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CD Review: RUE Thorns

Posted by on November 16, 2011 at 2:00 pm

Rue might as well be a new band.  They have one other full length under their belt, but that was back in 2003… since then all they have to show for themselves is a split LP with Aldeberan (2004) and a four-song EP (2008).  Thorns holds up musically to the rebirth analogy, the whole band sounding like they've spent the past eight years absorbing the explosive artistic growth in the stoner/sludge arena and deciding they have something more to prove after all.

Unfortunately, too often what this band wants to prove is that they're capable of churning out well produced and stylish sludge that in 2011 is too derivative to make much of a dent. Which is a shame, because rollicking tracks like "For Thousands of Years" prove that the chops and personality are there… Rue just needs that one little unique signature to set themselves apart from the clamoring herd (if I've said it once I'll say it a million more times: sludge is probably the number one most overcrowded subgenre in American heavy metal right now, and there is no ebb in sight).

"Sadaver" also has a lot going for it – a sweeping, monolithic riff, a diverse panoply of engaging vocal styles – but it's indicative of another major problem with Thorns… it simply drags on far longer than it needs to.  Stretching what would have been an impressive array of ideas at four minutes out into over seven dilutes the strength of the material, and at 64 minutes the album similarly wears the listener down, when at 45 minutes or so one would be far more inclined to overlook the lack of originality and value the record for the collection of genuinely catchy grooves that it is.

And so I've spent the majority of the review focusing on the negatives – on what Thorns could have been – but that's largely because I don't envision the average metal fan to be such a sludgeaholic that they'll be willing to tease out this album's virtues.  For those willing to overlook the sound-alike quality inherent in nearly every one of Thorn's 15 tracks, though, admittedly there is a lack of any real duds.  Taken in isolation, perhaps as a single, "Broken Arms Broken Wings" demonstrates a comprehensive enough understanding of what makes the whole stoner rock ethos so appealing that it could even be a star-making performance, given sufficient exposure.

Likewise, Thorns may make for rough digestion in one sitting, but what it lacks in singularity of vision it overcompensates for in consistency.  There are at least half a dozen cuts here that would make superb mixtape material, the glue perhaps binding a Clutch jam session to a High on Fire groove.

7 out of 10

Thorns is out Nov. 15th on Shifty Records.

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