Review Summary: Music for shot-gunning Old Milwaukee in a biker bar while playing guitar-smashing roulette with a roadie from Kyuss.
Every once in a while an album comes along that renews our faith that rock still breathes, smoldering under the ashes of more popular yet inferior music that is not rock. Real rock, the kind that tastes like whiskey and muscles, the kind that you can just smell in the floorboards, remnants of the riffs and pumped fists of long-forgotten gigs. The kind that talks about gin and the devil and makes you want to get a snake tattoo on your face and start fighting people in the street. The kind that scoffs at any instrument missing 6 strings of glory or canvass slathered barrels of might and aims to scorch the earth while blasting through the desert in an old Camaro, knowingly riding every cliché to the top of the riff mountain. Say hello to Highly Suspect.
“F*ck the world, my love is real.” More than a lyric from the instant classic, barrel-chested riff rocker “Bloodfeather,” it forecasts the testosterone-laced atmosphere surrounding this power trio from Brooklyn. The majority of their debut “Mister Asylum” is a self-proclaimed “no-f*cks given” tribute to dirty, rollicking, groove-saturated power stoner blues rock. Imagine early Kings of Leon meets Queens of the Stone Age with the beastly riffs, mighty choruses, and muscular attitude of Clutch. Take for example lead single “Lydia,” a legitimate song of the year contender that rides funky verses to a chorus so massive an exasperated vocalist/guitarist Johnny Stevens roars “I can’t f*cking breathe” in the bridge with the convincing vigor of “Blast Tyrant” era Neil Fallon. The influences don’t stop there, seen in the fuzz drenched glory of the title track, the driving four-on-the-floor groove of “Vanity,” the “what the Black Keys would sound like if the Black Keys actually knew how to rock” atmosphere of “Bath Salts,” and the roaring, infectious chorus of “Bloodfeather.” Even the more restrained, slow burning numbers like “Mom” and “23” still resonate with a certain force. The atmosphere of “Mister Asylum” is relentless in its quest for rock royalty status, and most important, the songwriting is pummeling and highly consistent throughout.
“Dance, dance mother*cker, dance.” More than a snippet from album closer “Claudeland,” an infectious, throwback rocker that mirrors what “Johnny B. Goode” would sound like if Chuck Berry wrote a stoner rock classic, it sums up what Highly Suspect are all about. They don’t make music appropriate for dancing, they make music for shot-gunning Old Milwaukee in a backwoods biker bar while playing guitar-smashing roulette with a roadie from Kyuss. Yet they want you to dance, and after being assaulted by their onslaught of grooves, it’s impossible not to gyrate somehow. Your move, Clutch.