Fiftywatthead - Fogcutter (Signed By Force Records)
By: Ray VanRiette
[7/10] Lumbering out of the gates with a fuzzy gray tone comes Fiftywatthead, intent on using subsonic rock grooves to bring you to an ecstatic distorted nirvana. Fogcutter emerges from the mists of time and bong smoke to deliver music both punchy and heaving with tectonic weight. Reminding of equal parts later Neurosis and early Mastodon, the lurch and swell of Fiftywatthead’s musical maelstrom displays much more skill in constructing swelling musical structures than you would expect of most bands with a lead vocalist, while at the same time never getting so lost in the musical trip they forget they’re essentially playing orchestrally structured rock songs.
The mid-album track “Four Points” demonstrates both strengths, where an easily accessible verse rhythm guides the vocals into a pattern that’s easy to identify with and catch onto, snaring you like a pop song but sounding way cooler. The second half of the song expands upon the solid base established in the first, and uses it as a launch pad to explore heaving sonic landscapes that shift and swell without ever leaving the original idea completely behind. Following up immediately with the compelling “Iron Clad,” vocalist/guitarist J Drummond bellows with force and strangled melody over towering riffs and powerful drums. The rest of the band, comprised of guitarist Ben Guthrie, drummer Kevin Patrick and bassist Bill Butt lock and weave seamlessly to provide the backdrop for the titanic struggle playing out throughout the very satisfying run of the album.
Trying to describe individual elements of the album proves somewhat of a challenge, as each is powerful in its own right, but tends to fuse itself into the next. The overall effect is sure to please any of the growing number of new age Sabbath fans, raised on fuzz guitar, old dirty jeans and extended rock jams. The bass is often difficult to isolate, should you ever care to try, but the entire band is so bottom-heavy you’ll never want for girth or lower frequencies. If you want one nice spot to get your four-string fix, check out the latter sections of album closer “Followed by Thunder” with a good pair of headphones and empty six-pack. The drumming, while not overly high in the mix, performs impressively, dexterously providing the marching orders for this colossus with flair and panache.
But the real stars of the show here are the guitars. Big, thick and loud, the tones employed throughout Fogcutter seem designed to blow out your speakers and leave you with the pleasant tingling sensation of having out-volumed the neighbor’s stereo.
If pressed to select a single negative element of the record, one would probably point to the interchangeability of the songs. Each song flows by much like the last, dragging the listener in a well of gravity from track to track until the album’s satisfying end. You’re not likely to complain of the journey though, as Fogcutter effectively bludgeons the higher brain functions into submission and allows the listener to simply phase out and enjoy the ride.