Album Review: Conquistador by Dylan Carlson
To switch gears from last weeks review JUST A LITTLE BIT… I present to you Earth mastermind Dylan Carlson’s ‘Conquistador.’ Conquistador is an imaginative, instrumental composition of psych-drone electric guitar ambiance and… uh.. that’s pretty much it. But, I do not declare that a bad thing, necessarily. This record is stated to be an “imaginary western” chronicling the historic journey of said conquistador setting out to explore the present day American Southwest a looong ass time ago. If you’re a history and music nerd like me, sounds damn intriguing! And it is, well, mostly is, anyway. But if you do not declare yourself a history or complete music nerd (guitar especially), I might want to skip over this selection if I were you.
That being said, this album is presented and unfolds much like a film narrative. With the opening title track aptly clocking in at 13:13, this droning and looping piece sets the tone for the rest of the record: slow and hypnotic. The second track, “When the Horses Were Shorn of Their Hooves” cranks it in to overdrive just enough for it to be noticeable and introduces any semblance of the traditional metal “riff.” Engulfed with enough reverb and distortion it ends with enough time to settle the listener into the sound effect centered transitional one minute “And Then the Crows Descended” third track. From there, with the next track titled “Scorpions in Their Mouths,” this is where I expected things to really pick up for the album, as this would be the “climax” of the story arc (and the title is just freakin’ cool as hell), but unfortunately this is where it fell flat for me. Other than a few percussion additions, its more of the same kind of combination of the first two tracks and dare I say, boring? If any track on this record had an opportunity to blow the listener away, it was this one. But, hey, maybe that wasn’t the point. I just feels to me like an intercepted touchdown pass. Finally, we get to the closing piece of this record, clocking in at just over 30 minutes, we find ourselves “Reaching the Gulf.” This, to me, is the most complete and satisfying track on the record. Opening with beautifully arranged chords that seem to carry the listener through the sand and over the waves, warmly embracing the atmosphere and tying the record up with a good ‘ol epic conclusion.
Now, if there’s one thing Mr. Carlson does wonderfully on “Conquistador”, its the vivid imagery that man can capture with a single instrument. Wrapped up and looping in and out of distortion and transcendence and seemingly consciousness.. it truly does play put like a vividly painted motion picture. Hats off to you, good sir. Color me and my fellow music nerds impressed. That being said, it’s a bit monotonous. But, having been intrigued by his musical ability and overall vibe of the record, I looked into his previous band, Earth. Now, I’m ashamed to admit that I’ve never listened to them before; because I was blown away. Especially by their record, “The Bees Made Honey in the Lion’s Skull.” That’s what the beautiful thing is about music, you discover one thing and it rips open a void into a galaxy of some other genre or band you had no idea about.. then you end up loving that… and so on.. and so on.. and thats why us music fans don’t have a life! Or, we have the best life, depending on which way you look at it. Music is a beautiful thing, MAN. But, yeah, If you’ve never heard Earth, I strongly suggest you check it out. Its like a better version of this record. But not to discount it, this is worth a listen and some admiration, but don’t count on it to blow you away. You’ll reach the gulf but not the edge of the galaxy, unfortunately
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