Produced by Eric Wagner (Blackfinger, ex-Trouble), this self-titled album is a really enjoyable way to spend half an hour of your day. Originally formed in 2002, this five-piece doom metal band from the broad corn fields of Bloomington, Illinois (USA) deliver tight, crunching riffs, big solos and choruses that nestle in your head like cuckoos. Mean-looking cuckoos that are likely to kick you in the teeth if you ask them to leave.
On their Facebook page, the band list a vast number of influences, from AC/DC to Venom, and their diverse tastes are reflected in the decision to cover a Judas Priest song (‘Deceiver’) on this release. But primary among their influences, surely, are Trouble and Clutch, whose slow groove and heavy melody shine through for all to see. Singer Mitchell Barnes has a distinctively Wagner-esque pitch to his voice, but it’s not quite as soulful as that of Big Eric and has a throatier edge – as if fellow doom legend Scott Weinrich is trying to join the party too.
Talking of Wino, it is also possible to hear a degree of The Obsessed in the music, as well as early Queens Of the Stone Age and even some Pearl Jam. Blackwater’s frontman Barnes, meanwhile, comes up with some vocal parts that are both creative and original, as well as a few that fall flat. Or possibly fall sharp – there are one or two discordant, fingernail-scraping moments that Wagner himself would be proud of!
Blackwater manage to get through nine songs in just 33 minutes. Not that these compositions seem hurried; nor do they ever go beyond a steady mid-tempo – they just don’t last very long. Some tracks work better than others: for example, ‘Opposite Sides Of Glass’ grows into a mini-classic and the chorus on ‘Killing Fields’ is sure to get the blood pumping. Others, though, follow a well-worn path. The riffs on opening track ‘Final Solution’ or the title track, for example, seem familiar and uninspiring. Wagner’s production is solid if unspectacular – the drums occasionally sound a little thin and at times you find yourself wishing that the album would really come to life. Because when it does, it is great fun.