First impressions are almost never accurate. I try to ignore them, regardless of the situation. I think it takes a while to work through stereotypes, biases and judgment. I got to practice that concept when I got offered the chance to comment on Abrams’ new release: In the Dark, releasing on September 9th here in the good ol’ US of A, on Small Stone Records
Quick take: stream it, download it, buy it, especially if you’re looking for some new ROCK to fill your playlist.
These guys are pro’s. Solid songwriting, and clearly a wide, diverse musical vocabulary. I can see these guys opening for either Foo Fighters or Somali Yacht Club or at least be on the same bill: they might be a bit past opening-act status.
Producer Dave Otero is a solid choice, though I still think he tamed Khemis a bit too much. But he’s got a deft hand, and can certainly help a band edit. The production is pretty good, if a tad compressed and produced for my taste. Still, he’s got good taste in bands, tends to bring out the best in them, and I was glad to see him on this project: the dude’s a legend, and rightly so.
The drums, courtesy of Ryan DeWitt are the standout for me. A very controlled approach, with flares telling you this guy can probably tear it up. I love the hit and feel of the drums throughout the whole thing, and can appreciate a good noise-gate when I don’t hear it.
Bassist Taylor Iversen is DeWitt’s match, another guy who I bet can play something like 2112 in his sleep, but still pays attention to the reasons we need bass in bands, which is to keep it together and fill out the chords. They also let him play with some fun effects, especially on Death Tripper. Nice.
This is a guitar and vocal-driven band, and Zachary Amster doesn’t disappoint, for the most part. I’ll get to it in a moment, but I REALLY wanted him to let loose. A lot more.
Back to the songs: standouts that appeal to my tastes are Better Living, In the Clouds, Body Pillow, In the Dark and Black Tar Mountain. After release I’ll figure out which one(s) get on my “best of” playlist for 2022. Something’s going on there, I can guarantee that. This is a fun album, even if it’s outside my usual choices. In the Clouds is the first single, and it’s a smart choice:
The opener, Like Hell, immediately had me comparing Abrams to Queens of the Stone Age and Foo Fighters, and I was resigned to admitting that we need Corporate Rock to be healthy. I was trying to be positive about it, and in the next song Death Tripper that impression was reinforced. Until I heard the bass fx. It brought a smile to my face. I chilled and became more open, avoiding first impression syndrome.
And that’s really the only “bad” per se: in this day and age, Josh Homme and Dave Grohl have a huge amount of influence. Better Living had me do an about-face though, and the rest of the album gave me plenty of grins and some head-nodding, if not banging. If they hear it, I think this album is going to win Abrams a lot fans, and a few might put In the Dark on their best of the year lists. I won’t argue a bit.
All I want, seriously, is a live recording where they tear it the fuck up. The longest song, Black Tar Mountain, ends way too quickly at 6:28, right when Amster is starting to reveal what is possibly an awesome solo. Then it fades………………………………………..I wanna hear the 14-minute version, dammit!
In the end, that’s the mark of a really, really good album. Always leave ’em wanting more…..
Photo courtesy of Kim Denver