Hearing the name Uncle Pooch one might be forgiven for thinking they’d come across a character from Homer Simpsons’ stint as a cartoon dog with Itchy & Scratchy, but press play on the Seattle-based band’s latest long-players – Oneirophrenia and Untitle aka Sonarch (pick them up here) – and one encounters a genuinely dangerous vibe. Predominantly instrumental, this is unmistakably metal in origin but slashed through with diamond tipped punk drive and freaky psychedelic verve. Pile driving intense, Uncle Pooch is also never less than absorbing, music perhaps best understood cranked to “11” while one does countless bong rips pants-less atop a massive subwoofer.
One is forced to use broad strokes in describing the undulating writhing and skittering of this pair of releases because Uncle Pooch isn’t like other bands. Really. Yes, moments like the album-side-length title cut from Oneirophrenia suggest what Metallica might be like without all that Hetfield and the more ambient tangents hint at a bad tripping Yes, but these guys are so dedicated in pursuing the shadowy corridors of their own rabbit hole that they’ve abandoned any attempts to fit in with the math rockers and progressive metallers. Put another way, this path is for their steps alone, but those who’ve suckled the brute teats of Clutch and Mastadon are as likely to find as much succor here as hippies who like it heavy and 70s electric jazz aficionados who’ve never stopped missing early Mahavishnu Orchestra – not to mention lovers of fellow Seattle killer Skerik’s more Crack Sabbath-y projects.
Perhaps what’s most impressive on this overlapping pair is how Uncle Pooch doesn’t meander aimlessly but also doesn’t give way to overt melodies and sweetners. There is motion and it is forward and outward and inward and upside down, all in quick succession, but never is this music listless and there’s always some kinda mutant groove. The band’s own nutshell description from their bio moves the conversation forward a bit too:
Like the ostracized Dr. Moreau and his LSD-obsessed assistant, Uncle Pooch surgically conjoins creatures of different species. The vivisection of grindcore, free-jazz and good old-fashioned thrash spawned what they’ve dubbed, “Instrumental-Metal-Jazz”.
The musicianship of the core quartet – Shane Smith (bass), Tony Stevens (guitar), Denali Williams (drums) and Greg Sinibaldi (experimental wind instrumentalist) [since these recordings Sinbaldi has left U.P. replaced by “avant-guitarist” Zach Stewart] – is high powered, intense, and a testament to heavy rock’s lure for finger-knotting champs. Guests like The True Spokes’ six-string whiz R.L. Heyer hold their own but this is Uncle’s thang and one adjusts to it and not the other way around. Rarely is music so uncompromising also so engaging and exciting. Uncle Pooch isn’t work, it’s an experience and one any fan of darkly colored adventurous music should have.
This is also somehow connected to a fascinating Illuminati-esque organization called The International Brotherhood of Consequential Truth, which warrants further investigation. Any group that names an album after ”a hallucinatory, dream-like state caused by several conditions such as prolonged sleep deprivation, sensory deprivation, or drugs” should inspire one to go deeper.