Black Elk
"Always a Six, Never a Nine"

(Crucial Blast Records 2008)Black Elk - Always a Six, Never a Nine

I’ve got a corner of my black little heart carved out for noise rock. Bands like Jesus Lizard and more recently Made Out of Babies have proven that, done right, carefully crafted chaos can be downright sublime. There are also innumerable bands that have made equally innumerable examples of the awful, flaming, bloody mess that is noise rock gone wrong. Imagine the uncertainty, then, that comes with a noise rock disc delivered from Crucial Blast Records. The label has a knack for putting out top shelf sludge, ambient, drone, and other out-there types of music, but isn’t exactly known for releasing angular, more active veins of heaviness. But Black Elk and the wicked “Always a Six, Never a Nine” prove that you can’t judge a band by its label.

“Always a Six, Never a Nine” is wonderfully fractured and spastic, the ear-jarring equivalent of a guided tour through a mental institution. You never know when a filling-loosening spike of guitar is going to pop out from a padded cell to screech into your face, or a crunch-filled hook will throw up all over you. As manic as the album is, though, nothing feels ill-considered or poorly conceived. Swept along by infectious momentum, the oddball tendencies are offset by equal parts wall of noise blockade and blood-pumping intensity.

Extra gold stars need to be awarded to Black Elk’s rhythm section. Jeff Watson’s bombastic drumming and Don Capuano’s rumbling bass lines add truckloads of depth and heft to Erik Trammell’s guitar slash. Add Tom Glose’s off-the-reservation vocal freak outs, and it all dissolves into a sticky but delicious concoction. From “My Last Shred of Decency”’s explosive psychosis to the pounding burnout of “Winter Formal,” “Always a Six, Never a Nine” is an unpredictable but unmistakably awesome slab of precision madness.

A-

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