You evolve. You embrace the things your particular team of musicians do best and play to those strengths, and you don’t let the small stuff beat you down.
Hoss was the very first band I attempted to review for this paper. Don’t go looking for a copy — it’s probably lost forever to the great Internet “file not found” unknown. I remember thinking that they sounded exactly as I’d expected them to, but that there was something going on that hinted at a “sound” on it’s way to being found. Swaggering boogie metal tunes with fist pumping, pissed off choruses played a significant role on their first few albums, Backwoods Boogie and Cope Creek Killer.
They played plenty of shows (local and beyond), had a few of those “too good to be true” promises dangled before them by various industry types, and weathered the storms of losing not only a vocalist but their bassist as well.
But as a testament to that whole “keep on digging” work ethic, a few things happened. A veteran metal guitarist named George Clarkson moved up from Florida, and Sam Brinkley (of local bluegrass stompers Rafe Hollister) stepped up to both bass and lead vocal duties. Woodshedding occurred. The “bluesiness” got better mixed with the “metalness,” and as a whole Hoss was revitalized by the changes. The band reached back to the arena rock bluster of AC/DC and Thin Lizzy, mixing it with the crushing sludge of Black Label Society and Clutch, all the while keeping their homegrown “mountain metal” attitude well to the front. The result is the polished, thumping Hosstyle, an album showcasing the band’s undeniable growth and refinement over the last few years.
There are no pretensions here to do anything but rock. No sensitive ballads, chiming acoustic interludes; nope, nothing but crunching guitars smacking your face and Brinkley’s gruff sing/scream vocals spitting badass southern attitude with every word. Guitarists Rick Balliot and Clarkson are free to spray nutso rock guitar all over each track, filling the tune “Can’t Abide” with skittering flurries of notes and whammy-bar abused harmonics, or splitting into dual (duel?) guitar harmony like redneck Iron Maiden on “Packin’ Critters.”
But the songs themselves are stronger too, not just the playing. “Hossenfeffer” is a raging slice of stadium stomp with instant tailgate party appeal, driven by Jody Cooper’s solid as granite drums and a brutal, bone-simple riff. It’s one of the strongest tunes the band has penned to date. However, I can’t hear the name “Hossenfeffer” without visions of Laverne and Shirley dorking out in a beer factory — but that’s my problem.
Tales of moonshine, illicit farming, muddy pickup trucks, murder and general bad behavior are standard themes throughout Hosstyle, and the track “Shoot The Noose” embodies many of these ideas. An ominous tale of shady goings on in a mountain town married to some furious Priest style riffing, the song packs a heaping dose of, umm ... hoss-tility into three and a half minutes. It’s big and angry and loud, a further reminder that Hoss isn’t messing around. They’re out to beat the naysayers into submission with a wall of cranked amplifiers and thundering drums. And they may very well succeed.
The official CD release for Hosstyle is slated for Saturday, Oct. 6 at Main Street Pub, the only venue in town big enough to hold the band’s Mack truck fury. It will be an earsplitting good time, and not one to be missed. And speaking of trucks, Hoss will begin a stint opening some huge monster truck rallies across the country, the first at the Kentucky National Speedway Oct. 12. Which begs the question: who would win in a death-match battle to determine who’s got the most metal, Hoss or Gravedigger? I don’t know about you, but my money’s on the local boys.