While some are likely to succumb to the temptation to think of Black December simply as Eric Powell’s latest musical outlet, this would be a disservice to the collaborative spirit of the band. Indeed, with such talents as Tim Kelleher of Filter and 30 Seconds to Mars and veterans Keith Hirschman and Andy Gerold, the latter having also cut his teeth with the likes of Marilyn Manson and Ashes Divide, Black December is very clearly not Powell’s solo show, nor is it a mere supergroup. From the blend of gutturally satisfying song structures that owe as much to modern heavy metal as they do to the more esoteric mechanismo of industrial rock, Black December’s appropriately titled Vol. 1 is an acerbic and auspicious debut.
Of course, comparisons to Powell’s previous group will be inevitable given the personnel involved and the traces of that band’s musical style carrying over. With the swooning chorus harmonies and the thunderous riffs and percussion underscored by subtle yet scorching programming, “With This Ending” begins the proceedings with unbridled bombast. “The Slag” then enters like a one-two punch of guitars and pummeling drums, the layers of vocal harmonies in the chorus once again elevating the song’s aggression into more musical territory. Throughout Vol. 1, the line is constantly straddled between the accessibility of the rhythms and melodies and the experimentation of the tones and song structures, with “This Is Not the New” being a noteworthy track for its balancing act of ominous and atmospheric bass and a downright catchy chorus that is sure to get stuck in many heads. Songs like this and “It Feels Just Right” almost feel like radio-friendly pop tunes disguised as vicious machine rock, while more straightforward and in-your-face tracks like “Hell on Wheels” and “The Division of Hate” chug and churn with scathing energy. Elements of Nine Inch Nails shine through with the abundance of caustic and noisy riffs and solos, such as those found in “I Don’t Even Know You” or “Saving,” the reverberating feedback on the latter creating a shimmering and rather ghostly effect.
Black December’s more varied rock sound also extends to the production team, with producers Marc Jordan and Howie Weinberg – whose collective credits include The Cult, Die Antwoord, Metallica, and Chevelle to name a few – lending their skills to make Vol. 1 a concentrated mix of styles with mass appeal. Culling from such a well of influences and history, wasting no time and refusing to skimp on rock & roll power, Black December takes no prisoners and makes no apologies with such a blistering debut album; one that promises to be among the best releases of the decade.
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Ilker Yücel (Ilker81x)