Hard to know where a split ends and a compilation begins, but in the case of Heavy Ripples Vol. 1 (Ripple Music), I’m inclined towards the former, if only because the release’s format makes you pay specific attention to each of the bands involved, rather than bludgeoning you with track after track from disparate acts. Everyone here is pretty like-minded, and there’s only four of them, so it’s not too much to handle, and the double-7” release ensures that you’re going to be really working to listen – the longest side is just about seven minutes – so Heavy Ripples isn’t something you can put on and forget about. Not that you’d want to with the likes of Stone Axe, Sun Gods in Exile, Grifter and Mighty High around anyway, but at just under 20 minutes total runtime, Heavy Ripples is an efficiently drawn beeline to the rock. Each of the bands contributes something unique to the whole, and for something you could feasibly listen to three times in an hour, Ripple’s latest split packs more memorable songs than most full-length albums. Like I say, efficient.
Stone Axe open with “Nightwolf.” The track finds the Port Orchard, Washington, revivalists in their core duo form of vocalist Dru Brinkerhoff and multi-instrumentalist/vocalist/producer T. Dallas Reed, but as usual with them, nothing in personality is lost for the lack of personnel. Brinkerhoff has enough swagger in his delivery for three bands, and I can’t think of any more appropriate way to kickoff Heavy Ripples than a non-ironic song with “night” in the title. If you know Stone Axe, you know what they’re about, and “Nightwolf” is right in line both in terms of style and quality with the bulk of their work. And excellently complemented on side B by Maine upstarts Sun Gods in Exile, whose “Over My Broken Bones” is set to appear (re-recorded) on their second Small Stone full-length later this year. Sun Gods in Exile’s Black Light White Lines was a solo-enthusiast’s wet dream, and “Over My Broken Bones” follows suit, but as was the case with that record, the guitar histrionics is backed by solid songwriting and isn’t showy just for showiness’ sake. Two strong modern classic rockers with a little over nine minutes between them, kicking out righteous jams that, even had Ripple chosen to release this as a one-disc affair, would still be worth investigating.
The second of the two 7”s starts with UK rockers Grifter, who are the only band on Heavy Ripples to have included two songs, really getting the most out of the limited space that a 7” vinyl side offers. The shorter, Clutch-esque “Small Man Syndrome” (2:32) is catchy enough, but it’s with “Hey Ron,” an awed ode to porn star Ron Jeremy, that Grifter’s knack for memorable songcraft comes out. Of all the material on Heavy Ripples, it’s the chorus of “Hey Ron” that’s most likely to be stuck in your head after either an initial or subsequent listens. Grifter’s The Simplicity of the Riff is Key EP had a couple cool tracks, but quick growth is evident here, and more even than before, I look forward to hearing what they do next. Pure, unadulterated riff rock, which seems to be the order of the day on the split, but there’s still room for chicanery, and when it comes down to it, there are few acts around who can have fun like Brooklyn four-piece Mighty High. The stoner punkers and High Times Pot 40 mainstays here present “Hempaphobic,” another installment of their weed-centric mischief that’s just riffy enough to fit in with Stone Axe, Sun Gods in Exile and Grifter and still punkishly up-tempo. As usual, their stuff is hilarious – bong and coughing samples abound – but also worth listening to musically, and vocalist Woody High’s lyrical single-mindedness is always a highlight.
And that’s pretty much what Heavy Ripples Vol. 1 is: a release full of highlights. I don’t know if the label is planning to make this a regular series – the number would seem to imply that at some point there will be a Vol. 2 – but if they are, they’re off to a great start. All four of these bands are experts in the field, and there’s nothing about Heavy Ripples that leaves me wanting, except maybe the runtime. For fans of the kind of heavy classic rock in which the label traffics, and fans in general of unpretentious riffery, it’s a must-have, and increasingly, Ripple are becoming a force to be reckoned with when it comes to purveying quality (and varied) rock and roll. A cool listen for converted heads and one that might even win over a few new recruits to the cause. No complaints on this end.
Tags: Brooklyn, Grifter, Maine, Mighty High, Ripple Music, Stone Axe, Sun Gods in Exile, UK, Washington