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Brimstone Howl

We Came in Peace

Rating: 4.0

Label: Alive! Records

Nebraska’s Brimstone Howl have adorned the cover of their fourth record, We Came in Peace with a moonscape, barely visible and shaded red, underscoring the vast, empty loneliness of space. If it’s true that Earth’s telecommunication signals can sail far, far across the galaxy, if unabsorbed by our cluttered atmosphere, We Came in Peace sounds like a rock record made by four lonely aliens floating in a tin can, in an attempt to reconcile decades of Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Diverging slightly from the straight-ahead garage rockabilly of last year’s Guts of Steel, Brimstone Howl have made a manic record that culls influences, mostly from ’60s rock, that have always floated just below the radar. Not just once but twice, the boys make a sonic shout-out to fuzz king and motorcycle movie soundtrack maven Davie Allan, aping the adrenalized fuzztone of his “Blues’ Theme” on album opener “They Call Me Hopeless Destroyer” and they also divine his track “Cycledelic” with clean arpeggios rising up from the scuzz on “Shangri-La.” Speaking of which, the ghost of those tortured maidens appears on the bizarre story-song “The World Will Never Know,” where John Ziegler intones over not love lost but rather love never felt at all, while sour guitar pours down in sheets.

“Obliterator” mines Screamin’ Jay Hawkins’ territory (“I think maybe we’re just an ass-scratch away from the true desperate blood rituals of the Congoland…“) and “Bye Bye” is haunted by the spirit of the Gun Club’s Jeffery Lee Pierce; Ziegler sounds like he’s teetering on the edge of self-destruction, smiling wryly all the while. This all is not to say that Brimstone Howl is nothing more than a good record collection. The references to old records are just that, references. There’s nothing on par with the Killers’ Springsteen swipes here; We Came in Peace sounds to be a record made by guys who intend on taking their own millennial crack at the influences that keep younger generations digging through record crates at the flea market.

If one thing’s for sure, this Howl sounds as if it’s echoing off the corners of the universe. Everything on We Came in Peace is exploding far off somewhere and its reverberation is what defines the record. Ziegler’s voice, Chauncey Patton’s bass, and Calvin Retzlaff’s drums sound not like instruments but instead, like the sound of reverberation itself; only Nick Waggoner’s furious and nimble fuzz guitar that cuts through the murk. This makes the record a little hard to crack at first; it might take some effort to become adjusted to We Came in Peace’s feel to appreciate the songs. Once the monumental bad voodoo of “Yr. Gonna Walk” busts loose, it all starts to make sense.

And there are songs here; dynamic tunes of wild abandon in which hide killer lines (“Black leather jackets/ Secret rites of passage,” “I got women cryin’ & runnin’ round/ I got young boys turnin’ tricks!“) in the muck. Something tells me this is a live band that could destroy the rest of a given bill on any given night. Nebraska, in the minds of coastal types like myself, is a landscape as barren and empty as the Moon on the cover of We Came in Peace. If this record is any indication, it might be high time to pay Omaha a visit.

by Chris Middleman

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