On cards and flyers promoting the debut album by Owl, the band wishes to accommodate potential listeners in any way they can by offering versions of Too Loud to Die on vinyl, CD, cassette and digital mp3s. Modestly printed at the bottom of the card is a familiar marketing ploy where Owl claim to be a band that plays “Loud, Fast and Mean Rock N’ Roll.” What could be interpreted as just another ad slogan is really a proclamation of amplified punk pride. After all, they named their album Too Loud to Die, and they give listeners exactly what they paid for.From June to December 2012, Owl faithfully updated their fans and followers on Facebook on the progress of the making of their album, all the while posting statuses that portrayed the band as being a gang of five punk metal musicians who make it their lives’ goal to party, grind out fast and heavy punk riffs and employ a sense of camaraderie that helps maintain their crowd appeal. Even if you haven’t pored through all of the progress reports and live videos to get an idea of what Owl are like, their fearless declaration of being consistently loud, heavy and fast should be enough to arouse your curiosity.
Owl’s various punk and metal influences are apparent, as vocalist Matt Swisher screams like a serrated hybrid of possible idols like GG Allin and Phil Anselmo. The opening track, “Archangel of D.U.I.,” borrows musical elements from Dead Kennedy’s “Government Flu” without blatantly ripping off the song, and “Trucker Bomb” could be a nod to the lyrical content on Big Black’s most notorious album. As much as Owl feel most comfortable belting out rambunctious songs about “Hellbent Riders” and bar fights (“Fulton Pub Fight Song”), some songs like “18%” and “Evil Bastards” confidently utilize Occupy-like rhetoric to keep their overall subject matter from becoming too shallow and monotonous. Not coincidentally, they’re also some of the angriest songs on the album, as Andy Crippen and Adam Wilson’s rhythm work is absolutely pulverizing.
While the lyrics show promise for the future of the band in terms of appealing to an audience, the music is not as varied in style. However, its overbearing nature isn’t much of a problem, considering this debut album runs about 27 minutes and naturally lives up to the name of being Too Loud to Die. The technical prowess of the performances is solid but incorporates elements of danger, as the harried structures of the songs threaten to unravel themselves. Just as Black Flag started out as a relentless hardcore punk band before gravitating to other genres, perhaps a slight change in style is what Owl needs to accomplish the next time around if they wish to distinguish themselves from similar acts.
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Marcus King Band
July 21 • Sweetwater Performace Pavilion