With their sixth studio album, Warble Womb, stoner rock
eo-psych institution Dead Meadow stretch out in every possible direction, reuniting their original lineup with the inclusion of drummer Mark Laughlin and laying down over 70 minutes of sprawling psychedelic trip-outs and gentle rain-soaked acoustic mysticism. A good 15 years into their craft, Dead Meadow aren't making the same Sabbath-worshiping riff ramblers that they were in the early 2000s, and even from the first stumbling, swampy grooves of album opener "Six to Let the Light Shine Through," it's clear that the band is building its psychedelia on a more patient, nuanced subtlety than the thick walls of noise of earlier days. That's not to say that Warble Womb is un-heavy. Blasts of slow-motion guitar sludge like "Rains in the Desert" and "This Song Is Over" are blurry and confusing affairs, but the tones are distinct and considered rather than just brutal volume shrapnel. What's more immediately apparent is Dead Meadow's embrace of thoughtful acoustic guitar-based compositions, as well as an increased experimentation with dubby production. "One More Toll Taker" is an airy duet between organ and folky guitar that calls to mind Ghost's eerie sunrise ceremony-like meditations, while a few songs later, "Burn the Here and Now" shimmers with a lush, cinematic palette of desert sky guitar tones at a narcotically slow pace. "Copper Is Restless ('Til It Turns to Gold)" rides a pseudo-reggae bassline and is the band's closest flat-out attempt at dub amidst the incredibly varied set of songs. Epic, lengthy, and ambitious, Warble Womb is so slow-moving and resilient in its vision that it never feels too heavy-handed or like it's really even attempting anything overt. The songs dissolve into each other even at their most desperate, with clunky experimental interludes making a lot of sense when used to separate Dylanesque classic rockers like "Yesterday's Blowing Back" from glowing psych pop nuggets like "Mr. Chesty." While it's not necessarily Dead Meadow's masterwork, it shows a band growing into its sound and mellowing nicely without sacrificing any of its radiance by exploring less extreme territories.