Chron Goblin, Life for the Living: Get the Blood Flowing

Many of the moves Chron Goblin make on their second self-released full-length, Life for the Living, will be familiar to heads who bore witness to the so-called “stoner rock boom” around 15 years ago, when in the wake of Kyuss and Fu Manchu and Monster Magnet there emerged a glut of riff-toting boozers most of whom have now either grown into something different or disbanded entirely. That is, there’s an unabashed sense of genre from the Calgary, Alberta, foursome — Josh Sandulak on vocals, Devin Purdy on guitar, Richard Hepp on bass and Brett Whittingham on drums — and songs like “Lonely Prey” and “Blood Flow” play directly to the ideals of thick, traditional grooves offered with a bolt of heavy rocking vitality, while variations on the theme arise on the twang-meets-noise harmonica-infused crunch and rush of “Big Baby” and the more metalized turns of “Anesthetize” (though there were any number of bands called hardcore in the ’90s riffing in essentially the same style). Purdy‘s guitar sets the tone almost exclusively, but each member leaves a stamp on the material, and where 2011’s charmingly-titled debut long-player, One Million from the Top, seemed largely unipolar in terms of the vocals, Sandulak has clearly put in work to bring more diversity to his approach this time around. One might say the same of the songwriting in general, and the material across the album’s 10-track/43-minute span are stronger for it — an almost entirely straightforward aesthetic leaving little room to squirm in terms of atmospherics or veering from their beer-drenched course. I admit I don’t know much about the heavy rock scene in Alberta — most of what one encounters from Western Canada comes from the other side of the mountains, in British Columbia — but it’s clear in listening to Life for the Living that Chron Goblin have done their homework as regards influences.

Perhaps the album’s greatest asset is the band’s obvious enthusiasm for what they’re doing. Cuts like “Control” and the earlier “Lonely Prey” are catchy and well composed, but not really bringing anything to the table stylistically that Roadsaw wasn’t already doing before the aforementioned “boom,” but it’s the upbeat push of “Blood Flow” that ultimately wins favor — well, that and the massive, irresistible groove Chron Goblin kick into at around the two-minute mark of that song — and across the board, the four-piece subvert sonic redundancy through fresh presentation. I’m not sure these songs would work if they were played slower, but even the title-track, which takes its time in developing and gives a blend of metal and heavy rock that’s surprising even after it immediately follows “Anesthetize,” is crisp and refuses to be stale. Effective choruses are scattered throughout, but Life for the Living has its standouts in the moments of stylistic flourish that seem to reach out from the central base of the band’s sound, popping up in one track, gone in the next, so that the earlier, sans-frills thrust of opening trio “Deserter” (their most singularly Kyuss-indebted moment here), “Dry Summer” and “Lonely Prey” sets an expectation for genre adherence that subsequently gets toyed with as “Big Baby”‘s bluesy shuffle takes hold. Later variety is added through the already noted shifts of “Anesthetize,” “Life for the Living” and “Control,” and the album rounds out with the slowed-down groove of “Any Day” — also the longest cut at 6:09 where the only other to reach past five minutes is side A finale “Give No More” — but essentially, Chron Goblin know what they want to do and how they want to do it. Their grasp on the tropes of their genre is firm and while they never go so far as to delve into familiar stonerly lyrical themes of space, weed, etc., and Purdy‘s guitar has more brash distortion than laid-back fuzz, it’s not a hard album for experienced listeners to approach. Life for the Living? Rock for rockers.

And while that might seem like a trivialization or at very least like I’m oversimplifying, I think there’s something to be said for the more than apt execution of genre that Chron Goblin have on offer. They’re not likely to be accused of reinventing the riff-led wheel, but whether it’s the maybe Devin Townsend reference in “Control” (“Oh but this feeling”), the quiet intro to “Give No More” — soon enough to explode into one of Life for the Living‘s most fervent thrusts — or the machine-gun thrash at the head of “Blood Flow,” the band showcase a definite sense of personality in the collection, as well as a penchant for structuring the album so as the maximize the flow from song to song. If that comes with the well-trod stops and starts of “Dry Summer” and the Orange Goblin-style drunkery of “Lonely Prey,” I’m not inclined to see that as a downside so much as an asset overall to a developing approach, since in kind with their high-energy delivery there’s a dedication to craft that results in the hooks around which the majority of these songs seem to whirl. They have a lot working in favor of their sound — they may have been DIY in the recording and release, but the production is professional-grade for sure — and seem to be coming from a place of genuine respect for stoner and heavy rock, so for fans of the style, Chron Goblin have immediate appeal in part because of their stylistic loyalty. I don’t know where their methods might take them their next time out, but the bones on Life for the Living are strong, and if the album is familiar, it’s familiar like a boot to the ass from an old friend.

Chron Goblin, Life for the Living (2013)

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Chron Goblin’s website

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One Response to “Chron Goblin, Life for the Living: Get the Blood Flowing”

  1. […] The album, which I don’t have yet because I suck, but which I have heard in entirety, is awesome. But hey, what do I know? I could be way wrong, right? Well, do a little digging on the intertubes for yourself and find the many reviews of it from way more legitimate sources than me, such as: Decibel Magazine Planet Fuzz The Obelisk […]

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