Released: 2016, Self-released
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
"Backwoods Payback" is pretty much the story of the recent electon here in the states, as rural America came out in force and showed the city slicks what's what by helping put Donald Trump – who I recently saw hilariously referred to as a "butternut turd" - in the White House. In the end, it was the "backwoods" folks of Wisconsin, Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, etc., who turned the tide and won him the necessary electoral votes - despite tallying several million fewer actual votes than Hillary Clinton. So take that Los Angeles, Seattle and New York City!
But I digress. Not sure where on the political landscape Backwoods Payback, the band, fall, and it really doesn't matter. Currently a trio, the band hail from the suburban Philadelphia area and have been kicking around mostly as a quartet for more than a decade, issuing three albums and three EPs for a variety of labels along the way. The band are self-releasing Fire Not Reason, a meaty little can of whoop-ass that offers some of the liveliest "stoner" music around.
Borrowing a page from High On Fire, though with not quite as much rough-hewn metal thunder, Backwoods take the THC-addled sludge, slog and fuzzy guitar tone and amp it up with punchier tempos and crunchy, driving hooks. Fire Not Reason kicks off with the rollicking grooves of "California Lean," led by the muscular backbeat of new drummer Erik Larson, ex-Alabama Thunderpussy, and rarely looks back. Even a track like the aptly titled "Dirge" boasts some raucous moments, whereas "Elephants" is a barnstormer from the get-go powered by Mike Cummings brash riffs and occasionally feral vocals.
"That Dream Again" lumbers along in more typical stonery fashion, with some trippy lyrics to boot. But it is offset by the rousing "Tuxedo" and "Snakes" while "You Don't Move" closes things out in a "Metal Gods" like march complete with clattering finale.
And in the middle of it all is the album's outlier "Even Odds," with its desolate, somber folkiness sounding like it would be right at home on the soundtrack of an old western movie. It's a cool twist and makes for an effective break in the action at the the midway point.
Fire Not Reason is solid, honest heavy rock done without pretense and with plenty of spunk. At just over 30 minutes, the album seems a bit meager, but quality tops quantity any day and there's not a dud among any of the nine songs. This Backwoods Payback serves up an emphatic kick in the butt that provides a righteous jolt, especially as one ponders one's appetite for four years of "butternut turd" that the other "backwoods payback" hath foisted upon us. Oy!