Keelhaul – Keelhaul

4 out of 5

Produced by: Bill Korecky

Label: Escape Artist Records

Maybe II is slightly more caustic, and Subject to Change is more of a blitz, and Triumphant Return is more schizophrenic, but Keelhaul is Keelhaul.  In a sea of instrumental metal, the group’s thrashy riffs, chopped and spliced with drop chord headbangery, topped with the occasional talk / shout rasps of Chris Smith or Aaron Dallison instantly recognizable as the Cleveland unit, even twenty years and a billion and one albums released from similar genre acts after their debut.

And fitting with my above statement, ‘Keelhaul,’ the album, is Keelhaul: everything about the band we love, and with, perhaps, the most mindful sequencing of all of their discs.  By ratcheting between their fast and slow song styles at an even pace, the album remains fist-pumpingly engaging, keeping us in thrall to build up to mid-album epics like Khmir and Corrugated Blacklung.  The excess misstep that has prevented other KH discs from perfection happens here as well, but by stuffing it all to the disc’s end – the somewhat aimless Enervate gives way to the momentum killing noise of Leveling Mechanism – it doesn’t require our patience to get back to the good stuff: we’ve already been amply front-loaded by it.