Sea of Green: Time to Fly

CD of the Week

May 17, 2001 at 2:06 pm

Somewhere on another planet, beyond the Earth's atmosphere, over the dark side of the moon and past the Milky Way, is a place of absolute bliss. There, the bud is always kind, the ladies are willing and fine, and you can blast your Rock & Roll as loud as you desire and no one will tell you to cut the volume. If you think this is some kind of adolescent fantasy, that it has less to do with reality than alien abductions, then you guessed right. But it's also the hazy, cosmic and oddly appealing Stoner Rock world of Sea of Green.

Hailing from the cleanest city in North America, Toronto, Canada, the pot-powered trio comes off as the next chapter in the saga that is Heavy Metal, but they don't bother keeping up with current trends in Nü Metal. Indeed, they turn a blood-shot eye away from radio-ready ways of the Deftones and Papa Roach and instead choose to languish in the lengthy musical cosmos of a four-foot water bong.

After listening to the first few tracks, you can see it's clear Nü Metal means little to Sea of Green, since their musical models — for their look, sound, craftsmanship and motivation — all seem to have stopped with Black Sabbath's 1970 self-titled debut. Time to Fly is a throwback to Heavy Metal's dark early days when Christian icons emerged from every lyric, when gross distortion was analogous to purity and when every electric guitarist signed a contract with the Devil. You can almost hear the goat-like voice of Ozzy contemplating wasteful "War Pigs" in "Red Haired Dreams."

But Travis Cardinal (vocals/guitar), Eric Kuthe (bass), and Chris Bender (drums) know their Metal history.

And they don't shy away from comparisons, which can be on the Stoner or Nü side of the Metal spectrum. They immediately sound like Kyuss, Nebula and Sheavy. They front the overbearing reverb of Stone Temple Pilots and the Death Metal growls of Monster Magnet. There's even a splash of Type O Negative just for color. Sea of Green is a veritable Frankenstein's Monster of a band. Only this monster sports tie-die, loves lava lamps and collects 8-track tapes.

But the root of comparison has even more historical depth: Not only do you hear the living-dead heartbeat of Tony Iommi gouging bowel-loosing power chords, but you can also detect the influence of Boston's Tom Scholtz and his interstellar riffing mixed liberally with a helping of the Crüe's "Dr. Feelgood," especially on "Woman Today," where "it's all about having fun and getting laid."

And the comparisons could continue, because Time to Fly is almost a patchwork of vignettes taken from a plethora of Heavy Metal bands. If that's the case, then Sea of Green might be easily written off as a cover band that got a creative hair up their granola quasi-Hair Band asses, but the simplicity of their stoner tunage lends itself too easily to the imagination to be taken that lightly.

Take the space odyssey imagery that abounds in "Orion's Belt," the signature track of Sea of Green. It begins with the sound of a space ship door opening for the listener to enter, light up and take a seat. From there, Kuthe sets down thick and creamy bass lines, Bender kicks a slow drive and Cardinal waxes ethereal conjuring cosmic fascination with a feedback-delight.

With the first verse, he torches the ignition of our star trek journey looking for a place better than what we got: "Through the stars past Saturn's rings/ The mothership flies on/ with the life it brings/ from a world so cold/ we seek another home/ Hoping that we'll find out/ we're not alone." With the chorus looming over the Nebula Cloud, Bender doubles the time and Cardinal flexes his Weiland-style vocals over a dark and murky admixture of sonic impurities "to find a world unknown that will be our home."

That's the escapist side of Sea of Green, but then there's the mellow, more meditative side of the band. On "Dune," Cardinal (aka "Jesus") slows the pace, opens up a bit, and creates a mood of transcendence. Kuthe lays down a steady stream of in-four groove and Bender keeps time on his high hat. Over the top is the Peter Frampton-esque guitar noodles of Cardinal as he asks God in a swirling whisper, "Why are we here?" It's quite a step back in time, and if it's not taken for what it is, "Dune" might be mistaken for some kind of anthem for Heaven's Gate or the soundtrack to the would-be movie, The Revenge of the Heshers.

But taken at face-value, "Dune," and the entire album, are none of these things: They're just another juvenescent look at the cosmos and search for answers to the eternal question: Why? And taken for what it is, there's nothing really left to say. The disc serves a particular cultural niche, but won't cross over any boundaries. And it doesn't claim to be able to. Just sit back, try to sift through the haze, drink plenty of water and enjoy the ride. And don't forget that Visine.