Bloodnut released their debut less than a year ago, when my tenure at AMG was still in its infancy. Although the sheer amount of fun the trio had proselytizing redheads was infectious, the drunken stumbling gait and vodka hooligan vocals did Blues from the Red Sons no favors. As so many bands take themselves too seriously, it hurt a little more than usual to gingerly let the band down and mark their score in the red. It must have put some fire in their gut, because the boys are back to bring peace and justice to Gingers, in less time than it takes Jari Mäenpää to make a sandwich.
I was secretly hoped I’d have a Mr. Miyagi-like influence on these guys with my review, because I loved the wacky concept. Imagine my delight upon discovering the slurred, off-tempo vocals of Blues have largely been replaced by a raw stoner belt in direct lineage with Neil Fallon (Clutch) and Brent Hinds (Mastodon). While somewhat inconsistent, it’s a massive improvement over my biggest gripe with the debut. Doug McHardlane’s throat stands its ground throughout the opener “Space Orangutan,” an early highlight of St. Ranga despite the time it takes to really get going. The ginger theme has been expanded upon with the introduction of the titular orangutan, a deity for redheads, made up on the spot and inspiring such wonderful lines as “Let he who is full of shit cast the first hand full of shit” or “Praise be to the Space Orangutan, he’ll rip your arms out of their sockets and beat you with them.” Although the band has tuned down their sound and injected some doom heaviness into the disc, they still have that tongue-in-cheek humor that I loved in the first place.
The other five songs are a bit more hit and miss than the opener. “Space Orangutan” succeeds not only thanks to the fun lyrics, but a massive, pounding riff as well. There’s no riffs of that quality on the rest of the album, although the rumbling groove and pound of “Mark of the Outcast” is catchy enough and there’s a nifty vibe of blues swagger on “Burning Boosh” (which I’m pretty sure is about redhead girls who dye their hair but give themselves away by their ‘burning bush’.) But the band is not bringing their A-game on the two closers, which feel too drawn out and lack the wild, raw energy of the first half. They’re not bad, but I can’t convince myself they’re good, either. All that missing energy is crammed onto “The Fire Inside,” a punk-infused track that is over in two blinks. Sadly, here the vocals fly off the handles again in a flash of debut atavism.
These shortcomings would have been easier to forgive if it weren’t for the mastering. I’m all for fuzz, and my expectations of stoner/sludge/doom bands don’t include a high dynamic range in the first place, but this disc contains more crushed fuzziness than a trash compactor full of tribbles. I couldn’t tell you if this disc contained any measure of subtlety because the production leaves none of it intact. The wall of fuzz drowns out the vocals and homogenizes the riffs, which is especially fatal on the closing tracks that already lack memorability.
When I first popped on St. Ranga, I was still pleasantly surprised thanks to the strong opener, and the absence of my largest complaint about the predecessor. I thought injecting some groovy doom into the wall-shaking stoner sludge of Blues for the Red Sons was a good move, and the self-mythologizing humor creates a lot of goodwill with me, as does their pledge to donate 10% of the St. Ranga sales to melanoma research. But the ear-shattering production and weak back half sunk the boat for Bloodnut. Taking less than a year for a sophomore album is a bold move, but it didn’t prevent the dreaded slump for the gaggle of gingers. If these guys can sand an edge onto their songwriting and let go of their obsession with the massive wall of fuzz, I’d eat it right up, but this is not an imaginary deity worth worshipping just yet.