Released: 2008, Powerage
The rise and fall of Grunge music in the 1990s was ironically almost as spectacular and swift as the hair metal it drove underground. Inevitably, as young bands have continued to rediscover older music, the resurrection of grunge in some form was a virtual guarantee. Enter Lethargy, a band that uses more styles than just grunge, but grunge is the predominant influence on their debut major label recording. The first thing that needs to be stated is that this is not the Lethargy from Rochester, NY but a new band from Wales, UK. Formed in 2000, the band released a self-funded album called ROAD TO NOWHERE, which made a positive impression on many critics according to the band’s MySpace page.
PURIFICATION is the first major release for Lethargy and boasts some pretty impressive credentials. The album is produced by David Prater, who produced Dream Theater’s IMAGES AND WORDS and CHANGE OF SEASONS albums. The band also cites a diverse list of influences, ranging from Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath to Alice In Chains and The Manic Street Preachers. With this pedigree, I was expecting some heavy progressive grunge and was actually fairly excited to hear it after the fatigue of reviewing a handful of Swedish death metal albums. The fact is PURIFICATION showcases every one of these influences and others not mentioned, but with one definite catch; the style of one song often shifts almost completely in the next song, the main uniting feature in these cases being only the vocals. The result is that the variety between individual songs is sometimes significant, but some readers are probably already guessing this makes the album a somewhat disjointed and inconsistent effort, but definitely not a bad record.
“Stealth” is the excellent detuned opener, a southern stoner metal song in the style of Alabama Thunderpussy with a mix of COC. “14:9” pays tribute to grunge’s heyday, with a definite Pearl Jam feel on this one from the melodies to the vocals. The riffs are pretty straight forward, not necessarily pummeling but aggressive. The production deftly adds crunch to the guitars and wisely emphasizes Phil Humphreys’s versatile and impressive vocals. The album rocks mid-paced and grunge oriented until track 7, “I See Mans End In His Construction”, an unusual song title and an insightful observation. This semi-ballad is undoubtedly the reflection of the Manic Street Preachers influence, especially in the harmonized vocals during the verse and the dream-like quality of the chorus, making this track my personal favorite of the album.
The album concludes with a full blown piano ballad, an obvious attempt at a commercial track and closely related to the worst of Nickelback’s offenses. Overall the album is a melting pot of styles, grunge being the dominant flavor but the dropped D tuning adds a stoner metal element. The dropped D also makes the songs sound repetitive and many of the riffs are unimaginative.
PURIFICATION is a solid album from a band that has talent but needs some refinement. There is only one bad track on the album, but none really stick out and make a lasting impression either. It is admirable to see the band incorporating all their influences on one album, but not every track sounds like Lethargy. Some tracks sound like a different band completely, and the challenge will be for the guys to weld all their influences into consistent songs that reflect their own personal style.
The bottom line this is that this is a listenable and enjoyable album, but at the end of the day is unlikely to make any lasting impression. The dropped D tuning is overdone and just sounds like so many other bands. Lethargy have potential, but need to experiment more and forge all their influences into their own unique sound in order to take the next step towards success.