The new Sourvein album Black Fangs reminds me of the line from Office Space; “It’s not that I’m lazy, it’s that I just don’t care”. I say that because, while Black Fangs isn’t a bad or lazy album, it just doesn’t make you care about the band at all. Over the years sludge has become the new Stonerrock, only instead of a thousand bands playing Sabbath/Kyuss fuzzed out groove riffs, a thousand bands are playing Eyehategod slow and sludgy riffs. Sourvein aren’t any worse than other bands in their ilk, but they don’t do anything to set themselves apart.
Black Fangs does have all the stuff I love about sludge and doom. The music is bottom end driven, which rarely happens in metal. Usually the bass is nearly absent and the drums are pushing their speed to keep up with the guitars. Sourvein ply deep into the bass riff, and mix it with the pounding drums. Then the thick and powerful guitars are layered over the tunes as an accoutrement to everything else. If the bass and drums are the meat, then the guitars are the rub that adds flavor. Vocally Sourvein stick with the standard evil growl that’s come to define sludge and doom. It’s not the barking of Death Metal or that crappy spoiled teenager howl of metalcore, it’s much more guttural. If death metal are the jocks and metalcore the cool kids, then sludge bands are the ones sitting in the lunchroom planning a school shooting.
Musically Black Fangs is a solid block of feedback and various levels of distortion. While still based around chords, the composition of these songs plays a lot with open space. Guitars ring out and hold themselves still while the drums play against the silence. It’s nice to hear drums that aren’t driven to play constantly and at full throttle. In a strange and dark way, Sourvein’s music is relaxing when put up against the constant flow of mach 5 metal being unleashed at us. Dynamics aren’t the strong suit here but they never are with sludge metal. You either open your arms to the sonic attack or you don’t. Subtly is not a very big part of the sludge metal scene.
Sourvein bring their full arsenal to Black Fangs and play their hearts out. The musicianship here is outstanding from everybody involved. While listening to the Black Fangs I completely enjoyed it. I was banging my head, smashing my fists, really getting into the dark textures the guitars were laying down over the hard-hitting rhythm section. The problem came after the album finished and I had no real memory of any of the tunes. I listened again and again nothing really jumped out at me. One of the hardest things as a music fan is when you appreciate something but you can’t come to say to you like it. I’d love to see Sourvein power through this music live, but I doubt I’ll listen to the album again.
CRAVEONLINE RATING: 6.5 OUT OF 10
Fiend Without A Face
Rocket Science Records
You ever wonder what it would sound like if Motorhead got into rockabilly and surf music? If so then allow me to present Fiend Without A Face, one of the many side projects of Mastodon axe-man and vocalist Brent Hinds. I must warn you though, if you love Mastodon and you’re looking forward to their early powerhouse thrash or later musical space odysseys, keep looking. Fiend Without A Face, the name taken from the sixties B sci-fi flick, has the occasional metal touches, but mostly it’s a release for Hinds to build a surf rock shop where he can shred.
I’m not a big fan of the whole retro scene; I find it lacks creativity across the board. If you want to dress up like a mythic figure from another era than dress like a Samurai or a Pirate not a mechanic from the fifties. Hinds doesn’t cop to any of the more aesthetic ideals of the rockabilly retro scene, instead he just pumps out good time rock n roll.
This album is actually a twofer, putting Fiend Without A Face with another of Brent’s projects, West End Motel. The latter isn’t nearly as impressive so, since you get both for a solid price, I’ll stick to Fiend. The album launches with “Calypso”, a rattling surf tune with some impressive howling. “Black Grass” is a guitar heavy swing that keeps a danceable honkey tonk vibe. It’s with “Cha Cha” that Hinds goes a bit off the reservation, in a good way. Imagine a Frank Black tune as played by The Zombies and you begin to get an idea of how all over the map Fiend Without A Face really is.
What I really love about this record is how it’s completely outside anything having to do with metal. Most “side projects” amount to little more than the same music being played under a new moniker. Hinds has completely stepped out of the Mastodon shadow, something that will probably annoy the metal purists. He hasn’t left behind his innate ability to tear apart a guitar, but here he does it with a good-natured goofiness that you won’t find in massive epics about Moby Dick or tales from Blood Mountain
“New York” is one of my favorites on the album, mainly because it takes the piss out of people’s fears of New York to a beat that would have moved Sandy and Danny Zuko to cut a rug at the big high school dance. This stuff is steeped much more in the genre of rockabilly than most of the retro bands out there. Nothing here is pat or forced, it never feels as if Hinds is trying to fit Fiend Without A Face into any kind of mold. That honesty, mixed with the light air of the music itself makes it a good time, which is really all that music was about. I also dare any old school guitarist to step to Hinds when it comes to shredding; the man is simply gifted on the guitar.
Fiend Without A Facemay have a hard time finding an audience. The metal heads probably won’t like that it isn’t metal and the rockabilly kids probably won’t like that it doesn’t come with a uniform and scene attached to it. Where this album will find an audience is with those who just love music, especially those focused on guitar. This isn’t some revolutionary artistic statement, but it’s not supposed to be. It’s supposed to be a damn party and Hinds brings that in spades.
CRAVE ONLINE RATING: 7.5 OUT OF 10