It’s the new year. Time once again for resolving for self-improvement after a month of ignoring basically any responsibility in your life for self-indulgence. Definitely not trying to knock December at all, but I noticed that when I was putting together my end of the year lists, they were almost exclusively metal. I was trying to play catch up with non-metal releases, but I haven’t even really made much of a dent in that list. So this year, I resolve to expand my horizons as much as I can. And I’ve picked a hell of a way to start with The Oil Barons and their latest release, The West Is Won.
This is a pretty unique sounding band to me. There are shades of doom, stoner, and desert rock with a dash of pop punk thrown in. That may seem fairly straightforward for Los Angeles-based rock trio, but there’s something just a little off-kilter about the combination of influences. If Tom Waits ever hired a punk group to be his backing band, they’d sound a lot like the Oil Barons. It’s delightfully unique in all the right ways.
As I was listening to this record, I kept imagining a scene. It was very similar to a dive bar in a neo-noir movie. A whole lot of people packed into dingy booths coming up with seedy plans to get rich quickly. Meanwhile, the Oil Barons are providing all the background sound to the scene. It seems particularly fitting for the unique sound this band creates while making stories about equally shady characters and scenes.
More to the point, this is a super fun record to listen to. It’s simply interesting. Everything on it demands your attention for a few reasons. First, the sound is huge. Starting this record means you’re about to be assaulted with big guitars, heavy bass, and slamming drums. The huge nature of the band’s sound is enough to grab you, but on top of that it’s just a very curious thing. The riffs and songs have a very snake-like way of slithering through. It’s almost a sexy sound. Specifically “Snake Oil” comes to mind (please pardon the terrible pun from earlier). There’s an interesting beat in the main verses that seems almost uncouth until you realize it’s forcing you to pay attention to the song. Then when they mix up the beat with a new riff for bridge sections, you’re caught unaware and forced to pay attention more.
Later on in The West Is Won, the Barons mix it up on you again with “Vitch”. The single is a great example desert rock combined with an incredibly spooky atmosphere that makes this band just so interesting. Like every other song on this record, though, it doesn’t stick with the initial sound. The bridge section becomes a heavy stoner doom riff monster before morphing into a 70s psychedelia guitar solo section. The song is a great exemplar for the entire album: every song demands your attention as they constantly change and morph. Much like sleeping medication, you shouldn’t enjoy the Oil Barons while operating heavy machinery. You’ll lose your focus because The West Is Won is so fascinating.
What’s more to say here? This record is fun. It’s interesting. It’s unique. Very few bands get into this mix of stoner psychedelia and just bringing everything together on the harder side of the sound. The record is both simple and complex. Its simplicity lies in its influences of big heavy blues riff-style bands, but its complexity comes from the combination of these sounds into one cohesive unit. Much like a vein of black gold, this record gives forth unknown riches that won’t go dry anytime soon. Strike it rich, everybody.
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The West is Won will be released March 5th. Head on over to the band’s Bandcamp page above to stay up to date and grab it when it’s out there!