After an EP that was released just as a worldwide pandemic began tightening its grip, as well as a debut released in the throes of same, I was interested to see what a “post-pandemic” MERLOCK would deliver. And thus, Onward Strides Colossus.

‘Sovereign Throne’ eases us in, watery, fluid and floating, psychedelic in the way so many of the post-whatever crowd attempt, but it’s evident here, and natural. Blues-ridden, moving to a trot at around the halfway point, when I’d like to have seen the earlier given a chance to develop more color. One thing that’s always been true about MERLOCK is that a decent amount of the threesome’s work lends itself to open-ended improvisation, so I’ve no doubt that, in a live setting, the opener could easily be extended, should the mood strike.

Continuing with the doom-drenched blues, more overtly heavy, ‘Sunnbarren’ is sharp, slicing leadwork and bedrock-solid rhythms in the first section, ANCIIENTS-styled progression at times, but equally MASTODON-ian (think ‘March Of The Fire Ants’, ‘Workhorse’) in its middle. ‘Behold! The Sword Of Lock’ hurtles past, a relentless cannonade of sonic warfare, and yet your eardrums shall welcome their demise, the 5+ minutes of the tune seeming almost double the length based on the sheer amount of punishment doled out, guitarist/throat Taylor D. Waring letting fly with some surprisingly clean and higher-register singing near the end, speaking to the band’s growing willingness to let MERLOCK be what it will.

Hazed out/phased out, Timothy Leary coming down (or just feeling the tab start to do its work, hard to say) vocals drip over us in the ending title track, the bass/drum duo of Backes/Barrey in no hurry to rush this hulking album anywhere, but who’d want them to try? At around the halfway point, just before the attention starts to wander, the wall of sound drops clean away, sticky bass wanderings, shoegaze-worthy guitar shadings, intermittent drums give us a minute or so within the storm’s eye before shattering like exploding meteor fragments, raining down on piteous man.

For those on the hunt for stoner that doesn’t sound “stoner”, shot through with the real-life blues, a band that’s maybe unknowingly questing beyond the horizons of what can be done within our beloved doom yet still have it be doom…Onward Strides Colossus. Walk on, ya big behemoth.
Review By: Lord Randall

Onward Strides Colossus