Lesbian has gone and whipped up a concept record, though this isn’t your grandfather’s rock opera about a deaf, dumb, and blind kid. Nor is it the story of space travelers behind the wheel of an El Camino on a five-year journey to discover the planet with the best leafy green stuff that can then be cultivated, brought back to Earth, and used to save humanity from a virulent strain of self-destructive rage. No, this is a concept involving a spore-filled asteroid colliding with our planet and altering not only its history but the nature of its consciousness.
OK, so there’s no El Camino. What there is is the dawning of the age of Pyramidal Existinctualism. It is a time when meteorites are pulled toward the sun only to “collide, levitate, circulate, then populate.” The ensuing disaster allows for few survivors, though one, Kosmoceratops, becomes lord of the new world.
More practically, the record marks the debut of B.R.A.D. Mowen, the sometime-member of acts such as Asva, Master Musicians of Bukkake, and Accused. Mowen became Lesbian’s new vocalist in 2015, just in time to see this material take shape. What Mowen, his mates, and Hallucinogenesis demonstrate is that Lesbian isn’t just another doom rock band out for a good time and some bud. This is a collective that clearly has a sense of humor and imagination but also gets down to the business of making serious and seriously good rock ‘n’ roll.
The 14-minute “Labrea Borealis” exudes a commitment and confidence you won’t hear from collectives who whip up music on a lark. This is music that’s complex, adventurous. You’re as likely to hear doses of black metal thunder as you are bits of progressive rock, stoner metal (naturally), and doomy doom. This is Lesbian-patented truth-seeking, and it’s smarter and more full of surprises than much of the stuff smoldering around the underground these days. With stomping, soul-chomping martial drum beats and deep-cutting guitar riffage, the track moves through a variety of metallic sub-genres before visiting the planet of space jazz. We arrive at our final destination thoroughly convinced that there’s no other band quite like Lesbian.
If the heavy, heavy journey of “Kosmoceratops” doesn’t persuade you of the band’s might and merciless seeking of earhole domination, then perhaps nothing will. It’s dark and crusty, a throwback to the classic era of thrash and underground metal as heard via bands such as Nasty Savage. It has a hook and a punch, but it ain’t no pop song. That it borrows from familiar structures and ideas and renders them as something so wholly other is one mark of this band’s creative genius.
Of course, concept records will forever smack of progressive rock, and Lesbian doesn’t shy away from getting a little proggy via the closing masterstroke “Aqualibrium”, which takes up the galloping rhythms of Iron Maiden and the operatic doses of King Diamond/Mercyful Fate, and casts them into something new, more delightfully frightening and real than any of those acts could have imagined on their own. More than that, Lesbian never breaks character; come the final notes, the listener will be thoroughly convinced that Kosmoceratops stands before them, demanding his lordly tribute.
Let’s remember that in 2013 Lesbian released a one-song, 44-minute work titled Forestelevision, and for some music lovers that recording probably seemed unbeatable. But the group has topped that record now. That’s no small feat, of course, but it’s one that a group that’s fully in command of its art and its senses can pull off. Lesbian is one of those bands, and this is one of those albums.