Sunday, December 15, 2013

Against The Grain-Surrounded By Snakes

Self Destructo Records

Serving as the follow-up to their aptly-titled full-length debut release, 2012's "Motor City Speed Rock", this makes album number two for Detroit's Against The Grain. That's right boys and girls. From the same great city that gave us Motown (and of course the MC5 and Iggy and the Stooges) we have the newest saviors of rock and roll, Against The Grain. Or are they the destroyers or rock and roll? Either way it's all good as this band, which was formed in 2009 and also has a 2010 self-titled release to their name as well as 2011, 7" split EP with Chapstik, delivers the same kind of speed freak, burning rubber and burning blunts heavy rock and roll that makes life just so much more easier to cope with! From the minute this one opens with the oh-so-appropriate "Raise Your Glass" Chris Nowak (vocalist/bassist for Against The Grain who may or may not be another one of Lemmy's no doubt limitless bastard offspring!) and company roll out the red carpet for punks and metalheads alike! Motörhead seems like a good starting part substance and style-wise (And yes, their are style points awarded in life kids so do it right!), but these lads, who list MC5, Motorhead, Fu Manchu, Dead Kennedys, Turbonegro, Pentagram, DRI, Thin Lizzy and Black Sabbath as a few of their influences, cover a lot of ground on these 12 tracks as we'll soon enough see. After the fitting opener sets the stage and we blaze past the Motörhead-infused title cut we get things cooking with the MC5 meets Black Flag cut "Get in the Van". These boys then channel C.O.C. on "Outta Touch" before crisscrossing their way back to some boogie-woogie Motörhead on "Don't Care What You Say"! For those most part all of the numbers on "Surrounded By Snakes" (length-wise) have all the trademarks of punk rock songs. Every track here (with the exception being the four-minute plus doom-laden track "Last Breath") finds a band quite comfortable in the fine art of smash and dash style dirty rock. "Get Ready", which is under two minutes in length, is "Garage Days Re-Revisited"-era Metallica taking a harder look at what makes hardcore punk work so well to begin with while the 1:44 length "Comin’ Home" is drunken speed-punk as envisioned by a hungry young rock and roll band that just wants to play for the hell of it all! While Chris Nowak has the lead vocalist part down pat (moving between Lemmy and a rougher James Hetfield at times while also sounding like he could have easily fronted an eighties punk/hardcore band on "Outta Touch" and "Comin' Home") and his bass playing is never in question (we're talking thick and heavy playing here boys and girls!) special mention should also be paid towards the rest of Against The Grain. Lead guitarist/backing vocalist Nick Bellomo and his cohort Bryan Griffin (no, not the character from Family Guy!) crank things up big time on this 12-track platter of dirty speed-rock and whether we're talking about boogie cuts like "Get in the Van" and "Don't Care What You Say" or the near-thrash attack styling of numbers like "Under Attack" and "Livin' a Lie" (both of which showcase a band that is all too familiar with early LPs of Metallica and Slayer!) the pair are equally capable of making it all work. Drums meanwhile are handled by ex-Break Anchor Rob Nowak and with Kyle Davis serving as a touring guitarist this is one act that is too good to pass up! Speaking of touring, this Detroit act supposedly plays in the neighborhood of 150 shows a year(!) and has played with the likes of The Meatmen, Church of Misery, Valient Thorr (who are similar in nature to what these Detroit rockers are all about), Nashville Pussy, Black Fag, The Hookers, Gang Green, D.R.I, The Angry Samoans, Zeke (whose fans would no doubt love this band!), Jello Biafra and the Guatanomo School of Medicine, Guttermouth, Jugheads Revenge, Agent Orange, D.O.A., Iron Cross, Negative Approach, The Flatliners, Hit and Run, Star Fucking Hipsters, Murphys Law and countless others! That means I've got another band that I have to keep an eye out for here in my little part of Ohio. One would imagine that a live show for this bunch is equally (if not more so) cool and that heavy cuts like "Padded Cell" and "Extinction" just shred the living daylights out of everything when played live! Now, picking a fave moment on this one would be hard as these rad rockers pull out all the stops as you can imagine. The album definitely opens strong with "Raise Your Glass" and then closes in similar fashion with the gritty "Extinction" which, believe it or not, touches on some N.W.O.B.H.M. moments! Still, numbers like "Outta Touch", "Get Ready" and "Comin' Home" appeal to the old punk in me while the cool title cut, which also features a bit of N.W.O.B.H.M. guitar playing (think a street punk's take on Iron Maiden) and the tracks "Under Attack" and "Livin' a Lie" are the stuff that heavy metal wet dreams are made of! So, picking just one number out of these twelve would be a hard chore and I'd much rather just advise that you grab the whole kit and kaboodle! As it appears as if it's available in both digital and physical formats (with an LP version available as well!) there's no reason not to try hunt this bad boy down for yourself! And, seeing as it would make a very cool last-minute present for Christmas for that certain someone in your life, an album like "Surrounded By Snakes" is also worth sharing! So, snag and bag this one folks. If you love all things Lemmy or bands like Zeke and Valient Thorr then this is the album you've been wishing for!

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