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Four

Eliminate the Masses (Orchard)

Metal is a tough thing to define these days, having become at least as fragmented as any other pop genre. Rap-metal, nu-metal, death metal, grindcore, progressive, trad, power, doom, goth, industrial, stoner, etc., all can somehow trace their roots back to something simply known as heavy metal. The term now has enough moss growing on it, and attendant ageist implications, to be shunned by all but tiny pockets of fanatical devotees -- artist and audience alike. Most simply refer to it now as metal, lest the sniggers get too loud.

But if you want to talk about local metal, Four's Eliminate the Masses is a far better starting place than most. What elevates this band is not so much a new formula as an ability to use old devices effectively. Mike Haseman's guitars chug without sounding retro, while the drumming of Jason Pettit balances nicely between the old-school kick/tom runs of yore and the more contemporary gapped feel.

The songs themselves share an economy and compactness that risk simply sounding underdeveloped. But Four manages to avoid this pitfall by consistently harnessing power and forward motion -- so consistently, in fact, that each song can serve as a high-quality overall representation of the band's work in toto. Particularly strong, however, are "Pest Control" (for its hook), "Asphyxiate" (for a texture somewhat more distinct than the rest) and "Daniel" (for its instantly memorable narrative).

Four's CD title is worthy of the Metal Hall of Fame.
Four's CD title is worthy of the Metal Hall of Fame.

And more of each of these is really all the band needs to move to the next level. The basic elements are all in place, Four having combined its various attributes into a whole that is at once classic and contemporary. A particularly useful example of this phenomenon is the vocal work of Keith Bracewell, who manages to move with quality and believability intact from a denim-and-leather roar to the somewhat airier staccato approach favored today.

Add just a touch more variety to the overall sound, and a couple of more magic moments like the three tunes listed above, and a truly powerful metal band will come into being. Even now Four eviscerates the local masses.

 
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