Gorilla Vs Grifter Split LP Review

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You can argue the pros and cons of a vinyl revolution that seems to have resulted in people even without turntables jumping on the bandwagon, but one heartening aspect has been the revival of the split release wherein two bands join forces for a one-off album or single. A common feature of the underground scene back in the 90s when bands like Sonic Youth, Mudhoney, Nirvana and the Jesus Lizard would team up, split releases have always been a great opportunity for fans to check out new music and we’ve seen some sweet releases lately including the stunning 7” from Raging Speedhorn and Monster Magnet, and the sweet EP from Closet Disco Queen and Heads. This release from Birmingham label HeviSike (who have already unleashed a similar effort from Mos Generator and Stubb), features two artists who should be no strangers to fans of the UK’s burgeoning heavy Psychedelic scene. Pressed on limited, coloured vinyl (100 copies in gold, 400 in gorgeous blue/yellow split) and adorned in Maarten Donders’ distinctive artwork, there’s no question that this disc should be high on your purchase list.

First up are Gorilla, a band for whom (not unreasonably) Lemmy is God. A whiskey-soaked power trio hell bent on draining the bar dry and reasserting the purity of rock ‘n’ roll shorn of artifice and poodle-permed Bon Jovi wannabes, Gorilla have been going since the late 1990s and have never wavered from their dedication to decadence. Kicking off with the Motorhead-esque rattle of ‘both barrells’, Gorilla unleash a blistering anthem to hedonism that sounds like ‘Ace of Spades’ filtered through a cement mixer. It’s one hell of a kick start to the split and one that will leave the uninitiated feeling as if they’ve been force fed bourbon through an industrial-sized straw. A longer effort, ‘Slay rider’ digs deep to deliver a bone dry blast of pure stoner rock that doesn’t shy away from the gritty blues that has so often lain at the heart of that genre. Huge, creeping solos slither across the surface of the track like snakes writhing in the sun, and it’s a hugely satisfying follow up to the adrenalin charged opener. ‘Grind yer down’ ups the ante once again as the band tear into the track as if their lives depend on it, although the grimy solos that open it speak of a catalogue of illicit substances that must have been ingested during recording. Gorilla draw their half to a close with ‘three squealer’, a track that moves from a monumental, Sabbath-esque opening to a full-bore blast that sounds like Kyuss having a bar fight with Lemmy and losing.

Next up are a band for whom SonicAbuse have a huge amount of respect. Grifter, whose EP ‘the simplicity of the riff is key’ could serve as a manifesto for any newcomer to rock ‘n’ roll, took things to a whole new level with the stunning ‘return of the bearded brethren’ and it is hard to think of a better pairing for Gorilla than this diabolically inclined three piece. Opening with ‘falling asleep’, Grifter immediately mark out their territory as Phil’s dark ‘n’ doomy bass rings out from the mix and Ollie’s dirty guitar licks punish anyone foolish enough to get too close. As always, the band may preach simplicity, but that doesn’t mean that hooks are absent from the equation and ‘falling asleep’ has the sort of addictive chorus that powered the likes of ‘snowblind’. Next up is ‘Paige Turner’, an ode to <ahem> pleasure mags sung with malicious glee by Ollie, who manages to make the subject matter sound even sleazier than it is. Bringing a whole new meaning to ‘crust’ as a genre (sorry!), ‘paige turner’ features yet another addictive chorus whilst the bouncy riff makes a strong case for its being track of the album. ‘Hi wasted’ is a short, sharp shock of rock ‘n’ roll thrills, powered by a supercharged riff and snappy drums from Foz who sounds like he took inspiration from the Charlie Watts school of drumming on this track. The LP draws to a close with ‘Me love’, a heavy ass track that takes no prisoners and leaves all but the most disaffected music fan in riff heaven with Ollie’s guitar sounding like it’s been set ablaze and multi-tracked to infinity.

There is a vital surge to hard rock that deserves the physicality of a format such as vinyl. The limited, coloured platters on offer, combined with Maarten’s stunning artwork, make this a record you really have to own. More to the point, both Gorilla and Grifter (each spurred by the other and the nature of the format) play their asses off, kicking out the jams with the spirit of a bygone era and proving that no amount of digital perfection can act as a substitute for the sweat soaked passion of a full throttle rock band driving toward the edge of a cliff with the brake line spitting fluid at an alarming rate. The visceral punch and groove of Gorilla and the huge, beautiful blues-infused stoner rock of Grifter perfectly complement one another and this is one split release that fans will play from start to finish, headbanging themselves into a coma along the way. An awesome LP, my only slight concern is that it should come with a free neck brace. You have been warned.

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