Black Elephant
Cosmic Blues

If you’re looking to catch a buzz lift and you positively need a good battering of hard-liner blues guitar, blood-drooling wah pedals, deep rhythmic highs and soul howlin’ vocals, then chances are that Italy’s Black Elephant are gonna go down well with your needs.  Cosmic Blues is their third LP and I’m having a shame on me moment for just following along now.  Less heavy 90s stoner and more late 60s/early 70s psychedelic proto-metal boogie and drippy psychedelic rock n’ roll this quartet calls to mind Buffalo, Blue Cheer, Hendrix, Red Dirt and Sir Lord Baltimore with modern familiars like Egypt’s Self-Titled debut, Japanese heavyweights Sonic Flower and Colour Haze being a great prerequisite listening regimen to catch up on your homework.

Phased out rhythm guitar provides a platform for winding improv-lickage and solar lead magnetism to jump off from in the wah-drenched, pedal board overload build-up of “Cosmic Soul.”  There are some squealing Hendrix-isms ripping through the extended guitar work outs as bassist Marcello Destefanis creates a supremely spacious canvas alongside Simon Brunzu’s hammering snare fills and tumbling tom rolls for the twin guitar team to crest upon.  Lots of bustling little intersections crop up in the drumming throughout while the volume drops into psychedelic tranquility at which point vocalist (and lead guitarist) Alessio Caravelli enters the singing party 2 minutes later with a gritty melodic rumble buried by an avalanche of watery delay n’ reverb.  An extensive, psyched-out solo explosion drags this tune off kickin’ and screamin’ into the ether from whence it came.  An oodley, noodley forked tongue guitar mantra soon turns into a collapsing power chord smasher riff, rendering “Helter Skelter” a back alley brawler from the get-go; the pool cue noggin’ beating aesthetic only furthered by gravelly vocal gusto, magma n’ molasses bass grinds, thumpin’ shuffle beats and scrappy dual leads that park the shagwagon in some garage-y solos.

The funky wackachickawackachicka guitar rhythms and quirky solos of the super short “Chase Me” gets a serious head of steam going atop a frenetic drum n’ bass jam sandwich.  Also short n’ succinct “The Walking Dead” is a wet riff dream with some brighter lead runs adding a little wasabi burn to the 70s sweat n’ swagger.  Rhythm guitarist Massimiliano Giacosa doubles up on the road tearing overdrive for maximum thickness and density.  Nothing fancy here, just mountainous classic rock of the highest order.  Album standout, the gargantuan 7+ minute stomper “Baby Eroina” features the strongest vocal performance on the album with some heavily-effected, wavering vibrato bringing the notes to life in death throes of bone bustin’ emotion.  Though about half of the album weighs in at quicker pacing, this motherfucker down-shifts the tempo into a belly draggin’ blues bloat with nasty stop/start wheel action.  Beyond the midpoint the uptempo kicks back in with burly, brazen Church of Misery style megasonic jam-outs and towering, vibrant tones that delve into the Blue Cheer nasty too.  “Cosmic Blues for Solitary Moose” jacks up the bass as loud and fat as the guitars and in turn delivers a split psychotic difference between pulverizing hard rock grooves, endlessly unfolding lead/solo shakedowns and ruthless sludgy churns that are never shy on low-end girth.  Closer “Inno” could be distant kin of COM circa Master of Brutality with more rhythmic agility, a straight up thrash-y metal outro and hurried movement in the overall pacing that lends plenty of uniqueness between the two bands, though the greasy vocal preachings, submerged psyche segmenting and heaven ascending doom might reckons of the serial killer loving maestros, Black Elephant isn’t as overtly sludgy as the men of misery.

This is a great slab of classic rock with excellent arranging, tough songs and instrumentation and a whole lot of powerful passages that stuck with me after the first few listens.  Does it reinvent the wheel?  Nah, probably not but the riffs are there, the playing really beams you back to the vintage era thanks to the intensive dual guitar thrills and they’ve got a rhythm section that knows what’s fucking up.  Cosmic Blues is a total keeper for those who like it way old school but want to hear more than simply an updated take on strictly 90s hard-rock/classic fare.  I think this one likens to even Hendrix-inspired guitar work quite a bit, so give ‘em an ear and see what you think!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
August 14th, 2018

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