The tale of Fargo, North Dakota, doomers Egypt is winding and easy to lose track of along the way, but what it rounds out to is that nine years after first getting together, the trio have completed their first album, Become the Sun. Their initial run was from 2003-2005. During that time, the lineup of bassist/vocalist Aaron Esterby, drummer Chad Heille and guitarist Ryan Grahn released a self-titled demo. In the meantime, thanks to word of mouth and a few choice reviews, that demo caught the attention of the heavy rock underground, which resulted in a vinyl release in 2008 and an accompanying CD issue through MeteorCity (review here). May 2010, Egypt reunited for a gig in their native Fargo, and now the lineup of Esterby, Heille and guitarist Neal Stein (who also recorded and mixed; James Plotkin mastered) have prepared a full-length debut as tonally rich as it is long in arriving. Some of the material on Become the Sun (released by Totem Cat Records) dates back to the first incarnation of the band – Grahn is giving a partial writing credit alongside Esterby, Heille, Stein and Deep Purple, whose “Black Night” serves as the penultimate track – but far from dated, the 10 cuts tap into 40-plus years of power-trio history to emerge with an album rooted in ‘70s groove but delivered with modern thickness and forays into jazz and boogie rock. Esterby’s bass tone exudes a particular warmth on a more languid cut like “Greenland,” but even on the guitar led “World Eater” or earlier “Orb of the Wizardking,” isn’t to be understated as a formative aspect of Egypt’s sound, even as his gruff, throaty, sometimes echoing vocals alternately remind of Alabama Thunderpussy, Crowbar, and in the case of the fuzzy “Snake Charmer,” a bit of The Midnight Ghost Train’s blues-based testifying preacherisms. He walks no less a thin line between clean and more abrasive singing than the band walks between motoring heavy rock and lumbering doom – the expanses covered between opener “Matterhorn,” “Greenland” and closer “Elk River Fire” perhaps somewhat exaggerated in geography in relation to the stylistic jumps Egypt are making within the genre, but still indicative of the band’s interest in covering a wide swath of ground. Either way, at just under an hour long (58:42), Become the Sun seeks to encompass nearly a decade’s worth of progression, tone worship and bluesy riffage.
In that, it’s successful. Egypt don’t emerge from Become the Sun’s 10 tracks as the reshapers of the genre they inhabit, but they unquestionably show the potential to leave their mark upon it, “Matterhorn” beginning the album with a plodding progression leading to a last-minute shuffle outro as though to hint at some of the pacing interplay to come. “The Village is Silent” nestles comfortably into a mid-tempo nod, and though Stein’s fuzz is front and center, Heille’s bass drum seems to be setting the tone just as much, with full punctuating kicks that resonate from within the thickness of the guitar and bass. There’s nothing much fancy to it – even when Stein takes his solo and more guitar layers emerge, Esterby following along on bass, Egypt stay forward-minded – but in its second half, the song breaks to a stillness evocative of the titular silence and the bass comes to the forefront, warm in a style more associated with European heavy psych these days than American rock and roll. Esterby lays the foundational melody of an engaging build, and Egypt know a good thing when they have it; locking in that groove, they hold it to the song’s conclusion, letting some sweet feedback ring out “The Village is Silent” directly into the contrasting aggressive immediacy of “Orb of the Wizardking.” With farther back vocals, the nine-minute third track aligns itself to a more epic feel, but transitions into a more open chorus and semi-psychedelic bridge that sets up the Sabbathian lead section to follow, Stein and Esterby hitting their wah in kind while Heille keeps Sleep-style time on his snare beneath. The long instrumental break accounts for much of the extra time in “Orb of the Wizardking,” but Egypt never lose total hold of the structure, and so when the thudding verse reemerges at the halfway point, it’s not so much a surprise as it is a testament to the band’s complexity of construction. They embark on a build to a slower riff that serves as the musical crux for the remaining 3:40 of the track, Esterby offering a last verse in time to the guitar that enhances both the sonic largesse and the structured feel, contributing largely to the final triumph.