Friday, December 1, 2017

Laser Flames on the Great Big News s/t review

EVEN MORE ANTICIPATED THAN DUKE NUKEM FOREVER OR THE HD REMAKE OF WHICHEVER ZELDA IS NEXT, NASHVILE IS BACK! Maybe. Lots has been happening since I was making regular updates. I've been involved in a band or two, moved, taken the GRE twice, and have been in a blissful committed relationship with 3 beautiful Dungeons and Dragons groups. So is this NashVile's return for good? Who knows? I was given a review copy of this album and finally felt up to the task of putting pen to paper after battling worsening depression for a good while. Hell, I've barely been to a fraction of the number of shows I've attended in years past. But maybe a change of scenery and interesting future prospects (grad school? what the shit?) have done me good. I'll try to cover some shows I saw this summer soon, and another AOTY list as well. ANYWAY enough ado, on with the show!

What do Carrie Underwood and Laser Flames on the Great Big News have in common? I’ll get to the answer somewhere in here, hold on to your butts. Let me pull back first and give this release some context. With this album, Laser Flames on the Great Big News have FINALLY put out their debut after 4 years of being stuck in production/distribution.
At the time this record was recorded, Nashville was in the midst of experimenting with adding a touch of twang to heaviness. Bands like Hellbender (whose bassist/trombonist/etc. Mikey Allred engineered, mixed, and recorded this album) were mixing in windy plains-feeling acoustic intervals between big fat doom riffs, while Across Tundras took Neil Young and Townes Van Zandt into Earth’s deeper territories. Even Clorange had Carrie Acree’s dulcet sung melodies mixed in with Black Sabbath tones. Hearing this record finally come out, I can’t help but think about these bands and the sounds of those couple years.
    All this to say Laser Flames have a very interesting relationship with time. They have a sound that feels couched in times of cowboys and the West, but also harkens to the future, or maybe a future that has come to pass. The intro track sets the scene of what feels like Blade Runner but as a spaghetti western. This mixture of styles is rife through the whole album, as Clutch-inspired riffs morph to and from acoustic crooning between potent guitar and vocal duet John Judkins (Protomen, Rwake) and Stevie Bailey. Their gorgeous vocal interplay goes a long way to separate this outfit from similar outfits. They go from doing their best Dolly Parton and Porter Wagoner impression to screaming like black metal banshees, especially at the end of the floridly manic Beloved.
    Okay since this is my review you’re gonna have to deal with a little bit of interpretation on my part. Just so we’re clear. This record is dense enough that some interpretation is required regardless. The lyrics in this thing can be as puzzling as they can be intriguing. It seems at times to be talking about what life was like out in the country, back before country could ever be confused with pop. What it was like when all you had was each other and how hard it could be, how hard love could be. Like Carrie Underwood’s “Before He Cheats”, this album is destructive and violent all in the name of love. (Okay I answered that first question, you can go home now)
    But Jesus there’s so much more to this album than just “shit dog life and love were hard out in the country and they’re still hard today/the heavy and the twang are all part of the same whole”. There is a whole David Yow-ish section in Open, Dead, and Doomed that doesn’t have any lyrics listed except for the ones screamed at the end, and it’s talking about dead people but they’re not people and they were moving through the walls?
   The mixture of clean and screamed vocals (some of the screamed vocals are super fucking subtle) along with shifting time signatures and drums that shift effortlessly from simple to blastbeats (did I mention that their drummer is James Turk from ENFOLD FUCKING DARKNESS?) really solidify the actually pretty confusing overall style of this release. But this isn’t confusing like a Pollock 1000 piece puzzle. With each listen, a little bit more can be heard and put together. But you don’t even have to if you don’t want to, that’s the fantastic part about this record, even if you just give it a background listen the overall sound and feel are awesome enough to give you pause and make you pay attention. The fact is, though you could attempt to paint them with a broad brush like “Melvins/Torche with a twang”, it really doesn’t do them justice. Laser Flames include so many different disparate styles on this release and make them work together as few others have dared, and they succeed wildly. The emotional spectrum contained in these tracks is enormous, and rewards with each listen. The feeling of this album is not like many if any other, and after 4 years of languishing in the dark, it is a joy for this record to finally be available.

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