Bask- American Hollow

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Sunday, August 31, 2014

It isn’t uncommon for an album to hook you with its first track, but it’s a lot harder for a band to maintain that momentum all the way through. So many times I’ve found myself fully absorbed in the first two or three songs only to find that things trail off by the end and lose their full impact. But occasionally I will find a release that’s able to live up to the potential it showcased at the beginning, and Bask’s American Hollow is a great example of this. On the surface it seems like these guys are going for a stoner rock sound, but explore a bit further and you’ll discover that there’s a lot more to this one than you’d initially expect.

“High Mountain Pass” starts things off, and right from the moment that the melodic leads intertwine with the bluesy base I knew I was going to like this album. It’s not an unfamiliar sound, as plenty of rock bands have blurred the lines between crunchier stoner rock and soaring melodic moments that have more of an alt-rock feel to them. But even though it felt familiar, the way that the song hooked me right from the start and kept building up until it reached a stunning climax made it clear Bask had an edge over some of their peers. American Hollow doesn’t stick on this same path the entire time though, as one of the reasons its six tracks are able to all make an impression is due to the level of variation. The instrumentalists have a tendency to switch things up when you least expect it, suddenly upping the intensity to a level that feels a bit closer to that line between rock and metal before moving over to much softer melodies that have an Americana/country vibe. Bask pulls off these transitions naturally and their ability to merge these types of sprawling melodies with some much more intense sections makes them stand out.

The vocals on American Hollow are another area where Bask sounds a bit different from some of the other bands that channel some of these same influences. Perhaps it’s because I’ve become so used to anything with the stoner rock/metal tag to have gruff, lower pitched vocals that Bask’s emphasis on softer ranges that spread over top of the instrumentals came as such a nice change of pace. This also made it even more surprising when near the end of the title track there was a sudden shift over to harsher screams. Bask doesn’t use them that often, instead opting to save them for their peak level of intensity, and while I wouldn’t mind if they incorporate them a bit more moving forward I can appreciate the decision to save the distorted ranges for when they really need them. After all, the primary style does have a good deal of crossover appeal as I could see some folks who don’t always go for this type of material drawn in by the mellower pitches that still have that right amount of grit to them.

Bask is one of those bands that is not only able to offer consistent hooks from one track to the next, but they have gone for a sound that fuses together genres that complement each other but aren’t necessarily a common combination. Far too often stoner/psychedelic rock goes for the same old set of influences and patterns, so it’s a welcome change to see these guys move beyond that base and incorporate some traditional Americana and country elements. American Hollow’s been one of those releases that’s gotten queued up for listening at least once a day since I went through it for the first time a little over a week ago, and it comes highly recommended for anyone that wants some heavier grooves blended with the type of smoky grit and atmosphere that good Americana and country can provide.

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