One of the things I love most about Southern-style heavy metal is that there's very little guesswork, and almost no head scratching. Nothing that comes detuned from Texas is a complicated affair. Musical creativity is, for better or worse, sacrificed in the name of high energy, beer-swilling, head-banging mayhem.
The Texas Hippie Coalition not only subscribes to that theorem, but casts zero illusions to the contrary. Hell, even the cover of the album that I received is emblazoned with a version of the classic Texas steer skull. It's a blunt but easily received message about exactly what the album contains.
"Rollin'" is a heart-pounding, nearly non-stop off-road ride through the too-often neglected back forty of heavy metal. It perhaps lacks the sheer visceral ferocity of the later works of Pantera, but replaces the missing edge with a kind of self-aware swagger and devil-may-care attitude. Truly, it’s not a stretch to say that this is the new generation of “outlaw” metal, as the album gives off vibes of open, blasted lands and roving vagrants facing off with the Texas rangers.
More than their southern metal brethren like Nine Pound Hammer or Broken Teeth, Texas Hippie Coalition concentrates on bone-breaking riffs with distortion cranked so far that notes are largely irrelevant. The power of the songs, such as "Intervention," is a much stronger statement than their actual construction. "Big Dad" Rich, a positive bear of a man, has just the right dusty, dry-lung vocal quality that makes his kind of metal singing/screaming come together.
The lack of thematic variety on the album doesn't really bother me. In this case, it works. The only drawback is that the individual riffs can become repetitive over time. I really like "Back From Hell," but I can see where the same cycle turning over and over would become a numbing agent to the listener.
The only other knock on the album comes at the expense of the production, where everything is jacked so far up, that at loud volumes it crackles in the speakers. At first I thought my speakers were going bad, but it happened on every set I tried. The needles were just pinned so far that it was impossible to keep some of the over-modulated noise off the tracks.
“Cocked & Loaded” and “Saddle Sore” both have that inimitable something that makes this album work. It’s something difficult to define in how the album carries itself, like the band were walking into a saloon or down an alley with the intention of inciting violence. From one end to the other, whether it be “Flawed” or “Jesus Freak,” the pounding never stops, the riffs are brutal, chugging and insistent, and the metal flows.
Texas Hippie Coalition does a nice job of avoiding the southern-fried campfire ballad about how it’s lonely to be an outlaw. Even slower pieces like “Beg” keep the power pushed to the floor, even if the pace falls off. Do beware “Groupie Girl,” as it begins to teeter on the edge of the cliff, and in a too-common genre trend that I fail to understand, it comes right on the end of the simple and thudding “Pissed Off and Mad About It.” It’s the only part of the album that breaks the momentum of the band’s flow.
For those looking for a European band that’s analogous, think Viking Skull with barbecue sauce. If you pick this up and don’t know what you’re getting into, you need to pay more attention. If you’ve ever enjoyed metal for the simple destruction and fun-loving chaos that it can engender, you can get behind this. Seriously, take the time and give it a shot. You owe it to your inner metal cowboy.