This review originally appears at The 1st Five
Idol and the Whip
It used to be tough finding a heavy band with diversity in song structure and approach without just as easily settling for death metal, Tool or Fugazi. But these days the underground is more accepting of hard rock, or bands with hard rock influences. Suddenly it’s hip (or at least semi-hip) to listen to heavy rock, metal, hardcore, grindcore, and other headbanger material; from Bison BC to Barnburner to Mastodon.
There’s a lot of this crowd in Idol and the Whip, a four piece from Ann Arbor, Michigan who definitely have the heavy rock-near-metal sound down pat: a strength-boasting rock and roll style, flaring naturally with heavy metal harmonies and riffs. Their latest record Heavy Sleeper, available free as mp3 or for a buck in better quality at www.idolandthewhip.com, seemingly takes its title matter as a taunt. Even Hypnos couldn’t sleep through this.
Technical metal fans will be impressed by Heavy Sleeper's ability to pull out all the stops: epic arena-sized endeavours like closer “Calling Down The Dark”, original technical rock leads like that of “Grasscutter”, and utilizing the bass to its full potential with leading riffs in “Nocturne”. This is where the Tool-like aspect plays out.
What pulls Sleeper away from redundancy is that modern metal edge. No hair band shit, the cool stuff (mentioned above) that won’t get you kicked out of hipster circles. “Wasteland Battle Hymn”, “Leveled” and “Broken Crown” propagate a hooky metal sound that’s hard not to dig. Gladly, even harder to align with Guns ‘n’ Roses. Idol's got a heavy sound that isn’t overdone, grounds in riff diversity instead of candy-coated metal proven to sell but consequently unchanged.
Here and there a little Motorhead pops out in songs with fast, get-your-motor-running chugs and riffs, felt hard on album opener “Future Eyes”. There’s even a couple crusty punk jams, like record splitter “Watery Grave”, enough to wake you up amidst slower songs which occasionally dominate the record, like “Artery” and “Augur”. These faster, punkier tunes will let you sigh in relief that Sleeper isn’t all expansive stoner sludge.
With a touch of Dave Grohl tone in his throat, Chris Plumb has the ability to belt out chilling battle-cries throughout Sleeper. A black and white video of a pissed off muddy rugby team, dark rain slow-motion pouring over their angry faces, would fit naturally alongside his and these songs’ intimidation.