Legend of the Seagullmen is a band that looks inward.
We’ve all done it. You’re sitting with your friends and joking around and someone suddenly, with a nervous titter, shares something that may seem a little weird. Maybe your friends laugh along, and the conversation will move on. It was just a joke, after all. When vocalist and artist David “The Doctor” Dreyer met Jimmy Hayward, director of the film adaptation of Jonah Hex, he said that he’d always had a vision to make a nautical rock album. Nobody laughed. As it happens Hayward had already been jamming with Brent Hinds and Brann Dailor of Mastodon and — as one does— he had Danny Carey from Tool on speed-dial. A couple of years, a few extra instrumental hands on deck and a lot of salt-aired jam sessions later, Legend of the Seagullmen emerged, an eight-track LP of mostly stoner rock.
The album sets sail toward 2016’s super-group collaboration Killer Be Killed but gets lost at sea somewhere between The Melvins and Pepe Deluxe’s Queen of the Wave. Naturally, its super-group nature will garner attention, but with the possible exception of Danny Carey’s drumming, fans of the component bands will be hard pressed to identify any similarities. The album is extraordinary if only for the fact that its perfect storm of talent capsizes on a wave of mediocrity.
The thing about mythological themed albums is that they usually stick to familiar symbolism. Things we know stir emotions we can relate to: 13 Inches of Blood screeches at us about battle and orcs and trolls, Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden featured elements of everything from Science Fiction to classic literature and even Led Zeppelin wrote about hobbits. Countless bands of this ilk make reference to or mockery of Christian religious symbolism. However, short of Moby Dick, there are few nautical myths which tap into any kind of relatable social metaphor. For that, The Legend of the Seagullmen can be both lauded and questioned. It’s not necessarily the goal to produce anything other than an interesting piece of art or tell an unusual story but there ought to be a certain expectation that its audience is… well … on board.
The influence of The Melvins’ Toshi Kasai is audible from the first grinding guitar drone and restrained, ghostly wail. “We Are the Seagullmen” announces the record with vocal effects which suggest the refrain is shouted into a wind which carries them away over solid guitar-solo rock-outs. It’s a promising first track. Unfortunately “The Fogger” and “Shipwreck” both come off sounding a little too dated to be taken seriously. Most of the tracks seem like compilations of patterns ripped from other epic performances, combined to sound more tiresome than exciting. There’s influence of classic rock and metal here but the reversing cascade of the vocal effects do little to keep things afloat.
“Curse of the Red Tail” and “The Orca” both reach for epic metal ballad territory, but lack both the melody to make you care and the rough, rolling production to make your decks creak. These are not the angry seas you might have expected, but just vaguely rough waters, predictable and self-indulgent. This is most evident on “Rise of the Giant” where the vocal story is told with all the over-the-top cheese of a Jack Black sketch but without the comedy. This is the point where we start to question whether this is a serious record or something more tongue-in-cheek. It’s not clear, but then neither are the waters as we dive into the album’s closer “Ballad of the Deep Sea Diver.”
Legend of the Seagullmen is a band that looks inward, nodding encouragement to each another as its members cast out, dipping their oars in the ocean of available riffs, melodies and drum patterns to find a fairly pedestrian adventure of their own making. Even if you are lured by the spirit of these seafarers, you may not eagerly climb the widow’s walk awaiting their return.