Sometimes you have to wonder what the rock world as we know it would have done without the contribution of Messers Osbourne, Iommi, Butler and Ward. Without them there is a good possibility that we’d either be listening to the jangly pop of the Beatles or the increasingly pretentious Led Zeppelin influenced prog rock genre.
Before you go getting out of bed about any perceived slur against Robert, Jimmy and the two Johns, their musical legacy is assured, but admit it occasionally they did verge on the pompous now and then. Which is why Black Sabbath can claim bragging rights to truly inventing Heavy Metal as we know it. Sometimes you need the darkness, the punch in the face, the cutting to the chase that a song like a ‘Symptom Of The Universe’ or ‘Children Of The Grave’ can bring and Volume IV, as the name would suggest, are very worthy descendants of the classic first era.
Making their debut for the rather splendid Ripple Music label, who have been doing a great job in the last few years of amassing a good collection of very decent bands. You have to admire their commitment, eye for talent and dedication as each band has talked about the family vibe that the label have. Given the sometimes frosty relationships between artists and the business, such positivity is a heartwarming thing to hear.
So to the album itself, ‘Long In The Tooth‘ is a big, bold album chock full of heavy tunes, steeped in Southern Blues Metal flavours and it is easy to see why the band have drawn favourable comparisons to the likes of Corrosion of Conformity and Orange Goblin, not to mention Pentagram and of Sabbath.
‘Looking Low For A High‘ (great title by the way) is a great mid paced start to the album full of muscular riffing and vigorous drumming that will have you stomping and swaying in equal measure as the band bully you into submission with a good mixture of meaty hooks and elegant melody.
Frontman Joe Carpenter, formerly known for his previous band Atlanta based thrashers Nihilist and not being a fan of Pantera, adds a soulful human voice to the music, part sandpaper caressed throat and part velvet croon. His ability to tell a story adds to the layers of skill on display here, making it a very enjoyable and easy to listen to album.
‘Utero/Long In The Tooth‘ starts with a frenetic guitar and menacing undertones before erupting into a furious Mastodon like roar, as the band conjure up another worldly mixture of melody and post hardcore. They may be indebted to Metal’s founding heritage but the band clearly have one eye on the modern day and they infuse the track with enough technical changes and widdely notes to elevate it above the average stoner fare, yet stop shy of boring the tits off the listener or you having to get a set square to figure out what is going on.
‘Wager‘ is a more retro take on proceedings, a faster paced chug that recalls the classic Sabbath influence and some multi-layered guitar harmonies, whereas ‘Blackwater‘ is a more creeping melody that is a distant cousin of Pepper era COC and Clutch, jamming laid back old school blues awash with effects and almost spoken word lyrics that builds into an epic swing.
‘Save Your Servant‘, ironically given Carpenter’s lack of enthusiasm for Anselmo, recalls the smokey, softer side of Down ‘II’ with its meandering, gentle sense of regret and softly sung lyrics.
One of my favourite traits in a heavy band is the ability to blend the savage, visceral side of their nature with a softer, more introspective one. After all you can’t rage against the dating of the light as the sun comes up…
On ‘Long In The Tooth‘ Volume IV follow this tradition and have several tracks which throw these contrasts into sharp relief, like the beautiful instrumental ‘Cabal‘ and the mournful, penultimate ‘Save Your Prayers‘, but like COC and even the one off masterpiece ‘Penalty’ by the long forgotten Floodgate (which, like Volume IV, featured a thrasher turned stoner with a Pantera connection in Exhorder’s Kyle Thomas) it has a hardcore edge and the likes of ‘Kong‘, ‘Awake The Dreamer‘ and closing track ‘Locust Have No King‘ are anvil heavy slices of Blues Metal, powerful, driving and never shy of offsetting the full force charge with an inspired solo or tuneful refrain.
A lot positives have been said in the music press about Volume IV and my fear was that it might all be over stated, but if you miss the COC that made that run of albums from ‘Deliverance’ to ‘Arms Of God’ or you have found the latest Down EP to be a bit stock and want an album that can kick your ass and then sing you to sleep then ‘Long In The Tooth‘ might just be your album of the year.
Scribed by: Mark Hunt-Bryden