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Album Review: Noisepicker – Peace Off

Noisepicker may identify themselves as doom/punk/blues on their 2016 EP of the same name, but their first full-length album Peace Off sounds more like what would happen if a band like Swans or Flipper started writing blues music. Some punk influence can be seen in the bare bones drumming, but the dissonant guitar grinds show a great deal of debt to the best of mid-80s no wave. The sandpaper production enhances this even further, resulting in a very abrasive, live feel throughout.

The blues influence comes through in the rhythms and songwriting. Songs like “So You’re Sick?” and “This is How the World Will End” frequently counter the misanthropic tone with toe tapping shuffles. “A Taste of My Dying” and “Burning the Witch” boast very old school grooves while “I Stood by Her Grave” closes things out in an almost ballad-like fashion. That sense of swing could be attributed to guitarist/vocalist Harry Armstrong’s doom background, but it sounds more like a curb stomp courtesy of Muddy Waters.

But the vocal performance is what really makes Noisepicker stand out. Armstrong’s performance is that of a grizzled old bluesman, exercising a gravelly croon in the vein of Tom Waits or even Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. The occasional lapses into a more punk sneer could potentially offset the approach as some hokey caricature, but it oddly ends up working in the album’s favor most of the time.

I feel like Peace Off could’ve benefitted from a bit more bottom end and by making certain songs a minute or two longer, but Noisepicker ultimately provides a unique take on heavy blues. The lo-fi aesthetics can make it tough to get into, but its live rawness makes for a powerful listen. If there’s a demographic out there that craves more swing in their noise rock, this is the perfect place to look.

Highlights:
“So You’re Sick?”
“A Taste of My Dying”
“This is How the World Will End”
“Burning the Witch”
“I Stood by Her Grave”

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