ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY- Open Fire (Relapse Records)
After a lackluster effort in 2004's Fulton Hill
, due in no small part to the replacement of original singer Johnny Throckmorton with a highly inferior Johnny Weils, Richmond Virgina's ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY come back with a vengeance and deliver one of the most ass-kicking metal records of this or any year in the aptly-titled Open Fire
. Armed with former EXHORDER frontman Kyle Thomas behind the mic, ATP bring the old school heavy metal like they never have before. Prior to the stumbling block the band reached in Fulton Hill
, which saw them experimenting with a mish-mash of different styles to varying degrees of success, ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY had steadily progressed with each album from a fairly typical Southern-tinged stoner/sludge act to a more developed hard rockin' band with a definite metal edge, all while honing that distinctive RVA-inspired groove. On Open Fire
, the band have really reached a creative apex I think, with all the pieces fitting perfectly together. Sure, they do shed a lot of their stoner rock sound from before, but they don't sacrifice the Southern influences that are so ingrained in their sound. The attack is now much more focused and the energy is directed at all things classic and great, from driving JUDAS PRIEST-like riffs to the sublime harmonies of THIN LIZZY, all fueled by the incredible vocals of Kyle Thomas. It really feels like his presence invigorated the band somehow, and even though all the songs were written before he came on as the singer after Weils left, I have no doubts that his impact had a major effect on the more metal direction of this album. Some of the stuff here is pretty much balls-out thrash for chrissake, something that's never been a part of any ATP record before. I have to definitely credit the production as well, just a fantastic sound on this album, the guitar tone is choice, and the vocals pierce like swords slicing through the battering ram of the rhythm section. The twin-guitar tandem of Erik Larsen and Ryan Lake bring back actual guitar solos as well, I'm talking about those solos that you actually remember and that you sing along to, like in the good 'ole days of Murray/Smith. Drums are dominant, great sound to them too, and above all folks these guys know how to write a song
. Remember when bands wrote songs
? That's the thing that gets me the most with Open Fire
, it just reminds me of albums from the greats where every song has an identity and you can pick out favorite different sections from each one but it all still flows together perfectly, that kind of memorability, catchiness, and power that's lacking from the vast majority of heavy metal albums I've heard released post-1990 (even though obviously there have been many good ones). There isn't even the hint of a filler track on this record, despite my initial skepticism seeing as how there were 11 songs, this is one where you can either listen to it all the way through or pick out favorites and be stuck on them for days. In case you couldn't tell, I haven't been this excited about a new album for ages, and even though I've had the album since it first came out in March, it still hasn't grown dull for me in any way. That initial magic is still very much there for me. Open Fire
is probably my choice for most recommendable (yikes, that doesn't sound right) album of 2007, because I can absolutely guarantee that everyone will find something to love about it, and even if you don't, are you really gonna slag a band called "Alabama Thunderpussy"?
Right off the bat "The Cleansing" stomps its shit all over the place, air-guitar worthy riffs, righteous drumming, and a perfect chorus. Things get even better with the thumping groove of "Void of Harmony", and the middle section from the quiet buildup to the intense heavy part that comes in and eventually returns to the pounding main riff, outstanding in every way. Thomas unleashes a beast of a scream in there too. "Words Of A Dying Man" has a scorching opening riff (and an awesome music video to go with it too), while "The Beggar" leans strongly on the Southern rock influence and a soaring guitar harmony. Lyrically it's also a standout, and I should mention that every song here boasts some fantastic words, its the complete package. The PRIEST-owning "None Shall Return" and definite party favorite "Whiskey War" set up the emotionally-charged "A Dreamer's Fortune", one of my favorite vocal numbers on the album. If "Valor" doesn't immediately induce spastic air-guitaring/headbanging/fist-pumping/bad-attempts-at-singing then you might've misplaced your TRIVIUM disc or something, because this is what real heavy metal is all about. The title track is the aforementioned thrash beast, christ this song is downright fierce, SO FUCKING HEAVY DAMMIT, and of course it's followed up by one of the catchiest tunes on the whole album "Brave The Rain." Finally the maelstrom relents as the fantastic closer "Greed" levels the final fatal blow, with the last minute or so gloriously reminding you one more time of just why music is pretty much the single greatest thing ever. Utter metal euphoria.
If you don't get another album released in '07, get ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY's Open Fire