I didn’t mention it here, but for a couple of months I was actually back being active in the paid local music criticism profession with the Capital Region edition of Chronogram. Two reviews of albums by Che Guevara T-Shirt and Grainbelt saw print, and a third about Upstate Again by the Empire State Troopers was submitted shortly before the paper went belly-up. The album was officially released last week, so here’s what I wrote about it . . .
Empire State Troopers
Upstate Again (One Cell Productions)
Empire State Troopers’ members have been delivering the rock from Brooklyn to Buffalo to Ballston Lake (their current home) since the early ’90s with such critically respected bands as Small Axe, The Wasted, The Sixfifteens, Squid, Kate Mosstika and Glitter of Cohoes. EST’s new six-song EP, Upstate Again, finds the four formidable musical talents playing in perhaps their most visceral configuration yet, with Nathan Pallace on drums, Thom Hall on guitar, Jeff Fox on bass and Kelly Murphy front and center, armed only with her powerful contralto, a voice perfectly pitched for the smart, hard rock that EST deliver. The band’s grinding, gristle-chewing riff-work blends the classic churn of ’90s indie darlings The Jesus Lizard and Scratch Acid with the primal punch of such underground metal acts as Budgie, Iron Maiden and Witchfinder General. Lest that sound too dense and intense for repeated plays, the Troopers leaven the proceedings with a better melodic sense than any of those bands ever mustered and a crisp sonic presentation courtesy engineer Jason Loewenstein (ex-Sebadoh, Fiery Furnaces). EP closer “Phantom Limb” is Upstate Again’s pinnacle, working both as a killer ensemble piece and as a showcase for the unique strengths that each band member brings to the table: the parts are masterful, the whole is positively titanic. This is what rock is supposed to sound like. Listen.