Sometimes the epithet ‘Southern’ can make one shudder in fear rather than delight, with stodgy ‘Dad Rock’ often found invading its borders. There’s no such danger here… from the off Black Ocean Waves (Graveyard Hill Records), the third album from Virginian old-timers King Giant, displays a brooding intensity: the rumbling bass notes and lead howls of opener ‘Mal de Mer’ invoking feelings of both melancholy and trepidation. The roaring riffs of ‘The One That God Forgot to Save’ carry more of a barrelling stomp than a latent groove, whilst the overall feel possesses some of the Stoner / Grunge of Gorse with Dave Hammerly’s vocal reminiscent of the Brighton trio’s James Parker.
There’s a sleazy, nefarious quality here which prevents the album’s early stages from diving into flabby mundanity. Todd “TI” Ingram’s leadwork is often understated yet enlivening when it appears, evoking The Rolling Stones’ ‘Gimme Shelter’ when splitting ‘Requiem For A Drunkard’s raunchier elements. It gives the lament of ‘Red Skies’ an indolent, Eastern quality, while Hammerly’s plaintive roar portrays guilt and shame with real passion; the whole swaddled within intricate rhythmic patterns and fluid time switches.
There’s nothing new here of course, and the younger metalhead may doubtless find this lacks his or her required energy levels. Rarely, however, does this kind of stuff possess the sort of up tempo, pulsing vibe that King Giant produce with seeming ease; the rampaging yet tempered heavy rock of ‘Trail Of Thorns’, for example, displaying the vitality of The Doors’ later, heavier moments, albeit without the quirky invention. Creativity is here though – the angry roars and swells of ‘Blood Of The Lamb’ are occasionally quelled by a softer texture; a constant duel which heightens the emotion and piques the curiosity further with a dreamy, truly moving Ingram solo. The crushing oscillations of closer ‘There Were Bells’, meanwhile, mix with lamenting yet euphoric verses in an elephantine take on Pearl Jam.
All sounds the old man might like? Sure. Black Ocean Waves, though, gives them a serious injection of power and fervour which lifts King Giant way above the often bloated fayre of their genre.