Though it may seem to have materialized fully formed from a neighboring black hole (well, Salt Lake City, anyway), Tales, the inauspiciously named first album from stoner rock stalwarts, Iota, has in fact been bubbling in the band's bongs for quite a few years -- a fact which goes some way to explaining its seductively complex, multi-faceted charms. The album's first two numbers keep things relatively brief: "New Mantis" is a bruising stoner rock thumper wrapped in a dark metallic sheen, while "We Are the Yithians" settles on a steady, driving, semi-space rock groove reminiscent of Monster Magnet, minus the head-exploding intensity. Then, before you know what hit you, Iota barges into ten-minute workout, "The Sleeping Heathen," which, unlike most epics of its kind (including the ones still to follow), devotes precious little time to loose, lysergic power-tripping, and focuses instead on alternating power chords and haunted vocals reminiscent of Loudest Love-era Soundgarden. Next up, the 23-minute "Dimensional Orbiter" does open the psychedelic floodgates, primarily by way of frontman Joey Toscano's astounding guitar work, but even its vast middle jam section feels more considered and structured than most -- no doubt because of Iota's lengthy rehearsal room woodshedding and extensive road testing, beforehand. And Salt Lake City's own Brad Brad Wheeler (yes, there's an intentional echo in here) loans his harmonica to the more rootsy, earth-bound, eight-minute closer "Opiate Blues," whose title pretty much says it all. And that's all, folks! Five songs amounting to approximately 50 minutes may not seem like much on paper, but Iota really do make every second count, and it's not often that you'll hear this much inspired, condensed power emanating from a simple power trio, either.
by Eduardo Rivadavia