Cracks and Lines is the third full-length release from Egypt – North Dakota’s foremost doomers – and it shows the power trio in prime form.
Continuing their recent trend of quality over quantity, Cracks and Lines, like 2015’s Endless Flight, clocks in at under 40 minutes but doesn’t sacrifice a single minute to anything approaching filler. In fact, Egypt’s fine blend of stoner and doom has been honed to something damn close to perfection here!
“Final Heist” and “Cracks and Lines” are the two riff-heavy tracks (discounting the fantastic KISS cover, “Watchin’ You”) and there’s no shortage of catchy, heavy, fuzzed-out blues. The first two tracks showcase the band’s songwriting at its best. Big, fat riffs continually evolve into new big, fat riffs and drive the songs ever forward.
Guitarist Neal Stein adds to his arsenal of signature nuanced riffs that make Egypt’s songs easily recognizable, something he’s gotten especially good at with Egypt’s last two releases. However, Stein’s defining characteristic is his soloing. Much like his riffs, his solos are catchy but they are also musically significant to the song. Touting a good, old-fashioned blues mentality, he never gets showy and instead seems focused on licks that meld perfectly with the song as a whole.
Cracks and Lines’ five tracks are varied despite their number. “Dirge” is a calm stoner rock track featuring some of bassist/vocalist Aaron Esterby’s best singing yet. “What Lights This Ocean” is a slow-building psychedelic jam that reaches a pounding conclusion augmented by the glorious sounds of a Hammond organ. Chad Heille’s drumming is excellent as usual, and his kit (gigantic bass drum included) sounds thunderous and well-mixed here.
Aaron Esterby’s singing sounds the best it has since the band’s 2007 underground self-titled EP. In the years since, Esterby has relied primarily on a bellowed snarl – and while that style is still present on Cracks and Lines – his singing is more prominent than on any other Egypt full-length. Hopefully, this mix continues on future releases, as there is some serious potential for even bigger vocal hooks. 8/10