There is a huge musical movement in recent years that’s bringing back riff-based, 1970’s-style rock in a big way. It seems to have started in Europe, namely Scandinavia and other smaller pockets throughout, and is making it’s way across the United States as we speak. Heavy cock-rock guitar lines and long hair are back in, and it’s clear that many younger folks who’ve come up in the age of YouTube have been studying hard after getting a taste of their parents’ (maybe grandparents’?) old Zeppelin and Sabbath records. It’s a great thing.
Many standout bands are worth mentioning in this genre (Slow Season, Wedge, Electric Citizen, so many more) but for today let me focus on Granite City, IL rockers The Judge. They’ve been around a good while now, and their latest album is a rag-tag collection of tunes they’ve released in piecemeal over the last few years and finally put down on one cohesive record. It’s not reinventing the wheel, not even trying to. This record is a bong-fueled time machine trip into your dad’s basement circa 1971.
Right from the beginning, rhythm section Evan Anderson (drums) & Kevin Jones (bass) lay down tight grooves led by guitarist Dylan Jarrett’s no-nonsense riffage on opening track “The Witcher.” For the first three songs they jam hard on all the Black Sabbath pleasure centers of the brain, vocalist Tyler Swope channeling equal parts Jack Bruce/Paul Rodgers (ask your parents).
The Judge wanders into Cream territory on “Tartarus” and ends out the A-side edging into southern rock with “Movin’ & Groovin”. Side B starts with my absolute favorite song on the record, a 7 minute proto-metal jam “Planet Doom”, a loving reimagined slow-blues burner of classic Sabbath atmosphere. After an instrumental break on lost “Suite Jam” (which could almost pass as a lost outtake from Moby Grape’s Grape Jam record) we head into the home stretch with two straightforward rockers, “Desire” and “Rock Kickin’ Blues.”
The Judge have put together a solid record here, a distillation of their influences into what I hear as a tribute to the music they love. There’s not a single cover song on the record, but every tune has that familiar feel. It’s a classic rock record from the modern age perfect for anyone who’s ever relished the experience of banging your head to a heavy riff at a show, or passing a joint and hearing Disraeli Gears for the first time at a friend’s party. With a label debut this strong that takes me so solidly back in time, I look forward to hearing how The Judge keep it going into the future.