Beasts Among Sheep
posted on 12/2009 By:
Talk about turnaround time. Beast Among Sheep is the second album from Philadelphia’s Javelina in as many years, and it’s clear that this band has begun to pick up some momentum. The grit-crusted fourpiece has tightened and tuned the punk-sludge attack of their self-titled debut; a few weaknesses have been shored up and a few strengths have been capitalized upon. Nonetheless, Beasts Among Sheep is the sound of a band that still haven’t quite found their niche in the world.
The core components of Javelina’s sound are still present on Beasts Among Sheep—a swaggering rhythm section and molasses-thick guitars that bound back and forth between fatalistic stoner grooves and more voracious Tragedy-style melodic hardcore (see “The Nuclear Option”). But as opener “You’re Going to Hate This” makes eminently clear, Javelina have picked up some classically metaaaaaal bravado over the last year. Beasts Among Sheep slings a lot more twin-guitar lead antics and pinched harmonics than its predecessor. At times, the band even slips in some unexpectedly complex timings, as in the opening riff from “Arcadia.” The effect, in total, is something like older Mastodon sans prog pomposity and with major chips on both proletarian shoulders—check out the anthemic churn of “Towers of Silence” and the absolutely wailing groove that concludes closer “Beware the Wrath of the Patient Man.”
Fortunately, Beasts Among Sheep features a markedly improved production over Javelina, courtesy of sludgemaster Sanford Parker (Minsk, Rwake, Unearthly Trance, Buried At Sea, etc.), that allows Javelina to really drive home the skullcrushing rhythms that their sound depends on. Unfortunately, their vocal department is still a weak point. Though their three-man bellow-by-committee approach has improved since the last outing, a more capable dedicated vocalist could take their sound to the next level.
But since most sludge fans don’t seem to give a shit about vocals, maybe that’s not such a big deal. For them, what will matter is that Beast Among Sheep is an instantly satisfying bitchslap of a metal album that features truckloads of titan riffage. Personally though, I get the sense that Javelina are still on their way up, creatively speaking. As enjoyable as this album can be, it’s tainted by its slightly too-familiar palette of sounds, and they’ll need to add a little je nais se quoi to break into the top ranks of their style. In short, this is a solid second effort, but I’m more excited about this band’s future than their current output.
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