ALBUM REVIEW: Black Sulfer – Leech

Hard rock is at a point of decline. The genre hit the peak of its existence in the mid-2000s and quickly petered off into becoming one of the blandest genres around other than commercial indie rock. Each new band has somehow managed to regurgitate the same basic guitar riffs and power solos in the hope that people are still clinging to the nostalgia of the post-grunge movement. However, there is hope for the genre and this hope has arisen from an unlikely place: the indie-dominated stomping grounds of South Africa.

Black Sulfur released their debut album, Leech, in early August which is a rather impressive feat for a new band. Bands tend to wait several months or even years to release an EP nevertheless an album. They storm out the gate with an album filled to the brim with chunky guitar riffs and sweeping melodies that grab hold of the listener and do not let go till the very end. The album opens with their title track “Leech”. There is no mucking about with an eclectic and lengthy intro track. The song cuts straight to a brooding wall of chugging guitar riffs backed by the whine of technical guitar work and a drum beat that is slow enough to be considered menacing.

The song acts as a perfect introduction to the band’s sound – it’s straight-up technical hard rock backed by the bristling aggression of the post-grunge moved, but without the ridiculous focus on themes of love and loss. Vocalist Richard La Grange rather delivers lyrics with themes focused on self-deprecation and depression with a vague socio-political commentary as he incorporates vague references to current affairs into his songs. He even launches into a brutal attack on the nature of the rock ‘n roll scene on “Rock Is Dead” as he knocks egotistical rock stars down a notch.

His vocals take on a drawling tone that at some points reminds me of Kurt Cobain, but then there are moments where his vocals take on a gritty, snarling tone that seems to pay homage to the early days of Seether. He delivers each song with a sense of technical precision that is unrivalled in the modern hard rock scene with perhaps the exception of Halestorm or The Pretty Reckless. He does not fall prey to lazy Chad Kroeger gritty drawl that is often favoured by post-grunge meets hard rock bands.

Modern hard rock albums are often quite a tedious affair. They are often one-dimensional creations that hardly explore the innate possibilities of the hard rock genre. Leech does not fall prey to his lack of creativity. Each song has a different feel to it while still retaining some basic similarities. For instance, “We Are One” reigns in influences from Tool and A Perfect Circle as the band explores the possibility of fusing prog-metal and hard rock elements together to create a slow-burning mass of intricate guitar work that eventually gives a way to barrage of distorted bass and needling work that supports the awesome power of La Grange’s vocals. “Never Take Me Alive” pushes the band towards an alternative metal meets nu-metal direction as screamed vocals burst into the listener’s ears on repeated basis towards the end of the song.

Leech pushes the hard rock genre back to an era when it wasn’t cool to spew vitriol-laden hate for Nickelback and hard rock bands weren’t loaded with more ego than a Kanye West acceptance speech. This a band to watch.



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