Sometimes in life, you happen into albums. Sometimes, they happen into you, as was the case with Medamaki‘s Warbird EP and I. The UK five-piece released the four-track, 21-minute EP back in 2007 and then — well, okay, I don’t really know what, but let’s call it “half a decade” happened — and I ran into guitarist Sean Phillips at Stoner Hands of Doom XII two weekends ago and he very generously gave me a copy of the record. It’s a small scene and it’s full of very nice people everywhere you go. These things happen.
Medamaki have changed their name to the far more stonerly moniker Smoke Pilot, and that makes me somewhat curious to hear what their new material might sound like. Five years ago had them a burly double-guitar fivesome with standalone vocals from Max Ward, sharing more in common with Orange Goblin than their singer’s last name. The songs, whether it’s the thickened shuffle of the title-track or the surprising growls — almost death metal barks, never really sustained, but effective in conveying a more extreme past — from six-stringer Rich Wright on opener “Mouth of God,” “Solar Plexus” or closer “Poison the Well” (presumably not named for the post-hardcore band), are well written and catchy, with a production that’s newer school digital-sounding, but not lifeless as so many are and a vitality that I’d also be interested to hear how it’s held up half a decade later.
There’s a shift in the sound of the recording between “Warbird” and “Poison the Well” — you can hear mostly in drummer Paul Ford‘s snare and the prominence of Wright‘s backing vocals — but the Kyuss-isms in the verse of the final song carry across nonetheless, even with the more metal chorus and the more individualized melody in the chorus of the song prior. It’s an EP though, and from everything I can gather, it was the band’s first, so things like changes in production value are much less of a concern than they’d otherwise be, and I find I’m much more focused on the strength of the hooks in “Mouth of God,” which references Monster Magnet in its chorus (moving from the mouth to the spine) and talks about rolling boulders into god’s mouth, whatever that might mean, and “Solar Plexus,” which runs a quick seven minutes and seamlessly integrates a percussion-led jam in which all but bassist Shaun Webb and Wright take part — the former’s busy holding down the groove on bass, the latter ripping a solo — before swinging back around to the chorus one more time, hinting at a mindfulness of structure that presumably could only serve them well in whatever their next endeavor might finally prove to be.
Included on the CD are a photo gallery with a handful of out-of-focus-type shots of the band and a video for the song “Warbird” that, if it’s counting the number of cuts from one shot to another there on the bottom right (mind you I don’t know that it is), features over 210 of them. Pretty complex stuff, and probably their best song of the four to boot, so while we wait to find out what Smoke Pilot have in store, here’s the clip for “Warbird,” with my thanks to Phillips for passing along the material.