For their third full-length, Italian heavy psych rockers Deadpeach offer five varied explorations, each with its distinct personality. Aurum, which takes its name from the elemental name of gold, is out on vinyl through Nasoni Records and splits well into two sides, but still works as a front-to-back listen with engaging turns and a blend of jammed and structures approaches to which the four-piece of guitarist/vocalist Giovanni, guitarist Daniele Bartoli, bassist Mr. Steveman and drummer Federio Tebaldi are amiably suited. On a superficial level, there isn’t anything in the span of Aurum‘s 38 minutes that couldn’t fall under the heading of heavy psychedelia, and I don’t think there’s anything present that’s intended otherwise, but Deadpeach prove bold within those parameters and find themselves ranging beyond genre confines more than it might at first seem. Side A, in particular, is an ambitious beginning, with just two songs — “Calcutta” (10:01) and “Gold” (9:14) — that comprise the first half of the record. As someone who gives immediate credit to records that open with their longest tracks, to find the longest two by a considerable margin pushed to the front of Aurum is a rare-enough treat to be remarkable, but even within themselves, they begin to show some of the range that unfolds as the album plays out, recalling the earlier fuzzy riff rock of their 2006 Psycle debut and the development that showed itself on the 2011 follow-up, 2, while continuing to push into newer, jammier ground for the band. Whether one approaches Aurum as two sides or in linear form, the first two tracks and subsequent “The Line,” “Stomper” and “Traffic” reveal an act capturing a vital spirit of creative spontaneity while also following a decided course.
Aurum has an easy appeal for the already converted among heavy rock heads. Giovanni and Bartoli offer up enough fuzz and riffs in “The Line,” “Gold” and the early going of “Stomper” that, if there’s a quota, it’s met. What really pushes that basic appeal to another degree is the shifts that take place between the songs and how well Aurum moves with them. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the 10-minute “Calcutta” unfolds gradually to reach its full breadth, but immediately the guitars and bass set an atmospheric foundation that becomes the basis from which the rest of the album is built. Light chanting and, later, lyrics emerge in a style not too far from Lamp of the Universe, but lead guitar is the focal point and the movement playing out behind it. Hypnotic, the jam comes to a head about halfway in and quickly recedes, only to be constructed again, a little faster the second time, and given an ambient leadout that smoothes the way into “Gold,” which takes Mr. Steveman‘s bassline as its driving element and, rather than split its build, follows a single line over the course of its nine minutes, hitting a stride of fuzz and crash after a midpoint break, shifting into more straightforward-seeming stonerly swing and verses, a Hawkwindy space factor not at all lost among the proceedings. Thinking of Aurum as one song flowing into the next, “Gold” bridges a gap between “Calcutta” and “The Line,” with a jammy first half leading to a more traditionally structured second, but the track itself has more substance to it than a mere transitional moment, be it in classically layered leads or the tonal weight of the push running alongside them. To discount either part as simply feeding out of or into something else doesn’t do the song justice, or acknowledge the fact that in putting the two sides next to each other and making it work as smoothly as Deadpeach do, they’re summarizing a good portion of the album’s appeal on what’s also as close as they come to a title-track. Even way out in space, there’s consciousness at work.
“The Line,” which leads off the second half of Aurum, is the shortest track included at 4:55, and true to the latter end of “Gold,” it’s a more straightforward fuzz rocker, updating classic heavy methods with a modern vibe. Giovanni‘s vocals still echo out from under the fuzz, and Mr. Steveman runs circles around the central riff, but whether it’s as a centerpiece of the five tracks or as the start of side B, no question “The Line” is a major shift from “Calcutta” and “Gold” before it, despite consistency of mood and swirl. Deadpeach find room in their only-song-under-five-minute rush to jam a bit behind a solo section, but with deft songwriting in their favor, they return to the chorus before finishing out, ending noisy and satisfying en route to the similarly rocking launch of “Stomper,” though it’s Tebaldi who takes that track over, turning an instrumental rocker into essentially a drum jam peppered with airy guitar. To his credit, he holds it together, and to the band’s, they bookend with a resurgent progression similar to that which led into the percussive stretch, a symmetry that keeps the vibe of Aurum steady even as Deadpeach move toward their finale and yet more ground to cover. Presumably because by now their listener might expect a fuzz-toned jam of one kind or another, the band dial back the distortion and close out with a jazzy instrumental movement that — while, yes, it kicks later into a fuzzy conclusion — provides one last turn from a foursome who’ve already shown plenty of variety. What the initial stages of “Traffic” demonstrate, however, is that there’s more to Deadpeach‘s fluidity than a pedal board. The vibe is maintained in the chemistry between players, but to jump back from “Traffic” to “Calcutta,” it would be easy to imagine you were hearing two different bands. Again, what makes Aurum work so well through this is the band’s ability to carry the listener along with them for the trip. As wide a range as Aurum works with, it never lets go of that connection.