Old Man Lizard- Lone Wolf vs. Brown Bear

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Thursday, June 26, 2014

Old Man Lizard may be a band that some people will be quick to throw the sludge/stoner rock tag at, but that doesn’t mean that the UK act is treading the same ground that so many in the genre have already explored. On their new album Lone Wolf vs. Brown Bear the group offers some of the trademark heaviness one might expect from this type of music, but there’s a healthy dose of blues and country western swagger as the instrumental work chases down the almighty groove. It’s the type of release that doesn’t stay in the same territory for too long, but Old Man Lizard is able to channel all of these elements without seeming as though they are only scratching the surface.

Each of the songs touches upon something a little different, instantly grabbing the attention of the listener. The group starts things off with what is one of their heavier numbers, as “Hypocastinum Warrior” kicks things off with a heavy groove that gives way to some slightly mellower riffs a little ways in. From there it’s clear that Old Man Lizard isn’t going to just go for the lumbering bottom heavy grooves and call it a day. Although there are moments where the heaviness is cranked back up, the instrumental work spends just as much time exploring melodic territory and going for a sound that incorporates a good deal of blues and that older country western swagger into the traditional stoner/desert rock aesthetic. But that’s still not a complete description of Lone Wolf vs. Brown Bear, as there are also moments where the guitar work completely lets loose and goes for high flying jams that almost remind me of the type of highly calculated math rock I enjoy listening to. Old Man Lizard makes the most of this mish mash of styles, as although they may be difficult to categorize there’s always some type of hook that caught my attention and that’s an indication of how strong the songwriting is throughout this album.

I don’t want to take away from Jack Newnham’s vocal performance too much, as I do like the rougher edge that he brings to the material, but did find that the vocals tended to take a back seat to the instrumental work. That’s not particularly surprising, as there are just so many moments throughout Lone Wolf vs. Brown Bear where the lead guitar takes over and is the main element most listeners will likely be paying attention to. Where Newnham does stand out for me is when the group slows things down and returns to more of a traditional stoner rock/sludge sound, as his gruffer screaming/singing is much more prominent during these sections and provides that extra little bit of energy to the arrangements. The fact that the vocals are overshadowed by the instrumentals during certain songs isn’t actually a criticism in this particular instance, as I think the overall balance Old Man Lizard has going between the two elements works in their favor, but it does depend on your personal tastes and what you look for in this type of material.

This was the first time I had come across Old Man Lizard, and they blew me away with their first impression. It would be easy to assume that this is yet another group ready to go for the tried and true stoner rock/sludge sound that copies the same bands as everyone else, but these guys have a bit more ambition than that and have really tried to branch out without forgetting to offer plenty of substance. Whether you want to call Lone Wolf vs. Brown Bear stoner rock, blues rock, or anything else, I think you’ll find this album one that you won’t be able to stop listening to and this is a band that will stay on people’s radars in the coming years.


Note: I didn’t find material available to preview from the album, but the track “Beelzebeer Blues” from this split appears on it.

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