"Bangers II: Scum of the Earth"

By Earthdog

Montreal’s Barn Burner released their début album, 'Bangers', two years ago which was an album that had decent songs but ordinary production. No production woes this time around though, the sound on this is great. The band has been given the 'stoner-metal' tag rather unfairly in my view. Sure, there is a High On Fire and The Sword-ish kind of riffing going on but there are equal amounts of good old-headbanging metal that are not too far removed from early Iron Maiden so simply lumping them into the stoner category is a bit wrong. The 'stoner-metal' tag is given because Barn Burner has got glorious fuzzy guitars and retro power-chords a-la a Fu Manchu but their approach to my ears seems more metal than the usual riff-rocking band. The first thing I must say is, this band is a lot of fun from the get-go. I mean, check out that cover-art for a start. 'Bangers II: Scum of the Earth' is a blend of good-old vintage riffage and feel good anthemic rock cranked up to 10 that seems to be designed to be listened to while either driving down the highway at 100 MPH or while extremely intoxicated.

The main difference between this album and their début is the increase in doomy, meaty riffage. This is not a doom album by any stretch of the imagination but the guitar has got a more sinister edge to it this time around. The album kicks off with 'Scum Of The Earth' that has a sick and twisted riff and old-school metal intensity that wouldn't sound out-of-place on any number of early 80's metal albums. This tune gallops along at a frenzied pace but when it's all over, is not exactly memorable, it is actually too generic to have any long-lasting impact. Luckily for us, the album best tracks are yet to come. 'Dark Side Of The Barn' is the first sign that the band has indeed improved as musicians and composers. This track has crushing bottom-end but is extremely catchy and the song even breaks out some really interesting surprises in its second-half. It is not rocket-science by any means but it is a fine balance between intriguing riffage and vintage doom-tinged rock. The following 'Gate Creeper' continues in the dark metal vein but doesn't really offer up anything too remarkable. Its final section is at least different , featuring haunting keys.

'Keg Stand And Deliver' I gather is supposed to be some-kind of party tune but seems like sub-par filler material to me. I know a lot of people dig this track but sorry, I don't share their enthusiasm. 'The Earth's Crust' and 'Quest for the Cube' both have some good chugging moments without bringing anything new to the table but if you like The Sword and even Wolfmother these songs should get your head nodding. This middle part of the album is a bit weak to my ears I must say, not bad at all but instantly forgettable. However, the album bounces back with the next tune titled 'Brother Fear' which doesn't exactly break the formula any but it is at least charismatic and interesting. 'Skid Marks The Spot' has a funny title that may seem a bit goofy but this is strangely one of the albums more mature-sounding tracks. The following 'Crushing Defeat' is the best track on the album for my money, it is slower with a more interesting progressive edge and this is where Barn Burner is at their peak. The album then ends on 'Ghost Jam' which can only be described as hardcore-punk metal blues. It is decent but a disappointing way to finish the album in light of the very good track that precedes it.

So Barn Burner is fuzz-rock, stoner-ish but with the emphasis on head-banging tunes. They are good musicians and vocalist Kevin Keegan has a great voice but it still comes back to the tunes and this album is too up-and-down for my liking. The slower passages stand-out as being the albums high-points but the faster, more frenzied moments don't seem to have any substance to them and therefore are fairly forgettable. The album does sound great when played loud and certainly has its fair share of blow-your-hair back intensity but overall lacks that vital element to make it memorable. Having stigmatized the band with my ranting then, I must also say that many people will dig this album and I recommend it to fans of 80's metal and 90's stoner-rock. My advice is, sample a few tracks before buying. If you are like me, you might find it mediocre and unbalanced......6/10