You know the world’s been twist-turned upside down when Fu Manchu is kicking out 18-minute jams and Earthless is singing—yes, actually singing—sub-10-minute numbers. That’s right, America’s pre-eminent jam band seems to be slowing down in their old age, as apparent on this latest release.
Mind you, most of the songs here still exceed six minutes in length. “Gifted by the Wind” opens on a solid 70’s groove that kinda reminds me of “Black Betty,” albeit a little more mellowed out, with more space between the notes. It culminates in a pretty groovy chorus, and the vocals certainly suit the arrangement. And yes, there’s still a sizzling guitar solo… it just doesn’t last for 5 minutes.
Despite coming in a hair under five-and-a-half minutes, “End to End” takes a little while to get going, but when it does, it kicks into a pretty decent slice of Mountain worship, with the vocals especially channelling Leslie West. Nine-minute “Electric Flame” actually has more of a Wino vibe, particularly in the guitar department, reminding me of a pretty extended Obsessed cut. “Volt Rush” distills the band’s patented rolling grooves and psychedelic guitar freakouts into a tight, two-minute tune. That’s right, it’s all over in 1:55!
“Black Heaven” is another welcome return to their instrumental roots. It opens with shades of Led Zeppelin, launching into a pretty solid up-tempo blues groove that does sound better without any vocals overtop. Maybe this singing thing is just a phase?