Sprawling and ambitious...
JIRM – you may remember them as Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus – may have streamlined their name, but that’s about as far as the rationalisation process has got; For on Surge Ex Monumentis, the band’s fourth album, they take the template of psyche-stoner-doom-whatever and elaborate on it through sixty four minutes of their most florid and ambitious music yet.
Opening track Candle Eyes sees a marked increase in metallic content, placing loose, groovy riffage over a basic Hawkwind space rock boogie and then overlaying it with extravagant (yet very tasteful) soloing; Second track Dig isn’t quite so direct, taking fully four minutes before it gets into it’s stride. However when it does the hypnotic guitar lines suck you in immediately, with Karl Apelmo’s aggrieved vocals taking on a faint air of Roger Waters in one of his grumpier moods.
Isle of Solitude drifts by without causing much of a ripple on the consciousness, and sees JIRM at it’s most dreamy and post rock. The Cultist gets straight to the point, featuring pounding guitars and heavy drums from Henke Persson. Again, for this listener at least, JIRM works best when they are at their most direct, intense and rocking. Riffs are most definitely where it’s at for this band.
Nature of the Damned takes a left turn back towards the ethereal, with some interesting vocals and jangly guitars leading to a crushingly heavy ending. Apelmo puts in a big shift on this one vocally. Next track Giza strips everything back to just voice and a single guitar, with the singer resembling nothing so much as a reincarnated version of Jeff Buckley in this sparse setting. It’s spine tingling stuff and, if the band overall sounds best when it’s got it’s head down and is charging – and it does – then this is the surprise highlight of the album.
Final track Tombs Arise is another epic, clocking in at eleven minutes in duration. It rides in on one of the most memorable guitar figures on the album before settling into life as another riff-heavy snorter of a track, with Apelmo and his six string compadre Micke Pettersson running riot with a fine exposition of heavy rock versatility.
A four hundred-odd word review of an album like this only scratches the surface, and can’t really hope to paint a full picture of the picturesque exquisiteness of Surge Ex Monumentis. But if you take one thing from my prattling let it be this – give this record a go. You won’t be disappointed.
Surge Ex Monumentis is out on 16th March through Small Stone Records.