Coming out of the rapidly blossoming Southeast Pennsylvania stoner rock scene, Backwoods Payback is one of the veterans of this scene. They are vicious rock and rollers who understand the power of grunge. The band has been pushing for 15 years now, but this latest record feels like the group has achieved bold new heights. Their fifth full length, Future Slum, sees the band putting together all manner of exciting riffs, high powered vocals, and a roaring bottom end that nails down a potent rhythm section.
This is the sort of groove filled stoner rock I love. Rather than falling into psychedelic boredom, Future Slum sees Backwoods Payback generate driving new rhythms and thrilling ideas to continue to propagate their bottom end heavy sound. It's the sort of whiskey-fueled rebellion needed to keep rock and roll viable in 2018. It's rough, tough and over the top; the kind of thing you won't soon forget. It's ultimately where stoner rock needs to go.
That being said the album is not without its weaknesses. While the more tripped out moments, even from the first bridge on album opener "Pirate Smile" are usually kept concise and the overall songwriting is excellent I'm still not always convinced with the band's approach. While their raging bottom end is great, I feel like the record isn't diverse enough to truly push for absolute greatness. The track "Big Enough," with its moody acoustic intro, is a great example of what this band could be if they brought in everything they are capable of.
It is one of the records grungiest moments, reminiscent almost of Soundgarden but that's a huge part of the appeal. The breadth of the sound there only serves to make Backwoods Payback feel like rock and roll titans in their own right. While there are certainly a variety of ideas presented here and the band doesn't just stay in one track, they need to push beyond some of the more common limitations of the genre to truly fascinate. That being said it's exciting to see how much raw talent is here and what all these years of honing their craft has led up to.
One thing that I really admire about this album is even though the guys in the band are clearly overflowing with talent, they make a clear point about not being overambitious. No track is over five minutes long, and most of the songs stick to their core ideas.
There is none of the schizophrenic need to be a rock god that defines a lot of the other bands in the genre. The songwriting is strong here, and while it could be tightened up, made more anthemic and generally brought forward, this album represents a potent culmination in the career of Backwoods Payback they are no longer just another band bumming around but a band who seem to grasp the sheer beautiful nihilism of this scene and this world. Listening to them reminds me of cold nights on the road, cheap whiskey and a sense of resolution that without this we might as well be dead.