Well, the premise of this album seemed too good to pass up. I’m a fan of Shane Embury – though trying to keep up with his dizzying array of bands can be difficult. This is his latest collaboration, a star-studded piece of work with him on guitars and vocals, extreme metal producing royalty Russ Russell on vocals, guitars and synths with Dirk Verbeuren (currently of Megadeth, but also ex of Aborted and Soilwork, among many others) on the drums. Joining this core trio are a host of guests, including Faith No More’s Billy Gould, Mastodon’s Troy Sanders and Brutal Truth’s Dan Lilker all taking turns on bass duties. Just to cap it all off, we have Voivod’s Snake and …erm… The Wonder Stuff’s Erica Nockalls both contributing to the vocals. Intrigued yet? You should be.
“Celestial Mechanics” is about what you might reasonably expect given the pedigree of the constituent members. This is a spaced-out, left-field and downright psychedelic sludgy extreme metal workout that does away with lots of the conventions of the various sub genres and instead treats the listener to some sprawling, astronautical musical workouts. Opener “Walking Among The Dead Things” sets the tone perfectly for what is to come; strung out riffs and rumbling, fuzzed out bass collides with ethereal, almost distracted atonal vocals. Synth strains waft about in the background, while the drumming is both organic and yet tightly played by the ever reliable Mr Verbeuren. It’s not until the third track, “The Ancient Deceit” that you will find anything that resembles what you may consider to be a “traditional” song structure – at just under three minutes long it’s a hypnotically riffed rumbler that sits somewhere between the alienated futurism of 90’s Fear Factory, and the skronked out weirdness of prime Voivod.
Elsewhere on the platter, there’s plenty to get your head wrapped around. “The Past Will Wither and Die” is a hungover trawl through brooding noisescapes. “Birth Womb” has a neo-black metal anti-social vibe that morphs into punky chorus and lurching rhythms, the bass work being a particular stand out here. The otherworldly penultimate track “Beyond The Stream of Consciousness “ is an absolute treat through quality headphones; an airy, psychedelic mash of overlapping riffs, a rhythm section that sounds as if it is imploding and falling in on itself, and the sounds of a dream folding against itself infinitely. To finish off, we have the goddamn weirdest cover version of “Johnny Blade” (originally from Sabbath’s much-maligned Never Say Die album), which sounds like several versions of the song being played at the same time, but just managing to stay the right sound of chaotic.
The accompanying blurb says that the band would like to do some live performances, but that there would have to be projection screens and visuals to complete the effect. I can see why they might think that; this is certainly evocative music that gets the imagination going. It’s also an ambitious and at times compelling album. Don’t expect to get it on the first, second or even third listen. I still feel as if there are depths being revealed to me in subsequent listens, and that makes giving a score a difficult and challenging task. From where I sit now? This is a solid album. I suspect if I scored it again in six months time, the score would change.
(7.5/10 Chris Davison)