ASG- Blood Drive

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Tuesday, May 28, 2013

North Carolina’s ASG has generated a dedicated following over the past decade and was one of the fixtures of the Volcom roster. Between 2002 and 2007 the group was putting out material on a regular basis, but slowed their output in recent years to only a couple of splits. This year the band has moved over to Relapse Records and put together their newest full length Blood Drive, which offers a mixture of hard rock and stoner rock that is focused on slinging together as many memorable riffs as possible. It’s a bit mellower than some of the other rock focused albums Relapse has put out recently, but anyone with an interest in the style will find that ASG has plenty of hooks that will keep you wanting to come back.

Two things that stood out to me immediately when I began listening to Blood Drive were the quality of the riffs and the level of variation. The opening track “Avalanche” is a perfect way for ASG to kick things off, as it has some of their crunchiest and heaviest ideas and establishes a sound that is equal parts sprawling stoner rock and direct hard rock. From there the instrumentals move between these slightly edgier ideas and much more laid back material that places the emphasis entirely on melodic leads. Despite the fact that the album sticks within the boundaries of these styles, each song feels fairly different from the last and the group has a knack for ensuring that there is some sort of lasting hook that pulls listeners in from one moment to the next. At times ASG’s combination of melody and intensity reminds me quite a bit of Torche, particularly on tracks like “Stargazin” but there are enough differences to make this material have its own feel. While the louder in your face moments were what pulled me in to this album early on, the mellower arrangements started to have more of an impact the longer I listened to this release and as a whole the songs were engaging from start to finish.

Like the instrumental arrangements, the vocals alternate between rougher edged and mellower passages. There are a few tracks where lead singer Jason adopts a rougher tonality and even breaks into some screaming, but the majority of Blood Drive he sticks with melodic singing that soars over the instrumentals and grabs your attention. It’s a nice change of pace from the slew of stoner rock/metal bands in recent months that have all had vocalists with gruff pitches that sounded almost exactly the same, and the performance maintains the same level of energy no matter which pitch Jason is utilizing. This is yet another area where ASG is able to provide a decent amount of variation and keep things from becoming repetitive, and there are a few vocal lines that have been stuck in my head since I started listening to these tracks.

Relapse has been on a rock kick for the past year or so, and I’ve appreciated it as they have exposed me to some bands I hadn’t been aware of before. ASG is another great discovery, as Blood Drive has a great balance of rough edged stoner/hard rock and melodic riffs that ramp up the atmosphere and space you out. It’s the type of album I’ve been enjoying listening from beginning to end multiple times, and those of you with a taste for this type of heavy/melodic rock combo will likely feel the same way.

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