Throttlerod - Nail Review
By Travis Becker
In the music business, accepting change proves notoriously difficult in most instances. Fans resist, bands splinter apart, vision is lost and a whole heap of wreckage ensues. Throttlerod, a Richmond-based, southern-tinged, rock trio has endured as much change as any band in the last couple of years, but with the release of their new album Nail, the group proves to be a survivor in the face of long odds.
In 2003, things seemed to be looking up for the band, which originated in South Carolina but moved to Richmond. They signed to Small Stone records and released Hell and High Water, performed at South by Southwest and seemed to be on their way. Since that year, however, the band's course has been less sure. An EP released to mixed reviews and the departure of founding member and guitarist Bo Leslie signaled trouble, but relentless touring and a new record prove that Throttlerod will not be denied or deterred.
The initial buzz surrounding Nail suggested that the band had returned to the harder, punkier, sound that defined more clearly the roots of the band's influences and its early sound. The buzz proves to be largely true in this case. Nail is a much harder record than either 2003's Hell and High Water or 2000's Eastbound and Down. Throttlerod tosses aside the laid back, country-flecked, and ballad-fueled style of last year's Starve the Dead EP and legitimately rocks with more punch than they've ever had. The almighty riff remains the torso of Throttlerod's muscular sound and lead singer and guitarist Matt Whitehead steps up to fill the void of the departed Leslie. The overall guitar tone is different and not quite as thick, but the music doesn't lose much in the way of raw power. In fact, the producer Andrew Schweider overdrives the sound so much that the wounds-flayed-open quality of the guitar compensates for any drop off in the depth of the instrument through the mix. A raw metallic edge permeates the record that just oozes treble and leaves the speakers ringing with cymbal and echo.
From the bass-and-drums intro of opening track, "Prizefighter", Throttlerod serves notice that they're done with the groove-heavy hard southern rock in which they dabbled in the past. Whitehead's vocals spew out of the speakers urgent and distorted, and the lyrics flow in a sort of semi-illogical rant of a punch-drunk boxer. An early-Helmet like devastation washes over the entire song towards the end and has that late-eighties hardcore feel to it with modern sensibilities, that is, to amp the volume and fill all of the empty space with sound. Songs like "Stand 'Em Up" and "Teething" smack of a band taking the criticism of their last album to heart and moving in a decidedly different direction. Elements of their earlier releases are still present in the big choruses and layered backing vocals, and this is particularly evident on "Stand 'Em Up" but the added aggression keeps the record in overdrive. This is a band who knows that they're probably not getting radio play and who doesn't care.
Tight at ten songs, Throttlerod has pared away any filler from Nail. They've saved every bit of raw energy for the songs that really matter. Just give a listen to the brutal, "Shovel". From the out and out rockers like the title track to the almost Doom-tempo "Horse Paw", Throttlerod manages to mix things up adequately while maintaining a cohesive feel to the record that's never forced. A mix of songwriting and production, this cohesion makes listening to Nail an experience that feels too brief. This record is all the heaviness and explosion of modern rock without the whining self-righteousness you'll hear from most bands actually getting radio airtime.
Throttlerod, with Nail, manages to make an album that should please their fans, and at the same time, takes a noticeable step in a new direction. Some bands are content to continue cranking out the same album over and over again, just to keep the fan base they have. Throttlerod should be commended for keeping the fans they have while still trying to give them something new. All evolution represents change, but not all change is evolution. Sometimes finding true evolution baffles even the most resolute-Throttlerod find it, though. In fact, they hit the nail right on the head.
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Throttlerod - Nail
Release Date: April 4, 2006
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