A fiery and intensely entertaining rock expedition
Consistency of quality, or lack thereof, can make or break an album. An album with consistently great tracks with few dips in quality will generally lean towards being “good,” while an album with consistently disappointing tracks with few jumps in quality will probably have a greater likelihood of being labeled “bad”. Maybe it’s an oversimplification, but sometimes things can really be broken down this basically. With their ninth studio album, Lifers, American rock band Local H have achieved an impressive level of consistency with almost no significant dips in quality across an adventurous hour of heavy, violent and dense rock.
The album begins with one of the most immediate and viscerally satisfying cuts, “Patrick Bateman.” Right off the bat, it’s clear Local H’s interests lie in hard rock. Guitarist and lead vocalist Scott Lucas is shredding, drummer Ryan Harding is pounding away, and with lyrics like, “you won’t like what I have to say/ something wicked is a coming this way,” it makes for an excellent intro. “Hold That Thought” and “High, Wide and Stupid” come close to topping the opener, but don’t quite breakthrough that threshold. Both these tracks are excellent examples of the band’s prowess in relying on more sparing instrumentation at just the right time, to then build up and ultimately converge all at once with more maximalist guitar and drum work at the most notable lyrical moments.
The next two tracks, “Turn the Bow” and “Winter Western” (the latter featuring vocals from Juliana Hatfield) represent one of just a couple of weak spots in Lifers. The band still opts for a heavy sound, but not quite as aggressive as before, and loses momentum as a result of this lack of commitment. Fortunately, “Beyond the Valley of Snakes” is a return to form. The dark atmosphere that Local H curated masterfully on this album is starting to take hold. Most notably, Lucas’s vocals are more brooding, the guitar feels more deliberate, and the lyrics are growing direr. Next is “Sunday Best,” the biggest surprise on this project. This acoustic cut introduces a new level of emotional complexity, and while this total stylistic 180 can feel a bit jarring at first, it’s a brief adjustment and very rewarding in the end.
The group then returns to their hard rock bread and butter on “Demon Dreams” and “Farrah” before the breathtaking 1-2 punch closer of “Defy and Surrender” into “Innocents.” “Defy and Surrender” is a 10-minute song that earns every single moment of its runtime. Local H absolutely drops the hammer on this track after Lucas chants, “call your mama,” in a truly impressive musical feat based on what feels like pure adrenaline. The album closes in satisfying fashion with “Innocents,” a testament to Lucas’s vocal ability, and a breath of fresh air at the end of the arduous journey that is Lifers.
Local H is nine albums and roughly 30 years deep into their career. Lifers is proof that that the band still has plenty to say, both instrumentally and lyrically. They seem to have picked up some keen editing skills across their three decades of music-making, as this album also has essentially no filler and just a couple tracks that stand out as weaker than the rest of the extremely strong bunch. What more could one ask for from an album?