Okay so I’m slipping another cheat play past you, but you rockers need to know about The Shrine Bless Off, their third LP and by far their best. The sticker on the front of the LP, pretty much says it all so you could just read it twice, hard and save yourself all the verbiage below.
Basically we’re in that scuzzy California demimonde where long-haired skaters traded their Judas Priest cassettes for their best friend’s TSOL LP, where the punks got rockier and the rockers got punkier and every empty swimming pool got skated until you could see the reinforcement rods breaking through the ‘crete. The boom box in the corner blasting a righteous stew of loudness, sometimes solo-heavy, other times spikier but all perfect for skating and getting fucked up on whatever poison you chose to – basically the bastard offspring of Black Sabbath Vol.4 and Black Flag Damaged, you wouldn’t pay to see the conception but it’s great hearing the baby’s cry.
Got you yet? I bought this because I fell for a description of the music and bought the Shrine’s 2012 effort Primitive Blast early this year – the fact that they were on Tee Pee Records, always a reliable sign to my eyes, did them no harm either. Primitive Blast was good but not quite there, so I gave them another try with Bless Off and it’s paid me back in spades – better tunes, better dynamics, heavier and better all round.
Kicking off with ‘Destroyers’ the Shrine serve you notice right up front that you’re getting an aural ass-kicking tonight and you’re gonna like it. They cruise like a meaner Fu Manchu, ‘If you’re not with us be ready to die / We have no fears, we are destroyers’, Josh Landau totally sells the lyrics, even breaking into a very out-of-character falsetto around the edges. If you have the rock gene in your DNA at all then you will like this track, that’s not opinion, it’s fact.
Ditto the best track on Bless Off, ‘The Duke’ with lyrics penned by, Black Flag’s, Chuck Dukowski. If I say that it’s a Sabbath-y track, that really doesn’t do it justice, just gives you a hint at the churning guitar tone and slightly disassociated vocals – ‘The Duke’ is in fact way better than all the Sabbath-influenced stuff we rockers get pushed at us continually. This is the best new heavy track I’ve heard for years, I mean come on,
If I die don’t bury me just leave me out to rot
And when the worms crawl out my eyes
A lesson will be taught
… that’s proper fucking heavy! Next track ‘Nothing Forever’ is only a rolling paper’s width apart in terms of quality, this time it starts off punky and ends up coasting home on the back of some truly epic soloing, like an earthier, less shrill Judas Priest. It goes on and on from there, every track here adds something to the pot, Christ I wish I’d seen them when they played over here last September!
Another reason to love the Shrine is the fact that, like every good metal band should, they really know the value of a good logo and mascot. They have this wolf logo with a ‘S’ branded tab in its mouth and their merchandise does a very neat and hopefully illegal spin on the Rolling Stones’ tongue logo too. We also have more skeletons, mostly on skateboards, than any reasonable person could handle. I am also very tempted by their wolf socks, branded fuzz pedal and ‘wicked lady’ poster. In fact I may redecorate the whole of my downstairs in Shrine merch.
It’s been a slow year for nudity on LPs this year, the worst old-timer’s like me can remember for a long while. The Shrine do their bit, we have buttocks on the back cover* and a large pair of hooters on the inside cover photos. As an emotionally-arrested 15 year-old this is important to me.
Not as important though as ‘Napalm’ the penultimate track on Bless Off which somehow comes over as Thin Lizzy-influenced punk and which I end up playing four times straight through, marvelling at the rhythm section of Court Murphy and Jeff Murray. What can I say?
You wanna tell me how to live, Bless Off
You wanna tell me how to give, Bless Off
You wanna tell me what to say, Bless Off
You wanna stand in my way, Bless Off
Like all good rock this just makes me want to kick over the traces and just rage … before putting my suit back on Monday; by then though it may well have a Shrine ‘Wolf Cross’ patch sewn over the pocket.
*could just be very tight pants, but this is my blog and I rule that they are buttocks.