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Sunday, November 8, 2015

Album Review: Chron Goblin - "Backwater"

Decades ago, I read an interview with Chris Cornell in which he admitted "I totally have a classic-rock voice." The quote held as much veiled self-righteousness as it did "Aw shucks, Mrs. Cunningham" good ol' boy dimples, but it wasn't short on truth. Many of his contemporaries had damp sacks for pipes, ensuring Soundgarden couldn't later be accused of bearing any responsibility for post-grunge horseshit from the likes of Fuel and Oleander. So whatever influenced the range he's displayed throughout his career, to that I'll wink, nod, and tip my black hat.

Ah, but you're likely still unclear on the parallels I'm drawing between those 90's grunge gods and Calgary burners Chron Goblin. I can simply offer that Backwater, the band's third full-length and their greatest salute to ghosts of Christmas past, may be the perfect companion on a late-night drive. These eight songs present no shortage of surprises, and an accelerated confidence resulting from the successes of 2013's stunning Life for the Living is readily apparent. But the marriage of the classic with the contemporary can't be dismissed. Where some bands cut and paste today's sounds with that of 1970, Chron Goblin fail to ignore those momentary flickers sandwiched in-between, throttling forward with an ever-evolving, thunderous racket.

The band lays a steady canvas of spiny licks on Fuller, choreographing grandiose ducks and dodges in a thick, fuzzy tapestry that serves as a woven backdrop of what will unfold with the remaining seven tracks. That persistent churn funnels into the slow, sweeping draw of Seattle. Good fucking God, the smoky repetition is damn-near tragic as the classic fuzz-glazed punch amps. Drums battle better judgment and take home trophies, but listeners are left with an early spoiler: these dudes are pretty fuckin' good. The forward chug of Give Way challenges with pauses and driven fists, possessing a heavy throwback gait that so many attempt but so few achieve. I'll give one more mention to those pauses... you'll notice them. And you'll swoon.

The album's thorax fractures under the title track, a patient and dirty trudge through the swamp. Rumbling as it escalates, the sounds showcases Chron Goblin's evolution. Guitars absolutely shred and the rhythm section lays a trail of blazing shit that you can't help but gleefully step in. The balance of cascades and eruptions is apparently endless and helps separate these songs from the band's previous efforts. The calculated bass roll of The Wailing Sound is patient and, quite simply, fucking cool. At no point on this album is there a greater haze, a spookier silhouette offering such somber sustain.

But fuck all if End Time isn't the album's most blazing meld of what was and what is. Such rock, much roll! It's undeniably Blackwater's most aggressive and confident track and boasts its best moments. That hollow march, those skyward licks... follow that up with some incredible guitar work and put a tag on my fucking toe, I'm done. Hard Living's Black Tusk/Orange Goblin whispers are a subtle kick to the gut, and the adventurous guitar holds its own against strong influences. By the time The Return plays, I'm too spent to celebrate. Slow, thick, and bass-driven, I'm entirely struck by this band's ability to cover four quarters, eight tracks of swig-n-swill, beerin' 'n rollin' rock that's far more substance than style.

In sum, Backwater appeases both you and the ol' man. As he tinkers with a rusty engine and you do your best to wrest keys from his drunk, crooked fingers, you two assholes may just identify a common interest. No, Chron Goblin can't stomach your mom's casserole, but neither can your dad. What they can do is offer an avenue for you and that dusty topkick to bond over shit-for-beer and brilliant, era-defying guitar-driven rock. I know, I know... he's a prick. He's a drunk. So what? Introduce him to his new favorite band and maybe he'll keep you in the will, you self-righteous little shit.

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