I've been waiting for this album since last May, when I had my little outing with the band. On that tour, I heard live versions of new songs and was floored. It's no secret that Akimbo is one of my favorite bands out there today, constantly wowing me with their every move. Ever since I saw them live back in 2003, I've been haunting them like a bad fanboy ghost. Tracking down new album information, checking periodically for new shows...you know, basic adolescent fanboy stalkerdom. And apparently during that time that I spent all my waking hours listening to their records, someone opened their fucking ears and thought, "Oh Jesus, this band really is good, hunh?" And that someone was Jello Biafra.
Akimbo has earned nothing less than my unwavering praise, proving once and for all that I am indeed nothing more than a drooling fanboy in front of a laptop. You all knew that though, didn't you? Harshing Your Mellow gave us straightforward hardcore with a metal influence hiding in the background in 2002. The following year, Elephantine expanded on that idea bringing in heavier riffs and bigger production, forming a flawless record in my book. In 2004, Seventh Rule released City of the Stars, showing that the band was ever progressing towards that Black Sabbath riff-laden rock without denying their roots in punk and hardcore. It was also their first record with two guitars, and all in all it felt like it was missing something, like maybe it was a bit rushed, or maybe the band was just getting used to the two guitars. Then 2005 came and went, with the band touring the U.S. and Europe.
And finally, in 2006, everything culminates into what I believe will be known as the band's crucial album. Forging Steel and Laying Stone marks not only the band's first release for legendary punk label Alternative Tentacles, but also shows the band's maturity and headfirst dive into a new sound yet again. From start to finish, it is a solid thirty-eight minutes and fifty-one seconds of back-to-back riff, bridging the gap between riff-heavy rock like Black Sabbath and Led Zeppelin and straight-up hardcore, with brief stop-offs in sludge, melodic, and speed variations of both genres.
First of all, the production on this album is finally up to par with the band's sound live. One of the main problems that previous albums have had has been trying to produce the album so it sounds like the band does when it plays live, which is loud as fuck and chaotic while being organized and spot-on rhythmically. And with Forging Steel and Laying Stone, every instrument gets the full value it deserves without being overproduced and stripped clean. As usual, the vocals are the most maddening scream/howl/shout/yell ever, but are constrained to the background, letting you know that what really matters is the music. And boy, does it ever matter.
From the chaotic opening riff of "Dangerousness" to the thundering close of "Ground Control to Major Bummer," Akimbo slays their way through twelve songs, each just as important as the last. "Rockness Monster," track two, shows the band working in melodic dueling guitar riffs that were present in the last album, but much more efficiently here. In fact, on this entire album, the guitars are pushed to the front, adding both to the complexity of the songs and the chaos. "Digging a Hole" (which can be found on the band's Myspace page) begins with an ultra heavy sludge bass riff until the whole thing explodes fiercely as a band and then comes back down and back up again. Sonically, the album pushes through not only changes in dynamics, but also switch-ups in time signatures and tempos, flipping the song head over heels in a barrage of riffs from start to finish. "Rickshaw" breaks halfway through being a hard rocker with a down-tempo 4/4 melodic guitar riff, and then "Tina, Bring Me the Axe!" tears into thrash territory before cutting into the best Zeppelin riff never written. Stuck straight in the middle is "Tower of the Elephant," a slower, more drawn out song that has just as much importance and heaviness as the rest of the album. And so on and so forth. "Sci-Fi Monster Violence" could have been cut straight off of Harshing Your Mellow while "Precious Moments" and "Maximillian: Jungle Warrior" bring back that Sabbath that we all know and love so much, with the later being another swung beat like "The Sorceress" from City of the Stars. And like all good Akimbo albums, it comes to one frighteningly amazing head with the last song, "Ground Control to Major Bummer," featuring the heaviest drumming ever with the craziest riffs and most tension building bringing the album both to climax and close.
Let it be known that Forging Steel and Laying Stone is a flawless fruition of the labors of a band that's been playing for eight long years. Sing out the praises, ring the bells, tell every one of your snot-nosed friends which album they need to cram down their throats and spew forth adoring prayers of sacrifice about how the new Gods of Rock have landed.