Album Review: The Rotten Blue Menace – “The Great Split”

I first learned about burgeoning skacore act The Rotten Blue Menace when researching bands for our monthly Hidden Gems article. After listening to a few tracks from their last EP Hail Sayetan I knew they would be a perfect fit for the list so, we featured them back in December. Since then, they’ve become a regular on my personal playlists. It’s not that the songwriting was groundbreaking or that the music was flawlessly executed with a German engineering like precision. It was a less tangible attraction than that. I’m a believer that “punk” is an attitude more so than just a musical genre. I identify more with that trenchant, indignant attitude that has become synonymous with the scene and if it’s one thing this frenzied fivesome has plenty of, it’s that acrimonious, “Fuck You” punk demeanor. When I heard that these delinquents from Denver had contributed six new songs to The Great Split, a split album (obviously) with Nevada hardcore outfit Couch Gorilla Squad, I knew it would have to be added to my collection. The split was available separately so I only got the half featuring TRBM, but it delivers on all fronts and shows a great deal of progression from their previous albums. If you’re a fan of the genre, this up and coming act needs to be on your radar. Check out the full review and stream the EP from these skacore phenoms below!

Recorded and mixed at Black and Bluhm Studios whose client list reads like a Who’s Who of punk rock, this album is expectedly, leaps and bounds ahead in terms of production value from previous offerings, it’s way more polished and flows more logically. The main delineator from the others though has to be how dynamic it is from track to track. Each song distinctly different, serving as validation that these guys can perform at each end of the skacore spectrum and everywhere in-between. The EP is a foreshadowing of things to came as these Mile High hooligans who are known more for their extremely energetic stage presence and exceptionally brutal live shows have finally decided to strap down and hit the studio hard in preparation for their first full length.

The opening track is always responsible for establishing the tone of an album. “Friends and Enemies” does a perfect job of setting expectations, opening with sudden, stumbling drum crash followed by high pitched guitars that have no problem keeping up with the lightening quick pace. As fast as the opening bars are, it somehow hastens even more about fifteen seconds in, sounding like old school skate punk. Gritty, aggressive vocals give a level of credence and authenticity despite the youthfulness of the members themselves. It projects an air of being wiser than their ages might suggest.

The second track, “Wake Up Call” best exemplifies the diversity that this quartet possesses, most noticeably in the vocals. Whereas the opening track leaned solely on the more typical, belligerent, gravelly, screaming for an emotional backdrop, here we shift to more melodic, snotty punk vocals provided by guitarist, Bradley Stroz . The vocal range throughout the track is incredible and in addition to the aforementioned, perfectly highlights the regular, full time dual vocalists Jack Oberkirsch and Earl Skow, as they feed off of and enhance each other’s unique sound in this upbeat, catchy, throwback to OG days of skacore sounding in places like pioneers of the genre, Op Ivy.

“Blisters” is all about indignant thrash, nothing more, nothing less. Just good ole’ fashioned, ruthless as fuck, ass stomping music. The only thing that exceeds the savagery, is the clip in which it’s played. These boys are famous for the ferocious circle pits and walls of death they inspire at their live shows. I would imagine that this song, performed live, will get the crowd a might frothy.

No crusty skacore album would be complete without a nihilistic, “Fuck the World” song. Enter “FBC (Fucked By Comparison)”. Another track that slants a little more to the hardcore end of the subgenre, it ‘s filled with basic, rapid three chord combos and splenetic lyrics. While it’s simplistic in it’s delivery, it stands out from the rest of the EP in it’s writing, which is a little more thoughtful and mature than in some of the others. Make sure you stick around for the miraculous, metal guitar riffs near the end of the song which showcases the dexterous digits of Bradley Stroz.

As the album progresses it seems to slide seamlessly from the hardcore end of the spectrum, meandering through the amalgam that is skacore and continuing on through that path to a more traditional ska sound with “Anthony Kiedis”. It’s heavy with palm mutes and staccato riddled guitars, layered over some sick, string shredding riffs tucked in the background, just barely audible, some sounding like they were ripped from a Journey song. That attention to detail and thoroughness in musicianship proves that these younger guys are ready for the next step. The evolution from their last album is concrete and measurable which is rare in a lot of the younger acts, especially in this notoriously sloppy genre.

Another incremental step in the direction of a more pure ska sound, “Guarantee” is a fitting end to the album as it takes it’s cues from fundamental ska, bookending the hardcore beginnings perfectly. The change was casual and deliberate, like slowly peeling a band aid off, hardly noticeable until you sit back and pay strict attention. While the tone of the song is slow and clean, the lyrics are still just as acerbic and irascible, albeit simple and repetitive. The choruses are perfect for chanting crowds to scream back while taking a breather between the songs that elicit a more visceral, violent reaction from their fellow concert goers.

3.5/5 Stars

IYL: Operation Ivy; Leftover Crack; The Casualties

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