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Throttlerod | Hell and High Water | review | rock | Lollipop
Hell and High Water (Small Stone)
by Brian Varney
The old saying about how you've got your whole life to write your first record and six months to write your second is key here, except Hell and High Water, Throttlerod's second album, is actually being released three years after the debut, Eastbound and Down.
As fine as Eastbound and Down was, you could definitely tell it was a collection of songs written at different times, not the product of a living, breathing band so much as a retrospective collection of songs from different periods, perhaps even from earlier bands. Three years and a buncha live dates later, Throttlerod are unquestionably a living organism, a band smacked into shape by hardcore, low-budget touring, and all of its requisite finery: Sleeping on people's floors, eating at gas stations, pooping in the abject filth of club bathrooms, and trundling across the country in a on-the-verge-of-collapsing van. I wouldn't wish that sorta living on anyone, though I must say that its hand in smacking away the carrion and shaping the rock-hard brilliance of a band like Throttlerod makes me think it has its place.
As a result of all of this shit, Hell and High Water coheres a lot better than its predecessor, a fact helped by the record's impeccable production, everything sounding huge and beautiful and crushing. Andrew Schneider, who produced this as well as most of the good Boston bands, deserves a Nobel Prize or something.
This wouldn't matter if the songs weren't great, but they are. Opener "Marigold" sounds like a beefed-up hair metal tune and has already caused some grumblings about selling out and sounding too radio-ready, but I can think of nothing I'd love better than to hear this song cranking out of passing car radios. On this and most of the other tunes here, the big development is the integration of the band's obvious love of classic metal into the Southern-fried hard rock sound (yeah, yeah, I know, alarm bells ring when those words are uttered, but they come to it honestly, you can tell): Crunchy guitars and taut grooves wrung to maximum impact by skillfully-deployed dynamic tension.
But there are also a couple of genuine surprises in the form of slow songs. As many before me have said, any idiot can play fast - it's the folks who can play slow and make it work that are the ones to watch. "Been Wrong" is just an acoustic guitar and voice, and it evokes the eerily quiet serenity of the early Rod Stewart solo albums. It's a step away from everything else this band has recorded, but it's done very well and a nice indication that, beneath the volume and headbanging, these fellas have got soul. And I believe that the search for soul (or truth or beauty or something similarly intangible), whether or not we're aware of it, is the reason most of us listen to music. So come and get it.
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