My “handlers” here at TMO have described MOUTHEATER as Southern Metal – which is not exactly my forte – but I decided to give it a shot anyway, if for no reason other than the fact that my interest was piqued this Virginia-based outfit’s decidedly dumbass band name. That and the fact that advance word on the album seemed quite positive.
Based on the Southern Metal tag I had these guys pegged as some sort of mix between NASHVILLE PUSSY and, well, ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY, with perhaps a little Stoner-Prog a la LITMUS thrown in the mix. I do love the fact that I just used the word pussy twice in one sentence... Ehr, back to the actual music, which, it turns out, is quite different from what I had originally expected. Yes, “Ornament” ticks quite a few of the requisite Southern/Stoner Metal boxes (heavy downtuned riffage, straightforward beats and a generally whiskey-fuelled vibe of sonic debauchery) but at its core this album is more in line with early Seattle Grunge than anything else. Not the more melodically-inclined Grunge of ALICE IN CHAINS or SOUNDGARDEN mind you – this is more along the lines of “Bleach”-era NIRVANA or “Superfuzz Bigmuff”-era MUDHONEY. Rough, fuzzy and goddamned ugly, in other words! The focus seems to be more on an overall wall of sound rather than song-to-song intricacies, and in this way their music is also similar to a band like NEUROSIS. A scraggy bulldozer of hostile soundscapes.
As such it is hard to pick out individual tracks, but I’d have to say that ones like “Guts”, “Swallowed Whole” and the dreary closer “Negative Death” are among the more instantly impressive ones. The former is especially potent, being more straightforward and even a little Punk-y than the rest, with a heavy galloping tempo that recalls MASTODON to some extent. Oh, and on a side-note I have to mention that “Negative Death” would make an excellent band name (if it isn’t already).
The fact that the renowned Steve Albini twiddled the knobs on this thing should also give you a good indication of the sound MOUTHEATER were after on “Ornament”. A scraggy bulldozer of hostile soundscapes. I wouldn’t have minded a few more standout songs but as far as these kinds of bands go this is not too bad. The sludgier sections tend to drag (as is mostly the case) but the faster moments have real bite to them, and the Albini production highlights every steamrolling riff very nicely. “Ornament” is not exactly album of the year fare as far as my tastes go, but it will suffice just fine when I’m in the mood for blunt heaviness with attitude, kinda like a buffalo on weed.
For fans of: NEUROSIS, MUDHONEY, NIRVANA, MELVINS, FACEDOWNINSHIT.
(Online July 1, 2009)