Live at Soo Gallery 05.20.02

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Salamander shares half of its lineup with the heavy space rock group Skye Klad, but on the count of this short LP, one would not mistake it for its song-oriented counterpart. Clocking in at under 28 minutes, this album is comprised of two sidelong jams recorded live. The instrumentation consists of two electric guitars (Sean Connaughty and Erik Wivinus), two drums (Bryce Kastning and Matt Zaun), and one bass (Dave Onnen). Everyone hits cymbals at some point. "Thirsty End" begins slowly but picks up a nice groove. Wivinus develops a Middle Eastern sounding riff that carries the tune through its 13 minutes. It is electric and flying high like a keyboard-less Hawkwind jam. On the other hand, "Trench of Fire" doesn't take off. Much heavier, its riff starts out crudely simple and remains that way. The musicians attempt to build momentum, but they don't break out, they only propose uninspired variations and solos. The two drummers develop some nice counterpoint in the last four minutes, but the piece remains unfulfilling. So Live at Soo Gallery 05.20.02 gets partial credit for the jams, but it does deserve an extra point for the nice, sober cardboard sleeve.