By the Great Sun Jester
Austin, Texas, has enjoyed a well-deserved reputation as a music hub dating back to the early 70’s and, in their own inimitable way, GREENBEARD carries on that tradition. The band’s new release “Variant” is an audacious new chapter for the four-piece that doesn’t content itself with traveling the same new roads at different speeds but, instead, makes daring twists and turns onto previously unexplored thoroughfares. There is a core sound, however, that GREENBEARD never abandons—it is the exciting synthesis of this foundational sound with the album’s instances of boundary-busting that distinguishes “Variant” more than anything else.
There will be naysayers. Many heavy music fans are happy with bands that are consistent, in both sound and quality, and the “E” word, experimentation, is greeted skeptically. With good reason, to be honest. The history of bands who have forgot who they are on the way to braving new musical territory is legion. “Creatures of the Night”, however, immediately reassures listeners that GREENBEARD still intends on pulverizing listeners anytime they have the opportunity. Its straightforward riffing contrasts well with Chance Parker’s relatively lighter voice, though he’s more than capable of unleashing a convincing growl. The chorus is a particularly memorable payoff and Parker’s brief bursts of lead guitar are on target
The improbably titled “Burned Like Basketweave” initially blends a light progressive edge with processed heavy guitar. The effects loosen their hold when the band transitions out of the verses and Parker’s guitar takes on a whole new power It scarcely gives listeners any room to breathe until the final third of the track. GREENBEARD’s thunder falls away into an atmospheric passage of near FLOYDian meandering. There’s subtle time shifts happening during this section before the band erupts a final time for its finale. This track is a real dazzler.
We’re back to relentless riffing for the intro to the next song. “Get In the Car, No Time To Explain” is hard-boiled Texas boogie during its opening verses before blowing the track up for its chorus. Parker’s playing coming out of the chorus threatens to light your hair on fire. “Diamond in the Devil’s Grinder” takes the band in a whole new direction with the exhausted grandeur of its opening. It’s like NEIL YOUNG & CRAZY HORSE on Quaaludes. The verses, however, lower the boom in a very different way—we’re in bucket of blood blues territory and Parker’s voice drips with soulful focus.
The album’s first single “Exodus” is the band in more familiar territory. The initial riffing hooks listeners in and the arrangement has an almost hypnotic quality. The band mentions they released the song as a bit of a “Trojan Horse” in advance of the new directions they take with this release and it was a shrewd strategy. It’s a song reminding listeners why this release was greeted with such anticipation. The wait was well worth it as GREENBEARD have produced one of 2022’s best new releases.