Albuquerque is a weird town. I mean, it’s this small city of like 500,000 people, in the middle of a desert, at the base of a mountain. When the wind blows, you can’t see shit because of the dirt, and everyone is totally laid back or totally crazy (I haven’t decided which yet). Still, it’s pretty much like most cities I’ve been in over the course of my life, except, smaller. There’s no train system, only one indie movie theater (that I know of) and all the clubs that book national touring acts of the punk/metal/post-whatever persuasion are owned and operated by one dude who I suspect knows very little about music. Albuquerque is not unlike other scenes though, because it does have a very rich and awesome DIY scene going on. It’s a city of very excited people not content to let other scenes and hipster shit tell them what to do. Instead, the people do it themselves, in a true, unencumbered way. It’s totally beautiful.
I threw out a plea to musician friends to send me records on the Facebook place and Raven Chacon came through. Dude knows I am broke and unemployed but that music is central to my being. And so he provided me a complementary listen to his latest band Tenderizor’s project. And this shit smokes. Touch the Sword is just evil, thrash filled, guitar shredding madness. If you grew up on heavy doses of Iron Maiden, Anthrax, Metallica and Megadeath and don’t think that listening to that stuff is “cool” in some New York hipster ironic way, but actually enjoy some thrash metal, Touch the Sword will slay your face.
Vocalist Steve Hammond must first and foremost be praises for his amazing, classic wail. He’s got the whole King Diamond thing down, but isn’t afraid to get a little grit and growl going. Which comes in handy during the speed thrash/breakdown run of “Rockweiler”, a song I assume is about a mythical rock music listening dog. Metal is not known for the greatest pronunciation in the vocal/poetry department, but that matters very little because Hammond delivers the demon howls in the amazing upper register.
The guitar play on this album is awesome too. With three different guys handing off or handling the guitar parts, we get a great deal of technical shredding. And though clearly these guys have studied all the various scales necessary to play metal, it sounds totally dirty and classic. The trudge riff opener of “The Falconor” gets the foot stomping, hand planting, agro, steady mosh quivering in my bones. We’re talking some total rock god worship type offerings being laid down. The song slows slightly for a Metallica inspired, extended guitar solo that my 12 year old self would have gotten lost in on repeat. But where the metal lords of old would wallow, endlessly in their own ego, Tenderizor understands the power of song and that a sonic punch can come in confined packages. The song riffages and solos speed back up and the steady beat continues as the great bird soars above, looking for it’s next kill.
Metal is such an odd genre. It’s one that truly has grown leaps and bounds over the forty plus years it has spread evil and despair upon the earth. The shredders shred harder, the songs get faster, the guitar sounds get more crisp and slick, you can actually hear bass parts, such as here on the instrumental “Bitch Corrector” (a possible instrumental ode to dog breeding if “Rockweiler and “Pitbull” are any indication). And yet, the genre continues to be looked down upon by the masses. Oh sure, USBM bands are getting a bit of press in lofty, lefty, sweater wearing NPR, but that’s only bands from Brooklyn, who are masters of guitar and art, but seem to forget how to rock. Metal music, even though it takes steady, dedicated practice and finesse to pull off is still, at the core, about rocking THE FUCK out. And yes, the inherent geekdom and fantasy aspects may make grown men look like total dorks, incapable of adult conversations, but Metal is smart, imaginative music, even in it’s darker elements.
Tenderizor have not forgotten this. They aren’t necessarily blazing new trails, but paying homage to their roots. They do all of this with excellent results and never get too full of themselves. Touch the Sword is awesome in it’s metal powers. No doubt, Albuquerque has a killer metal scene, in no small part do to this band.
(Tenderizor plays Kosmos in Albuquerque with Acid Mothers Temple (Japan) on Monday, May 23rd. Guitarist/Bassist Raven Chacon tells me they will be performing their entire set on Casio SK1’s!)