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The Birchmen – Hot L.A. Nights (Album Review)

The Birchmen – Hot L.A. Nights (Album Review)

Hot L.A. Nights by The Birchman Album Review

Reviewed by Heavy NFLD’s Ben Chapman-Smith

The Birchmen are a heavy stoner rock band based in St John’s NL. If it’s your first time listening to them you can expect crushing riffs, aggressive vocals, progressive songwriting and more groove than you can shake a stick at. The Birchmen have been blowing minds and melting faces for the last decade, and, on September 1st 2020, they unleashed their latest work – Hot L.A. Nights.

Hot L.A. Nights comes in at 6 songs totalling just over 30 minutes and they don’t waste a second of it. It’s like someone left the engine running on the album, as soon as you hit play the first song “Voodoo Pork” lurches into high gear and I’m not going to lie, it’s startling. The more I listen the more I dig it though.

Voodoo Pork does a good job of pulling the listener in and introducing them to the Birchmen’s brand. The track is 5:40 of Aggressive call and response patterns, Melodic stoner rock guitar, tension, and a story about some bad bad pork. My favourite moment of the track is the drop at about 3:50, it really adds depth by contrasting the rest of the song.

Tunes like Coital Time Slam, Slammin’ Salmon, and Space Pants seem to be The Birchmen’s bread and butter. They all have Stampeding drums, wicked guitar chemistry, majestic cadences, playful subject matter / lyrical tone, and song structures that evolve more than they repeat. Each of these songs has its moments and they’re all great songs but I wouldn’t consider them my favourite tracks on the album, though space pants gets an honourable mention for its name alone.

I once heard the Bassist / Vocalist of The Birchmen, Andrew Kearney, describe this song as being “about a mammoth that makes bad life choices”, since then “I am Mammoth” has been my favourite song by the Birchmen. I’ve only heard “I am Mammoth” played  live before so I was pretty stoked to hear the recorded version of the song. There are some textures and tones on the recorded version that either weren’t as defined, or weren’t present live. I especially love the darker of the two guitar tones in the intro of the song, I find it’s sound reminiscent of the Deftones’ White Pony’s album. So that’s a win in my book. Speaking of wins, The transition into the B section of the song, at about 2:30, was also impressively fitting and unexpected.

The final song on Hot L.A. Night’s is called Winds of Kush. The song’s intro is atmospheric and spaced out, it has a post-punk vibe to it that I really dig. I wish that it was revisited later in the song, or that just had more time to develop. Don’t get me wrong, this track is as solid as the others but if I were to put on a different hat for a second and think out loud about what I’d like to see from the Birchmen that they can do, but they’re not showing us – it’s that. They’ve shown us time and time again they can manufacture an eye in a storm, if you follow the metaphor, but these calm / clean / atmospheric parts are often short lived before returning to the intensity of the chaos on either side of them. I would love to see where they can push the cleaner / atmospheric / calmer end of their sound since they’re proven to be monsters on the attack. 

Someone should make a movie called “the invasion of the Birchmen” since the boys have already put together the perfect soundtrack for it. Seriously, theirs is the sound of impending doom. There is a consistent musical theme of movement and momentum in their songs. This coupled with an aggressive vocal approach, crushing riffs, tone smithing, informed and clever songwriting choices, and absolutely relentless drums, lends to a real sense of urgency, desperation, and action.

Final Verdict: 8/10


Favourite Songs:

“Voodoo Pork”

“I am Mammoth”

“Space Pants”

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About The Author

Ben Chapman-Smith

Ben Chapman-Smith is a musician, a music educator, and a loud - occasionally cantankerous, frequently opinionated - music critic. He worked as a music teacher, event organizer/booker/promoter, and performing musician in Toronto's music scene from around 2005 - 2017. He is currently living in St John's NL where he continues to teach, create, and review music.

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