Halfway to Gone

Halfway to Gone

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Over the course of two very promising albums, New Jersey trio Halfway to Gone quietly abandoned the mangled carcass of stoner rock (the term's sell-by-date having unquestionably expired) to find themselves standing on the edge of simple retro-rock greatness in the early 2000s. And with the release of their third, eponymous album in 2004, they appear to have arrived there. Even more than those prior efforts, Halfway to Gone manages to both maintain and fine-tune the group's diamond-edged, hard rock assault, which mashes equal doses of Southern rock, heavy metal, and good ol' blues with surprisingly fluid grace. Whoever said hard rock can't benefit from a more refined studio touch never heard groove machines like "Turnpike" and "Hammer's Fallin'" (or friggin' Back in Black...hello!?), which handily defeat many snottier, louder, brasher competitors with their expertly balanced beauty and brawn. Furthermore, their controlled, cool confidence makes it easier for full-throttle, truly buck-wild stomps like "Couldn't Even Find a Fight," and the almost Motörhead-esque "Burn 'em Down" to stand out when their turn rolls around. Conversely, Halfway to Gone are just as likely to ease right off the accelerator and coast into a bluesy instrumental such as "His Name Was Leroi (King of Troi)" [sic]. "The Other Side" is another fine example of the latter approach, only this time with lyrics courtesy of vastly improved vocalist Lou Gorra. On the harder cuts, his oddly metallic tone of voice can sound remarkably similar to Stone Temple Pilots' Scott Weiland, but that's hardly a negative -- more of a curiosity, really. Drummer Danny Gollin assumes lead vocals on the Skynyrd-like "Out on the Road," and versatile guitarist Lee Stuart puts across a dominating presence throughout the album, only to impress just as much with his fine Hammond organ playing on "Mr. Nasty Time." The band's rather mundane cover of Deep Purple's "Black Night" could have probably been saved for last instead of forcibly snuck in four songs in, but that's obviously a minor reservation among this album's wealth of positives.

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