For the past several years, Alabama Thunderpussy has been on an unwitting journey to become the Van Halen of stoner doom metal. ATP started with no singer, picked up Johnny Throckmorton for its first four albums, replaced Throckmorton with Johnny Weils for one album, and replaced Weils with Kyle Thomas before recording Open Fire (they've also gone through four bassists). One would think such lineup changes particularly on vocals would substantially change a band's sound, but it hadn't for ATP. They always sounded gritty, heavy, dirty, and dangerous, no matter who was singing. Until this album. Much of Open Fire sounds like it was recorded in 1983 by a bunch of guys who were listening to British heavy metal and reading the lyrics of American black metal. Some of the blame for this falls on Thomas, who has the throaty growl of his ATP predecessors but can't seem to keep himself from unleashing cheesy high-pitched '80s metal screams, to the point where he sometimes sounds like he's trying out for a Dio cover band. But it's not just Thomas tweaking the vibe ATP's twin guitar harmonies, which have always echoed Thin Lizzy, sound more like Iron Maiden with extra noodling here, and the band's usual beastly, meaty low end has been replaced by faster, flatter rhythms. There's a dive down lyrically as well, as the title track uses every old metal cliché in the book succubi, sin, selling souls, spectres, blood stains, inverted crucifixes, and references to Abaddon, Charon, and Satan (where's Cthulu, guys?) The best song on the CD is probably "Whiskey War," and that's because it most closely resembles the way ATP sounded before they sterilized themselves with stereotypes, like the muscular Viking warrior holding up a bloody sword on the cover.
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