Who said rock 'n roll can no longer evolve? The more and more I work for this site, the more that statement rings false to my increasingly deafened ears. The blustery bonebreakers Akimbo are just one prime example; or are they? The truth is I doubt anyone can be sure.
On their fifth release, Forging Steel and Laying Stone, Akimbo have crafted a sound so unusual that you might not believe it when I describe it. Try picturing an intricate concoction three parts Venice Beach, California skate punk, one piece late 1980's hardcore punk (from the Motor City perhaps?) and two dollops of bluesy stoner metal. The end result sounds like Black Flag dropping hits with Bongzilla or something; oh, and maybe the Melvins and early, riffing Cave In standing guard to make sure the fuzz don't catch everyone. Bewildering but almost always brash, the disc is pretty much the epitome of a good time. I'd even go so far as to wager Akimbo is the kind of stuff that would make the Warped Tour seem like it had grown some balls, if they ever were to play it. In short, Akimbo have taken the ethos of hardcore and punk, then beefed it out on gritty, sluggish hard rock. Throw in some mathy theatrics, and you've got a band ready to host a slugfest to.
Forging Steel and Laying Stone kicks off with "Dangerousness," a slice of primal rage twisting and turning like a snapping fox in a beartrap. Maybe it's the raw rock sonics, or maybe the mathy progressions, but this one sounds like The Dillinger Escape Plan jamming with Motorhead or something. The patient "Rockness Monster" has a real kick-ass intro riff that weaves in and out of slow, roaring chaos in the song. The song has the weight of Mastodon or the Melvins perhaps just barely leering up at you beneath it's sludgey heart; you get the feeling that this is some heavy punk but that it could be a whole lot muddier if it wanted to, and still sound every bit as grand. In my opinion, "Spooning with Disaster" marks the start of the strongest portion on the disc. "Disaster" mixes buzzing rock with periods of hazy skateboarder punk riffs, and the end result sounds really badass. Throwing in a bellowing bridge of textured sludge somewhere in the middle, the song is surprisingly complex despite it's short run time.
Follow-up "Digging a Hole" bulldozes a nice clear spot on the floor before flooding it with an avalanche of mosh-worthy noise. "Rickshaw" kicks so much ass it isn't even funny; mixing a slinking bass line with a cool drum kickstart, the song soon expands into a prolonged breakdown of gritty Cali punk. The song shifts gears and launches into gloriously expansive riffs that ebb and flow with a texture only Mastodon's Leviathan reminds me of. The rip-roaring "Tina, Bring Me The Axe!" incinerates one with intense, pounding post-hardcore that would make Everytime I Die grin....at least until Akimbo shows them up with some splendid groove rock passages to close the song out. The album's centerpiece (and longest track) "Tower of the Elephant" shows up next. Swaggering in on billowing cushions of slow, deliberate sludge, the song builds into a cathartic swell crushing sound. The short and to the point "Breaking Rocks" is a decent rocker, but after what came before it, the song feels a little underwhelming.
The blistering "Sci-Fi Monster Violence" sounds like all those stellar barn-burners Bear Vs. Shark busted out in their formative years, and track number ten sees "Precious Moments" mix tender and catchy hooks with meaty hardcore rock riffs. "Maximillian: Jungle Warrior" leaps like a previously coiled jaguar for the jugular and never really lets up...when it does, the disc is finishing with "Ground Control to Major Bummer." That last one is a real gem, combining a little Black Sabbath, Black Flag, and Mastodon in unholy alchemy.
At a time when hardcore desperately needs something off the beaten path, Akimbo drive up with stereos and intentions blaring, splattering the bland white scene with freckles of gritty mud. This down-and-dirty attitude has been sorely lacking, and gives Akimbo a persona I can see many relating too. In conclusion, Forging Steel and Laying Stone sounds just like the construction it's title implies; loud, messy, and blue-collar. Here's wondering what all those building blocks will construct next? Hold your breath.
2. Rockness Monster
3. Spooning With Disaster
4. Digging a Hole
6. Tina, Bring Me The Axe!
7. Tower of The Elephant
8. Breaking Rocks
9. Sci-Fi Monster Violence
10. Precious Moments
11. Maximillian: Jungle Warrior
12. Ground Control to Major Bummer