To some, classifying metal records can be a fun exercise in applying hyphens, creative adjectives or physical locations (i.e. blackened-death-metal, pirate metal, or Gotenburg metal) To others, the pigeonholing can be restrictive and cumbersome. Especially when you’re the artist and someone else is trying to describe you. I recall reading that Amon Amarth did not consider them a viking-metal band, but rather a death-metal band that featured viking-themed lyrics.
I was at a doom-metal event in June called Briefcasefest. (regrettably I never learned the origin of the name) Most of the bands playing had three letter names, shrieking vocalists and a thick, menacing wall of sound. When Ayahuasca took the stage they quickly differentiated themselves from the pack. Rather than bludgeoning us with noise, they were weaving intricate guitar-lines over syncopated drums. There was no death-growl from guitarist/vocalist Luke Roberts but soaring, melodic clean vocals.
If this was doom-metal, it certainly wasn’t any doom-metal I’d heard before.
I took home a copy of their album “Plato’s Dark Horse” and was quite pleased with it. My hunger for hooks was fed by the widescreen sound of “The Silent Machine.” My appetite for gloom was satiated by the eerie and complex “Dark Horse Dragging” . My desire for sweet guitar licks was appeased by the noodley “The Call of Hereditary Engines”.
I’ve been trying for over a month to get a handle on how to describe “Plato’s Dark Horse” as a whole. But the more I listen to it the less I’m convinced that I can. I like to play a game called “this band reminds me of…” and name off the potential influences that I hear. (an alternative could be to simply ask Luke Roberts, but where is the fun in that?) It’s not meant to be reductive or to diminish the record in question. But with Ayahuasca I find the more I listen to it, the longer the list of could-be/would-be soundalikes increases. One minute I hear Opeth, the next I hear the Screaming Trees, then it’s Mastodon, or Neurosis, or Soundgarden…
A quick google search reveals that “Ayahuasca” is a potent psychedelic drink that can invoke hallucinations. Kudos to Roberts and co for creating an experience that is interesting and unique yet still able to invoke the spirit of so many great sounds of yesteryear.