Just Like Vinyl - Black Mass
Record Label: Superball Music
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Thomas Erak is a damn good guitarist. He’s also a pretty formidable songwriter and a constantly improving vocalist in terms of his cleans. But Just Like Vinyl, as we are reminded through the twelve tracks of the band’s sophomore disc Black Mass, is not meant to be a focus on the face-melting licks Erak has shown through time – it is a tightened propulsion of controlled riffs, spastic instrumental fits and proof of further progression in the vocal department. Just Like Vinyl pulls back a little bit at times on the musicianship department, but the curiously addictive songwriting seems to be the catalyst on the hard-rock homaged sounds of Black Mass – giving us a solid, much more cohesive record this time around.
In terms in gripes about this record, it’s really more about what you’d hope Erak and company would sustain throughout the record instead of what they fail to do. Flashes of crippling guitar licks pop in and out of Black Mass (“Pressure/Release”, “Happiness is a Hole”, “ATM”) with the intent of arguably not overshadowing the precision of sludgy riffs and an album-long decision to not lean on finger-fueled mayhem, a slight disappointment when you hear bits and pieces of things throughout the album, especially the closer “Dick” where the constantly changing guitar lines and bubbling, grimy energy make you wonder why sometimes it feels like these guys are holding back.
But for what they might not give us in terms of musical wizardry, Just Like Vinyl displays a knack for adventurous song-crafting that while conventional at times certainly toys with the juxtaposition of creative and addictive. Much of the disc lies solely in the realm of mid-tempo crunching, save for the crushing sways of “Sucks to Be You” or the wackily upbeat “Lucky Stars”, an interesting move to say the least considering the rhythmic tendencies of Black Mass. Opener “Safety Word” sets the tone across the board – we get darkly-singed spikes of rock a la Queens of the Stone Age mixed with some momentarily lackluster lyricism that doesn’t quite ruin the mood. Musically though, it’s a slighty spacey blast with memorable punches that smoothly moves into the melodically inclined “Bitches Get Stitches” – a prime example of Erak’s vocal push to sing more and scream less. It’s nice to hear him have a little bit better control and execution of his harnessed vocal prowess – you’re never quite sure when he’s going to explode for a brief scream anymore.
And that tension and release holds true throughout, as the funky “First Born” slams a mute-tinged riff into every wall of your brain while maintaining some sort of sinister knowledge of what is to come. “Walk You Home” – which brings on spits and licks from the guitars and a guest vocal spot from Sam McTrusty of Twin Atlantic while keeping an almost uncharacteristically calm vibe – doesn’t work quite as well but provides some welcome variety to things. Regardless of the tempo or texture though, Black Mass is confident and unabashed in its execution of hammering out daunting riffs – whether the rhythms are simple (“Bitches Get Stitches”) or not. The slightly mind-bending mid-track shift of “Lucky Stars” that will surely remind you of Erak arrangements of the past – though his vocal confidence and energy still shine through what might be an underwhelming showing from a guy otherwise known as a shred factory.
I wouldn’t consider this perfect, but Black Mass doesn’t hold back on being sinister and snarky in the procession of constantly moving guitars and a furious rhythm section to boot. Impressive enough musically and challenging from front to back, consider this a true shot at a thinking person’s hard-rock record, as Just Like Vinyl leave no one safe from the eventual headbanging nature of their thick, yet addicting sound.