Rhin
Passenger

West Virginian power trio Rhin laid my constitution to rubble with their debut album Bastard.  I was an instant convert when it came to their anger overload; splicing together the best parts of pissed off punk rock, a touch of Seattle’s dark side (Willard, early Tad, Skin Yard) rhythmically focused and feedback blasted noise-rock ala Godheadsilo, Daisycutter and Hammerhead with the big scummy doom-y riffage present in the Floridian and NOLA sludge mires, respectively.  Bastard was an ugly album, as pissed off as anything to touch my ears in 2014 but the songwriting stuck with me big time and hot on the path of two years since its release date I’m still playing the hell outta the fuckin’ thing!

On the band’s sophomore LP Passenger (due for release on May 6th), Rhin have not only upped the ante of their sound but they went ahead and shot the dealer, successfully stealing all of the chips n’ aces on the table.  “Uncle Tuck” enforces the primacy of rhythm as law with Dom’s engorged bass lines usurping as much ground as the guitars while drummer Ben creates antagonizing mood shifts shaking Rhin’s cement foundation like a leaf thanks to a lightspeed amphetamine touch.  The duo conjures a helluva lot of noise seemingly opening up a cosmic black hole in the process with vintage 1-2-let’s fuckin’ go punk rock grooves buttering the bread one moment and a seismic, heavy beyond belief human vacuum opening wide Rhin’s inner-workings to reveal the antimatter crush of Kunka and Haugh (Godheadsilo) proudly on display.  Vocally, Dom rubs strep-throat with sandpaper for his sawblade vocal scream and there’s just enough clarity to his rapture that screaming and shouting along with the lyrics is bound to happen.  Guitarist Tucker Riggleman is tasked with the Herculean duty of soldering together this ADHD trainwreck and he does an admirable job with storming roughshod riffs packing plenty of hook-y chord patterns before saying “Fuck it, I’m going as batshit as these other two,” and erecting spires of ear-bleeding, insanity inducing white-noise that would give any luminaries from the Am-Rep and Touch n’ Go rosters a goddamn good run for their money.

Dom unleashes a bulging, lard-fed bass lick which sends the festering, sludgy punk of “Unwell” over a cliff in a rickety mine cart.  Ben fills every inch of noise with pulverizing, off-time fills that are notorious for mathematical stops/starts whenever he isn’t laying a pair of baseball bats into a textbook punk groove like he does alongside Tuck’s old school three chord rampage at the :57 mark.  What makes Rhin so intricate and unique when stacked up against their peers is the fact that they are daring enough to throw a little bit of everything into their sound.  A funky, desert-cooked stoner riff comes off like Kyuss on crack and soon buckles beneath a choppy, staccato rhythmic pattern which is thusly cast to the wolves in the form of a carnivorous noise solo…and then this crazy contraption turns into full-on, unapologetic fist-pumping punk rock that injects the old school artform with a critical mass of Hammerhead’s bonkers mayhem circa Ethereal Killer.

“Drag my Feet” slings a rancid, fetid sludge groove over its shoulder as it traverses its way across the Floridian wastelands hoping to find a place of rest somewhere between the train station and the dumping grounds.  Scathing, screamed vocals are beyond pissed-off and Chris Spencer-styled noise leads (with an almost Eastern ethnic flair to ‘em) keep the tension high and oddly melodic with the bottomless low-end dredge, hammering angular beats and merciless guitar squeals keeping the listener on the teetering edge of sanity/madness.  They rope and hogtie a few of Cavity and Daisycutter’s towering sludge grooves into the fray, though Rhin are more directly kindred to the weirdo noise-doom-punk-stoner-psychedelia of Daisycutter’s mescaline marble losin’ than Cavity’s constant blunt force riff trauma.  …And though points of reference are useful tools, Rhin are pretty hard to keep a bead on and consistently sound like a unique natural disaster when judged solely on their own merits (and their merits are a plentiful cornucopia).

These madmen are particularly adept at longer numbers which they showcased with the out and out closing 10+ minute masterpiece “Consumed” off of Bastard.  The 7+ “Snivlem” sinks into a lengthy off-time, heavily syncopated pattern where short, sharp riff fragments bounce off of similar bass arrangements with the drumming playing it lean at first and locking into a hypnotic, minimalist groove.  Rabid, barked vocals join in as the final instrument and though the arrangement appears as frighteningly simple, it actually creates this unusual polyrhythmic effect that leaves the ears unsure of what instrument to follow.  Creaky, piercing guitar chords sound busted and battered as the percussive repetitions slowly add more beats and the vocals get nastier; the entire ensemble performance leading the way to a mountainous sludgy groove which is nothing but paydirt.  Tucker’s lead guitar presence is a particular highlight; nimbly navigating some precarious high ground with certain jagged rock death below as he deftly champions a sleek southern lick from his lofty perch.  When the entire band dials in on the climactic catharsis at 5:23 you’re going to be hard-pressed to control yourself from bashing your head through the nearest plaster wall.  It may very well be the deadliest tune in the Rhin bunker to date and it even ends with some rather melodic singing which is par for the band’s course of frequent, frenzied curveballs.

Also on the lengthier tip, “Clay” is an expertly crafted monument to power hungry, soul eating sludge with buzzbombing Geezer Butler inflected blues swings colliding with grinding, grooving 70s riffs run over by God’s almighty sludgeplow.  Shaky, sweat pooled noise-rock taunts to collapse the entire song’s structure at a moment’s notice thanks to the 5 hour energy-addled rhythmic churls but a clean midsection respite teeming with soothing guitars and Ben’s hypnotic plucking brings the mood down to a simmer before a thundering yet memorable heavy riff unleashes the boil loud n’ clear in the form of glorious Man’s Ruin Records’ freedom bound, stoner rock.  Bonged-out, melodic lead guitar work coupled to Dom’s more melodic shouts and incredibly busy drum fills conjure up a dichotomy that’s simultaneously beautiful and hellbent for blood.

Gatlin gun primed, spitfire vocal screams and the band’s fastest, most straightjacket necessitating speed thrills make “Basement” an exercise in primal punk therapy so angry it has the potential to kill passersby as it emanates from your stereo speakers.  Intoxicating noise guitar melodies work in tandem with fluid, perpetual motion bass lines creating some semblance of tangible songwriting in the midst of the massacre, leading up to one of the most flattening sludge riffs the band has ever composed.  Closer “Bad Timing” mingles quirky noise-punk pop goodness with the hyper melodic progressive signatures of Midwestern rock bands like Shiner and Pond’s work on Rock Collection.  After a tribal, tom-thumpin’ beat the riffage mutates into a combo of punk rock and twisted melodic sludge that has a certain kinship with Ohio’s Rebreather (right down to the lung-scraping, torn larynx vocal melodies).  Tucker layers on numerous melodies with lots of delay/reverb drenched swerves (though I don’t think he actually uses any pedals and just manages to create the FX through his playing) with Dom’s bass sporting a walking, plucky complexity similar to Les Claypool.  Though aggression is never really sacrificed in the equation, there’s no doubt that this is alternately one of Rhin’s most complex, catchy and rocked-out tunes and another smashing standout on an album full of high watermarks.

Rhin took me hostage whenever I first heard Bastard.  It was pretty much decided that I was going to end up a lifelong fan.  Passenger is a continuation of everything that I loved about the debut but with deeper textures, more developed playing, even stronger production work from Grimoire label boss Noel Mueller and top-tier songwriting that never hits a lull.  The angrier punk rock explosions and heavy riffs are even more explosive and angrier than the debut, while the melodies are the lushest this trio has cut to tape yet.  2016 is already a great fuckin’ year for the extreme underground music scene and with the release of Passenger it just got better.  There’s no doubt in my mind that this will be one of my top records of 2016!  I’m also really diggin’ drummer Ben Proudman’s psychedelic artwork for this kick ass release.

 

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
June 7th, 2016

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