Saturday, March 12, 2005

Review: Supervillain - Earthquake Machine (2005)

Supervillain [ MySpace ]
Earthquake Machine

When I reviewed Supervillain's self-titled debut EP last year (read the review here), I was impressed with their gritty, no frills, from-the-streets rock sound that blended influences from such diverse bands as AC/DC, Kyuss, and Soundgarden. Veterans of the New York hardcore scene, the guys of Supervillain  had deftly switched gears and put together an in-your-face rock album. Less than a year later, the band has released their first full-length album Earthquake Machine and hit the mark yet again.

A significant component of Supervillain's sound on the EP was the raw vocals of Morgan Adams. I had compared him to Jackyl's Jesse James Dupree, and I think the comparison is still valid, but he's modified his style on Earthquake Machine. No longer sustained up at the highest mark of his range, Morgan drops his tone but keeps that same raw, aggressive, sometimes slightly off-key delivery that couldn't be a better compliment to the music. There are even moments where he delves into a a clean style, as on "You Ain't Got A Prayer" and "Altar Ego".

Musically, Supervillain is still firmly entrenched in the dirty, sludgy rock akin to bands such as Monster Magnet and Alabama Thunderpussy. Fuzzy guitars and distorted riffs abound, serving as a foundation for some fantastic solos and leads. Strengthening that foundation is the superb skill of drummer Lou Gasparro. Together with Jay Nicholas on bass, the rhythm section is tighter than a, well, I'm sure you get where I'm going with that. The bass lines on "Altar Ego" stand out to me as a fine example of what Nicholas brings to the mix, but in reality his presence is palpable on each and every track. You can't pin Lou down to one or two moments of skinpounding skill, 'cause he simply delivers the beats with style again and again throughout the disc. Where everything comes together best, in my opinion, is the track "Drowning". Clearly a Black Sabbath-inspired tune, the spacey opening riff and plodding rhythm screams old-school doom. The twin guitar theme riffs enhance the atmosphere and reinforce the feeling of a smoke-filled '70s jam. Morgan goes through each of his styles on the track, spending most of the song in a clean voice before moving on to his regular style and on up to his high-pitched shouts. The solos (from either Blue Wilding, Mike Mirabella, or both - not really sure here) are as punchy as they are poignant. The pace is, as you would expect, slow. That doesn't keep Lou from excelling behind the kit, however, as he mixes up the beat patterns a bit to add a layer of subtle complexity. In my opinion, this is the best track of the album. "Low Life" comes in at a close second, though, expanding on the fuzzy riffs and distortion by quickening the pace, adding a bit of a funky groove, and giving more prominence to Jay's bass.

While the aforementioned tracks stand out from the rest of Earthquake Machine, that is not to say that the rest of the album is any less good. The other eight songs are high quality rock that is, above all else, real. Supervillain is a band that knows just who they are and what they are about, which is all reflected in the music they create. That's the significance of Earthquake Machine. In a scene where so many bands are trying to be the next <insert major band name here>, Supervillain is just trying to put out the best rock music that they can, and remain true to themselves. They've succeeded in both endeavors.

Track Listing
1 Show Em All 3:36
2 Nevermore 5:05
3 Line On You 2:38
4 You Ain't Got A Prayer 4:37
5 Altar Ego 4:08
6 Drowning 5:38
7 Vicious Cycle 3:24
8 Prey To Me 3:43
9 Low Life 4:00
10 Hit The Road 3:34

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