I’d say they are back, but I don’t know that they ever left. A definite staple in the San Diego music scene, Ash Williams is set to release a new full length album titled Pulsar this month. If there is one thing I could tell you about this band, it is the following: Ash Williams continue to get better as time goes on and Pulsar is a step up from the band’s previous release.
Pulsar opens up with a great lil’ number called Simplicity. There is a brooding tom based drum beat that is accompanied by a bass line saturated with fuzz and gain. After four passes or so, the bass subtly shifts to a cleaner chorused voicing. Immediately following, some seriously cool spoken word comes in that will capture your full attention. As an example: “depression is being sad… anxiety is being anxious…boredom is a concept brought about by visual stimulants…sexuality is just how you wanna fuck!” At 1:40, the full band comes crashing in with a head splitting half-time beat as the track brilliantly serves to set the mood of the album and segues flawlessly into the next track. Not only is this a great way to open an album, it’s the sort of intro that would be equally as effective for opening up a live show.
The music stalls just long enough for the vocals to shout out “I can’t move!” and the next song aptly titled Paralysis gets right down to business. With a standard Am, G, F guitar progression and a classic swift mid-tempo punk beat, the vocals deliver a line-for-line-rhyme-for-rhyme screamed onslaught until the song hits a paradigm shift at 1:26 showcasing a busy bass solo (this album is loaded with awesome bass guitar moments btw). Not long after, the members of Ash all pull out their sledge hammers and start crushing the earth’s crust at 1:48. From this deviation, the band still manages to circle back to the original theme and close out with a simple guitar melody and plenty of energy left in the tank.
For 13 tracks, the band throws down well thought out compositions with a fair amount of worthwhile flash. From the chops and stalls on the title song Pulsar, to the spread of guitar and bass solos throughout, the band does a really nice job of passing the ball around and incorporating dynamic elements in each song. Beyond the instrumental components, there are a variety of vocal stylings that contribute to break up the monotony. There are aggressive and pitch-less screams, deeper baritone shouts, as well as a more mid-range voice sound. On Everything’s Comin’ up Roadhouse the vocals sound like Pegboy meets Korn with a twist of Mr. Bungle, while other tracks such as Regrets (easily one of my favorites) remind me of Gorilla Biscuits/Anthony Civarelli. Note: Do not be misled by the Korn and Bungle references. This album is solidly rooted in punk and does not sound like the aforementioned. Rather, I was merely making a loose vocal reference.
Without hearing the songs, describing this vast spectrum might paint a picture of a potentially random and disjointed album, however, Pulsar is anything but. In fact, it’s actually very cohesive. The use of instrumental filler tracks like Residually, Discerning a Death in Space, and Regression along with other transitional/atmospheric sound effects between songs put a nice stamp on the work, and as a whole, help to tie everything to the album name. Likewise, the guitar and drum tones are consistent throughout, as are the moods and general sound production. I feel as though Ash Williams is really starting to hit its stride and as they continue to evolve over time, something that appeals to me is the idea of this band stepping into a reputable recording studio and bringing a well paired/experienced engineer into the fold. I have a sneaking suspicion that the results of such an effort would really turn some heads! Until, then Pulsar is a solid local San Diego punk DIY release with plenty of merit, so do the smart thing and put it on your radar!
3.25 out of 5 SDP Skulls
Reviewed by Todd Dulawan