One of Maryland's best-kept secrets is the sludge-prog trio ADMIRAL BROWNING. From the land that gave the metal world CLUTCH, ADMIRAL BROWNING may not be as much on the dime as the former, but five albums of instinctive, drop-kicked progression speaks volumes. Seriously, ADMIRAL BROWNING is one of the most buzz-worthy acts in the American metal underground and their latest romp "Give No Quarter" gives testimony to how effective they can be in the span of one weekend of recording.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with ADMIRAL BROWNING, some of the ingredients that go into their sludge foundry are BUZZOV*EN, TORCHE, WITCHFINDER GENERAL, TOTIMOSHI and to a very modest degree, MASTODON. While the latter, along with BLACK TUSK and BARONESS have refined metal, punk, doom and stoner to bombastic measures, ADMIRAL BROWNING are happily sloppier with their wares.
Not that Matt Legrow, Ron McGinnis and Tim Otis are slackers, not by any definition. Largely an instrumental band, ADMIRAL BROWNING is much chunkier in their business. Often they'll let some of the sweltering waves of their metallic southern neighbors smelt through their work and on occasion you'll get a taste of boogie rawk in the vein of CLUTCH.
"Give No Quarter" finds ADMIRAL BROWNING stretching their perimeters a bit. Given the short time they took to record it, the mostly live capture betrays a few messy inklings along the way, but the raw, natural feel of "Give No Quarter" rewards more than it grates.
ADMIRAL BROWNING rumbles through the opening number "Theme for Evil" with low-end tidal crashes that should pacify doom hounds. Later, they muck up the boogie laces of "Traps" by ripping into a metallic jam session (complete with a couple of thrash interludes) that seems unholy if you're expecting ADMIRAL BROWNING to dabble with some SKYNYRD for a spell.
Even more insane but utterly satisfying is "Las Aranas Lobo", where ADMIRAL BROWNING sucker punches their listeners by weaving a beauteous acoustic flamenco intro, then jacking up the following seven minutes with winding distortion and pummeling doom grooves. "Las Arenas Lobo" is one of ADMIRAL BROWNING's most clever endeavors with litters of notes cascading around the reverberating chords and tumbling drum rolls. It's difficult to take all the whole thing in, but for its zany feel, there's so much calculation going on you have to back this sucker up and inhale it some more.
The slapped-about "Leeroy Jenkins" is more on the punk side of things for the first few segments before ADMIRAL BROWNING turns the track on its ear by shifting time signatures with the agility of a carny huckster. Standby for some rare vocals amidst the spacey and funky "Zee Birds" and subsequently, "Malachai's Lament". The latter track is "Give No Quarter"'s purest metal moment with some mashed lines wrung from SABBATH to TORCHE to even IRON MAIDEN. Following a swooning choral section in the opening, the sonic-kissed second segment of "Malachai's Lament" lets Matt Legrow really show off his six-string chops before the song swerves into random tempo doom sequences that grow in agitation, all by the middle of the 6:44 composition.
Ron McGinnis' bass work is the kind that will sink you with his plunging depths, yet he has the capacity to mirror Matt Legrow's belting chords and also to give a wallowing undercurrent when Legrow takes off with his scratchy scales and squelching solos. Behind them, Tim Otis has a tendency to be choppy or to play behind the beat, yet there's no denying once the trio catches their grooves in tandem, ADMIRAL BROWNING is a formidable beast of a band.
Here's hoping ADMIRAL BROWNING doesn't suffer the same fate of SWARM OF THE LOTUS, one of Maryland's brightest hopefuls some time ago. "Give No Quarter" is slightly undercooked, but it's also impressive as ever. These guys are always thinking, always noodling and never afraid of playing naked. There's honesty and integrity to ADMIRAL BROWNING and they deserve your attention.