There isn’t much about Sons of Tonatiuh you can’t see coming from miles away, but then again, I doubt “subtle” was what they were going for in the first place. The Atlanta, Georgia, group’s self-titled debut — originally pressed to vinyl by the band and now available on worthy upstart Hydro-Phonic Records – finds the double-guitar/double-vocal four-piece offering a solid 35 minutes of screamy sludge. It’s uncompromising in its visceral feel, and the eight tracks seem geared more toward abrasive musical ideologies than traditionally structured songwriting, helped by production between rough and natural-sounding.
It’s not a formula that’s never been encountered before, but Sons of Tonatiuh do much of the work of distinguishing themselves in the vocals. Guitarists Dan Caycedo (ex-Leechmilk) and Darby Wilson both contribute blood-curdling screams throughout Sons of Tonatiuh, playing especially well off each other on Side B cut “Oracle.” That’s not to take away from the effectiveness of their riffs, the bass playing of Mike Tunno or Tim Genius’ drumming, but frankly, that’s all stuff we’ve heard, whereas Wilson and Caycedo show the difference between quality screaming as a vocal technique and the “some dude yelling” technique employed by many bands. From the quick-moving start of the record on “To the Throne” to the later doomed plod of “From Ashes,” the two six-stringers take a large role in defining the sound of the band, and the album is all the heavier for it.
I’ve said it a thousand times, but it bears repeating: If you play slow and scream, someone’s gonna compare you to Eyehategod, and on those terms, Sons of Tonatiuh are in line with a lot of modern earthly sludge, not given to the swaths of atmospherics or clicking the echo pedals and spacing out for minutes at a time. Through some of the tempo changes on a track like “Consumed” (which nonetheless does right to feature Tunno’s bass), it’s clear Sons of Tonatiuh have some growing to do, but legitimately, they are a new band, having released their first demo in 2008, so if their self-titled sounds like they’re doing the work of discovering their sound, they are. Despite any awkwardness in their transitions or samey feel across tracks, the four-piece give a solid showing of themselves, and on a song like the more angular “Chain up the Masses,” demonstrate that their strengths lie in bridging the divide between traditional sludge and jagged noise; a short, sub-shred solo after the three-minute mark is a welcome inclusion.
They’ve got work to do, but with a winter tour already under their belts, one imagines that Sons of Tonatiuh will only get nastier as time goes on, and if their self-titled debut proves anything, it’s that the potential is there. What they do from here is up to them, of course, but the Sons of Tonatiuh album is a noteworthy statement of intent, whatever else happens. Further attention to flow within the songs would probably help bring a more memorable edge to their songwriting, but the inimitable immediacy of a new band is palpable all throughout this album, and Sons of Tonatiuh make the most of it with their raw, gritty and mean sound. Sludge heads will want to take note.
Tags: Atlanta, Georgia, Hydro-Phonic Records, Sons of Tonatiuh