What is the Beast in the Field? Is it a cow? A ravenous wolf, drawing the torches and pitchforks of an angry mob? Or is it the field itself – a craggy, lumbering juggernaut formed from the earth and rock, wrenching itself up from its slumber to rumble across the countryside? That’s the image that this 6-track EP of sludgy, instrumental stoner-doom evoked – not bad, considering that I am dead sober as I write this.
Hailing from Michigan, Beast in the Field consists of just one guitarist (Jordan Pries) and one drummer (Jamie Jahr), and these two are able to make quite a lot of noise between them. Goat Isle Séance, their debut release, features massive, feedback-drenched riffs and rhythms, delivered in two styles: full-on gallop, and slow, doomy crawl. The recording sounds appropriately ragged and bludgeoning, done old-skool analog in the studio (making best use of the vintage Sunn, Orange and Sound City amps and classic Ludwig drum kit, for those of you keeping score).
Okay, so that pretty much describes a lot of stoner doom, and yes, there’s a lot of Sleep to Beast‘s sound. So what’s new? For one thing, most of the songs, while long and epic, move briskly and frequently switch up tempos. Opener “Deep in the Caves” starts slow and bluesy, then abruptly roars with a fuzzy furnace blast as the titular Beast emerges from its long hibernation. When it reaches daylight, it goes barreling out into the open, creating a monstrous groove that turns trees into tinder and livestock into meatpuddles.
“Discovered: Large Iron Core” is another aptly titled burner – as heavy and powerful as a meteorite slamming into a peaceful green meadow, rolling and crushing everything in its path before coming to a stop. Eventually the Large Iron Core gets quiet, going lower and lower in a stoner-doom version of “Twist and Shout,” then explodes again with full force. Pretty rockin’ stuff.
That variance between heaving groove and smoky simmer makes for an entertaining listen that rarely slips into doomy shoegazing, so that it’s just as fit for a drive down the freeway as it is a night getting high(way). Only two tracks purposely slow it down – the pretty, classical-guitar-and-piano duet “Moth Amigo,” and “Breath of the…,” which is largely ambient and laborious to boot. I wasn’t a fan of the latter, seeing as it was the second track and really dragged things to a halt after the rollicking good times of “Caves,” but a quick finger on the skip button will fix all that if you get bored.
Overall, Goat Isle Séance is a solid listen, and given the massive wall-of-sound production and rumbling, ball-shattering riffs, a bit of contradiction. Simply put, music this heavy shouldn’t create a lulling effect, but that’s the power of a good smoky groove.
Roar.[Visit the band's website]