We’ve all heard the advice to “trust your gut”.
It is a time honored saying, and one I fully endorse. In my personal life, I honestly don’t remember a time a regretted trusting my gut. Perhaps that is some sort of memory bias at play. However, I can think of plenty of times I didn’t trust my gut, and regretted it immensely.
And this is in many aspects of life. Personal, professional, and even something as mundane as taking a chance on new music.
That brings us to debut album, Bull Elephant, from anonymous four piece from the UK, Bull Elephant. My gut didn’t just say “buy this album”. No, it said “buy this album this very second, including the art book, you fool, you fool!”
How’s that for a gut instinct? And what an instinct that was.
Disclaimer: I haven’t listened to this enough you to really feel like I can offer a definitive assessment, so this is more of an initial impression. But that impression is impressively positive.
First off, why did my gut tell me so strongly to get this album? Well, there are two reasons. First, did you see that cover up there? I mean, did you really see it? A mix of WWII, mystic arts, and a huge war elephant/Lovecraftian horror hybrid. How metal is that? The answer is thus: all the metal. All of it.
And then there is this, the description from the band:
Bull Elephant is the story of a slain African elephant that occultist Ahnenerbe SS attempted to bring back from the dead as a new form of battle asset. However, before re-animation could be completed it was intercepted by a mysterious witch-shaman, pursuing her own agenda and redirecting the undead creature’s purpose.
Think of the background concept as Raiders of the Lost Ark set to a progressive doom soundtrack where Judeo-Christian mythology is replaced by the even more sinister universe hinted at in the writings of H. P. Lovecraft…. with Nazi assault wolves.
Once again, all the metal.
But fantastic artwork and a beautifully bonkers theme only get you so far. The music has to do the rest. Here, the music does so brilliantly. Bull Elephant are playing a bit of a genre salad here, with the base being a sludgy sort of doom. Layered on top of this are some elements of death metal and atmosphere that wouldn’t be out of place on a post-metal record. Vocals range from death growls to pleasant cleans. Songs are mostly in the mid to slow pace range, with some more propulsive moments.
So far, I love what I’ve been hearing. The guitar tone is heavy, with just enough fuzz to give it a little grime, that seems super appropriate given the theme. The drumming is crisp, with some nice little fills here and there, and never overwhelm, but provide a solid backdrop. Really, everything here has been clicking into place for me. Even though many of the songs are on the long side, and take their time moving from section to section, the album moves briskly, without ever feeling like there is a wasted moment. And just listen to the riff the kicks in “Dread Reactor”, final track. It is a delicious monster of a riff. These lads know what they are doing, and execute excellently.
A concept album with such a ridiculous premise has a very difficult job of not crumbling under the weight of its own ridiculousness. Bull Elephant pulls that off admirably, embracing the concept to the point that you can’t help but be pulled along. This album came out of nowhere and I can’t stop smiling while listening, or even thinking about listening. Cheers you crazy lads, cheers.