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Admiral Browning - "Magic Elixir" (CD)

Admiral Browning - "Magic Elixir" CD cover image

"Magic Elixir" track listing:

1. Vortexer
2. Ol' Martini Man
3. No Good Stones
4. Speaking in Tones
5. (untitled)

Reviewed by on September 3, 2009

"They have a cool aesthetic about them, but lack the meat to be something that stands out for good reasons."

Middletown, Maryland’s Admiral Browning pack more into their artwork for this release than they pack into the music. Fans of stoner-sludge-doom metal with heavy blues influence may get their rocks off on a couple of Admiral Browning’s passages, but the album ultimately comes across as either a mediocre heavy blues album without vocals, or a recording of a tired stoned-out jam session at three in the morning. The album takes an awkward direction and meanders both directions in indecision.

The drum lines at least are not all free-form jams. The band at least seems to be together through the musical passages, but the drum lines still come off as weak imitations of My Dying Bride without the tightness that would tie the music together. The production on this album is heavy and goes for the “oppressive” feel that most stoner-sludge bands favor, and is probably not that bad if you’re stoned out of your mind. For those who listen in a non-inebriated state, however, it just sounds muddy. The kick drum gets lost amidst the bass frequencies of the guitars. The guitars even get lost amidst the guitars!

For song development, the band seems to mold their structures out of jams and alternate between periods of excitement and slow dirges. When a song dips into a dirge, the drums often barely maintain the time signature and the guitars seem to meander with the bass and occasionally throw out a small lead or go into a heavily blues-influenced solo. In other words, the majority of the five songs on the album sound like they were given little direction and thought, and would fail to impress more than the “give me anything as long as it’s heavy and I’m stoned” crowd. The artwork is notable, however, and calls to mind early Western advertising.

“Vortexer” opens with a spoken-word tongue-in-cheek advertisement for a “magic elixir,” recreating the atmosphere of an early American sideshow circus advertisement. Right afterwards, the band comes in with a dose of detuned high-gain sludge metal and moves forward to some Mastodonic riffing, with a guitar solo following. The solo is heavily effected and bluesy, which has been done before to infinity in this genre. The second track, “Ol’ Martini Man,” has a cool main guitar/bass riff, but takes awkward directions in development. Nevertheless, it’s easily the most listenable song on the album. “No Good Stones” is basically a detuned blues-country jam with some muddy percussion and overdubbed speech about Indians. The final named track, “Speaking in Tones,” trudges through 13 minutes of slow blues guitar and effects pedal worship, hitting only the occasional fun passage. The final unnamed track is a short continuance of the ending psychedelic stoner guitar solo and closes the album.

This album is simply hard to get excited about. They have a cool aesthetic about them, but lack the meat to be something that stands out for good reasons.

Highs: Fun southern sludge-type sound, occasionally interesting riffs, fun album artwork.

Lows: A lack of memorable elements, muddy production, and loose rhythm section.

Bottom line: Unfocused jamming, a muddy sound, and the lack of vocals and memorable elements come together to create an album that fails to innovate or impress.

Rated 2 out of 5 skulls
2 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)