Album Review: Wax Fang – “The Astronaut”
The Astronaut on Soundcloud:
On January 28th, Louisville, Kentucky’s Wax Fang released their third and most ambitious record to date, a forty minute minute, four song space-rock opera entitled The Astronaut. The tale is broken up into three incredibly intense movements and concerns “the fate of a lone space traveler who is separated from his vessel, swallowed by a black hole, and transformed into a celestial super being” according to the band’s website. So there’s that.
As one would imagine with such a subject, this is an incredibly intense record. Each of the “The Astronaut”‘s sections is wildly psychedelic and impossible to ignore, and features Wax Fang absolutely rising to the ambitious, lofty heights Scott Carney and Jacob Heustis have set for themselves. The Astronaut is equal parts prog, psychedelic and glam-rock, with a good bit of cosmic dread and celestial doom thrown in for good measure, and the end is result is breathtaking.
Almost immediately the album lets you know it’s arrived with the foreboding restraint of the first few stanzas of 16-minute opener “The Astronaut Part One”. The staggering track takes on several different shapes and paces and has to be heard to be appreciated fully. After the short break of “The Event Horizon”, the adventure resumes with the furiously driving bassline at the beginning of “The Astronaut Part 2”, which soon builds into another round of full-on ominous hard rock. A sudden, breakneck turn replaces the chaos with the ambient sounds of a string section, only to soon escalate in another jaw dropping blast of psychedelic space-metal. By the time that bleeds into the lost-in-space, celestial “The Singularity”, it’s clear that Carney and Heustis have out done themselves this time around.
The breathtaking shifts in tempo and massive peaks and valleys of emotion couldn’t be executed more precisely and the long instrumental passages take you on a fantastic journey. The feeling and imagery the album most brought to mind for me was (perhaps unsurprisingly) Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, most specifically the astonishing “Star Gate Sequence” from the classic film (not to sound like a stoner or anything, but listening to the last eight minutes or so of “The Astronaut Part One” with this on is pretty great):
For a band that has already amassed quite a resume in their somewhat under-appreciated nine year career, it’s fantastic to see such an ambitious project undertaken (consider how ubiquitous Ziggy Stardust is) and so deftly executed. Wax Fang has hit the road over the years with the likes of My Morning Jacket, Spoon and Dr. Dog among others, so it’s a bit disappointing that as of yet there are no announced dates for touring The Astronaut. One can only hope Carney and Heustis are busy prepping an epic, Spritualized-esque tour for the record, because I can only imagine the jaws that will be dropped upon hearing Wax Fang’s outstanding space opus live. Whew, buckle in folks.
A space odyssey definitely worth taking.