"New Southern"

By Dr. Abner Mality

What exactly is "Southern Rock" these days? The answer could range from Kings of Leon to Pantera, or from Kid Rock to Sourvein. I still thrive on Blackfoot and Molly Hatchet myself. Anti-Mortem, hailing from the towering metropolis of Chickasha, Oklahoma, are here to give their take on Southern rock/metal for the new millenium.

This is a bit more commercial than I was expecting from Nuclear Blast. The guitar crunch is definitely present and some comparisons to Pantera can be detected, but this is not raw, swampy stuff. It's radio friendly metal designed to be played on the local "modern rock that really rocks" station. And that's OK, because as far as that kind of material goes, Anti-Mortem are pretty good. But it falls short of the great Southern bands of old such as Lynyrd Skynyrd or Molly Hatchet. Again, no sin, as nobody is going to touch that in this day and age.

"Words of Wisdom" opens with furious Pantera-influenced metal and it's a hell of a start, with sizzling lead guitar from Nevada Romo and Zain Smith. From there, things settle down into a mode I'd compare more to Soil or Drowning Pool, but with a bluesier feel that does have a certain Southern twang to it. A lot of the cuts are mid-tempo and these guys aren't concerned with speedy playing at all, they are looking more for bluesy atmosphere. But the commercial vocal melodies on tracks like "I Get Along With the Devil" and "Path to Pain" betray an allegiance to radio rock. I was hoping for something more earthy. The last three tracks "Stagnant Water", "Truck Stop Special" and "Jonesboro" allow more of the Southern dirt and grit to shine through. I think this might be the direction for Anti-Mortem to pursue in the future.

It's a bit too safe sounding for me, but the band knows a catchy riff or two and their talent can't be denied. The oldest member is 22 so they sure have time to grow and mature. This is kind of an atypical album for Nuclear Blast....we'll see if these dudes can put Chickasha on the metal map.