R.I.P. – Dead End (2020)REVIEW

I can smell it on you, that Portland on your breath. Kerosene ‘n bong fingers politely covering a fresh ozone cough, the wet leaves and Labrador poop propping up your cork-sole’d shoes. A righteous, serious-mouthed grass hound with a mustache’d kink for sustainability and industrial interior design. There is a brain and a struggle behind the Trouble‘d kinda soul and joyous early 80’s Alternative Tentacles styled artisanal sardonicism of street-doomers R.I.P., a fun garage punk-assed doom band shaking looser of their pure classicism with each release. From distant, echoing hook-laiden Pentagram-isms and Vitus punk meant for a rainy day shirtless skatin’ crew to malt liquor and lowrider bummin’ global scintillation, they’re going somewhere with this stuff. The third one, ‘Dead End‘, doesn’t feel like an in-betweener, it has a pent up and dying-to-thrill sort of action angled up to cluster-bomb whomever it hits. Does that mean they’ve gone full-bore Monster Magnet heavy-goofin’ alt rock on us? Or is it even more of a throwback to classic doom than intended? Either way you ain’t mowed your damn lawn in months, its been raining for weeks and things are only getting more harum scarum from here on out.

Here’s a boring way to answer vague question: R.I.P.‘ve been hard at work making R.I.P. more R.I.P.-like, getting the essence of their strongest influences unpurified and raw-milky — They’re not skimming the fat because their shit was always trim. Finding that hook within is key to their action, gettin’ their reaper styley shakes gone, getting the uplift slo-mo party punk-hop soul draining out the right body nostril. The shift from their purely lovable Pentagram-esque spooker of a debut (‘In the Wind‘, 2016), which was actually self-released as ‘Doom is Dead‘ in 2015 before Totem Cat and RidingEasy Records picked it up and gave it the devil it was due, to the “Now this is something, else!” reaction I’d given to the second album (‘Street Reaper‘, 2017) upon review was, well, something else. It was undoubtedly one of the best releases of that year thanks to its fuzz-honking guitar tone, Debris Inc.-esque doom punk mind and grunge bop outlook. “Mother Road” still hits the locus coeruleus just as hard as it did a few years ago; ~Hell, the whole album holds up and I wasn’t sure if whatever they’d do next would catch that kind of air. It does. Stoner rock roll-ups, fuzz-skunked apocalyptic grunge punk hooks, and traditional heavy/doom metal nausea all barely gets us in the door by the time the title track hits. They’ve either done it again or, outdone themselves with ‘Dead End’.

What has changed that can be willed and what has the universe allowed? On a practical level they’ve mentioned the rhythm section has seen some shift of personnel yet I’m not sure this has affected the core songwriting decisions of the band, perhaps some of the textural meshing involved with contact-heavy rock music. Otherwise, working with an accomplished producer like Billy Anderson brings a bigger, harder squinting eye to what R.I.P. pluck from the aethyr to create and thankfully the solution to capturing their essence wasn’t to simply make them bigger and louder. Instead the bands “Smoke on the Water” garage punk n’ doom rock spiritus buzzes, sparks and bubbles with an ominous Carpenter-esque atmosphere about it. The sort of too-raw NWOBHM band you’d ask to be on stage for your B-movie slasher as zombies. Vocalist Fuzz has always been a bigger personality but he brings more of that stage-köng bravado to the recording space this time around, either more inspired by the tunes or just stepping it up with a more varied tonal range beyond that existential sulk n’ skulk of the past. They’ve suggested this has long pulled attitude from equal parts heavy metal, pro-wrestling, heroin chic grunge, and lo-fi hip-hop looks but on wax and a nice pair of speakers it reads more like a special kind of 90’s stoner rock weirdness pulled into the malaise of present day. The band always had character and style, ‘Dead End’ only appears to cement the best parts of their sound so that R.I.P. can be better honed for that decided upon point of focus. Have they stepped away from their influences, into their own?

Well, this is the hardest question to re-ask and re-answer after spending years with R.I.P. records because they’ve been lightly referential beyond the first album. There is yet a bit of ‘Hallow’s Victim’-era Dave Chandler in their guitar work but we’re given hints rather than lessons, such as the wah-‘splosion solo around 2:18 on the title track. Who has the time and the energy to pick it down to the bone anyhow? This is undeniably a heavy metal record that just rolls in and kicks up dust with catchy, easy-grinding pieces. Anthemic as a scuzzy L7 record but still bearing that 70’s rocker turned 80’s gloom-sower songwriting kick, there are singles all over ‘Dead End’; “Moment of Silence” isn’t about to let you forget its name between its steadily repeated chorus and balls-grunging beats, “Out of Time” twinkles a distant creepin’ piano to emphasize its similarly memorable chorus, and it goes without saying the title track will be the first song to grab you by the shoulders and engage. Yet it isn’t a pop-metal record just yet, there are more than a few pieces that speak louder to the actual artistic development of the band here. The hi-hat work on “Nightmare” is hard to ignore, a part of their performance I’d want to see live; All that frantic and impressive flickin’ during a big-swinging stoner groove of a song promises to be a sight. “One Foot in the Grave” kicks off with big and nasty doom riff via a burst of Sleep-sized guitar tone that works its way towards a doom-thrasher of a piece, a major highlight on my end as they approach the B-side with plenty of chest-beating energy. Fast-forward to the very end of the record where the second half of “Dead of the Night” takes a turn for an ’85 Vitus-cum-’76 Lizzy about face where climbing chord progressions and dual guitar solos act as a send-off that’ll speak more to old heads as much as it will hopheads.

From my perspective R.I.P. haven’t changed drastically they’ve simply tied off the loose ends left on ‘Street Reaper’, amplified their more unique traits and gone for a more aggressive and moderately more catchy approach to songwriting. I liked the frayed sanity of that prior record -a lot-, though. It will feel like iteration to start but jumping between the two records it is clear ‘Dead End’ means to bring some serious musical value to the fun of R.I.P.‘s already very unique style of garage door opening motör-punk doom-roller rock. Is it fun music? Yeah, I mean for a grinning-as-I-die dystopic outfit they’re surprisingly not a bummer and remain a vivacious sweatin’ bullets kinda live band. I’m still riding ‘Street Reaper’ nuts but I wouldn’t set this follow-up above or below it, just R.I.P. doing more substantive swipes and doing ’em with even tighter style. The recommendation is easy to make because the appeal of this band touches upon things that metalpunk, stoner rock, stoner doom, traditional doom metal, and everything in between fandom loves about music. If you can go wrong with it from any of those points of view, you’re the dystopia. High recommendation.

High recommendation.

Rating: 8 out of 10.
TITLE:Dead End
LABEL(S):RidingEasy Records
RELEASE DATE:October 9th, 2020
BUY & LISTEN:Bandcamp [All Formats]
GENRE(S):Doom Metal,
Doom Punk,
Heavy Metal

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