was one of the more fascinating bands of the psych rock underground, in that you could feel that, with just the slightest push, the long-running group’s sound could evolve into something far more proggy, more evil and, yes, more metal. And to hear the sound of Eight Bells
, the new band featuring former SAS guitarist Melynda Jackson and drummer Chris Van Ruffel, it would seem that that notion was not far off.
This new trio’s debut album, The Captain’s Daughter, doesn’t move Jackson and her bandmates too far afield from the spacious sound that made her years in SAS so inspired. There are plenty of long drones, feedback and spectral presences lurking in the four tracks here. But even when a song like “Fate and Technology” slides into a gothic interlude that allows the almost sweet vocals of bassist Haley Westeiner to shine, it is slowly overtaken by swarms of volume and a hailstorm of guitar noise. Westeiner’s singing follows suit, turning into furious black metal growls.
The melding of experimental metal and psych rock mindsets comes across even more powerful on the epic-length title track. The song lets a full three minutes of devolution pass by before finally reconstructing itself into a lumbering golem. And if that weren’t enough, the band tacks on a five-minute long coda that centers on Jackson’s slow supernova of freaked-out guitar tones and some ghostly vocals courtesy of Kris Force of Amber Asylum.
What’s especially thrilling to hear on this short album is how well the individual pieces of Eight Bells fit together. Every so often when the trio would play live, something wouldn’t connect: the drum beats were a little rushed, the interplay of Jackson’s wandering leads and Westeiner’s melodic bass playing becoming too dissonant. Here, everything locks in and works towards the simple goal of warping the fragile mind of whoever is listening. Van Ruffel’s drum parts still have an occasionally cluttered feeling—something that is only obvious with how much breathing room the band and producer Billy Anderson left in these songs—but everything else about The Captain’s Daughter feels sleek, substantive, and inspired.
SEE IT: Eight Bells plays Backspace, 115 NW 5th Ave., with the Body and Usnea, on Saturday, March 2. 8 pm. $7. All ages.