Review: The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol ‘Verdun’

When I saw The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol show up in my review vortex my first reaction was ‘you cannot be fucking serious’. I mean that name is all at once original, creative, awesome and, if I’m being honest, slightly ridiculous. Clearly an obvious nod to the immortal and much-missed Prince, I had never heard of these guys, and while I like to think that I’m in the know, I’m seemingly not that deep into the heavy psych underground because apparently, The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol (also known by the quasi-cumbersome acronym TBWNIS) have been around for sixteen years.

The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol 'Verdun' Artwork
The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol ‘Verdun’ Artwork

Hailing from Ottawa, Ontario, the seven-piece collective have pushed the idea of heavy, trippy, improvisational, psychedelic music to the outer limits. A quick scroll through their Bandcamp page displays a cornucopia of releases, singles, splits, compilations and recorded-live improv jams that a listener could spend several days navigating it all. TBWNIS are obviously both creative and prolific.

So, here we have Verdun, the band’s first full length in over five years, in which they evidently rolled into the studio, set up their gear, hit record and went for it, totally improvised, with the end result being a heavy-psych, mind-fuck of the highest order. The album slowly creeps into the listener’s consciousness amid some strange, swirling effects, mildly unsettling synth, and some weird scratching sounds with Dusseldorf Boogie, the band essentially tripping out for a solid two minutes before the instrumentation kicks in.

What we get with the track is a driving, repetitive, rhythmic, trance-like sonic freak out that’s anchored by a super solid rhythm section featuring a fantastic, fuzzy, bass line and a cool rock drum beat that allows the other five members to freak-the-fuck-out to their heart’s content. And freak out they do, expanding the listener’s sonic perception for a solid eleven-plus minutes.

driving, repetitive, rhythmic, trance-like sonic freak out that’s anchored by a super solid rhythm section…

Popinjay changes the tempo and mood a bit but is still anchored by the now-familiar fuzzed-up bass and cool, laid-back drumming. There’s a bunch of cosmic guitar interplay throughout and around the five-minute mark, TBWNIS up the ante as the song takes on a more aggressive tempo and energy, wherein the band stays in this pocket, and rides Popinjay to Saturn and back amid the trance-like rhythms, guitar squalls, and effects drenched histrionics.

The album reaches its conclusion with the twenty-plus-minute, epic-as-fuck, French Pastry, in which TBWNIS dwell the murkiest of aural swamps complete with weird effects, distant, echo-y horn skronks and the now familiar, repetitive trance of the rhythm section, seemingly to ever-so-slightly raise the energy as the collective all seem to slowly begin to coalesce around each other.

Somewhere around the thirteen-minute mark, they drop into a synth and effects comedown, before slowly kicking things up a notch with the rhythm section propelling the collective along, as they have throughout most of Verdun, with the guitars joining in the freak-out, before slowly fading into the cosmos as the record comes to a fairly sudden end.

It’s pretty awe-inspiring that a group of musicians can come together and craft something like this out of thin air. This is a killer late-night, spaced-out, psychedelic jam record, seemingly dropped from some dimensional heavy psych portal, and despite the tempo and vibe changes throughout, the songs blend seamlessly with one another. Verdun is certainly an interesting record, the music flows completely organically and The Band Whose Name Is A Symbol have won this reviewer over to the point that I may need to find the time, and aural wherewithal to explore the band’s seemingly endless back catalog.

Label: Cardinal Fuzz Records | Feeding Tube Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp

Scribed by: Martin Williams