Thursday, February 12, 2015

Slantpiece - Second Wind

Slantpiece is a band from Kearney Nebraska.  They play Heavy Metal.  Those are two simple statements but yet they are far from simple for several reasons.  First, Nebraska is not known for metal.  There is a thriving homegrown metal scene but nothing on a national level that is gaining attention outside of the state.  This is a shame.  The second reason is there is a preconceived idea, that with few exceptions, innovative metal comes from the left coast.  

It should be noted that Slantpiece, a 4 man group from Kearney Nebraska breaks all of those molds.  They are a midwest band turning out solid heavy metal.  I was fortunate enough to review their first EP Get You Some (  The band, now ready to release their sophomore effort, Second Wind, have tread into heavier waters and added some new styles to their repertoire.  While the first album centered around razor sharp riffs sometimes treading towards thrash metal, Second Wind seems to be more heavily influenced by Southern Sludge Metal bands.  From my first listen, the album is noticeably heavier than Get You Some, but that’s not exactly what grabs you from the beginning.  Producer Michael Beck, who produced Get You Some, and has had time to get to know the band and their strengths, has played a key role in how smoothly this project has come together and how good the overall finished product sounds. Beck’s ear for harmonies and sound structure are a perfect fit for how Slantpiece makes music.  It takes talent for a band like Slantpiece to craft the songs they do and equally, it takes the same amount of talent behind the boards to record and mix the album so that the listener can take the journey with the band.  Because of this, Slantpiece and Beck are the perfect combination.  

After a couple of years playing together, the sound is tighter and the members of the band seem more comfortable with each others styles and they use it to their advantage.  The CD opens with Ghost of Yesterday, a monster of a riff that gallops along with a thick sludgy riff and deep throaty vocals.  There is some nice lead work at at the 1:55 mark.  There is marked improvement to an already talented band on this release.  The drumming on Ghost of Yesterday is solid but varied and provides a very stable base on which to build the rest of the song.  Singer Derek Johnson has shown great improvement as well.  The vocals on the previous release were one of the highlights of the release.   This time around, Johnson seems to be more comfortable in the roll of vocalist for the band.  His vocals are both melodic and throaty and fit very well in the style of the song.  The overall mix of this album is better than Get You Some with a wider sound stage.  The guitars are separated well enough to hear who is playing what, but very solid when they both lock on the same riff.  The bass is solid and punchy and the drums are loud enough to give the entire project a solid foundation to build from.  The vocals this time around are further back in the mix, making them sound more like an additional instrument.  To me, this is the best way to mix vocals because every sound contributed to the overall project has the same amount of importance.  The vocals are a vehicle to serve the song rather than the song being a vehicle for the vocals.  The overall effect is very satisfying.  

Baptized in Whiskey is the second track on this offering.  Breaking down into a bass and drum power groove, before really allowing the listener to get accustomed to the sludgy riff that leads the track before and after each verse is a masterful touch.  The song conjures up images of smoky biker bars where theres more blood than booze on the floor.  The track just feels good and could easily be at home in the collection of a fan of Southern metal such as Down, Crowbar or Eyehategod.  

Changing gears midway through the release is Shallow Grave.  The riff and chord progression immediately reminds me of mid 1990’s Iron Maiden.  This is in no way a bad thing.  The band finds a groove that they are comfortable with and turn out what could arguably be the most musically solid track on the release.  It takes its time with several tempo changes and growling vocals that add great contrast to the rest of the track.  

Taking a break from the sheer power and heaviness of the album is Stuck In a Rut.  The song opens with a nice drum cadence to then be replaced with a much lighter very nostalgic riff.  The song seems to be paying tribute to some of the more decadent Sunset Strip bands of the late 80’s and early 90’s.  The song is incredibly fun and could easily be the song you crack open that first brew of the night to if you are at a party, out on the town, or just rocking out in your own living room.  The only difficulty for the listen here with this track is after the heaviness of the previous tracks, it is difficult to readjust to the style of the song, although it would arguably have been far more difficult to adjust to the track following some of the heavier cuts on the album.  

Following Stuck in a Rut, is Scars.  The track is the shortest song on the album, but don’t let that fool you.  The riff is the densest and heaviest one up to this point.  Vocalist Derek Johnson taking a vocal styling that is reminiscent of Philip Anselmo by way of Good Friends and a Bottle of Pills, complete from the low growl to the screams.  This track is the one to get the aggression out with on the floor or in the pit.  With this much ferocity on the studio track, I can imagine how much fun hearing this one live will be.  

There’s an art to putting together an album.  The most important is to always end it with a strong track that leaves the listener wanting more.  The band have done this with their title track called Second Wind.  The track busts out of the gate with a fast riff and double bass rolls to punctuate the heaviness before changing tempo into a sludgy groove.  Once again on this track, Slantpiece are reminiscent of bands such as Down and take that style and work it to it’s full potential. 

Sophomore releases are sometimes looked at as inferior releases to a debut or albums that happen later in a bands career, hence the term sophomore slump.  With one listen, any fans that are worried that this may have happened to Slanpiece, will put their fears to bed.  Second Wind is done by a more seasoned Slantpiece.  One that is far more comfortable being a band than they were on their debut.  The music is heavy and satisfying and not once leaves the listener scratching their head wondering what they were thinking.  

Slantpiece is a band from Kearney Nebraska.  They play heavy metal.  Now you know why this is not as simple as it seems and now you know why you need to get this release.  Show your support and get to their shows, but a cd, buy a t-shirt, pick it up on iTunes or whatever other physical and digital venues they use.  Show your love for the band and the music they make so they can continue to make music and get the recognition they deserve.