One thing about getting a phone call from Lo-Pan‘s Jesse Bartz is that the dude is almost always going to have a band recommendation, and generally speaking, it’s a tip you want to follow. Most recently, Bartz put me onto Brooklyn rockers Black Black Black, who feature in their ranks former Disengage vocalist Jason Alexander Byers and guitarist Jason Cox. Cox also handles Rhodes throughout Black Black Black”s self-titled debut full-length, which was self-released digitally through their Bandcamp page and as a download that comes with an accompanying art book — presumably of Byers‘ work, since he’s a noted visual artist who’s had gallery shows in New York, Ohio and Florida.
The band is rounded out by drummer Jeff Ottenbacher and bassist Johnathan Swafford, but for anyone who encountered Disengage, especially either as they were on 2000’s Obsession Become Phobias or 2005’s Application for an Afterlife swansong, at least some elements remain consistent in the new band. Songs are short and vary in intensity levels but remain consistently intelligent no matter the musical context, and bolstered by Andrew Schneider‘s production and guest appearances from Dave Curran (Unsane) and others, tracks like the catchy earlier cut “Pentagram On” or the later, punkier “Soar Like a Spider” (which boasts one of the record’s best choruses) have substance to back their crisp presentation.
“Pentagram On” opens with a kind of punker shuffle, and the ensuing “Wisdom, Knowledge and Fucked” reminds in its melodicism of some of what made Red Fang‘s Murder the Mountains so potent hook-wise, but the post-doom crashing of “Light Light Light” is coupled with a subdued verse melody and very quickly it becomes apparent that Black Black Black are not looking to be limited sound-wise. “Mishandled” takes the Andrew Scheider drum sound and pairs it with a bassline from Swafford that brings to mind the evocative tidalisms of Akimbo‘s Jersey Shores, and the album wraps with the strong closing trio of “Lexipro Devil,” “Drum 0)))))))” — which, yes, is a drum solo, but an awesomely named one — and “Son of Bad,” which adds Moog and organ to an already potent melody in the guitar and vocals.
As hard as that kind of thing always is to pin down, there are some grunge-type melodies in “Son of Bad,” which “Lexipro Devil” also works to set up with minor key progressions in its intro from Cox and restrained vocals from Byers throughout, which even with the malevolent churn in the bridge is a far cry from the 1:23 punch of “Redeath,” but even that is followed by the bass-heavy “Fever is Law,” the verse of which seems to nod at Arc of Ascent. Clearly it’s a pretty wide breadth they’re working with, and as the record was released in March, I thought I’d pass on Bartz‘s tip in case anyone else wanted to check it out. Here’s Black Black Black, courtesy of the Bandcamp stream: