Fine music often springs from the most unexpected of places, and such is the case with Anchorage-bred 36 Crazyfists debut, Bitterness the Star
. Known primarily for its desolate landscapes and the occasional gold rush, Alaska could hardly be described as a rock & roll heartland. Named after a Jackie Chan movie, they bring their own strange and fascinating slant to New American Rock. But it hasn't been easy. Having suffered the death of their original bassist in a car crash, and for years struggling for gigs in their icy homeland, they were eventually forced to relocate to Portland, Oregon. And at last they've come good.
Bitterness the Star, combining the tempestuous big rock emotion of Pearl Jam with the nervy, stop-start assault of the Deftones, is a stormer. Brock Lindow's vocals--affected and dramatic, switching between a weird, mournful vibrato and a throat-shredding punky shriek--are impressively idiosyncratic, particularly during "An Agreement Called Forever" when he screams "This is me/ I fail/ I fail/ I fail". Meanwhile, Steve Holt's guitar is warped and constantly mutating, like Tony Iommi's in Sabbath's classic mid-70s period. And there are sweet melodies too, often appearing as ghostly refrains, floating above or behind the punishing riffs. Pained, paranoid, wholly disgusted and screaming for vengeance, this is a testing treat. --Dominic Wills