Reviewed By Simon Milburn
Published 19 October, 2015
For all of the underrated bands that have come and gone over the years - and no doubt that number is larger than many suspect - there’s always the odd stalwart that disappears from the scene for whatever reason before making a comeback. Sometimes those comebacks amount to something, other times the lead to the band once again disappearing from the scene in what is typically a more final fashion.
Enter California’s sludge trio Snail. Formed in 1992, they would release a long player and an EP before imploding a year or so later. A fifteen year hiatus would follow before they reformed and hit the ground running with the acclaimed 2009 release, Blood. I’ve little doubt that Blood as well as their 2012 release Terminus sailed under many a radar, this reviewer included. But this time around, this is not going to happen. No, Feral needs to be heard by anyone who considers themselves a fan of psych metal, or laid back, sludgy, metal that is chock full of over fuzzed guitars and drawn out choruses.
Truth be told, Feral has more in common with Kyuss and stoner metal in general than more traditional metal. This isn’t a platter of relentless, brutal metal. There’s nothing cold or sinister to it, either. At times it feels dark, but for the most part, the album’s huge, expansive sound is driven by spacious power chords locked in a swirling haze of psychedelic smoke. About a minute or so into the opening cut “Building a Haunted House”, it’s very clear what Snail is all about for the uninitiated. The fuzzy guitars, soaring yet often haunting vocals drift effortlessly across the entire album. Whether it be the more straight tempo’ed tracks such as the infectious “A Mustard Seed” or the excellent, epic ten and a half minute gentle departure that delivers total downer vibe that is “Thou Art That”, Snail have refined and rolled into one the best bits of their post-reformation albums.
In fact, I need to dwell on “Thou Art That” for a bit. When the guitars kick in, they unleash pure doom bliss – thick, dense, plodding, slow power chords that are a stark contrast to the gentle notes that innocently and slowly lead the listener down the rabbit hole. Coupled with keyboard overdubs that could be attributed to any number of 70’s prog rock bands, and there’s little doubt that this track is simultaneously the boldest and best thing that Snail have recorded.
Equally diverse but for different reasons is “Born in Captivity” which butts super furry, up tempo versus complete with distorted vocals up against a more pedestrian, sweeping chorus that unleashes more smooth melodies and harmonies which carries the song to another level altogether. There’s little doubt that Snail’s cocktail of sludge, stoner, doom, and fuzz mixed with a splash of prog is a pretty damned fine blend. For a band that was once recognised in small but very much underground circles to one that is taking their second chance by the horns and giving it a red hot go, Feral is testament to the band’s persistence. Here’s hoping the album gets the look in it deserves. This one should be the album that raises Snail’s profile and brings them the exposure they deserve.
Small Stone Records