Album Review: Riotgod’s Driven Rise
Maybe it was the recent Soundgarden/Nine Inch Nails tour announcement (meh), or maybe it’s my age (meh again), but I started thinking a lot about 1994 recently. Weird time for hard rock: outside of grunge, you had a bevy of hard rock bands trying to shed their Sunset Strip past (and failing), lots of moody/psychedelic rockers who saw Jane’s Addiction as a new, artsy route to heaviness (raise your hand if bands like Nudeswirl and Mindfunk still get you hard. Anyone? Just me? Ok then!), some thrash bands beginning to experiment and the first inklings of nu-metal.
Then there was Monster Magnet. The doomy, sort of grungy, sort of throwback, stoner, whatever band. They were mainly just dirty and kinda retro, and that was cool at the time. (And may very well still be cool: I haven’t seen MM in 15 years because I didn’t think I had to)
You can’t talk about Riotgod without mentioning MM. First, they share — and previously shared (past tense) – members, primarily drummer Bob Pantella. And like MM, they approach the 60s/70s heavy rock they obviously enjoy through a semi-modern lens. That lens being the confused 90s.
And that’s why Riotgod’s Driven Rise is merely a good, not great, album. It’s a few layers removed from 2014 and 1994 and even 1974 – a copy of a copy of a copy (oh, hey, see me quoting a recent Nine Inch Nails single). “They Don’t Know” and “You’re My Wast of Time” rep the ballad side of Alice in Chains; “Prime Moment” the hazy rocker echoing a way distant time. “Grenade and Pin” is cowbell and attitude, reminding me heavily of… Circus of Power. Who were sort of like Alice in Chains (see: early 90s).
Vocalist Mark Sunshine sounds more meta herel: his bandmates sound more grungy. Which means if this was 1994, Riotgod would land on the weird cusp of alt-rock and hard rock, taht sketchy area where metalheads wandered the roving Lollapalooza grounds, a bit dazed and confused.
Long story short: Riotgod is the Monster Magnet of our time. Which means, still slightly out of it.