The Mound Builders’ self-tilted album opens with ‘Torch Bearer’, a fun track that is like a soft explosion that feeds back on itself and gains momentum before slowly ebbing away to a mellow end. However, considering some of the tracks that come later, it’s difficult to fathom their reasoning behind putting this track first. The usual aim of the game with track listing is to open big, but it seems the Indiana sludge quartet have opted for rather a different approach here.
Going into the next song, ‘Hair of the Dogma’ showcases considerably more impact, instantly inspiring the listener to grab a beer and headbang merrily along. This track really demonstrates Jim Voelz's vocal abilities, a voice that is like velvet being brushed in the wrong direction. Smooth and rough at once.
‘Separated From Youth’ is a good example of The Mound Builders’ typical, sludge-laden sound. They are sludgy as three-day old coffee and just as murky, but demonstrate fun and curly riffs. Elsewhere, ‘Acid Slugs’ has an intriguing intro featuring slow, drawn-out chugs that pull you into the story of the song before speeding up and somehow losing some of its momentum, leaving the rest of the track a bit so-so. ‘Star City Massacre’ is an indisputable stand-out, and so punchy it puts itself at instant risk of getting arrested. It’s unpretentious, dark, gritty and a sure-fire favourite. Worth putting on repeat.
Throughout the album you hear many examples of Jason ‘Dinger' Brookheart’s solid timekeeping, while Ryan Strawsma’s chunky bass ties everything together like good bass playing should. Brian Boszor has some brief shining examples of clever guitar riffs that really uplift and enhance the whole experience. That said, much of their best moments are rather underutilised. Rounding off the album, ‘Vanished Frontier’ is a bold finish, with a chorus line that’s gloriously rich with desolate beauty.
Overall good, but not great. Here is unmoulded gold with the unmistakable, growing potential for greatness.
'The Mound Builders' is out now on Failure Records and Tapes