Grunge is not a genre which I enjoy. However, many of its elements can be incorporated into other styles with pleasing results. The most successful of these, to my ears, are the vocals. Something about that raspy Chris Cornell dynamic just gets you going, reaching into places of excitement and lazy wonder. When you take these and you overlay them into metal, mostly the slower, more fuzzy sub-genres, you get an instant match. In the honey-rich lows of such bourbon infused drawls their lives a tension which meshes beautifully with feedback and deep drum rolls. Here, then, is where we introduce you to Warm. The band does, and has been doing since 2011, exactly what has just been described. Their brand of stoner is reinforced with a vocalist who has learned well the lessons of the 90’s and their rock.
Combine this with instruments that aren’t neglected for a second and you have the charm and power of The Human Exemplar. Much like this year’s Boss Keloid, Warm mix these two aspects into a heady, heavy mix. Check out “Of Air” for example, one of the best tracks on the album. Brightly colored riffs usher us in, heavy but with chromatic melody. They remind us perhaps of the progressive stoner trappings of HARK, and with good reason. However, instead of the half screamed vocals that the Welsh adhere to, the more lucid singing of Warm is introduced. Those of sharp ears can sense immediately the grunge influences. If that’s not enough to sell you, listen to the wailing lead guitar that quickly follows; its harmonics are all that and more. However, nothing is lost in service to these core elements. The drums are complex and interesting, the original riffs are reiterated on and varied. Everything hones in on the guitars and vocals but retains its distinct identity.
Later, more rapsy vocals (Mastodon-like in energy) are introduced over bass/drum combination and, even later, a killer outro riff. That’s perhaps the strongest suite of this album: separation. It’s not just mid-range earphones (Sennheiser HD598, if you care) but also how this band composes. Every instrument is perfectly capable of being the front. You can choose your poison, pick out inter-plays and riffs that would otherwise, within this busy subgenre, remain buried in the mix. This enables even the more laidback and “simple” parts of this album to shine brightly. Opening track “Ash in the Waves” is a good example. It’s a catchy, straight-forward track which lays out the plan for the rest of the album. Nothing about it is amazingly original but the honest execution makes it an endearing song.
How is this achieved? Simple (or not): Warm have identified one of the major pitfalls of their dual sub-genres and addressed it directly. It’s not only that stoner and grunge don’t produce backing roles well; more than that, they are buried from the composition phase, not given the attention they need. Not so here. everything is recorded, written and produced to an equal degree and that degree is excellent. Therefore, you can find interesting things in all parts, no matter your preference. Even the most simple, backing riff has verve and punch, some interesting variations and interplays. This style of composition allows Warm to solidly embellish and transform even the most simple of musical tools, alchemically bettering them in a loving, convincing light.