Do you ever look at someone with the distinct feeling that you know them from somewhere but just can’t really place where? That real sense of familiarity even though the chances are you’ve never ever met. This new album from Borracho is the musical equivalent of that feeling. This is a very familiar album in so many ways, even on the first listen. In fact you’d be forgiven for thinking this may be another in a long line of Small Stone releases!!!
That isn’t to say this is a bad album, in fact being compared to any Small Stone releases is a big compliment. It’s more that this album falls right into the middle ground of the whole stoner/doom scene. From the off opening track “Redemption” is a brief instrumental that heralds the album with big juicy stoner rocking riffs and beating its hairy chest. When “Concentric Circles” kicks in with a supercharged riff full of 70’s rocking goodness, the adrenaline starts to pump and we are introduced to vocalist/guitarist Noah’s scorched and throaty vocals…another stoner box ticked.
Like any good dealer Borracho have lured you in with a couple of freebies and now it’s time to pay. “Bloodsucker” eases back on the pace but ups the groove with a massive set of swinging balls and some very tasty lead playing. It’s absolutely nothing you’ve never heard before, in fact it bears very close resemblance to Halfway To Gone in so many ways, but that’s not to say it isn’t done with a great deal of grit, integrity and guts. Let’s face it, most bands nowadays that actually try to sound original usually end up churning out some overplayed pretentious bullshit and sometimes you need a band that’s prepared to just get grimy, let you drink your beer and nod your head…hello Borracho.
The next track “Grab The Reigns” does beg the question, does this kind of music really need an 11 minute epic? That’s a difficult one to answer. This track is full of the requisite big riffs and grooves and Noah’s raunchy vocals soar over proceedings well but instead of using the extended format to explore a handful of musical themes and play with them this does just sound like 2-3 songs slapped together. On the face of it it’s classic stoner but it does require a little more patience than the average listener may be willing to pay.
If it’s a greasy groove you want though, next track “All In Play” certainly delivers as it rolls along on a slinky 70’s influenced riff at a pretty sedate pace. Noah’s more restrained, bluesy vocal here is a welcome breath of fresh air and the song delivers the strongest chorus hook so far. At over 8 minutes though it could possibly have benefitted from a little self editing. That said the Maidenesque double bass drum led charge that ushers in the mid section is a welcome shot of energy and shows that there is a little more to Borracho than a flick through the stoner rock rule book.
Just when you think you’re about to drown under the weight of the riff Borracho do a tasty about turn on “Never Get it Right” which slides in like a cross between a classic southern rock ballad and Maiden’s “Remember Tomorrow”. However, just when you expect those big rasping vocals to drop a mournful tale of roaming lost highways…blah blah blah the band turn on a dime and drop the riff bomb where a sliding figure alternates with a weighty Metallica-esque verse that brings to mind “Sad but True”. The subtle differences to help the track to stand out from much of the other tracks here, even when they saddle up the horses and hit a boogie gallop half way through, the segue is seamless.
“Grinder” kicks off with another typical stoner riff, a good one, but another stoner riff nonetheless. However, when the verse drops with some tasty cowbell all is forgiven. The strong chorus and semi psychedelic lead touches also offer some fine southern redemption from stoner obscurity.
It’s time to tighten your braces and settle in for another 11 plus minute epic in the form of “Plunge/Return”. I will admit to a little trepidation as the songs rolls into view on an uninspired stoner doom riff and a lazy down tempo groove. Four and a half minutes in and some unexpected yet very welcome vocal harmonies lift the mood a little and some subtle acoustic guitar offer a different texture but it doesn’t really do enough to highlight that the song is just that bit too long to endure comfortably. Even when they shift things up a gear at the 6 minute mark it fails to take off as it should.
Borracho are undoubtedly an excellent band with a truckload of gold star potential in them and “Splitting Sky” is a fine and enjoyable album, however the songs would benefit from a little self restraint and quality control. At 8 tracks over approximately 57 minutes a little trimming of the fat would have taken this album from being a good stoner rock album to being a great rock record. Definitely one to check out though if you like your riffs big and your moonshine lethal!!!
Scribed by: Ollie Stygall