The other day at the grocery store, I bought a bottle of wine solely on the Walking Dead label. And I’m not even a big fan of the show. But, when I’m brain-fried and all I want is a fucking drink, I grab the first bottle or six-pack that jumps out at me. That’s how I came across that wine and that’s how I came across what I thought was Nosepicker. Because, you know, I’m immature like that. Unfortunately, it’s not Nosepicker, it’s Noisepicker. But, instead of potential juvenile Gwar or Ghoul-like band themes for my beloved—yet fictional—Nosepicker, Peace Off turns out to be a doom-tinged, blues-stoner debut from the very real Noisepicker.
If you’ve never heard of Noisepicker, that’s OK. But you might have heard of vocalist/ax-man Harry Armstrong. He was once the bassist/vocalist for UK bands like Decomposed and Lord of Putrefaction (the original moniker of Electric Wizard), as well as being current guitarist/vocalist for End of Level Boss and The Earls of Mars. Mr. Armstrong sure does love his doom/stoner metal (rock?) but Noisepicker is where he experiments the most. But not in the way you’d expect a composer of the doomy, of the gloomy, and of the psychedelic to do. Armstrong pushes his pipes to their limits and pushes his songwriting—sometimes—to the extreme center of the Crossroads.
For instance, “A Taste of My Dying” very well might have you checking your media player to see if you’ve been punked. More than the rest of the tracks, this one is an out-of-the-box blues piece. From the full-chested vox to the swimming arrangements, this is one of the weirdest fucking songs I’ve heard in a long time. Well, at least on an album like this. And its strange abruptness—especially after the jolting, stop-start, spit-in-your-face attitude of “So You’re Sick”—makes it feel sorely out-of-place. Follow-up track, “He Knew It Would All End In Tears,” also uses heavy doses of the blues, but with a more effective approach. One that combines bluesy wails with beefy distortion and an unhappy layer of gloom.
On the flip-side, there are many tracks with big, thundering doom/stoner riffs that’ll stomp holes in asses. Opener “No Man Lies Blameless” and “I Hear You Talking and It Sounds Like Bullshit to Me” are a couple examples of said ass-stompers. The former has doomy, pissed-off stoner licks and rough-around-the-edges vocals, while the latter has a thick-as-mud midsection and a semi-punky chorus. “O What Mercy Sorrow Brings” takes both of these approaches and combines them into one—using the catchy, punky chorus with some chopping, stoner riffage.
Unfortunately, of all these tracks, “He Knew It Would All End In Tears” is one the sticks to most with me. The others begin to fall away after repeat listens. But the songs that grab my attention the most are the album’s final four. “This is How the World Will End” has a slow, unsettling drive that feels like it’s trying to rip out of your skin, even though it reminds me of Mushroomhead… But, after it tears its way out of your skin, it picks up a bluesy groove and some punchy, upbeat vocals in “Burning the Witch.” These two ain’t my favorite but they are interesting pieces.
My favorites are the last two songs on the disc: “The Day When All Hope Died” and “I Stood By Her Grave.” The first is a doomy, moody piece that uses the best riff on the album to ruin your happy-go-lucky day. It’s the most headbangable of the lot and has some sad interludes that’ll drag you six feet under. Which is perfect for the album closer, “I Stood By Her Grave.” This is where the band’s straight-forward bluesiness works mightily, producing a song of hopelessness and true despair. Its instrumentation is slow, its vocals are desperate, and it leaves the album hanging on a depressive note.
When comparing Peace Off‘s vocals to Armstrong’s other acts, the man proves his diversity. He has that classic blues power in his chest and the freedom and looseness of a voice like Tom Waits. All the while, he still maintains his classic wild side in the meaner and punkier numbers. But, like his sporadic and unpredictable vocals, Peace Off itself is all over the place. Flow and consistency aren’t a thing and the jolts of “A Taste of My Dying,” I Hear You Talking and It Sounds Like Bullshit To Me,” and “This Is How the World Will End” knock you right off the rails. As indicated on their Facebook page, many of the band’s songs were written on the fly. Sometimes on the night of a show. And Peace Off shows that. Individually, there are some interesting and memorable tracks here but I find myself jumping around the album to my favorites rather than listening to it straight through.
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Exile on Mainstream Records
Websites: noisepicker.bandcamp.com | noisepicker.org | facebook.com/noisepickernoisepicker
Releases Worldwide: May 11th, 2018