Diiiiiiing-DONG! Texas shitkickers Bellringer totally deliver the goods on this here debut EP, saying what they need to say succinctly in but four songs whilst simultaneously covering a healthy amount of stylistic ground and leaving me salivating for more, but then you’d expect no less from ex-Clown Alley and Melvins agent provocateur Mark Deutrom would you?
Joined in this venture by ex-Megazilla bassist Corey Cottrell and drummer Craig Nichols – known for his time served with Shesus and indie supremos Guided By Voices – Bellringer is the first full band project in a good few years for Deutrom and , whilst very much carrying on in the vein of the more overtly ‘rockist’ material from his solo albums Brief Sensuality And Western Violence and The Value Of Decay, feels very much like a melding of talents as opposed to one head honcho and a couple of sidemen.
Nichols pushes opener Wait along relentlessly, his urgent percussive clatter forming the supporting spine for Cottrell’s throbbing bass and Deutrom’s alternately driving, meaty and skeletally mercurial guitar and also helping to create a sense of tension that runs throughout the track. Deutrom backs this up with a breathless vocal delivery that often puts me in mind of Masters Of Reality mastermind Chris Goss, which is sure as hell no bad thing.
Vapor Lock creeps in on a spidery off-kilter wah guitar part and some effected bass lunges before kicking in with a taut, rolling, blistering riff that would do Billy Gibbons proud. Cottrell roams around under the razorwire guitar and Nichols does what Nichols does well – the heft and thwack on display here puts me in mind of the Weston/Trainor rhythm section of Shellac.
In fact, that’s not a bad stylistic comparison for Bellringer – the rhythmic heft and undertow of Shellac married to a minimalist take on the scorching guitars of prime ZZ Top and given some of Deutrom’s own weird l’il twist, as displayed on Melvins classic Stag.
Von Fledermaus is a great example of that – Cottrell and Nicholls coming in with a tweaked take on the ground-hugging rhythmic stealth of Shellac’s Crow and Deutrom’s dancing hammer-ons sitting on top before hanging a louie into lumbering old-school Top territory, eventually busting out into a squelchy wah-wah drenched guitar solo section.
Now, previously, Bellringer had delved into the noise-rock-meets-classic-southern-blues-riffola side of Deutrom exclusively without touching on his odder and more musique concrete-influenced side, but closing track The Burning Gift takes elements of that side and gives us a languid, haunted, dubbed-out miniature epic that, to these ears, sits somewhere between Talking Heads’ spooked downer The Overload and The Walker Brothers late moment of utter sublimity The Electrician. Taking the slow, oozing quality of the former and adding in the hovering strings and blossoming beauty of the latter, the track moves from disquiet into smeary prettiness and back again as it moves from intro to verse to chorus to verse. Deutrom’s voice here still has something of Goss to it, along with a touch of Byrne and someone else that I can’t quite put my finger on, but fits the number like a glove. First listen gave me shivers up my spine.
So, three tracks that lay out the harder edge of Bellringer and a finale that pushes the boat out and shows us what else the trio can do and you’re damn right I’m left wanting to hear more. Rather annoyingly, only one of the four tracks here is available to hear at Bellringer‘s Bandcamp page – Wait – but I’d anticipate a physical release of all four in the not-too-distant future as quality like this doesn’t get left on the shelf whilst there are those with ears to hear.
If you can listen, do so, if not, wait. It’ll be worth it.
Scribed by: Paul Robertson