Progressive, instrumental metal doesn't have a true home. It's too cerebral for dark clubs, too immune to melody to hum to, and too disarming for coffeehouses. Appropriately, AoK Suicide Forest's self-titled debut record is traveling music; whether a soundtrack for coursing through terrain similar to their grim namesake or a more, uh, cosmic environment, is a decision left to the listener.
Opener "Seven Sisters" launches barreling speed-metal mayhem before slowing into the 6/8 psych-lurch that comes to dominate the album. Its union of galloping heaviness and incantatory, lightning-bolt guitar lines encapsulates exactly what this band do best.
Lead guitarist Leif Sherman Curtis makes no secret of his allegiance to guitarist KK Null and Zeni Geva, but the guitar here speaks more languages than Japanese heavy-psych. Notes of a dark, swampy blues that inspired that subgenre are naturally present, like in the lazy, sustained melodies anchoring "Sadistic Mystic." David Joy's shapely bassline in "Big Brother the Animal," leads a dizzying rhythm for Curtis's jazz-fusionist fretwork before the piece devolves into a declarative start/stop outro. "A Holocaust of Fatlings" juggles high-minded riffs and Craw-inspired tension before exiting on some ZZ Top wonkery. "Glass Coffin," the closer, offers over seven minutes of wailing guitar in mournful decline.
Live, AoK appear a fairly brutish affair. On record they're revealed as a trio of pretty cultured dudes. The guitar lines seep into memory, lingering a while through Curtis's fuzz and wah pedals, and the more complicated sections are articulate. Though the sludgy production is a strong choice for the guitarwork, its wide sonic range sometimes overpowers the work of Mike Anderson, whose drums occasionally sound skittish keeping up. There's work to be done, but for a debut CD, it's easily in contention for best heavy record of the year, and the array of influences are fun to trace.
AoK Suicide Forest play a farewell show at Empire Dine and Dance on November 17 (benefiting the Atlantic House, a sober treatment center) before taking three weeks for a national tour. Fans of heavy should travel the short distance to see them.
Nicholas Schroeder can be reached firstname.lastname@example.org.
AOK SUICIDE FOREST | released by AoK Suicide Forest | Nov 17 at Empire | myspace.com/aoksuicideforest