Rupture by Blacksmoker

Release date: December 16, 2016
Label: Voice of Azram / Beerfuzz Records

Blacksmoker came to my attention earlier when Boris of the epic German instrumental post-metal band Omega Massif joined their ranks. Rupture is the band’s second release, following their debut full length in 2014, and is deeply rooted in the stoner scene, including big riffs, bounce and the pace associated with stoner bands such as Orange Goblin, but adding a thick sludge veneer which recalls mid-period Mastodon and that brings a contemporary edge to a record that might have felt a little dated otherwise.

‘Rupture’ opens up the record with an energetic bouncy pace and a decidedly old school flavour to it. Bolstered by some smart driving riffs and a lot of doubled up lead guitars the song relies on momentum to keep moving. The Mastodon feel appears here in the chorus riff, a choppy break leading into a wider open groove, reminiscent of riffs from Crack The Skye. This is both a good thing and a bad thing; these sections elevate the song over some of the more generic stoner (and almost classic rock style) riffs, bringing a level of groove that wouldn’t have been present otherwise, but although the feel is similar, the riffs don’t feel as strong; they miss the invention and the unusual touches that Mastodon bring to their rhythms.

The rest of the record brings a similar feel, with minor variations – ‘Herorizer’ is heavier, relying on more of the sludgey riffs underpinned by a driving drum rhythm. The chorus packs a punch, and the middle eight introduces a clean vocal which brings a nice touch of lightness before a build-up to a final verse and chorus. ‘Ouroboros 68’ is even heavier and establishes a really nice groove in the opening verse, which is somewhat undermined by a slightly underwhelming monotonal vocal part – this is redeemed by a powerful chorus part pretty quickly though. For some reason the phrasing here really reminded me of Rob Zombie, despite not sounding anything like him… The longer form of this song gets away a little bit from the conventional ‘verse, chorus’ structure, which also helps. ‘Huntress’ cracks on with a mid-paced doom riff and is one of the more convincing songs on the record, certainly for the first half. There’s a cracking riff about two minutes in, which just hits the groove button hard and sets my head bobbing every time I hear it.

‘Undefeated’ benefits from a drastic increase in pace, then makes the curious decision to kill that pace stone dead with a middle eight that doesn’t quite work, and the song never really recovers from that. ‘Dark Harvest’ hits an early Clutch vibe with its main riff, and even channels in a bit of Crowbar later in the song, never a bad thing. ‘Pariah’ pushes those Mastodon buttons hard again. Musically, closer ‘Room 101’ is probably the strongest song on the album, starting with a powerful sample from 1984, and crunching through some big riffs and adopting a looser groove than the rest of the record, before collapsing on itself in a whirlwind of feedback.

Trying to sum up Rupture is difficult to do. There are sections that shine, but as a whole the record doesn’t really separate itself from the pack. The vocals are a bit too monotonous – not bad, in fact actually quite good – but just consistently hitting the same beats and the same tone. On an EP this would work; on a full length it becomes a serious case of diminishing returns. There are some cracking riffs, but there are also some that are pretty generic and some that are a little too reminiscent of other bands – Mastodon specifically – but, crucially, aren’t quite as good, leaving this listener at least feeling like the band haven’t quite established their identity. This is nothing that can’t be addressed; a little bit more time in the riff lab to invent a bit more around the riff would help, and more focus on the rhythm section would make a big difference. On the occasions the band really hit a groove – ‘Huntress’ is a good example of this, as is ‘Room 101’ – they’re fantastic, but all too often they push into a driving rhythm that sacrifices groove for pace, and the record feels a little one-note because of that.

Overall I’d have to say that Rupture represents a band that is in transition; a work in progress. There are enough flashes of excellence here to keep me interested, and for me to check out their next record, and I’d like to see them live as I suspect that this is the extra dimension that is missing for me here. Rupture is an album that is worth checking out, but I would say that it isn’t essential listening; it has not changed my world, but I maintain high hopes for the next one. It’s a shame – I really wanted to like this one. And I do, just not as much as I was hoping I would.

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