“Watch where you’re walking, there’s blood in the sand”
A much-overused word, evoking thoughts of dusty prairies, chrome-and-tile diners…even the trench-coat-and-battered-acoustic-scrotum-faced-old-songwriters-signing-off-their-careers.
Americana was a word being much overused in describing the second full length from Huntsmen. the intriguingly titled ‘American Scrap’. And it wasn’t the word that was going to inspire this particular idiot to dig deeper.
Oh man would that have been a big mistake.
‘Americana’ fits like the well-worn glove of the lone horseman as he rides off into the dusty sunset, the bodies of his slain attackers cooking slowly in the sand and tumbleweed landscape. Huntsmen have created the sonic equivalent of a 70mm, big-screen road-trip across the big ol’ US of A…a sensory melange of vistas, cultures and echoes, rich with every flavour of Yank life and history that that thought evokes.
How’s it sound ?
This is an everything album. It stands astride a multitude of genres, as varied as:
- folk doom
- psychedelic grit and phasey trips
- the slow death of a fading sludge chord
- the skittering rhythmic pattern of prog-jazz infused beats
- the interplay of trad rock harmonic vocals
- even the lonesome calm of 80’s synth pop…yeah, that last one is buried deep in the songwriting but screw it I’m calling it.
Walk this sound through your mind:
a warm timbre of acoustic chimes that elicit a Neil Young-eque folk with an evocative honesty…this is then washed away by a seepage of growling textures hinting at a growing storm on the horizon. The vista cracks to reveal the simmering emotions beneath, a flash of teeth beneath a bedraggled smile, before the unfettered eruption of raw, screamed emotion that hints at the icy touch of repression, anger and frustration. And that’s just one song.
There is heavy metal in these veins. Plodding passages of rounded, fuzz edged thud…sharp and compressed bludgeon of harmonically charged distortion in a trad-metal style…tremolo-picked reverberation that echoes the cold depths of a black metal forest.
Don’t be scared:
Let is pass, let it flow…for this jagged anger is almost always sated with the syrupy melancholy warmth of harmony-soaked voices opens a flashing glimmer of sunlight on those horizons and we’re on the road again. And it’s in these moments that an everyman honesty to the vocal interplay really makes this stand out as something special..a real journey from beginning to end, over mountains, through valleys and fields of windswept corn now turned to dust.
If it helps:
As a jumping-in point (and to get you past the acoustic album intro that seems to scare some folks off), I’m going to have to reference Baroness here…but very much the organic and varied Baroness of Green and Yellow and before. It’s a sound more fuelled by ‘erb than pill with the only taste of Baisley’s latter-day amphetamine screaming being the shadows beneath the eyes of Huntsmen’s more worldly melancholy.
Huntsmen stand themselves apart from the crowd by deftly and fluidly intertwining a broad armoury of styles…so much so that you almost don’t notice the change of scene.
This is story-telling with an atmosphere of consummate mastery.
Why is this album worth listening to?
- A freshness and sum-of-the-ingredients power that is a rarity in our increasingly stale smelling gathering of genres.
- Actual songwriting…a series of moments, of stories, that link and flow and balance and drive this narrative forward.
- Contrasts: the seamless welding of hauntingly vulnerable vocals to crunchingly abrasive metallic riff-o-rama’s…the gilding chime of acoustic motifs on tightly compressed twin guitar harmonies…passages of unfettered bludgeon and sludge, like islands of mud in an otherwise arid sonic landscape.
- This is an album that embodies the real meaning of doom more than almost any down-tuned Sabbath tribute, and it does so with honesty.
In what situation you should listen to this album ?
Just look at the cover artwork…it sums it up perfectly. You’re on a journey, either literally or mentally…a lonesome journey toward unknown horizons with a longing glance back at memories now slipping away forever. This is your companion, inspiration, soul food and map and is an album to be experienced as such.
Sit down, shut up and roll it around in your head.
For Fans Of
Baroness, ASG, We Hunt Buffalo, Hangman's Chair, Kylesa, Pontiak, Mars Red Sky, Pallbearer, Kenoma
If you don't know what those "Levels" mean, please visit this page.