Gnarly…. (Obvious pun.) Now that that’s out of the way, let’s dive into Liquid Gnar. The band hails from snowy Montana, Belgrade to be precise. It’s not exactly the first place on many people’s list when they think of heavy metal hotspots. In many ways, their debut EP, Liquid Gnar – Rack My Brain, sounds exactly like what it is: a solid collection of songs with no real aspirations other than to satisfy the musician’s need to create. It’s not out to change your world. It’s not even out to change your weekend. But maybe, in the right time and place, it could just make your night.
Heavy metal covers such a ridiculously wide range of sounds that it can be hard to put them all under one umbrella. Just try telling a non-initiated listener that Kiss and Gojira belong to the same genre. However with Liquid Gnar, things become easier. Every note of every track on the five-track EP screams old-school metal from its soul. There’s a lot of thrash influence, especially from the genre’s early-90s vintage. Picture Testament, by way of Black Album Metallica and Pantera. The guitar and bass grooves are on point (usually a sticking point on these kinds of records) and the production is suitably filthy. The overall impression sounds like a band you might hear at somebody’s awesome house party. It ignites the same feelings that hearing those first Cancer Bats demos had.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Liquid Gnar still have a long way to go before they reach underground-buzz level. But they are certainly on the right track. There’re solid songwriting chops behind the riffs on “Glaring Arrogance” and “Resistor,” even if we’ve heard them all before. Mike De Jong’s voice calls up images of the New York hardcore scene. If Liquid Gnar ever wanted to lean more in that direction than towards thrashy California, they could see great results. It suits their sound better, as well as being a more relevant scene today. But it’s doubtful Liquid Gnar care about being relevant. They’re more focused in wheeling off guitar bridges and “YEEEAAAHHH”s as they do on title-track “Rack My Brain.”
The key here is confidence. Heavy metal and hardcore alike draw their power from how convinced the artists are of their own talent and heaviness. Liquid Gnar sound energetic and wild, but there isn’t the sense that they think they can amount to more then local bar gigs. “Fake it till you make it” isn’t usually good advice, but here it could be warranted. Just listen to “Face to Face” and say it isn’t the sound of a major label band trying to break free. All the pieces are there. Liquid Gnar just have to find out how to assemble them.
Written by Max Morin
*edited by Kate Erickson