Oxford Dictionary defines raunch (noun, informal) as “Energetic earthiness, vulgarity.” And so, the curtain matches the drapes. Raunch Rock exists, and it is indeed consistent with its own definition.
Voltang emit an energetic earthiness through the vulgarity of their instruments. I mean, have you ever lain awake at night wishing that the musicians of the world would give birth to a pristine blend of Statues, Jellyfish, Refused and Karma to Burn? No, neither have I. But now that I’ve found it, I’m extremely grateful for this genre-cocktail coming into existence. In the cycles and phases of contemporary music, every now and then you will hear something that breaks the mould. It doesn’t matter the genre, the feeling it gives you remains the same: a spark of energy, a zap, a transference of unique emotion. In these days of unlimited access to every song, ever, to abolish the pretence of plagiarism (on the edge of which all rock musicians are teetering), is no mean feat!
Opening with the math explosion of “Electric Boogaloo,” the memories of seeing The Chariot live come flooding back. It’s not just the absence of a traditional bass guitar, although I am instantly impressed at how the feedback and grit of guitarists Evan Dreager and Robin Blair Gaskin have been captured. No, this introduction invites attention, and thus invokes a momentum in Bad Sounds somewhat like the starter motor of a large vehicle. On the downbeat, enter Drummer Paul Maxwell and vocalist Jake Reimer, and there’s that feeling; in this music, in this energy, anything could happen. The chorus for the punchline:
“Lights, camera, violence!”
Despite my perpetual soft spot for great math rock, this is not the only reason to covet what Voltang do. “Slaughterhouse of Blues” is a straight ahead blues-rock masterpiece that would be right at home on a Refused album as much as it would on The Hives‘.
Track three “Lunatic Slick” is the first single from Bad Sounds, and is a dense riff-frenzy of hammer-off’s and palm-muted artillery attacks. Breaking into the first clean vocal for the outro, I hear that first inkling of Jake Reimer’s likeness to Andy Sturmer. Now I’m really intrigued! The breakdown that Botch couldn’t have written any better:
“Burn! The Witch! [squealing feedback] Burn! The Witch!!”
The digital delay and total psych-out on “Scarabs” is another truly pleasurable twist in the plot here. Where will Voltang take me now? I am increasingly fascinated by the production of this album. The engineer has captured seriously overdriven amplifiers and all the intricate detail of their sound with such full-ness. “Feelin’ Kinda Funny” launches me back into questions about Voltang’s influence base. I’m in heaven; this track seems to comprise all of the bands I’ve shamelessly name-dropped so far, in one fell swoop. Seriously Voltang, need an interview? I’ve got the questions!
The all-consuming nature of the trip through Bad Sounds continues on all nine songs of the album; math, psych, classic, and trad rock all presented through a stunning post-hardcore lens. I feel like a real spoiler to detail it all to you, but put it this way: you can’t turn this one off once you press play. I reached track eight “Poor Man” all too soon; the wailing, distorted blues would make Aussie pub-rockers Fifth Friend fill their boots with envy. Voltang are letting me down with charm and grace, sailing into the miragic haze of a burnt orange horizon:
“It all fades away, yeah it all fades away.”
Alternately renowned as both hard-working and larrikin in nature, this is Voltang’s second album, so let’s rub our hands with glee for what is to come in both the live and recorded forms. To be transported in such a visceral, complete way, live, is a remarkable experience, but when that happens in the studio too, well that is something truly special. Ontario, you are truly blessed to house this conglomeration of raunch. It’s true; it is Voltang’s energetic earthiness and their vulgarity that I am enamoured with; the essence of the raunch, the power of the raunch, the cream of the raunch.
Voltang, may the raunch be with you!
Written by Scott Andrews
*edited by Kate Erickson