Thursday, May 28, 2009

VALIS - Dark Matter (Small Stone)

Dark Matter
Small Stone

If you think Monster Magnet’s lost its mojo, let VALIS mess with your mind. The Seattle band (led by Van Conner, formerly of Screaming Trees) does the cosmic thunder boogie better than pretty much anybody these days. That said, though the band’s third album is named after a prominent astrophysical theory, the songs here seem tied less to galactic travel than more terrestrial and spiritual concerns. Daylight in the Swamps and Grapevine Earthquake dig into the mud, and biblical allusions drive a lot of the lyrics (Resurrection Sickness, Under Satan’s Will, Blood on Blood, Hands of Grace). But let’s face it: salvation/damnation metaphors ain’t why we listen to VALIS. We hearken to this band for its relentlessly grooving, melodically crunchy riff-rock, which has never been more potent than it is here. On top of that, Conner’s voice has gotten stronger, which is a good thing for the surprisingly pretty acoustic track Everyone Sun. I hesitate to say Dark Matter is VALIS’s best album so far, but the evidence sure seem to point in that direction.

- Michael Toland

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