posted on 11/2008 By:
When a band names themselves after an unattractive, mid-sized mammal that bears a striking resemblance to a pig, it’s a fairly safe bet that they aren’t going to be taking the light-and-nimble approach to rockin’. ‘Javelina’ is an alternate name for the peccary, an American relative of both European swine and African hippopotami, and Javelina the music collective mirrors their namesake’s hairiness and foul temper. This Philly-based outfit peddles a kind of ambiguously crusty, sludgy racket— it’s definitely not hardcore, but things are a little too ramshackle and uptempo to fall squarely into the metal realm either. Those among you playing the namecheck game might look to Cavity, Cursed or High on Fire for points of reference, but Javelina are a bit too polyphonic to really square up with any particular band’s style. This musical androgyny keeps them out of imitator status, but unfortunately it doesn’t quite coalesce into a distinctive sound either.
One thing I’ll say in Javelina’s favor—they cut to the fucking chase. There’s no time-waster intro track to skip through here; S/T launches direct into the brilliantly titled “1000-Pound Man.” The track is a mess of fuzzed out guitar tones, shambling punk raving, crumbling grooves, and the occasional guitar harmony. In short, it’s everything but the kitchen sink, or at least all the grimy crud that hangs out underneath said sink. Javelina deliver the bulk of their muckslinging with appropriate swagger and plenty of phlegmy aggression, but never do the ingredients at hand really coalesce into anything that gloms onto the ol’ grey matter with any tenacity. Instead, the band’s stew of sounds remain a separated and kind of awkward series of pastiches; big Eyehategod riff here, d-beat acceleration there, ‘Southern’ twin-guitar bit over yonder, et cetera. Sure, this shit will piss off the neighbors and get your blood going when it’s all sweaty and up in your face in a basement, but it’s not the kind of material that demands repeat listening. Javelina also run into a bizarrely common problem for sludge-metal-type bands: they don’t have a real vocalist. Instead, like Mastodon before them, they’ve come to the conclusion that three fat bearded guys yelling as hard as they can equal one singer, and like Mastodon before them, they’re dead fucking wrong. Props for having one dude attempt a black metal screech instead of just hollering in the same dull register as the other two, but really, quantity doesn’t compensate for lacking quality.
But, as ever when this kind (and most kinds) of metal doesn’t work, the main ingredient lacking is memorable riffwork. Javelina have nailed the tone, the (admittedly limited) required musical techniques, the attitude, and the fundamentals of the sound they’re shooting for, but not the musical x-factor that makes bands like HoF so devastating and enjoyable. This is a debut and these boys likely have endless practices, bars, and basements ahead of them, so they’ll have plenty of time to refine their sound. For now, I’ll definitely catch them live, but I don’t expect to return to this album often.
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