Beaten Back to Pure

The Burning South

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Beaten Back to Pure may want to reconsider their decision to label their sound "Grassroots Piss-Metal," since it only serves to lower expectations of what's in store. Just as initially indifferent opening number "American Vermin" has you settling down for what appears to be a rather ugly, rough-hewn romp through Neanderthal stoner/sludge country, the song suddenly swoops down into a quiet midsection, filled with haunting doom beauty and, dare it be said, a certain songwriting finesse. This surprise "finesse" factor, as it turns out, is a constant ingredient of 2004's most excellent The Burning South, which significantly ups the ante of expectations for this sort of music in the wake of stoner rock's increasingly distant late-'90s heyday. Bottom line, Beaten Back to Pure excel at writing songs, injecting Southern rock-tinged metal anthems (their specialty) such as "Smothered in Sundress," "Where the Sewer Meets the Sea," and "Pillars of Tomorrow, Piles of Yesterday" with a welcome knack for hooks and neatly sidestepping the dreaded pitfall that swallows so many of their peers: stacking mindless riff after mindless riff and hoping it flies. No such fears here, as almost every track (minus, perhaps, the rather forgettable "Hell Goes Thru Hanging Dog") seems to have a little something unique to offer. Notable favorites include the crusty but captivating "One Shovel and a Place to Die" (with its monolithic closing doom riff), the neck-snapping instrumental and double kick-drum workout "Vertigo," and the extended all-purpose instant classic that is "Running Out of Neck." As for the personnel involved, their musicianship is pretty badass, it must be said. Vocalist Ben Hogg alternates a blood-curdling croak and a cleaner delivery with effortless timing; guitarists Vince Burke and Richie Scharr peel off controlled rhythms, tight harmonies, and inspired leads in equal numbers; and the rhythm section keeps a tight grip on the whole process at all times. In other words, simple terms like doom, stoner, retro, or "Grassroots Piss-Metal" simply don't paint the full picture, or do the band justice. That's why most listeners will probably find The Burning South to be a welcome shot in the arm for the American stoner rock community.

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