JAVELINA THIN THE HERD ON BEASTS AMONG SHEEP
If the only thing I got from Beasts Among Sheep was a newfound respect for Javelina’s biggest influence, the defunct sludge-punk troupe Buzzov*en, that would be enough for major props-giving. But hot damn, does this Philly band have a lot of other stuff going for them. Least of which is that they’re easy to believe. There’s no polish to Beasts Among Sheep, no foundation for artifice, just eight tracks of mud-caked riffs and cantankerous dispositions. Producer Sanford Parker gives the album that first-take raw vibe that this kind of light-on-subtlety metal requires.
Javelina’s battle tank rumbles through a whole variety of dubious environs, from the thick swamp swing on “A Little Paranoia Goes a Long Way” to the mace-in-hand battleground of “Stepchild” and the gritty punk urbania that closes out “Playing The Nuclear Option.” There are even brief departures to Valkyrie-riding fantasy realms in the twinned guitar breaks of “You’re Going to Hate This” and “Black Blizzard.” High on Fire, Black Flag and Iron Maiden tread the same crusty earth when Javelina reinterpret all of their riffs with the same primitive slam-bang.
The one thing that isn’t there to kick Beasts Among Sheep over the top is an audible libido. The best sludge. Melvins and Eyehategod and Buzzov*en included, carries a perverted sexual undertone that comes partly from slurred blues scales and partly from the sick vocal delivery of all the above. It’s the soundtrack to really violent sex. Javelina have the riffs down but their sludgiest moments (e.g. “Towers of Silence,” “Playing the Nuclear Option”) don’t quite throb and breathe like they could. Vocalists Chubbrock and Mike B. roar high and low in charcoal parallel, harsh as a scouring pad but lacking the deviant personality of King Buzzo or Mike Williams.
The unsexiness of this album doesn’t take away much from Javelina’s songwriting, which already shows progress from the band’s self-titled debut from 2008. For some, the band’s hardened, invulnerable exterior might be the main draw. And who knows? Maybe four sweaty, ugly dudes banging out sweaty, ugly music is your bag. If so, there’s plenty of sweatpants boner material on Beasts Among Sheep.
(3 1/2 out of 5 horns)