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Karma To Burn | Almost Heathen | review | stoner | rock | Lollipop

Karma To Burn

Almost Heathen (Spitfire)
by Craig Regala

Karma To Burn is a rock band. A three-piece hard rock band that's welded their music together and put it over live better than any three-piece I've seen since Gone (Greg Ginn of Black Flag and the two guys from the Scornflakes who went on to become the early Rollins Band rhythm team). A three-piece who've worked with a singer once (to great effect), but ditched the role, not just a person. The story goes that record company demands lead to the inclusion of singer on their self-titled debut in '97. Makes sense for commercial considerations, and the music, lyrics, and delivery fit perfectly.

As the band moved on from the label and the presence of a singer (or any vocalizations: No hollering, croaking, melismatic screams, or interjections here, hoss), the music changed, but it may've anyway. Their self-released EP, Wild Wonderful Purgatory, has a rockier edge, more kickin'-ass-on-the-road dirthead riff stompers than the previous widescreen eloquent holler-jockey corollary to Alice in Chains. It's good, powerful, and fairly tuneful. Interestingly, the tension/release factor winding its way up from the blues through the starkness of the Big Black/ Helmet binary on/off construct fuels Karma To Burn's music and places it next door to the "block rockin' breakbeats" used in mid-'90s dance music. Remember how the music industry juggernaut geared up to position The Chemical Brothers as the new stadium rock? While that didn't work, boy-oh-boy, the Limp/Korn thing $ure as fuck did - it being a more organic growth from the other side.

Almost Heathen draws the two streams together... Both those creeks come from the same mountain and go to the same still, just different batches. This disc is superbly recorded (again), and brings some of the wider hard rock/metal pacing to the "riff+groove+intensified riff+whipcrack bridge=us" logic of Wild Wonderful. The forth cut, "37," plays a couple of their strengths off each other; an off-kilter strumminess riding deep-dish bass cut into a greasy riff doubled over into powerchords. It's really good. It's all OK to great in a very specific way. Subtracting melody, vocal noise, ignoring hooks and keeping it to guitar/bass/drums in a mid-tempo ballbreaker chug leaves little room for variation, but that's their thing and if you want it, here it is.
(101 Bay Ave. Hicksville, NY 11801)

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