The role of the drummer often entails laying a barely visible framework, a structure from which the flashier instruments can project to the rafters. Sure, connoisseurs and other drummers will pick out the exceptional work of certain stick-wielders, and the occasional fill or solo will elicit yowls from the crowd, but who knows who the drummer was on the vast majority of Billboard-charting tracks (or even if there was a drummer)? Greg Fox is not a drummer to fade into the background. In Liturgy, his “burst beat” was an essential element of the transcendental black metal espoused by Hunter Hunt-Hendrix. After leaving that act behind, Fox has further run wild with his own project, Guardian Alien, leading the psychedelic drones himself. On the band’s latest, Spiritual Emergency, Fox outshines his compatriots, his drumming an achievement to behold, though it frequently overshadows the accompanying compositions.
There’s a reason Fox’s website is infinitelimbs.com: the astounding fluidity of his rhythms is fueled by seemingly countless sets of appendages. There’s a metaphysical wizardry to the complexity in that poly-armed percussion, an agility and speed achieved through (and causing) all-encompassing meditative ecstasy. The opening 10 minutes of “Tranquilizer” usher Spiritual Emergency in on a rattle of tabla-like tuned smacks and clicky counterpoints, the constancy of the rolls and waves astonishing. Wafts of guitar and curlicues of delayed, distorted, and sliced vocals enhance the altered state, the icing on the LSD layer cake, but Fox’s zen-focused iridescence is the burning star core.
The goal of this ecstatic psychedelia, as defined in a voice-over on the title track by the Czech psychiatrist Stanislav Grof from a book that shares the album’s title, is to seriously explore the connection to a new state of being that is often dismissed as false, treated as mental illness, or suppressed. After Grof’s narration drifts away, Fox and company do their best to push and pull at the tempo, to spin like a Sufi, to stretch out yogic, to get into the monastic mystic chanting, breaking free of the everyday and into the spiritual.
Essential Tracks: “Tranquilizer”, “Spiritual Emergency”