It’s the new millennium and there you go, down that not-so-lonesome highway into the future. There’s a road sign up ahead but you can’t see what it says through all the smog, not to mention the overbearing neons that blaze your burning eyes. You’re tired but you need to move—it’s as if some outside force is pulling you onward to a destination you will only know once you arrive.
Finally it’s upon you, but to your dismay it’s the same old scenery you’ve been traveling through all along. Oddly enough, you’re a bit relieved. You didn’t mind the last three decades. They were good.
Now that metal has resurfaced under the alias of “stoner rock,” it’s time to catapult some of the bands into space and find out which ones have the skills to make it back . A peek into our high-powered telescope tells us that England’s Orange Goblin have hit the mark and are heading back this way with great alacrity.
The Big Black, their third and latest release, is a survey course in the heaviest of rocks from the late-’60s ‘til now. Some songs, like the opener, “Scorpionica,” take us on a direct flight to Planet Sabbath with weighty blues riffs and celestial words that, for better or worse, align the quintet lyrically with fellow star-gazers Nebula and Solarized. Next-up on our musical voyage is a journey into the early ’80s with the up-tempo number, “Quincy the Pigboy,” which makes a solitary stop in the wart-friendly land of Kilmister—as in Mr. Motorhead, Lemmy Kilmister. The expedition seems to be heading in the proper direction until, suddenly, you find yourself almost fully submerged in a field of sludgy crud. From out of nowhere guys with torn Levis and longshoreman’s caps are rushing at your vessel yelling inaudible messages which you interpret to be the secret codes, “Cozmo Bozo” and “298KG.” You quickly consult your astral map which reveals your whereabouts. You’re broken down somewhere in the little-to-appreciate land of ’90s grunge—and not the good section either. Luckily you’re able to refuel with a little “Turbo Effluent”—which smells suspiciously of Damaged-era Black Flag—and you’re back to Planet Sabbath with the final track, “The Big Black.” With the first half of your musical voyage under your gravity belt, you have time to reflect on just where you’ve been. Thumbs up, you say. Nothing new to throw you off, just a little heavy-ass rock and roll.
Tired of interstellar overdrive you opt to drift back down to earth, but like Charlton Heston in Planet of the Apes, you find the mother planet isn’t exactly how you left it. Things seem simultaneously common and foreign, like pastel food. You’re perplexed, but nothing can stop you on your quest for the perfect rock, and once again the inexplicable gray force pulls you onward and outward. After traveling in circles for what seems like days, weeks, and years, you park your space-van and check into a motel. A furry man in a mustard-stained flannel comes out speaking words you can’t understand, but what can you do? You sign the register. The plaque on the crumbling wall says, Hotel Caustic Resin. The pamphlet in the musty drawer of your room reads:
“Boise’s boys in beards are back with their fifth full-length album, this time beautifully entitled, The Afterbirth; 10 new songs that could prove a worthy soundtrack for that summer road trip through the great unknown or those debaucherous keg parties out in the sticks. Like Orange Goblin, The Resin are seeping with sentiments of aural worlds gone by; but instead of the hard-driving sound of a million heads banging, they attack from within. Songs on Afterbirth lurk and prowl, sometimes biting (‘Violent Game’) and other times—as exhibited on the languorous “Say So Long,” a stepchild of Zeppelin’s ‘No Quarter’—they just slither past, leaving a trail of slime in their wake. This fruit is unmistakably harvested from ’70s soil. Riffs akin to southern rockers like Lynyrd Skynyrd (‘James Yeah’) and wannabee confederates C.C.R. (‘Creedence Jam’) take on new life as they’re intertwined with vocals seemingly sung through a giant bong. The Afterbirth reestablishes Caustic Resin’s ability to remind you of their predecessors while sounding unmistakably like themselves, a fine quality indeed.”
Now you’re safe at home. You’re not sure how you landed there, on your sagging couch with the stereo on eight, but you did and you’re a better person for it. You feel free from that urge to embrace the future. Before your sojourn you felt restless and bored, but now you’re strangely satiated. Somewhere on that not-so-lonesome highway you learned that in the past three decades rock has been mastered, and now there’s really nowhere to go but around and around, in an endless vortex of sameness. But you find safety there, and with that safety comes true happiness. Hell, there are enough new things everywhere else—cellular phones, genetically engineered oysters, electric gum, whatever. It’s nice to know that some things will never change. Ah, the comforts of rock.