Pantera was the first concert I ever attended and at said show in April of 1994 vocalist Phil Anselmo, still high on the fact that Far Beyond Driven had crushed expectations to debut at #1 on the Billboard charts, declared that if Metallica weren’t going to make solid heavy metal records anymore then Pantera were taking their crown and sitting on the throne from now on. Using a lot of cuss words.
So listening to Jason Newsted’s aptly titled Heavy Metal Music earlier this week then delving into Rex Brown’s solid debut Smoke On This… immediately after and pondering all this was a fun trip. While the Newsted record is a consistent slab of heavy metal bliss throughout, Brown strays from the path laid before him with an introspective yet still hard album that showcases his strength as a songwriter (Working alongside Nashville-based musician Lance Harvill) AND a singer.
Blues-soaked and filled with the swamp boogie that made early quartet Corrosion Of Conformity records so great (Think Deliverance, in particular), Smoke On This… comes at you like a Bayou bound freight train filled with satisfying riffs fueling masterfully crafted songs. “Lone Rider” hurtles forward with a flurry of percussive attacks and hypnotic riff drones as Brown’s smooth yet gruff delivery makes its’ triumphant debut as Smoke On This… gets underway.
“Crossing Lines” is like a lost AC/DC jam from the ’80’s (Fly on the Wall especially comes to mind) while “Fault Line” hits the brakes ever so slightly later on with an acoustic/piano-driven ditty. “What Comes Around…” is a riff-thumper that glistens as much as it glowers then “Grace” pops in and ever so slightly treads The Beatles old psychedelic experimentations at their best.
“So Into You” returns you to the rawk with a fist-held-high, bang-your-head anthem that’s a little old school Buckcherry until “One Of These Days” closes out the album with a track that’s part somber doom rawk and part Gospel-inspired uplifting hymnal complete with wailing guitars and organs ending the album as solidly as it started.