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Friday, June 10, 2011

Album Review - Borracho: Splitting Sky

The tale of Washington DC’s latest stoner rock torch bearers, Borracho (that would be “drunk man” in Spanish), is quite an interesting one. The original idea was that members of two other DC bands…garage rockers Adam West and boogie aficionados Assrockers…wanted to swap up their instruments and jam out on some heavy grooves under the guise of a side project. As such, Assrockers drummer Noah Greenburg found himself behind the microphone with a guitar strapped around his neck, while Mario Trubiano, who is the link between the two bands, having played guitar in both, set up shop in Noah’s old seat behind the drum kit. Take Adam West bassist Steve Fisher and Assrockers guitarist Tim Martin and have them switch instruments and voila…the Borracho shuffle was complete. Fast forward a couple of years and here’s the scenario…Adam West is a thing of the past…the Assrockers lineup is in flux…and Borracho is about to unleash a beast of an album that is almost guaranteed to take the stoner rock world by storm. That album is Splitting Sky and Heavy Planet was fortunate enough to get our hands on an advanced copy.

Upon hitting play, you’ll be treated to “Redemption”, an intro that is as powerful as it is brief, serving as a gateway to Borracho’s sound by way of a mammoth riff that’ll hit you like a sucker punch to the gut. By the time you regain your composure…much less your breath, the tempo and the intensity will have escalated like a flash flood, as Borracho steamrolls right into “Concentric Circles”, the first proper song on Splitting Sky. Here, amidst more pummeling riffs and an explosive rhythm, Greenburg introduces us to his Fallon-esque bark as he roars “one shot, it’s over…you’ve gotta set yourself free”. The song is a showcase of the band’s ability to balance power with finesse. Listen as they seamlessly flow from a machinegun riff to a steady groove into a bluesy guitar solo and back again. Be warned, this song is absolutely infectious and will have you moving and flailing regardless of where you’re listening. I promise, you’ll be howling right along with Greenburg as he lashes out at the haves from the perspective of the have-nots with lines like ”come off your high horse, come down to reality…you walk on sunshine, I live in poverty.”

The guys downshift and down-tune into doom territory on the near eight minute “Bloodsucker”, which may or may not be a salute to the stalkers amongst us with lyrics like “I really want you…so I can haunt you…why don’t you take off your clothes?” The song is highlighted by a frenetic guitar solo by Steve Fisher that would easily put a grin on Ritchie Blackmore’s face. It’s hard to believe this guy was playing bass in his previous band.

But wait ‘til you hear “Grab the Reins”, which opens with a steady bass line from Martin that creates an ultra chill vibe and becomes the backbone for the song’s funky groove. This jam continues flawlessly for about four and a half minutes, at which point Borracho kicks it into a gallop as Greenburg spits out lyrics like they’re venom. In fact, his gravelly rasp almost manages to mask the poetic nature of his lines, but the song’s message…to take control of your own destiny…comes through loud and clear as he sings what was obviously the inspiration behind the album’s title…“splitting sky…endless plane…gaining ground…trying to place my aim”. And then around the eight and a half minute mark “Grab the Reins” shifts again, this time into a decadent march wherein Greenburg sounds like a demented drill sergeant as he snarls “hut two…hut two…three, four…you never had what you adore”. And finally the band shifts back into that same steady groove that started it all, ultimately concluding with Martin’s chill bass line from about ten minutes ago…whew…what a ride.

“All in Play” (exclusively available for your listening pleasure below) is another track that clocks in at over eight minutes in length, starting as a bluesy romp, transitioning into a thunderous, near drum solo-like jam (Trubiano is excellent here), then into another extended guitar solo by Fisher and finally into a nasty breakdown that finds Greenburg warning some poor soul “and when your armies fail to come…you find your castle’s come undone…the answer…is run away.” “Never get it Right” opens as a sort of psychedelic guitar interlude…in fact on first listen, that’s exactly what I thought the band meant for it to be…but Borracho is full of surprises and the track eventually shifts gears and transforms into a riff heavy monstrosity that is sure to get a few heads nodding. The band continues to up the ante as they completely let loose and carry the song into overdrive during its closing minutes.

“Grinder” opens with another smooth run up and down the frets by Fisher that Trubiano interrupts with blasts from his snare like a shotgun and before you know it, the entire band is off and running again on one of their signature grooves. Here Greenburg appears to lash out at himself…”I see my reflection here…I know you’re the same…I’ve got your infectious disease…couldn’t find no one to blame.” And then Borracho brings their impressive debut to a close with their epic finale, the eleven and a half minute “Plunge/Return”. The song is a brutal look at substance abuse from the unique first person perspective of the drug itself…”give yourself to me…and I will set you free…I’m not what I seem…but you won’t run away.” The trudging riff and bass line of the track are the perfect accompaniment to the macabre lyrics, lending shock value to Greenburg’s roar of “push it in…let it begin”…and later…“goodbye…say my last goodbye”.

As the feedback from the final chords of Borracho’s opus faded out of my speakers, I was left contemplating the fact that these four gents have just entered a rather significant circle…or brotherhood even. You see the stoner rock/doom scene in the mid-Atlantic U.S. has given rise to some impressive names throughout the years…Sixty Watt Shaman, Scott “Wino” Weinrich and Clutch to name a few. With Splitting Sky, DC’s Borracho have crafted an absorbing debut album that says “we’re ready to join the club.” My recommendation is that you get onboard with this one right now…because chances are, you’ll be paying good money to hear Borracho play it “in its entirety” ten years from now. Splitting Sky is an instant classic. It’ll blow your mind that this whole thing started out as a side project.

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Track Listing:

01 Redemption
02 Concentric Circles
03 Bloodsucker
04 Grab the Reins
05 All in Play
06 Never Get it Right
07 Grinder
08 Plunge/Return

Band Members:

Noah Greenburg – Vocals/guitar
Steve Fisher – Lead guitar
Tim Martin – Bass
Mario Trubiano - Drums


  1. IF this album isn't album of the year on many lists then there is a problem. For anyone to say they don't like is like admitting that Chad Kroeger is a rock god and Nickelback are the saviours of rock. Anyone reading this site would agree, that is far fro the case. This is easily in my top 5 for the year so far and from what I can tell, they won't have much competition between now the end of the year.

  2. Fuckin' smokin' review, Toby! And a smokin' track! I've gotta get my hands on this!


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