French quintet Drawers have been listening to Mastodon. Lots of Mastodon. And Baroness. And Torche. And Isis. And Black Tusk. And Red Fang. And Kylesa. And Fight Amp. And… Oh, I‘m sure you get the idea by now.
Having been around for over seven years since their birth in Toulouse in late 2006, these duel-guitar soundproofing botherers haven’t slouched around on their laurels and now follow up their promising ‘All Is One’ debut album with a long-player nombre deux, which comes intriguingly self-titled, although that intrigue does significantly soften with the band’s grinning faces adorning a simple cover. Whereas ‘All Is One’ landed a challenging and granite-edged suckerpunch somewhere in between straight-up sludge rock and progressive technical metal, ‘Drawers’ offers a far more textbook, stripped back proposition: emotionally-tinged sludge.
I’d love to be able to sit here and sing the praises of what is by all rights a very well accomplished, neatly produced and successfully heavy record, yet from the opening moments of ‘Once And For All’ through to the closing bars of ‘Detour’ I struggle to find anything that sets this aside in any way from albums that the likes of the bands mentioned above have already created and toured to death. Certainly, there’s a huge debt owed here to Baroness in particular, with vocalist Niko Bastide’s frighteningly perfect photocopy of John Dyer Baizley’s trademark rasping roar, circa the Georgian’s ‘First’ and ‘Second’ EPs, presiding over walls of crunching guitar and bar-fighting drum patterns.
The likes of ‘Once And For All’ and ‘Words’ manage to remind us that it’s been a remarkable 14 years since Mastodon recorded ‘Remission’. Yet the guitar tones vary so little throughout ‘Drawers’ that it’s almost worrying to think that there are bands out there who rely solely on that same sound even today with zero progression since that once incredible burst of aggressive Atlantan steel. What Drawers manage to play well are big fat strapping riffs with jagged edges and teeth-cut grooves, but with a universal song structure to every track and a determination to stick hard and fast to a) Heavy and b) Metal, there’s really very little fat to chew on.
Sixth track ‘Shadow Dancers’ is the sure-fire pick of the bunch, even if it does riff and roll in the same tongue as its seven compatriots. Rocking more of an Isissian take on modern metal mechanics, it at least manages to keep a consistent and more elongated groove, as opposed to the shorter, spikier bursts of stage-stomping gallop that the rest of ‘Drawers’ peddles.
‘It’s All About Love’ and ‘Bleak’ return the same hopeful nature that so many bands in this category equally pin to their vocal lines. Curving up at the end of each lyric and lifting every roar upwards into a positive retort is one way to ensure you don’t just march straight on into the gruffness of High On Fire, but to repeat this throaty action again and again and again for circa forty minutes is just head hurting.
After listening to ‘Drawers’, I went back to listen to its predecessor in ‘All Is One’ and was surprised to find a much more daring and varied record lying behind in Drawers’ 2011 back catalogue. Quite why it seems that they’ve shed that excitable and bollock-heavy noose to basically re-record a poor man’s version of ‘The Red Album’ is a complete mystery to me.
I really hate to write reviews of this nature and I do genuinely wish Drawers all the best for their future releases, but after I struggled several times to make it through this self-titled from start to finish without pausing to listen to something at least slightly less templated, I find it hard to implore you to do the same. ‘Remission’ and ‘The Red Album’ have already been made, but sometimes it seems their influences run a little too deeply.
Scribed by: Pete Green