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ASG - Survive Sunrise Award winner

Survive Sunrise
by Chris Hawkins at 24 June 2018, 1:50 PM

Largely, natives of North Carolina count themselves as lucky with your humble reviewer including himself as one among the masses.  This is a state rich in history, culture, and varied in land, though without letting this sound any more like a brochure for would-be travelers, the intention must now be made for this description.  Despite being a state with much to offer for residents and a prime destination for vacationers, the music scene for many years has been hit and miss.  CORROSION OF CONFORMITY is perhaps the band most would select if asked to pick one from the Tarheel State.  There are, however, many, many more that have enriched music with bands as diverse as ELDRITCH HORROR, WIDOW, and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME.  Throughout the years, the scene has seemed to come and go with its own erratic ebb and flow, though, as it seems that once something productive and solid is established, the next thing one knows, management has changed.

Enter ASG.  Hailing from Wilmington, the capital of the coast, the band formed back in 2001 and has been melting faces across the land ever since.  As unique as their friends in other bands from the area such as BUZZOVEN, WEEDEATER, and SOURVEIN, it often seems the band, like their peers, has done better outside of NC in other locales.  Despite the fact, though, that many other markets such as San Antonio or Philadelphia seem to have their own built-in crowds, it's without doubt that the band regards it as special when they play in their home state.

Wilmington itself could be thought of as the east coast version of Portland.  Though it is often a tourist hotspot, the natives see how times change as each tourist season seems to bring new names to venues that retain their location, and, darkly enough, the seedier side of the city seems to endure with more and more cases of overdoses and drug busts.  Therefore, the larger point must be made that despite having a shaky music scene at times, the successful bands that call NC their home, with ASG being the prime example, are tight, talented, and original as they have managed to stand the test of time.  The aforementioned conditions have fostered a band in ASG that have their own unique interpretation of heavy music no doubt tempered by their shared experiences in the dark underbelly of Wilmington itself.

"Survive Sunrise" is the band's first album in five years and is part two of the albums I would consider essential summer listening (for part one check out my review of the new LIZZY BORDEN here on Metal-Temple).   The title track begins with an eerie combination of tremolo-effected guitar over some soft chords giving a heavy Spaghetti Western vibe.  Soon, the full band comes in with a cleverly thick and driving sound while still maintaining the strange air of atmosphere.  This song is unbelievably catchy, a perfect choice for title track, and ultimately, a full, ample display of the deft creativity behind this band.  The third track, "Up From My Dreams," kicks the door in with some lacerating screams that are soon altered to more melodic Perry Farrell-type psychedelic passages singing of "Jesus and Mary swinging in the grape vines."  One cannot help but feel the vibe of classic JANE'S ADDICTION running into Dax Riggs's more trippy moments during his tenure with ACID BATH.

A very melodic and inventive bass line launches the fifth track, "Hawks on the Run," and is soon met with the rest of the band to form a head-trip of sound.  When in the later part of the song the guitar and bass somehow meet to form a unison of their parts, it is pure sonic magic, the kind of melody that could only be crafted here in the South.  "God Knows We," the eighth track, features one of the sickest, syncopated grooves this side of Dave Lombardo.  With the hanging melody, the ASG vibe is achieved just in time to break into one of their megalithic choruses.  The tenth track, "Weekend Money," bursts out of the gate with huge Southern-sounding pentatonic licks that resolve with a fat-bottomed bend that evokes Duane Allman and Pepper Keenan.  "Florida Sleeps On" is the twelfth track and has a standard Stoner Rock meets Punk approach tough thankfully colored with the pristine shades of ASG as they sing of how the "Sunshine State explodes".  At mid-point, one guitar plays a light-speed tremolo-picked melody while the rest of the band maintain an uber-slow grounding in one of the absolute highlights of the entire album.

For those that are not in the loop, how can ASG best be defined?  Perhaps the three strengths that top the list are dynamics, maturity, and delivery.  ASG is the face of what modern Hard Rock and Heavy Metal should sound like.  They achieve this by retaining all of the machismo of a storied history of sound and combining it with a head-fuck of syrupy harmonies and effects-driven guitar wash.  The band is super-tight as they execute rhythms from complex to super-slow and never show any sign of faltering or losing the live vibe successfully captured in this studio offering.  With harmonies, the band makes simple riffs sound fuller and more complicated riffs more palpable.  The guitars are always doing at least two to three independent parts.  Capitalizing on their Southern blood, the band uses a dual-guitar approach to paint pictures from the psychedelic to pummeling to the mastery of melody.  The band is truly gifted with a singer who can do it all from piercing screams to melodic clean vocals that, despite sometimes invoking JANE'S ADDICTION, have their own unique vibe.  ASG should appeal to fans of KYUSS, QUICKSAND, and ALABAMA THUNDERPUSSY among others.  This is a band that is true to themselves and their convictions, and one that turns a collectively deaf ear to trends in the music scene.  "Survive Sunrise" is therefore a prime choice for essential summer listening as it combines intensity with mood and shifting dynamics throughout creating its own trek through the mind via song.

Songwriting: 9
Originality: 9
Memorability: 10
Production: 9

4 Star Rating

1. Survive Sunrise
2. Execution Thirst
3. Up From My Dreams
4. Lightning Song
5. Hawks on the Run
6. The Heaven Moon
7. Kubrick Colors
8. God Knows We
9. Heavy Scars
10. Weekend Money
11. Lamb Song
12. Florida song
13. Tied Tongues (Digital Bonus Track)
Jason Shi - Guitars, Vocals
Scott Key - Drums
Andy Ellis - Bass
Jonah Citty - Guitar
Record Label: Relapse Records


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Edited 29 November 2022

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