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Oxbow An Evil Heat

Oxbow - An Evil Heat
01. The Snake &...
02. ...The Stick
03. S Bar X
04. Stallkicker
05. Sweetheart
06. Sawmill
07. Skin
08. Sorry
09. Shine (Glimmer)
2002 Neurot Recordings

Reviewed by: Alex   //   Published: 9/18/2002

During the past twelve years or so, San Francisco's Oxbow has peformed around the world and released several albums, and this, their most recent effort, is totally atypical of the vast majority of records we review. Their strange blend of rock and weirdness is undoubtedly not hardcore, metal, or anything close. Frankly, this is a difficult album to review, because a song is not a song, but merely another twist to an entirely strange aural journey.

The first track, "The Snake &...," is a telling indication of the oddities to come. Vocalist Eugene Robinson maniacally talks and rants over guitar feedback and a few occasional drum fills. Like a crazed preacher with a drunkenly venemous delivery, Robinson swings and swoons menacingly. And just when you start to question whether this record really contains any actual music, the band kicks in with some simplistic yet oddly affecting progressions, before abruptly stopping. The listener is then promptly greeted by a handful of meandering bass and organ notes on "...The Stick" (nominal counterpart to the opening track). Once again, the arrangement is accented by Robinson's random vocal noises and phrases. And as unannounced as before, the band kicks in briefly. They quickly disappear... more vocals... then return with some meaty noise-rock. This scenario plays out several more times before the group slams in with some Led Zeppelin styled grooves. Imagine Zeppelin at their most straight-forward with some crazed lunatic as a vocalist, rather than Robert Plant, and you get the idea.

Nearly as unpredictable as their arrangements are their lyrics. Though I wasn't able to make much sense of them from a thematic perspective, I nonetheless found myself carefully reading them, captivated by their vivid obscurity (an oxymoron, I know). Here's a passage from "...The Stick":

"So to the heart of the hindmost
the drunk, reprobate, and the Holy Ghost
I offer the itch that never stops
never and forever
the ass of always-come-along
dangling from my knotty tether
an angry bellwether
of what always goes wrong"

And although the vocals tend to dominate this album, these guys can still rock out, as evidenced by the energetic middle section of "Sawmill," where they actually get some extended jamming in, a true rarity on this album. I don't hear what I would describe as impressive musicianship, but somehow, their tattered melodies crawl their way into your brain, slithering about, beguiling your synapses. This is whiskey in an old AM radio, oozing rock-and-roll, and leaking clumps of vocal dementia.

Bottom Line: The first half of this record is more interesting than the second. As the album progresses, things get a bit out of hand even for me. In fact, the last track, "Shine (Glimmer)," is literally over thirty minutes of guitar feedback, random drum beats, and cymbal hits; a true test of patience. However, since nine out of ten albums we receive are overly similar, it's refreshing to hear something totally off-the-wall and distinctly original. I couldn't help but enjoy this psychotic album.

retarded_fish_frog_   posted 1/31/2008 7:00:11 AM
bastardmaker_   posted 9/30/2006 9:05:08 AM
one of my all time favorite bands and discs. phenominally awkward live show
Eugen_   posted 2/6/2006 7:27:43 AM
This thing is brilliant, it oozes psychedelia, anguish and emotion, very intense emotion. Every song has its own personality, and the vocal style is probably my favourite above any death grunter or black shrieker.