This article was written by Joe Turner, a GIGsoup contributor. Edited by Natalie Whitehouse
‘Civil Disobedience for Losers’, the debut album by Canadian sludge duo Indian Handcrafts, was an exercise in stoner rock-riffery that was fairly unremarkable but for the rock ‘n’ roll swagger the band injected into their performance. Their sophomore effort, ‘Creeps’, begins with more of the same.
‘It’s Late Queeny’ is an early highlight, at least until you notice its similarities with Queens of the Stone Age‘s ‘Sick Sick Sick’ and remember how much better that song is. This sums up the problem with this strain of stoner metal: there are so many bands doing much the same thing, and many – QOTSA, Red Fang and others – doing it better, that it takes something more audacious to stand out from the crowd.
Happily, this something arrives in track five, ‘Maelstrom’, the first of three extended, six-plus minute tracks along with ‘The Divider’ and album closer, ‘Rat Faced Snorter’. These three tracks show a much more ambitious side to the band that was only hinted at on their previous album. The contrapuntal guitar riffs in the chorus of ‘Maelstrom’ demonstrate a greater interest in texture and harmony than previously shown, while ‘The Divider’ shows Indian Handcraft‘s indebtedness to progressive metal act Mastodon, and aims to emulate the melodicism of that band’s most recent material.
Unfortunately, neither of Indian Handcraft‘s two members possess anything like the vocal talents of Mastodon‘s Brann Dailor, and at times you wonder if you’d miss the vocals if they were not there at all (something which could be said about many like-minded metal bands). However, this is a minor quibble, and the band balances the more melodic elements of ‘The Divider’ well with the heavier riff-based sections.
The album’s highpoint is its finale, ‘Rat Faced Snorter’. The track encapsulates everything there is to like about the album: heavy sludge riffs; experiments with melody and progressive song structure. But most impressive is the band’s approach to harmony; the main riff incorporates unsettlingly dissonant chords that create an atmosphere of unease, and the striking harmonic progression of the chorus places the song well outside the clichéd stoner material that features elsewhere on the album. The song also goes through multiple changes in time and tempo, alternating between sections in four and three beats-per-bar. The devastatingly heavy closing section elevates the song to a level of dread normally reserved for the doomiest of doom-purveyors such as Primitive Man or Thou.
Overall, ‘Creeps’ is an uneven effort, splitting its time evenly between fun-yet-unexceptional bluesy stoner riffage and ambitiously proggy sludge metal. It is the latter that raises this album above mediocrity and makes Indian Handcrafts a band to watch for the future.