It’s hard to get a beat on Brooklyn psych-metal four-piece, Naam. In some moments, their music drones on endlessly, and in others, they produce keyboard riffs that border on baroque. On their third full-length studio album, Vow, Naan offers some challenges, but little surprises, to fans who are used to Naam’s brand of stoner rock, which combines the depth and boom of Monster Magnet with the rawness of Mudhoney.
Vow begins with keys emulating a panflute on the short piece, “The Call,” one of the more inspired and memorable instrumental moments on the album. The bass kicks in on the title track, leading to what turns out to be a typical song from Naam– slow, deep beats and a groovy, but repetitive, riff as singer/guitarist Ryan Lee Lugar’s monotone melding in like another instrument. “In & Thru” is another quick instrumental that features some echoed drums, courtesy of Eli Pizzuto, and leads into his awesome solo that begins “Pardoned Pleasure” (listen on headphones or in surround sound for the full effect). On the lighter “The Call,” Lugar sheds some of his Mark Arm-like rasp, but the end result is a sub-par country anti-croon.
He makes up for it in “Skyscraper,” an homage to early Pink Floyd with its minimal and textured drumming and keyboard highlights, provided by newcomer John “Fingers” Weingarten. Here, a fast flange vocal effect is applied, admitting that his voice is not the band’s star feature. It’s difficult to figure out exactly what Naam’s strongest suit is. There is much on Vow that works: particularly, the riffs and the interplay between guitars and drums. When allowed to roam, like on “Midnight Glow,” the instrumentals make the record. Pizzuto’s vocals, while adequate, don’t add any melody or depth to the songs.
Final track “Beyond” begins exactly like Pink Floyd’s “One of These Days,” and again we find Naam wearing its influences on its proverbial sleeve. This last track is the longest on Vow, and in the middle the beats get interesting as the tempo shifts around, but through it all Pizzuto’s forgettable melodies pervade.
Vow works best when you hit play and let it go, keeping it to background noise. Once in a while you’ll be struck by an earth-rumbling drum fill or a creative keyboard turn, but for the most part Naam is very good music to play while doing other things.