Say hello to Heat Of Damage, and the Northern Californian’s debut full length “Open Fire”. They may have two EPs out, but the first album is always a landmark. So how is it?
Do you ever have strange thoughts? As a kid, did you wonder what it would be like to get stuck in quicksand? Okay, maybe it is just me, but these were the things I worried about, and even though I was taught how to get out, being stuck in Scotland never really gave me a chance to test it out (I still think the lie on your back and do breaststroke legs is a pile of nonsense), but at least with the opening track “ Watch You Burn” I can get the feel of it. Imagine sinking in swampy riffs, with dark, brooding vocals swimming up your body slowly and entering every orifice. As the song goes on, you feel the darkness creeping in and you are feeling dirtier by the second. It is a real gritty, rough and ready slice of metal. Think Zakk Wylde in a forest with a chainsaw and a smile.
“Judgement Day” keeps up the pace and the fuzzy, distorted guitars. It is a real grind it out track with the drumming coming to the fore, but it breaks out into some crisp guitar work, and even crisper vocals. This is where the album starts to throw up some really exciting diversity. I had it in my mind we were going down the swamp metal, you know what you are going to get, and you best like it, or we will rip your head off, but Heat Of Damage are a whole different kettle of fish.
“Accessory” proves that within seconds, a totally different sound. A much more radio friendly, upbeat number for the most part. It does break down nicely with some nice growling vocals… oh, did I mention every band member is also a vocalist? No, well they are, and this must make for some spectacle live. This song also decides it isn’t going to sit at peace, and I doubt you will either. They have brought numerous genres together cleverly, and it’s a right catchy bastard.
“Fade Away” slows it right down. The beginning is very reminiscent of Bullet For My Valentine at their balladic best. It also has a NWOBHM vibe, especially when it kicks in good and proper. It has sad overtones but this is a stand out track for sure. Now, where the hell do I start with “Little Miss Hill”? let’s throw some Skynyrd, Hardcore Superstar, and Kid Rock in the mix. This is a real Southern Toon. A brilliant toe tapper and head banger. The chorus shout is excellent, and the song just made me smile from ear to ear.
“Veil Of Authority” rings the changes again. A more RATM feel through the guitar. Gutter dripping vocals, singing through three layers of sewage, and all the time a thudding backbeat. It is an angry song, a song of rebellion against the New World Order and the shackles of freedom.
“Osprey Drive” keeps the RATM theme ongoing. The vocals, the battering ram of music intertwined with what is now a Heat Of Damage feel. I am digging the melting pot they are bringing forward. I love hearing something that I am not sure what is going to happen next. This has to be the best way to explain the band’s sound. We also get some excellent shredding thrown in for good measure.
“Heaven” kicks in with a solid foundation and those drums again (I really love the how they were captured on this recording). Again the song takes a different tangent, with some female vocals provided by Katie Robinette. Again, they pull the rabbit out of the bag, as I would never have expected a female singer on a track like this, but it works perfectly.
The Swamp guitars are back and frantic as ever on “The Greeding Party”. It’s another Southern inbred son of a bitch with a hectic, oh-shit-the-cops-are-chasing-me, panicky feel. It’s like it doesn’t know where it wants to go, but it wants to get there quickly, and you best keep up.
“Any Other Way” finishes things up… and hey, let’s throw in some Van Halen guitars and some Volbeat for good measure. I keep having to check the iPod, to make sure it hasn’t skipped onto shuffle and done its own thing… a bit like this band and this album. This one shook me and my preconceptions completely. I love that, and to be fair, I loved this album. Who needs to stick to one genre when you have a multitude out there to chose from. Heat Of Damage have taken all the best bits and given us something new and fresh… and long may it continue.
Review: Ritchie Birnie]]>