King Giant - _Dismal Hollow_
(Graveyard Hill Records, 2012)
by: Dan Lake (8.5 out of 10)
Wow. Has an album of recorded music ever borne a title so egregiously inaccurate? Without trying to be ironic, I mean? The rollicking, meaty riffs and bluesy soloing hardly qualify as dismal, and none of the albums eight crushers come within ten country miles of hollow.

Once upon a time (in America), heavy music was an amped up extension of guitar rock, and riding with the devil meant hard drinkin', hot roddin', and hell raisin'. Nowadays the legions of darkness strive for artistic legitimacy whilst composing their hymns of rebellion, but Arlington, VA's King Giant still want to rock and roll and roar 'til they're hoarse. Some of us -- raise your hand like mine if you're guilty -- would like to think we're [pause for haughty throat clearing] above all that, but these lovers of superlative noun phrases are looking to reeducate ears, bodies, and souls with their formidably hooky sophomore full-length.

The bulk of the chaos approved by Chronicles focuses on demons personal and spiritual, but King Giant overturns the corpse cart in favor of gritty stories from the lawless West. While some songs clearly draw from history (such as opening bruiser "Appomattox"), others could just as easily be fiction dragged from sepia-toned photographs and brittle hundred-year-old diaries. Luckily Dave Hammerly (stop; read that again -- HAMMERLY!) wields his voice as a bourbon-soaked bellow, allowing every line to tear a clear and intelligible path through all the chunky guitars and adept percussion. Taking everything over the top, though, is the A+ songwriting and the perfect spit-shined production choices. Each song chisels out its own distinct character, and the occasional subtle manipulations of guitar and vocal performances (as well as unobtrusive, almost unnoticed additions to the mix) ramp up the intensity of every harrowing moment.

"When the rye was open, the Yanks began to sing: 'God bless America, but God save the King.'" Indeed. Feeling hollow? Go get _Dismal_.


(article published 2/4/2012)

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