Anti-Mortem – New Southern (Nuclear Blast)Thursday, 15th May 2014
Creating a compelling album in the niche style of southern groove metal is startlingly similar to defeating the Undertaker at Wrestlemania: Even with all the natural talent in the world and just the right stroke of luck, the odds are still set firmly against you. And unfortunately in the case of Anti-Mortem’s debut album New Southern, these odds are stacked just a little too high, the result being a flat offering that, while it might serve as a decent soundtrack to a backyard kegger, ultimately leaves little worth revisiting.
The most ironic aspect of this release is that, despite the title (New Southern), new ideas or intriguing twists on old tropes are virtually nonexistent. The overall riffing and presentation are derivative of groups like Hellyeah and Black Label Society, but without the frantic aggression of the former or the technical chops of the latter. So while these young Oklahomans bring plenty of piss and vinegar to the songwriting, it never feels all that original or accomplished, and the tracks that do find an attention-grabbing groove or deliver notable intensity are frequently hampered by almost cringeworthy lyrics, such as the refrain of “100% Pure American Rage,” which declares, “We took all we can take…City to city, state to state, our hate is American-made.” In sum, the music comes across as tailor-made for mainstream hard rock radio: simplistic, easily digestible, and fairly unmemorable.
While the overall effort is pretty lackluster, there’s still a handful of shining moments. “Words of Wisdom” is a solid mid-tempo stomper that sets a great tone for the opening of the record. “Hate Automatic” favors a bit more traditional melody that rings of Firewind influence in places, and the title track’s verse exudes an undeniable swagger that will find even the most stalwart critic captured by the beat. These diamonds in the rough are not enough to save the record from mediocrity, however. And while Anti-Mortem is a young band with plenty of years to develop ahead, the follow-up release will be tasked less with capitalizing on a successful debut and more with making up for lost ground.