Occasionally people ask me what my favourite albums of all time are. This is an almost impossible question to answer as there are so many great albums out there, and my opinion about what makes a certain album an all-time favourite changes with each month depending on the mood I’m in and what I’ve listened to a lot around that time. However, one album that will always be in my favourites list regardless of anything is the self-titled album by post-hardcore/alternative supergroup Handsome. This album is full of catchy hooks, great riffs and fantastic song structures and everytime I listen to it, it brings a huge smile on my face.
Now, this review is not about a new Handsome release as the band unfortunately disbanded in 1998 shortly after releasing this eponymous self-titled debut album. This review is about a different band all together, namely Godstopper, who are from Toronto, Canada. They released What Matters in September last year, but they’re about to re-release this album on vinyl through Milgram Records.
Coming back to Handsome and why they got such an extensive mention in the opening part of this review is that Godstopper’s music reminds me a lot of them. What Matters is full of similar catchy hooks, riffs and melody and the vocals remind me Jeremy Chatelain at parts. It’s just that Godstopper puts all of this through a huge blender of sludge, reminiscent of bands like Melvins, Torche and Today Is the Day, somehow creating their own little pigeonhole. Maybe I should just call this “poppy sludge”, with a huge influence of post-hardcore and noise.
Take the opening track ‘Don’t Walk Home’ for example, which has very alternative and poppy sounding bass lines and drums, alternating with heavy sludge riffs and varying vocal parts, ranging from shouting to beautifully melodic singing. Second track ‘Bent’ starts extremely poppy again, with beautiful clean vocals, before it turns to filthy sludge again with screamier vocals, whilst keeping a very poppy feel to it.
This trend basically continues throughout the rest of this 9-track album, with some songs heavier than others, but all of them of the songs have a huge amount of melody, catchy hooks and enough sludge heaviness to please fans of the heavier stuff as well. This is greatly exemplified in the track ‘Right up to Heaven’, which starts very filthy with gnarling, but still clearly understandable, vocals before we hit on of the catchiest choruses of the whole album. Bass player Miranda Armstrong provides the occasional soft singing “Oohooh” to it as well, providing the song with another melodic layer.
One of my favourite tracks is ‘Blame Them’, which kicks off with some heavy riffing and up-tempo drumming, steering away a little bit from the catchy poppiness as it’s pure deep and heavy riffing, especially in the middle bit that really hits a slow, lingering sludge groove, before the up-tempo grinding riff is back straight hitting your eardrums in full force again. Similarly, the nearly 8 minutes long track ‘Clean House’ hits some very heavy sludge riffing, whilst having yet another melodic chorus that reminds me more of a classic hardrock band than of a sludge band, something I usually don’t appreciate much, but in this case works extremely well.
I’ve listened to this album on near repeat for over a week now and I absolutely love it. There really isn’t a bad track on What Matters. The combination of melody, addictive catchy hooks and vocal parts with heavy down-tuned guitars really is made for me. I’m very happy that after the release of Handsome’s album back in 1997, I now have a more recent album to fill the gap left behind 15 years ago when Handsome sadly split up.
FFO: Torche, Melvins, Harvey Milk and the stranger, poppier side of sludge.