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New voice, new direction - 83%

JamesIII, February 24th, 2010

Alabama Thunderpussy is a rock band who is a worthy mention in a line of "survivor" groups. While the trials they faced weren't the worst in history, they didn't exactly have a smooth ride, either. They never really got anywhere until after their third album, being picked up by Relapse Records not long after their original label Man's Ruin, cashed in its chips and went the way of the dinosaur. After the successful (in terms of quality) album of "Staring at the Divine," original vocalist Johnny Throckmorton exited the band, being replaced by Johnny Weils. The change in frontman may have also led to a change in direction, as ATP's final years saw them embracing a more traditional, straight-forward Southern rock and heavy metal sound as opposed to the sludgey rock of earlier releases.

The whiskey and bar fight topics of yesteryear are still present, but aren't as prevalent as before. Alot of these songs seem to take a cue from classic rock inspirations, perhaps some Thin Lizzy thrown in, more Skynyrd and less Molly Hatchet. This is more clearly heard on tracks like "Three Stars" and "Wage Slave," the former of which is a laid back tune very similiar to something Skynyrd might have put together. The latter contains one of the best solos I've ever heard out of this band, a very commendable work.

The new frontman in Johnny Weils shouldn't throw fans for a loop. I'll be perfectly honest, before I really got into this band I didn't realize the same vocalist from "Staring at the Divine" and its predecessors wasn't the same one heard here. Weils isn't as distinctly different from his predecessor in Throckmorton, as much as Kyle Thomas was on "Open Fire." This isn't to say that Weils completely copies Throckmorton, and once the listener really grasps hold of the music the differences between the two are more clear. Johnny Weils has more of a Danny Joe Brown quality to his voice than Throckmorton did, but still pertains enough of a deep grit to fit the music very well. The only time Weils doesn't work out very well is the solid but acoustic misfire in "Do Not," the only song I didn't really care much for off this entire recording.

The album itself doesn't exactly strike a good note at the very beginning, with "Such Is Life" not much of an attention grabber. The songs that follow get better, with some real keepers in "Blasphemy," "Lunar Eclipse," and "Wage Slave," all which fans of ATP's previous material will recognize. "Bear Baiting" transitions into some overlong territory, but is otherwise right decent. Others would be comforted to know that ATP's genuine take-no-prisoners attitude is still alive and well, as to be heard in tracks like "Infested" and "Sociopath Shitlist." I will also mention that the thirteen minute attempt at epic stoner jams and beyond in "Struggling for Balance" works pretty well. I'm not one who has alot of patience of very long stoner rock homages, unless done by Kyuss or Dozer, but of the ones I've heard, this one comes out better than most.

Although they've gone their separate ways as I'm writing this, I dare say Alabama Thunderpussy left behind quite the legacy, as far as dirty Southern rock bands go. It seems strange that during their tenure they never got much attention but now in the years beyond their collapse they've become rather notable. In any event, "Fulton Hill" emerges as one of ATP's finer releases, perhaps not as focused as "Open Fire" would be three years later but arguably better in terms of overall quality. I still prefer "Rise Again" as my favorite ATP release, but this one runs a very close second alongside "Staring at the Divine."