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Open Fire - Alabama Thunderpussy

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Genre: Pop / Artist: Alabama Thunderpussy / Audio CD released 2007-03-12 at Relapse

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      08.12.2007 11:13
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      Alabama Thunderpussy's sixth album (2007).

      This year's release from those southern-fried proponents of beer-chugging, bar-room-brawl metal Alabama Thunderpussy is probably the best they've ever done, emerging slightly higher in its repetitive, derivative, dead-horse sound than their earlier efforts that sounded pretty much the same. As mainstream metal divided in the early nineties, the absurdly overrated Pantera popularised their brand of angry and dirty Texan groove metal, essentially an off-shoot of eighties thrash that slowed things down and replaced its interesting guitars with some pinchy squeaks, and attracted a legion of loyal, obnoxious, angry fans as well as a crowd of imitators. While the best was Down, Pantera's own side-project-of-sorts, Virginia's Alabama Thunderpussy emerged as the best Pantera clone for ironing out that band's most irritating flaws. At least they have now, at what some may consider to be a decade or so too late.

      The odd thing here is, Alabama Thunderpussy (although I'll be typing that a lot, I won't bother to abbreviate it, as I think it deserves to be read a few times) have advanced their sound somewhat on this most recent recording by heading even further back in the heavy metal timeline, incorporating a distinct flavour of the ever-popular Judas Priest in many of Erik Larson and Ryan Lake's guitar riffs and dominant lead harmonies, aided by the more traditional metal vocals of newcomer Kyle Thomas (ex-Exhorder). The heavy metal foundation, however old and derivative, makes this much more appealing to my tastes than the band's more hard-rock-oriented offerings, and even mellows the sound somewhat even when it's firmly in the Southern metal camp. Thomas' angry vocals fit predictably into that scene most of the time but are still among the best I've heard from this particular sub-genre, and unlike his contemporaries and predecessors, his softer style doesn't sound like a third rate country singer.

      While Alabama Thunderpussy could never be described as a band concerned with participating in the evolution of music, and most of their songs do sound pretty much the same, I'm glad they've chosen a more pleasing pathfinder to follow here: even the silly album cover stinks of classic heavy metal cheese.

      1. The Cleansing
      2. Void of Harmony
      3. Words of the Dying Man
      4. The Beggar
      5. None Shall Return
      6. Whiskey War
      7. A Dreamer's Fortune
      8. Valor
      9. Open Fire
      10. Brave the Rain
      11. Greed

      'The Cleansing' is the perfect opening track, as it sets up the style that will dominate the next forty minutes while remaining distinctly average to keep listeners waiting for the better songs to follow. Thomas' vocals are very powerful here, even if his primary melody sounds exactly like Priest's 'Rapid Fire,' and the lyrics offer a great smorgasbord of assorted violent images to satisfy the palate, from bodies littering the shore to swimming with the hungry shark and the wrath of a woman scorned. It's all good stuff, and the guitars move from generic 70s Priest to generic 80s thrash, all processed through crystal clear modern production, with the first of many guitar solos is tagged on to the end more out of necessity than anything. This angry style continues through track three with more Priest riffs (circa 1981) and five (1978) before reaching its peak in 'Valor,' an excellent modern heavy metal song with a narrative of battle and excellent performances all-round, with plenty of lead guitar harmonies, a great slow-lo and drums that actually do something interesting for once, a style that thankfully permeates through the final tracks of the album. Ultimately, the song's nothing that every band wasn't doing in 1980, but it's a tasteful, competent and respectful repetition of the style.

      Despite the possibility of each song sounding similar to the point of tedium for casual listeners, this album has quite a lot going for it, not only in terms of simple, catchy riffs that will stay in the listener's head. 'Void of Harmony' has some effective, non-gratuitous tempo shifts from its hard, thrashing beginning to slower chorus sections and even a soft respite, and Thomas shows the first signs of an ability to reach for the high notes, something that he teasingly refrains from doing for much of the album before letting out that heartfelt scream in 'Brave the Rain.' Things get very interesting and unexpected with 'The Beggar,' the most different-sounding song on here that follows an entirely melodic, grander and harmonious style that won't appeal to Pantera fans rating songs according to their ingenious analysis of the amount of 'balls' it possesses (this one is more or less spayed), but breaks things up perfectly without the need for an acoustic ballad. Acoustic ballads are still okay according to the balls system, apparently, but high electric guitars are for poofs. Let's not remind those people of Pantera's embarrassing glam rock career that the band would later do their best to cover up, holocaust-denial-style.

      'Whiskey War' is a fun song; catchy, short and simple both musically and lyrically (as can be deduced from the title), but with a distinctly clichéd seventies rock solo and a lack of anything too special, it's no 'Ace of Spades.' Less impressive is its successor 'A Dreamer's Fortune,' which replicates the style of the great fourth track to some extent, but loses out due to unnecessary aggression and over-repetition to the point that the song might as well be looped for the second half. The promising title track is heavier and more demonic than the rest but similarly fails due to a lack of stand-out ideas, but 'Greed' makes for a great finale. What could easily have been a randomly chosen song to go out on, this is pleasingly self-conscious of its climactic responsibility, and proceeds from a mournful lead guitar overture to a catchy distorted riff, keeping an ominous tone throughout the whole performance - although this is something achieved literally by the guitars, rather than a perceived atmosphere.

      'Open Fire' is an entirely non-essential album, but one that will certainly please fans of American metal following a more traditional and superior style. It doesn't sound much like Pantera at all, thank god, but for those concerned about the album cover, it sounds like Manowar even less.

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    • Product Details

      Disc #1 Tracklisting
      1 Cleansing
      2 Void Of Harmony
      3 Words Of The Dying Man
      4 Beggar
      5 None Shall Return
      6 Whiskey War
      7 Dreamer's Fortune
      8 Valor
      9 Open Fire
      10 Brave The Rain
      11 Greed