It’s difficult to liken comparisons to Musketeer Gripweed. Maybe hints of Zakk Wylde vocalization and Black Keys catchiness can be sought, though such associations only apply sporadically—Musketeer Gripweed is ferociously singular in their style and genre, whatever that specifically may be. Either the band doesn’t know or they don’t care, given that their official Facebook page refers to their genre as “American Revival Stomp Ass Shake Holla!” The description is fitting: Floods and Fires is a rip-roaring album with very few moments of weakness.
“9 Pound Hammer” starts things off just right, with a simple acoustic riff and foot-stomping rhythm vaguely reminiscent of Judas Priest before integrating the rest of the band’s trademark bluegrass repertoire, dismissing all comparisons for a singular and thrilling sound. The second track, “A Train,” is a short-but sweet track that appears to exist solely for a great solo at the midpoint. In fact, Musketeer Gripweed has a love for instrument solos that too few bands seem to respect anymore, and it’s a great throwback.
Somehow it always seems like the hard rocking bands are the ones that write the best ballads, and this holds true once again with the more definitively bluesy and completely excellent “Desert is Out of Tune,” which allows some impressive vocalization and a very satisfying piano riff shine through. Follow-up “Rosie” mixes things up with some more elaborate vocalization.
The album briefly falters with “End of the Day,” a frankly somewhat boring track that skews a bit too heavily into country territory in contrast with the rest of the album without incorporating any of the additional tricks and fun instruments present on the rest of the album. This track is pretty much the only stumbling block, and more noticeable because the rest of the release showcases Musketeer Gripweed simply having fun and showing off some very impressive instrumentation. “ Sin Eater” is similarly lackluster, though not offensively so. The rest of Floods and Fires is jam packed with passionately executed arrangements.
This is most evident on the penultimate “Puppet,” arguably the album’s best track and a titanic piece featuring dueling guitar solos for several minutes with a satisfying underlying rhythm. And yet, it’s outdone by the following closer, “Facing West,” closing things out with a brooding, epic Black Label Society-style solo crossed with soft crooning and…is that an organ? It’s a fantastic way to close off the record.
Floods and Fires is an awesome album. The catchy bluegrass themes and consistently exciting guitar interludes make this one piece that will have good staying power. Musketeer Gripweed knows how to craft exciting, fun riffs and engaging hooks. In a solid first half of 2014, Floods and Fires stands strong as one of the best thus far.