Doomy stoner metal seems to be creating a lot of buzz in the metal scene at the moment, so what better time than now for Season of Mist to re-release the back catalogue of self-proclaimed “weed metal” band Weedeater? Sixteen Tons was originally released in a cloud of smoke in 2002 via Crucial Blast, and has since gone out of print. If you already own a copy of the album, don’t bother reading further, as you should know how you feel about this one by now. If not, read on and see if this little nugget from the early aughts is worth your…green.
Weedeater serves up a very bluesy, southern-fried take on sludgy metal on Sixteen Tons that relies heavily on slow to mid-tempo riffs, cutting out almost entirely the faster paced crusty segments peppered throughout their previous album …And Justice for Y’all and Buzzoven’s …At a Loss, both of which founding member “Dixie” Dave Collins contributed bass and vocals to (splitting with Kirk Fisher on the latter). This approach works wonders in “Time Served,” an under three minute jam with two lines of lyrics (repeated ad nauseam) that sounds like blues made to take advantage of the sound of big Orange amps and fuzz pedals. On the more metal side of the coin, “Lines” rides a riff reminiscent of a fuzzed-out Black Sabbath with aggressive and distorted harsh vocals, making a song that is near impossible not to at least nod along with. “Woe’s Me” ditches the metal entirely and goes into a solid little blues number with great acoustic guitar work by Dave “Shep” Shepherd and a pained vocal performance by Collins, whose imperfections as a singer lend the song the personal feel it needs to be effective.
The bluesy metal riffs on Sixteen Tons are fun and enjoyable to a point, but due to a lack of tempo changes and variation, things start to bleed together pretty quickly. The band also has a tendency to overplay certain riffs, and opener “Bull” is a testament to this: at nearly eight minutes long, the song only has a few different riffs in it, and, while they’re nice and groovy, they are stretched well past their breaking point and become more frustrating than enjoyable. Also detrimental is the overuse of vocal distortion. Collins is a good vocalist (as can be heard on …And Justice for Y’all), so it’s strange that the decision was made to treat his vocals with effects so often. It’s not always there, but when it rears its head it really detracts from the live, loose, jam-room sound that the band has otherwise.
Weedeater tapped Billy Anderson for production duties, and he delivers a fuzzy, bass-heavy sound that compliments the songs and gives them a warm, natural sound. Collins’ bass is distorted for the most part, blending in with Shepherd’s guitar and giving it a solid bottom end that adds a good weight to the proceedings. Keith Kirkum’s drums are loud and loose, and sound refreshingly live and not over-produced. All three members’ performances are rock solid and reek of enthusiasm (and, well, marijuana), which serves to make the lesser tracks on the album (like “Dummy,” “Bull,” and “Buzz”) a bit more interesting, as it sounds like the band are having a blast playing this stuff.
Having been around for about twelve years, most people into the stoner genre would have probably heard Sixteen Tons and already have an opinion on it. For those just getting into the genre, Sixteen Tons isn’t a terrible album or starting point, but it isn’t the strongest entry in Weedeater’s catalog. There’s nothing outwardly bad here, but there’s also not much that could be called great either, making for an enjoyable ride while it’s playing, but not one you’re likely to remember for long afterwards. If you have any inclination towards doomy stoner metal, Weedeater is definitely worth checking out, but the grass is greener on their other releases.