At one point, Wilmington, North Carolina's ASG (aka ALL SYSTEMS GO or any of the jokey alter acronyms that have cropped up in the spirit of hardcore icons MDC) could tear up the air hovering overtop a myriad of quarter and half pipes. Modern skate and snowboarding had one of its aural champions and thus MTV came a-calling to ASG to profile their punk and stoner-driven chops across such shows as "Viva La Bam", "Rob & Big" and "Living Lahaina". Further, ASG's music can be found scattered across numerous snowboarding and surfing videos.
It's been six years since ASG's put out an album (not counting their 2009 split with BLACK TUSK, "Low Country") and the most glaring difference in their work as of their latest release "Blood Drive" is its settled yet forceful attack plan. Now in-arms with BLACK TUSK and the mighty BARONESS at Relapse Records, ASG kicks things back a few clicks to drum up a less in-your-face spell with "Blood Drive", an album that allows for a deeper extraction of songwriting sure to please many in the sludge underground.
As ever, there remains the blueprints of KYUSS, TORCHE and JANE'S ADDICTION guiding ASG's craft, yet there's less full-frontal static of their last album, "Win Us Over", and more of a well-groomed dig for tuneful sprawls.
"Blood Drive" is often lazy in a good way through the grunge-meets-stoner drag of "The Ladder" and the shambling slogs of "Day's Work". With less bombast, the acoustic-led grafts of "Good Enough to Eat" open up gaping psychedelic territories for Jason Shi and Jonah Citty to decorate with echoing detachment, even while the grounded feel of the songs keeps their listeners vested in-tow. The striking wonderment of the acoustic delicacies introducing "Children's Music" creates a beautiful serve up to the heavier plows of the song, which retains dazzling effervescence on the straggly choruses. If ASG's music is still to be inclusive of snowboarding footage with these sophisticated modifications, those choruses would be perfect bedfellows coupled with Lien airs in slo-mo.
While Jason Shi wields a nifty range of pitches, for certain Perry Farrell has affected him to such measures "Blood Drive" frequently comes off like JANE'S ADDICTION with less shred and more surefire melody. The superb loft of "Earthwalk" tweaks the trippy sluices of BLACK SABBATH's "Planet Caravan" into ASG's reverb-filled parlay, then they blossom into a near-titanic reflection of JANE'S ADDICTION's "Summertime Rolls". ASG makes no pretentions who their idols are, yet "Earthwalk" gets away with bloody murder because it's delivered with such finesse you submit instead of condemn. Prior to, Jason Shi dips his vocals to match the slow, jabbing twirl of "Blues for Bama" while finding a happy medium on the stepped-up crunch of "Scrappy's Trip".
A band that was already sharp to begin with, ASG may alienate a handful of their skate and surf rat followers with the more refined "Blood Drive", but their advancement into a slow and steady schism reveals tremendous growth and maturity. The Atlantic Ocean at their backs is hardly considered a surfer's paradise, but there's no denying the purity and grandeur of the body's natural progression. This album might as well have been concocted in a dune outside of Nag's Head in the northward haven of the Outer Banks. "Blood Drive" defies possibilities of hurricane forces that may come another day and instead, ASG sticks to their guns, delivering a confident embracement of the winds of change that have compelled them.