Toulouse’s Drawers started life as a half-hearted side project but that all changed quickly when they started making a real, valid impact. The possibilities that lay in fully realising their latent potential was very rapidly grabbed with all ten of their mitts.
As a result, they have promised to play anywhere, anytime and this self-titled sophomore comes hot on the heels of 2012’s suffocating, explosive debut. All Is One was an album that Ave Noctum described as “smothering” “grumbling” and even “spasming”, so their subtle shift into performing distortion-bothering groove metal is slightly surprising. Don’t fret though, they’re still flinging sludge at each other but now they’re hitting their listeners with it. You could say they are less scattergun by design.
By recording live the band have retained a rough quality to their sound that sets them apart from over-tweaked groove bands like say Devildriver or Chimaira. With the distortion wound up on the guitars to CRUSH setting, any melody does tend to get trampled down a bit but listen carefully and you will catch snatches of it. The vocal also has to go big to rise above the rumble but Niko Bastide’s gravel-gargling throat is well up to the task, fending off the gruff, sludge-packing strings as he goes. The end result of all this bickering really doesn’t leave much room for maneuvre so the songwriting has to be tight.
Strong hits of High On Fire-esque apoplectic stoner burst through early on with tracks like “Once And For All” and the monotonous “It’s All About Love” powering through the simplistic riff construction as the band attempt to break eardrums. There’s little slacking off, but the threads and shreds of early-era Baroness begin to sneak through as progression is made. The swaggering “Bleak” and “Take Stock” are fine examples of this, even if you’ll still find yourself craving another emotion besides anger.
The following “Shadow Dancers” sees the band opening out even further and allowing the listener to sink deeper into the groove as a little more light is let in. It’s a trick that they picked up from their debut and, in both cases, I’ve wanted to flip the tracklisting on its head or scream at them to stick with this pattern for longer – curse the songwriter(s) who stopped scribbling after half an hour. No matter. By “Words” they’ve absolutely nailed the balance and the deep throbbing attack and intense focus is menacing, yet beguiling, and utterly headbang-worthy.
Greater attack does mean far less exploration or diversity and that is a shame. However, on the plus side, their straight-up homage to NOLA-dwelling stoner has all but gone so this definitely feels more like a Drawers album than their debut ever did. It’s short and sweet (too short), but they certainly sound like they’re having fun even though they clearly mean business. To this end, I think we can ignore those gurning faces on the cover and revel in the knowledge that these Frenchmen are now headed in the right direction.
(6.5/10 John Skibeat)