Big Muff 68 – Swing Metal Review

Do you know what a big muff pedal does? Well, if you don’t, it essentially can turn electric guitars into fat fuzzy rock machines. Over the decades, that sound has found a home across all genres that riff, stomp, and tear blues licks a new one. As such, the pedal name lends itself well to the mission of the wacky Norwegian outfit Big Muff 68, who seeks to give us a fresh new genre view with Swing Metal. If you hadn’t guessed yet, that genre is none other than… swing metal! Promo-speak from the band themselves suggests this rock n roll revolution is fueled by many decades of music appreciation and amalgamation, including the stylish suits of the 70s1. So, do I get to welcome a new genre tag into the hallowed halls of AMG or return this promo back to the skull pit from whence it came?

Well, I don’t think I’ll be adding swing metal to our highly accurate tagging system2, but I will be adding some uncommon band tags for these parts. You see, at its core Swing Metal is a hard rock album by guys who probably have enjoyed Meatloaf3, Kyuss, and Quicksand in equal measure. Helmed by members of the eclectic grind outfit Beaten to Death, the raunchy backstory and tongue-in-cheek aesthetic of Big Muff 68 comes as no surprise. Likewise, the recording quality across the record is full, organic, and genuinely a treat (just listen for the low-end clarity on tracks like “Run You Out” or “It’s Over”). Despite all its polish and pedigree, Swing Metal still has to be interesting in execution, and sadly it falls flat as often as it succeeds in that department.

For an album that promises metal and attitude in excess, Swing Metal harbors quite the number of ballads. And, unfortunately, these ballads build a bitter home for the most problematic vocals and plain-faced lyrics in the pack, robbing these come-down moments of emotional impact. We start the ballad arc with “Pain Still Getting Stronger,” recounting the tale of a guy who “bought all of the crap” and feels generally frustrated with his life. Yes, Hjelm manages to punk up the ending with a more imposing snarl, but for too much of this song, he features his best Billie Joe Armstrong (Green Day) impression. In a similarly saccharine fashion, “I Found Out” continues the tale of domestic distress with the repetition of the meaningful phrase “I wonder why and I wonder how I found out.” Finally, Big Muff 68 rounds out the ballad arc with the late album bop “Home,” which features a bouncy acoustic refrain that wouldn’t be out of place on mainstream pop-punk radio. I don’t mind a gentle love song, but lyrics like “I know I’ll take you home with me tonight” are about as non-descript as it gets in the romance territory.

Thankfully, Big Muff 68 still remembers to rev the engine and crank the brass on a couple occasions. The powerful opener “Everything’s OK” kicks off with all of organist Norge’s fingers slammed on humming Hammond chords, carving the path to a thick, twangy, bluesy stomp. That track and mid-album banger “Watch My Back” also feature a wailing female vocalist who perfectly represents the flamboyant mood and steals the show. In turn, the huge closing track “Crack Open” blends tasty shred and blaring trombone against Hjelm’s increasingly throat-twisting sputtering. The crew even throws in a grind-adjacent rumble with “The Great Equalizer.” These guys know how to have fun and be strange but just don’t spend enough time doing it.

Big Muff 68 displays moments where the magic of their ideas come together. While too much of a good thing can be problematic, the idea of a more extravagant album featuring a greater proportion of their atypical elements, like the brooding brass section and soulful female vocals, would be a step in a bolder and welcome direction. Alas, in its current state, Swing Metal comes across as a half-realized effort with nothing but fun and love poured into it. I admire the ethos, but Swing Metal is a swing and a miss.

Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Mas-Kina Recordings
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: June 3rd, 2022

Show 3 footnotes

  1. Everything sounds better in a polyester leisure suit
  2. Also unquestionable, infallible, and challengeable only by a duel to the death
  3. We can finally have this tag under the correct spelling (check metaloaf for giggles)
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