Experience and association were bound to play into my assessment of Black Thai’s Blood From on High EP (Megavox Recordings). The first time I heard their two-song demo was earlier this year, and I sat with my laptop headphones on in a hotel lounge in London, some BBC awfulness on the television, silently bobbing my head to the grooves of “The Ladder” and “Satan’s Toolshed,” both of which also show up on this five-song effort. So yeah, if my opinions are colored by that – and they might be – please take them and this review with an appropriately-sized grain of salt. For what it’s worth, I probably would have enjoyed that demo if I’d heard it on the moon, and likewise for Blood From on High, the significant underlying groove of which is palpably riff-based without being stoner or doom cliché. Black Thai are heavy rock more than they’re anything else, with shades of Soundgarden showing up in the vocals of Jim Healey (We’re all Gonna Die) and some more commercially-minded leanings in a song like “Sinking Ships” than one might expect.
The 29-minute release – an EP for its sampler qualities – makes an opening salvo of its preceding demo cuts, “The Ladder” and “Satan’s Toolshed” working as well together here as they did in their demo forms; though the recordings feel new and the guitar work of Healey and Scott O’Dowd (Cortez) more expansive, the solo work six minutes into the latter track serving as an appropriate example. Likewise, Cory Cocomazzi’s bass and the drums of Kyle Rasmussen (filling in for Jeremy Hemond of Roadsaw and also Cortez) come across fuller, and though I still might divide Blood From on High into two sections – the two demo tracks and three non-demo tracks – I have a hard time telling if that’s because of my prior familiarity with them or any actual changes in sound, style or approach on the part of the band. Third cut “Saturation Point” is less definitively riff-based than “Satan’s Toolshed,” which takes a Kyuss-style guitar progression to a place altogether darker, but Healey’s vocals in the chorus make it a highlight, and there’s still plenty of six-string groove to dig into. It’s just a sad song, rather than an aggressive one, and it sets up Black Thai as more than just a head-down, power-through riff-rock unit. If the purpose of Blood From on High is to give a quick sampling of what Black Thai can do, “Saturation Point” serves as a solid example of the subtle diversity in their attack.