Rock ’n’ roll is a very broad church. We get to enjoy stony-faced sermons from pious kvlt kids. But we also get to revel in histrionic hymns from bands that make merry like friar fucking Tuck.
It’s those latter bands that gleefully celebrate rock ’n’ roll’s over-the-top theatrics while maintaining a healthy sense of humour. And Auckland, New Zealand trio Bloodnut definitely fall into that category.
Bloodnut’s full-length debut, Blues from the Red Sons, features rip-roaring guitars, booming vocals, and thundering percussion – making for 666 tons of sludge, doom and stoner metal. However, Bloodnut also serve up all of that noise with a giant grin from ear to ear.
Obviously, delivering swaggering riffs with a mischievous grin isn’t a new idea. Elder Lords of the Riff like the Melvins have dropped sly smiles to their audience throughout their career. And, more recently, Red Fang (who share similarities with Bloodnut) have found success thanks to their combination of stentorian riffs and sky-high spirits.
It’s no crime to add a wry wink into a great big racket; see hefty rockers like Big Business or Torche. Still, smile or wink, if you take things too far, your band risks becoming a one-act joke – real fast.
Bloodnut are clearly sharp-witted enough to recognise that any humour mixed into their metal doesn’t have to come at the expense of their musical strengths. In Bloodnut’s case, that humour is linked to flaming red hair. (Or, for the band’s chrome-domed bassist and vocalist Doug McFarlane, a gigantic red beard.) It’s all crimson Vikings, auburn odes, and hails to the band’s flame-haired forefathers in the Bloodnut encampment. And the highs and lows of life in the ginger militia get a look in as well.
Bloodnut backs all that up with a hugely entertaining bedrock of catchy doom and sludge, and galloping stoner metal. Of course, once you’re au fait with the style and substance of Bloodnut, then the title of their first full-length, Blues from the Red Sons, becomes more than just a witty piece of wordplay.
Blues from the Red Sons obviously tips its hat to stoner metal pioneers Kyuss’ 1992 album, Blues for the Red Sun, but the connections between the bands go deeper still. The influence of Josh Homme and his illustrious desert rock crew is evident on Bloodnut tracks like gargantuan album opener “Agent Orange in the Eyes of Thine Enemies”; big ol’ stomper “The Amber Reign Remains”; and the trampling (and best track on Blues from the Red Sons) “Fire Giants”.
You could also point to a definite (early-)Baroness or Black Tusk tang on a number of songs off Blues from the Red Sons as well. And, essentially, it’s all monster-sized riffs and amplifiers-on-11 throughout the majority of the album.
A bass-quaking track like “Vitamin D” and the heavy-boogie of “Witches Mountain” would appeal to anyone who’s fallen under the spell of fellow New Zealand bruisers Beastwars. And if the acid-fried guitars of Orange Goblin and kin float your boat, there’s a few weighty psychedelic eruptions to be heard on Blues from the Red Sons too.
Fans of thickset distorted guitars will likely approve of Bloodnut getting their groove on with the slow-burning “Subtlety in the Street”. But the band pull out all the stops for three-part epic “The Battle of Bannockburn…”.
On this expansive and evocative track you’ll find Bloodnut testing their boundaries. There’s definitely a few transitions that could have been tightened and trimmed on the mammoth song. But what “The Battle of Bannockburn…” signals most of all is that Bloodnut are infinitely capable of writing powerful and distinctive material. Certainly, the track finishes Blues from the Red Sons in commanding fashion.
Complaints? Nothing major.
As mentioned, some tightening up here and there would have made Blues from the Red Sons punchier overall. But then, you’ll forgive a band for exuberantly wanting to show all their tricks on debut. Even if they’re not all 100% successful.
The only hiccup to my ears is “The Red Face Blues”. It has a gnarly opening riff and a hard-hitting chorus, but the song feels structurally shaky in the verses and vocals, and it stands out as a much weaker track set against its sturdier brethren on the album.
All up, I think Bloodnut should be justly proud of what they’ve achieved on their debut full-length. Blues from the Red Sons captures that all-important sonic heft and concussive impact that sludge, stoner and doom fans eternally search for. It duly evokes those fire giants looming on the horizon. And it stamps its presence down real hard.
There’s a lot to enjoy in the red-hot (and red-headed) heavyweight rock on Blues from the Red Sons. It’s an all-amps-ablazing good time – from go to whoa. I’d say get to praying, and prepare thyself. The ginger berserkers are hammering at the gates.
Note: Bloodnut will be donating 10% of all album sales to The Sumatran Orangutan Conservation Programme. Great tunes. A great cause. Win win, my friend.