Bourbon Train is a bit deceiving at first, a band that zags instead of zigs but ends up in a good place nonetheless. Coming into to this release, I expected more of a sweaty mix of heavy blooze riffs and vocals that would veer more toward a plodding stoner blues sound. I am happy to report that my assumptions were quickly dashed by the aptly titled First Stop. It takes about a minute for the band to kick into a high energy opening riff carried swiftly by bassist Andy Shaw and drummer Justin Kaplan’s steady gallop. Travis Anderson’s vocal delivery comes in somewhere between James Gang era Joe Walsh and an amped up Bob Hite from Canned Heat although a bit more unhinged (in a good way).
First Stop is the first proper release by the Columbus Ohio band and brings with it a tight sound that can only be built through late nights on a barroom stage or rehearsal space. Whiskey Litch is built around a serpentine blues riff that rises and falls between huge solos by Casey Haubach and Tyler Lust. End of the Line is the heaviest track on the album with double bass and heavy riffage to spare. Bourbon Train defies expectations on this first release with a muscular sound and velocity that creates a unique blues-based heavy rock release.
Drug Cult’s self-titled first release comes fully formed
like a seasoned veteran band hitting it’s creative peak. Guitars grind and wail on opening track
Serpent Therapy as if they are awakening from a long slumber before finally
hitting a groove above two and half minutes into the song. The Wall is the absolute highlight of the
album that breaks open with lumbering riff that seems to gain steam like a
charging elephant. The song contains a
sweet hook that nearly turns the song into a hummable tune.
The tone and feel of the album is very much set through the production,
especially with the sound of Aasha Tozer’s voice weaving with the guitars and
frequently rising above the fuzz. It has
the vintage feel of an Electric Wizard album with a cleaner sound and without
the movie clips. Bloodstone late in the
album seems to capture that drugged out feel that I think the album is
attempting to convey. Hearing Tozer hypnotically
repeat “Blood is the drug I have been searching for… I want more” creates a
chilly soundscape unique to the album.
My guess is that this album will show up on many “best of” lists coming
our way in a couple months.
If fuzzy riffs and stretched out solos are your thing, then you will not go wrong picking up the first full-length album from the Brooklyn band River Cult. The album kicks down the door with Likelihood of Confusion that swings with a Sabbathian riff to open the song before Sean Forlenza’s vocals slide in to flesh out the tune. Following Confusion is the album’s most ambitious track, The Sophist which is a huge piece of music that drops early in the listening experience but is definitely the high-water mark of the album. Tempos shift and expand into one another as the band takes you on a 12-minute ride that feels like a late ’69 Hendrix jam.
Much of Halcyon Daze is an instrumental workout with nearly
every track stretching into a lengthy jam or two before finishing. The song Halcyon Daze is a muscular tune that
begins slow picking up steam as it chugs through seven minutes of riffage and
soaring solos. Seething is a great
example of the band’s ability to get lost in a psych-tinged groove before fading
out in a wall of feedback. Ending the
album is Point of Failure which has a southern rock vibe to it with a laid-back
build up to the chorus that really highlights Tav Palumbo’s powerful percussion
A lot of new or current stoner/doom/fuzz metal bands seem to have a sound that can be traced back in some small part to Seattle grunge legends Alice In Chains. Whether it is Jerry Cantrell’s guitar tones, the vocal stylings close to Layne Staley’s, or just the band’s dirge-like sound qualities, AiC’s influence is clearly in the mix. Green Dragon’s debut full length released earlier this year incorporates some of those qualities with the results being one of our favorite 2018 releases. The band hails from the basements of Maplewood, New Jersey and is made up of veterans of the local metal scene.
In addition to the aforementioned AiC touches, this album is loaded with plenty of fuzzed-out Sabbath riffs and distorted vocals that quickly engage you on the first listen. Songs such as Dark Rider show the band’s ability to switch gears between an eerie shuffle to an all out fuzz riff groove and back in a single song. Dead Space kicks down the door showcasing the band’s more up-tempo sound with a riff that could have been right at home on any Kyuss record. Hoping this is just the beginning for Green Dragon as we look forward to more excellent riffs and some touring if we are lucky.
I am of the opinion that we are living in a great time for heavy music. Heavy metal’s genesis can be traced back to the late 60’s thanks to the almighty Sabbath, as well as bands like Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and many others. That sound was deepened and expanded over the course of the 70’s which witnessed the release of many landmark proto-metal albums. Fast forward to the current generation of metal bands, many of which grew up with parents that listened to these landmark albums from the fledgling days of metal. Many in that current generation took a left turn during adolescence through the punk scene with bands like Black Flag and Bad Brains before finding a permanent home in their parent’s record collection. The music they create now has that 70’s feel and structure with the edge and intensity of 80’s punk.
Rough Spells fit the above description almost too well with
their brand of riff heavy, retro-tinged rock.
Modern Kicks For The Solitary Witch kicks off with a riff that sounds
like you mistakenly played Burracuda by Heart only for it to hit you in the
face with a galloping beat that could have easily been buried on Hell Bent For
Leather. The EP continues with a fun mix
of 70’s metal with all of its points sharpened for modern consumption reaching its
summit with the soaring Confessions Of The Dominant Class. I am excited to see more from this band as I
think they are just getting started.