Shaman Elephant - Crystals

8 songs
45:26 minutes
***** ***


Bergen seems to be the Norwegian capital of psychedelic progressive rock music. Only two months ago I reviewed very favourably the second album by Seven Impale, and now I am listening to Shaman Elephantís debut longplayer Crystals, coming a year after their first EP More. Both have been released on the Karisma label, but share also other characteristics, although Shaman Elephant generally have a more hard rocking orientation.

One thingís for sure: Shaman Elephant like extremely colourful cover artworks which are probably intended to underline the quartetís trippy psychedelic orientation. And in this case, you can judge the CD by its cover, as shown on the opener and title track Crystals, an eight-minute rollercoaster ride through the best of proto progressive hard rock with some wonderful vintage keyboard sounds, fierce guitar riffs, a pounding rhythm section and a vocalist who really gives it all. The following Shaman In The Woods is a shorter tune, displaying the bandís catchier side. The vocals are mellower, there are acoustic guitars, making you feel transported back to the late Sixities, somewhat like early Pink Floyd. This track has pure hit potential and is my highlight on the album. IAB is at four minutes the shortest track on the record and once again digs deep into the bandís hard rock side, making this a dynamic counterpoint to the preceding track. The first half ends with the six-minute instrumental Tusco, a melodic and melancholic excursion into jazzier territory. Quite nice, even if at times you get the impression as if the band is losing a bit of its earlier focus. Really not a bad track, but on this rather short album of three quarters of an hour, it feels a bit like padding.

The second half consists of two longer songs. The Jazz is a ten-minute behemoth that even flirts with sludgy doom parts, definitely not the band at its more accessible, but still a good way to show another face of the band. The concluding twelve and a half minute Stoned Conceptions is strangely enough a more direct song with a really good focus, using its extended length to emphasise one final time how well these youngsters combine psychedelic free play with song oriented performance.

One canít say that Shaman Elephant are short on ideas. In fact they are an incredibly varied band that offers on their debut album Crystals an astonishingly mature entrance into the world of psychedelic music. Their chosen genre sometimes comes up with longer albums, and maybe one could have wanted one or two additional tracks to make the head trip last even a little longer. But apart from that minor complaint, I am quite fond of this band and hope to hear more from them in the future.

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