For starters, the production is much meatier – they’ve ironed out the cymbal-hiss, butched up the bass, and cranked up the guitars to achieve a far stronger, more solid hit. The wickedly named “The Dark Side Of The Barn” is instant proof of their development as it takes the pace down, issuing a volley of thudding bottom-end, to steer us blithely into a corner where it then flips and beats us into submission. Vocalist Kevin Keegan is a force here, finding a moment to distort his delivery in an attempt to recreate the gargled death throes of metal’s infamous roarers. “Gate Creeper” continues the dark theme as it suddenly disassembles itself, presenting us with a final movement that rips out the rhythm, chants “hellfire” and plops a gently, warbling organ underneath it all – “call on your hordes”, indeed.
It doesn’t take a genius to see they’ve been experimenting with twisting their music into evil shapes, taking them ever further away from their debut’s more happy-go-lucky, rock n’ roll roots and burying themselves deeper into chucking out heavy-lidded power chords that make your head pulsate. There’s still rockers, like “Keg Stand And Deliver” and “Skid Marks The Spot”, but even these bristle with a viperous attitude. In my head, I see four big, sour faces and a wall of tattoed muscles so big you fear they might burst. Comparisons to Wolfmother and Thin Lizzy suddenly seem vaguely inappropriate. By the time they hit “The Earth’s Crust” you’ll be dragging forth names like Bison B.C., Fu Manchu, Saviours and The Sword. There are even moments when the lunacy of High On Fire, Kvelertak and Made Out Of Babies are needed to describe their hectic force.
Unfortunately, I spy a problem. They’ve done the musical equivalent of venturing into a crowded, rowdy bar – furniture and fists are flying as brethren clash. These days, you’d need an abacus to count the number of bands peddling this kind of Sabbath-saluting, cotton-wool quality, Orange-amped, wall of sound, riff-loaded music. At least when they had the emphasis on headbanging, they had something different to stun us with. That is, of course, not to say they aren’t mastering the genre. No, not at all. In fact, Bangers II is one of the finer examples.
Sure, there’s “Scum Of The Earth”, with its crooked, curling riff and frenzied pace – the sound of them breathlessly grabbing on to Iron Maiden’s shoelaces and mischievously tying them to the flying coat-tails of Anthrax – but there’s also “Quest For The Cube” and “Brother Fear” which are sheer fire and brimstone tracks. The drums pop and sizzle, the guitars speed chug until you can picture the smoke rising from the strings, Keegan sucking up the fumes and breathing out a sneering, seething Scott Hill (Fu Manchu) vocal. There’s huge, towering riffs that place you on the same battlefield as The Sword’s Gods Of The Earth album. Their time spent touring together has clearly had a profound influence on Barn Burner. Hell, this is a seriously solid piece of stoner art. But there’s a small part of me that still craves more of those lighter, crunchily addictive licks, those beer-swilling blues and that party-hard frivolity that so marked out their debut.
To appease, even the doubters, we get a sly little ray of sunshine to end the show. Hail the acoustic opening and twangy, raw punk blues of “Ghost Jam” which finishes proceedings off nicely with Keegan’s vocal breaking through to lay down an unencumbered clarity, once thought lost. Here’s a band who like to leave their audience with a fat, shit-eating grin, no matter what. If you missed them first time round, Barn Burner have provided just enough to make sure you won’t be making the same mistake twice.
Also online @ The New Review (with samples) = http://thenewreview.net/reviews/barn-burner-bangers-ii-scum-of-the-earth
Also read: my review of their debut album, Bangers, @ TLOBF = http://www.thelineofbestfit.com/2010/03/barn-burner-bangers/