When I was a youngster, if I wasn’t immersed in a world of Hendrix, Black Sabbath or Iron Maiden, I was busily exploring the blues. The darkness of Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters; those bourbon soaked wails and gritty guitars birthed in a place I could never imagine but still identified with as a relatable place of escape. This was the antithesis of “nice” and a different sort of “heavy”. These are thoughts that entered my mind as I listened to Noisepicker and their debut LP “Peace Off”. The band moniker and album title suggest something quite tongue in cheek but the contents prove to be something otherwise. Vocalist and guitarist Harry Armstrong, who I’m more familiar with as part of Earls Of Mars and Lord Of Putrefaction, has teamed up with drummer Kieran Murphy to work on ideas that had been gestating with the singer. Ideas which revolved around the heaviness and darkness rooted in the blues but had twisted into sounds that made the foundations of hard rock, punk and crusty heavy metal.
The grinding cacophony of “No Man Lies Blameless” with its’ punk edged garage ugliness feels like The Stooges letting loose in your basement. Untamed vocals full of finger pointing scorn and that metallic, Detroit styled chug come in next adding a hardcore infused, Black Flag intensity on “So You’re Sick”. Fat and dirty riffs underpin it all before a key album changer arrives in the form of “A Taste Of My Dying”. Here is where the brooding, blues driven weight arrives with seasoned, booze drenched vocals over a sound that would have been at home decades ago with Blue Cheer, the MC5 or Canned Heat but stripped back to an even more primal sound. Using those late sixties and early 70’s garage noises and pouring more latter day punk influences steer the album into a far more abrasive direction.
There’s little room for subtlety or vague innuendo; the song titles are a fair reflection of what you’re going to get. “I Hear You Talking And It Sounds Like Bullshit To Me” being a prime slab of Stooges inspired racket. The real bluesy guts become obvious on “He Knew It Would All End In Tears” with Armstrong seeming to assume the role of an apocalyptic preacher. Thick, gravelly chords dominate as tracks move from a doomy despair to aggressive, middle-finger-raised blasts of proto punk. Indeed, it’s this brutal, unrefined lyrical honesty that lends itself most to the old blues style. Part preaching and part woe, swathed in unpolished, distorted guitar and very heavy drumming, this could well be a kind of blues for a new generation. “The Day When All Hope Died” manages a strut and swagger with its’ pounding beat, followed up with the melancholy closer “I Stood By Her Grave” with a resonant guitar that gets shoved into the dirt and is a fitting end point that perfectly captures the essence of the album.
“Peace Off” is a heady mix that works and comes together brilliantly. Muddy Waters’ “The Blues Had A Baby And They Named It Rock And Roll” might never have been so apt although this duo have managed to take that template and infuse it with everything that made punk and distorted heavy metal relevant. This album feels completely natural and unrestrained, never relying on the well worn heavy blues/rock template but taking the blues into a doomed out, pysch-punk work out. Well worth a listen.
(8/10 Johnny Zed)