Best element: Unique rhythms and riffs that demand repeat listens.
Genre: Chaotic post-grunge.
Label: Ascetic Records
Anyone who names a song “Ass Kicker #1” has to be secure in their sound. There’s just no way that you can make the threat of bodily harm against the listener unless you really, truly know you rock.
Riddle of Steel knows it rocks. This entire album is filled with what has become the Ascetic Records sound: dark, chaotic post-grunge epics with garage rock tempos. This isn’t your average post-grunge though. There’s absolutely no cliché three-chord slamming, as ROS prefers to play clashing, dissonant chords with chaotic, virtually freeform riffs. There’s no manufactured, blocky vocals here either- with wild and choppy vocals, the singer for ROS is much more akin to Jack White of The White Stripes than Aaron Lewis of Staind. Add to those elements a blissfully erratic drummer and some completely raw production, and what do you have? A royal mess.
So how is this a good album? It’s all in the bass. When “Ass Kicker #1” takes off, only guitars, drums, and vocals are present; it’s the introduction of bass 50 seconds in that whips this song into a frenzy, as well as transforming it into a cohesive unit. It’s the pummeling, controlling bass sound that connects all the seemingly unconnected pieces of ROS’s sound throughout, although it’s most drastically shown in “Ass Kicker #1”, which is the best song on the album.
But not by far- the “Maps”-eque melancholy of “Kissing in Secret” is mournful and surprising, while the riveting tension of “The Gaping Jaw” is….well….riveting. “Double-fister” could easily be renamed “Ass Kicker #2”, as the lead riff is stellar and the vocals hold together a semblance of melody for once (as opposed to their standard procedure of fractured half-melodies). The amazing drum work on the tempo-changing “Saturn Eats His Children” turns a great song into a true barnburner.
“Python” is a jackpot for any rock-loving, red-blooded human. I can’t think of who to compare ROS to; I have to settle for something much more complimentary. In the school of post-grunge, ROS has no equal- their chaotic take on post-grunge is unique.