Black Elephant – Cosmic Blues
Instead of only paying homage to noise rock from the ’90s or sooner, modern heavy metal, or classic psychedelic rock, Italian band Black Elephant reckoned they can have it all. The four-piece band’s latest album Cosmic Blues (an addition to a discography that begins with 2012’s brilliantly-titled Spaghetti Cowboys) blends some of rock ‘n’ roll history’s high-points into something fresh yet familiar.
Opening track “Cosmic Soul” glides between different styles from different decades without losing its course. The brawny “Helter Skelter” (not a Beatles cover), Soundgarden-style race to the finish “Chase Me,” and bluesy instrumental “Cosmic Blues for Solitary Moose” are solid entry points for a band that, despite sticking with what works, never sounds like it’s retreading old ground or trying too hard to sound eclectic.
These guys are probably making the music they love, not plotting commercial moves. That said, it’s wiser to dial into varied sounds from the past than get caught up in fitting a specific extreme metal niche. A band like Black Elephant, or Atlanta’s punk and metal sleaze slingers Gunpowder Gray, can reach more ears than a group that pigeonholes itself for collectors of obscure Norwegian black metal demo cassettes.
One problem persists after listening to Black Elephant – which friend needs to hear this album first? The Sleep fan, the Nuggets excavator, or the guy whose tastes are stuck in the ’80s? All of us walking stereotypes should find something in these songs that’ll remind us why we love rock music. That’s why this hidden gem from back in July might just be the most underappreciated album of 2018.
As a side note, the label behind this release, Small Stone Recordings, does a great job rounding up current metal acts with a penchant for classic sounds. Over the fall, they unleashed equally potent releases by La Chinga and Sundrifter.