Ripple Music believes we are in the midst of a heavy rock renaissance. We may well be. The West Coast imprint has both made its argument and fostered the movement over the last several years through a slew of signings of bands from around the US and beyond its borders, and they now stand among the genre’s most fortified purveyors, with a reach that finds them partnering with STB Records on vinyl/CD pressings and picking up Small Stone veteran acts like Gozu and Wo Fat, truly moving into a leadership position in their community, scene, whatever you want to call it. Their aesthetic, to-date, is light on frills and big on riffs, and like any impressive beginning (and I use the term loosely, Ripple have been at it for over five years now) of a creative motion, one expects it will only continue to grow outward for as long as it does.
A special project the label began in 2015 is a series of splits: The Second Coming of Heavy. I already quibbled with the numbering of the title, whether or not this is the second generation playing heavy rock (it’s at least the third), in my review of The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter One (review here), which featured off-album tracks from Geezer and Borracho, and it remains beside the point of the work Ripple is doing to promote the growth of the current, largely undeniable, boom of heavy rock. The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two boasts new songs from Pittsburgh’s Supervoid and Minneapolis’ Red Desert, continuing thematic artwork from Joseph Rudell and Carrie Olaje, and vinyl pressings limited in number and distinguished in color, as the times would demand.
Like its predecessor, the prevailing vibe throughout The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two fits neatly onto two 12″ vinyl sides, one per band, with each act offering basically a short EP’s sampling of their stylistic wares and what they bring to the underlying core in the title — the ‘Heavy’ part of the title, that is — that distinguishes them from their peers. In the case of Supervoid — who make their debut as a four-piece here having previously recorded with five members for their 2013 first LP, Filaments (review here), and the subsequent 2014 digital single “Against Sunrise” (posted here) — they present the songs “Olympus,” “Wayfarer” and “The Gallows,” which continue their ahead-thrust blend of modern metal and heavy rock and roll, vocalist Brian creatively arranging an assortment of layered growls and screams behind his belted-out cleaner vocals, which seem to steer the riffs behind from guitarist Joe as much as they’re pushed forward by them.
With John on bass and Greg on drums, their material is consistent but progressed from where they were on their debut (due for a follow-up it may or may not get; more on that in a bit) and the momentum they build in “Olympus” feeds smoothly into the more extended “Wayfarer,” the minor-key Eastern-flair guitar line making it all the more a centerpiece before the crunchier “The Gallows” picks up with open verses, a semi-spaced weaving of guitar effects, and the inescapable drive that has become Supervoid‘s hallmark. Reportedly, since the release of The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two, Supervoid have taken “a break,” and how permanent that may or may not be remains to be seen. Either way, the manner in which they bring together metal and heavy rock remains brazen in its show of influence and ground that few acts are so bold as to tread, which is admirable even before one gets to considering their songwriting or performances, likewise worthy of respect.
Supervoid‘s side B companions, Red Desert, offer post-Sleep/The Sword heavy rock chug on “Frost Giant,” the first of their four inclusions, calling out the title character and Valhalla in a resonant hook. Hitting their marks. Their material stands out particularly next to Supervoid for the laid back sensibility in its roll and in the vocals of guitarist Shawn Stende, joined by lead guitarist Jeff Kluegel, bassist Paul Teeter and drummer Dave Dancho, and though “Hypnotized” is faster, it maintains the swing of their opener, as do “Revolver” and “Nightstalker” (presumably not named after the Greek band, but one never knows), while also offering subtle, effective shifts in mood and shifts in approach that speak to the experience gained from their 2012 debut album, Damned by Fate, and call to mind what Lords of the North were once able to bring to stoner riffing in personality and thickness of groove. The harmonies in the chorus of “Nightstalker” and touches of C.O.C. gallop there expand the palette further but ultimately keep consistent with what’s come before, rounding out a fluid B-side with a late surge of energy that suits Red Desert well.
They’re four years out from their first album, and while they’ve threatened a vinyl release thereof, I’ve yet to see word of a follow-up. Doesn’t mean one’s in the works, doesn’t mean one’s not, but in true EP fashion, they give a broad slice of their sound for those who maybe haven’t encountered them before to dig into, which of course speaks to the mission of The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Two overall. My understanding is that all 10 installments of the series are booked and there’s another series in the works for after, so it seems fair to expect over the next several years that these LPs will continue to be a major part of Ripple‘s contribution to heavy rock. Fair enough. Two editions deep, they’ve already highlighted a range of styles and a swath of acts from around different regions of the US brought together by their varied takes on what it means to be heavy. There’s a lot of ground to cover, and the project remains ambitious, but taking it one LP at a time, there seems to be nothing keeping the label from continuing this exploration and enlightening listeners as they go. Looking forward to the next one.