When Strangers With Guns came out with their debut LP Degenerate Art, they delivered a fresh take on the modern grunge sound but lacked only polishing their songs. With legendary hard-rock bands such as Royal Blood and Queens of The Stone Age still going strong in the mainstream, there’s no doubt that the genre still drives hundreds of fans into the local music scenes. This is where the one-man powerhouse of Jeff Icho comes in to make himself heard. With his 2020 release Disenfranchised Fetus, the project attracts a fair amount of streams and a decent online following.
This time, Strangers With Guns aren’t messing around. The riffs are mean, the mood is bleak, and it all works. The opening track “Cants” starts off with some enjoyable riffs and perfectly sets the tone for the rest of the EP. Going from sludge and doom to a blend of psychedelic and punk, Strangers With Guns fuses the best rock aesthetic elements. The sparse vocals lend their touch to the instrumental’s darker atmosphere, and I’m also pleased to hear the lead vocalist’s native accent cut through during some of the quieter moments. It gives it that rebellious Irish touch. On the production side. things sound pretty great: I’m always a fan of punchy drum mixes and minimalistic editing, especially for that raw “grunge” sound. My only gripe would be that at certain parts, during, for example, “Let’s Tango in Paris”, and “Somebody Needs a Hug”, the guitar sound is just a tad bit synthetic for my tastes.
Since his previous release, I can tell that Mr. Icho improved upon its shortcomings. In fact, I honestly feel that this EP is a solid effort to rekindle what we loved most about the heavy grunge and metal acts of the 90s. I immediately thought of The Melvins but within a wider range of styles. I will say that I prefer the first two, more atmospheric tracks to the two last groovier songs. Perhaps it’s because I felt like the guitar work on the latter was slightly repetitive and, unfortunately, just didn’t manage to grab me as much. And lastly, deep down, I was still left wishing for more extensive vocal performances, just to give me something to sing along to the pulverizing instrumentals with. However, I respect Jeff’s vocal style, and I believe it fits well in the context of this EP.
I was quite pleased with this EP, it starts off strong and it is littered with plenty of great riffs within just four songs. If Strangers With Guns continue down this path, I’ll definitely be looking forward to their next release. For fans late 80s hard-core and 90s sludge, don’t sleep on this one.
Written by Davide Spinato
*Edited by Dominic Abate