Virginia is just a HOTBED. That much is sure. And I don’t even really know what it’s a hotbed OF, other than every genre of music I like, it seems. It’s just, like, generally, a hotbed in every sense that a place can be such a thing. There’s no problem, in other words, other than maybe earthquakes and overpopulation, that plagues the larger nation, which simultaneously doesn’t send its spiny tentacles into the Old Dominion (yes that really is Virginia’s nickname, apparently) – violent crime, poverty, racism, humidity and just overall cultural confusion seem to run rampant there, giving much of this music an invigorating sense of urgency. Similarly, I remember discovering this crazy band called Breadwinner a while ago and da** they SOUNDED just like Shellac so I just figured they from Chicago – turns out all the while they were a mid-Atlantic act sharing a scene essentially with The Dismemberment Plan and (the excellent, underrated) Burning Airlines, formerly (the commercial-friendly, overrated) Jawbox.
Well, punk-minded, Eternal Return is not, which you might have guessed from the gawd-like album title (although I kind of like them for doling out a crappy title for this project… they’ve properly assessed the entities as not really mattering that much in terms of the efficacy of the music itself). The nine-minute length of opener “Halcyon” might have given it away too. On this epic boomer of a leadoff, the drums come in and pronounce themselves loudly and crushingly, it plays as pretty conventional prog-metal in general but the shocker comes in how smooth and textural the vocal of Dorthia Cottrell ooze out of the speakers as, giving this music an almost immediate anthemic quality, and nicely counterbalancing the crushing sonic assault the band pulls off on a rudimentary level. Garrett Morris is the only band member credited with “guitar” which is especially wowing considering their sound is much fuller than Jefferson Airplane’s, who from what I understand had like eight guitarists… Morris has this awesome way of launching into wah-wah during the solos, juxtaposing some psych-rock presence next to the crushing walls of sound he torments us with during the verses.
The band shows some refreshing versatility on “Pilgrim’s Rest,” which opens with the strumming of a soft acoustic-electric that has interestingly about the exact tone used on Erika Wennerstrom’s showstopper Sweet Unknown this year, Windhand even having the siren-like female vocal to go along as well, so as to fully arrange things in a soothing way. By “Red Cloud,” Morris is back to stealing the show with some entirely otherworldly, satanic distortion which I think might be a Superfuzz, plotting out these riffs that seem to say, hey, even though metal is pretty simple and hardly very new, it’s still what we do and we’re da** good at it. And they are.