To be perfectly honest, I’ve always liked the idea of supergroups better than the real deal. It’s certainly something that’s fun to speculate about with friends, but more often than not, expectations seem to outweigh reality, thereby ushering in that distinctly unwelcome scent of disappointment.
But as a big fan of modern stoner/doom metal, it would be nearly impossible to NOT get giddy over the prospect of this particular meeting of the minds. A supergroup with an illustrious pedigree that includes The Obsessed, Saint Vitus, Spirit Caravan, The Hidden Hand, Sleep, OM, The Melvins and Neurosis? That’s a hesher’s version of the 1992 Olympic Dream Team. Anyone with a keen familiarity of any of those bands has probably spent the last nine or ten months with the “Wino + Scott Kelly + Al Cisneros + Dale Crover = BOING!” formula running through their heads over and over and over again.
Well, it’s finally here. Not something I’d consider to be as facepeelingly kick-ass as the hype build-up might force you to hope for, but a really, really good, ofttimes chill album nonetheless. If I had to guess which of the four had the strongest influence on Shrinebuilder, I’d probably point a finger towards Scott Kelly, as his is the only voice found on every tune, and the general atmosphere found throughout the record leans more toward the Neurosis/Neurot end of the spectrum, as opposed to what most expect from the Wino or Cisneros end of the camp.
“Solar Benediction” bumps from the gate sans any sort of intro with Dale Crover’s warm, heavy rhythm pushing directly into a nice groove that shares vocals between Wino and Kelly. The psychedelic mood that permeates the whole of these 40 minutes is initiated early with a fuzzy, wah-wah’d guitar that gradually leads the tune into nearly 5-minutes of quiet atmospherics; Al’s bass bubbles almost casually, Dale’s drums patter comfortably, and Wino and Kelly build layer-upon-layer of snaky, floaty leads. It’s an approach used freely throughout the rest of the record in one manner or another, and it’s decidedly pleasant.
Follow-up “Pyramid of the Moon” was the first sample thrown down on the band’s website, and although it left me relatively unenthused on first blush, the song has grown on me considerably because of the glimmery lead that breaks through the haze near the 4:30 mark, and because Cisneros gets a nice opportunity to throw down his cool, meditative stamp for its closing 2 minutes.
Wino’s touch is displayed most boldly on “The Architect,” with its swaggering, burned-out classic rock start and deliberately slow crux. And although Wino takes the vocal spotlight, Kelly’s gruff voice makes for an excellent companion during the song’s recurrent chorus. Clearly a song that sounds reminiscent of a lost Hidden Hand b-side.
The album ends on a high note with the 9.5 minute “Science of Anger,” the only selection to feature vocals from Wino, Kelly and Al at varying stages. This is the cut that mixes the varied backgrounds of all players the best –– starting off very animated and jumping back and forth between Wino and Kelly, but it pulls into a really nice ‘n’ hazy, meditative groove during its closing moments that’s augmented by Al’s calming, abbot-like vocals.
In the end, putting words to something as hugely anticipated as Shrinebuilder seems almost silly. Anyone who counts themselves a fan of the individual member’s other projects is sure to check the album out based purely on pedigree alone. I will say that after living with the record for several weeks, I’m VERY to know what might come next, so that alone is reason to call this first foray a notable success. Keep building and we will come.