Review Summary: Dead Meadow blend an intoxicating concoction of heavy psychedelia and stoner rock on this powerful and entertaining debut album.
Dead Meadow burst onto the thriving Washington DC scene of the late 90's with aplomb. The local environment was dominated by punk and indie music at the time but the band decided to follow their instincts and move away from those particular genres. Boasting ponderously powerful riffs and droning otherwordly soundscapes built upon a stoner rock template, the band attempted to forge their own brand of what they themselves referred to as "organic rock".
The music on this debut album is remarkable in its apparent maturity, especially considering that the band were so young at the time of its conception. The youngsters pile on some bludgeoning psych-drone that nevertheless manages to evince a dreamlike quality which leaves the listener floating upon a wave of glorious noise. Taking their cue from the literature of Tolkien and H.P. Lovecraft as a basis for their own deranged lyrical style, the band take us on journeys through surreal landscapes brought to life by the intense but evocative music. Opener "Sleepy Silver Door" tells a trippy tale of childhood daydreams over a backdrop of grinding drone and fizzing 60's style psychedelic riffs. Main man Jason Simon's contributions on lead guitar are just the icing on the cake as he abuses wah and fuzz to thrilling effect over the solid rhythm section of Steve Kille and Mark Laughlin.
Even better is "Indian Bones" with its boogie style rhythm and suitably abrasive textures. The song lifts off with a space-rock tinged middle section of echoing guitar, pounding bass and clattering percussion before coming back down to earth with some pounding riffs. "Beyond The Fields We Know" is almost a showcase of everything the band has to offer tucked inside nine and a half minutes of shifting soundscapes. The song weaves its way through hypnotic wah soaked jams, chugging beats and opiate melodies before reaching a crescendo of vicious freakbeat style riffing. The band are also comfortable when taking things down a notch or two as is demonstrated on the entertaining "At the Edge of the Wood", which features some intentionally artless acoustic guitar strumming and suitably prosaic lyrics.
Dead Meadow would go on to expand their horizons and incorporate eastern influences, blues, folk and shoegaze into their music on subsequent releases, but this debut still stands as their strongest release due, in no small part, to the enthusiasm and sheer single-mindedness they channeled into their sound. By taking on the hard rock and metal influences of Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath and fusing this into their own drone based brand of psychedelic rock, Dead Meadow certainly achieved something akin to their desired "organic rock" sound. If you are a fan of heavy psychedelic music this album is well worth a spin.