1. Toggle 2. My Lil' 3. Toss You to the Wolves 4. Eyebone 5. Elk Takes Night 6. When I'm a Ghost 7. Dylan Klebold 8. Baby Liver 9. Cuddles 10. Who Knew?
In this era of haphazard genre creation and hyper-classification, Black Elk were bound to occur. On their eponymous debut, this Portland outfit flounces through 10 tracks that evoke nearly ever descriptive prefix of rock from the new millennium: aggro, hardcore, destructo, noise, post—and a few gems from their press material—‘tarpit’, ‘noise fury’, and so on. Nearly every scrap of modern underground rock’s neuroses are combined here, with a result that is both convincing and confusing.
Although Black Elk can be put into the California avant-rock scene, they don’t especially fit. Far more listenable than the likes of the ‘noise merchant’ Locusts, they also churn and flail in a way that is too harsh for These Arms Are Snakes and are far more serious than the tongue-in-cheek Hella. ‘Black Elk’s songs instead trundle onwards without any particular direction in mind, sampling each influence as they come across it.
To put it in more concrete terms, Black Elk are a noisy bunch of young rockers with a flair for metallic tuning and a punk atmosphere. Many metal fans may not find much to identify with here, but at some point or another ‘Black Elk’ is redolent of Mastodon, (new) Dillinger Escape Plan, and even Today is The Day. The press material’s reference points of The Melvins and Black Flag are fairly accurate, since Black Elk are as rough ‘n’ tumble and raucously tuned as is legal in the States, but they are far from those groups’ lofty heights of influence and inspiration.
And at some point (which was passed long ago), name-dropping becomes fruitless and Black Elk must be experienced for oneself. On the one hand, they have enough songwriting punch and quirkiness to strike a positive chord with those who may least expect it; on the other, they have yet to harness the charismatic intangibles that make noisy rock ‘n’ roll so addictive. And while Black Elk have a great potential to succeed, so far it's that second hand that is more heavily weighted.
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