Ilion by Slift

Release date: January 19, 2024
Label: Sub Pop Records

Let’s face it, space rock bands are bloody everywhere these days, and if they’re not trying to emulate Hawkwind or sound like some bastardised version of Monster Magnet, they are too busy forgetting to move on from that one repetitive riff that makes them sound like Kyuss but that bit trippy. Yeah, trippy my arse, and whilst you’re at it, take your stoner rock and keep it well away from space.

There are always exceptions to the rule though, and Slift are a band who recognise that whilst the pummelling riffs may be a pre-requisite, it’s what else you do that sets you apart from the rest of the breed and puts you in first class on that last remaining Borg cube. Assimilation into the outer regions of space, brought to you by an intelligence far beyond your expectations.

On the surface you might even cast them off as Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs copyists but that’s doing them a severe disservice. Whilst the two bands share a love of the almighty riff, the directness of those blessed Pigs are replaced by a progressive edge incorporating all manner of jazzy rhythms, zoned out interludes, and wiggly bits that could only ever be found on a Hawkwind album from back in the day. By wrapping this up in a tight, explosively fuelled album, it makes for one hell of a ride.

Although rather lengthy at nearly 80 minutes long (the first three tracks equate to 32 minutes alone), the album is definitely one to be listened to in one sitting. Tracks merge into each other, forming a coalescing whole which is a darkly cinematic soundtrack, imbibed with the grit and grease of the clanking instruments. At times almost steampunk in delivery, then unleashed into a torrent of freaked out psychedelia, it’s not music for the fainthearted. This is space rock for connoisseurs, and only the brave may apply.

Their previous album Ummon really set them up as one of the finest space rock bands around, and now with Ilion they have taken that a step further. It’s an unforgiving listen for the uninitiated but once on board it really is a masterpiece of taut energy expounded over its lengthy run time. Take the trip on headphones and you start to hear all myriad of sounds and moments which tend to get lost in the blistering haze of riffs. There are moments where the rhythm section vies for attention against itself, demonstrating a keen recognition of the basic of a motoric pulse, whilst retaining a jazz edge. The moments when the vocals threaten to merge into one mass choral noise almost tear your soul from your body, and then that constant ragged noise bringing you straight back to earth. It’s a fucking trip man.

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