Parabellum - Stainless - New South Metal Records
Running Time: 68:10
Does the world need another swamp-water drenched sludge band, singing the
praises of hard drugs and the virtues of the South? The past few years have seen
many legendary bands putting out the finest albums of their career (Soilent Green, Crowbar, and the almighty Buzz*ven come immediately to mind), and because of this, it's become that much more likely that any upstarts or new contenders - regardless of talent - will come across as pale shadows at best, and tribute bands at worst. Dangerous waters, indeed.
Enter Florida's Parabellum, slugging it out in the South for the past ten years, and finally sobering up enough to release a full-length, which comes to us in the form of Stainless. The album kicks off with a riff that sounds like it was lifted straight from the beginning of 'Black Sabbath', and sped up slightly. Too recognizable for my tastes. I mean, if you're going to "borrow" from a band and play this kind of music, it probably shouldn't be the most known one, you know? Once the song kicks in, they find a pretty deep groove on their own, the vocals of Shane Reneaux augmented by none other than Ben Falgoust of Soilent Green, who elevates the quality of any band by his mere presence in my book. 'All Against All' fails to deliver anything memorable. Sure, the main riff is menacing, and the vocals harsh and hollow, but it really has all been done before in that respect. Parabellum does score points, though, for locking into that main riff and hanging with it through the majority of the song, and by the end, I found myself right in there with them, so...worth it if you can make it through the first half of the song. It's with 'Locust Dreams In Potter's Field' that Parabellum begin to distance themselves from the pack of stoner/sludge followers, the downplayed melody of the song worming its way into your psyche, and the rolling basswork of Todd The Viking faithfully bearing the tune to its end, along with the understated, funereal drumwork of Ben Poffenberger. I wasn't sure about the sense in following 'Sheep So Blind' with another slow number so quickly, but where 'Locust Dreams...' stayed in the mellow realm, 'Murder, Lust, Suicide' injects a slight bit of Pantera-like sensibility (think 'Hollow'), mixing Reneaux's strained ballad voice with his burly redneck howl. With a better production budget, or with the sound turned way the fuck up, the rumbling, stomping riff at 4:36 is a bar brawl at half-speed, rendered all the more damaging due to Jason Davis and Jeremiah Hatcher's respectable command of their instruments. The abuse continues with 'The Wound That Never Heals', which recalls the blind rage and drug-driven fury of Rue, especially in the vocal department (though Reneaux's delivery is a bit more restrained). Stainless is not without its filler, though. 'Voyage Through The Unknown' and 'Threads Of Wisdom' are just kind of "there", neither bringing any realization other than that i'm listening to a band that sounds like Eyehategod, but stuck between stoner groove and sludge mania, unsure of where to pound in their stake. All is righted, however, with the one-two needlepunch of 'Opiated Fuck Machine'. The album could've just ended there, but 'Pacifier' - all bristling with thrash and having nothing to do with the album thus far - seems tacked on as an afterthought.
Overall, Stainless is a whirling beast of malevolent proportions at times, a study in the need for brevity at others. A classic? Not so much. Seems to me a good fifteen minutes could've been sliced off the album, lending it more aggression in the end. Then again, do you like every song on every Crowbar album? Yeah, thought so. A worthy purchase for those in the sludge/doom set, by all means. I'm sure these fuckers are devastating live.