Feral Vices, a guitar-and-drum alt-rock duo from Louisville, make catchy, Spotify-ready rock anthems underlined with fist-pumping grooves and more than a fair share of tackle-box hooks. The duo is self-releasing its new LP, the five-song With Offerings EP, this week after anticipation built through the dropping of three powerhouse singles in 2020. But – despite the pattern deployed on the duo’s last EP, 2019’s quite good Mirror You – those 2020 singles aren’t anywhere to be found on the new release. And that’s a shame, because one single in particular, “The New Machines,” was one of the band’s best to date, totally anthemic and the type of choppy, guitar-laden groove that kicks sand in the eyes of Josh Homme and Queens of the Stone Age. That’s okay, though, because, surprisingly, the new EP doesn’t need much help reaching greatness.
Yes, there’s a deliciously hammered-on blues-rock number (“Lay Down”) on the new EP. And opener “Corpse In The Cathedral” is so ambitiously stadium-saturating, it sounds like Foo Fighter Dave Grohl should be making a cameo appearance. But the new EP, in our opinion, totally revolves around the fourth song, “Mass Produce Your Revolution,” where the band aims for the horizon and the stars and reaches them in spades. “Mass Produce Your Revolution” is a banger in the tradition of Richard Hell’s “Blank Generation,” both timely (even without Trump in the House of Whiteness, there’s reason to rage ecstatic) and, yeah, amazingly hummable. The lyrics are good if a little generic but the overarching message (in the vein of the ol’ “the revolution will not be televised”) is passionately delivered with aplomb. The guitar-driven chorus on this thing is so vitriolic and goddamn catchy, it’ll leave earworms chomping on your brain and cerebellum for days.
That says nothing of the songs that surround that fine, stand-out track. “Frontman” (we say relatively) Tyler Hoagland is a perfectly fine singer, even if the vocals are a little too clean and maybe a little too studio-polished to match the grungy refrains – which hints often at The Black Keys’ new blues-rock style – surrounding them. But he’s a hell of a guitar player, very imaginative with his phrasings and volume control, and very quick to try something unconventional instead of falling into the all-too-predictable verse/chorus/verse mold.
(“Covered In Blue” has an almost bizarre anti-solo at the two-minute mark, a bridge that seems almost counter-intuitive – but it works, oddly enough.) There’s a great, pixelated little guitar bridge near the end of the closing title song that makes the soaring guitars and frenetic beats from drummer Justin Cottner in the final measures soar higher and pound louder. These guys clearly know what they’re doing.
The duo is a product of its place and era, with the studio production veering more toward the aforementioned Foo Fighters than what Grohl did, say, on Nirvana’s wonderfully jagged-edged In Utero. There’s nothing wrong with that, though imagining this thing cut in a different Louisville, say the 1980s or 90s version chock full of Maurice or Shipping News or the good folks at the site Louisville Hardcore, is tempting. “Congratulations/ I thought that you’d wanted more/ Those rusted engines/ Nothing moves here anymore,” Hoagland sang on “The New Machines,” the great single from 2020. It’s that Louisville spirit we’d love to see the band dig into deeper. It might make the music far noisier and far more raw, with highlights on the unconventional instead of a smooth vocal track or the mouth-watering hook. But this is the Louisville of today and Feral Vices (and bands like WiiRMZ) are working to own it. And if “Mass Produce Your Revolution” becomes their high-watermark, so be it. That ain’t a bad place to hang your hat. — Justin Vellucci, Spectrum Culture, Dec. 13, 2021