Spirit Caravan

Tolotta

There’s no way to listen to Spirit Caravan’s Elusive Truth and claim that it’s anything other than musical revisionism. Yet the disc proves that there’s more to being a successful Black Sabbath imitator than playing the right sequence of power chords and having a loudass rhythm section. The Wheaton, Md., trio’s singer and guitarist, Scott “Wino” Weinrich, has pledged allegiance to everything from the Mahavishnu Orchestra’s distortion-drenched hyperjazz to Joy Division’s proto-Goth post-punk, but on this disc, he’s basically doing what he’s done for decades: cranking out soulful, riffcentric psychedelic rock that would make Budgie green with envy. From the first track, it’s evident that Elusive Truth doesn’t measure up to Spirit Caravan’s bongtastic debut, Jug Fulla Sun, mostly because the new disc’s thin and trebly mix deprives the songs of Jug’s sublime heft. Unlike most stoner-rock bands, Spirit Caravan doesn’t try to pummel listeners into submission, but its weighty music still screams out for a less claustrophobic treatment. Brittleness aside, though, Elusive Truth successfully conjures a world in which Sabbath didn’t waste any time on ballads. Weinrich bellows over thick, tattooed-and-pierced riffage, heads off into majestic, soaring solos that sound like John McLaughlin at half-speed, and takes sinister, string-bending breaks that find him and bassist Dave Sherman ascending their fretboards in search of Wagnerian fantasies. Despite the music’s spooky vibe and Weinrich’s hoary growl, the band lives up to its trippy name lyrically: Songs such as “Black Flower” (“It’s the psychedelic child of a jaguar father”) and the title track (“Sail on skyship, silver beam of meaning”) positively revel in neohippie mysticism. Nothing here, however, is as egregious as Jug’s classic clunker “Let’s get naked now!” and more often than not, the dark/light contrast works in the band’s favor, revealing an outfit that swings where most Sabbath clones just lumber. —Brent Burton