Tuesday 27 December 2022

2 in the Chest - Heroes Blood (2022)

Country: USA
Style: Hard Rock
Rating: 6/10
Release Date: 7 Dec 2022
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Official Website | YouTube

I very deliberately cover new rock and metal from across the globe, seeking out talent in the most unexpected places, but here's a band from just up the road from me, in Glendale, Arizona, where a number of family members have lived over the years. They're underground local legends, because you won't ever mistake them for anyone else. Part of that is because of their sound, which is a mix of southern rock, hard rock, heavy metal and what Lemmy would simply call rock 'n' roll, told in an overtly theatrical way with songs that tell stories about legendary outlaws. However, a lot of it has to do with their look as well, which we could dismiss as mere gimmickry if the music didn't back up why we should pay attention.

This is a long third album for them at over an hour, but there are an admirable variety of styles on offer, all of which fit within a certain outlaw framework. The early highlight is Davy Crockett, even though it includes an overlong intro that steals a full minute and a half from the song. These folks do like playing up the theatricality during intros and they tend to sound great first time out, only to get old fast, because they're not easily skipped over.

Davy Crockett fits this bill, notably better than the two boring minutes of war ambience that open Clarence the Hammer McGregor and the album as a whole. Later intros for Old Mexico, Twin Iron Dupree and Apple Picken Killer do a little better, not annoying as quickly and surviving through an engaging character. A Little Off the Top could have done with, well, a little off the top, closing out the album with another couple of minutes of drama that suggest that 2 in the Chest really should go whole hog and record a musical concept album framed as an audio drama. As it stands, the only piece that truly integrates its intro with the song that follows is Evil Horde.

Fortunately, Davy Crockett survives its intro and rocks hard once it gets going, with a glorious riff and an urgent beat. This is emphatic hard rock in the style of Wolfsbane—and they really ought to cover Kathy Wilson—something echoed later on Misfitville and A Little Off the Top. I love 2 in the Chest in this mode, because they feel like the perfect band to blow roofs off small bars when they enter this mode, even before we factor in the image that can't be ignored. I've seen them live, so can back up how good they sound on stage, in an unlikely venue to boot.

Picture this. I saw them headline the Jerome Indie Film & Music Festival back in the days before its owners dived into scary rabbit holes and turned a worthy local event into a toxic political football. If memory serves, 2 in the Chest followed the RPM Orchestra who accompanied a silent movie with avant-garde electronica, always a good time, and then the award ceremony. I'd just discovered my old colleague Tim Wildenhain selling chocolate at the back, which underlined the artistic fusion of the event. Imagine that and then add in a bunch of hard rocking Wild West zombies to the mix, as that's precisely what 2 in the Chest look like. They dress up like what fellow locals Creepsville 666 might call "undead rebels of the night", albeit a century earlier than the imagery they intended, with heavy dusters and quality masks.

But enough of the image. I'm listening to an album and should focus on the music. While I certainly prefer their upbeat songs, they play slow and heavy well too. Total Annhilation adds in Mot├Ârhead to the sound, not that they were ever far away from it, especially with singer Reverend Blackmore Jackson McBride's voice able to turn up the Lemmy-style grit whenever he wants. I Know My Way Home has a southern rock feel to it, albeit without chicken picking guitarwork, but it's a slow and heavy southern rock. Evil Horde adds folk music to the mix and Seven Angels opens with harmonica and echoey power chords. That's clearly a song I should blast next time I'm MC'ing the steampunk fashion show at Old Tucson Studios, not that the prospects of that look good with their change of ownership. Local events aren't what they used to be.

I like 2 in the Chest a lot, but I have to say that the intros get a bit much on an album this long, the running time expanded by maybe fifteen minutes to cater to them. That suggests that you should see them live as the primary way to experience them and buy the albums as appropriate support. Some of the songs are filler too, which wasn't needed on an hour plus album. Tightening things up would have helped massively, so we could move from bouncy songs like the title track through the standouts like Davy Crockett to the more imaginative pieces like Evil Horde a little smoother. On repeat listens, that one joins the standouts, moving as it does from a crying young girl through a plaintive folk song, Jameson Jack Coburn's guitar lurking in the background ready to strike at the most polite moment.

But no, the theatricality remains intact and the filler is there on repeat listens, so I think this has to land a 6/10. But see them live, dammit. You won't regret it. And say hi to them afterwards. They may look scary in costume but they're good people.

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