Old World Wanderer

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Band Name Across Tundras
Album Name Old World Wanderer
Type Album
Released date 02 March 2010
Labels Self-Released
Music StyleStoner Doom
Members owning this album1


1. Vanguard Battle Hymn
2. Fallin' to the Nethers
3. Weary Traveler's Rest
4. Stone Crazy Horse
5. Life on the Grain Belt
6. Tectonic Shifts
7. Rainmaker-Floodreaper

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Across Tundras

Review @ gletscherwolf

03 October 2010
Review: Across TundrasOld World Wanderer (Released March 2010)

Once good metal bands going to the dogs is a phenomenon about as common as bread is in a bakery. It seems like kind of a rule of nature that what is born sometimes is good, but good things go bad and then bad things go worse. Exactly this chronology seemed to hit Nashville, Tennessee stoner-doomers Across Tundras by 2008.
After coming out of the box with two great EP’s and one, even greater, full length release, showing music of a remarkable originality, by early 2008, when they released their second album “Western Skyride”, you sensed already that something was going wrong, the sound having become flatter and certainly less heavy.
Such forebodings proved themselves true in the terrible way with their second 2008 release “Lonesome Wails from the Weeping Willow”. This production, if it is even worth the qualification production, wasn’t metal at all, (I am still wondering what in fact it is at all……). Monotonous, boring flesh-nor-fish tunes with lots of non-descript semi-acoustic guitar work.
It is a known fact that bands that are once in the hole seldom manage to crawl out of it again. Fortunately Across Tundras proved that they were of a somewhat different order. And their 2009 follow up “Herds of the Fathomless Valleys” was already a retracing steps in the right direction. Although still somewhat shallow, it at least showed the band’s intention not to get lost for metal and the 3 live tracks on the album made up for shallowness elsewhere.
How happy can we be with their new “Old World Wanderer”! Clearly their best album so far and in a style that is distinctively different from their first productions. It might have been the case that for the first five years of their existence the band has been constantly searching for a stable style they could fully call their own. If that was indeed so, I can only hope that the band agrees with me that they have found it now and all they have to do is continue on the road they are on!

Line-up, sleeve design, release & production

Line-up has been the main headache for Across Tundras during the first years of its existence, so bad, that one could say that until 2009, AC has basically been guitar player/vocalist Tanner Olson. His resettling from Colorado to Tennessee seems to have solved the problem, at least for the time of being. “Old World Wanderer” was recorded in the same outfit as its predecessor, with Nate Rose on drums and Matt Shively on bass. Looks like this line-up has every chance of holding out, as the musicians are very compatible with each other.
Although the band’s music is generally classified as stoner-doom, (Even if Tanner Olson not agrees to this or any other classification), but the “doom” in it is certainly not as gloomy as it is with the main stream headliners of this genre. For sure, their music has mostly somber and sober undertones, and that translates very nicely in their sleeve designs. “Old World Wanderer”s front features a blurry oil painting of a landscape that can be found in many places, grasslands with groups of trees here and there. A sandy path is leading into the picture towards a denser forested part. On the path a wanderer can be seen, but in so blurry, so darkish design that in fact it is hardly recognizable as a human figure. Above the scene hangs a sky in utterly unnatural dark red with even some green streaks in it. Lovers of magic-realist painting will certainly love this one, and so do I. But what is much more important, it breathes what most of the songs also do: A slow going, somber atmosphere.
During the early period of the band, when the line-up was still highly unstable, so were the ways of releasing EP’s and albums, for literally everyone of them hooking up with another tiny label. None of them ever doing a great production job. Probably in this is the reason to be found why the band for their 2009 release chose to auto produce it. Seemingly not to unhappy with the result they have extended this independent release policy to this album. Now operating from the very music friendly Nashville, Tennessee, such is for sure a good option for a bunch of young musicians who know clearly what they are doing.
It is however not surprising that the sound quality is not 100% There are sure many things the band has to learn if they want to continue self-releasing their albums. Especially in the field of sound-mixing much can be improved. On this album not un-frequently you get the idea that the drums have been mixed in overly fat. But on the whole I have to admit that the result for sure is of an acceptable level.

The Music.

The album opens immediately with one of its most impressive pieces, the very slow going “Vanguard Battle Hymns”. The drag-push rhythm of the first few minutes has even something sludgy about it. But as soon as the vocal parts begin you realize that the vocal qualities of Tanner are much too clear, too melodic and too laid back to ever be intergrable in anything that approaches sludge metal. A mighty increase in volume marks the onset of the second part of the track, which is marked by very melodic, but even so, razorsharp guitar soloing by Olson. With this track, for the first time I clearly recognized that his qualities as a solo guitarist are outstanding and that we might indeed look at the emerging of one of the real great ones of the coming decade.
Second track “Fallin’ to the Nethers” opens in a darker, more underground, atmosphere and rather quickly evolves into its main part, which is more upbeat and heavier than the first track. Vocals on this song are not my favorites as they have a to monotonous line in them, and it makes me quite happy that in the last part of the song further abstinence from them is observed. But, soi, all in all still a good piece of music.
The shorter track no. 3 makes at least a little bit clear why this band is by most knowledgable sources filed with the stoner genre. In fact its quite classical for this type of music. Vocals are again not that great, but the truth probably is that Olson, however talented as a guitar player, as vocalist has very limited abilities. On guitar again he shows himself from the best side. About track number four I can be short: It should have been left out, reminds me to much of that horrible 2008 album. Period.
From now on we fortunately stay on a very enjoyable path. “Life on the Grain Belt” is rich in many ways and also the fastest of all tracks on this album. More pleasant even is that it shows the most agreeable vocals of the production. It is however a little irritating that again the drums have been mixed in to heavily. Second halve of the song is for most part more downtuned and slower, but speckled with some nice whiffs of what Olson is capable of as a solo-guitarist.
Follow-up piece “Tectonic Shift” isn’t new as it also featured on the 2009 album, but here we have a new version of it that has done away with the weaknesses of the earlier one. Lengthy, heavy and very consistent. Slow as most of their compositions, but a pleasure to listen to. Vocals are quite agreeable here and the only thing that prevents this track to rival the first one of the album is the fact that it does not contain equally elaborate nor equally melodic guitar soloing. But, thumbs up for this!
A very tasty piece of the cake was also saved for last. “Rainmaker – floodreaper” is a-typical compared with the other tracks: Much different drumming style, less snare, more bass drum and profuse and violent use of the cymbals. Put to that sitar-like sounds in the middle, (Probably electronically generated as the sitar is not among the instruments used on the album), and downtuned guitar soloing, makes for a very nice heavy psychedelic experience.


Altogether it looks like Across Tundras has found its way, a stable line-up, a definite choice for self-production of their work and above all a sound that is unique. Because if I were confronted with the question “to which other bands can we compare AT anno 2010?”, my answer in al likeliness would be something like, “Well, eh, lets see…….uhm, yeah……hmm, that’s a bit difficult ‘cuz………..hmmm…..maybe there are none!”
They have for sure created a sound that is absolutely unique among contemporary metal and that is an achievement in itself. For me it does just fine to keep filing them with stoner-doom, although the doom isn’t very clear anywhere and the stoner sometimes more psychedelic than the real thing. On the other hand it would be most difficult to classify them in any other style, as this is for sure not standard psychedelic rock and certainly no sludge, although both elements are present in the music. Anyway, the band itself is violently opposed to all attempts to classify them with a certain style and is content to call its music just “progressive”, (Which indeed could mean about anything………”
I hope in Across Tundras we will have a stayer, as their music is more than worthwhile listening to for the affecionados of many different styles. That however does not mean that in anyway they are up to gathering a very large popularity as their compositions are just to inaccessible for that. Keep up the good work men, looking forward to your next.

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