Laser Flames on the Great Big News
Laser Flames on the Great Big News

Nashville, Tennessee’s Laser Flames on the Great Big News may not have an easily digestible name but their motor revving, road ready blend of proto-metal guitar grandeur, infectious vocal trade-offs between Stevie Bailey (guitar/vocals) and John Judkins (guitar vocals), rough n’ tumble punk-inspired rhythms, psychotic murder metal touches and the auxiliary keyboard support of producer Mikey Allred (he of Across Tundras and Hellbender fame) makes for a sound that sits well in the gut.  Judkins also provides lap steel while Stevie handles banjo and violin throughout the album’s 6 lengthy tunes.  What could have turned out as an album of basic stoner rock morphs into a monolith of sprawling intent; this is a truly kick ass record for fans of the early 70s metal/hard rock sound yet some purely evil metal influences come outta the woodwork when least expected.

I was already a fan of Laser Flames thanks to their debut Lambs to the Slaughter which came out over 5 years ago.  To be honest, I didn’t think we’d hear from them again but I’m glad to be proven a liar.  Their flagship offering had some pissed-off vocal damage, doombent guitar work and more twitchy song structures yet the melodies were ever-flowing and eternal.  There’s still plenty of heft to be had on this Self-Titled outing; big riffs can be found prowling everywhere, although the overall songwriting is even doubly tuneful when stacked up against Lambs… but when this record goes nuts it goes fuckin’ gorilla shit insane. Opener “Intro” has a “Running for the Devil-esque” bass line loop that smacks into atmospheric Gilmour styled guitar work and synthesizer modulations that make for an experience straight out of Pink Floyd’s playbook.  Kicking off with a dusty, dirty 70s rock riff “31 Years” goes right for the jugular with drummer James Turk pulverizing a forward moving punk beat into aggressive roll/fill smithereens.  Brian Myer’s lurching, grooving bass licks walk all over the dueling fireball guitar attacks of Bailey and Judkins.  The extra X-factor pushing this song into the stratosphere is Bailey and Judkins’ highly melodic lead vocal trade-offs and cosmic harmonies which get into your head in hopes of making a permanent nest up there.  Those catchy verses/choruses are packed with hook after hook and the scorching Thin Lizzy axe harmonies, sludgier grooves and scorching little solo bits complete this picture perfect rock n’ roll puzzle.  Lemmy n’ company feels like a big influence here, that is if the gravelly grit was crossed with the beautiful, stoner prog of Black Mountain circa In the Future and Wilderness Heart (the slight sprinkles of organ further that comparison).

“Lashes” has sweeping guitar harmonies played in the key of Iron Maiden, Thin Lizzy and Valkyrie.  Bouncy, robot-trip riffing call to mind Josh Homme’s guitar style and the syncopated, off-kilter rhythms are much akin to QOTSA’s work on their first two full-lengths.  Fuzz busted riffs and leads chew on your bones until they make an impressive “crunch” sound while lap steel spices up the atmospheric quotient all around.  Around the 3 minute mark the riffing alternates between ethereal guitar melodies colliding into subtle banjo plucking and downtempo doomy thunder.  Bashing drums beat the rugged grooves into place, leaving enough open space for the dual lead vocals to mystify the brain with a sorcerer’s spell.  The countrified mysticism that couples further banjo excursions to twin guitar harmonies, soul-stealing solos and big riffs doesn’t come off cheesy at all but rather totally heartfelt in their respective deliveries.  “Open, Dead and Doomed” has a bottomless doom riff/rhythm merged into an interstellar, noisy twang guitar during the intro that reckons of Across Tundras’ heaviest work.  Stevie’s manic spoken word outbursts give off tinges of Am-Rep noise-rock vocalists in terms of sheer intensity before a demonic, doom-ridden riff progression goes into a simultaneously melodic and atonal plummet from grace.  It’s the beginning of the album’s oddball personal (hearkening back to their older stuff but heavier and more powerfully produced), even featuring a climactic black metal blast beat and piercing, guitar frostbite to really fuck with the ol’ brainstem.

Chris Spencer-inflected noise guitar shred, apocalyptic punk rhythms and slam hammered stoner riffs gift “Beloved” legs to run into the ground from the first note.  Stevie and John’s expertly crafted vocal harmonies in the chorus (a chorus used once and exactly once) provide the album’s biggest hook monstrosities with harmonized guitar licks to match and a purely tour de force fill attack from Turk that further elevates the material.  Ruthless Rwake weirdo riffs give way to roaring death-y growls from Judkins and Stevie’s screeching blackened screams as the piss the bed dementia seems to ramp up by the second.  This tune is literally all over the place;  undeniably show-stopping drumming peppered by 8-armed polyrhythms and metallic slam, overdriven guitar harmonies slowed down to a doom-y crawl, FX-dipped clean licks lathered in reverb/echo/delay during the midpoint quiet section, a voracious grindcore attack complete with blasts and doubled-up vocal vomit near the curtain call…  I mean fuck, this tune is all over the fuckin’ place and all the better because of it and I can’t seem to think of anything it directly connects to.  This is really some evil, unexpected shit and it’s not only the most melodic song Laser Flames have penned but the nastiest too.

The night sky guitar blackness, country n’ blues acoustic twang, warped violin scrapes (or is it the lap steel, it’s definitely run through some effects), deep caverns of bass and locked on snare/cymbal crash of closer “Flame High’s” lead-in combine into a psychedelic storm meant for having a bellyful of San Pedro cacti.  Bailey’s husky blues vocals come into focus when the riffing becomes more tangible.  Once the psychedelia evaporates, a metallic shrapnel bomb explodes into frenetic rock riffs played at triple speed and drumming so swift it creates a Roadrunner blur on the eyeballs.  The tune culminates into a pillar of vision quest guitar harmonies, desert dominating doom riffs and crazed lead/lick swapping that never lets you get a bead on what you’re hearing.  It’s the perfect way to end the record, seeing that every possible path of mood/texture is thoroughly explored.

Expertly written, played and produced, Laser Flames’ Self-Titled is an immaculate journey into the farthest reaches of stoned-out metal.  This is one to play from start to finish just to mentally capture what wide berths and depths are excavated by the unpredictable songwriting mentality this collective possess (that really goes for broke on the record’s 2nd half).  If I was highly impressed by Lambs, I’m positively blown away this time around.  Though they may not be for everyone, Laser Flames are sure to turn the heads of wayward 70s rock enthusiasts who are looking for a different, menacingly melodic trip punctuated by bouts of horrific audio violence.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
October 27th, 2017

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