Who says our local music scene isn’t deep? We have so much variety here that I can review an album this week that’s appropriate for both of our big upcoming dates, Halloween on Friday and Election Day on Tuesday.
DARK POLITICS: Big Coffin Hunters.
Depending on how the latter turns out, bands may be mailing me discs to review at an address on the Leidseplein, in Amsterdam. Oh, yes, things can certainly get worse.
Big Coffin Hunters are no big fans of McCain/Palin, the Bushies, or neo-cons either, and their new album, Drive Another Nail, manages toss in a little political commentary amongst fun macabre metal tunes that would fit in a slightly heavier version of The Rocky Horror Picture Show. As the band’s first full-length, the disc is a significant progression from their 2006 debut EP, Platinum Hinges for Pine Boxes, with better musicality, more interesting songwriting, and a more cohesive take on modern heavy music.
Particularly interesting is Tim Yocum’s lead guitar work. As a riff writer he’s never predictable, always melodic, and unafraid of playing subtle background bits while Chris Giles’s drums and Jerry Pollard’s bass (he’s since been replaced by Paul Clukey — a lack of bassist has kept BCH from playing out much lately) drive a scorching rhythm. He hints at early ’90s guitar innovators like Dave Navarro and Larry LaLonde, but will reach back from time to time to Iron Maiden’s Dave Murray or Therapy?’s Andy Cairns. Great player.
He’s supported on rhythm guitars by frontman Matthew Morris, whose vocals show a range of delivery, from disturbed Clockwork Orange vibe to radio rock staple to the kind of silly grunt he uses to open “Cannibal,” which I think is meant to be fairly ironic. An upbeat riff underpins the tune, like a Van Halen cut sometimes, despite all the flesh eating, and the opening line — “I’ve been getting hungry/I know you’ve been getting hungry, too” — strikes me as being more meaningful than it might seem at first blush.
How many of us are hungry for some national leadership, some national identity, a reason not to be embarrassed for ourselves on the world stage? “If this were a plane wreck you would eat the dead one by one,” Morris intones later. “But this is the USA. Americans have nowhere to run.” I know: Huh? But in a mini-sonnet of sorts that finishes the tune, his reference to “secrets, lies, national security/Chewing on the flesh of you and me” implies other countries eat their dead out of necessity, while we enjoy it and make it a national pastime.
It’s not all serious, all the time. “D Is for Damage” is a quick-hitting straight-ahead punk number, simple without being simplistic. “Blood” is a gritty and punchy metal bit. “Electric Bastard” is a seven-minute prog-rock narrative about Luddites with torches with a few decent bits of wordplay. Nor is everything perfect on this record. Morris’s vocals are a little thin on the album opener, “Walking Dead,” and the vocals in general could be mixed higher. The promo copy I was working from was mastered fairly quiet, as well, but that may have been corrected for the final product.
Still, the social and political commentary paired with some really driving backing draws attention in this season of silly outfits and red and blue states. The title track namechecks Truman Capote and riffs on themes from Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. Its finish, awash in giddy-up guitars, asks an interesting question: “Are you tired of hiding from/What you want to be?”
And “Built for War” paints a particularly ugly picture of the grand old USofA, opening with spacey guitar work and full of subtle guitar runs amidst a manic drum line: “Your wife and children mean nothing to me/I drop plutonium on your city streets.” As we cavort and play at being something other than ourselves (how many Palin costumes might you see?), we’ll be all too close to a day of serious reckoning.
Their grammar might be perfect, but BCH’s advice ain’t bad: “Put pigs in the White House, and swine is begot/Put your faith in nothing, and that’s what you got.”
Sam Pfeifle can be reached at email@example.com.
Drive Another Nail | Released by Big Coffin Hunters | with Werewolves on Wheels and Ogre | at Geno’s, in Portland | Nov 7 |www.bigcoffinhuntersmusic.com