Brimstone Howl

Guts of Steel

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With five years, two monikers, and myriad lineup changes behind them, Brimstone Howl seem to have finally settled into what will hopefully be a more constant form. All right, that might be a bit much to hope for, but considering the almighty yowl that is their Guts of Steel album, fans can be forgiven for wishing that this model sticks together longer than its predecessors. Kicking off with the rollicking rockabilly ride of "Bad Seed," they howl at a haunted moon goth-abilly style on "In the Valley," a particularly shiver-inducing track, then celebrate their "Luck of the Spade" across a Stonesy down-and-dirty R&B number -- all of which is just a warm-up for the garage rocker "Red Glare" and the punk inferno of "Heart Attack." "The Moment and the Hour" is nearly as fiery and as big as the Rockies, a Western-flavored rocker with lava licks of guitar solos, a storming bassline, and pummeling beats. The sequencing of this first half of the set is inspired, and it's a shame that as much attention wasn't paid to the production, which is so muddy in parts that it's almost impossible to decipher the lyrics. Never mind, because even covered in sludge, Brimstone sound fantastic -- and besides, the slurry that covers the more downtempo "Six and Seven" works a charm, as the band bares its rotten soul to the Lord across an incendiary slab of blues, with the flames of hell licking around the guitar solos. Damned they may be, but Brimstone embrace both the Devil on the exuberant "Cyclone Boy," a punk twister of a song, and their own foibles on the even punchier and catchier "I'm a Man." Brimstone now hit high gear, taking a "Tomahawk" to a slew of styles in a lethal assault of riffs, solos, stomping rhythm, and wailing harmonica. "Damned to Judge" musically condemns any critic who dares to hang a genre label round the group's neck, while the bandmembers swiftly dispose of the competition and any lingering doubts about their intentions with the album-closer, "One Quick Minute." Their themes may not be uplifting, but you've got to have Guts of Steel to throw yourself so willingly at the Devil and cheerfully toward oblivion. A danse macabre for those who love life on the edge in all its blistering glory.

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