Black Elk Always a Six, Never a Nine

In two years, Oregon’s Black Elk have gone from Jesus Lizard-like rock saviours to hardcore/sludge enthusiasts. As evidenced by this, their sophomore release, front-man Tom Glose’s vocals are even more unhinged, and the group’s musicality now approaches the crash’n’burn dynamics of Kiss It Goodbye. Opener "My Last Shred of Decency” crushes all previous expectations of aggression and "Hold My Head” ups the ante with non-stop pummelling. "Hospital” tempers the formula with a Pelican-like interlude halfway through, while "Pig Crazy” inserts a similar break of Pink Floyd, but not before some furious black metal riffage. "The Brazen Bull” has two parts: "III” (which comes first) sounds like the California Guitar Trio practicing spare Allman Brothers chords, while "II” is an instrumental that sounds like the Fucking Champs building up massive doom riffs. "Stab” and "She Pulled Machete” maintain the group’s well-known Jesus Lizard worship, and "Brine” extends the famed Lizard rhythm section pummelling to seven minutes of anguished, Faith No More-like catharsis. "Winter Formal” closes the album with brooding yet expectant chords filtered through Beatles-esque experimentation. Named for a Native American medicine man, Black Elk more closely approach their enigmatic namesake on Always a Six, Never a Nine. (Crucial Blast)