Leeches of Lore, Attack the Future: The Element of Surprise

The second album from sun-baked New Mexican weirdos Leeches of Lore – named for what it sounds like in being called Attack the Future – first came into my hands last year on a limited-to-100 cassette via Sick!Sick!Sick! Distribution. There are apparently some of those left for anyone who’d have them, but the Albuquerque duo-turned-trio, who released their self-titled full-length on MeteorCity in 2009, have done a pressing of Attack the Future on CD, and since I felt so bad for never reviewing the tape – it was basically an issue of not having access to a tape player near my desktop and/or not being in my car for more than an hour when not driving it – I bought the disc and figured I’d write it up instead.

It’s a different listening experience, of course. On tape, Attack the Future’s primitive production and condensed crunch reminded me of rehearsal demos, that kind of raw and somehow classically metal immediacy that no other recorded form seems to be able to capture. Also on tape, since most of the songs flow into each other and parts early in the record are revisited later, it was nearly impossible to tell where one song ended and the next at times and there was a general feeling of disorientation that being able to go track by track on a CD clears up. I liked not really knowing what Leeches of Lore were doing, not being able to figure it out. That worked well with the music on Attack the Future, which genre-bends at a moment’s notice between the likes of the Melvins, Slayer, Ennio Morricone and Deep Purple. The trio of Steve Hammond (vocals/guitar; also of Tenderizor), drummer Andy Lutz and keyboardist/vocalist Noah Wolters have a bizarre and unique fluidity to their approach in that these otherwise obnoxious or abrasive turns work for them. On Attack the Future, Hammond, Wolters and Lutz tap into the same kind of charming musical strangeness that made Ween’s early-to-mid-‘90s albums so essential. And they do it heavy.

Whatever format you might choose to experience Attack the Future, be it cassette, CD or digital, understand that it’s not an album to be taken piece by piece. As though Leeches of Lore were cluing listeners to listen to the whole record in one sitting, the first three tracks all start similarly, setting themes. Opener “The Zarn,” “The Worms” and “The Spider” set the tone for Attack the Future both stylistically and in terms of content. Not being privy to a lyric sheet (none included with either the cassette or CD), I don’t know if there’s a narrative at work, but at least through “Night of the Llama” – track seven of the total 10 and boasting a short but killer solo from Wolters in the Jon Lord tradition – the songs move immediately one to the next and sound like a singular work. That works greatly to Leeches of Lore’s favor, as it lends Attack the Future an element of cohesion that makes their oddness not just a fluke or the result of the band’s being out of control in terms of their sound. Leeches of Lore know precisely what they’re doing as the semi-acoustic build of “The Worms,” its memorable falsetto vocals from Hammond and all, crashes headfirst into the cacophony of “The Spider,” and that in turn gives way to the mid-paced Melvins traditionalism of “When the Sky Falls.” Because of that, listening, you’re more willing to follow and see where they’re headed.

“When the Sky Falls,” like “The Worms,” picks up for a more raucous ending, but the thrash riffing of “The Gute” (I always thought it was spelled “goot”) comes on with an intensity not yet heard on Attack the Future. “The Spider” might have been faster, but “The Gute” is thicker, less frantic and more directly in line with heavy rock. The noises and breaks add to the otherworldly feel without detracting from that, and Hammond’s vocals are as peculiar as ever. “Deathgrip” has Lutz’s best drum work and Attack the Future’s best chorus, keeping the trashy feel and adding an even more Slayerized vocal cadence to the verses. Even when Leeches of Lore touch on these identifiable elements, though, it’s worth noting that the context in which they appear is still highly individualized, and that whatever they’re doing, they’re not just copycatting proven formulas, but instead, incorporating flourishes onto the underlying current of their own sound. At no point on Attack the Future do Leeches of Lore come off more like any band than they do like Leeches of Lore. On some records, that alone seems like asking a lot.

The driving chug of “Night of the Llama” and the aforementioned solo from Wolters ends the single-piece quotient of Attack the Future in grand style, setting the tone for “The Murderous Sea” to come on, a little fuller in terms of production, different drum sounds, and even more Melvins-style riffing (thinking of their take on KISS’ “Goin’ Blind”), before a buzzsaw lead from Hammond sets the track apart in terms of approach. Quiet verses, punctuated by Lutz more-present bass drum, lead to heavy choruses and a larger ending, and are satisfying on a structural level in a way some of the earlier tracks weren’t. At this point in listening, you can pretty much expect anything from Leeches of Lore, so to have them turn around and deliver a straightforward (for them) song more or less inverts the surprise factor. They follow with “White Debbie” – bonus points for the Sealab 2021 reference; hey, I was an undergrad in 2002, too – which is something of a return to the sound of the earlier material, but set apart by a long noise/drone section in the middle of the song, after which the spooky guitar part that opened returns and the trio launches back from whence they came. If I said it was an odd kind of symmetry, would you be surprised?

Attack the Future caps off with the doomed-plod-into-Western-acoustics of “Mountain Candy Rape.” Hammond contorts his vocal approach to suit the material, and really, it’s just a final surprise from the band, who seem to have been hell bent on honing a controlled sense of schizophrenia throughout Attack the Future, which has varying bursts of brilliance and almost no redundancies, despite the sometimes familiar pieces that comprise it. No question that Leeches of Lore are in line with a kind of avant garde heaviness, but I wouldn’t call Attack the Future experimental. At least not in terms of a genre-designation. True, they toy with structure more than they rely on it, and the preservation of a unique musical identity feels like it’s definitely a priority, but to call something “experimental” seems to carry with it an implication of pretense, and Leeches of Lore keep too much of a focus on the rocking side of their sound to justify that. It might take a while to settle in on your ears – I feel like I’m still in the process of getting to know it even all these months after getting the Sick!Sick!Sick! tape – but Attack the Future is definitely worth the effort of deep listening. Good luck with it.

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2 Responses to “Leeches of Lore, Attack the Future: The Element of Surprise”

  1. RalphSnart says:

    I wasn’t Leeches Of Lore when I first heard them being lauded on Stonerrock, but then I saw them live. Wow. It was definitely one of those “now I get it” moments.

  2. Jeremy says:

    I have known and been a fan of Steve Hammond since back in the Midget Whores/Filthy Jim days and I have to say that Leeches of Lore completely blows me away. Well played sirs.

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