Vancouver heavy metal band Astrakhan has now issued their third EP, A Tapestry of Scabs and Skin, and while two of its four songs have already appeared elsewhere — which may cause the jaded to sniff in disapproval — it is, in one word, insane. As in, insanely good. With each of its songs exceeding the five minute post, none of them feel overlong or bloated. In fact, the material faintly recalls work by British metal bands, with a sprinkle of Iron Maiden seemingly an influence to these ears. And, yes, there’s a bit of Rush-like virtuosity, too, and why not? They’re Canadian. What really makes this EP is the attention paid to craftsmanship: taking elements of psychedelia and doom / sludge rock, Astrakhan brings forth a highly potent brew. Clearly, these guys are onto something, and they appear to have a sense of humour. (One of the press photos shows the dudes simply lying down, which is as novel as it is unusable, since you can’t see their faces.)
Anyhow, this is a primo must-have for those into northern hard rock. It’s heavy, it’s brooding, and it’s absolutely musical. The more you listen to it, the more you like it — and, to be honest, I’ve given this EP more than a fair shake as I usually hear something three times before passing judgement. I think I’m on my sixth or seventh pass as I write these words. That’s how compulsively addictive this EP is. You just can’t get enough, so much so that you want to tap the band on the shoulder and tell them, “Hurry up and make a full-length album, will ya?” Since the songs on this are seamless, there is no one prominent cut. They’re all great. Really. It’s a near perfect EP, if not for the fact there’s some recycling going on. Still, Astrakhan is a band you’d better pay attention to, because they’re kicking down doors, taking names, and making some absolutely furious and fuzzy rock. Pretty essential stuff.