[20 September 2006]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
If you have all the ingredients, blue-collar metal is hard to screw up. If you’re able to play guitar riffs that are equal parts AC/DC, Pantera, and Skynyrd with competence, if you’re able to write songs about swamps, dirt roads, and lower-class life in the South, if you name-check the General Lee (the car, not the actual guy), and if you have a big, burly singer who can bellow in such a tuneless way he’s able to relate to the other talentless yokels in the audience, then chances are you’re well on your way. But beware ... unless you have the musical chops and songwriting skill to make it last an entire album, let alone several, this kind of music has a very short shelf life. Remember Circus of Power? Remember the Four Horsemen? Remember Little Caesar? No? Well, there you go.
From Atlanta, Georgia comes the cleverly-named Artimus Pyledriver, the latest band attempting to cash in on the Southern-fried stoner rawk of Clutch and Alabama Thunderpussy, as well as the robust barroom metal of Brand New Sin and Nashville Pussy. Unlike those fine bands however, these five dudes, despite their best efforts, can only pull off a semi-respectable representation of the style that makes for about 15 minutes of fun, then quickly becomes forgettable, mired in redneck cliché and lacking in any original ideas. It’s a shame, because for a fleeting moment, it feels like the band is onto something potentially great.
“Rollin’ down the highway / Crossin’ 5 county line / Big black Chevy, Lord can’t save me / Gonna have myself a time”, howls vocalist Dave Slocum in an ungodly monotone rasp on “Swamp Devil”, sounding like Brian Johnson with a bad head cold, as Jimmy Hall and Dave Goldsmith let loose some propulsive chords reminiscent of Let There be Rock. A terrific, exhilarating start to the record, but to continue with that song’s automotive theme, it’s not long before the car starts swerving, threatening to hit the ditch at any second. “Gone to the Mountain” has the guitar duo aping the lithe licks of Thin Lizzy and Molly Hatchet, “Ride On” opts for a crushing sludge sound, and “Dixie Fight Song” goes for the stoner-inspired strains of Corrosion of Conformity. All decently done, but everything begins to sound rote in comparison to the opening cut, the riffs predictable, the wah-wah solos visible from a mile away, and the vocals—monotonous, monotonous, monotonous.
We do get sporadic signs of life from the band. “Dirt Road White Girl” is bolstered by a nifty little Iron Maiden-esque dual guitar flourish, and “Shaggin’ Ass” manages to capably continue where “Swamp Devil” left off, but by then, half an hour has passed, and we’re just plain tired of the predictability. “Get Some” doesn’t help the cause whatsoever, as the band quickly shifts to autopilot once again, this time mimicking the ham-fisted antics of Black Label Society, but not before showing a frustrating sign of inspiration during the song’s spirited outro.
This is just the kind of music that can sound great in a live setting, but on record, nearly everything falls flat, the mix punchless, the guitar tones lacking the raw, abrasive quality needed, the rhythm section in need of a serious beefing-up, and the vocals stuck in first gear, devoid of any personality whatsoever. “Up the Creek” concludes the self-titled album with another attempt at mid-‘90s churning sludge, but it ends up flaunting the album’s main weakness. Sure it sounds “bluesy”, but it feels as trite as the band Blues Hammer in Ghost World. A single riff from Eyehategod’s Take as Needed For Pain and Dopesick achieves a far superior blend of the blues and metal than this album can over 42 minutes. Music like this is supposed to sound invigorating, but instead, it leaves us numb.