Killer or Filler?
Stone Machine Electric’s Stone Machine Electric
Chroniclers take note: If you’ve been keeping track of doom metal’s resurgent popularity over the past five years or so, you might want to look a little more closely at North Texas. Fort Worth has always had a rep for spawning metal bands, but the number of heavy outfits reining in speed in the service of elemental, megalithic riffage gets bigger every day, creating a veritable army of Lovecraftian horrors out there, with bloodshot eyes and massive tentacles poking out of the sleeves of High On Fire t-shirts, probing for Budweisers and bongs. Give some credit to Wo Fat mastermind Kent Stump for driving the scene. In addition to producing and engineering recordings for his own band and Dallas’ Mothership, he helped helm the debut album of Mansfield doom duo Stone Machine Electric. The result is appropriately heavy, stoned, and blissfully brutal.
Stretching five songs into nearly 40 minutes, guitarist-singer Dub and drummer Kitchens churn out colossal, fuzzy riffs and crushing, plodding rhythms that slip in and out of time changes like a starship shifting gears. Stump’s production might sound a little glossy for some purists, but the roomy mix gives the leads and tones ample space to shine. “Mushroom Cloud” opens the disc in a relentlessly martial 5/4 beat beneath apocalyptic chords that, in turn, give way to a swirling lead rising out of a cloud of phased distortion, paving the way for “Hypocrite Christ,” a 10-minute trip into swampy gloom.
And it only gets heavier. Middle track “Carve” cuts a graven image of genre-defining band Sleep. By the time the gallop of album-closer “Nameless” decays into the void, you’ll wonder if the world has ended. If it hasn’t, you’ll definitely want to give Stone Machine Electric another spin.
Hand Drawn Records’ A Compilation. Volume Two
Dallas/Oklahoma City-based indie label Hand Drawn Records has said its second compilation is the result of a worldwide open call for submissions. (The first compilation focused largely on HDR roster artists like Exit 380 and Secret Ghost Champion.) Yet make no mistake –– all but two of the 14 tracks on this second volume are from Texas, and most of that dozen are from established artists. Intriguingly, though, provincialism doesn’t seem to have narrowed the range of sonic stylings on display –– genres are gleefully combined and smashed in this sophisticated little grab-bag from late 2012.
“Oh, warden, won’t you let me in / I been foolish with my freedom again” rasps lead vocalist Blake Parish on The Hanna Barbarians’ “Oh Warden,” a drunkenly swaying Johnny Cash-style jailhouse lament with torrid harmonica and skipping percussion. Lubbock singer-songwriter Kelsey Schneider channels the wry, brainy pop meditations of Suzanne Vega and Tracy Thorn in the lean, melodic “You Got Away.” Fort Worth’s Swindle Boys celebrate their home state of Arkansas with “The Most Natural of States,” toning down their signature arena-rocking bombast for a haunting bit of regional pride marked by moody, echoing guitar and touching harmonies. The raucous, hallucinatory “Roller Coaster Mobile Saloon” allows Jefferson Colby to flaunt its disciplined yet ferocious percussion and raging electronic fretwork. The album opens with Denton singer-songwriter and ex-Polyphonic Spree member Andrew Tinker’s “I Don’t Mind,” a peppy but lovely little pop ditty full of billowing keyboards and jaunty acoustic guitar strumming.
The comp ends with San Marcos pop act Grey Sky Symphony, a.k.a. Dillon Hutrya, serving a jaunty slice of ’60s-style Donovan ear candy with “You’re My Favorite Color,” featuring shiny happy instrumentation and a killer stick-in-your-brain melody. –– Jimmy Fowler