Arc of Ascent – The Higher Key

Well, yesterday we were in Adelaide, Australia checking out the sounds of the excellent Iron Worzel, so as we’re in an antipodean mood, I’ll mention another really great release from that part of the world – ‘The Higher Key’, an album released a few weeks ago by New Zealand stoner rockers Arc of Ascent.

This was one of DeHud’s discoveries on Bandcamp, and it turns out to be a good ‘un.  Arc of Ascent, comprising Craig Williamson on Bass/Vocals, John Strange on Drums and Sandy Schaare on Guitar, present us with a cracking second release, with six tracks of heavy, heavy rocking stoned grooves.  Taking influences from good old 70s rock, metal and a dose of downtuned stoner, this trio from Hamilton throws a sparkling dose of psychedelics into the mix for good effect.

What we end up with is a set of songs which in parts combine the slow, sludgy guitar and basslines of Electric Wizard with chanting and psychedelic exploration that you might find in some of MC5’s more far out work, or perhaps even later period Stooges.  There are thematic influences from Hawkwind going on here too, with a definite fantasy/spacey feel to proceedings; believe me this is not doom style metal, it is rock music out and out.

Being at heart an ageing punk, I am naturally suspicious of rocking excess in music, fearing that perhaps at any moment a track I am digging will lurch across that line that lays between ‘experimental’ and ‘hippyish self-indulgent excess’ – the risk of an impromptu lute solo is a constant worry for me – which would mean that we have come full circle and are in fact back in the mid 70s again. However this album manages to avoid such an approach.

At the weekend, fellow Rip It Upper DeHud and I discussed over some cold beers the view that some of the stoner bands do display this tendency in their visual iconography and musical embellishments. I think on balance that Arc of Ascent keep this element under control and produce some stand up work.  ‘Search for Liberation’ does stray a bit into the ‘Spacey’ territory for me on occasions, but overall the band proves that it is capable of some engaging music.  There is an interest here that is also apparent in the Earthmass release I mentioned last week, which has that epic quality to it as well.  Check this album out on Bandcamp!

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