Backwoods Payback – Future Slum (2018) REVIEW

The ‘get some, go again’ nature of a crowded online marketplace often blurs the legacies of long running, moderately chameleonic projects like West Chester, Pennsylvania stoner metal band Backwoods Payback; Consider their discography more of an earnest set of ‘reactionary’ snapshots, lacking any notion of pretentious art direction or continuity. From the cocky, bristling stoner doom lean of their self-titled full-length in 2007 to the 90’s alt-rock influenced stoned frustration of ‘Future Slum’ this trio never gave the impression that they were looking back fondly at their own asses. In digging through Backwoods Payback‘s back catalog it was at once refreshing and confusing that each of their five full-lengths represented evolving tastes, shifting line-ups, and took on vastly different tone and style. ‘Future Slum’ is no different but finds the band in a stable line-up and maturing together towards a stronger, more democratic representation of their collective tastes.

So if they’re not looking back over their shoulder working to recreate some old achievement, nostalgia, or exist in tribute of others where are Backwoods Payback coming from? If you were to pine over the lyrics you’d find prose of the human condition concerned with societal decline, corruption, love and loneliness; In this sense ‘Future Slum’ is easy to identify with as rock music focused on humanity’s need to find, and flourish within a niche. Juxtapose that message with a stoner, sludge, and alt-rock wanderlust and you’ll begin to understand the dichotomy of fresh-ass and confusion I’d alluded earlier. You’ve got the early ease of alt-stoner groups like Snail, the doom-rock heaviness of Tummler (or ‘Houdini’ era Melvins), and a vibe that recalls the early 2000’s obsession with Sabbath grooves as stoner rock did it’s best to shake off it’s post-grunge affect.

If you were wild about ‘Fire Not Reason’ (2016) consider that ‘Future Slum’ burns off the more aggro, noise rock influenced humps of it’s predecessor and now warrants more of the Torche and less of the bluesy stuff you’d find on an All Them Witches album. This is melodic alt-rock at it’s heart, souped up with modern sludge/stoner metal heaviness. You’re getting a greater range of expression and that includes vocalist/guitarist Mike Cummings‘ stretching his abilities further; The vocal performances manage to not fly off the handle too far and greater use of harmony helps add definition to a sound riding the fence between stoner metal and 90’s alt/noise rock/grunge mutants. It’ll either be the best of both worlds or a pleasantly messy stoner rock ride.

‘Future Slum’ is one of those records where I largely kept listening because it was so listenable. The tracklist is well arranged to offer a clear wavelength of moods as it kicks each section off with a hard-hitting Fu Manchu/Monster Magnet-esque track, dips into moody sludge rock, digs deeper with Torche-like melodic sleepiness, and pulls up into uptempo stoner rock/metal again. Even if only a few moments offer anything truly memorable it all works together as a full listen because every point of heaviness has it’s equal and opposing force in softer, melodic moments. For my taste in stoner rock adjacency this is where they’ve improved most coming off of ‘Fire Not Reason’, which lacked that entertaining dynamic. No doubt you need good songs to build a great tracklist that works but if ‘Future Slum’ were arranged any other way it simply wouldn’t work as well as it does. For preview I’d recommend “Cinderella” played back-to-back with “Generals”. Although the two songs don’t entirely represent the range of the album, they do showcase the greater strengths of the project as a whole with standout atmospheric gloominess and heavy-rolling stoner rock.

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Artist Backwoods Payback
Type Album
Released August 3, 2018
BUY/LISTEN on Backwoods Payback’s Bandcamp! Follow Backwoods Payback on Facebook
Genres
Stoner Rock,
Stoner Metal

Wearing your chains. 3.0/5.0

 

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