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Album Review: Shadow Limb – Burn Scar

Shadow Limb here formed out of the ashes of La Fin du Monde, an instrumental progressive/stoner rock band from Paradise, California. Their debut album, Burn Scar, is actually a pretty fucking morbid coincidence considering it was (at least lyrically) written shortly before the devastating Camp Fire last year that saw the town’s population drop by a lip-flapping insane 92%. La Fin du Monde and Shadow Limb have identical lineups, so the shift in sound would have to be fairly major to warrant a name change you’d think, and I think that it was. I briefly skimmed their previous band, and it was honestly just really boring, desert-ish prog that made me wish I was listening to anything else. Shadow Limb, on the other hand, leans really hard into the stoner metal stylings of Kyuss, with a sense of furious heaviness and melody reminiscent of the first few Mastodon albums.

This new direction does a hell of a lot more for me because Burn Scar is overflowing with infectious grooves and caustic vocals. There are still holdovers from their previous sound here and there, with some quiet, clean sections appearing relatively often, but there’s no denying that the majority of this album is occupied by heavy, dirty grooves filtered through a hefty coat of fuzz. It’s the kind of sound where you can listen to one song and accurately guess that every member of the band has a beard. I think I like this for the same reason I like early Mastodon because it definitely revels in its influence from sludge and stoner greats but doesn’t really sound like any of them. I can’t recall a single time they truly devolved into that swing-time-and-keep-the-beat-with-the-crash-cymbal thing that Sleep was so fond of, nor does it pick up the punky acidity of Melvins. There’s clearly influence from all of these in places, but the band keeps the cliches mostly at bay through their eclectic songwriting. Maybe it’d be more accurate to place them next to Elder with a dash of Giant Squid or something, but it depends on whether or not you’re listening to a heavier or lighter part.

The only real problem is a pretty big one, and that’s that I don’t think this actually does enough to hold my attention after grabbing it. “Watered Down Alby” starts with a fantastic bass groove before crashing into a Kyuss-y bounce riff underneath some excellent rattly vocals, but by the time the song is halfway over you’ve already heard almost everything worthwhile, and the psychedelic clean section in the third act feels superfluous. The following “You Blew It” has the opposite problem, where it starts off with the clean part and fiddles around with twinkly melody before… actually I sat there and let the song play for a while before finishing that sentence so I could remember what it sounded like, and by the time I decided it actually wasn’t interesting enough to highlight and went to erase it, I realized I was actually halfway through “Cry Off” at that point. The individual parts throughout the album themselves are all at least decent, with a majority of them being quite good, but they don’t seem to be assembled in a way that retains interest for the most part.

Considering the style at play here, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the longest songs are the best. The opening two (“Asger Arisen” and “Maelstrom’s Rebirth”) and the closing two (“Rudiger; his name is not important” and “Line of Descent”) are significantly better than the middle four, likely because they have the most time to develop and make the disparate sections feel earned and tied into one another.  The stretch from “Watered Down Alby” to “Cleanse of Ire” is mostly kind of a mush of cool ideas that just don’t work when put together.  There’s definitely potential here seen in the best songs, but Burn Scar feels like it needed a little more time in the oven.

Burn Scar is being independently released on October 11th, 2019, and can be sampled and (pre) ordered on the band’s Bandcamp.

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