The gateway into Antique Firearms’ moody, shadowy world of thrumming percussion and shimmery guitars is Bradan Dotson’s raspy vocal. It’s divisive. You’ll love it or hate it; it’s unlikely you’ll be on the fence.
One the opening track to the band’s new album, Vicious Behavior, Antique Firearms (with Galen Dotson, Parker Dotson, Chandler Brewer and Dave Breske) make the most of that beautifully tattered voice with layers of guitars that edge toward stadium rock at the song’s most intense moments. But then, before the pummel and crush becomes too much, it’s back into the aching slow dance of songs like “Blessing In Disguise,” all shades of night and dreamscapes.
The first 30 seconds of “Animal” recall Antique Firearms’ “Crooked Grin.” Compared side by side, it’s not the same intro, but the two do share a genesis in Neil Young-style sweeping Americana. The song is an interesting study in using minimal lyrics for maximum effect. “What kind of animal were you, in your past life?” is the repeated question. This is not an “Is There A Ghost” (Band Of Horses) minimalism, but it does suggest that the Dotson brothers and company could move successfully in that direction even as they expand instrumentally.
“How Long” recalls Young’s “For the Turnstiles,” building in intensity and layering guitars to a maelstrom that stops just short of primal scream. But the album certainly contains that scream at its core. Many of the 11 tracks seem to be written from that place of wild emotion, of the thrill and anguish of being.
Even slower, softer tracks (the woozy, hushed “Itsy Bitsy,” the staggering waltz of “Something’s Wrong,” the shivering melodic “Laser Dots”) show Antique Firearms stretching its sound and reach beyond the band’s first efforts. Those first efforts were solid, but with Vicious, they’ve taken stock of the best parts of their sound (dynamic percussion, laminous instrumentation, Bradan’s vocal), and then embarked on the next leg of their journey.
“Enemy,” half way through the record is a marked change in pace and style. It’s not a total departure: Bradan’s voice is still a ragged tenor, but here its run through effects and coursing electronic beats. Synth sounds burble and grind, parts bubbly and industrial. The song touches on pop, but keeps its experimental edge razor sharp. “Light + Sound,” on the other hand, hits at the gut — still indie rock but with nods to electro-rock and shoe gaze. No shimmer, no star fields or comet trails here. The air is thick and though light is in the song title, it’s a track of bruising darkness, or shouts and squeals and a kind of doom that’s as certain as it is welcome.
“Inside” pushes boundaries in another direction. Here is the primal scream unleashed. This is blood-and-guts total immersion in love. Or in the roiling obsession that looks like love and acts like a narcotic-induced fever dream. Through fuzzy electronics and a steady heartbeat of drums and melodies that build and swirl, Bradan rails and laments. The song is unrepentant and unrelenting.
The title track is also the album’s final track, and here Antique Firearms lets a little light in. Not much, mind you. This is no sunny sand-and-waves number. But there is a lightness that cuts through. The beat eases up, too. And, while the song doesn’t quite float, it bobs amicably on pretty chords until it sails off the edge of its own sonic world at the three-and-a-half minute mark. The track melts into fadeout — not quite feedback, but almost. Which seems fitting.
Listen to the songs here.
Antique Firearms holds an album release show on Saturday, Nov. 10 at the Grey Eagle. Sin Kitty and Camp David also perform. 9 p.m., $5 in advance or $8 day of show.