Released: 2013, Relapse Records
Reviewer: Metal-Rules.com UK Team
Nothing about ASG is ever set in stone - which is interesting because they’re often given a stoner tag. Did I say interesting - I meant the basis for a poor joke actually. But I stand by my point because new album Blood Drive takes a lot from mellow alt-rock, along with all those other usual threads - hard rock, stoner, doom, sludge etc, some of which only become apparent on further listens. And yet I found myself phasing out each and every time.
Ok - time to remove all external stimulus - no TV, no people, earphones in, just me and four walls, eyes shut.... and still my mind managed to wander off and only come back near the end with a jerk of ‘this is still going - yes I’m still listening’ surprise. I suspect that even if ASG themselves were stood next to me pouring their music directly into my ear that after some initial wtf-ness I would come to consider them part of the background. Which is terribly rude when a band has gone to all that trouble of coming to your home and setting up.
Perhaps I just don’t ‘get’ it, but I’ve always felt that was a cheap way of trying to pass something off as better than it actually is, or pretending you’re in some way superior. Not to me - I know the square root of 47, which isn’t even a rational number.
It’s not even that I necessarily disliked Blood Drive - many of the riffs are stand out, but they were often wallpapered over by the same incessant vocal tone and whilst I don’t claim to be an ASG historian, I know Jason Shi can mix it up a bit - hell even Blood Drive proves that with the bald screams of ‘Castlestorm’, one of the few songs I stayed switched on for the whole way through. It’s also the heaviest - so go figure.
The groovy ‘Scrappy’s Trip’ also mixes it up a bit - vocally and musically, and ‘Hawkeye’ incorporates that currently-popular-shouty vocal style. And I’m not even saying these are the best songs, just because they’re the most ‘metally’, I’m saying they are the ones that stand out the most on initial listening because they come at you in a different way. For the record ‘Stargazin’ is one of the best of the rest layering the sweeping vocal tone with one deeper whilst pinning down a backing track that almost feels as though it wants to go off and do its own thing.
We could chalk this up to personal taste, and I’m sure if you’re a big fan of ASG you will find plenty to like here whilst laying back on a summer’s eve, but I found myself wishing for more breaks in that level composure, for ASG to shake me out of that fuzz of melody. There’s nothing wrong with keeping things on an even-keel so to say, but the result is that Blood Drive feels a touch flat.
Review by Kirsty Birkett-Stubbs