Jointhugger – Surrounded by Vultures Review

Infamous satirical news site The Onion has a particularly infamous article that is re-run every time there is a mass shooting in the USA. No, I’m not here to make a political statement; the point of the article in question is to comment on the repetitive nature of the occurrence. I’m just wondering whether I should make such a generic, re-runnable review for the glut of stoner doom bands that all sound exactly the same. You know the type: they don’t know whether they want to be Black Sabbath, Sleep or Kyuss, always add “psychedelic” to their self-description for no reason, and bury their lack of variation and originality by playing louder and adding more fuzz. Jointhugger play stoner doom; can they break the cycle?

No. Not even a little. In fact, if you put all these beige-colored bands in a beige blender, the exact average shade of beige that comes out could very well be Jointhugger. Surrounded by Vultures differs from the norm in exactly two places: the album opens with a lengthy instrumental (usually it’s halfway) and… No, wait, that was it. Everything else conforms exactly to the template. The downtuned riffs are big and spacious, yet rudimentary, thriving on simple, well-established grooves. They are rendered with an amount of fuzz that may not be legal in all countries and always played until you’re tired of it, and then played a little longer. The vocals have the usual somewhat reedy timbre, which seems even thinner for its contrast to the quaking rumble they pierce through.

And really, that’s not to say that this is bad music. Bad music is irritating. It’s an actively unpleasant listen. If I can, I will take steps to stop listening to it (which is why I usually finish reviews of bad albums faster than bland ones). Surrounded by Vultures, on the other hand, is fine for what it is. The vocals are rough, likely untrained, but they’re pretty spirited in their delivery. The riffs are unremarkable, but the groove is there. If there are any small blemishes, the amount of distortion hides those well, like a layer of foundation on a pock-marked face. And there’s the occasional amusing moment, such as “Delysid Rex,” where the vocals get to crawl out from underneath the guitars and use that extra room on such lyrical mastery as “I know you’re always around because you, you smell like shit!”

But that’s about the extent of Jointhugger’s capabilities. The layers of distortion serve their purpose in adding heaviness, but they also decrease any sense of contrast and dynamics. Without truly remarkable riffs, the only properties that set apart one track from the next are the vocal lines and the pace. Without more variation or depth, Surrounded by Vultures remains a rather anonymous affair, and you’ll forget about it the moment the running time ends. Even the production can be summarized as nondescript. It’s loud, it’s warm, it’s fuzzy, it’s exactly what you’d expect.

Somehow I don’t think Jointhugger‘s constituent parts are going to care one iota about any of my belligerent commentary. If these guys are as laidback as their music suggests, they will chuckle, blow a raspberry, and put the tablet away to write another basic riff that sounds cool when played with enough distortion. It’s the sort of band that’s most enjoyable as the second slot on the last day of a week-long desert rock festival. Something to nod your head to while drinking your first beer, but requiring not a single spark of brainpower. All the more power to them; not all music has to break the mold, and plenty of people are happy just to make simple, unassuming music, regardless of an audience. But that merely explains why the band exists and why they make this music. Why you should be listening to it, I cannot say, because though it is adequate, it is also tired and beyond uninspired. There are thousands of other acts playing this style, and Surrounded by Vultures does nothing at all to distinguish itself from the masses.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 160 kbps mp3
Label: Self-released
Websites: jointhugger.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/jointhugger
Releases Worldwide: October 29th, 2021

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