Spreading four lengthy tracks over the course of some 60 minutes, Seattle quartet Lesbian’s debut Power Hor plays like an aggregator, an RSS feed of the highlights of metal’s entire back catalogue in its many shapes, sizes and speeds. It’s an interesting idea, really – rather than devote themselves to a disc’s worth of well-trodden black, death, or doom, these four mix them all together, working single ideas for as long as necessary before moving on to the next signpost on the highway.
That said, however, it’s difficult to ascertain any real identity behind the band throughout the entirety of this, their first record. Sure, “Black Forest Hamm” starts things off nicely with a great stab of black metal, pristinely recorded and all supped up like some more extroverted child of the most recent crop of USBM. But then the shift hits, oceanic-backwards guitars introducing “Powerwhorses” and a gradual build until it crests, all Isis-like, in a cascade of plotted rhythms and shimmering leads. Again: not a bad trick, really, and one these guys capably pull it off.
However, just when you think “Loadbath” is flexing the same muscles, Lesbian kills the chime in favor of a less anguished doom thud – more fluid than bands like Moss or Corrupted, but with a deadened blow that accompanies such approachable sonics and a bare few minutes of tension-build. Which ultimately leaves “Irreversible,” another initially misleading dive into the black that manages to segue back and forth from thrash to genteel post-rock before closing out on some well-studied blues riffing.
The thing with Lesbian is that they obviously peel off licks that move in and out of each other effortlessly, the mark of a band that has more than just a passing fascination with metal. At the same time, though, such a palette is hardly cohesive, and Power Hor as a whole ends up sounding a bit more like a well-made mixtape than anything else. Not to suggest that any band should pledge allegiance to one sound and bash it relentlessly until it’s flush with a hole in the ground, but still – the style shifts sound like an identity crisis, and leave one wondering if Lesbian is really a full-on band or just a bunch of dudes with some pretty decent record collections and a lot of creative conflicts.
Make no mistake – the guys have some moves. It remains to be seen how much they’ll allow that to carry them away from simple homage and into the more nuanced territory that they’re obviously capable of negotiating.
By Michael Crumsho