Thought Eater drive through weird terrain, push into cosmic oddities with ‘Bones in the Fire’

Immersing oneself in weirdness can be a captivating, worthy experience, as long as your mind is flexible enough to take the ride. Conventional is fine, and sometimes the comfort that brings can be warm, but taking chances and unearthing new sounds tend to, for me, be a better journey when hearing music.

That said, we’ve arrived at “Bones in the Fire,” the debut full-length effort from Baltimore-based instrumental trio Thought Eater, and holy shit, is this a strange one. It’s not like you won’t understand what’s going on or wonder what the musical content is supposed to mean, but you will have your head tilted from time to time as these guys take you around some strange bends and twists. The six tracks here are mostly lengthy and have immersive stories to tell (even if no words are included), and each trip back to this album will reveal new mysteries you didn’t notice the first time. The band—12-string bassist Darin Tambascio (who also played in other mind-altering bands such as National Sunday Law and Graviton), guitarist Douglas Griffith, and drummer Bobby Murray—formed a couple years ago and delivered their first music on a split effort with Iron Jawed Guru. In that time since, they’ve continued to cultivate their sound and style, which is all over this killer effort.

Part 1 of the title track opens the record with ominous riffs rolling and then soaring, travelling similar terrain as Pelican before them. The track starts to sludge a little slower, grinding your face in the mud, before it lights up anew. Burly clobbering claims your flesh from there, with the song bleeding out at the end. “Pantomimic Dances” has a smudging, mauling pace before the leads light up and charge hard. Serenity emerges out of that before a quick power burst until acoustics take over. That rustic feel lasts until the heaviness comes back to life, hulking along and punishing before the power bleeds away. “Speak Through Dreams” is serene and intoxicating, leading to the riffs hypnotizing, and a dangerous fire being set. Charges register, and jagged riffs comes to life, and then the band clogs your veins with mud and stomps with a prog-fueled fury. Emotional melodies loop through, feeling like you’re soaring into the heart of the sun.

“Covenant” is the longest song, clocking in at 9:34, and it has a dark, foreboding start. The guitars pick up, jangle, and bleed, while the pace smothers, and cleaner lines swim through the chaos, adding color to the murk. Things hit the dirt again, with a blood-caked fury that grinds away at your bones. Melodies then soar and launch different hues, while the song slowly tucks itself into the earth and cools away. Part 2 of the title track follows and instantly puts you into a trance. Spindly guitar work powers through, while the riffs create smoke, and then we head into the cosmos unexpectedly. Cataclysm follows, before the final punches leave ringing in your ears. Closer “Unwelt” mixes acoustics and psychedelic organs that twist your imagination, and then you’re headfirst into a drug dream. Proggy fog spreads, putting you into a haze similar to Yes/ELP decades before them, and finally the track breaks into stardust, flying away forever.

Thought Eater might be right up your alley if you like to be challenged and kept guessing during your music-listening experiences. “Bones in the Fire” is a propulsive, bruising record that hints that these guys could be the next flag bearer for standard-destroying instrumental metal bands. This is an album that demands undivided attention and repeated listens, and the reward for your energy is connecting with a record that feels like a living, breathing being.

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