Rock reviews: Suffocation, Angus Khan.


Suffocation, “Blood Oath” (Nuclear Blast)

Things to do while listening to “Blood Oath”: Drink warm beer. Scour Jacko LPs with steel wool. Inflate tractor tires with a bicycle pump. Compost. Wait for a bus. Scramble eggs. Or don’t do anything else, but make sure you are listening, because these New York campaigners have made a death-metal record that delivers the whole package.

The wholeness starts with the way Suffocation play together -- fragmented structures, tempo shifts and time-signature changes mesh like an organic machine, warm-blooded, muscular and mammoth heavy. Yet it’s easy to tune in on their individual contributions. Mike Smith clobbers the drums with an amazing combination of blasting-cap precision and jazz flux. Derek Boyer is one metal bassist you can actually hear, and his busy forward motion is largely responsible for keeping the train on the rails. Frank Mullen’s growl, though appropriate to a large beast, retains enough dim humanity to embrace rather than confront you.

The two guitarists deserve their own paragraph. The lead styles of Terrance Hobbs and Guy Marchais complement each other with scary brilliance -- Hobbs fluid yet surging and unpredictable, Marchais jagged and prone to crazy Arabic spirals. It’s especially educational when they solo back to back, as on “Images of Purgatory” and “Provoking the Disturbed.” And on the riffier segments, their combination of doom stomp and buzz-picking itch makes for a textural feast.

You could spend all day just concentrating on the rhythms, which often employ 3/4 and 6/8 without ever sounding European; Smith’s oompah blast-beat technique makes for a swampy richness rather than an irritating rat-tat. Despite the complexities, Suffocation create an overall impression of strength and simplicity that makes for good narrative:
The double-kick on the title track is like being devoured by army ants, or you may prefer to be chomped by mastiff wah guitar, as on “Cataclysmic Purification.” The revenge-murder victim in “Undeserving” makes a palpable transition from stalked to battered to foot-dragging zombie undead.

You know how bonus tracks often don’t seem like gifts? Not here. The instrumental version of “Pray for Forgiveness” offers a new appreciation for its deathly elegant structure; the unmastered rough mix of “Dismal Dream” strikes with such guillotine impact that you almost wish the whole album had been done that way.

Almost. But in fact, the enveloping fullness accomplished by recordist Joe Cincotta is the first thing to draw you in and the last thing to leave you. Any metal band would do well to line up at Cincotta’s Full Force Studio in New York, not only for the enormous sound but for some of the neighborhood benefits listed on its site: “24-hour 7-Eleven . . . and a Taco Bell and Wendy’s that are open late.”

The songs on “Blood Oath” hang around 4 minutes -- ideal. The red-and-black cover art perfectly reflects the album’s mood. All I need now is a burger. Blood rare.


Angus Khan, “Black Leather Soul” (Nickel and Dime)

L.A.’s Angus Khan rock for real, and biker blob Derek Christensen sings like hell. A lot of groups try to resurrect the dirty rockness of ‘70s AC/DC and Aerosmith, but nearly all come up short on one side or other of the essential rock/sing duality, usually both. So hearing “Black Leather Soul” was kind of a shock. The good kind.

If kicking off with an Alex Harvey cover (“Midnight Moses”) is cheating, it’s the right kind of cheating -- heavy and riffy and just sloppy enough. If Frank Meyer and Bruce Duff aren’t up to their assbones in vintage amps and guitars, I will eat a stompbox. If Andy Baker didn’t slash their tires after hearing how low his drums were mixed, he probably hasn’t heard the record yet, but it’s a credit to him and bassist Dino Everett that they kick major tail anyway.

It’s drinkin’ man’s music. And drinkin’ women’s. On hearing the punked-up teardown of “Call Me Motherf*cker,” I made the note, “Nashville Pussy should cover this.” Then I read the press release, which said Meyer wrote it for Nashville Pussy. Pussy didn’t take it; too drunk, most likely.

One word that could caption most of these tracks is “sleaze” -- not monochromatic scuzz, but a panorama of contaminated jellies derived from AC/DC (“Big Balls,” with Derek doing an ace Bon), Johnny Thunders (“Scene Bitch”), the Damned (“Chainsaw Betty”), and an inspired crossbreed of Nuge, Crue and Whitesnake (“Exile on Mean Street”). “You got a head full of rocks and a mouth full of steel,” Christensen slobbers about some orthodontically challenged bait on the title cut, and he’s that funny often enough to make it a bona fide sideline.

Meyer (ex-Streetwalkin’ Cheetahs) and globetrotter Duff not only riff and solo like a three-day party, but they also produced. Good thing, cuz a bigwig producer would’ve killed the neighborhood vibe; it’s easy to believe “Black Leather Soul” was recorded within half a year of Angus Khan’s formation.

It’s a hit. Catch this band before they kill one another.

Angus Khan celebrate their record’s release at the Echo on Thursday, July 30.