Just Like Vinyl – Black Mass – Review

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After the regrettable dissolve of Thomas Erak‘s former fastidious fretwork-centered outfit The Fall Of Troy, fans were left wondering if they would have to listen to old records and momentary side projects if we wanted to hear the frantic free-styling guitars of Tom. Luckily one of those side projects has started to bare fruit. This Motley Crue four piece, Just Like Vinyl grew from the humble beginnings of Jake Carden (The Filthy None), Henry Batts (a long-time friend of TFOT) and drummer Jay Beaman (Schoolyard Heroes) jamming with Tom; even releasing their underground self-titled in 2010. Chances are if you weren’t paying attention you didn’t hear about it. This time however, the band has more of a PR push, thanks in no small part to Superball Music, as well as a more defined musical direction for their latest full-length “Black Mass.”

Fans of The Fall Of Troy will be able to jump right into Just Like Vinyl with very little preparation. Tom has pulled back on the reigns of the unstoppably frantic guitars that seemed to pluck and tap on for eternity — in favor of a selection of slower-paced, intricate set of rock riffs, but there is no hesitation on the record to include technically impressive guitars. Tracks like the familiar single “Bitches Get Stitches” and “Hours And Whiskey Sours” begin with a quirky fretwork lead-in, which then levels out to a mellow verse where we actually get to hear the bands combined vocals talent (something that is especially noticeable since Erak isn’t shrieking his head off the whole time.) Since I mentioned it, there are brief pauses where the inner Fall of Troy will surface, such as in the grundgy, shout-heavy “Sucks To Be You” and “$$$.” The really remarkable thing about Just Like Vinyl on this record seems to be the way Erak can warp his surging guitars and multiplying solos into a string of patient and groovy riffs. The taming and additional soul on this record does not go unnoticed — with songs like “Walk You Home” leading the way.

Lyrically, “Black Mass” is meant to convey a “vibe” of mockery of the modern Catholic mass. Songs like “First Born” stick it to the institution directly with lines like “We all just fade away. I guess we should all get on our fucking knees and pray. There’s nothing left to say. So I guess we should all, get on our knees.” while other tracks are a tab bit more subtle. Just Like Vinyl mentioned the theme was meant to be more of a “feeling” or “vibe,” and not a strict concept. That being said, they do a great job of not drowning this record down with any certain agenda. The record just feels like a combination of talented song writers coaxing a humanized humble story from their own past experiences and inserting it into this matured sound.

While I wasn’t that high on Just Like Vinyl‘s self-titled record because it was a fuzzy lo-fi version of the current band and it didn’t quite know where it wanted to go musically, “Black Mass” has found JLV an abundance of musical direction and temperament. Erak still unloads his blisteringly quick fretwork in off-kilter bursts like we all know and love — this time however he adds a little extra time in between each note , slowing down the band as a whole, where he can either hammer out a few progressive rock riffs with Jake accompanying, or tack on solos with some jazzy flair. I wish I could say more about the rest of the band but they really get over-shadowed by Erak’s eccentric guitars and shouts/singing, but they are at least about to keep up and support all of the erratic guitars and lyrical devices. Just Like Vinyl has smoothed the rough edges with “Black Mass” and released one of the more technically impressive and punchy records this year. [Staff]

Score: 4.5 (out of 5)

Release Date: August 28th, 2012
Record Label: Superball Music
Genre: Progressive Rock
RIYL: The Fall Of Troy, Red Museum, I Am Alaska

Track Listing:
1. Safety Word
2. Bitches Get Stitches
3. Walk You Home (feat. Sam McTrusty)
4. Hours and Whiskey Sours
5. Sucks To Be You
6. Happiness Is a Hole
7. First Born
8. Pressure/Release
9. ATM
10. $$$
11. Lucky Stars
12. Dick

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