Akimbo – “Live To Crush” (Alternative Tentacles, 2013)
“Uh… If you don’t like rock’n Roll…… FUCK OFF!!!”, screams the seemingly drunken chap whose invitation to all rock music haters to get their pleasures somewhere else fittingly opens the latest and (sadly) final album from Seattle-based hardcore-sludgers Akimbo.
Akimbo’s always had a way to get their opinions indelibly stamped in their audience’s minds. From the constant bashing of Nat Damm’s drumkit, to Jon Weisnewski’s brutal bass sound and menacing howling, to Aaron Walters’ heavy-duty distortions, they never went for the subtle and reasonable. Yet, it’s not all about hitting eardrums with a sledgehammer on this surprisingly fresh album, that’s yet totally sounding like Akimbo.
Last time we heard Akimbo on record it was 2008, when they released the critically acclaimed but, apparently, commercially unsuccessful “Jersey Shores”, a concept album based on a 1916 series of bizarre shark attacks that took place over a period of about ten days exactly on the beaches from the title. With that album, the band shunned away from their original aggressive, hardcore-fueled sound, opting for a slower, sludgier way to manifest in music their vision of what must be the horror of being caught in hazardous, shark-infested waters. The record definitely succeeded in translating the tale of a marine man-eater at work for us listeners but, despite its unquestionable quality, it was followed by a 5-year void that left most of the band’s followers worrying about its future. I’ll probably never know what happened in those 5 years of studio inactivity, with very little live shows to support the hypothesis that the band was, indeed, still active; one thing is certain, though: it wasn’t a long enough break for the band to forget anything about their trade and how to get the best out of it!
Earlier this year, in May, I was lucky enough to get a tip from my pal Michael Harper to get a copy of the “new Akimbo album, which just came out” Needless to say, I immediately did it, especially once I found out that it was a limited run of 500 copies, on vinyl only, and after that the band would dissolve. It turned out to be one of the smartest moves I’ve made all year. I tell you, this album summarizes all the best aspects of what Akimbo has been doing for the past 15 years, and then some! It has the aggression of the earlier output, the heaviness of their latter stuff and all the dangers of a tightrope walk over a rock’s roll flood. But that’s not all.
To my delight, I quickly found out that Akimbo isn’t the kind of band who will sit comfortably on their achievements and milk the cow until it’s dried up. They will more likely feed it some weird shit and watch it mutate into something else, like some twisted b-movie plot. So, just as easily as they pulled “Jersey Shores” outta the magic hat, so they did “Live To Crush”, which can be seen as a return to the former aggression and fury, but with a twist. So, if the opener “The Fucking French!” is a straight up, ass-kicking heavy metal rampage with a mid-section that will stop your heartbeat, and “Southern Hospitality” an even more direct and concise sonic assault, then the constant flux of notes dished out by Walters’ six strings in the ecstatic epilogue of “A Real Barn Burner” will definitely prove that there’s more to be read between the lines. So, with “Weasel Rope” we get treated with a massive, sludgy, funky low-end march topped with a gorgeous accompaniment of keyboards, soon to be replaced by a tasteful slide guitar refrain that simply clings on the brain and refuses to let go. You’ll find yourself mimicking it, out on the street, in the public transport, or at work, at the most unexpected moments, I promise.
“The Retard Blues” has got to be my favorite song on this album. It starts like a frantic, spastic, syncopated riff in 5/4, that seems to be wanting to set the tone for the most violently fun song of the album. Well, it’s only right until the sludge factor kicks in at the 50” mark, making way to a 4-minute heavy deluge of epicness like I hadn’t heard in years. Snare pounding slow, the guitars are bleeding harmonies all over the place with the heavily distorted bass providing a steady dance floor for them, while the vocals roar unstoppable in the midst of the mayhem. Cathartic, to say the least.
“I Am Very Successful” and “Equal Opportunity Asshole” set the tone back to heavy bashing, while always instilling freshness and creativity to the formula, like the synthesized flurry of notes in the former’s outro and the moody, bass-driven crescendos in the latter’s mid section. But then “Acid Grandma” and its 8 minutes of decadent sludge-fest pull the handbrake once again, introduced by eerie guitar’s hissing sound painted over a black veil of silence when, all of a sudden and from out of nowhere, the bass and drums take over and lead the way towards the living epicenter of what’s probably the darker and most solemn of this album’s tracks. Notable, in my opinion, Jon’s vocal performance and on this one, with a great passion and sensitivity on display, fully making up for the lack of fancier singing techniques, and most of all Aaron’s more than welcome and very tasteful guitar solo.
The album closes with “Building a Body”, a song that is the music translation of being torn apart by hungry hyenas while a mandrill savagely rapes your corpse and simply end in a black spot of neuron-unfriendly amp noise. So, that about wraps it, “Live To Crush” in all its ambitious glory and brutal beauty. If after a couple of listens you still don’t know what to do with that guy who pissed you off that other time, then you probably listened to the wrong record. It’s a free injection of pure adrenaline and the final statement of musical obstinacy by a band that might have not been appreciated by too many people, but has surely left an indelible mark on those who have, and will be sorely missed.
Review made by Tommy Morelli/2013
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