Ignoring the opening salvos of the excellently-named Shitstorm, the title of Pist‘s debut album, Rhythm And Booze, acts as a modus operandi for the forty minutes that follow. The album is about hard rock groove with a thicker and updated sound, and chronicling the effects of alcohol in all their wonderful glory. That isn’t to say that all ten songs on this fierce release are just celebrations of mindless vomit-induced chaos. There is more going on here, and it’s all expressed through thick, bluesy riffs.
The first thing to mention about Rhythm & Booze, if it isn’t already obvious, is the sheer grooviness of every riff on this album. From the opening Shitstorm, with its straight rock ‘n’ roll attitude to Deadbeat, a track which, to me, feels like it could have been a ZZ Top classic if they had a bit more stoner swagger and a bit less beard. Every track here takes blues and hard rock, mixes them together, and laces them with straightforward ‘who gives a fuck’ attitude. The guys are clear adepts of writing catchy riffs, and they certainly pack a punch.
Take Detached, which moves from a fast-paced and classic hard rock riff that climbs all over nice bluesy scales to a slower, head-banging chorus. It captures that feeling, a few pints in, of being able to take on the world. John Nicholson’s guitars and Michael Collins’ bass are thick, with plenty of bottom-end to carry the groove, and drummer Andrew Hunt pounds the drums hard. The snare is sharp with plenty of crack, the cymbals shimmer and rattle like a shattered bottle.
There are two vocal styles, broadly speaking, in Pist‘s debut – phlegm-filled, bilious shouts and the cleaner, rasping vocals exemplified on opener Shitstorm. The transitions are effective and complement each other well, but the former is definitely more effective in communicating the tone of Rhythm & Booze than the latter. The entire album is fuelled by aggression and drunken recklessness, and the clean vocal passages never quite match this level of intensity. They provide a good counter to the harsher vocals, and prevent them from becoming monotonous, but sometimes they feel a little out of place.
The guitars are the thing that really make this album shine. They have a great fuzzed-out quality that evokes images of scuzzy dive-bars, their drunken patrons falling onto the floor in pools of vomit whilst a band (presumably Pist) plays a merry jig of mayhem. As stated, the guitars and bass pack plenty of rumbling bottom-end to carry the groove. The drums are well-balanced, with an almost tinny quality to the china, which really fits the tone of the album. The vocals sit nicely in the mix; all in all it’s well put together.
Given that Pist sold their souls to the devil and injected their entire stoner rock album with the blues, the album starts to get a little samey around 68. They seemed to be aware of that fact, however, because an interlude is provided in the form of The Worst Time Of The Year. It moves away from the fuzzy distorted guitars to bring in some lighter acoustic instrumental touches. It’s like Pist are spending a minute to think more seriously about the negativity that can come from a lifetime of rhythm and booze. Don’t worry – it doesn’t last too long. The band quickly return to head-banging heaviness in 68. The verse is a little uninspiring compared to the intricate riffery of other tracks, but the crushingly heavy chorus more than makes up for it. The next track, Trails, speeds things up by bringing in a shuffle beat reminiscent of some of Amon Amarth’s work, of course, the feel here is looser and rougher. The final three tracks largely do the same work as the previous seven, with a few variations in speed and style. The best track names on the album, Cuntlip and Chunder, appear here, so in that respect the band save the best for last.
Rhythm & Booze is a great first full-length foray into the world of heavy, heavy music. The tracks are all catchy as hell, and the band’s intensity and humour are fully captured by the recording. Although the tracks can get a little repetitive towards the end, the band keep it fresh with strategic interludes and an apparently endless repository of fantastic hooks. This is a really promising start from some skillful riffmasters.
Scribed by: Will Beattie