Review: Sun Crow ‘Quest For Oblivion’
Seattle’s Sun Crow made quite the impression with their Bandcamp-released debut Quest For Oblivion in November of 2020. Instantly generating a massive buzz, the record appearing on many ‘Best Of’ year-end lists. It was jaw-dropping in scope, tone, execution and length. The record threw down the gauntlet of what a band of this ilk could deliver with a debut album. So, it was only a matter of time before a label scooped them up, and right on cue, Ripple Music has signed Sun Crow, and is now giving Quest For Oblivion the proper physical release it deserves on vinyl and compact disc, as well as a cassette release on Stoner Witch Records.
Opening with the ominous, fuzzy tones of Collapse guitarist Ben Nechanicky really lets the notes ring out, letting that distortion hang in the air, before the song lurches forth with bassist Brian Steel and drummer Keith Hastreiter locking into a groove that rides the riff and builds the song up to three and a half minutes before vocalist Charles Wilson (since replaced by Todd Lucas) makes his presence felt, with an echo-y wail, before unleashing his inner demons with some excellent, distorted screams. Collapse rumbles forth well, before one notices the opening track is now at the seven minute mark.
The feedback ending Collapse flows right into Black It Out which offers up some heavy-duty doom riffage, delivered with an excellent tone. Wilson’s vocal approach is much more subdued to open the track. Sun Crow again take their time, building the song, riding the riff to the moon and back. This will become a theme throughout Quest For Oblivion as Wilson‘s vocals weave well with the music, never sounding forced, or out of place.
End Over End again takes it’s time getting going, but when it does, it produces one of the more memorable riffs I’ve heard in a long time. One can’t help but get it stuck in one’s head, as it’s that good, that catchy, and holy shit, that repetitive. Wilson’s vocals really shine too. There are layers of effects, which compliment his voice instead of disguising it. Hastreiter has some notable drum work on this track as well, as it bobs and weaves, moves and builds before a wall of feedback bring the song home at the ten and a half minute mark. When I say the band rides the riff, I’m not kidding.
Fear picks up with the feedback before settling into another catchy-as-hell, yet-ominous-as-hell riff from Nechanicky. Its also picks up the tempo, if only a bit as the band find their groove early and stay there. Nechanicky again offers up more riffs out of his suitcase and adds some stellar lead work across top.
Fell Across The Sky is another example of Sun Crow’s uncanny ability to lock in to a groove, and really ride the riff, while taking the song in different directions, without missing a beat. None of their moves feel jarring, and as I was absorbing this monster of an album, I sometimes had to pause to see what song had finished, and which one began. The band move from one to the other effortlessly, and fluidly. Fell Across The Sky switches gears around the six minute mark, Nechanicky offering up another massive riff, before riding yet another one for the duration. Wilson anguished, distorted screams layered over the top give the song a feeling of space, while simultaneously feeling claustrophobic. Hard to call this the centerpiece on an album full of them, but again this monolith crawls forth for well past the ten minute run time.
[Titans] is an absolute monster, wrapping everything that Sun Crow introduced on the rest of the album into one hell of a record closer…
Nothing Behind is the one track on Quest For Oblivion that opts for a recognizable tempo change, with Hastreiter offering a more Punk-ish beat, and the song itself is a welcome change, frankly, following the gigantic epics that preceded it. Hypersonic might be the catchiest track on the record. Wilson’s vocals really stand out as does Steel’s bass rumblings. Once again, the band takes the listener on all sorts of twists and turns before popping back into and riding the main riff again. Sun Crow, again excel at this dynamic.
Titans IS the actual centerpiece of the record in my opinion, and as the album closer, really takes its time to get moving, as it clocks in at an eyebrow-raising eleven minutes. None of this is wasted time though, Nechanicky’s sparse tones introduce us to the epic-ness of Titans before Wilson drops one of his distorted screams. This song is an absolute monster, wrapping everything that Sun Crow introduced on the rest of the album into one hell of a record closer. Again though, the song moves in such a way, it never feels grueling.
A few points: Ben Nechanicky might be the next Riff Lord of this genre, or certainly one of them. His riffs and tone really stand out, so much so The Sleeping Shaman’s own Josh Schneider picked his brain recently about his tone, riffs, influences and set up when interviewing him for the In Search of Tone series.
Charles Wilson is also notable in my eyes. So often in stoner/doom/riff rock the vocals can sometimes seem like an afterthought, as the band focuses on the fuzzy riffs and others seem content to continue to try to sound like John Garcia. Wilson has some Ozzy-esque moments, but it’s still HIS voice, and distorted or not, he shows pretty awesome range, able to go from a subdued approach to an epic scream pretty effortlessly.
Only negative, if it can be called a negative, is the album is LONG. As noted earlier, it really took a minute to fully absorb Quest For Oblivion, and to discern where some feedback ended, and more began, but again, this isn’t a negative necessarily. One listens to bands like this for crushing, epic, repetitive riffing, so the words ‘too long’ shouldn’t be in the mix, but I can’t help but wonder if the impact would be even more resounding if a few tracks were slightly shorter.
Having lived in Seattle in the 90s, I’m very familiar with, and witnessed firsthand The Pacific Northwest’s penchant for producing awesome, crushing, heavy, well-executed, riff-oriented rock & roll, going all the way back to The Sonics. It appears as if the streak continues with Sun Crow, and their debut Quest For Oblivion, the band have set the bar pretty high for themselves and I’ll be excited to see what they come up with next.
Label: Ripple Music | Stoner Witch Records
Band Links: Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram
Scribed by: Martin Williams