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Saturday, May 4, 2013

Nuclear Dog's Atomic Split: Them Hounds - "Them Hounds" / Free Fall - "Power and Volume"

An album is a moment in time. It is an exquisite capture of true magic held in place for infinity. It is a convergence of universes where one can forever visit to experience the choicest offerings from the cosmos for time on end. The overriding, bright voice never ages and nimble execution never fades. Pain doesn't creep in, time doesn't speed up, and joy permeates intrinsically, wholly, thoroughly, eternally. Life is eternally replete with pain and suffering, wanton disregard, vile intent, and foul, lucid selfishness, but there too is delight, satisfaction, love, and rock and fucking roll. Step in my friends to this luminous body of unimaginable mass known world wide as Heavy Planet and experience the exquisite, for today we get to partake of two slices of timeless, universal pleasure in the guise of rock and roll albums resplendent in full grandeur and unimpeachable pleasure.


For the opening album on today's Atomic Split I get to brag a little, not because of anything I've done or even remotely been a party to, but simply because Them Hounds is an Oklahoma City band and I am an Oklahoma City metro resident. I was privileged to recently hear them play live before I had a chance to experience this exquisite album and was thoroughly impressed while being thoroughly entertained. I knew they were special after hearing the live performance, but even that did not prepare me for what they have concocted on their first studio album, which happens to be their first album of any sort, and what a stellar debut it is.

Band members:

Erin Ames - vocals, tambourine
Benjamin Ward - Guitar
Mike Cougill - Drums
Jon Bohlen - Bass

Them Hounds classify themselves as a psychedelic blues rock band and that's as close to true as anything I suppose. There is a high percentage of vintage rock n' roll on the album, music that would likely have found its way to the radio in a more rock friendly age like the 70s. Blues rock has a heavy influence and position on this album, as well as psychedelic trips through wah wah and beyond. A little bit of funk finds it way in there as well, and while there may be a tiny hint of the country roots of Oklahoma floating around in there somewhere, it's not noticeable enough to detract from the impressive and incredible quality of the eleven tracks laid down for their debut.

The first thing that strikes the listener on "Them Hounds" is likely the crystal clear power pulse of Erin's vocals. Not since I first heard Corin Tucker's delicious screech have I come across majestic power of a similar fashion. While it has been said, even by me, that she reminds of Corin, a little time spent (which is time well spent) on "Them Hounds", becoming familiar with Erin's singular vocal expressions, will quickly discern the distinction she displays when generating her dulcet wallop. Her sound is her own and it is incredible. She displays power and grace, a rare and cherished combination because it exemplifies perfectly what rock n' roll is supposed to be, power and grace and all out expression, something she delivers with skill, grace, and abandonment.

The next thing that becomes quite distinct when listening to this dynamic debut is the guitar work on every song throughout the album. While the band may not classify themselves as a stoner band, Ward administers  massive doses of distortion and fuzz while nimbly executing lick upon riff in veins of the blues, funk, and psychedelica. Enormous in scope, compelling in production, nimble in revelation, and blissful in totality this is a rock guitar lover's nirvana.

Not to be outdone by Ben, Jon Bohlen has put together an impressive display of thick string plucking, producing memorable and contagious bass licks that rise above the mere metronomic measures of cadence and rhythm while never abandoning such. This is an incredible feat of skill and a demonstration of unbridled joy.

Exceeding in enthusiasm, energy, and exertion is the rhythmic, tribal ministrations of Cougill's drumwork, much the same as his rhythmic compatriot, stepping outside the bounds of true center and displaying rills and runs of ridiculous abandon, complementing the music perfectly and adding to its overall superbly wrought quality.

Whether playing haunting, blues heavy, big bass songs such as "Death Howl", "Willy Tre", or "The Kill",
or full out stoner distortion on "Out the Window", or the kick ass rock romp of "Bad News" and "Black Lilies", or even the instrumental "The Void" where the gentlemen get to display their prodigious skill with richly textured riffs laid in upon layers of sound and melody, Them Hounds have crafted a moment in time worthy to treasure for eternity. It screams loudly to me to include in year end possibilities where the brightest, richest treasures of the year get revisited.

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Sweden has to be the world's champion in producing top shelf rock n' roll. Enter Free Fall into the fray, playing a thoroughly engaging and sophisticated brand of retro rock with crisp, clean melodies and rhythms, monstrous guitars, unrelenting drumwork, gargantuan bass, and signature rock vocals, all in collusion with superb rock melodies seemingly yanked through a wormhole reaching back in time to decades long gone.

Band members:

Jan Martens - Bass
Mattias Bärjed - Guitar
Kim Fransson - Lead Vocals
Ludwig Dahlberg - Drums

The signature sounds of all rock bands are guitar and vocals, and Free Fall do not disappoint. The best bands, of course, produce the best melodies to go along with the gifts of riff and intonation. Again, Free Fall do not dissatisfy. 7 kick ass melodies await on this slice of rock and roll awesomeness titled "Power & Volume"

Fransson's vocals are of the power rasp variety, perfectly suited to melodies that are in stature and recall above power ballads in feel. He is able to croon, croak, and cavort through several ranges and power levels in seemingly effortless execution, while never resorting to a yell, and never wavering in delivery. Free Fall's songs are a joy to hear in large part to Mr. Fransson's singular vocal sound and delivery.

Guitar work on this album is constant, energetic, and full bore, executing effortlessly through riffs, solos, licks, and fills, displaying dexterity and vigor in all phases of the delivered seven songs.

Martens' bass work on this album is monstrous, gargantuan, and gigantic in scope and execution, if not quite leading the way, certainly not following either, adding equal measure to the colossal sound Free Fall exhibit on their debut release.

Energetic and nearly frenetic, Dahlberg is a constant cyclone of sound and percussion throughout the album, adding to the mammoth melodies in similar fashion to his rhythmic brethren, Martens.

"Power & Volume" is a fast paced, dynamic fireball romp of fun. "Free Fall" is a measured power ballad that delivers breaker busting surprises along its course of execution. "Midnight Vulture" is similar in style to its predecessor, but delivers a singular melody of epic execution, incorporating booming bass, massive guitar riffs, and laser beam solos. "Top of the World" is a classic rock n' roll romp, fast, furious, joyous, and brutal with step jab riffs followed by left hook follow through that promise a knock out blow on each blow. "Attila" is a measured masterpiece of controlled buildup and epic delivery. "World Domination" rides a wave of distortion through riff and lick in conjunction with massive bass and masterful vocal dispatch. "Love Bombing" closes out the album with boisterous energy and pace, making clear once and for all this band plays with fierceness, skill, and all out pleasure, a deadly and memorable combination.

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