Click to hear: “Way Back Home”
Ex-6gig bassist Weave, a.k.a. Craig Weaver, has reinvented himself as frontman for the trio Ruler of the Raging Main. With him are former Hot Dogs bass player Tom Abercrombie and drummer Ric Loyd, last of the short-lived local rock supergroup Big Gay Alaska.
The Rulers’ self-titled debut offers 12 compositions about evenly split between straight-on rockers and moodier, pop-influenced grunge a la Queens of the Stone Age. The Queens’ influence looms large here – so much so that this record simply couldn’t have existed before QOTA’s 2000 release R carved the stoner-pop niche into the mountain of rock. Let Mark Lanegan croon a couple numbers, and this is a QOTSA record.
On second thought, scratch Lanegan. The Rulers are somber enough without him. That’s one of the few negatives of this otherwise strong and promising release. Whereas the Queens’ leaven their heaviness with touches of humor and weird whimsy, the Rulers’ record is more uniformly gloomy and world-weary, with flashes of anger and bitterness. Titles like “We All Die,” “Rock and Roll Death” and “Weight of American Life” clue you to the fact this ain’t a sunny trip.
Weaver sets this tone with the lyrics (he wrote the bulk of the album) and the way he delivers them. His vocals don’t quite match the energy of the music behind them, and this drags down songs that would otherwise accelerate and launch to even more exciting heights. I imagine this is less of an issue in the heat of a live show, and expect Weaver will loosen up, liven up and lighten up as a singer as he becomes more comfortable in that role. (A few well-placed “yeah’s,” “oh yeah’s” – or, as Geddy Lee would wail, “yeah, ho, yeah’s” – can make a big difference.)
That said, this bears repeating: Ruler of the Raging Main rocks. There are great riffs all over this record, and the production and mastering – by Marc Bartholomew and Scott Elson of Bandsaw Recording – gives the material added depth and punch. Most of the songs clock in over four minutes, but they earn your attention by shifting tempos and sonic textures in consistently ear-catching ways.
Abercrombie’s touches of keyboard remain understated, serving to brighten Weaver’s crunchy guitarwork and give several songs a welcome melodic patina. Loyd pounds away with workmanlike precision and animal abandon, as called for. And the Rulers get extra kudos for using one of local tattoo artist and painter Chris Dingwell’s works (a painting titled “An Awful Lot”) for their album cover. [Check out a review of one of Dingwell’s recent shows here.] It’s an inspired pairing.
— Chris Busby
Ruler of the Raging Main plays Tony Vegas’ birthday show, with Cortez, Ogre and Hackman, on Sat., Jan. 6, at Geno’s, 625 Congress St., Portland, at 9 p.m. Call for cover (21+). 221-2382. For more on the band, check out rotrm.com.