Black Wail has been described as the “Supergroup of Jersey City”, and I’m not sure you can get more niche than that. But from the moment I pressed “play” on their new release “Chromium Homes”, the music certainly lived up to the hype.
The 6 track EP kicks off with “They”, a stoner metal track that sounds like most every other stoner metal track, which is to say it sounds like the bluesy parts of early Sabbath, with the Ozzy-esque monotone vocals slavishly following the guitar riffs. But halfway through the track, the music starts to shift, and it doesn’t stop shifting until the end of the last track.
There are so many different influences popping up on this record that trying to describe the music by making comparisons will only act as a musical Rorshach test. In addition to the Sabbath influence, I hear a lot of 70’s rock, especially dual guitar bands, some Mastodon, Misfits, King’s X, and at times I thought I heard some Frank Zappa or Primus in there. It’s a musical smorgasbord of genres.
It seems obvious that the song writing took place during jam sessions, with all the pieces then stitched together to form songs. It’s a method that can sound slightly incoherent, but Black Wail pulls it off very well, and the eclectic juxtaposition of styles never seems off.
The second track, “Thee Ghost”, starts with a riff that could have come from the band Ghost, although I think it’s more a case of shared influences, despite the possible wink in the title. “Chromium Homes”’ title is inspired by poisonous waste from abandoned industrial sites in Jersey City, which isn’t exactly going to help their tourism efforts, but the resulting track will be visiting my playlists often.
The EP ends on a gloom and doom cover of The Beatles’ “Norwegian Wood (This Bird Has Flown)”, appropriately down tuned and slowed down, with its melody altered enough that with new lyrics, they could have avoided sending royalties back to Yoko Ono and Paul McCartney. But the melancholic song makes the transition very easily to full on depression, ending the EP on a strong note.
In the end, Black Wail defies any cataloging effort. It rocks, it’s smart, it’s adventurous.
And it sounds great.
Black Wail’s “Chromium Home” is available now through Rhyme & Reason Records. Find the band on Facebook.
He's also a regular contributor at the very rad site Montreal Rampage
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