This Swiss hard rock album came to me listed as stoner/hard rock and that's fair but maybe a little misleading. There's definitely some stoner rock attitude here, but I caught a Glenn Danzig vibe at the outset, both from the Misfits and his solo band, and can't help but read this as an attempt to filter that punk/metal hybrid sound through stoner and even garage rock to end up at a hard rock destination.
It's an exercise in constant emphasis. If Big Talk, the opener, were prose, it would start out typed in capitals, underlined and possibly in bold type, and stay there throughout, maybe changing the bold into italics in another font, coloured red. The goal is obviously to always be as utterly in your face as is human possible. I Want It calms down from that just a little, but never becomes subtle, even in instrumental sections or ones that drop entirely down to the drums. I heard the Almighty in this one, but some Motörhead too and it's all filtered through the White Stripes.
This energy is there in the music, the urgent riffing of Mathias Schibler ably backed by a powerful rhythm section in bassist Roman Baumann and drummer Florian Schwaller. If this was shorn of its vocals and presented entirely instrumentally, it would be just as emphatic. Even early in Preacher with Schibler's guitar taking a break and Baumann's bass rumbling along as a substitute lead, it's vibrant and alive and impossible to ignore.
But then there are the vocals of Tobias Gisi, which are something special. He sings clean but with such power and impact that he sometimes almost sounds harsh. What's really there is raw energy and a layer of distortion that takes this to a new level of raucous. I'd fear for his throat, except he may well have been doing this since 2006 when No Mute were founded. I can't find a band line-up anywhere on their official website, so I'm hopeful that I have the right information.
That information is thin on the ground, especially when Discogs lists their first album as just rock, their second as southern rock and this, their third, as stoner rock. The one bit of information that I think I can trust the most from their website, which hasn't been updated in quite a few years, is a suggestion that live for the stage. I'm massively impressed at how energetic this feels, given that it's clearly not just a raw live in the studio performance. This is produced and produced well, but it couldn't be any more urgent if it tried. And that simply has to go double for a live performance.
This album is also highly consistent, both in approach and quality. None of these songs let the side down but few stand out for special merit either, so it becomes a forty minute assault. We get into the vibe and enjoy it until it's over. If I was pressed to call out highlights, I might cite Control as an impressive song for its hook as much as its energy and maybe Derail too, which feels like a grunge track rocked up considerably, like Pearl Jam on steroids. The album wraps up with a real killer too, Target sounding like an experienced Australian pub rock band mainlining on Monster. After all, it could be said that Gisi is Bon Scott, Angry Anderson and Jimmy Barnes merged into one voice.
Now, why haven't I heard of No Mute before and where can I find those two previous albums?