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Band of Skulls – Sweet Sour

on February 15, 2012, 7:59am

I remember passing the Band of Skulls’ tent as evening set in at Bonnaroo last summer, thinking “hot damn, they sound amazing” while trudging off to another show. Now I sincerely wish I stopped to receive an adequate face melting upon hearing Sweet Sour, the Southampton, England trio’s second LP that sizzles with muscle-driven, sludgy honest-to-goodness rock. A British powerhouse borrowing from the best early aughts sounds, Band of Skulls’ clean tone and unabashed take on rock positively scorches at every point on the album.

Sweet Sour centers on a fresh, more streamlined sound than the band’s rowdy breakthrough debut, Baby Darling Doll Face Honey. Luckily the gritty guitar rock and fury is still present, polished and packaged here as shiny, modern rock n’ roll thanks to producer Ian Davenport. With this 10-track album, Band of Skulls essentially carry the flag of guitar, bass, and drum trios where other acts have grown fatigued and clichéd.

“Sweet Sour” leads the album with balanced vocal harmonies to lessen the blow of in-your-face instrumentals, the yowling lyrics (“sour by the minute but you’re sweeter by the hour”), punctuating the metal-esque trills and doomsday drums and bass. “The Devil Takes Care of His Own”’s blazing three minutes highlight the band’s ferocious, venue-dominating authority that aptly rears its head even on the sultrier tracks (“Lay My Head Down”). The former track sounds wrought from hell itself: ambling guitars, howling slides, and mighty vocals provide a heavy metal assault to the ears.

Throughout the album, the dueling harmonies from guitarists/vocalists Russell Marsden and Emma Richardson situate the vast, humid instrumentation in romantic territory, drawing similarities to My Morning Jacket’s killer guitar rock in contrast to Jim James’ innocent yet howling falsetto (“Wanderluster”, “Hometowns”). Lyrical content focuses on love, being an outcast, and obligatory rocker’s cause: freedom. These themes are at times homogenous, but the hefty axe work and dynamic song formats will entice more than a few ears and likely keep them coming back for more Brit-branded riffs.

Essential Tracks: “Sweet Sour”, “The Devil Takes Care of His Own”, and “Hometowns”

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