Oxcart: Beekeeper Constellation
Oxcart is a Portland, Oregon band made up of Jason Baker, on guitar and vocals, Eric Welder on bass; Matt Jones on keys, guitar and vocals; and Alex Feletar on drums. They have been in the field making music since their debut album of 2005, Sasquatch?. In 2008 they released the follow up Equation, which earned them some critical acclaim and support slots for the touring bands Zepperella and The Cherry Poppin' Daddies, during their tours from 2008 – 2010. This new album combines a sound that they describe as a mix of "Pink Floyd, Queens of the Stone Age, Muse, and the Sword" .
The concept of the album is embodied in this excerpt taken from their website: "A young beekeeper finds himself thrust into the angry maw of an unforgiving war and returns a changed man, haunted by visions and ghosts of those he loves. Unable to reconnect, he takes solace only in the company of his bees and a vision of himself unto the stars…" (http://www.oxcartmusic.net/store.php, 2011).
This is a game changing album for this band. I think this one has the capacity and sound to help break the band big. The two years of planning and preparing this album were well worth the wait. The hard work and original compositions they have created here need to be heard by many. They have created a piece of art full of many genres and moods. This is the kind of album that jumps to the top of your discography and makes you walk with pride that you've created it. Get this album, don't miss this new stage in their career.
"Drawbridge" opens with this mono sounding anthem that sounds like something taken from a movie or video game soundtrack. However, the song quickly blossoms into a full fledge anthem with pounding drums, (including a salute to Genesis with a "Knife" sounding drum insert), before the guitars zoom their way out of this intro track.
Don't put down the sticks yet, "Delusions" is full of that heralding drum assault at the opening. Almost like a throwback to "Immigrant Song", the drums, and then blazing guitars of this song make it one of the best tracks on the album. Baker's vocals, "Climbing and climbing I won't turn around. I can see clearly now, so clearly. I can fly far away so far way. But I'm already in the clouds", are powerful and a mix between David Gilmour and some of the leading grunge artists from this neck of the woods. The guitar soloing is amazing and will have you at the edge of the chair or up rocking to the beat. Can't say enough about the drums.
"The Light" opens with soft keyboards, after all the early drumslinging from the opening tracks. Don't get to comfortable, cause the mood is gonna change. Another of the best songs on the album, this one is just magnificent. Full of emotional music and vocals, "Lost in NYC, learn to find my own way. Upside down I've capsized, adrift where you left me". The support of pounding drums and grinding Rush – like guitars helps lift this one even higher. There is an almost Cure/Smashing Pumpkins ala"1979" feel to the backing bass and guitar support, set against more powerful grungy vocals and grinding guitars. Yeah a great mix.
"Zenith" takes us up in space, complete with radio communication flashback effects, before those buzzing, blasting guitars and punching drums take over. This is a Black Sabbath sounding instrumental assault of the senses before Jason's vocals join the fray, "I've been kicked around like a beer in the sun. Now I stretch out my arms". The howling guitar effects will take you right back to the 70s legends.
Then all becomes calm and we get some cool bass and intricate guitar on "Ember". More great drums and Jason's vocals, "In my mind is a place in the stars. I'll turn around and I can't catch my breath. The Past or the Future, what's wrong and what's left?", combined with some excellent guitar preparing you for the next part of this concept album.
The guitar work on "Fire" is the best on the album. It is simply amazing and can be compared to Rush and many other fast ripping guitar solos. The drums and heavy bass help to support the blistering guitar soloing. Jason's vocals are some of the best on the album, "Waiting on the sunrise. Fire in the lonely sky tonight". That opening riff will stay with you for a long while.
"Possum" slows things down again with spacey guitars and key effects. The bass work is excellent along with the Gimouresque lead guitar. "The silence over comes me. I look into the sky. And somewhere just out there I'm waiting on a star to fall". The launching guitar solo will bring back all of your Pink Floyd memories as the room fills with that incredible sound.
"Nationalism Anthem" opens with cool keys and soft intricate guitar slicing through the haze. A great "Welcome to the Machine" mixed with "On the Run", rhythm begins, before the drums gallop off and take this one away. The power bass and lead guitar will bring back memories of the best of Soundgarden and others of the genre. But they keep it proggy with chime effects and solid, spacey, building rhythms.
"The Beekeeper" opens with what sounds like the ocean, but maybe those are thousands of bees. This one has some fantastic keys that take on an organ sound that will take you right back to some classics from the 70s. The drums and guitar buzz are perfect. The vocals and lyrics are memorable, "Inside my own persona. And in the stars I'm the beekeeper. Believe in things that I can't see now. Left alone is the beekeeper. The beekeeper..." The drum roll and those heavy guitars towards the end have so much sonic intensity it will push your speakers to the limit. Then they give you a cool soft piano exit.
More soft drums and slow guitar open "Speakeasy", the album's closer. More great lyrics and vocals, "Are you hearing what I'm sending? Do we have an understanding? Are you with me or against me? Do you think I'm condescending ?" The excellent guitar and bass work is set perfectly against those amazing drums.
1. Drawbridge 1:58
2. Delusions 6:19
3. The Light 5:19
4. Zenith 2:28
5. Ember 2:30
6. Fire 5:49
7. Possum 4:25
8. Nationalism Anthem 6:56
9. The Beekeeper 5:21
10. Speakeasy 9:15
Added: May 15th 2011
Reviewer: Mark Johnson
Related Link: Band Website
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