Review: Stepmother ‘Planet Brutalicon’

Australia has a storied, rich history of producing some of the best, punk-tinged rock and roll on the planet. I’ve long been a fan of bands like The Saints, Radio Birdman, The Birthday Party, The Scientists, and Beasts of Bourbon, to say nothing of one of my favorite bands of the entire 1990s, Cosmic Psychos. Not sure what’s in the water in the land down under, but whatever it is, it sure seems that Australian bands have the blueprint on lockdown for this particular brand of grimy, driving, down ‘and ‘n’ dirty rock ‘and ‘n’ roll.

Stepmother 'Planet Brutalicon' Artwork
Stepmother ‘Planet Brutalicon’ Artwork

In keeping with the country’s long tradition of stellar bands in this genre, here we have Stepmother, a power trio featuring guitarist Graham Clise, who made a name for himself in the underground with bands like Witch, Annihilation Time, and Lecherous Gaze to name a few. Clise is joined by Rob Minos on bass and vocals, and Sam Rains on drums, are now poised to drop their debut, the amazingly titled Planet Brutalicon on an unsuspecting world via Tee Pee Records in collaboration with Legless Records.

Planet Brutalicon wastes no time asserting its aggression as the first five tracks are prime examples of straight-forward rippin’ rock and roll with attitude done right. Opener Fade Away kicks the door down with a blast of fuzzy, punked-up, downstroke mayhem. However, we’re just getting started, as the ear-worm riff of Settle Down burrows itself into the listener’s psyche, deftly complimented by some well-placed background ‘aahhh’s’ and delicious shred.

Scream For Death is a full-on, under-two-minute, blast of manic and catchy rock fury that’s paired with an unstoppable chorus that’ll have the listener banging their head and singing along instantly. Elsewhere, The Game, while still rockin’ and full of hooks, is slightly less frenzied which works well sequentially when absorbing the album as a whole.

Planet Brutalicon’s dirty, punky take on rock and roll is delivered with equal parts conviction and bombast…

By the time we hit One Way Out, a mid-tempo chugger complete with a melodic lead bridge that segues into some ass-kickin’ lead work, the sonic palette has been somewhat cleansed in time for the introspective rocker that is Do You Believe with its less aggressive, slightly soaring vocal delivery, and melancholic dirty rock shred. Dead And Gone deploys similar rock energy if proffering more of a driving attack. Stepmother then proceed to hit the throttle as we near the records end with three burners in a row starting with the rollicking Here Comes The End, followed by the good time rock stomp of Waiting For The Axe To Fall, before we hit the fuzzed-up proto-punk of Stalingrad.

However, it’s the final two tracks where Stepmother really shine, separating themselves from the pack while showcasing their diversity in song craft. Starting with the wicked, rock and roll sorrow of the penultimate Signed DC, a bluesy, brooding, punk rock-style ballad that features a truly killer solo from Clise who manages to strangle some real emotion and feeling out of his guitar. Closer, Gusano, is a rip-roaring, punked-up, surf-rock extravaganza that does an excellent job of wrapping the album up on a fun, high note.

Stepmother aren’t doing anything that we haven’t heard before, yet Planet Brutalicon’s dirty, punky take on rock and roll is delivered with equal parts conviction and bombast, making it a fun listen, but it’s the final two tracks, Signed DC and Gusano that add enough diversity to their music that wind up propelling the album to a stellar rock and roll experience. Stepmother have crafted twelve tracks that hold up very well next to the lofty, sonic standards set by their countrymen. Recommended.

Label: Tee Pee Records | Legless Records
Band Links: Bandcamp | Spotify | Instagram

Scribed by: Martin Williams