Tuesday, January 17, 2012


If heavy makes you happy, Fort Worth is a pretty good place to be right now, with bands like Vorvon, Unraveler, china kills girls, Southern Train Gypsy, Stone Machine Electric, the resurgent Garuda, and FTW treading the boards.

Myself, I've never been a big fan of heavy. Back in high school, when my age cohort were going apeshit over Black Sabbath (and Grand Funk Railroad), I was digging the Yardbirds and John Lee Hooker. Who'd have guessed in 1970 that Sabbath would prove to be the most durably influential rock band of that year, 40 years on? I once wrote a review of an Electric Wizard album that started with "I hate this fucking record" and ended with "There isn't an amount of marijuana on Earth that would make this listenable." The era of stoner sludge jogged some memories -- what did Soundgarden sound like, besides Ronnie Dio fronting Sabbath? -- and during the Wreck Room's heyday, Jon Teague taught me to stop worrying and love the doom via Boris' Akuma No Uta and Sleep's Jerusalem. Still, I've walked out on Nebula three times, more than any national band.

But Sean Vargas, whom I've seen at shows around the Fort for ages and whom I recently learned is FTW's frontman, laid a copy of his band's self-released four-song CD on me the other night, when the li'l Stoogeband was playing two sets in a bowling alley in River Oaks, and this morning, I slipped it in the player while I was washing dishes. It started skipping in the middle of the first song (our CD player is getting senile), but I thought enough of what I'd heard to rip it to iTunes so I could hear the whole thing.

Even if you're not a fan of doom metal, you've gotta admit that these guys know what they're doing. Guitarist Jonathan Hill and bassist Nick Huff lock in with thunderous unison rifferama and fuzz-and-wah laden solo excursions, while drummer Mike McBride pounds his kit like he was driving coffin nails in the best Bill Ward tradition. Up front, Vargas -- who recorded all his vocals in one take -- tortures his tonsils like a hybrid of Dio and Matt Pike, a soul-wrenching squall of anomie and melody. He's not just screaming, either -- cat can hit them notes, making him a contender for the most powerful vocalist in the 817. In fact, there's just enough passion and blues (read Joe Carducci and Charles Shaar Murray on the [d]evolution of blues to metal) in FTW's grooves to make a believer out of a skeptic. Check 'em out.

(Their web presence is apparently limited to a Facebook page, so look for the one from Fort Worth and ignore the imposter FTWs from Manchester, UK, and Burlington, MA.)


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