Last week on Halloween, I showed my kids Army of Darkness for the first time. Coincidentally, just a day or two later I received the new Ash Williams release titled I Believe… to review for San Diego Punk. If you don’t know what these two seemingly independent events have in common, then perhaps you should read the book titled If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Movie Actor. …enough on Bruce Campbell.
San Diego’s Ash Williams released their latest album/EP on Bandcamp.com at the end of October. I say “album/EP” because at 7 tracks, it clocks in a little longer than your typical EP, but a little shorter than a full length. Consistent throughout, the band’s sound will quickly remind you of the 80’s era of punk. You will hear traces of The Misfits, M.D.C., perhaps even early Shawn Stern. Unlike the aforementioned, one of the main drawbacks of the release is that the delivery is often so sloppy, it can leave a listener a bit turned off at times. The drum grooves fluctuate and stutter, the guitars aren’t quite sure what to do during many of the fills and turn-arounds, and the vocals are for the most part unhinged. Much of this is seemingly intentional as the band is clearly trying to embrace a carefree, irreverent punk rock attitude, but there is an underlying sense of insecurity and self doubt that creates a dichotomy hard to ignore. For me, irreverence is a dish best served with force and confidence. In regards to his own voice/music, the singer cries out, “I don’t care if you like this, I just want you to like this! It means just as much to me as it does to you!” My friend, what you are telling me is that if I hate your music, you hate it too. …but if I like it, you also like it. This really isn’t a confusing truth. In fact, it’s not a truth at all. Rather, it merely indicates that you do care, and any display to the contrary is just a defense mechanism. Why else would you experience any emotions related to insecurity?
One thing is certain, when Ash tightens up the screws a little bit, it comes off much better! A perfect example is the song Some Unholy Action. Easily my favorite track on the release, the energy level goes through the roof on this one with the help of some musical dynamics, alternating call & response lead vocals, and fist-in-the-air group chants. For whatever reason, the band just seems to buckle down on this track and it shows from top to bottom. The timing is on-point, the cymbal catches/pauses/stalls create excitement, and there is a great bridge in the song with well executed thrashy guitar panned left and a melodic arpeggiated baseline panned right to add even more depth to the overall arrangement. Well done gents!!! This one is a banger for sure!
There are a few other noteworthy moments on this release such as the drawn out folky intro on Goddamn Mountain and the half time grooves on Are We Human or Are we Danzig. The female verse in Fault Lines is also a very welcome surprise and as quirky as it was to have such a soft folk lead vocal over distorted punk instrumentation, I liked it. Speaking of Fault Lines, the guitar solo was a nice touch as well.
Overall, I Believe is a sketchy release littered with timing flubs and off-pitch growling vocals from Glen Danzig’s cousin’s vocal doppelganger. There is a standout track with Some Unholy Action and a few cool sporadic moments in some of the other tracks leaving the lion’s share of the album uneventful. The band harbors potential and it could serve Ash well to start by tightening their arrangements and delivery prior to recording. They got my attention enough to at least make me curious about how they might develop.
2.5 out of 5 San Diego Punk Skulls
Reviewed by Todd Dulawan