Life isn't always fair. Shit happens. Effort doesn't always lead to reward. Bands that have produced consistently good music and toured their asses off don't always get the recognition.
I've always rated Throttlerod as one such band since I heard their album Hell and High Water playing on the PA at Real Groovy Records, and their latest album Turncoat affirms that more strongly than ever. Seven years is a long time between drinks, and in the time since Pig Charmer was released, I started to wonder if these guys had dropped off the map entirely.
Thankfully, they haven't, and the quality of Turncoat suggests they've spent a fair chunk of that seven years writing ideas, refining them, playing around with them, and turning them into one hell of an album - this time with the help of producer J. Robbins who has previously worked with acts such as The Sword and the mighty Clutch.
The intro to opening track Bait Shop might be a sly head-nod to Blue T-Top, the first track of their 2000 debut album Eastbound and Down - the first few bars are slightly muted and then all hell promptly breaks loose as everything gets turned to 11. This tells you pretty much all you need to know about this album - firstly, this is the same Throttlerod, but different - and secondly, you're in for a helluva ride. It's not too far removed from the power and aggression found on Nail and Pig Charmer but when the main riff is given the chance to stand alone, it's almost perfectly hypnotic - weaving space into the equation in contrast to the sheer impact that pervaded the last couple of albums. You could listen to the thing on loop for hours and still not get tired of it. The song's closing lyrics are 'It's been so long' - and yeah, I'd have to agree.
This is not to say that Throttlerod have lost the ability to be loud by any means, because second track Lazy Susan starts loud and gets even louder with the intensity of past tracks like A Fly on the Fault Line. The strong Southern influence that powered Throttlerod's early material is well and truly back in view on this track as well, as is singer/guitarist's Matt Whitehead's ability to go absolutely ballistic and starting belting his lungs out at just the right point in the song.
Never Was A Farmer is a different beast though. It's jaded, melancholic, almost sludgy as the band let the chords slowly ring in the air like a bell tolling above a march on the Arctic tundra. The verse is equally bleak, dominated by the rumbling tones of new bassist Jeremy Plaugher before a big chorus and bridge leading to a great Whitehead solo add colour to the track.
Lima works in similar fashion, but this time it's drummer Kevin White that adds some subtle texture to the verses. It's followed by title track Turncoat, which is probably the most aptly-titled song on the record. It cruises along for four minutes with a lurching groove underpinning a clean guitar line with a hint of brightness to it and just when you think you've got it figured out, the distortion plunges off a cliff and the song's last minute goes utterly manic, with Whitehead screaming 'Hell!' repeatedly over a frantic riff.
You Kicked My Ass At Losing, on the other hand, features undoubtedly the best title of the record and also showcases Throttlerod's well-honed ability to make you think they're going with a straightforward verse-chorus-verse deal, and then spin off in entirely unexpected directions - as well as their ability to deliver sheer unadulterated hard rock crunch with the best of them.
The guitars chime at the start of Gainer, a bright, angular piece of noise rock that provides a timely lift to the album's mood. Every Giant starts with some nice interplay between bright guitars and warm, earthy bass before Matt Whitehead goes into shouty mode and then makes ironically subtle use of a belting chorus riff accented by a scorching guitar bend.
Cops and Robbers is less classic-car-chase and more carefully-planned-heist as it disguises itself in various time signatures. It's followed by the busy, bristling Breadwinner, which carries near-industrial momentum throughout.
I Know A Ship is another clever track - hinting at up-tempo optimism while never entirely committing to it aside from a couple of positively anthemic guitar solos. The album finishes with The Guard - at six and a half minutes it's the album's longest track and also one of the most memorable, schizophrenic as it bounces between a snarling, vicious 7/8 tempo for the intro and chorus, and a spacious, calm 4/4 for the verses. The instrumental last 3 minutes of the song are even better, as a squealing, screeching guitar line threatens to go completely off the rails, but can't escape the exceptionally tight groove laid down by the rhythm section - who ultimately have the album's final say.
There's been a lot of good music released so far this year - with the likes of Anthrax, Megadeth, Mark Tremonti and Death Angel all producing quality albums. But at this point in time, Turncoat is the best thing I've heard so far this year, and it's going to take something pretty exceptional to knock it off that perch. And even if it's seven years before Throttlerod next hit the studio, I reckon Turncoat will probably tide me over until then anyways.