Review & Full Album Premiere: Sandrider, Enveletration

Sandrider Enveletration

[Click play above to stream Sandrider’s Enveletration in its entirety. Album is out this Friday, March 3, through Satanik Royalty Records.]

There’s a line in the song “Slumber” on Sandrider‘s Enveletration that repeats twice near the end. It says, “This sort of day doesn’t come around every year/This sort of day doesn’t happen every year.” It is delivered melodically — as much of the Seattle trio’s fourth album is — and it’s hard to resist the temptation to apply it to the album itself. This sort of record doesn’t come around every year.

On a practical level, literally-speaking, that’s true. It’s been the better part of five years since the heavy noisemaker three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski, bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts and drummer Nat Damm offered the dug-in declarative assault that was Armada (review here), and that’s not the longest divide between full-lengths of Sandrider‘s tenure either, since their second album, 2013’s Godhead (review here) — which was recently reissued, along with their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), through their new label home, Satanik Royalty Records — had preceded on a similar time differential.

And just as that lyric — which is one of a multitude of clever turns of phrase to go with the onslaught of likewise clever instrumental twists and adventures in mood, dynamic and pace throughout Enveletration‘s 10 song and 36 minutes — reminds the listener of the gifted treasure that any given day can be when we allow ourselves to see it as such, so too does the front-to-back agility of Sandrider‘s work in these tracks reaffirm the thing-to-be-celebrated, life-affirming vitality in even their heaviest and most crushing moments.

Some things haven’t changed. Like all their output to-date, including the 2015 split with Kinski (review here) that eased the gap their second and third LPs, production on Enveletration was handled by Matt Bayles, whose corralling presence here brings to mind in some places — looking at you, midsection of “Circles,” payoff of “Ixian,” and pretty much all of you too, title-track — the tonal force that was harnessed with him at the helm so effectively and pointedly on Mastodon‘s Remission some 21 years ago. The collaboration between BaylesRobertsWeisnewski and Damm feels essential to the finished product of this record and the individual pieces that comprise it, but on a deeper level, in terms of the makeup of the tracks themselves, Enveletration is both the tightest and the broadest-reaching work Sandrider have ever done.

Their flexibility as a group is on display at the outset with the opening longest track (immediate points) “Alia,” a ringing note like Soundgarden at the very start building quickly into a run that crashes delightedly into the brick wall of the gang-shout hook before the first frantic solo and curve back around. The second half of “Alia” gets more melodic vocally and open in its own guitar lead, and its ending is drawn out in a way so as to speak to the put-the-closer-first ethic of Armada that is even more effectively done this time around in terms of toying with the balance and expectation of the listener as the rest of what follows works to many of the same ideas, but pulls them in multiple directions toward varied purposes, some teeth-clenchingly intense like “Tourniquet” or the early bombast of “Slumber,” others more attuned to scope and spaciousness like the first verses of the penultimate “Ixian” or in actual-closer “Grouper,” where they turn at 2:17 from the angular shimmer of the procession to that point to a riff that could’ve been on Weezer‘s blue album and make it the basis of their consuming, playfully grandiose finish.

Sandrider Photo by John Malley

As maddening and busy as it might get, at no point on Enveletration are Sandrider not in control of their craft. The vocal arrangements throughout speak to this, be it the growls added to underscore the build of “Enveletration” or “Circles,” the almost pop-ish ease with which they ride the careening riff in “Priest” or the higher-pitched Slayer screams from Weisnewski in “Alia” or that lead so gloriously into the standout chorus of “Tourniquet,” and so on, carefully placed in service to the songs and, by extension, the album as a whole. But it’s there too in the way “Weasel” shifts from the quirky fuzz-punk of its verse to its more willfully lumbering hook en route to its duly massive apex, the arrival at “Ixian” at the distortion-altar where the title line seems to have been waiting all along, and in the bassy push that goes gleefully over the top in “Enveletration,” and even the manner in which the brief second verse of “Circles” picks up from the chorus with such a smooth transition into the growl-topped assault that gives over to the bridge before they bring the verse back.

Each cut has a plan at work, and that plan varies more than it ever has before, strips down structures to their essential parts — only “Alia” and “Grouper” touch the four-minute mark in terms of runtime, and there’s not a spare moment to be found there or anywhere else — and allows pieces like “Slumber” and “Proteus,” which follows, to highlight a sense of breadth corresponding to the outright crunch of “Tourniquet” or the physical-feeling forward shove of “Priest.” They’ve always had some facet of grunge to their style, but Enveletration reads even more like a take on heavy noise rock that’s mature without the word “mature” being a substitute or “lame” or “watered down.”

Quite the opposite. A clear focus on craft lets complex material breathe, or not, depending on what’s called for at the time in question, while memorable choruses imprint themselves on the consciousness without coming across as cloying or crutches on which the surrounding parts lean. Sandrider circa 2023 are able to mellow out at the start of “Ixian” with no sacrifice of the overarching momentum that’s been built along the way, and the triumphs that are cast amid the sundry movements of “Enveletration,” “Circles,” “Weasel,” “Tourniquet,” “Proteus,” “Ixian,” “Grouper” et al, are infectious, affecting, and so too is the underlying spirit of fun, the gleeful chicanery, that provides a charge like if you could power your home by throwing a toaster in the bathtub. And Damm puts more personality into the kick drum in the parts before and after the big-riffy build-up in “Grouper” — god damn I want to know the lyrics there — than many entire bands do on entire albums. That doesn’t hurt either.

Because it’s been a few years — recall the lyrics from “Slumber” cited above — and because its component songs hit with such a jolt, it’s tempting to think of Enveletration as a moment of arrival for Sandrider, but this is an oversimplification of what they accomplish in bridging ferocity and purpose. The truth is that among the four, there hasn’t been an album yet that hasn’t felt like or actually been a landmark for them upon its arrival, and whether one regards Sandrider as stewards of West Coast noise more generally, the inheritors of a pedigree of unhinged-sounding, tonally weighted hardcore, or the most uptempo doom band e’er to walk the earth, they are definitively in a place of their own. Enveletration is a wonder to be explored, engaged with, and appreciated; a miracle of the everyday that doesn’t come along every day.

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3 Responses to “Review & Full Album Premiere: Sandrider, Enveletration

  1. […] Seattle, Washington based loud rock trio Sandrider premiere their fourth full-length album »Enveletration« in full exclusively at The Obelisk! […]

  2. Jizz says:

    Sandrider is great!
    That was the most long winded review ever. Brevity, brother!

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