Our autumnal excursion through the Garden State concludes in Jersey City, home of the Statue of Liberty, birthplace of funk legends Kool & the Gang, and for nearly four years now, home to chromium swamp creatures Black Wail. These fuzz-faced, big-muffed purveyors of doom boogie have been plying their wares since Spring 2014, over three EP releases and countless live shows, and their forthcoming effort Chromium Homes (Rhyme & Reason Records, in stores December 15) is a raw, rip-snorting blast of sharp hooks, bludgeoning riffs, syrupy-sweet harmonies, and out-and-out heavy metal anguish.
Black Wail began life as a series of demos recorded at home by vocalist/guitarist Michael Tarlazzi. Long known on the Jersey City scene as a drummer, Tarlazzi began writing and tracking his 70’s-tinged tunes while still manning the throne for psych rockers Thomas Francis Takes His Chances. Once that band dissolved in late 2013, Tarlazzi decided to step forward from behind the kit to front a band that could bring his songs to life. His first step was to recruit bassist Susan Lutin, whose aggressive-yet-fluid style made her the only candidate considered for the role. Former Murder 1 keyboardist Bram Teitelman soon joined Tarlazzi and Lutin in what local promoter “Dancing Tony” Susco dubbed “JC’s Supergroup;”, after a few personnel tweaks, drummer Ed Charreun solidified the band’s lineup in 2015.
The sound of Black Wail is firmly rooted in classic hard rock and psychedelia, but the band manages to avoid the slavish retro rehash trap that ensnares too many of their contemporaries. Their sonic touchstones – Thin Lizzy, Hawkwind, The Doors – are apparent, and their sound is instantly familiar, but at no point does the music feel stale or telegraphed. Just as the band’s genial, loping, southern-fried riffs and lush, gorgeous harmonies lull listeners into a classic rock state of serenity, volleys of buzzsaw guitar and guttural, raw-throated metal shrieks and bleats enter to shock them back into the here and now. From metal to surf to folk to psych (and sometimes all in one song), Black Wail’s music is a trip that covers a whole lot of sonic and psychic space.
Recorded and mixed by Grammy-winner John Seymour (Alice in Chains, Bouncing Souls), Chromium Homes is a perfect encapsulation of the Black Wail ethos; from the stroll-turns-to-stomp of “They,” to the metallic modulation-cum-space surf adventure “Radioactive Mutation,” from the Black Crowes-meets-Rainbow romp of the title track, to the sludgy, nearly unrecognizably sinister take on the Beatles‘ classic “Norwegian Wood” that closes the record out, it’s a stoner rock statement of purpose that stands out in a crowded field. The musicians are in a blissful, almost telepathic lock-step, firing on all cylinders and playing with an audible intensity that sounds like it may take your head clean off in a live setting.
“My vision for this band is dark weirdness,” says Tarlazzi. Judging from their tales of atrocities and ne’er-do-wells, toxic sludge and sex n’ drugs, and wars both public and private, not to mention the obvious delight they take jumping joyfully from genre to genre and laying waste to every single one, Black Wail is doing one hell of a job bringing Tarlazzi’s vision to life.
(Black Wail will perform this Thursday, November 30, at Brooklyn Bazaar in Brooklyn, New York, and on January 19 at White Eagle Hall in Jersey City, New Jersey. Their new album, Chromium Homes, will be released via Rhyme & Reason Records on December 15; watch out for our full review in the coming weeks!)