Review: Suns Of The Tundra ‘Murmuration’ Reissue

It seems a condition of writing about English prog rockers Suns Of The Tundra to mention the historical connection to dark post-rock masters Tool. Before the duo of The Osiris Club members, vocalist/guitarist Simon Oakes and drummer Andrew Prestidge, began to work together creating horror inspired heavy folk, original Suns Of The Tundra bassist Rob Havis and Oakes were part of an influential band called Peach that were active in the early 90s.

Suns Of The Tundra ‘Murmuration’

Releasing several high calibre demos and EPs, the band were tapped to support Tool on the European leg of their stunning Undertow debut. It was here the friendship formed between the two parties that led to the LA titan’s guitarist Adam Jones creating the artwork for their debut album Giving Birth To A Stone, however, this also led to bassist Justin Chancellor eventually relocating to the United States to join the band as they recorded their smash hit Aemina, signalling the beginning of a turning point for the UK outfit.

Now that’s dealt with the matter at hand, from the ashes of Peach came Suns Of The Tundra, Havis moved from drums to bass and Prestidge joined behind the kit. A lighter, more psychedelic affair that has produced five full length albums, their eponymous Self-Titled debut in 2004, Tunguska (2006), and concept album Bones Of Brave Ships (2015) before possibly their greatest work, 2019s Murmuration.

Originally released by Bad Elephant Music on CD, the album has been lovingly prepared for reissue on hand-numbered and limited extremely limited (100 copies) black and opaque blue vinyl versions by No Profit Recordings before the band release the follow up sometime next year.

One additional piece of trivia from the album is that they included a seventh bonus track, Pond Life, which originally started life as a Peach jaunt during the era Chancellor played with them. Considering that two of the then current Peach songs (You Lied and Spasm for the nerds like me out there) made it into Tool’s own live set, shows the influence between the two bands and give little Easter Eggs for the keen of ear.

Murmuration itself is (so far) Suns Of The Tundra’s definitive statement. Beginning with the urgent, Tool like bass picking that now seems so familiar, it’s a relative canter into robust, but progressive rock. More a classic rock sound than the Californians, their history is tied to Peach by Oakes’ vocals, his delivery is clear and vibrant as the music crashes and lurches around him, one moment magical and ethereal, the next minute heavy and stabbing.

If you can imagine the term progressive or ‘prog’ rock to define artists unafraid of musical experimentation and restriction, then that is what Murmuration brings to the table…

The band are predictably unpredictable and driven from the rhythm section by the powerful and mercurial drumming of Prestidge and dancing bass of Andy Marlow, underpinning a collection of talented musicians who draw their influences from Rush, Pink Floyd, King Crimson, er Tool (obviously) and have more than a few ideas bursting forth of their own.

Over the course of the seven tracks, they transition from the powerful, edgy rock music exploration on the likes of Sunflower with its dizzying lead work and the previously mentioned Alice In Chains metallic grunge like closer Pond Life where they show they have the muscle and the grit to match any other of Peach’s peers; to the surf rock, sample washed Survive Just Fine ensuring that the listener is treated to a broad palette of rich, intelligent sounds that stretch the sonic limits of the listening experience.

This album has something to offer everyone who missed it the first time around, or even those celebrating it for the second time on the beautifully presented vinyl. There are some very talented songwriters in the band that is evidenced in their own work, and influence on others, not to mention the occult flavoured doom Oakes and Prestidge also craft in The Osiris Club.

Moments on Murmuration are as light as air and Each Of Us is almost pure Indie pop rock that shimmers brightly like some of the finest British bands who popularised the genre in the late nineties, and Echoes Of An Angel, with its multi-layered vocals and dextrous, flexing time changes is as fine an example of psychedelic tinged, alternative rock as any of you would have heard. Suns Of The Tundra are an underrated band, or rather they are deeply appreciated but underexposed.

They exist in a unique bubble where they do their thing, and they do it very well, unencumbered by expectation or the confines of style. The term ‘genre busting’ may be overused and grandiose considering I think that shoehorning music into labels is a lazy trope that does more harm than good, but Suns Of The Tundra walk a line that crosses so many styles it’s simply easier to say ‘they do what they do’. If you can imagine the term progressive or ‘prog’ rock to define artists unafraid of musical experimentation and restriction, then that is what Murmuration brings to the table.

This is a timely reminder of the skills and beauty of the band and acts as a good primer for their next odyssey, all whilst delivered in a beautiful package that more than does them justice.

Label: No Profit Recordings
Band Links: Official | Facebook | Bandcamp | Instagram

Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden