Weedeater signed with French label Season of Mist in November of 2013, having parted ways with Southern Lord. To celebrate, South Carolina’s finest “weed-metal” act have dug out the masters of their debut Justice For y’all and sophomore effort Sixteen Tons given them a spit, polish and packaged them with original artwork for re-issue.
Sixteen Tons, recorded in 2002 by the legendary Billy Anderson, is regarded as something of a cult classic in the genre of stoner/sludge/crust. So, have they carefully polished at a rare gem to accentuate how it catches the light in a way we’ve never seen before or merely dusted off the joint ash and wiped it with the spit moistened sleeve of a matted lumberjack shirt?
If this is your introduction to Weedeater there is lots to like about Sixteen Tons. Bull kicks things off with a lively up-tempo swagger. The amalgamative tone of guitars and bass is utterly immersive; thick, cavernous fuzz dragging a leaden undertow of bass behind each note. Anderson does an incredible job capturing the bands ferocious intensity; the bass cones of the Orange amps almost audibly perforating as the track proceeds. Drums are understated; keeping the groove loose without any real flashes of percussive skill. Dixie Dave’s vocals are an impressive mixture of the last gasp of a strangulation victim with the slightest glint of melody. It’s almost impossible to decipher any actual lyrics but the tone works well with the aesthetics of the band’s sound. Squeals of guitar feedback indicate a further loosening of pace and a slower darker section opens up in front of the listener. The vocals snarl and rasp more venomously, counter point to a weak dribble of understated guitar solo that sees this track out.
The atonal one finger riffage of Time Served is so slow and uncomplicated it’s hard not to imagine the players weed induced drool hanging in globs from the guitar strings. The vocal line stands out in the mix; filled with hate but delivered with a soulful drawl – it works to contrast with the one-dimensional instrumentation.
The track segues seemlessly into the next, Dummy, and you could be forgiven for thinking it was one continuous track – particularly if you were stoned out of your tree. Building on another languid, fuzzed out bass riff, the track progresses steadily without ever really hitting a lasting groove. Nonetheless, it proves to be one of the albums highlights. This one/two punch exemplifies the kind of organic pacing so prevalent in the stoner genre – everyone knows where it’s going but that’s no reason to get there quickly. Lets enjoy the metaphorical view.
The pressure built during Dummy is instantly released with two minute instrumental #3. A singular elephantine riff stomps away while Nascar quotes are sampled in the background. Nice.
The reason for the instrumental reprieve is immediately apparent as the acoustic guitar and husky vocals of Woe’s Me claw their way through the haze. You can almost picture Dixie Dave slumped over a bar at midday singing this into the neck of a near empty bottle of whisky. Hissing a discordant snarl, reminiscent of Ka from the Jungle Book, the frontman’s vocal bewitches while strangling the joy from your day. The production and space on this track are utterly glorious; the un-nerving buzz of something mechanical, the twitching movement of body, the scratching of beard – it all adds to the dark malevolence oozing from the track.
In terms of brazen, straight up heaviness Buzz is the track that stands apart from everything else on the album. The slow burn of the nondescript intro riff – an un-shifting drone for a solid minute and a half, lays the path for hoarsely barked yet somehow, melodious vocals which eventually emanate forth. A simplistic drum fill indicates that Weedeater are are ready to drop the hammer. Next thing you know your bloodshot eyes are wide open as everything crashes in at full tilt and enough bass is delivered to peel the skin clean off your face. It’s a masterclass in production capturing a sound as physically powerful as this.
Things tail off after the highs of Buzz with Lines and Riff. Both tracks are guilty of treading water in comparison to the rest of the album but denouement Kira May acts as a gentle reminder that you’ve heard more from Weedeater than just over-driven Sabbath riffs.
Scribed by: Gareth Gordon