Watchers them go (sorry!)
One of the great joys about doing Maximum Volume Music for getting on for four years is that we are seeing bands grow and flourish.
Back in November 2016 I reviewed the debut EP by The Watchers, “Sabbath Highway: “There’s one thing for sure, though, this EP leaves you wanting a full album.” I said, rather excitedly, and now, 15 months or so on, here it is.
And you’d best believe that “Black Abyss” does not disappoint.
Given that the debut record was called “Sabbath Highway” and the cover for “…Abyss” is the most occult thing this side of Harry Potter’s washbag, not to mention they look like the house band at Satan’s disco, you’d be forgiven for thinking you knew what you were getting.
However, whilst it’s not like anyone is kidding anyone that they haven’t heard a Tony Iommi riff in their lives, The Watchers have much more to do than rehash the past.
Indeed, take a listen to the opening minute or so of the title track and you’d perhaps be fooled. There’s a huge riff, dark and thick as molasses, and there’s a thumping groove, but then, it opens out into something a little different, a little soaring if you will before a stop off at a grunge lick or two, and this is the very essence of The Watchers: they’ll do rock n roll just as well as anyone – but they’ll do it on their terms.
Guitarist Jeremy Von Eppic plays his heart out here, with each of the eight tracks asking a little more, and “Alien Lust” is perhaps his most basic, primal wheelhouse, a study in the power of the power chord, but with Tim Narducci’s wail matching him, you keep coming back to wanting to mention Chris Cornell and early Soundgarden.
“Oklahoma Black Magic” roars at you like some Blue Cheer song lost in the dusty vaults, and if the bass of the wonderfully named Cornbread is right to the fore on “Buzzard” then it gives the song a kind of hard rock tinge that will have you looking for your Clutch records when its done. “Starfire” kicks in like it’s a Monster Magnet song, but gracious me, the vocals have a debt to early Alice In Chains too – and it is all brilliantly done.
If all those bands mentioned in the paragraph above might signpost the fact that each song is a real journey, as if the band had no interest in a “signature sound” as it were, then “People Of The Gun” has all the urgency of a Life Of Agony song, while “Suffer Fool” has a choral, classical swirl, as well as having echoes of both Pearl Jam and Soundgarden before it’s done.
Just eight songs long, it takes just 40 minutes or so to do its thang, which as every schoolboy from the early 90s knows was just long enough to put on one side of a tape – pleasingly “Seven Tenets” which has the air of a Seattle banger of the period was probably the sort of thing we were listening to back then too. Of course, this being The Watchers, there’s some lurking in other places too – not least of which is a breakdown straight from “Seventh Son” era Maiden.
It all adds up to a record that might not be what you expected given the artwork. But what’s that saying about never judging books by their covers? “Black Abyss” proves that you second guess The Watchers at your peril.