Right to the Point of Arrowhead

I like newbie bands. I like bands who come out of nowhere, release their own stuff and play music because they love to do it. That’s how the genre grows. I don’t get nearly as psyched about some band putting out their eighth record in 12 years, who haven’t done anything to change their sound for half their career and are just pumping out formulaic songs, as I do about getting a hold of a new demo from a group I’ve never heard before, whose approach is still growing, who maybe haven’t even figured out how they want to sound yet. That’s exciting, because you don’t know what’s going to happen. A song could go anywhere, and even if it doesn’t most of the time, giving it a shot is usually worth the gamble.

In the case of Sydney, Australia’s Arrowhead, who are a novelty right off the bat because of their locale, a self-titled, self-released demo EP is their first excursion into recording. The band formed in 2008, and the four tracks on the CD are over in just under 16 minutes (and all streaming on the Arrowhead MySpace), with few extra frills or niceties. To cap their sound in a word, I’d probably choose “Dozer,” but it’s clear from listening to “Mayflower,” “Edge of the Earth,” “Sorceress” and “Liquid in Motion” that the trio are still finding their way. The closer takes Kyuss’ “One Inch Man” guitar rhythm to a spacier, semi-psych space, while “Mayflower” and “Sorceress” provide straight-ahead riff and roll for those who can’t get enough of it. On “Edge of the Earth,” they get a little heavier (a little more new Dozer than old Dozer, if you catch my meaning), and that track proves to be the highlight of Arrowhead, even if the vocals are a bit high in the mix and cut through probably more than they should.

Those vocals come courtesy of guitarist Brett Pearl, who does justice to Fredrik Nordin’s higher register while at the same time working in a middle range similar to John Garcia’s speaking voice. Joined in the band by bassist Dave Lopez and drummer Matt Cramp, Pearl’s riffing leads the way through the quick jaunt, and it’s all over before things can get too old or trite-sounding. I doubt anyone would accuse Arrowhead of breaking new ground for stoner rock, but neither are they so redundant as to be offensive. There’s a decent amount of metal in Pearl’s Orange-hued tone, and Lopez and Cramp prove capable of keeping up with him. “Mayflower” will feel immediately familiar to those more experienced with the genre, and it’s the kind of track whose changes can be called out even on the first listen — four of this, change, four of that, change — but such a show of straightforward songwriting acumen I’m not about to hold against them.

The bottom line is that Arrowhead are worth checking out if you haven’t yet, and whether or not you choose to purchase the EP (for sale through the band) will depend entirely on the level of originality you require from the release. If you’re thinking this is going to be Blues for the Red Sun, adjust your expectations, but for those with a more realistic attitude and the desire to hear a new band starting out gain a catchy foothold on an already well-established sound, Arrowhead comes out just right.

Arrowhead on MySpace

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