It may have been five years between last album and the new one Blood Drive, but North Carolina rockers ASG have made up for the gap with their finest release and sound to date. A welcoming storm of hard rock, stoner, sludge and more than a whisper of metal, the album is a compelling and invigorating expanse of invention and enterprise. You can debate whether it offers anything truly new across its enthralling length but there is no question it feeds the widest appetites possible for fire fuelled, passion bred rock.
Formed in 2001 in Wrightsville Beach, ASG has evolved from an instrumental trio at the start to one of the more engaging yet potently powerful rocks bands in the American underground, though with this their debut Relapse Records release, a place at the widest table of awareness and recognition surely beckons. Moving from a threesome, which came about as the band could not find a dedicated vocalist, ASG eventually had guitarist Jason Shi stepping up to handle vocals too. Completed by bassist Andy Ellis and drummer Scott Key, the band released debut album …The Amplification of Self Gratification in 2003 followed two years later by Feeling Good Is Good Enough which was recorded with producers Matt Hyde and Phil Caivano. Strong responses were earned by the album and followed by the band expanding to a quartet with the addition of second guitarist Jonah Citty. Impressive shows and tours alongside the likes of Motorhead, Fu Manchu, Saviours, The Sword, Torche, Dwarves, and CKY followed before the band returned to the studio with Hyde for third album Win Us Over. With a sound which had been evolving all the time since forming, the 2008 release took the band to greater heights which Blood Drive builds upon and pushes to a greater impressive plateau.
Again with Hyde (Slayer, Fu Manchu) alongside the band, the album is a fascination of ripe and impacting riffs, gripping rhythms, and grooved melodic temptation honed into twelve anthem dressed slabs of masterful persuasion. Opening track Avalanche steers through a sonic lure into an expressive and warmly enticing wash of fiery riffs and melodic persuasion. The stoner groove which spines the heated embrace has a barbed surface which ensures focus and satisfaction whilst vocally the outstanding tones of Shi shine and embellish the lyrical and musical narrative with passion. He is a vocalist who plays with variety and harmonies with ease to offer any song what it wants and needs.
It is a pleasing and strong if unremarkable start soon followed by greater triumphs such as the title track and the excellent Scrappy’s Trip. Both continue the perfectly crafted merger of mellow melodic and mesmeric charm with feisty and impacting sinews rhythmically and in heavy toned riffs. The band has drawn comparisons to the likes of Torche, The Sword, Kyuss, and Queens of the Stone Age, and even the promo accompanying the release offers up the same examples, but equally in many tracks such as the first pair on the album, thoughts of Yes with the progressive elements washing the release and Jane’s Addiction make their claim too. The fascinating grooves and swagger tracks such as the second of the just mentioned two have spark a definite comparison to the Californians, often through the vocals alone.
The album continues to impress and captivate through songs such as the excellent fevered punk tasting Castlestorm and Blues For Bama, a smouldering entrapment of the passions which sees the vocals bring out a Bowiesque breath to the magnetic kiss of the song within electrified beauty from the guitars. It saves its greatest pinnacles though for the last stretch of the release in the sensational shapes of Hawkeye and Stargazin’. The first is an aggressive and fiery tempest of instinctive rock ‘n’ roll. Vocal squalls light up the contagious yet restrained groove whilst harmonies soak the chorus with insatiable ease and grandeur, it all within a frame work of tight and gripping drum muscle and bass prowling which pulls out virulent shadows to the addiction being ignited. The second of the two also has a hunger to its energy which recruits full subservience from the passions, but replaces the more demanding intensity of its predecessor with more Jane’s Addiction like funk seeded grooves and incendiary enterprise. Wholly appetising and furthering the expanse of ideas and sound already upon Blood Drive, the songs as if needed, make the final cementing of the new levels the band have explored and ignited in thoughts and reactions.
The Ladder and Good Enough To Eat finish the album, a sludge gait and blues breath unveiled by the first and an acoustic led encounter from the second. To be honest neither makes a big impression but then the heart was still locked in with the couple of songs immediately before them. Nevertheless Blood Drive shows that the time waiting for another ASG release was well worth taking and it just might take the band to a level of attention long deserved.
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