The music world is full of bands who wear their influences proudly on their sleeves. This is usually a bad thing (sometimes even touching on being a very-bad-thing-indeed.) Those who manage to step beyond the poses and patterns of their heroes are in a small minority. They manage to pay homage whilst simultaneous developing and evolving in their own direction. For every Interpol, there are a thousand bad Joy Divisions; for every Music, there are a thousand bad Stone Roses and for every Nirvana, there are hundreds of thousands of really lame Pixies rip-offs.
Modern ‘stoner’ rock bands (the term applied with full acknowledgement of how terrible and cringe-worthy it is) are less directly influenced by Black Sabbath than by the second generation of bands spawned from the loins of Mssrs Ward, Iommi, Butler and Osbourne. They owe their debt more to the monstrous rumble of Sleep and Kyuss. In most cases this debt consists of every royalty they might ever have received. And then you uncover Capricorns pitched almost directly in between the breathtaking instrumental desert wake of Kyuss and the suffocating miasma of Sleep. Raw, inventively heavy and scary-as-fuck.
Album opener ‘1977: Blood for Papa’ is a case in point: starting with some decidedly desperate gasps of breath before bursting out of the forest with a mouthful of bloody fur. The riffs are so tight and the tension so real that you feel like running yourself. ‘1969: A Predator among Us’ slows the pace with a disquieting bassline played in waltz time. ‘1066: Born on the Bayeux’ alternatives between chilling quiet and chunky slabs of loud without ever lapsing into cliche or sounding generic, before finally delivering a climax which brings to mind Iron Maiden covering Lynryd Skynryd. ‘793AD: Harrying of The Heathen’ opens with an almost tear-jerkingly lonely guitar, even though you can sense from the first moment that very bad things are waiting around the next bend. Every note is played to some purpose; every riff builds towards something else; every chord change seemingly designed not only to compliment the others, but to make the piece as a whole sound less like a collection of songs but as movements within a sprawling Symphony of the Damned.
All of this, and yet infinitely more accessible. Remember, if you will, the first time you heard Queens of The Stone Age’s Songs For The Deaf and realised that what Dave Grohl had helped QOTSA do was to rediscover The Rock (cue embarrassing devil-horn hand gesture)? Ruder Forms Survive sounds like an unreleased instrumental demo from Lullabies to Paralyze but only if Dave and Nick had stayed around long enough to have a hand in it. This is an album created on the wrong side of The Magic Faraway Tree, and you get the impression that if Shirley Manson tried to get close to this one, she’d be eaten. Probably (hopefully?) alive.