There’s an amusing irony at the start of Yellowtooth‘s sophomore platter of extra heavy stoner rock. It begins with a sound clip from Open Range – arguably the most glacially paced western gunfight movie ever made. It’s so slow, the protagonists actually engage in a protracted round of shopping for candy and chinaware on their way to the climactic shoot out. By comparison, Yellowtooth is quick to pull out the Heavy Stick and bash away until you resemble a victim of its brother, the Ugly Stick. This is extremely rowdy biker doom with a slightly swampy southern edge, roughly in the same wheelhouse as Orange Goblin and Alabama Thunderpussy. Along the way, they also crib influences from notables like C.O.C. and Down, but end up sounding much heavier than such brethren of the Gator House due to the unexpectedly death metalish roars of front man, Peter Clemens. One thing is clear throughout Crushed by the Wheels of Progress: Yellowtooth is really pissed off and wants you to know about it. The squeaky tooth gets the Orajel™, I suppose.
That anger takes center stage with the charmingly titled opener “Meet Mr. Mossberg,” showcasing the band’s penchant for taking one nasty, rudimentary groove and using it to bruise the listener like an overripe tomato. Clemens sounds a bit like Kam Lee (ex-Massacre, Bone Gnawer) mixed with Burton C. Bell (Fear Factory) and his delivery definitely takes the typical stoner rock sound to a whole new plateau of heavy. The song is abrasive and will make the head bob, but it runs about two minutes too long and doesn’t command a lot of replay.
The dental mold fits better on “Climbing the Mountain,” due to a catchier, more brain-snagging lead riff and more memorable vocal lines. An even bigger improvement arrives with “Season’s End” where the band stretches their emotional palette from rage to rage and sadness (peppered with rage). In the process they manage to concoct something that sounds like a mix of Down, Another Perfect Day era Motorhead and oddly enough, Endorama era Kreator. Clemens attempts some clean singing and pulls off a pretty nifty Phil Anselmo imitation, and the change of pace greatly helps things.
The rest of the album is a mix of good and less good ideas and generally bloated song writing. There are slick moments and memorable segments to be sure, but they don’t often coalesce into good songs. “Manifesto” has a good, crunchy lead riff, but they hammer you with it so hard and so long, it loses its appeal and becomes tedious. The title track has some huge, Monotheist inspired riffs, and one that even reminded of mid-80s Nasty Savage, but the eight-plus minutes prove too much to stomach comfortably.
Things trail off toward the back-end with “Spiral Stairs” leaving a slight impression despite some interesting Tool-isms in the beginning, and “Before I Return to Dust” offering a lot more energy, but sounding like Fear Factory awkwardly covering Burn My Eyes era Machine Head while trying to mix in Six Feet Under influences.
Almost all the songs suffer from two serious issues: Metallica-itis and monotonous vocals. They tend to overwrite everything and struggle to edit themselves, and over the course of the long in the…tooth compositions, the death shouts get rather annoying. It feels like a breath of fresh air when Clemens actually sings on “Season’s End,” but the cleans are never used again and I kept wishing for another break from his staccato barking. Guitarist Henry writes some good riffs, but the tendency to stick with one for an entire song results in another layer of tedium. The tracks that work best are the ones where several complimentary riffs are stitched together to offer a bit of variety.
Yellowtooth has the core of a compelling sound and there are moments where you hear the potential for a planet wrecking album, but this isn’t it and they have some glitches to work through. A little more polish, tighter writing and greater variety and someday they could end up a tooth full of wisdom. I’ll be watching.