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CD review: Anti-Mortem blends its roots with modern metal on 'New Southern'

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With a dearth of new groups diluting the American metal scene on a weekly basis, it seems almost a foregone conclusion that any band being as heavily promoted as Oklahoma’s Anti-Mortem is; they are likely to be two parts hype, one part talent, and one part wishful thinking. Fortuitously, this youthful quintet is far more talent than PR hyperbole. They manage to successfully meld their Southern rock roots with a modern groove metal foundation.

The roots of these upstart metal outlaws, were planted in the hard-scrabble red dirt of Chickasha, Oklahoma–a suburb 40 miles south of Oklahoma City. There is definitely a thick undercurrent of the Pantera groove to the Anti-Mortem sound, but there is much more going on here. Barely 21 years of age on average, these guys manage to take their southern metal roots and twist them into something both vintage and decidedly fresh at the same time. Perhaps that is why “New Southern” is the perfect title for the band’s debut release. The record sounds like Pantera on a weekend bender with Molly Hatchet and Corrosion of Conformity–Equal parts Southern spirit and Southern Comfort. Lyrically Anti-Mortem balances blue-collar wisdom with malevolent indictment.

Nuclear Blast was impressed and savvy enough to snap Anti-Mortem up and throw them in the studio with veteran producer and songwriter, Bob Marlette (Alice Cooper, Shinedown, Rob Zombie). The result is a ballsy, heavy weight record dipped in attitude and Southern swagger.

The album opens with a twisted riff that might have come out of Hellyeah’s bag of licks. It is a decisive and raucous way to kick off one of the year’s most exciting new metal records. Vocalist Laredo Romo gets gritty and angry from the first verse. Even when the tempo slows to a jaunty clip on the bluesy title cut, he still keeps the barely contained rage in check.

Guitarists Nevada Romo and Zain Smith pace the rage-fueled ferocity of “100% Pure American Rage”, while bassist Corey Henderson shines on “Hate Automatic”. His performance is the highlight of this song’s melodic, strutting groovefest. Both tracks boast instantly memorable choruses that do not diminish the choke hold effect of the songs’ vicious undercurrents.

“Black Heartbeat” is darkly addictive with its unassuming plaintive overtones. The lead guitar fills recall Slash to some degree, in that rolling way that flows over the song’s melody like honey. “Truck Stop Special” offers a bit of a swampy feel to the intro before sliding into a sick, bluesy and rolling riff.

One of the many standout tracks is “Stagnant Water”, which connects in a visceral manner with the often oppressive nature of humanity. One can almost hear the bleakness in the weight of the guitar riffs and the harshness of Laredo’s vocal delivery.

As a bonus to close the album out, the band deliver a sweaty dust up of Mr. Big’s “A Little Too Loose”. You can get the story behind that in our recent interview with drummer Levi Dickerson.

From the aggressive vocal delivery and bone-snapping crunch of the guitar riffs, to the thundering rumble of the bass and stick-wielding brutality behind the kit, “New Southern” is heavy, hostile, rebellious and immediately addictive. The album grows on you with every listen. It is easily one of 2014’s best debut offerings, and marks a ballistic beginning to the promising introduction of Anti-Mortem. There is not a bad track on this record and arguably no filler. Pick it up and feel the New Southern attitude permeate your being.

Rating 9.1/10

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