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Album Review

The opening title track on Vessels is the epitome of the word "driving" — one buzzing grunge guitar strums in time with the kick thump and snare crack, while another axe howls feedback endlessly in the background. There's virtually no build or dynamic; it just goes. And it goes hard. Every instrument and vocal part is recorded in the red and overdriven, similar to a Kasabian or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club album. There's an unrelenting Spacemen 3-type chugging with dispersed vocals shouting "How does it feel?" Then, just after settling into the fifth minute, the band downshifts into the world of Fu Manchu, with a heavy-as-hell, half-tempo, head-banging breakdown. These moments are great when Wolf & Cub show that they are capable of changing gears, but more often than not, songs don't really go anywhere interesting. Solid grooves dominate the album like a hard rock drum circle alongside smoky guitar static and dirty funk basslines in jam-session form. This is probably due to the inclusion of a second drummer, as the constant unchanging rhythms make it easier for both members to lock in and stay in the pocket. Songs concentrate on a repeating bass riff, a similar guitar lick or power chord, and a monotone yell. It's a simple formula where the songs rarely stray from one key, making them extremely easy to digest. On first listen, Paul Epworth's sheen sounds great, but because the content has an overall lack of breadth, the record will likely lose its appeal over time. As a precaution from becoming overly repetitive, the band slows the tempo for a mellower vibe on some songs. "Hammond" sounds a bit like a Spiritualized-influenced Mother Love Bone ballad (which actually plays better than you might expect), "Kingdom" is a heavily compressed spacy jam reminiscent of a Verve song, and there are few psychedelic instrumentals perfect for the lava lamp zone-out session. At times, these interludes feel like filler, a strained attempt to come up with a full album's worth of material (five minutes of guitar feedback and a viciously distorted Casio beat is an intriguing interlude for a record, even for grungy stoner metal). But for the most part, this release is a nice blend of heavy atmospherics and raw muscle. Even when the album drags, the songs aren't bad, just bland. Basically, the best songs are great, but not brilliant, and the worst songs are boring, but not awful. Vessels is a bit like a cheap sports car — at surface level it's sharp and exciting, but the parts just aren't built well. At least it's a fun ride while it lasts.

Vessels, Wolf & Cub
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