Virginia’s Corsair draw liberally from all spheres of 70’s heavy rock for their debut EP, Alpha Centauri, which is a concept album, both varied and cohesive, whose story feels as natural as it is familiar. I don’t want to give away too many details, but it shouldn’t be much to follow the arc of the storyline through the track titles.
First chapter, “Skykrakken,” is about three-and-a-half minutes of UFO/Thin Lizzy instrumentalism insistent on thrusting to the fore the considerable talents of guitar duo, Paul Sebring and Marie Landragin, and sets high the infectious riffery bar right out of the gate. What a great name for a song, especially one that serves as the dramatic catalyst for an epic tale. (I’ve never seen a skykrakken, but I have seen a kraken and the idea of one swooping around in any patch of sky near me gives me the shits.) Now rather than trying to rereach the heights of the first song by doing more-of-the-same-only-better, Corsair change it up altogether with straight forward rawker, “Beware the Black Fleet,” drawn in shades of Led Zeppelin and Clutch. It’s a ton o’ fun and features an addictive, jumpy chorus and a twin solos break that begs the back button. Then, lopping the head off of predictability, variety becomes pattern as track three comes from yet another direction via the stoner rock homage to Major Tom called “Last Night on Earth.” Featuring earnest, plaintive vocals, the album’s midway marker is a laid back, contemplative piece with beautiful melodic leads that ride the wake of the track’s afterburners and set the stage for the next leg of the journey. Enter: Hawkwind (natch) on “Space is a Lonely Place,” where deceptively serene weightlessness is disrupted by huge waves of Deep Purple and, boy, the leads are just about breathtaking. (If you’re not getting it yet, the lead guitars are major selling points here, folks.) Appropriately and grandly, Alpha Centauri ties it all together with the doomiest offering on the ticket, as “Starcophagus” meshes cold, spacey ambient tones with the warm, charismatic harmonies of Valkyrie to great effect, and includes an eerily moving spoken word piece that draws the saga to its end.
Although this is a self-released effort, it shouldn’t be a huge surprise that such a compelling story derives great benefit from a fine production job, as well. The guitars are rendered suitably fuzzy and rich, the bass and drums big and full, and the atmosphere warm and cold in all the right places. It really is the complete package and Alpha Centauri’s familiarity is a function of being sincerely and deeply rooted in loyalty to heavy rock’s golden age. That is to say, Corsair’s first EP is a no-brainer for anybody with a soft spot for that era’s enduring sound.