Akimbo Jersey Shores
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2. Bruder Vansant
3. Lester Stillwell
5. Great White Bull
6. Jersey Shores
Reviewed by: J.R.
// Published: 10/28/2008
The waves lap onto the shore, rolling over their own white tipped crests and eating away at the sand on the beach, pulling it into the ocean a few grains at a time. The relationship between the ocean and the sand is symbiotic and yet cannibalistic at the same time. The sand that is dragged into the ocean is caught in a swirl of weak undertow, and settles fairly quickly only a foot away from where it was taken. But on the next wave in, that same sand (or its nearby neighbor) is picked up by the next incoming wave and deposited on the shoreline.
The album begins with waves.
At first, a soft ambient recording of nature, but then the bass, guitar, and drums start rolling in, one after another, building over a pattern until the first crest — a singular sharp hit of the snare drum — that sets off the full band breaking into the full capability of their sound; like a tempest, Akimbo has started out their new album, Jersey Shores, with a thunderous roar. It's in the first line that Jon sings — "Don't forget the tide / she asks a heavy toll" — that the tone is set for the album.
After a solid output of album after album of face melting riffs for six years, Akimbo has encountered a paradigm shift. What began as a concept EP has blown up into a forty-five minute long, six song concept album about a vicious string of shark attacks along the Jersey coast in 1916. This isn't the first time we've had an encounter in the deep with Akimbo. If you'll recall, Elephantine featured a three song suite about the Megalodon.
The most notable change for Jersey Shores is the introduction of repetition and its correlation to the ambient interludes that tie the twelve minute songs together into cohesive movements. "Lester Stillwell" starts familiarly with a driving bass riff reminiscent of violent 80s hardcore, guitar flares calling back to the early days of heavy metal, and Nat channeling as much Bonham into his kick foot as possible. What's unexpected is the short transition into a slow bluesy shuffle that builds into a heavy pounding rhythm with Aaron ripping some of the most musical solos to grace heavy and loud modern music. His guitar playing on Jersey Shores is the missing element that rounds out the band Nat and Jon started ten years ago. It comes back at the start of "Rogue" as well, the following track, which features a droning heavy rhythm behind Aaron's secret weapon spacey guitar effects and bass wizardry that only Jon can seem to pull off, and finally making good on the reference to Nirvana as a constant influence of the band.
The overall effect of the album, however, is closer to a German Expressionist film. F.W. Munau's Nosferatu had story issues, plot hiccups, and shaky technique. And yet, the viewer can't help but be utterly terrorized by watching the film. Murnau created an atmosphere through shadow and composition that appealed directly to the emotional side of human beings. Similarly, Fritz Lang's sprawling Metropolis used the same elements to create a dreadful vision of a mechanized future in which the workers would be forced to work and live underground while the bourgeoisie would live in castle like structures that scraped the underbellies of the clouds.
Jersey Shores doesn't narrate the story directly. After a heat wave and polio outbreak drove people to the seaside, a string of vicious attacks cause a feverish outcry amongst the people in the area who took to boats and set out to slaughter over one hundred sharks over the course of that summer. The story centers around man's own accord to try and seek revenge on nature, mirrored in the lyrics of "Rogue": "If I don't kill it, if I don't murder it, then it kills me first. / If I don't kill that thing, cut it up and eat it, then it eats me first. / This is my domain. My place. I belong. / I must neutralize."
However, in accordance to the standard Akimbo release, the words aren't exactly discernable. Included with the album is the lyric sheet and concurrent story that weaves the songs together into a single narrative; but the album itself is reliant upon the atmospheric additions in order to create that sense of dread, appeal to the emotional side of the listener, and recreate the moment of terror when the shark sinks its teeth into the flesh of Charles Vansant's inner left thigh. The listener might not pick out details like "Charles Vansant" or "left thigh," but you'll know damn sure when you're listening to a shark attack.
The album ends with waves.
The story itself ends with the penultimate "Great White Bull," the title itself a reference over the confusion as to whether it was a Great White or Bull shark that caused a majority of the damage. Perhaps the most conventional Akimbo track on the album, Jon's screaming over the swaying riffs call out a rule of caution about oversimplifying retaliation against nature. The track pounds its monster riffs down the listener's throat in a warning akin to the core messages of Moby Dick — man can't retain control over the natural order and the instinct of a predator. But even though the story is finished, the album isn't.
"Jersey Shores," the title track, is a quiet instrumental meditation over the events that occurred. A chance to evaluate the cause and effect over twelve minutes of highly structured interplay between the three instruments. The key word again people is atmosphere. And that's what takes a band known for their slogan "eat beer shit riffs" into some serious fucking artistic territory.
Documenting a complete directional change for a band offers problems, however. The band's previous album, Navigating the Bronze, was written during the downtime while writing Jersey Shores. It was a chance to work out all the frustrations in crafting this fully conceptualized piece of music into a furious assortment of hard hitting riffs. And the fact that Navigating the Bronze, a complete afterthought of an album, turned out to be so fantastic just creates a dichotomy of the fans of the group. Akimbo is poised to proceed in two different directions. Whether the band continues in either is yet to be seen.
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