Some albums, indeed some artists, can only be truly appreciated when listened to at near injury-inducing volume. Pontiak, with its earthy blend of bluesy psychedelia, proto-metal and sub-harmonic doom drone, is one such band.
When you crank it all the way up, Maker hits like a mild concussion with the fuzzy, descending riff of "Laywayed." The buzzing stops just as quickly as it started, leaving you with ringing ears just 30 seconds in. Just when your head starts to clear, the band drops back in on top of you, adding a heady layer of vocals to the already saturated sound, along with drums so wet you can practically feel the spray with each echo-laden pound. From there, "Blood Pride" vaults in next, riding a driving bass-line into a charging blues scale riff built on shimmering guitar and alternating single- and double-note syncopation, dutifully delivering the slight swagger its title implies. Next up, "Wax Worship" reveals a different side of Pontiak, its swirling noise providing the perfect foil to the more anchored sound of the first two cuts. Never content to leave well enough alone, the Carney brothers' blues drone soon rises out of the clattering drums and squalling feedback, like an occult version of Jack White's reductive 12-bar pastiche.
Just in case the drop shift in the middle of "Wax Worship" left you jonesing for noise, the band cannily obliges with 74 seconds of all out pandemonium on "Headless Conference," with cymbals crashing alongside frantically paced drums and similarly rambunctious guitar and bass. This is not about technique, or about melody. This is the exhilarating dip in a frozen lake following a languid sauna - from slightly claustrophobic and vaguely eyelid drooping, to shockingly awake, not quite sure what's going on as you get your bearings. This heaving and jerking occurs repeatedly throughout the album, creating a feel that, while it doesn't exactly flow, never allows complacency. You can't just hear this album -- it makes you listen to it.
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Notable if for nothing else than for its length, the title track's 13-plus minutes find the band more fully investigating some elements it has touched on in the past. Though the song starts out as a straightforward heavy rock track, with a driving beat that keeps your head nodding to the easy crunch of the guitar and the bright interjections of cymbal clang, it ends up being another bait and switch. The shift takes you by surprise, if you're not looking out for it. Perhaps it's the nearly six minutes of gentle riffing that lulls you into a sense of sonic complacency. At about four minutes into that, the band starts vamping into a blues scale, gently at first, then building momentum until a crescendo at around the six minute mark, out of which tumbles a ready-made electric blues stomp right out of the Double Trouble fakebook. The band has pointed down the southern rock and blues alley before, but never has it captured the sound and feel as perfectly as here.
Whether you're in for the woozy psychedelic moments, the stomping blues, or the jarring noise incursions, make sure you listen to this album loud. If you're ears stop ringing less than three hours after the last crunching riff of "AASSTTEERR," go back and listen again. This is music that intends to imprint itself permanently on your ear drums, and even with all its weight and distortion, it's catchy enough that you'll want it to.