Riddle of Steel Got This Feelin’

[Ascetic; 2005]

Styles: angular indie rock, post-hardcore
Others: Shiner, Dirt Nap, Houston, The Great Fire of 1666, Quicksand, Traindodge

After listening to Got This Feelin', I found myself wondering if I hadn't already heard the album before. The tight, muscled rock sound that Riddle of Steel produce certainly has its antecedents, and while they reach more deeply into the past, I find the most applicable touchstone to be the mix of songs one would find circa-1997 on an alternative rock radio station. "The Lovers of Nothing" and "Our Guitars Are Haunted" strut and preen like post-grunge power pop in the vein of Foo Fighters. "Deeper Still" moves with a melancholy tension reminiscent of Hum or The Toadies. The playing is of unquestionably good quality: deft drumming matched with precision bass to create a solid rhythmic foundation, virtuosic -- though not overly showy -- guitar playing, and pleasant, appealing vocals. If I close my eyes, I can imagine that I've turned my radio dial to the NEW ROCK ALTERNATIVE station of my youth and Riddle of Steel is the middle of a rock block with Collective Soul and Everclear forming the bookends.

Unfortunately, whether through my own jaded relationship to the sound or an actual dampening of the sheen of alternative rock, I find little to make me want to revisit these songs. The chorus hooks seem more obligatory than inspired. The bite of the guitar distances me rather than charging me up. While these talented fellas are earnestly playing music they love, its shiningly slick manner doesn't resonate with me now. We all know that pop music is built upon cycles and sound recirculation, but I don't think that we've gained enough distance on that mid-90s alternative moment to give it the feel of nostalgia. Given the regularity of the cycles, it's only a matter of time before it becomes the next big thing again, and we'll all want to forget the resurgence of post-punk and new wave that currently dominates the rock scene. When that day comes, may Riddle of Steel be waiting in the wings ready to attack. Until then, Got This Feelin' will have to wait.

1. The Lovers of Nothing
2. Baby Bird
3. Deeper Still
4. Got This Feelin'
5. Invisible Hands
6. This Is a House of Lies
7. Our Guitars Are Haunted
8. Detroit Flu
9. The Sunshine Strangler
10. Aquiline