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Djam Karet — The Devouring
(Cuneiform Rune 99, 1997, CD)

The Devouring Cover art

The latest offering from Djam Karet finds their formula little changed from their earliest work. A good mix of ambient textures and aggressive riffing serve as a point of departure for Gayle Ellett's alternately soaring and searing lead guitar excursions. The simple, slow chord progressions and straightforward beats are manipulated during the best moments on this disc into attractive, hypnotic grooves in pseudo-fusion or quasi-symphonic prog styles. Other tracks, however, are underwhelming in their inspiration and effectiveness, and the 70 minutes traversed by these 10 tracks can begin to grow wearisome at times. Ellett's lead and solo work is solid and confident, albeit safe and unexploratory, sitting comfortably in the groove and riding the harmonies with proven rock licks and phrases. A couple of the tunes really do catch fire though, and hold up well against any of the band's past material. There's nothing spectacular here, but if you like what Djam Karet have done in the past and are yearning for more, The Devouring will certainly fit the bill.

by Rob Walker, Published 1998-02-01

It's very good to see this band back in action after a several year hiatus, in which rumors flowed with abundance — this member leaving, that member leaving, that member coming back as a guest etc. Djam Karet, at the turn of the 90s, was one of progressive rock's most interesting ensembles, pioneering a sound that was all their own, one that combined a variety of influences with a unique Californian outlook, a creative instrumental rock that set them apart from their peers. In retrospect, it seems that their last two CDs (not including the reissued The Ritual Continues) showed a band on the downswing, splitting up two styles of the band that in combination were utilized to much better effect. After a few years of hard times for the group, now a three piece + "guest" Mike Henderson (really, the original band back together), a new CD has finally come out showing that Djam Karet have regained momentum, reliving the days of their excellent Reflections from the Firepool. The most noticeable difference is the liberal use of Mellotron — from my early correspondence with the group, I would never have expected this, as the sound was usually very 90s. It's a nice change of pace for the group, with the music far more melodic than previous. There are over 70 minutes of music here, all of it of high quality and sounding good. There's "The River of No Return" with its almost two part structure certainly recalling Firepool, a moody and somber beginning that goes through several phases ending in what is one of the few electronic sounding sections of the album. The second track, "Forbidden by Rule" brings back the days of Hemispheres era Rush with nice chords and great bass playing. Gayle Ellett's guitarwork is as emotional as I can remember, the patented harmonizer and e-bow work is even better then I remember, in fact his instrument list is twice as large as any other, playing organ, synths, guitars, theremin, koto, percussion, and the lavish Mellotron parts. The more I listen to this the more I like it; over four years in preparation, it works remarkably well as a whole. Not so long till the next one, OK?

by Mike McLatchey, Published 1998-02-01

Djam Karet rattled the progressive world when they released their visionary two-disc set Burning the Hard City and Suspension and Displacement, which showcased the two extreme split-personalities of this Californian instrumental four-piece.  The former was a bone-crushing excursion into heavy power rock with anarchistic guitar solos, and the latter was a brilliant diary of dark, eerie ambient soundscapes. Six years later, the album that nobody thought would happen has happened. The Devouring combines all these elements into a release that is more similar to 1989's Reflections from the Firepool. Chuck Oken is back behind the drum kit (full-time) and Mike Henderson returns to guest guitar on four of the ten tunes. Always willing to push the boundaries, these guys have pooled together some sonic textures that are new to the DK palette, such as Mellotron, analog synth, Theremin, koto, and other ethnic elements. The end result is an album that, for fans, doesn't sound quite like you first expect. The heavy guitars are not quite as heavy, the ambient stuff is not quite as ambient, everything sort of meets on a common ground somewhere in between. And, at times, the results are nothing short of inspiring. Witness the phenomenal bass-popping in "Lights Over Roswell" or the out-of-control Gayle Ellett guitar solo in "The Pinzler Method." These are the trademark moments that DK freaks live for. Djam Karet might not be the most prolific band in America, but their music has always been far-reaching enough to make them the most important. This long-overdue release is sure to please many a fan, and better yet, it's likely to earn them many new ones.

by Dan Casey, Published 1998-02-01

Filed under: New releases, Issue 14, 1997 releases

Related artist(s): Djam Karet, Mike Henderson, Chuck Oken, Gayle Ellett


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