Sunday, 23 November 2014

Blue Snaggletooth - Beyond Thule (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 3/11/2014
Label: Arbco Records

‘Beyond Thule’ DD/LP track listing:

01. Reptiles (02:49)
02. Sleeping Mountain (04:57)
03. Serpent And The King (03:43)
04. Silver Goddess (03:17)
05. Gawkers (04:37)
06. All You See (04:34)
07. Nameless Cults (03:19)
08. Ahamkara (07:07)
09. Transmutation (02:41)


Fronted by guitarist and singer Chris “Box” Taylor (who previously played with Mazinga, Powertrane, and Michigan legend Scott Morgan), Blue Snaggletooth was formed in 2009, when Taylor teamed up with bassist Ian Harris, guitarist Jess Willyard, and drummer Ian “Pit Viper” Sugierski. The band began making a name for themselves playing Michigan rock clubs, and their debut album, 2011’s “Dimension Thule,” sold out it’s initial pressing.

But while the first edition of Blue Snaggletooth was solid, it wasn’t meant to last, as personal commitments led to Harris, Willyard, and Sugierski leaving the group. But you can’t keep a good beast down, and Taylor has resurrected Snaggletooth with a new lineup that’s even heavier and more impressive than the first.

Guitarist Casey O’Ryan and bassist Joe Kupiec are rock & roll prodigies steeped in hard rock and classic boogie – as Taylor says, “They’re not brothers, but they should be,” and they give the band groove, energy, force, and powerful commitment. (In the grand tradition of everyone in Black Flag getting a tattoo of The Bars, O’Ryan has already gotten himself inked with Blue Snaggletooth’s artwork.) With Mike Popovich driving the groove behind the drums and Taylor wailing and laying down rhythm licks up front, this new edition is a hard rock dream machine, ready to take your mind and your ears deep into the cosmos. (And the band’s shows look as cool as they sound, with Jaime Magiera screening deeply trippy video projections to accompany the wall of sound.)

The second generation of Blue Snaggletooth isn’t wasting any time. The band is working up material for their next album, and Taylor and O’Ryan have already banked fourteen new songs that they hope to take to the studio by the end of 2013. If anyone is proving that you can honor hard rock’s past while pumping fresh blood into its future, it’s Blue Snaggletooth. Hop on board their spacecraft while there’s still room for new riders

The Band:

Chris Taylor | Guitar, vocals
Casey O’Ryan | Guitar
Joe Kupiec | Bass
Mike Popovich | Drums


Blue Snaggletooth's second effort ‘Beyond Thule’ is straight up Stoner/Proto Metal. A Gibson SG and a Classic 60's Epiphone through Orange Amps, balls out in your face Stoner Rock. If there isn't something in your soul that can't relate to heavy, yet grooving guitar and thunderous bass with wailing solos, then your name is probably Gunther, and you wear corpse-paint to your day job at Oslo Burger.

Anyway, before I even get to the music, I have to mention the awesome album art by artist Jeremy Wheeler, which was made to be seen under the black light.  If you want to purchase an actual copy of this album, you can forget a CD, because you only get it in clear vinyl, and digital download. These are cool all by themselves.

Back to the music: I fully confess, I like story songs, Ones that tell a cool story as well as rocking the fuck out. Who doesn’t? Whether its old country ballads about gunslingers, or space/stoner rock bands doing the same, you got me.  I listen to all kinds of music like everyone, so songs like Marty Robbin's ‘El Paso’, or even Gordon Lightfoot's ‘Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ haunting story songs, always catch my attention. This is what these songs remind me of. Not because the melodies are similar, but because of the places these songs take me.  Blue Snaggletooth is all over that.

My personal favourite is track 2, ‘The Sleeping Mountain’. Not only is the chorus catchy as hell, but it gives that direct but vague warning, "Don’t rouse the beast that sleeps, below the sleeping mountain,"  It doesn’t ruin it by telling you exactly what’s under there, just that it's big, and last time it was around, everything sucked for a million years. So holy-shit don't wake it up! I didn’t have a choice to like this song or not. The Star Wars figure collecting, Dungeons and Dragons playing kid in me that grew up to also like loud as Hell guitar music can't help but like this.

That story theme continues on the next track ‘The Serpent and the King’, this time evoking a classic Good vs. Evil struggle.  The next track, also tells the story of the ‘Silver Goddess’, the crowning Jewel of the album though, would have to be track 8, ‘Ahamkara.’ While perhaps speaking the band's philosophy or at least a message of transcendentalism, it also delivers a ripping fuzzed jam.

I decided to wait to review this album until I had the chance to see Blue Snaggletooth live, which I was fortunate to do just last week. To me, as I have mentioned before, the measure of a good band is one that can deliver in the studio AND on the stage.  If you can write a good song, that’s great, but if you can't reproduce that same energy or vibe on stage, it's only so useful.  Blue Snaggletooth is not that band. They bring it just as hard live as on the LP. They don't screw around in that department. But...what sealed the deal and made me a genuine fan of this band, was when I checked out their merch after their set. 

See, I am not a tiny girly man wearing skinny jeans. I can eat two or three tiny men for lunch. So, usually, when I see a new band I really like, and ask them if they have shirts in my size, the answer is a polite "No fatty. No shirt for you. Fat people don't get to represent."  Not so this time. They had my back with my sized "Fat Bastard" B.S.T for a mere ten bucks. What? A band that actually thought that maybe some of their fans might not fit into a "Large"?

In all seriousness, ‘Beyond Thule’ is a fun album. It’s got those heavy-groove riffs played loud. The songs actually entertain, not just assault the ears. I like a metal blitzkrieg too, but sometimes it's time to relax, light one up and space out with something less than blisteringly fast.  This is a great album if you dig this kind of sound. If you are like me and believe the best guitar tones were invented in the early 70's, and there should be more story songs set to these guitar tones, then you should probably buy this album right now.

Words by: Mike Borsum

You can pick up a copy here

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