Four Star Revival – The Underdog
Label: Headstone Records
Dayton, Ohio’s Four Star Revival make the kind of music Avenged Sevenfold WISH they could pull off; riffs that have a classic 80s glam/hair metal vibe and soaring vocals that sound like they belong on a power metal record. The Underdog, Four Star Revival’s latest release, manages to bring glam metal into a modern setting in a way that doesn’t come off as cheesy or gimmicky. “The Underdog,” for example, has a fast and furious opening riff that gives classic bands like Dokken and Ratt a run for their money, while “Liar” has a crunchier late-era Mötley Crüe feel.
The production on The Underdog is pretty solid, with just enough of everything in the mix to make a full, rich sound, while making sure that every musician is on equal footing. The vocals have a slight echo effect, which is mostly noticeable in the choruses, giving them a little bit of a power metal vibe. These vocals are also the one thing that I can complain about; while there is a lot of power behind them, they sometimes sound like they’re in a different key from the rest of the band entirely, which can be fairly distracting (this is very noticeable in the chorus of “Liar”).
The inconsistency in the vocals, which sometimes match the music perfectly and others seem unable to do so, is what really keeps The Underdog from being a great record instead of just a decent one. Still, if you’re a fan of glam metal, Four Star Revival have managed to mix that style with a little bit of a crunchier modern hard rock that will probably get your blood pumping.
Burn Damage – Age of Vultures
Label: Raging Planet
When I see the term “groove metal” as a description for a band, I immediately wonder if it’s just a nu metal band that doesn’t want to get stuck with that label. To me, groove metal is Chaos A.D.-era Sepultura, or Pantera, though many critics have (wrongly, in my opinion) also lumped bands like Korn and Limp Bizkit into this category. Fortunately, in the case of Portugal’s Burn Damage, the description is accurate.
Age of Vultures, the debut full-length by Burn Damage, sounds like a mixture of Sepultura, Pantera, and Cavalera Conspiracy. The riffs are crunchy, fast (often going into thrash metal territory), and the vocals are aggressively screamed, with occasional death growls mixed in. “My Own Game” and “Four Little Pigs” really highlight the band’s ability to switch from Slayer-esque speed riffs to sludgy, crunchy mosh-pit anthems at break-neck speed. The songwriting is solid, with enough variation in tempo to keep things from getting monotonous, as well as some great guitar solos that will have old-school metal fan throwing up the horns (check out the solo on “Refugee”).
Age of Vultures has a great production, on par with just about anything on a major label; the drums in particular caught my attention. The snare-drum has a pretty satisfying “thwack” that just really emphasizes the punchiness of the more mid-tempo riffs, and gives the music a harder tone. The vocals are also pretty excellent, with a decent range that includes death growls, mid-range yells, and more shrill screams similar to Chuck Schuldiner from Death. If you’re into early Pantera or Cavalera Conspiracy, but want something with a little bit more thrash and death metal mixed in, give Burn Damage a spin, you won’t be disappointed.
Heavy Baby Sea Slugs
Label: Heavy Baby Records
With the four tracks of this EP, the Heavy Baby Sea Slugs use punky blasts of sludge and noise to fill just over a quarter of an hour, keeping things tight but not too thin. Opening with the evocatively-titled “King Midas of Shit”, they let anticipation build for a few seconds of feedback hum before launching into gurgling vocals, fat-amped strings getting throttled, and percussion which kicks like the drummer’s imagining some personal grudges at the end of their sticks.
The title track, which follows on the heels of that opening salvo, moves into a weird psych blues mode, something like psychobilly played at half speed, while the band manages to give their instruments audible sneers and occasional bursts of furious, J-punkish rattles and yells. “Pit Bait” offers another new turn, this time into (fittingly enough) a drum and bass run ideal for getting a mosh circle going, though the moves the song takes after that make it hard to tell whether the band wants participants to get their knuckles bloody or burst a lung first. Lastly, “Zero One” grinds things towards an end with more bass distortion, fitful drumming, and guitar presence that feels like broken air-raid sirens heard from a distance.
It’s an interesting set of tunes, and while it’s almost certain to make for rough first listens, there’s enough character and distinctiveness to each track to help bring listeners back for more once the initial repulsion wears off. With the band set for a tour in Japan and Taiwan this month, comparisons to the weirder side of Japanese punk may be an easy jump to make, but that doesn’t make it any less fitting. Check this crew out for a band comparable to the Nagasaki Nightrider crowd, but with a channeling of that style into slower, heavier, and creepier output.