There are certain phrases that, though true, still seem to conflict with what your brain perceives to be true. California voters are homophobic by majority. There are less people in Alaska than San Jose, CA. And Colorado is a hot bed of musical diversity. Though it may seem odd, it's actually quite true. Despite the initial thoughts of folk music and John Denver (who was actually born in New Mexico), Colorado has spawned everything from Drag the River to Ghost Buffalo, to Planes Mistaken for Stars -- even Pinhead Circus. Hell, Colorado is even bucking its political history, voting for a Democratic presidential candidate for just the second time in 40 years. So it makes perfect sense that Only Thunder is exactly what you'd never expect from Colorado.
Only Thunder is a veritable who's who of "who's that?" The band boasts former members of the Blackout Pact, Ghost Buffalo, Cost of Living, the Mediks and a ton of others. Chances are if you were a fan of those bands you've already heard of Only Thunder and have made your mind up one way or the other about their debut full-length, Lower Bounds. But, where does that leave you, undecided and unaware listeners? The short answer is they lay somewhere between heavy, groove-driven hard rock and more traditional forms of emotional punk. Sort of like Hot Water Music meets one of the better popular hard rock bands. Sound appealing? Probably not, because those comparisons are always incredibly vague and often inaccurate. So interested readers trek on.
The thing that pops out about this album on first listen is that Only Thunder seems much more driven musically than lyrically. That isn't to say the lyrics aren't present but the band seems to spend far more time focusing on constructing a solid melody, knocking out deep grooves and occasionally noodling around than they do trying to write a wicked falsetto or some incoherent story. This works to the band's advantage. Though the vocals are strong and suitable for the music, they are clearly not going to stand out enough to become the band's trademark. However, their amazing musicianship and talent for writing heavy and melodious music might.
The main issue with Lower Bounds is that the tracks that stand out, really stand out and those that don't, really don't. It isn't to say that you can't enjoy the whole album (I rarely skip a track when I put it on) but you clearly know when your favorite track comes on and the rest of the time it may not be so clear what track is playing. For example, "Fucking Your Way to the Middle" immediately jumps out as a track you'd hear in a gang or motorcycle film (like "Sons of Anarchy") that would be all over the radio the next day. Likewise, I'm always aware when "Ice Bullets" comes on and instantly begin to look forward to the unavoidable head-nodding melodies and the awesome guitar solo. However, on that same note, I probably couldn't distinguish "Splatter House" from "Her vs. The Triceramom." Not that either are bad tracks -- they just seem to lack the power or instant catch that makes the standout tracks on the album so good.
Overall, Lower Bounds is an great debut album that shows a ton of promise. At its best, Lower Bounds is a hard rock roller-coaster that toys with everything from unusual timing and vocal effects to swooping instruments and vocal laying. At its worst, it still boasts good, if not immediately memorable rock songs that are better than most albums' "filler." If Only Thunder keep writing solid songs that are as sonically layered and enjoyable as Lower Bounds, they will definitely have a good place amongst the amazing and varied artists of the fine state of Colorado.