Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Retrofit: Throwdown - Venom & Tears

When writing my album descriptions, there are times when I have to listen to the CD a few extra times just to find something that makes the music unique enough to add a sellable spin to it. That's not to say that I don't like what I'm hearing - otherwise I would just take a pass - but I have a hard time coming up with something to say if I can't trick out an angle, particularly when I'm listening to (and trying to write about) something that's more than a little derivative.

Take Throwdown, a band out of southern California that finally achieved success (of the Billboard type, anyway) after more than a decade of music with Venom & Tears. I liked what I heard from these guys, but it was obvious after one listen that they'd taken everything they knew and loved about Pantera, Lamb of God, and (to a lesser extent) Machine Head, threw them into a blender, and poured the result into a CD master: Singer Dave Peters sounds like Phil Anselmo when he doesn't sound like Randy Blythe, the music is carbon copy of the traditional groove metal sound, etc. On the surface, it was a tough sell: How can you convince someone they want to buy this album without outright lying, sounding like a snake oil salesman, or omitting the striking lack of originality that made Throwdown seem like a groove version of Godsmack?

Maybe there was some self-delusion in the process (although I listened to the album again recently, some two months after writing the description, and I still like what I hear), but with enough digging, signs of creative thought began to appear. The intro to opening track "Holy Roller," for example, gets positively thrashy before it settles into a body-rocking groove, and when Peters actually sings like himself instead of like a Phil Anselmo clone, he's got a unique enough sound. However, the highlight of the album - and the one piece that really sold me on the idea that Throwdown has a future as something more than a cover band - is Cancer, a short, haunting instrumental that uses a very simple progression to convey the loneliness of dying by degrees in a hospital bed. Sure, it may bear more than passing resemblance to Fear Factory's Echo of My Scream, but it's progress. If Throwdown can build on that type of variety but continue to rock, I don't doubt that Venom & Tears will be but one part in a string of successes.

No comments: