Sweeping in on a waft of churning organ and pounding drums, Taman Shud‘s second album Oracle War has more than a whiff of classic seventies grungy acid-frazzled rock to its fragrantly-flecked switchback riffs and tight-as-you-like chops and changes. As soon as the wall of sound starts propping up their house of the holy noise, it’s impossible not to see images of dank basements, oil-wheels turning and the air heavy with sweat, drugs and the sweet-smelling waft smoke gusting under the salad lights and strobes.Oracle War is also a concept album, concerning revelations received by the band about the future water-dwelling saurian inhabitants of the planet (a glance at the cover will confirm this), which they pass on to their audience with hard-rocking evangelical zeal. So crank up the amps, set the controls for the heart of the seas, their waters elementally charged with wind-lashed motion and flickering bursts of luminescent St Elmo’s Fire.
The band render their teleological revelations in musical form across the nine tracks of the LP, chorusing in hard-hauling shanty style on “Nine Knots” or “Canaan’s Jewel”, (web-fingered?) fists in the air, a devil-horn throwing mood boiling raucously with a fervid nautical feel. At these moments, the band sound like they’re making the best of a bad press-ganging and rocking up a rum-fuelled storm while they do so. If the fearsome yowling that splatters across the frenetic guitar scrawl of “Sunken Chapel” and the possessed cackling which concludes that particular foray into the depths are anything to go by, the process of interspecies exchange their visions foreshadow may be an entirely unhinged one. This is only confirmed by the unwholesome-sounding chants of “Slime Liturgy”, but perhaps that’s just human bias at work.Liberal slatherings of echo make the vocals indistinguishable for the most part, but the group’s seemingly boundless energy doesn’t need normal forms of coherence to communicate their mind-bending prophecies. And in fact, on tracks like “God Repeater” or “Aquatic Malign”, where they’ve mashed up black metal intensity with untamed organ-heavy riffing and brown acid-fuelled nightmares of the likes of atavistic proto-freaks Cromagnon, crawling, wriggling chaos seems like the only sensible option. So far, so Cthulhoid — there’s much to Taman Shud’s mythos that headbanging Lovecraft readers will feel right at home with here, though the sea creatures they speak of seem to be of far more benign aspect than the Great Old Ones or the unheimlich dwellers on the Dunwich shore. The music is whisked up in miscreant drones and inhuman meeping which Taman Shud deploy so effectively that it’s easy to become drawn into their unfolding aquatic narrative, disbelief suspended indefinitely — or for the duration of each side of vinyl — in a morass of sibilant slithering and menacing frissons swelling up from the bowels of the psychogeographical oceans. Oracle War is a record which pulls the listener beneath its murky depths, though the band ease back on the intensity among the milder meanders of the interlocking wails and chimes of “Cerulean Exequy” before slithering away mysteriously into the void.
-Antron S Meister-