Heavy metal and the blues may be long running bedfellows, but nowadays it seems difficult to truly combine the two genres without getting some stoner/doom variant out of it. Aboleth’s debut album Benthos does feature its share of groovy riffs and slower tempos, but the musicians probably listened to more Zeppelin than Sabbath if the twangy tone and loose swagger are anything to go by. There’s also the matter of the trio forgoing the traditional guitar/bass format in favor of Collyn McCoy playing the appropriately named “baguitar.”
This style and setup can feel rather gimmicky, but the musicians are talented enough to make the setup feel warranted and the style feel fun. The riff patterns are primal enough to not require too many bells and whistles beyond a few leads and the tone covers the treble/bass spectrum well enough on its own. It’s also neat to see prog journeyman Marco Minnemann drumming on here, even if this performance was just done on a sessional basis.
But even with a baguitar on board, vocalist Brigitte Roka’s performance is the album’s biggest standout. While there are plenty of ladies out there using a similar Janis Joplin on steroids approach, Roka takes it to the next level with confidence and power beyond most of her peers. Her man-eater persona is seemingly devoid of vulnerability even in its most revealing moments yet comes with a wink that would make Robert Plant and Sammy Hagar proud.
It also helps that there are some excellent tracks on here. While “No Good” and “Glass Cutter” bring some catchy hooks to the first half, the second is where the band really shines. The unpolished vocals and slide guitar really give songs like “Shark Town Blues” and “The Devil” their charm while “Ode to Plastic” features the album’s sexiest groove and most blistering dynamics. There are a couple of songs that feel a little too short or don’t quite deliver, but it’s all solid stuff.
Aboleth’s debut album isn’t the mind-blowing album out there, but it is nice to see a blues metal album that avoids doom trappings while also not falling into the dumb southern cliches. The band’s unorthodox take on the three-piece lineup would’ve felt underwhelming in the hands of a lesser band, but the vocalist’s conviction is enough to make one overlook the songs’ goofier aspects. I think their best is yet to come, but fans of groups like Clutch, Badlands, and Pride & Glory will get a kick out of this.
“Shark Town Blues”
“Ode to Plastic”