El Supremo is an instrumental rock band from Fargo, North Dakota, with a sound rooted in classic rock, stoner rock, blues, and old-school metal. After starting life as a one-man project and then recordings their debut album, Clarity Through Distortion, by bringing in new players, El Supremo’s second album, Acid Universe, features the complete line-up of founder Chad Heille on drums, Neal Stein on guitar, Cameron Dewald on bass, and Chris Gould on organ and keys.
The album opener, Crowley Magick, launches with the sound of keys that seem to lurk behind a mysterious curtain, transporting the listener straight into realms of horror and mystery. The funeral groove riffing is soon laid out for all to see what this is about. The mark of the Sabbath influence on the sound is deep, but it’s shaded differently for this age. The ambiances are more sharply pronounced, while the musicianship and composition keep the brooding vibe intact.
The groove carries through to the second track, The Ghost Of…, in which the bass takes the lead for a psychedelic romp while using its time wisely to build momentum, then slowly but surely it incorporates the band’s full power. The keys sound incredible and are deployed to maximum effect, the guitars are always fuzzy but never noisy and are a consistent and essential element of these space rock adventures. The interplay between keys and guitar could probably go back and forth forever, while the rhythm section keeps on grooving with authority. These musicians are clearly buffed up from years in the rock trenches and this full band line-up is pulling no punches for El Supremo’s sophomore album.
The interplay between keys and guitar could probably go back and forth forever, while the rhythm section keeps on grooving with authority…
The third track, 261 To Lisbon, changes the mood. A quicker pace, along with an ethereal composition style, has the track feeling psyched out. The name also makes a lot of sense as a lifting sensation is present throughout. Musically, the feeling of elevation is cleverly emphasised on this fun hallucinatory jam. In the moments when it gets heavier, it feels like massive objects suspended in mid-air, but the track soon takes off again, allowing it to soar.
On the fourth track, White Hot Fever Dream, they show off their musical muscle in a building stacked with solid riffs, which is captivating in how dynamic the band can be within this framework. It’s fantastic instrumental music and I’m surprised it wasn’t used as the single. It’s a rockin’ number that feels like it’s just the right length at seven-plus minutes and despite the long tracks, El Supremo never exceed their welcome, finding new paths to head down at all times.
Acid Universe, the final and title track, brings back the slow grooves from earlier along with the airiness and trippiness of later songs, allowing the efficiency of all players to confidently do their thing. The interplay between guitar and keyboards will often take centre stage throughout the album, but the bass and drums are always able to make their presence felt at the right times. These jams have been tightly arranged and produced, so this is a well-oiled machine in which there is a tight synergy between all players. This is a universe I plan on returning to.
Scribed by: Goro Riffs