Review Summary: A compelling fusion of fuzz-drenched stoner rock and oppressively heavy doom metal.
It's easy to understand why Backwoods Payback have recently joined Small Stone Records impressive roster. Most of all, West Chester, PA-based act is a hard-rocking beast on stage. Their performances have always been visceral mostly, but not exclusively due to charismatic singing of Mike Cummings. In such cases one question arises all the time: Is the band's stage intensity going to work equally well on the record? Their 2007's self-titled debut was certainly filled with fine songwriting, yet the production proved to be rather lacking with subsequent listens. Now, when they're on the Small Stone label, which is responsible for the success of such coveted acts as Dozer, Halfway To Gone or Lo-Pan, this problem just ceased to exist.
A quick glimpse at the sun-drenched cover of mysteriously titled “Momantha” leaves no question as to what kind of music one can expect. This is a fuzzed-out stoner rock record with strong leanings towards oppressively heavy doom metal. The heavy, low-end sound revolves around Jessica Baker's pounding bass lines and V.S. Curtiss' massive drumming that are complemented by the appropriately fuzz-drenched guitar interplay between Rylan Caspar and Cummings whose throaty howls seem entirely in line with this sort of music. Owing to the immensely thick production, the album's atmosphere can be associated with an image of dense mist rising over swamps.
The album hardly reinvents the wheel when it comes to stoner/doom, yet it certainly has something refreshing going for it in terms of song craft. This might not be evident from the outset as “You Know How This Works” opens the disc with a rather straightforward slice of stoner boogie influenced by the likes of Clutch and Orange Goblin. "Momantha" gets substantially more challenging later on. In “Flight Pony” an infectiously melodic, riff-driven tune gives way to a psychedelic breakdown that builds to an ecstatic finale. “Knock Wood” is wonderfully reflective both in its post-grunge vibe and emotive lyrics. Heavy blues-inspired “Mr. Snowflake” unexpectedly ends on a somber note with the terrific closing riff.
The second half of the record holds just as many surprises. “Poncho” relies on a playful, swampy riff that makes for the catchiest song on the disc, while “Velcro” considerably slows the pace down finding solace in its chilling drone riffing. On the other hand, abrasive “Timegrinder” marks the most unexpected stylistic departure with its hardcore undertones being backed up by superb harsh vocals. Not all the cuts on “Momantha” are equally hard-hitting though. “Ballad Of A Broken Horse” is a rather disjointed closer whose great individual segments don't really amount to a cohesive song, whereas “Parting Words,” despite compelling lyrics, doesn't quite live up to its potential.
“Momantha” may not be instant or particularly cohesive, which decidedly enhances its appeal. The record certainly requires several spins to wholly sink in. However, when it does so, it proves to be an infectious album that only occasionally goes through the motions. Instead, thanks to their daring approach to heavy rock, Backwoods Payback manage to find their own niche delivering numerous amazing songs in the process.