The opening strains of Moonbow's debut album, The End of Time, draw you in like the first hill of a monster roller coaster. The off-tune violin and rustic guitar hint of something yet-to-come; and once the drums and bass kick-in, you're over that first big hill, screaming with a combination of thrill and terror. You're gravity's prisoner now, so you best just hold on tight and enjoy the ride.
Moonbow's sound is forged of black leather, polished chrome, sweat and gasoline. The rhythm is made of a thousand bodies colliding in rapture before a never-ending bonfire fueled by brimstone and whisky.
The album delivers with a strong Alice in Chains/Stone Temple Pilots feel without being overloaded with self-indulgent guitar riffs and over-the-top solos. The production done by Jason Groves of Sneak Attack Studio in Lexington is perfect for this style of music and the gaps between songs is so brief as to leave you unable to catch your breath.
Guitarist David McElfresh [Hank III/Lethal] displays incredible technical skill and the drop-tuning brings his grinding tones right down into your gut. Ryan McAllister [Valley of the Sun] ties it all together and keeps it grounded with deep and haunting bass lines. Drummer Steve Earle [Afghan Whigs] is steady as a rock and twice as hard. His playing reminds me of a young Dave Grohl appearing for the first time on a Nirvana recording and changing everything.
Moonbow is lead by local business owner turned reality TV star, Matt Bischoff. Bischoff's vocals remind me a lot of Ozzy Osbourne -- think Sabbath and early solo work -- not the makeup & mousse duet with Lita Ford era. But, in tracks like Saved and Black Widow, Matt shows that he's not just a front-man. He is a singer.
The lyrics for all but one track are written by Matt and are rife with imagery both profane and deeply personal and touching. One that sticks out most in my mind is Fire Bath in which Bischoff juxtaposes such off-hand heavy metal phrases as "I am cleansed by the sacred smoke" with tender messages of love:
Ever since I saw you that day
I get on my hands and knees and pray
I've waited a lifetime for you
The blessing that you gave me
The sacred son you promised me
Forever married to the flame
It is exactly this combination of the expected and unexpected that makes the listening experience more rewarding and will keep me playing this CD over and over again.
Please keep all hands, arms and feet inside the ride while The End of Time is playing, and make an effort to get out and see them live as soon as possible.