Heavy psych trio The Well make their full-length debut tomorrow on RidingEasy Records with Samsara, a beast of an album rife with rhythmic swing, deep tonal buzz and a balance between classic ’70s worship and more devilish tendencies. The Austin, Texas, three-piece issue the LP as the follow-up to 2013’s First Trip EP and a preceding 2012 7″ titled Seven (review here) that served notice of their interest in malevolent psych pop and heavier rocking swing. There are certainly plenty of both on Samsara, which comprises seven tracks of garage-inflected languid roll — some Witch and Uncle Acid on “Trespass,” and centerpiece “Lucifer Sam” seems to reimagine Ghost‘s propensity for catchy Satanics as a late ’60s Halloween party — but finds its distinctive presence in the dirtied-up elder metal guitar work of Ian Graham, who also shares vocal duties with bassist Lisa Alley, and in the nod punctuated by drummer Jason Sullivan.
They make no bones about where they’re coming from. Classic influences yielding results that I wouldn’t necessarily call retro, but definitely have one ideological foot in the past. The eight-minute riff-roll of “Eternal Well” loses none of the rest of Samsara‘s propensity for strong hooks for its extra runtime, and where a cut like “1,000 Lies” pauses around its middle for a quieter atmospheric stretch, even at its thickest-toned and most raucous, the album keeps a sense of mood at the fore, opener “Mortal Bones” setting a tone of catchy songcraft that broadcasts its structural simplicity in order to sneak in tonal intricacies in the guitar and bass and in the vocal arrangements, The Well working smoothly to make their output sound much easier than it is while providing satisfying fodder for repeat listens. That’s true throughout, but it’s on “Refuge” that the various sides of Samsara‘s personality most come together, and it’s for that reason I’m so glad to be able to host the premiere of that track today.
At six and a half minutes, it’s the longest on the album but for “Eternal Well,” beginning slow with a creeper of a riff that soon gives way to the speedier push of its verse and chorus, a break at the halfway point signaling a change to some of Samsara‘s finest rhythmic sway, Sullivan stomping out a line that Graham and Alley seem to revel in, the former taking a fuzzed-out solo as the jam continues and “Refuge” gradually dissolves. After five minutes in, a final crash would seem to bring things to an end, but what follows is an arrangement of vocals between the guitarist and the bassist that makes the song even more of a standout and emphasizes the subtle shifts that The Well are so able to pull off on their fluid, remarkably cohesive debut record. You can see the part in the waveform below, so don’t cut out early.
And please, enjoy:
The Well‘s Samsara was produced by Mark Deutrom (formerly of the Melvins) and engineered by Chico Jones at Ohm Recording Studio in Austin. RidingEasy Records releases the album tomorrow, Sept. 23, on CD and vinyl. More info at the links.