Review & Track Premiere: Fuzz Evil, High on You

fuzz evil high on you

[Click play above to stream ‘High on You’ from Fuzz Evil’s new album of the same name. It’s out Sept. 14 and Fuzz Evil begin a West Coast tour that night. Click here for the poster with dates.]

Not every underground band can make a professional, commercial-style production work, but Fuzz Evil do. The Sierra Vista, Arizona, three-piece recorded their second album, High on You, with Paul Fig (Alice in Chains, Deftones, Fireball Ministry, and many others) at Studio 606, which is owned by Dave Grohl of Foo Fighters, and the material accordingly sounds not only ironed out in its sound, crisp and clear, but still weighted in tone and groove, but like someone was actively pushing the band to outdo themselves on each take. To wit, the self-aware start-stops and melodic turns of “The Strut” late in the record are air-tight, as drummer Orgo Martinez swaps toms out for crash-cymbal timekeeping in the verses and chorus, which is among several standout hooks on the ultra-manageable seven-song/34-minute release.

That runtime further speaks to an element of professionalism on the part of the band — Martinez as well as brothers Wayne Rudell (guitar/vocals) and Joey Rudell (bass/vocals) — who’ve made the decision to leave their audience wanting more rather than overwhelm with a glut of material, though recording time may have also had something to do with it as they had two days at Studio 606 to bust through all the songs and nail at least the basic tracks before doing overdubs back with Fig, but if that crunch shows itself at all in the songs, it’s in a sense of urgency in the material, whether it’s the speedy second cut “You Can Take Her Away,” which seems to reference Clutch‘s “Spleen Merchant” at the outset before unfolding another memorable hook, this one multi-tiered with Joey backing Wayne‘s lead vocals and an effective guitar solo in the second half of a purposeful three-and-a-half-minute run.

But that’s only after “Get it Together” hints at harmonies between the Rudells in an initial audience-engagement of funk-tinged swing drums, and a building verse that shifts easily into the soaring chorus. The impression that Fuzz Evil are stepping up their game even from what it was on their 2016 self-titled debut (review here) is immediate and resonant, and with fuzz-drenched riffs and leads, a thick and steady groove and an energetic delivery, the three-piece use “Get it Together” to set the tone for everything that follows. Tempos are fluid but by and large not too slow or fast — they kick into a couple speedy parts now and then, mostly to make a point, but maintain fervent control over the rush — and the overarching feel remains welcoming as “You Can Take Her Away” transitions smoothly into the slowdown of “Ribbons and Kills.”

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Spacious with a somewhat darker feel, “Ribbons and Kills” flows with the bass at its foundation and the creeping vocal line overtop. In some ways it’s a direct contrast to “You Can Take Her Away” before it, but that’s the point, and the two do sit well next to each other ahead of the centerpiece “If You Know,” which sets forth its riff at the start and picks up patiently from there. Finding a middle pace between Fuzz Evil‘s faster and slower speeds, its nod is a central factor in its success, and it helps keep the momentum going that the band has thus far built, giving High on You all the more of a full-album feel that, as they move deeper into the second half of the record, nothing diminishes. Further, it emphasizes the point of Fuzz Evil‘s songwriting, which is what serves as the heart of High on You. That’s not to diminish any aspect of their performance or the energy with which they play, but that energy is clearly directed in service to the songs themselves, which given the quality of their output here is probably how it should be anyhow.

“If You Know” caps with more soloing and a return to the chorus for good measure and gives way to “The Strut,” which may or may not be about the same fancy-walking individual as the KISS song — it’s easy to see the Fuzz Evil as potential fans, with their shared penchant for hooks and classic-style structures — and is one of the shorter pieces at just 3:33. It’s noteworthy for that since they pair it with the 6:31 title-track immediately following, which is the longest piece and uses its time wisely in a slower doomly crawl and open vocal with Wayne‘s voice over open space between drum thuds and far-back low end. The chorus of “High on You” is worth naming the record after, and while one might think they’d make up the difference in runtime with a jam or something like that, they don’t really. There’s a noisy solo in the second half, but by and large, “High on You” is longer because it’s that much slower than what surrounds.

It gives the album a somewhat moodier feel, and thereby all the more breadth of expression, and turns to the closer “Are You in or Out” with an introduction from the drums before the swaying guitar line enters and gives the listener the center around which the finale will work. Sure enough, “Are You in or Out” brings one last vital surge from the band, with the title line repeated in such a way as to seem to ask the audience if it’s gotten on board with what Fuzz Evil put together in the tracks prior. They have, of course, made a solid argument for themselves, and while listeners will ultimately have to decide on their own whether they are in or out, there’s no denying Fuzz Evil lay it on the line in asking. Just as likely, though, the question is directed inward. It is no minor commitment in time, finance or effort to put together an album like High on You, so it could well be that “Are You in or Out” is the band talking itself into pushing forward with what they thought would lead them to make the best album possible. Whether that’s the case or not, their choice was correct. They’re in.

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