A Thousand Knives of Fire

The Last Train to Scornsville

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The only thing about A Thousand Knives of Fire that's over the top is their name; in all other respects, this group of New Jersey stoner rock veterans likes to keep things simple and their Southern-tinged hard rock as grounded as that packed dirt parking lot, outside your nearest watering hole. In fact, the quintet's debut album, The Last Train to Scornsville, rocks so earnestly and unassumingly, that listeners looking strictly for eye-catching fireworks will surely slip into a coma -- all the better for more patient and appreciative patrons who can then rest a cold one on their heads. Getting right down to business, opening shot, "One Eyed Jack" settles quickly on a mid-paced groove and is perfectly content to sit there; while subsequent offerings like "Hey Buddy" and "Nothing in Life's for Free" barely break a sweat as they roll along to their effortless slow blues. Taking things up a notch, the amusingly sardonic "She's Yours" matches heightened heavy rock intensity to its biting words, and album standout, "Leeds County Devil," riffs and raffs its way down Hwy 95, burning rubber as it goes. Its lyrics may center 'round a flat tire, but the song itself never downshifts once, instead rocking up to and through a glorious Southern-fried guitar solo. Retro-rock purists to a man, A Thousand Knives of Fire also insist on splitting up the album into two distinct sides (whether you're listening to it on vinyl or not), and with good reason since side B is clearly the more experimental of the two. After cruising past the title track's unsurprising slow-burning template, the band embarks upon a string of doom-laden instrumentals in "The Day After," "Yeah, Pts. 1 & 2," and the feedback fest, "Hold Your Nose," sandwiched in between. For frontman Lee Stuart, these jams afford a chance to whoop it up a bit (literally, hear him scream "Woo-hoop!") and blow on his harmonica while his bandmates pile on their resoundingly sludgy riffs. And for fans of Halfway to Gone and other no-fuss hard rock bands of the '00s, A Thousand Knives of Fire represent the passing of a stylistic torch, which, although hardly the fanciest or most extravagant in the night, bears carrying forth nonetheless.

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