Sunday, 14 April 2013

Romero - Take The Potion (album review)

Cover artwork by Steve Stanczyk (bass) & Benjamin Brooks (drums)
Midwestern power trio Romero are one of those uncategorizable bands whom amateur bullshitters such as myself can't make heads nor tails of, so we simply label them stoner and / or doom or sometimes sludge.  But the truth is, they haven't made the adhesive strong enough for a label to stick to these cats.  The mercurial nature of their sound side-steps, jukes and dekes labelization just as soon as a one is attempted to be applied.

Romero have studied their craft well and break down years of influence to appeal to the most primitive parts of the stoner brain.  They pounce onto the scene like star born warriors with riff-tastic weaponry on opening track "Compliments & Cocktails", hitting listeners in the gut with a battleaxe of riffs while vaporizing brains with their experimental structures.  Melodic crooning finds a companion in guttural utterances to form a Mutt & Jeff combo of vocals.  In other words, this is an album full of layered songs and complex ideas.

"Couch Lock" slabs and drags it's way through roughly four minutes of sludge before veering off the highway to spin doughnuts and crop circles in a field of heavy space / stoner rock for a breath-taking final two minutes.  See, that's just the kind of thing I'm talking about.  To cop a cliche, Expect the Unexpected.  It speaks volumes that this song was issued as a cassette single, of all things, about a year ago.  A cassette single that came with 3-D cover art and a pair of red and blue lense 3-D glasses.  That's about as fitting an anecdote about the band and their musical shenanigans as one could come up with.

Even the physical package for 'Take The Potion', put out by Grindcore Karaoke, is a weirdo.  I guarantee it's unlike any CD package you've ever seen or even dreamt up while tripping on 16 tabs of impurest brown acid while riding an ass-rainbow propelled dragon dog through the skies above the desert.  I'm telling you.  It's all pull tabs and die cutting.

Towards the end of the album, the last two tracks in fact, "Wheeling Dervish" and "In The Heather" seem tame in comparison with the rest of the album.  These are the riffiest and most straight forward songs to make the mouth water and hook listeners in.  Tellingly, they come at the end of the album.  There's no easing in to the world of Romero but things get somewhat less complicated on the way out, which is not what the listener is expecting.  If anything you might expect increasing complexity the further into this album you go.  Again, it's telling, isn't it?  Romero take your expectations and pretzel the shit out of them every chance they get.

It all may sound pretty directionless and pretentious on the surface, the way I'm describing it, but 'Take The Potion' has one last surprise to report:  it's neither of those things.  It speaks loudly that the band choose to start the album with a signature riff before peeling back ever-increasing layers of textural complexity.  And through it all the band maintains a sharp focus on structuring compact songs packed with great ideas, as no song reaches very far beyond the seven minute mark nearly in spite of themselves.

Romero is part of what I'm perceiving as a new wave of stoner rockers who incorporate a little prog, a little psych, a little doom, a little of every note of music that has ever touched the ears of the musicians involved to create something aerodynamically unsound that flies like an endangered bird through smog-choked skies.  It can be challenging music, if you're not ready for the challenge then your ears won't be equal to it.  This album is what you put on after having a "... what the fuck ..." moment.  Something this trapezoidal is sure to bang your brains back into place.

Highlights include: "Take The Potion" and "In The Heather"

Rating: 4/5

Total Run Time: 41:55

Jeffrey Mundt - guitars, vocals & percussion.
Benjamin Brooks - drums and vocals.
Steve Stanczyk - bass

From: Madison, Wisconsin

Genre: Stoner, Prog, Psychedelic, Doom, Sludge, Space Rock, Younameit

Reminds me of: The Quartet of Woah!, Utah

Release Date: January 29, 2013

Suggested listening activity for fellow non-stoners: Lost in the woods, you find a tree bark mask fringed with grass and decide to see if it fits.  It's only then that you see that madness is all around you everywhere, all the time.  The giant basalt block of human history rolls on skids of chaos ...

Better Reviews:
The Obelisk
Beard Rock
Welcome To The Void in Greek
Metal Sucks

Romero Sludgelord interview

Romero facebook

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