Formed at the behest of drummer Ryan Wolfe (formerly of Facedowninshit) upon his moving to Richmond, Virginia, the double-guitar riff specialists The Might Could – who seem to have added their “The” since last I looked – make their full-length debut with a self-titled album on Small Stone that seems to work solely on one ethic: No bullshit allowed. Driven by the guitar work of TJ Childers (Inter Arma) and Erik Larson (Parasytic, Hail!Hornet, ex-Alabama Thunderpussy, etc.), Wolfe’s drumming and the low end of bassist Rob Gouldman (Lord), The Might Could deliver 10 tracks of no-frills Southern metal, making no bones about their influences, their ethic, their love of solos or any of it. Both Childers and Larson handle vocals — the latter in the lead spot for most of the songs — and I’d have to blow into a tube to be sure, but I think I may have gotten drunk just listening to it.
The Might Could, as a debut, is somewhat rudimentary, but like Larson’s earliest work in Alabama Thunderpussy on albums like Rise Again and River City Revival, there’s a raw charm to the material here. The album opens strong and heavy with the six-minute “Stone Colossus” and keeps that vibe going to varying degrees across the next three tracks. I wouldn’t call The Might Could stoner metal, but some of that groove is undeniably there on “Stone Colossus.” “Wretched Wraith” is shorter, meaner and more punk, but still follows the riff, Wolfe’s snare about as far forward in the mix as it can get without poking an eye out. As one of the longest cuts, “The Night They Shoot Ol’ Dixie Down” at 7:13 brings back the mid-paced dueling guitar of the opener (killer solos abound), Larson and Childers meshing well together sonically and offering just enough range in tone to be distinguishable one to the next. I had to turn the bass up to hear more of Gouldman, but once I did, the balance seemed just right and I suspect it was more my stereo than the mix.
As the chorus of “I Don’t Even Like Pantera Anymore” is also the title line, the song was bound to be a highlight, even if The Might Could hadn’t filled it with whiskey chug and screams that I’m pretty sure are just there to make fun of Phil Anselmo. All in good spirit, I assume. Things slow and mellow with the ballad “When the Spirits Take Control,” which thankfully offers some payoff to its build in the by-now familiar form of a guitar solo and resurgence of distortion. It’s not one of The Might Could’s finer moments, but it needs to be there, and without it, the record would probably come off as one-dimensional or too single-minded. Plus, it sets a precedent, should the band decide to try more of this kind of thing on subsequent albums, and leads well into “Mad Dog Blues,” another burner of barns with one of the catchiest choruses The Might Could has to offer and a little more of the punk/hardcore edge that reared its head on “Wretched Wraith.” I’m not saying it’s Social Distortion gone metal, but if The Might Could wanted to start covering “Ring of Fire” too, that’d probably be alright.
About a minute and a half of slide electric and acoustic guitar gets “Let ‘em up Easy” under way, which then shuffles heavy-footed through a couple verses and choruses before, where other tracks on The Might Could might just move right into a heavy solo, the music cuts out the forward momentum and offers a moment of respite before coming back in. It’s a small change, but later in the album, an appreciated one, as it shows The Might Could have more up their songwriting sleeve than just Southern riffs and boozy vibes. “Coming Clean,” with Childers’ backing vocals during the chorus, strikes me as a song I’d love to hear live, and moves through some angular turns kept aground by Wolfe’s steady hits. Though it works in terms of what’s being played, the snare is high in the mix almost uniformly across the board on The Might Could, and I find myself being thankful that Wolfe’s playing is straightforward so I don’t have to hear ghost-note antics louder than everything else. The sound cuts through well enough that it could have been put lower and would have still been easily audible and the driving force it’s meant to be.
The Might Could ends with two of its best tracks in the form of “The Widower” – slower, moodier, darker – and the memorably desperate “The Fall.” They make a good pair and work well off each other, but each has something individually remarkable as well. “The Widower” shows a doomier side and puts Larson’s vocals further back into the music with less separation and a fuller sound resulting from ringing out guitar notes while Gouldman’s bass does right by laying the foundation of a woeful, bluesy groove. Before the hidden ending of “The Fall” caps off The Might Could with some recorded studio antics, the song blends a metallic edge with the already established southbound vibe and a more complex structure. Like “When the Spirits Take Control,” the song has a build, but it works in verses and choruses at the same time, so it’s not just linear, and when Wolfe’s kick bass underscores Larson’s delivery of the line “These miles and miles,” it’s easy to feel like you were traveling them too.
Then they thrash. Well, it had to happen at some point right? “The Fall,” aside from being probably the most complicated track on The Might Could is probably also the most satisfying. Childers and Larson both turn in remarkable performances, and if The Might Could is going to be what comes out of the aftermath of Facedowninshit and Alabama Thunderpussy, I’m more than happy to take it. That’s not to say they’re replacing anybody, and compared to those acts (only the latter is a fair likeness, sound-wise), they unquestionably have their own dynamic and presentation. I don’t know what the band is planning in terms of touring, promoting, future recording, etc., but with this self-titled, The Might Could kick off what’s hopefully to be a long residency of having their boot up Southern metal’s ass.Richmond, Small Stone, The Might Could, Virginia