Gollum
The Core

I hadn’t thought about this North Carolina band in years, but I do recall being impressed with 2004’s self-released debut album Lesser Traveled Waters, although I’ve had no luck locating my review of that disc. As such, let’s just say the band’s shape shifting ways on that album left me impressed and the arrival of The Core had my interested piqued. Sadly, drummer/founder Hunter Holland passed away from heart failure shortly after completing his drum tracks for the sophomore album. The Core is dedicated to his memory.

But back to shape shifting. A derivation of the Yiddish “goylem,” the translation to “shapeless mass” would be an exaggeration as a musical descriptor, but The Core doesn’t exactly paint itself into a compositional corner either. Still, the core of The Core is grounded in hard hitting Soilent Green/Mastodon throat punches that stray a bit from conventional structures, yet don’t outright jettison structure in favor of blotter-acid dreams. The tough stuff heard (e.g. “The Calm Before,” “Darkhouse,” and the title track) bring the clobber with righteous force, even if nothing is particularly stand-out memorable. The witchy sizzle of “Blacksmith (Summoning Wrath)” – featuring guest vocals from Hope & Suicide’s Scott Angelacos – is quite tasty too. Brothers Serge and Frank Stroehmer – bass and guitar, respectively – play off each in an appealing organic way, the chemistry most apparent on a song like “Schadenfreude” when the bass flows free and guitar solo soars. In fact, the band’s unwillingness to clutter the compositions with needless rhythm track overdubs allows the songs to breathe and generate some magical moments.

Crossing the heavy with the trippy works best on “Diggin’, a song on which guest vocalists Silky Johnson (a.k.a. D. Randy Blythe) and Weedeater’s Dave “Dixie” Collins contribute vocals (and lyrics) to grand/grimy effect. The introductory sermon from Dr. George Zervos, Professor of Religion/Philosophy at UNCW is just perfect. A similar sentiment can be expressed about “Ominous Winds,” where Cassie Sipe’s lilting vocals add a measure of atmosphere to the cool flow and acidic bursts, as do the breezy keys and hypnotizing bass lines. More of the dreamy fare occurs on the windswept acoustics and effects of an interlude called “Amor Fati.”

Obviously, The Core is an album of many colors and is not easily described for review purposes. There is a certain level of “hip” involved that sets it apart from most albums that attempt to move in many directions at once, yet depending on one’s mood, the multitude of paths traveled can cause momentum to wane – usually about two-thirds of the way through – and one’s attention to be diverted elsewhere. And yet, I find myself coming back to The Core to determine just what makes it tick. The true test will be whether I return to it a year from now; about that, I’m still not certain. An intriguing album, to say the least.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Scott Alisoglu
June 4th, 2009

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