Great Electric Quest, Chapter II: Of Earth: Molten Rock

Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Great Electric Quest Chapter II of Earth

Should you happen to be the banner-raising type, you’ll want to get your hoisting arm ready for Great Electric Quest‘s second album. Dubbed Chapter II: Of Earth and released as their first offering in alliance with Totem Cat Records, the seven-track/36-minute long-player follows on the heels of 2016’s well-regarded Chapter I (discussed here) and a 2017 split single with Lords of Beacon House (review here) on Glory or Death Records, and presents a clear-headed vision of classic metal as filtered through a modern West Coast approach to ’70s heavy rock. With production and mixing by Duel guitarist Jeff Henson, engineering by Dan Frick, and mastering by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, the San Diego-based four-piece continue to avoid the boogie-rock mindset of which their hometown seems to be the epicenter, and instead distinguish themselves through a harder thrust throughout songs like opener “Seeker of the Flame” and “Anubis” and “Wicked Hands,” ultimately having more in common with Ozzy or Dio solo records than Black Sabbath itself — and more with Judas Priest than any of them — however much groove might lie beneath.

Plenty does, incidentally. With drummer Daniel “MuchoDrums” Velasco making his debut with the band and bassist Jared Bliss — who lives up to his surname with the low-end performance on the bouncing penultimate rocker “The Madness” — underscoring the riffs of guitarist Buddy Donner and the prone-to-soaring vocals of Tyler “T-Sweat” DingvellChapter II: Of Earth is thick not just in its vibe, but in tone as well. And while it’s not necessarily surprising that the guitar would be leading the charge throughout much of the material, Donner acquits himself well both in the head-spinning shred, nodding verses and later gallop of “Wicked Hands” and in giving room to the accompanying Hammond organ on relatively patient closer “Heart of the Sun,” one of several moments where Great Electric Quest seems to be driving toward and reaching 1983’s headbanger ideal of “epic,” as evidenced by a continued focus on songwriting rather than the jammy exploration that, again, so typifies San Diego’s heavy underground at this point.

If Chapter II: Of Earth has anything in common with the output of Great Electric Quest‘s Sun Dog compatriots, it’s a party atmosphere. Their edge might be inherently more aggressive because of the metallic elements at play, but there’s still a good chance these dudes skate. In Donner‘s tone, in the smoothness of rhythm from Velasco and Bliss, and in Dingvell‘s gotta-hear-it Halfordian throat scorch early in “Anubis,” there’s still the sense that Great Electric Quest stand ready at a moment’s notice to throw down an inhuman(e) amount of hooch, smoke whatever’s handy and have a good time doing it. Then, you know, get up on stage and crush as they will. It doesn’t mean they don’t take what they’re doing seriously — they’ve put in enough time on the road since Chapter I that it’s clear their intentions are to melt brains with songcraft as much as any other method — just that in listening to Chapter II: Of Earth, its spirit isn’t at all staid as one finds with some traditional heavy metal.

Great Electric Quest

Put it this way: if riffs are beer, then Great Electric Quest is the craft movement. They’re not the ones sticking to the 500-year-old established tenets of purity. They’re the ones turning those rules on their head, getting a colorful-ass label — in this case, a righteous Adam Burke cover painting — and punching you in the face with hops. And the loosening of stylistic reins can be heard not just in the blurring of lines between rock and metal on “Seeker of the Flame” at the album’s outset — more Priest there — or in “Heart of the Sun” on the opposite end, but perhaps most especially in the two-part “Of Earth” saga itself, which, broken into the six-minute “Of Earth I” and the subsequent, eight-minute “Of Earth II,” presents more of a narrative and conceptual structure that not only carries through the stylistic meld and allows Velasco a snare-centered solo beginning in the first half of the first part, but brims with end-of-the-set vitality in a way that adds a sense of adventure to the record as its second and third tracks respectively.

To wit, “Of Earth I” picks up from that drum solo after hitting the four-minute mark and is led by the guitar to a Manowar-style over-the-top rock finish followed by a highlight solo from Donner that provides the transition into the more mid-paced intro to “Of Earth II.” Live, this must seem like a tour de force, and on the album, the impression isn’t all that different. The central tempo that emerges from “Of Earth II” is faster and its descending vocal melody a bit more severe, but the metallic fist-pumping is prevalent until just before six minutes in, when they turn to a quieter groove, layers of guitar working over the solid bass and drum progression as Dingvell holds over the energy in his delivery from earlier in the track, locking step with the guitar as the track enters its final measures with a last-second hook before a cymbal wash closes out, to be followed by “Anubis” — presumably on vinyl, this is where the side split happens — as though nothing ever happened. I won’t call it progressive because of the potential for misunderstanding where Great Electric Quest are coming from aesthetically, but the Chapter II: Of Earth two-parter title-cut is remarkably thoughtful in its execution.

Following, the one-two-three punch of “Anubis,” “Wicked Hands” and “The Madness” passes quickly, despite the variety of style between them, and warrants multiple listens as a section of its own before giving way to “Heart of the Sun,” which speaks to a similar mindset as “Of Earth I” and “Of Earth II” despite being on its own wavelength in terms of mood. From “Seeker of the Flame” onward, one of Great Electric Quest‘s greatest strengths is the front-to-back flow of Chapter II: Of Earth, which is something that their toying with different structures throughout helps immensely, but much like the care put into the mix in terms of giving the guitar, bass and drums standout moments while tasking Dingvell with establishing himself as a true classic metal frontman — he does — likewise attention seems to have been paid to each level of the presentation, from tones to the ordering of the tracklisting. Coupled with the deceptive nuance of the sound itself, all of these elements come together to make Chapter II: Of Earth both a satisfying listen and an important, willful step forward for Great Electric Quest. It’s growth they’ve actively made happen through touring and tightening their approach, and if this is the sound of that work paying off, then by all means, raise the banners high.

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