(Note: This was originally written for and posted on THTGIR, back in the day…)
Exiled (Small Stone, 2009)
Exiled is a six-song, 60 minute platter, although the average song length is inflated by the extended secret bonus track at the end. Even still, three of the other songs surpass the nine-minute mark, including the 10 and a half minute opener, “Haters”. It’s a slow number, a lone crushing riff cutting through a buzz of atmospheric guitar feedback. Unlike many modern albums where the levels are pushed up into the stratosphere, this record wasn’t made to blow your speakers. It’s mostly meant to provide background music for a bong-hitting session, and the gloom-enshrouded fuzz reaches appropriate noise levels when played at a decent volume.
Following the lengthy opener are the two short songs, in that they’re both less than seven minutes long. Second track “Lost Soul” is perhaps the best of the bunch, with passages of echo-drenched vocals over a subdued rhythm section giving way to heavy, head-nodding riffage.
Third track “Bad Man” is the shortest one, checking in at just over five minutes. Every OTIS album seems to have a brief blues number, and this one doesn’t disappoint. Ken Baluke is the only singer I can think of whose voice really benefits from the use of effects pedals, coming in over a thick, crunchy guitar riff on this tune.
“Oxazejam” is the first of two songs that was on their ’07 split with Hong Kong’s Queen Elephantine. As the title implies, it’s an extended instrumental session, with some spaced-out guitar FX. Whenever I’ve seen OTIS live, they always take 10 to 15 minutes to just jam, and this track captures that spirit to some effect.
The other previously released tune is “Tales of OTIS”, although I believe this one’s a bit longer than the ’07 version. A slow, doomy march is anchored by a heavy-pounding drum beat, with some swirling guitar noise overtop. It sounds kinda like something off of Nadja’s Bliss Torn From Emptiness album, albeit with a more organic drum sound from Ryan Aubin, who’s added a gong to his massive kit for this one.
The albums ends with “Iron Horse”, a slow blues number. A couple things strike me with this song. First off, it’s bassist Frank Sargeant singing, which I’m pretty sure is a first. And it’s appropriate to have the bass player doing the vocals, as was originally the case when performed by Motorhead on their debut release. Yup, this one’s a cover, but unlike their interpretation of “The Pusher”, which sounds like John Kaye took some bad acid, or their signature version of “Mississippi Queen” that’s about as Mountainous as the original, this song is pure OTIS. I can’t say I’m too familiar with the original, but their version does not sound like Motorhead. Rather, I’d say it’s a cross between “Lost Soul” and “Bad Man”, two of the better tunes on Exiled. I’d hafta hear the original again for comparative purposes, but I think they’ve really made this song into their own, warranting its inclusion into their live repertoire.
And then comes the aforementioned instrumental experiment, tacked on to the end of Iron Horse rather than appearing as a separate track. Of course, it’s not unusual for stoner rock bands to add some offbeat bonus material to their albums. From John Garcia singing “Lick my doob” at the end of Sky Valley to the haphazard bleeps and bloops that bring the magnum opus of Windsor’s Supermansion to a close, I’ve got a lotta strange endings to CDs in my music collection. This one consists mostly of feedback, and it might not sound outta place on an Isis album. But there’s nothing too exciting here, and while I keep waiting for a heavy riff to come in, it never arrives. Might as well skip this part on future listenings, as 12 minutes of feedback is a bit too much for me.