Friday, September 30, 2011

The Showdown - Blood in the Gears Album Review

I remember seeing The Showdown many years ago after their first album came out. They were playing at some Christian club with some other Christian metal bands. I wasn't really into their debut, but after seeing them live I thought they were a ton of fun, so I kept up on them throughout their years, watching as they changed their sound in various directions and, eventually, on this album, put all of their soul searching together to finally gel and sound at home in what they created. I still kick this on every now and again when I want some southern swagger in the metal that I listen to. This was originally published on August 13, 2010.

It’s not too much of a stretch to say that The Showdown, through the course of 3 albums, had not yet found their identity. They started out as a pretty solid metalcore band with some death metal and heavy metal influences. On their sophomore effort, though, they completely re-invented themselves as a southern groove metal band. This newfound sound did not go over well with their established fans and didn’t engender themselves to the southern rock crowd since it felt like they were just ripping off Maylene and the Sons of Disaster. Then came Back Breaker where they tried to mix their two dissimilar sounds together with very mixed results. They still didn’t seem to feel comfortable in their own skin. After some lineup changes, they’re back with Blood in the Gears and, finally, the band has found their sound.

Maybe it’s the new members. Maybe it’s the fact that Jeremiah Scott, their new bassist, took over a chunk of the writing duties. Or maybe it’s just that the band have finally found the perfect blend of all of the sounds they’ve toyed with over the course of their first 3 albums. Blood in the Gears is a perfect synthesis of their early metalcore/death metal sound and their later career southern swagger. Whereas in the past they never seemed to pull these two genres together cohesively, there are now a number of songs that take everything they do and mix it together successfully. And when they do venture down a path of exploring one direction more than another, they transition from song to song so well that it doesn’t feel forced. The perfect example of this is when they go from the two minute rager “Bring It Down” to the bluesy metal of “Take Me Home”. They go from the one extreme of ripping out blistering thrash solos and death metal inspired metalcore to another where they’re trudging along in a whiskey-soaked blues stomp.

On past albums when the band experimented with their southern sound, it never quite felt authentic. At times they sounded like a biker bar cover band that was trying to branch out and write their own tunes instead of an accomplished metal band trying on a new sound. Here, however, the band sounds just as much at home when they’re getting their southern swagger on as they are when they’re ripping through thrashy solos and metalcore progressions.

As much as the band has matured and succeeded in making one hell of a southern-fried metalcore album, there are a couple of small missteps that should be noted. There are some tracks, notably “No Escape”, where the band let a little too much of an 80s hair metal feel creep in, which is a little out of place, but not enough to completely ruin any songs. The other thing to note is that there are a few moments where David Bunton tries to add some gravel to his singing voice, and it feels a tad forced. You will really notice it on the closer “Diggin’ My Own Grave”, but it creeps up in a few other places as well. However, these are really not very big complaints when looking at the album as a whole.

The Showdown has created a solid mix of southern metal and metalcore that demonstrates what a band can do when they’re firing on all cylinders. For anyone that wrote them off after Temptation Come My Way or Back Breaker, now is the time to come back and give them another shot. They’ve grown, they’ve listened to a ridiculous amount of Pantera, and they’re ready to show you how some good ol’ down south metal should sound.

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