Massachusetts has spawned some muscular, heavy rock machines over the years including Only Living Witness, Ichabod, Milligram, Scissorfight, Birch Hill Dam, Roadsaw, Sam Black Church, Tree and Honkeyball just to name a few.  The unique thing that many of these bands did was that they incorporated intricate punk/hardcore influences into their sounds, even if only subtly, for this original take on hard rock/metal that’s distinct to the region.  It’s a scene that might not get as many accolades as Maryland, Ohio or Cali when it comes to heavy riffing but it certainly deserves it as many of those bands lent their influence on a varying set of future artists.  The grooving but granite heavy trio Sundrifter is one of the latest bands in the long, diverse lineage to carry the Boston area banner and they do the flag damn proud in the process.  Visitations is the band’s second LP and it’s a kick ass follow-up platter to their debut, Not Coming Back.

Fuzzy, hard-charging and drooling equal amounts of blood n’ beer on its breath opener “Sons of Belial” plows ahead like Lemmy and the gang run through Kyuss’ ample fuzz-scorched bass amps for guitars motifs and lots of catchy, punk-y churns and clattering drums.  It’s got some Precambrian metal influences for certain and the smoke-burnt, soaring vocal melodies of guitarist/singer Craig Peura glide and wail in all of the right places.  He keeps lofty and wavering on his big melodic pipes as the music keeps energetic and focused all around him.  A barrage of sloth-y, sharper than glass shards riffing sends this track out on a huge downtempo downshift.  The gnarly, ground pounding grooves of “Death March” are a lot sludgier than a lot of the hard rockers going these days as Paul Gaughran wraps around the guitars like a python and Patrick Queenan sinks into a head-nodding hypno-beat.  Weird twinges of 70s melody cut through cleanly but always stay ragged n’ raw…that Blue Cheer power trio, louder than the lord feel coming on strong with catchy and crystalline songwriting maintaining equal footing alongside sheer volume.  The solos are sonic signals caught from alien space ships with shrill, high-end notes bubbling to the forefront of this burly brew.

“Lightworker” is an uptempo favorite with some gutsy, melody-heavy blues’ styled vocals exercising a hard handslap across the face as the guitar kicks into a greasy, easy ridin’ swing that practically never stops or lets up from the very first note.  There’s plenty of killer fills and tricky cymbal flash cropping up all over the place as these three cowboys ride the groove across the galaxy.  It rolls, rocks and hits every curve like a tuned up vintage Mustang.  Spaciously gracious clean instrumentation permeates the mystical psyche outs of “Targeted.”  An effortless emphasis on propulsion is delivered by the rhythm section even when working within a quiet template and those hearty vocal lamentations lend meat to musicality as heavy, grinding guitar damage is practically waiting in the wings the entire time.  Despite the sprawling intentions, they pack all of these nuances into an under 5 minute track that never overstays its welcome with a special nod given to the slick cymbal ghosting and acrobatic fill-work of Queenan.  There’s some slavering spit and snarl to the guitar figures on “Till you come down’s” ratty riff squalor.  Peura keeps dirt under his nails for every axe part, so that the sheer amount of catchy power chords always retains a primal power as his howling singing towers above the band’s Earthy landscapes.  Everyone is playing as hard and with as much gut and grit as humanly possible.  “Hammerburn” has a filthy bass line and staccato drum intro that’s got more than a few whiffs of punk and Motörhead polluting its air.  Tonally it’s completely in those realms though the weird shifting tempos sound like something off of the first Queens of the Stone Age record.

Of all the good tunes on this record “Sky People’s Son” is probably my favorite.  It’s got an exotic guitar arrangement enriched by the deep diving bass lines and as hooky n’ infectious as the tune is there’s an aggressive bent to the way the track unfolds.  The vocals start out low and boiling but soon rise to a levitating wail that’s certainly coming from the tip of the toes.  I could see Spirit Caravan fans getting behind this one.  Though an overused word like most words out there; soulful is certainly on the right track of describing this monster of a jam.  A distorted, white-washed bass/guitar noise drone and pounding, circular drum patterns in the key of Neurosis give the grumbling n’ rumbling “Fire in the Sky” a feeling of immeasurable head trauma impact.  There’s some of that sludgy, bigger than life hardcore feel on display here.  I’d say Sam Black Church channeled through a busted transistor of heaving, city stomping doom.  The scraping minor-key interjections peel both skin and pavement with their squealing, ear-squelching, noised-out insanity as solos get close to emerging but never fully formulate.  Closer “I Want to Leave” is the album’s only purely quiet jam and it’s touching near falsetto vocalizations and sparse, ethereal instrumental accoutrements play very well with the elements of Pink Floyd and Hawkwind used as the raw materials.

An excellent second album is what Sundrifter delivers here and one that I feel improves on the debut in every possible way.  Fans of hard rock that gets as stomping as some good classic metal or flies to far-off mental vistas is what’s on offer and they are easily at the top of the pack of bands playing this kind of material.  Not only is the music great but I really dug Craig’s vocals throughout and you can tell there’s a lot of thought and passion going into every melody without eschewing some pure, roughhewn lung power along the way.  Visitations is also even more enjoyable as a front to back listen, so definitely set aside some time and let the arc unfold.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Jay S
February 27th, 2019


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