Latest Version of the Truth
5/15/2009 - Review by: Etiam
If the band name 'Mustasch' or the fighter jet facing out on the cover of 'Latest Version of the Truth' isn't enough to tip these Swede's hand, the first 1:51 of the album's opener should do the trick. Though 'In the Night' is hardly an instrumental, the track's first 111 seconds are pure epic riffage that lay the groundwork for the hard rocking ride to come. Not without its hidden aces, 'Latest...' also features such surprises as string arrangements used enough to be more than a gimmick; the synth sound on 'Double Nature' are lifted straight from 70s action flicks and the acoustic sound mimicks Bon Jovi's 'Wanted Dead Or Alive'. Both strings and acoustic reappear fairly often throughout the album, particularly on the oddly sentimental (prancing across hills in slow-motion) instrumental and the multi-part closer.
Of course, just because a band is riff-driven doesn't necessarily mean those riffs are interesting. Fortunately, as ten-year veterans with a handful of albums to their name, Mustasch are experienced and comfortable enough to serve up material that most younger bands couldn't quite pull off. 'Spreading the Worst', for example, in less experienced hands would have dragged down the album's momentum, especially after the aforementioned instrumental. A couple other close calls: 'I'm Not Aggressive' is a disarming blend of a poppy chorus melody with stomp-rock drumming and an experimental slide solo section, and 'I Wanna Be Loved', with its sotto voce chorus and stuttered riffing, toes the line of angst rock before ending at a grinding sludge pace. The only unwieldy song is 'The End', which recaps the album almost like a montage before gliding into a Billy Joel piano homage and finally a Stones' 'You Can't Always Get What You Want'-style rock chorus. But, since it is the curse of metal bands to compose overlong closers and Mustasch's alchemy works more often than not, they deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Despite these embellishments, 'Latest Version of the Truth' is still driven by its combo instruments. Percussion is provided by Mats Hansson (recently departed due to muscle ruptures and replaced by newcomer Danne McKenzie), who alternates solidly between straightforward 2-4 snare grooves, double-stick tom fills, and enough attention to his ride to keep the patterns interesting. Ralf Gyllenhammar and David Johannesson have generally solid guitar tones with occasional phasers daubed on to spice things up. The effect's use is judicious and its placement effective, but the actual application of the effect is far too pronounced. 'Latest...' also features a handful of solos, but these are rarely so memorable as Gyllenhammar's vocal presence and the band's ballsy riffs. Mats Johansson's thick bass tone will swirl up in the mix now and again--usually during interludes, outros, and intros--but not enough to make a consistent statement.
Also the band's vocalist, Gyllenhammar tends towards chorus-driven parts--sweeping singalongs with some unexpected turns of phrase, such as "shove it in my mouth"--particularly since the verses are mostly vamps with simple vocal lines. But he remains engaging throughout, defying the stereotype that white dudes don't have soul with a delivery that is at turns conversational and hollered (at the latter extreme, he sounds not unlike an unhinged Marco Hietala of the underrated Tarot). Gyllenhammar's native counterpart is JB of Grand Magus and Spiritual Beggars, and while the comparison is fair in some respects, Gyllenhammar is less of a baritone and more a wild shouter. His bravura, and Mustasch's in general, actually, is most comparable to Volbeat, whom Mustasch precede by a few years.
Altogether, 'Latest Version of the Truth' is an unlikely fusion of gutsy rock 'n' roll and cheesy strings that would be a perfect fit for a James Bond film. Envision Paul McCartney's 'Live and Let Die' with raunchier riffs, massive lamb chops, and forearm-circling flame tattoos. Rock 'n' roll is here to stay, indeed.
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