One of the most rock-oriented bands that Sub Pop has had on its roster in years, Pleasure Forever (formerly Slaves and, further back, formerly VSS) makes a striking second album with Alter. In truth, the band is pretty far from straightforward rock -- they mix the blistering attack of bands like Black Sabbath through Queens of the Stone Age with a cabaret slant à la Tom Waits or Firewater. The results, however, have a very sex-drugs-and-rock & roll vibe that fits in with the "rock revival," minus any garage rock affiliations or affectations. Not surprisingly, this blend of influences is a highly volatile concoction, but when it works, it really works: tracks like "White Mare," "Czarina," and "Axis Exalt" are dark, driving rockers that are so anthemic that they could rule -- or subvert -- the modern rock airwaves, while the piano-driven "Hymn Harmonia" and "Tempest II," a quirky, '20s blues- and jazz-inspired number, reflect the band's sense of glamour and humor. Every now and then their sound becomes unbalanced: "Wicked Shivering Columbine" is an exercise in attitude that emphasizes Pleasure Forever's occasionally over-indulgent approach and singer Andrew Rothbard's intense, heavily Ozzy Osbourne- and Iggy Pop-influenced vocals, which become grating on some of the lengthier songs. Still, with a band named Pleasure Forever, some indulgent tendencies are to be expected, and fortunately for most of Alter the band channels them into fascinatingly flamboyant songs instead of embarrassing ones. They manage to get away with slightly ridiculous song titles like "Lion's Den, Chapter Zen" and "This Is the Zodiac Speaking" and lyrics like "Fallen angel in a lonesome place" from "Aeon Flame" because they invest the music with so much intensity that it becomes cool instead of cheesy. Decadent, theatrical, and magnetic, Alter falters only when the band's ambitions get the better of them, but the album's slight unevenness doesn't prevent it from being tremendously exciting. While Pleasure Forever may be over the top a little too often, they're rarely boring.
Share this page
AllMusic Review by Heather Phares