League of Corruption – Something in the Water Review

The rather generic groove metal genre tag emphasizes groove, and us metalheads, of all persuasions, generally appreciate a good dose of headbanging groove, regardless of genre preferences and levels of extremity. Groove metal also brings to mind classic Pantera and early Machine Head, who brought muscle and brawn to thrash-based metal, with a streamlined appeal to broader metal audiences. Unfortunately, over the years, groove metal has often gone hand in hand with nĂ¼ influences and rather tepid alt metal. So from my experience the groove metal term doesn’t give a straight indication of what a band or album carrying the baggage is likely to sound like. Vancouver’s League of Corruption come tagged as groove metal and also fit loosely into the clouded genre definition, pulling influences from Southern sludge waters and stoner scenes to form a heaving, sweaty, barroom brawling album, rather than a more polished, thrash-infused concoction. But can League of Corruption whip their groovy old school amalgam of stoner, doom, hard rock and sludge into a worthwhile album to match their hefty rhythms and impassioned, no-frills delivery?

The shadow of the mighty Sabbath looms large over the album’s down and dirty mix of bluesy doom and groove-laden heavy rock. Add some burly gruffness to Black Label Society and Corrosion of Conformity influences, and whiffs of the NOLA school of rock and sludge, and you get a basic idea of what League of Corruption are all about on their debut LP, Something in the Water. Comprised of underground scene veterans, League of Corruption have been active over two stints since 2005, yet here we arrive at their first official recording. On the surface there’s a lot I’m tailored to like about League of Corruption. I’m also incredibly picky about the interrelated, and too often generic attributes, of the stoner, doom, and sludge scenes, choosing my poison very carefully.

“Save the Church” opens proceedings with simple, stomping rhythms, sludgy riffs, and the gruff vocals of Chris Barlow (also on guitars). Barlow’s vocals are front and center, due part to his domineering presence, and a mix which over-emphasizes his serviceable, but over-the-top delivery. The song features decent moments and psych-drenched guitar work without ever really lifting off. Comprising only six songs, League of Corruption ensure each composition is stuffed chock full of their rather limited ideas, highlighting a lack of self-editing. There’s certainly some solid stuff happening from time to time, but deeper engagement is fleeting. Single, “Want Me Gone,” provides a fitting example of the bare basics of the League of Corruption sound, and is actually one of the better developed tracks. Featuring a lazy stoner groove, tasty guitar licks, and soulful vocals, even the song’s admittedly overstretched length isn’t as detrimental as the album’s general tendency to overstay its welcome.

Elsewhere, some of the heavier riffage and psychedelic inflections adorning the title track and closer “Where’s Your Savior Now” hint at the band’s strengths and potential. Amid every comforting, bear-hugging riff, occasional inspired lead, and doomy wallop of groove-laced heavy rock and sludge, there’s heavy handed material and a lack of penetrating hooks hampering my overall enjoyment. Meanwhile, Barlow’s vocals occasionally border on parody, while some rather clunky lyrics, and an obnoxiously exaggerated delivery counteract his more endearing vocal qualities. Musically, the band hold their own, offering nothing particularly original or compelling to reel me in, but holding down a robust sense of groove and decent, head-bobbing riffs. Unfortunately the compositions themselves rarely form a fully realized whole, resulting in overstuffed, bloated songs, which frequently dabble beyond their lifespan.

Something in the Water is an album that ticks a number of boxes for me, but sadly never comes together into a particularly engaging or noteworthy slab of sludgy stoner doom and heavy rock goodness. Sure, in small doses it’s a serviceable listen, harmless enough background music for knocking back brews, but not something I will likely revisit. League of Corruption nail the basics of their chosen style with a lived in passion and dedication to their craft. However, they must escape the less appealing trappings of their sound and sharpen their song-writing skills to truly excel in an overcrowded scene.

Rating: 2.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 128 kbps mp3
Label: Black Doomba Records
Websites: leagueofcorruption.bandcamp.com | facebook.com/LeagueofCorruption
Releases Worldwide: June 12th, 2020

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