Most of the time when a band says that their next album will be "the best album they've ever made" or "the most focused and best sounding recording we've ever done", or when they say that their tentative next album will be "the most interesting", a lot of these promises and statements tend to fall flat on their face, to me anyway. Maybe it's because I have my hopes set too high and ultimately have created such high expectations that the album in question can't possibly match them(fingers crossed about the new Pig Destroyer). But there are times when the hype surrounding a bands new album are just untrue, and it sounds like the same thing the band has done however many albums before, or the times when a band has full-filed their promise about a different sound or more variation in the songwriting, but what they've created is so far from what the fans are used to that it gets shunned right away(*cough*Morbid Angel*cough*). But when it comes to the new Bastard Noise album "Skulldozer", released this year on Deep Six records, all the complaints I mentioned above so do not apply! I have been eagerly awaiting this album for a good portion of the year, and was promised the best Bastard Noise album to date from Eric Wood many times. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, Bastard Noise have delivered!
"Skulldozer" comes to us after "A Culture of Monsters", which released last year, which I really like and is definitely a quality BN album, but "Skulldozer" just completely blows it out of the water in almost every way. The recording is better, the mixing is better, everything just sounds bigger, louder, heavier, stronger. The bass rings out with such aggressive clarity, and the drums have an incredible heavy punch. It definitely sounds like a lot of time was spent on making this album sound the way it does. And of course, we have the new addition of Aimee Artz on lead vocals, who's presence is just astounding on "Skulldozer". Admittedly, when I first heard that BN had gotten a new singer, I didn't really see the point or need for a new vocalist since I thought Eric's vocals fit the music just fine. But hearing Aimee scream over these tracks just gives me an incredible "ooooh, that's what they've been missing" feeling. Aimee's vocals fit BN's music and compliment Eric's vocals in just the right way, and add a whole new level of aggression to these songs. It's like when I heard "Agorapocalypse" by Agoraphobic Nosebleed for the first time and being blown away by the ferociousness and totally unsubtle presence of Kat's vocals on that album.
I also feel like in terms of songwriting, these may be the best and most listenable BN tracks so far. None of the tracks drag too long, none of them feel unfinished, it's just quality throughout. I think the track "Earth On a Stretcher" might be my favorite; it has some awesome slow, dirgy riffs and a pretty catchy chorus(?)-ish part. And again, Eric and Aimee's vocals compliment each other very well. These all sound like the type of Bastard Noise tracks you've become accustomed too with their past few releases, but the addition of new vocals, new use of synth, better noise orchestration and better production just give them more of an extra kick and a whole new level of epicness(even though that word might be considered cheesy nowadays). Another noteworthy thing about this album is the last track "Rachel"; it's a soft yet intense track with only synths, a steel.slide guitar and some very unique vocals from Eric Wood dedicated to the memory and life of Rachel Corrie. It's a touching, and powerful end to an excellent album. It lived up to all of my expectations. Pretty rare, major props to BN.