Druglord, Motherfucker Rising: Licking Their Wounds

Virginian trio Druglord left the rehearsal space to record their second demo, and listening to Motherfucker Rising, the difference is palpable. The Richmond three-piece, who made their debut in 2010 with a self-titled three-songer, are cleaner-sounding but still raw, and though these songs probably weren’t recorded live, they’re roughly produced enough to still be considered of demo quality. Stuff like this is made by the underground for the underground, and as Druglord – guitarist/vocalist Tommy, bassist Greta and drummer Bobby – riff out on hard-drug grooves and an overarching sense of defeat at their hands, they also showcase a little melodic growth. Just a little though, so don’t be worried. Tommy’s vocals are blown-out but low in the mix enough not to be painful, and it’s still the guitar and the bass tones very much at the fore, but Bobby’s drums come through clearer. Pressed to CD in a thick-stock sleeve edition of 100, Motherfucker Rising is, as the title might indicate, the sound of a group of players beginning to become a cohesive unit. It’s rudimentary – still a step up from the self-titled – but it also presents Druglord at one of the most exciting stages one can find a band: as they’re beginning to find themselves.

Familiar elements abound, and fans of Weedeater, Saint Vitus, Black Sabbath and Electric Wizard will be able to pick out and trace parts from Motherfucker Rising to their influences. Greta’s bass, for example, follows a progression similar to that of “Long Gone” by Weedeater at the end of the opening title-track, and based on its central riff alone, “Cleansed,” which follows, might seem a nastier take on traditional doom. Tommy’s vocals are compressed, throaty and sub-melodic but still cleaner than outright screams, and they do the bulk of the work distinguishing Druglord from its points of inspiration. “Cleansed” dares to add a bit of melody in the guitar and vocal line after halfway through, but again, it’s all very raw, and the distortion in the guitar and the bass seems to swallow it as the biting solo takes hold. Bobby is consistent on drums, but not flashy as he moves smoothly into and through tempo changes like the slowdown at the end of “Cleansed” or the pick-up and drop-off of “Motherfucker Rising,” which starts loud and rebuilds from a quiet section to be one of the demo’s stronger tracks. Overall, though, it’s “Lick the Wound” that proves to be the highlight of Motherfucker Rising. The only inclusion also found on the self-titled, it balance of melody, slow groove and abrasiveness is the most accomplished to be found on the CD, and shows that even in an aesthetic as unforgiving as that of Druglord, a memorable song can be crafted out of strong performances.

Curiously, “Lick the Wound” seems to have been left off the digital version of the demo, which moves CD-closer “Eternal Grave” to the third spot and ends with “Whores of the Reich,” which is not found on the disc. Perhaps in their week at Etching Tin Studios in Richmond this past June, Druglord decided they wanted to make the physical and download editions of Motherfucker Rising different from each other, but either way, I prefer “Eternal Grave” as a closer. Apart even from my general prejudice toward physical media, the song’s lumbering malevolence just smacks of being finale-worthy, whereas the faster chugging guitar line of “Whores of the Reich” begs to have something come after it, however fucked up sounding it might otherwise be (and is). At four minutes in, “Eternal Grave” shifts – albeit somewhat awkwardly – into a melodic guitar-led part that in turn gives way to the collection’s most driving riff, which rings out to its conclusion and that of the CD. Whichever way one chooses to take on Motherfucker Rising, it’s probably fair to note that Druglord are still growing as players, but what their latest outing proves is that that growth is genuine, and that there’s a core of songwriting at work beneath the musically unfriendly exterior. I don’t know how that will develop as they move forward, but their progression thus far and I see no reason the trio shouldn’t be able to continue on their stated path, presumably coming even more into their own as they go. These songs are stripped down and mean, and to some will probably just sound like a filthy mire of noise and distorted churn, but well, that’s half the point. If you get it, you’ll get it.

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