Saturday, February 16, 2008

Making A Federale Case About This!

FEDERALE – “Federale” CD ’07 (Private, US) – My soon-to-be 14 year old son is a geography whiz. I’m not talking about somebody who can answer a hard question on Jeopardy every now and then, no, this kid actually nearly won the State Geography Bee last year & may be headed for the finals this year. Thing is, he tells me details about certain places all the time and one of the locales he talks about that I’d love to visit is Monument Valley, which straddles the border of Utah & Arizona. Through the wonders of the internet, I’ve sat for hours looking at photos of this massive land with huge, monolithic rock mesas rising out of the ground like behemoth, tribal altars. So, the $ 64,000 question is, what does all this have to do with a rock band from Brooklyn, NY called FEDERALE? What it has to do with them is the fact that these guys have managed to create an entire album laced with riffs every bit as towering and imposing as those mesas. It may be a cliché to say that this album is heavy as shit, yet it’s a simple fact. You don’t have to go any further than the opener, “Hong Kong Trails” to be yanked up by the collar and slammed head-first into a concrete wall by the sheer power of the riffing generated by guitarists Jesse Cohen & John Stendrini. Kudos go to the production work of Josh Clark, also because the guitar sound that dominates this disc is one of the most powerful I’ve heard since the days when bands like Montrose, Point Blank & Mountain trod the boards in their youth. But before you go ahead & think FEDERALE is about nothing more than tone, here’s the deal. Sure, these guys listened to their steady diet of Tony McPhee, Leslie West & Randy Holden but they also know how to write songs. Straight-up riff fests like the aforementioned “Hong Kong…” & “Transcendental Lunch” pave the way for a beauty like “Robin Trower.” I am not kidding you, they have a song called “Robin Trower.” That alone, my friends should be a reason for you to buy this. But in case it’s not, I’m here to tell you that the star of this song is actually the vocal work of Strendrini, who lays down a bluesy, heartfelt performance that calls to mind everybody from Chris Robinson to the guy in Throttlerod, with his golden yet powerful pipes. And then, investigate the sprawling 8 ½ minute “Quarter Roy,” a mid-paced crusher that morphs into a swirling Southern-rawk guitar blowout before coming back in for a smooth landing. Not enough? How ‘bout the slow boil of “Jessefron,” laced with it’s bubbling slide or the flat-out heavy boogie explosion of closer “Car Crash.” The interesting thing is, I received this disc in the mail probably minutes after I posted my 2007 Top 10 and it is just so damn good that I couldn’t have lived with myself if I hadn’t added it at #1. In truth, had I gotten it before the list went up it would’ve gone much higher…probably as high as one of those mesas in Monument Valley. I know it’s corny, but the disclaimer on the inside cover of this one is the damn truth: “This record is not meant to be played at low volumes. Seriously…don’t even bother.”

DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN – “Ire Works” CD ’07 (Relapse, US) – I have quite an admission to make. Ok, it’s not that I secretly listen to High School Musical or that Montana chick. I do that out in the open because I have daughters who are 5 and 10 years old. It’s not that I secretly wear women’s clothing. In a house with 2 adults & 5 kids, I unabashedly wear whatever I can find that’s clean. No, my dirty little secret is that, before I heard this album a couple weeks ago, I’d never heard DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN. There it is, news story: Underground music writer had never even heard one of the most name-dropped bands of the last few years. Why, you ask? Not really sure. I guess, with all the other stuff I get in the mail it was one of those things I never got around to. Plus, when you couple that with seeing their name plastered all over the front of every newsstand metal rag around, I kinda figured…ok, trendy, watered-down stuff, no need to bother. Well, upon hearing “Ire Works,” that was an incorrect assumption…mostly. DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN, at least on this record, strikes me as a band of really good musicians. They would have to be, to play the kind of turn-on-a-dime, genre-leaping stuff involved here. I mean, let’s face it, from the jaw-dropping mathematics of “Fix Your Face” to the neo-electronics of “Acting As A Wave,” it’s a pretty impressive shape-shifting deal going on when you consider the fact that the material tends to have a real flow to it. Not only that, when “Mouth Of Ghosts” hits at the end of the album, you find yourself wondering if you’ve stepped into a lost Mars Volta session. Still, the reason for my “mostly” comment earlier is the fact that, as good as this is, there’s stuff out there like Japan’s SIGH that mows it under like a freight train and the mainstream people remain oblivious to it. My hope is that perhaps exposure to good, solid innovation like “Ire Works” will lead them to explore a little deeper.

IRON MAN – “Submission” CD EP ’07 (Private, US) – IRON MAN guitarist and long-time Iommi aficionado Alfred Morris III recently told me that, with the type of music on this disc and beyond, they are looking to garner mass appeal. I have a couple things to say about that. The first is that I hope they get it. Alfred has labored long & hard to bring his vision of doomy crushdom down hard on the public it’s high time they get some kudos for it. Secondly, I think he may be right, because after listening to these 5 songs, it’s obvious to me anybody into heavy music who has a grain of sense would dig ‘em. See, Alfred knows what the early Sabs knew: there’s something to be said for good songwriting and variety. Sure, “Black Sabbath” was slow but “N.I.B.” wasn’t. They mixed it up and did it with flair, just like IRON MAN does on this short but sweet record. From opener “Burn The Sky” to “Run From The Light” and “Among The Filth & Slime,” this 4-piece put on a clinic of simply killer heavy rock, laced with melody and memory. New vocalist Joe Donnelly has a commanding voice that fits the proceedings like a glove and of course, at the center is the pulverizing melting asphalt riff-machine called Alfred Morris. God, I wish this was a longer release but these 5 songs will do until the new full-length, coming later this year, hits the streets.


Howard said...

got this on your recommendation here, pretty damn good.

Howard said...

by that i meant the iron man!

raysrealm said...

Always great to steer somebody toward something they end up liking.