Battleground Records is a relatively new label operating out of Tucson, Arizona which supports a small roster of underground bands playing fuzzy stoner rock and sludge, both in Arizona and further afield. And successfully so, it would seem, as the label has racked up an impressive nine releases on a variety of physical formats since establishing in 2013 – an encouraging sign for such a fledgling label. Fellow Arizonians Fuzz Evil – as their name suggests – obviously embody the fuzzier end of Battleground’s musical spectrum while Chiefs, hailing from California, play a slower, more-relaxed form of stoner rock, making up the two sides of this split 7” release.
Unfortunately, the main riff that makes up the backbone of Fuzz Evil’s Glitterbones is a bit too generic to make much of a lasting impression, and matters aren’t helped by moronic lyrics alluding to some vague “spirit quest to a distant land,” successfully aping every stoner epic ever whilst adding nothing new to the never-ending yarn. All this coupled with what can only be described as a turgid guitar solo makes for a largely forgettable slice of by-the-numbers fuzz rock, although the driving chorus pleasantly recalls Songs for the Deaf-era Queens Of The Stone Age for a brief moment. Admittedly, a single side of a seven-inch record isn’t the most forgiving format when trying to make a good impression on a new listener, so perhaps we ought to wait for a full-length before passing further judgement on Fuzz Evil.
Chiefs suffer from many of the same issues that marred Fuzz Evil’s contribution but whereas the Arizona band sound like an over-eager puppy, the Californians benefit from a more relaxed pace that allows their riffs to ignite and burn slowly. Vocally too, Chiefs’ Paul Valle has a good ear for melody and phrasing that gives Stone Bull a more assured sound. Again, the riffs aren’t going to set your world on fire because you’ve likely heard them (or something very similar) before and it might be considered a backhanded compliment to say that you could easily put on Chiefs side as pleasant background music whilst doing something else.
While it’s not always a genre of music that demands ingenuity or creativity, there are plenty of stoner bands trying to innovate within the relatively safe and unassuming confines of the genre, implementing unusual instrumentation, interpolating other types of music or simply writing great, memorable riffs. That’s why it’s a bit of a shame that these two relatively new bands aren’t pushing the boundaries or carving more of an identity for themselves on these two songs when what they’re doing has already been done to death. Fuzz Evil and Chiefs are not bad bands by any stretch of the imagination – they certainly know their way around a bluesy riff and can write well-structured songs – but with so many bands competing for an audience to hear and buy their stuff, these two might want to try branching out when they return from the distant land.
Scribed by: Tom McKibbin