Guest Column: Five Albums That Will Change You By Fight Amp’s Jon DeHart
Buzzov*en — To A Frown
Keeping one foot in punk aggression and the other in a puddle of Robitussin, Buzzov*en’s debut would clock in at about twenty-five minutes if it wasn’t for the haunting samples from movies like “Full Metal Jacket” and “Harold and Maude” creeping in between each song. The album’s wonderfully dissonant guitar work, puking yet coherent vocals, and traditional verse-chorus-verse song structures, always gave me the impression that these guys were nodding to classic noise rock much more than their Southern contemporaries.
Give a listen to “Shove” and the Gluey Porch Treatments of “Wound” to see what I mean. Yet, for all it’s brevity, there’s still plenty of down-tempo gloom and doom on songs like “Drained” and the seven-plus minute closer “Weeding.” Welcome to violence.
Acid Bath — Paegan Terrorism Tactics
One of the things that struck me when I first heard this album was Dax Riggs’ poetic yet seedy lyrics. It’s like listening to a step-by-step account of a drug binge that took a wrong turn and became murderous (see the spoken word track “Old Skin”). The music itself is full of dynamic tempo changes that seemlessly explore every version of heavy, giving the album enough peaks and valleys to keep you wondering what’s around the corner. There’s the genre gymnastics of “Locust Spawning,” the Blackened Crust of “13 Fingers,” and the acoustic-driven songs “New Death Sensation” and “Dead Girl.”
But no matter how far it strays stylistically, there’s still that good ol’ Lousiana sludge bubbling beneath the surface, like the seething “Diab Soule,” which has one of my favorite riffs on the album just past the three and a half minute mark.
High On Fire — The Art Of Self Defense
Released on the short lived but highly influential Man’s Ruin label, this record to me perfectly combines the slow groove of Matt Pike’s previous band Sleep, and the everything faster than everything else approach that High On Fire are known for today. The repetitive, hypnotic riff on “Blood From Zion” is a good indication of what these dudes had on the horizon.
With a loving spoonful of amplifier worship, huge drums, and vocals that sound like someone waking up from a weed coma, The Art Of Self Defense will surely appeal to any of the tone junkies out there. Seriously, if you’re not banging your head by the time “10,000 Years” gets into full swing, you need to give up listening to heavy music and move on to Dub-Step.
Eyehategod — Take As Needed For Pain
The feedback manipulation on this album is some of the best I’ve ever heard; on “Crimes Against Skin” the two guitars even lock the noise into harmony with each other. Overflowing with big chugging riffs, I’m pretty sure there isn’t a single note in the upper register on any of these songs. Instead, they compensate by bending bottom-heavy chords on album opener “Blank” and one of my favorites, “Kill Your Boss,” that make the already overdriven amps sound like they’re about to pop.
This, along with the lyrical imagery of mental patient neglect and early 20th Century medical experiments gone wrong, make this the album I would play for anyone looking to be introduced to Sludge Metal. I mean, it has tracks titled “Sister Fucker Part 1” and “Sister Fucker Part 2,” how could you go wrong?
The Melvins — Bullhead
Heavy music owes alot to that fateful day when Melvin’s guitarist Buzz Osbourne first flipped Black Flag’s My War over to side 2, since it inspired the band to re-define themselves with the same down-tuned punk at 16 rpm approach that would come to define Sludge. I guess that also means I owe alot to Nirvana for name-dropping these fellas on the reg, since there’s a chance my awkward 12-year-old self wouldn’t have discovered this incredible album at such an impressionable age.
Speaking of Nirvana, listen to the embryo of their entire catalog on “It’s Shoved.” The ending of “If I Had An Exorcism” is reminiscent to the ending of Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain,” and it kills me every time. I also can’t forget to mention the concentrated nuance of best drummer in the history of forever, Dale Crover.
I could go on, since there’s at least one big hook in every song, but I’ll just end by saying it’s been over 15 years since I first heard Bullhead and I still find myself putting it on at least once every other week. If you haven’t already, I suggest you do the same.