Barn Burner // Bangers
Rating: 1.5/5.0 —Pretty good album marred by very banal, lackluster vocals
Label: Metal Blade
Release Dates: EU: 15.02.2010 | US: 02.16.2010
I don’t know about you, but when I think about classic rock I think about vocalists. Guys like Steve Perry, Steven Tyler, Robert Plant, Geddy Lee. You know, big voices, amazing melodies, and sure while you might not like every single person there, you appreciate what they offered in the sense of their huge influence and their technical skill. Hell, even look at early metal vocalists, guys like Paul Di’Anno, Rob Halford and Bruce Dickinson were all very different stylistically, but had gripping melodies, great presence and pushed forward with their sounds. So what fascinates me is that any band with sort of a classic rock influence and approach would ever select a vocalist with a 4 note range.. but I have now encountered it on Barn Burner‘s Bangers.
I do not begrudge a band its style. No, every band has its own style, for better or worse, and should be accepted for that style. And stylistically there are some very compelling things about the band Barn Burner, which is releasing their debut record on Metal Blade in about a week. The record is heavy and thick with a nice, old fashioned analogue sound that is pleasing to the ears and that is reminiscent of a time when men were men and bell bottoms were hip. The riffing is iron clad and enjoyable, pumping out excellent classic rock influenced licks that build tension and make you want to rock on tracks like “Medium Rare” and “Brohemoth”. The foundation here is worth a listen to, really, ’cause this Canadian foursome has some pretty serious chops.
However, despite the record being rock solid and thick there’s this guy who drones over it. I’m actually not kidding about the vocalist’s 4 note range. I think it literally is like four notes. I didn’t count them to be sure, so I might be showing some kind of terrible bias here, but honestly it feels like ONE note the whole time, so I’m being generous by saying that he has a four note range. I could publish my notes for this review, but I think it would just add insult to injury because they all say things like “Monotone melody. Band has great chops. Four note chorus.” and “Vocalist sucks.” Or my personal favorite: “Band good. Vocalist bad.”
Honestly, I’ve been trying to figure out who this guy sounds like but I really can’t come up with it. So imagine a guy with the range of Blaze Bayley and the delivery of Bob Dylan. And actually, he kind of reminds me of the vocalist from that stupid band 3 Doors Down, except that (shock!) that guy has a better range. That probably explains it. Sure, one could say that this is sort of punky and raw, but I don’t think that’s really true. Guys in punk can sing like Bad Religion or NOFX or Propagandhi and the list goes on. Paul Di’Anno was a punky, raw metal vocalist and he has some serious fucking chops when he wanted them! No, this dude pretty much just drones at the listener for 40 minutes and at the end you’re left thinking, “Who let that guy out of the bar bathroom?”
Now, I know that this is stoner rock and I have never claimed to be a fan of stoner rock. With tracks like “Brohemoth” and “Beer Today, Bong Tomorrow” you know what we’re dealing with here. But I’m pretty sure that the dudes from Led Zeppelin were stoned like ALL THE TIME and somehow Robert Plant still manages to be a compelling vocalist. I’ve heard death metal growls with more diversity and range than this dude. I want to say for the record so that it doesn’t seem like I’m just taking cheap shots at the dirty hippies that musically, aside from the vocals this band has a ton of potential. I really enjoy the sound and the production, it’s beautiful, old school and meaty. Those are things that are missing in a ton of modern metal and rock and so I feel kinda bad for these guys that they’ve been saddled with such a vocalist. If they could get someone who has a little bit more range and personality, these guys would probably do well enough that they could buy some really good weed.