Akimbo Jersey Shores

[Neurot; 2008]

Styles: hardcore, metal
Others: Mastodon, Melvins, Dead Kennedys

Even though Akimbo’s Jersey Shores is told in fragmented vignettes, its narrative concept is remarkably complete. The album, based on a series of brutal shark attacks off the coast of New Jersey in 1916, plays like an aural equivalent of Jaws or a cousin to Mastodon’s own maritime concept record, Leviathan — both classics in their own rights. Told from the perspective of a witness with hindsight to the grisly events, the lyrics, growled by bassist Jon Weisnewski, drift along streams of consciousness, images, and associative phrases, trading specificity for impression.

Each song provides a new chapter in the story. Prologue “Matawan” takes its name from the town that provides the setting for the narrative arc, while the reporting of victims Charles Vansant and Charles Bruder (“Bruder Vansant”), as well as Lester Stillwell and Stanley Fisher (“Lester Stillwell”) follow in the next two tracks. The town panics in “Rogue” as the nature of the malefic monster is pondered in “Great White Bull.” And finally, as the album’s title track winds down, it brings us back to where we began, with the sounds of waves lapping the shore, taunting, daring us to go back in the water.

Musically, Jersey Shores functions like the greatest of horror stories, building its dread with masterful dynamic, offering false calm in its wiry, entangled melodies before building up to crushing, bottomed-out bludgeons delivered with the force of a great white’s upward charge. Guitar squeals surge above the melee. And the tumult recedes again; more false hope to string us along. The long-standing Seattle band’s got the chops to pull off such a visceral aural assault, but it’s handled with a preternatural finesse. The spiraling melodic lines intertwine with crushing drop-tuned chugging. Weisnewski’s gruff howls attack with his band’s choppy froth and bleed out into a cracked croon as the band’s behemoth climaxes dip back into the murky depths, waiting for the next strike. Feedback hums drape the quiet moments, creating an ominous drone that inevitably gives way into more of Akimbo’s scorching metal.

Without such a dynamic, though, the story’s ingrained emotions of terror and wonder, vengeance and awe would fall flat, making a gross error of what, in Akimbo’s charge, is a nuanced vision of real-life brutality and nature’s gruesome force. It’s the same multifaceted completeness that makes Jersey Shores an album born fully-formed, indivisible, and wholly fulfilling.

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