Having wowed newcomers and old fans alike with 2007’s “Win Us Over” there hasn’t been much on the horizon for a while from Carolina stoners ASG. Their 2009 split with sludgers Black Tusk featured three gems (and, to my ear, one slight filler) but another album proper has been a long time coming.
So colour me thrilled to have the preview copy of their latest arrive in my inbox last week. Initially not as attention-grabbing or enticing as “Win Us Over” or as memorable, I was a little disappointed. But repeated listens confirmed one thing: I’m a bad idiot. This album isn’t “Win Us Over” part 2, but a more complex beast with twists, turns and a greater array of influences tucked away in its many corners and expansive sonic landscapes stretching beyond their previous horizons.
For those unfamiliar with the ASG sound it’s fair to say they share a pace and riff-overload confidence with the mighty Orange Goblin but a more sideways approach reminiscent of Red Fang and Kyuss. “Blood Drive”, however, sees them venture in many directions, taking in Jane’s Addiciton, Torche, Baroness and even Humanfly. Cosmic twanging collides with trippy bass throbbing and proto-stoner chords all underpinned by the solid but devil may care flair of Scott Key‘s sublime drumming.
The title track and ‘Day’s Work’ have that Perry Farrell feel to the vocals in places, with the riffs still flowing like beautiful twinkling mud, whereas ‘Castlestorm’ beats around no bushes, places its foot firmly on the monitor and delivers a Matt Pike-esque shoutalong. ‘Blues For Bama’ does what it says on the tin with no cliche and no apology, slithering along with mournful aplomb. ‘Earthwalk’s’ tenderness is unexpected but welcome and ‘Hawkeye’ is a fist-pumping anthem that needs to be in their live set pronto.
The mood of gentle trippy befuddlement mixed with stoner rock thumping is maintained with elegance and enthusiasm right through to closing ‘ballad’ (of sorts) ‘Good Enough To Eat’ which is a haunting lullaby of Johnny Cash style mournful finality. An absolutely perfect epilogue and a classy way to close this triumph of an album. Not something that will dive into your brain as fast as their previous stuff, but on repeated listens it will burrow deep in there and reside for a long time to come. With stunning artwork from Malleus (the Italian trio responsible for notable sleeve art for High On Fire, Swans, Ufomammut and others) that shows more than a nod to art nouveau darling Alfons Mucha, this is a minor epic, a major joy and an essential purchase.