Space Collector may be our only hope. At least that’s what the Milwaukee band’s self-titled debut would have us believe. It is set in a dystopian future “where a species has worn out its welcome” on Earth, and a ship called the Space Collector is humanity’s last stronghold. Despite the heavy subject matter, Space Collector is surprisingly light-hearted, with its brisk pace, cartoonish album art and song titles like “Gnomeland Security” and “Boozehound.” But when it comes to riffing in the face of apocalypse, this band isn’t messing around. Space Collector feels like a clearing house for all the licks its guitarists have ever come up with, stacked back-to-back-to-back over the course of 11 tracks. And it’s also a grand experiment in genre: There are parts to tickle the metalhead, the psych freak, even the indie rock geek – often within the same song.
For instance, the fittingly titled “Behold The Space Collector” begins with a desolate post-rock riff, leaps into fast, churning metal and finishes with Gregorian chants and big, explosive chords. A lot of bands wouldn’t attempt that much over an entire album, let alone within a single song. But Space Collector does it on every track, eschewing verse/chorus/bridge for something more like riff/riff/other riff. The monotonous opening chord progression of “Nothing Survives in a Vacuum” quickly gives way to a spaced-out Kraut jam that sounds lifted from the playbook of Milwaukee’s own Catacombz. “Split 2” is bouncy, psychedelic garage; “Grandma Ash” is bone-rattling metal. And “Flight of the Space Collector” – home to some of the album’s finest moments – is a furious six-minute gallop with a swaggering mid-section.
Space Collector’s hairy mix of genres separates it from the glut of party-line hard rock bands. But versatility is both its strength and weakness. The band can do devastating metal one minute and sleek, spaced-out psych the next, and convincingly so. But at times, the genre-hopping is aimless and over-calculated, making Space Collector feel more mixtape than album. Space Collector has the chops and creativity to be an amazing band; once it decides what kind of band it wants to be. Here’s hoping humanity can stick around long enough to find out.