4-PACK ALBUM REVIEW: HOCUS, MRS.HENRY, SUBSURFER AND OLD MAN WIZARD

Four records were sent to me last year that I listened to a lot and really wanted to write about before the ball dropped, but for one reason or another, just wasn’t able to make it happen. The new year equals a new effort towards time management along with a promise to finish what I start. Cheers!

Hocus – Outside Your Door

Hocus

Hocus Outside The Door is a vicious, all-out, no holds barred attack on the senses. Full volume buzz saw guitar and banshee scream and wails from front man Fat Lando collide with the animalistic drumming (to me the highlight of the record) from Rhino to create a Nirvana meets Ramones meets loud scorched-earth rock ‘n’ roll.

You get a good taste of Hocus’s punk approach and in your face raunchy swagger on the blistering tromp “Mary’s Fault.”  Second song, the addictive “Pain Reliever,” comes with a chorus you can sing along to before the background yells of bass player Lolita slap you from your comfort zone. Throughout the record they transcend their bash and crash sound with a Smashing Pumpkins-like sonic delivery. The lead track “Banshee” is the perfect example of the three piece band’s combined ability to come up gritty while still delivering sonically.

Half way through the record, lead singer and guitarist Fat Lando is fully warmed up and holds nothing back, breaking the sound barrier with guitar and vocal pyrotechnics on “Here I Go.” The following song “Jimmy Stones” continues the band’s brutal, sloppy disdain for control, letting loose some of the hardest rocking, flame throwing grind San Diego has to offer. If you like it loud, loose and fast, this one’s for you.

Mrs. Henry – Not The Kinda Girl EP

Mrs. Henry

Good time rock ‘n’ roll packaged with a party vibe and numerous nods to classic rock giants make up the five-song EP from Mrs. Henry entitled Not The Kinda Girl. Their audacious introduction on the album opener “Shake” epitomizes the carousing temperament this EP hangs its hat on. “Shake” has a Little Feat sounding strut that pushes along the spirited story teller lyrics a la The Band, with infectious horns that jump in and out. And by the time the 4 minutes and 51 seconds track ends, Mrs. Henry’s got you.

If you’re not sold by the depth of talent displayed on the opening track, try the guitar dueling bluesy frolic of “County Bears” or the cow bell (yes, these guys are not afraid to go there) pumped up shenanigans they whip out on “Not That Kinda Girl.” Hell, they even crank up a cover of Elvis’s “Heart Break Hotel,” infusing it with a wall of guitar, horns, vocal and harmonica, creating enough punch and guitar gusto to move even Elvis’s dead hips.

Subsurfer – Devil’s Lounge

Subsurfer

Subsurfer has a thing for catchy hooks and they use it in bulk to flavor the 11-song pop rock release Devil’s Lounge. With grit and loud moments throughout, the four piece band attaches just enough of each to give this album its edge.

“Teenage Love Gone Wrong,” “Suck The Dust,” and the hipster homage “Grow A Beard” have a production quality (clean with a smudge of tarnish) and songwriting likeability that lends itself to mainstream radio.

The album vibe shifts between two different atmospheric soundscapes –one made up of minimal guitar and the other made of pop forays that lean more heavily on fuzzy guitar grinds. The lyrics stay solemn, introspective, and dare I say angst-y through most of the record, creating a textured emo vibe the band tends to be most comfortable with. Until track 7, that is. Though the sound of “Kids Like War” continues in the same vein as the previous tracks, the song itself pulls the e-break and leaves me wondering, “What’s going on here?” Is the band genuinely trying to make a political statement? Or is there some deeper metaphorical meaning I’m missing behind the kid dueting the chorus? Perhaps my hip meter just doesn’t reach that level; I guess I’ll leave that up to the rest of you.

Thankfully, the Nirvana-ish “Rat” follows.  This one’s a little more my speed as Subsurfer jumps the tempo, combining just enough snarl and attitude alongside a pulsing guitar to give the record a slight punk moment.

Lead vocalist David Montalbano’s dry delivery on Devil’s Lounge serves as the centerpiece, something you can easily latch onto, and plays the part of the mood creator. It’s what, at times, when the record is at its finest, pulls you in. Using a vocal delivery more akin to talking than straight out singing, Montalbano creates an uneasy approach and alternative vibe that gives the record its brooding personality.

Old Man Wizard – Unfavorable

Old Man Wizard

Good luck trying to pigeon hole Old Man Wizard into a certain category. Their debut record Unfavorable is a rock, metal, punk, prog, folk journey with a hint of Ennio Morricone spaghetti western thrown in to boot. Sound like too much heading in too many directions? Only on paper. Unfavorable is a testament to the three band members’ diverse and rich talent. Old Man Wizard proves all over this record that they can traverse over a lot of ground and make every step of the way sound like they own it.

“Highway Man” is the perfect title and opening track for setting up your Old Man Wizard palate. It’s a 5 minute escapade of sound that employs a classic rock riff as its engine while interjecting metal power chords and vocal harmonies that walk the line of sounding country-ish. Right off the bat, the band shows you their not going to choose a direction. Instead, they’ll present an original rocking slant, something this record deserves high praise for.

The acoustic guitar of “If Only” strums like a Jethro Tull movement and gives a glimpse into the band’s soft side before the third track “Nightmare Rider” punches with a Blue Oyster Cult meets Iron Maiden drum and guitar kick. The middle section of the track lets the band get their jam band on before a vocal harmony ends it all on a high. The third track “The Bearded One” is pure wizard rock (sorry, couldn’t help myself) one that would make even Ronnie James Dio proud!

For a debut record, Old Man Wizard delivers a sound that has a strong sense of purpose. Heard as a whole, Unfavorable is a durable showcase that touches a ton of musical bases, all the while maintaining a solid sense of originality. If they keep going in the direction they have established here, I’d certainly put my money on Old Man Wizard for a favorable follow-up.

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