones to throw their best clubbed-foot forward, but they also exploit their strengths. I could speak all day about the pedigree of the band members or craft thousands of paragraphs on why this album fucking slays. Surrounded By Shadows is, quite simply, exhaustingly complete. Gradually or suddenly, Sorxe unfurl coiled force and chew through 2014's best releases. This is a changeling you can welcome into your home, but that won't stop them from shoving a carving fork into your belly.
For fans of: Yob, TOAD, Zoroaster
Pair with: Circus Boy, Magic Hat Brewing Company