Review: Sandrider ‘Enveletration’
The mid-to-late ‘90s post-grunge atmosphere in Seattle proved to be a very fertile time for music, as fertile, if less riff-centric, than the early ‘90s grunge heyday. Bands like Zeke, Botch, and The Murder City Devils made an impact regionally as well as nationally with their unique takes on punk rock. Another band that emerged from that late ‘90s Seattle scene that stood out right away was Akimbo, they released a slew of killer records presenting a raucous, charging, chaotic, heavy, hardcore sound before disbanding in 2012.
Two former members, Jon Weisnewski (bass and vocals) and Nat Damm (drums) re-grouped immediately, they recruited Jesse Roberts on bass, Weisnewski switched to guitar, and with that, Sandrider was born. Leaning into the heavier side of Akimbo, well-deserved praise was bestowed upon them for inciting the city’s heavier, grungy past, but with Akimbo’s instantly recognizable charge along with Weisnewski’s unmistakable vocals. Sandrider’s first three albums, 2011’s Sandrider, 2013’s Godhead and 2018’s Armada are all excellent records, stacked with riffs, crazy time changes and weird left-turns that showcased Weisnewski, Damm and Roberts familiar rumbling and charging sound.
So, here we have Sandrider’s much-anticipated fourth full-length Enveletration, and I’m here to report that all of the elements that made Sandrider, and Akimbo before them, such killer, unique, singular acts are in place, but there are enough new sounds and slight experimentation that allows these guys to never make the same record twice.
Enveletration, (allegedly a made-up word from Weisnewski as he pondered ‘Why is it always about penetration, and never about envelopment?’, a fair comment and who am I to question?) opens with Alia as Weisnewski delivers some single note lead action, before Damm and Roberts quickly rumble into the picture, just as Weisnewski’s familiar yell/scream explodes out of the speakers, and Sandrider are thrust into my consciousness. Their by-now familiar charge is instantly on display as Sandrider prove they still ‘Live To Crush’ (Akimbo’s final album title). The gang-shout vocals in the chorus conjure up an early-Mastodon vibe as does the dizzying, winding, build-up that sees the trio take Alia on at least three separate parts before we see its conclusion.
The title track, Enveletration, is a crushing, pummeling rumbler that recalls their earlier releases with its charging urgency and Weisnewski’s pulverizing vocals. Speaking of pulverizing, that’s a more than apt description of both Damm and Roberts low-end rhythm rumble, to say nothing of Weisnewski’s riffery and vocals. Vintage Sandrider. Circles, meanwhile drops into a chugging, mid-tempo crush fest as Weisnewski and Roberts offer some wicked vocal harmonies that wind and weave their way through the track with incredible effect. Tourniquet, meanwhile, gets back to the familiar charging Sandrider tempo, but with some melodic lead flourishes that complement the ruckus nicely.
To say Enveletration is a dizzying display of heavy, noisy rock would be an understatement…
Weasel, is a fun change of pace with its chugging build-up and rock and roll vibe. Slumber displays more harmonizing vocals and I’d argue is one of the more melodic songs on Enveletration, if ‘melodic’ can be used to describe a band this pummeling. Proteus has a lurching rhythmic start-stop thrust that’s accentuated by Weisnewski and Roberts vocal harmonies.
Next up, Priest possesses perhaps my favorite riff in Weisnewski’s bottomless well, but again, Sandrider offer up many winding twists and turns throughout, never content to just sit and ride the same riff endlessly. As well, Weisnewski unleashes some wicked, well-timed shred that compliments the track perfectly. Sandrider are never far from their sci-fi, Dune-inspired ideas as Ixian is a trippy, melodic journey that features many twists and turns, as well as a wicked bass line and solo from Roberts. Closer, Grouper, sends Enveletration out strong, displaying all of the traits that make them such a killer band; the left-field turns, the start-stop riffing, the rhythmic charge, and Weisnewski’s sci-fi, Dune-obsessed lyrics and patented shouting singing style over the top.
To say Enveletration is a dizzying display of heavy, noisy rock would be an understatement. Enveletration is again produced by the bands longtime producer, the inimitable Matt Bayles, and as with their previous records, it sounds absolutely fantastic as all of the instrumentation is crisp, loud and clear in the mix.
I was excited to hear Sandrider had a new record coming out, I couldn’t wait to hear it, and I was not disappointed in the slightest with Enveletration. It’s everything we’ve come to love about these Pacific Northwest stalwarts, but with enough sonic experimentation none of the material feels like a re-tread of previous records. It’s early, and I’ve always been biased with these musicians as a long-time fan, but Enveletration will undoubtedly find itself on my year end best of list.
Label: Satanik Royalty Records
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Scribed by: Martin Williams