With ex-members of Agent Steel, Holy Terror, and Zeke among their ranks, I was interested to see what Washington based Old Dirty Buzzard had to bring to the table on their debut album What A Weird Hill To Die On. As it turns out, they’re a band that’s drenched in hard rock from the 70s and 80s as well as a healthy dose of punk and doom, but everything feels like it’s been poured into a vat of raw sewage. There’s a clear love of the riff here that captures not only that rock ‘n roll spirit but what would also morph into various metal offshoots, and the group has the swagger and variety to back it up. While some of the moves into doom/stoner metal type jams do run a bit long and lose some of their steam, this is still a great first outing from a band that knows the power of a loud, in your face riff.
What’s great about What A Weird Hill To Die On is how it crosses the boundaries between rock, punk, and metal, but does so in a way that feels natural. Opener “Long Haired Country Boy” opens with enough feedback and lumbering riffs to make you think you’re in for more of a doom or sludge metal record with a slight country twang to it, but that’s only one part of Old Dirty Buzzard’s sound. By the time you’ve drowned in that track’s slow grooves, the tempo picks up on “Coughing on the House of Cards” in favor of more of a rock ‘n roll swagger that occasionally breaks into some more heavy or speed metal sounding leads. It’s really hard to pin down the band into one genre, as sometimes they throw in some bursts of punk or settle back into that doomier vibe, but there’s always a riff to draw you back in. At times it even feels like Motörhead crossed with your favorite obscure proto-metal band, with all those other genres I mentioned thrown in for good measure. But what adds to the appeal is how gnarly the entire album sounds. Both the guitar and bass are given equal prominence here, and they both have tonality that makes it come across like you’re wading through a tar pit. It’s appropriately murky and seedy sounding, and that rough around the edges approach is perfect for what the band is doing. Admittedly while I’ve found myself coming back to What A Weird Hill To Die On regularly, things do drag a bit when Old Dirty Buzzard slows down and sprawls out. “Path of the Dead” and “The Reckoning” pack out the second half of the album significantly, and while they have their moments both overstay their welcome a little bit.
Kurt Kilfelt handles the vocal work throughout What A Weird Hill To Die On, and he brings an appropriately raw and harsher tone to the album. Right from the first appearance of vocals on “Long Haired Country Boy”, you’re greeted with gruffer singing that has some rougher edges that feel like you’re being stabbed with barbed wire. Sometimes Kilfelt’s voice heads a little higher, while on tracks like “Coughing on the House of Cards” it’s low enough to sound like he chain smoked a full carton of cigarettes before the recording. There’s a good amount of variety to the performance, and the more unhinged nature makes things all the more interesting. “Lies” even goes full-on Lemmy mode and comes damn close to sounding like him at times.
There’s a lot to like about what Old Dirty Buzzard offers up on their debut, as it recalls the time when the lines between all the heavier genres were blurred while still reaching a sound of its own. Everything is drenched in this murkier, sludgy tone that makes it feel like you can taste the smoke of some random dive bar, and if any of that sounds appealing then this is an album to check out. The slower doom/sludge moments are a bit too stretched out and wouldn’t hurt from just a little more self-editing, but that won’t keep me from cranking it back up for another round. What A Weird Hill To Die On is available from Rotten Records.
-Review by Chris Dahlberg