Review: Apex Ten ‘Aashray’

Heavy psych, and space rock as genres, aren’t always my first choice in ‘heavy’. Stoner rock, doom metal, punk, garage rock and even thrash metal seem to be my default choices, but man, I do find myself listening to a lot of heavy psych over the last few years, especially later in the evening, when working on artwork or writing, and Liège, Belgium’s Apex Ten are a band that have been on my radar for a while, so when presented with the opportunity to review their latest I enthusiastically raised my hand.

Apex Ten 'Aashray'
Apex Ten ‘Aashray’ Artwork

Apex Ten proffer a heavy, trippy,  style that’s allegedly based on improvisation, as the three musicians involved, Benoît Velez on guitar, as well as lap steel, and Theremin, Brad Masaya on bass, synth, and vocals (in the rare instance that vocals appear) and Alexis Radelet on drums certainly display their abilities at crafting epic, free-flowing, mostly instrumental, cosmic, fuzzed-out movements throughout their new LP Aashray which means ‘shelter’ in Sanskrit.

Opening track, Awakening, sounds exactly like its title, as Apex Ten slowly come into the listener’s conscious via some trippy, swirling effects, before Velez’s echo-y, clean guitar begins a slow build as both Radelet and Masaya join in and find their places, as Awakening ascends with some well-timed, killer guitar work that finds the track climbing to a chest-rattling rumble courtesy of the fuzzed-out bass, before slowly fading into the cosmos.

Unlock meanwhile opens with a driving beat before effects-drenched guitar histrionics thrust themselves to the forefront displaying a keen sense of dynamics, while rhythm is locked down, which to my ears, seems. Additionally, the first vocals from Masaya are heard, his effects-laden vocals are in tandem with the energy and vibe Apex Ten have constructed.

In fact, that energy is felt throughout the course of Aashay as Velez’s sublime guitar playing and tone are completely synced with Masaya’s bass stylings and Radelet’s fills and crashes. Witness Dazed, everything I just described comes to fruition over the course of this instrumental as Apex Ten excel at creating a mood, all the while building their movements to the point that the listener can get completely emersed in their sonic journeys. Nagā, Sanskrit for ‘divine, or semi-divine, race of half-human, half-serpent being’ according to Wiki, is another tripped-out, slow burn that features all sorts of effects and percussion before giving way to the massive, fuzzed-out introduction of Deaf Snake.

epic, free-flowing, mostly instrumental, cosmic, fuzzed-out movements…

Apex Ten again build the movement up with huge sonics, the guitar playing is simultaneously both weighty and airy while Masaya and Radelet almost seem telepathically connected in their rhythm constructs. Deaf Snake fades perfectly into the spacey intro of the penultimate track, Brahma, and while I was absorbing Aashay, I had to check the track listing a few times to see where one song begins and the other ends as they flow together seamlessly.

Brahma features some serious shred that flows back and forth from a clean, echo-y guitar sound to a massive fuzzed-up riff-fest. The vocals return, albeit briefly, before Apex Ten alternates between the crushing and the divine, as the track impeccably flows right into colossal closer Godavari, which, as we’ve come to expect, presents a clinic in slow-build dynamics.

The band take their time allowing Velez to alternate between some serious spaced-out shred and his now-familiar cleaner, echo-y sound, all the while Masaya and Radelet both shine, the bass playing and tone are stellar throughout, and while the drums get their bash and crash on, but in a controlled way, that serves the song, as well as the aforementioned energy they present throughout the course of the album.

I listened to Aashay a lot in preparation for this review as it is the type of record that reveals more upon each listen. Apex Ten’s ability to craft these musical movements through improvisation feel effortless to this reviewer as the songs seamlessly blend from one to another, all the while Apex Ten’s uncanny sense of musical dynamics are on display during every second.

This record is all at once heavy and crushing, while also being trippy and spacey, usually multiple times in the same song. Also, all three musicians’ tones on their respective instruments are practically flawless, to say nothing of their individual skills. Moving forward, I have a feeling I’ll be revisiting Aashay quite a bit during my late-night creative undertakings. Recommended.

Label: Independent
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams