Over seven years, two albums and a host of sweat-drenched, speaker-blowing live shows, London’s Elephant Tree have carved out a very personal and distinctive niche amidst the UK’s flourishing doom scene. Drawing tastefully from psychedelia, blues, prog rock and even pop, they’ve never compromised their nod-inducing heaviness. Without meaning to diminish any of the band’s prior achievements, however, all of that now feels like a warm-up for Habits, easily their most cohesive and powerful statement to date.
This is apparent as soon as anthemic opener Sails roars out of your speakers, smashing together thick, weighty riffs with glistening, crystalline vocal melodies in a manner very reminiscent of Torche. It manages to sound impossibly, crushingly heavy while simultaneously feeling incredibly breezy and light on its feet, nailing that sweet spot between flattening amp-worship and ecstatic, summery pop euphoria. Faceless and Bird keep the same vibe while introducing huge, dreamy chords à la Siamese Dream-
era Smashing Pumpkins, whereas Wasted and the absolutely beautiful, unexpectedly gentle centrepiece, The Fall Chorus, demonstrate just how strong, memorable and effective the band’s shimmering vocal hooks have become.
Their lighter moments may feel more accessible than ever before, but riff addicts needn’t worry about Elephant Tree losing their edge as Habits also contains some of the band’s heaviest material to date. The mournful Exit The Soul pairs swampy bass tones against yearning guitar leads and emotive, forlorn melodies in a way that would make Pallbearer proud, and dynamic closer Broken Nails allows its truly haunting, folky vocal harmonies enough room to breathe before building to a gigantic, overwhelmingly sad crescendo.
Far from just another stoner doom album, Habits is a beautiful, heartfelt
and powerful opus painted in rich, warm hues of both joy and sorrow, and is easily Elephant Tree’s finest hour so far.