"Jason The Dragon ..."

By Earthdog

After a year or so of mishaps and physical injury which seemed more at home with a Jackass movie script, Weedeater are set to release their long-awaited new album "Jason The Dragon" in March. When Dixie Dave blew off part of his foot with a shotgun, it made me wonder if the band would ever get back to full strength again as they seem to be plagued with personal injuries so I wondered whats next ? It has been nearly 4 years since the band released the monumental "God Luck and Good Speed," an album so solid and kick-ass, it was never going to be easy to follow it so with this review I have avoided the temptation to compare albums and have decided to judge it on its own merits.

This is their second album for Southern Lord and features the great artwork of Arik Roper so it is a glorious looking package. Again the album was mixed and mastered by John Golden at Golden Studios in southern California and again, it sounds great with all the Weedeater dirt and grime still intact. If you quickly sample each track off this album, it becomes clear that this is a more varied and overall, more bluesy effort from the band but it is still incredibly heavy, filthy sludgy rock at the same time.

The album begins with the intro "The Great Unfurling" which sets up the mood of "Jason The Dragon" very nicely with some sampled preaching but when they unleashed the first real tune titled "Hammerhandle," it is obvious the band is still out to destroy but maybe with a bit more subtlety this time around. "Hammerhandle" charges out of the gates at a faster pace than what I was originally expecting but it was a pleasant surprise to behold. A lot of the songs on this album are very short and straight to the point so it is easy to miss how great these tunes really are the first few times you hear them. "Hammerhandle" is no first it seems a bit generic, a bit underdone or dare I say even mainstream but as the tune grows on you, it becomes a favorite in the Weedeater catalog of southern metal. "Mancoon" has a similar effect to "Hammerhandle," it hits you between the balls with a fierce live-sound and an energetic performance. When that song literally melts into "Turkey Warlock" you start to notice a slight shift in the way Weedeater conduct themselves. The guitar seems crisper than before and there seems to be more emphasis on concise songwriting rather than sludge-fests that we are used to hearing from the band. Before you start to get worried, this is still a southern sludge-metal album but it's just more varied and atmospheric than earlier releases. Even the vocals of Dixie Dave are more relaxed.

The title track is up next and is the centerpiece to the album, it is also longer and more diverse. Guitarist Dave Shepherd show his level of musicianship has gone up a notch in recent years as has the bass grooves of Dave "Dixie" Collins. "Jason The Dragon" is a great track and deserves that centerpiece status but where the album goes next is a little weird. "Palms of Opium" is, let's just say, quirky while the minute long drum solo from Keith Kirkum titled "March of the Bipolar Bear" just seems like an odd addition to the album. The album's closing track "Whiskey Creek" is a banjo-picked tune which leads to a hidden track featuring harpsichord of all things. The records second half is in sharp contrast to the first in many ways...still good but after the pummeling rock of the albums first few tracks, it seems to lose some if its momentum. "Long Gone", however, is one of the best cuts on the album, infectious even after just one listen. It is the standout track on the album and one that will sound great as part of their live-set. The other track on "Jason The Dragon" is "Homecoming" which even further expands their sound, taking another direction where the band has never been before. Weedeater has nothing left to prove in terms of sludge-metal, they have done it all and have been doing it longer than most so taking a step in a more traditional rock direction is refreshing but might piss off some of the Weedeater faithful. "Homecoming" still delivers what is one of the best riffs on the record but it is done in a way which really doesn't sound like Weedeater at all. Rather than be disappointed by this unprecedented turn of events, I actually appreciate their willingness to try something different.

So it is an album of two very different halves, the first half is flawless Weedeater, gritty sludge-rock given an energetic performance and played by some of the best musicians in the scene today. The second half is a mixed bag, some of it is excellent but a couple of tunes - I have mixed feelings for. It is without a doubt their most adventurous piece of work to date and certainly their best in terms of musicianship but whether the songs will stand the test of time like their earlier tunes remains to be seen. Either way this will be one of the most important releases of 2011. Release date is March 1st and expect it to be huge in the coming months............8/10