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Alabama Thunderpussy
Staring At The Devine
Relapse Records

Alabama Thunderpussy; "What's in a name?" Shakespeare once mused. Truth be known, this one seemed a bit fishy at first. (Not in that way, you sick bastard) After all, is there not already a Nashville Pussy? Both names seem to hint at their places of origin, and to that subject which must overwhelmingly occupy their collective minds. Musically though, they are quite different (except for the fact that they are both meant to be played loud).

Staring At The Divine is ATP's second album. I listened to bits and pieces of their first album (Constellation), and wasn't all that impressed. It was monotonous and uninspired; a sure way to get a picky critic like me to pull up his pant legs and hold his nose while wading out of the dreadful shite he's wandered into. Thankfully, SATD is considerably better. In fact, it demonstrated to me that this is a band with a lot of promise, but not everything's wine and roses. For example, lots of guitar riffs: some simple, some complex. That's good. I like music that doesn't bore me and making it complicated is a good way to keep my attention. Second, their vocalist (Johnny Throckmorton) sounds like he belongs in a post-grunge-alt-metal band, which ATP might arguably be. But that's bad. Why? Because there's already a billion of them and most of them suck. The biggest problem isn't that Mr. Throckmorton is bad, he's just not good enough (yet?) to be with a band this talented. He doesn't have a lot of range and he sometimes sounds a little off-key. He also doesn't exert the sort of bad mojo/terrifying charisma that you get from an Ozzy, Hetfield, Danzig or Anselmo. But that doesn't mean he can't get better; his vocal presence on this album is more impressive and varied than on Constellation, which definitely helps.

So does pacing. It gets real hard to listen to a metal album that tries to do nothing more than aurally assault you for 60 minutes. When an album peaks in its intensity, the next song should be far less brutal to give the listener a break to recollect the contents of his or her head that were pummeled out by the preceding sonic attack. The calm should follow the storm or vice versa, but do whatever you can to keep one song from running into another, and SATD usually does that. Even better, is that they occasionally do it in the same song; a subtlety that seems lost on some bands, but is really a necessity especially when some of the songs are six and a half minutes long. (Which, thanks to MTV, is approximately 200 times longer than the average American's attention span.) By mixing up the relative intensity or speed within the same song, a serious metal band can also avoid the dreaded instance of having one of their songs dubbed "ballad" by snobbish fans or be subsequently accused of selling out.

The last thing might be good or bad: they don't have a distinctive or well-defined sound. Sometimes they sound like Pantera ("Shapeshifter"). Sometimes they sound a little NWOBHM-ish, (New Wave Of British Heavy Metal) or like some of the hard rock from the late '70s/early '80s (I just heard something that sounded very Hendrix too). One song, "Twilight Arrival", sounds a bit like Tool, and sometimes they sound like alt-grunge-metal (or something) which I and probably the rest of the world can do without. This latter phenomenon is seemingly related to Throckmorton when he starts sounding Seattle-ish or Linkin Park-ish. It's hard to pin this down, because I don't think he's doing it on purpose; it's just that all of a sudden there it is, and like an elephant in the room I can't just ignore it. But then just as quickly, it's gone.

Alabama Thunderpussy probably won't revive the sagging ghetto of heavy metal the way Metallica did in the early '90s, but SATD is a noteworthy peak for a genre that has been steadily descending into the quagmire. ATP has at least shown that they are aware of the roots of metal, and that those songs and artists can still be drawn from as an inspiration for creating new music. What gives me the most hope for this band is that they occasionally allow these influences to spill into their music, largely unfiltered, which may seem derivative but these aren't all tired old metal clichés that they reference, so it gives their music a refreshingly different sound.

Jason Dunn

Track Listing:

  1. Ol' Unfaithful
  2. Motor-Ready
  3. Shapeshifter
  4. Whore Adore
  5. Hunting By Echo
  6. Beck And Call
  7. Twilight Arrival
  8. Esteem Fiend
  9. S.S.D.D.
  10. Amounts That Count

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