Review Summary: Plenty of crunch, leavened with strong melodies and songs with lyrics you could actually understand
A long, long time ago, back in the late 1960s, heavy metal was born. Basically it was rock music played on amps cranked up to 11, so that the over modulation resulted in a thick wall of distortion while a heavy handed drummer competed with the electrified instruments to be heard. It was energetic, but most of all, it was really, really loud.
Many of the pioneers of the genre are now gone, but interestingly enough, some like Black Sabbath who is on a sold out summer tour (albeit without their original drummer) to promote a new record, are still around. Throughout the years metal took many trips over some pretty unusual roads, and what a long strange trip it's been.
Metal begot glam. Glam begot thrash. Thrash begot death. Death begot black, Black begot nu. So, on and so forth until finally, maybe now, it's returned to being the same as it ever was. At least that's what I've been thinking since I've seen the sign. What sign, you ask? Well, Black Sabbath back on the road again, and Jaw Kneecap making an album like Prime, I believe is the sign, and it's telling us we're going back to the future all over again.
When I first put Prime into my CD player and the lead track began to play I swear the smell of fresh vinyl, just like I remembered when I opened a newly purchased Led Zeppelin LP, oozed out of my speakers and filled the air around me. Plenty of crunch, leavened with strong melodies and songs with lyrics you could actually understand. Jaw Kneecap's sound is almost like shark that's come out of nowhere. It's swift, sleek and sudden, but unlike a shark, these three guys are far from silent.
Johnny Kap (guitar), Chris Buck (bass/singer) and Mike Leasure (drums) are locked and loaded as they deliver the goods on the nine tracks that make up Prime. They seem to be a pretty self-contained unit when it comes to the songwriting as most are composed by Kap and Buck, with an occasional set of lyrics borrowed or inspired by a few duly credited 16th-20th century poets. Prime is a love-song-free collection (thankfully!) of cuts focused on topics such as isolation, regret, death and loss.
I'm giving this release extra credit points for packaging. Simple and well balanced the layout of the text and artwork convey the basic elements early heavy metal was all about; powerful performances, overloaded emotion and nine ton tunes you can sink your teeth into. My only disappointment was that Jaw Kneecap pretty much stuck to limiting the play time of their songs to a condensed three and a half minute format and decided to eschew any extended jams. Oh well, maybe that just gives us all something to look forward to on the next record.