Oregon's Black Elk are certainly a slap to the face. Although their overall sound leans more towards sludge or post-metal, and thus should appeal to fans of said music, they are by no means a standard entry, nor even familiar, to the growing scene. In fact, this is probably the first release I've heard that seems actually worth calling artcore, but I still hate that term, so fuck it.
So what makes Black Elk so unique? Just about everything. Sure, they've got your standard heavy sludge riffing, but that's just the start. Every song is a rollercoaster of styles, always changing, yet always progressing. For all of the many styles that Black Elk interweave, the songs never feel forced or clunky. Take "Hospital," for instance. It starts with a poppy little math rock number that leads into a brief heavy section, only to erupt into some decidedly Turbonegro reminiscent post-punk rocking. The singer effortlessly varies from slightly nasal, punkish cries to harsher efforts to befit the mood. I think the great appeal here lies not only in the smooth song progressions, but also the little unexpected nuggets that wait to be discovered. You really don't know where they're going, and it's never disappointing when you find out. It's slightly spastic, almost like a post-metal version of Psyopus, but the changes have a heartening sense of purpose and meaning to them.
I will say, however, that the album overall lacks a cohesive feel, leaving each song feeling slightly detached. This isn't surprising due to the diverse nature of the songs, but it does make the album less compelling to return to frequently. But that doesn't mean that listeners looking for unique, experimental music should pass this up - it's quite the fascinating listen. I think that if they expand the atmospheric elements smattered amongst the album on future material, they could release something really transcendental.
Verdict: Win [4/5]