Album Reviews

USSA – The Spoils

(Pinnacle) UK release date: 14 April 2008

USSA - The Spoils Having left Ministry long before they called it a day and Revolting Cocks being a mere shadow of their former selves where was Paul Barker to go? Seeing as supergroups seem to be quite the thing at the moment, why not form one?

USSA finds the coupling of Barker with Duane Denison (formerly of Jesus Lizard and himself a member of another “supergroup” namely Mike Patton‘sTomahawk) and although many would not regard these two as premier league stars, the bands they leave behind have influenced the further reaches of music no end.

Interestingly USSA finds the pair stretching out in new directions. Those turning up hoping to find something similar to Ministry’s speed fuelled industrial metal will be initially disappointed, as will any of those hoping to find the raucous noise of Jesus Lizard. That’s not to say that there isn’t noise to be found, because USSA have noise in spades. This is angry, direct, violent music that doesn’t hang around in making its point.

Opening track Dead Voices grinds away comfortably without really setting the world on fire, but it does display vocalist Gary Call’s brooding tones and ability to hold down a decent tune.

Autumn Flowers shows just what Ministry have been missing in Barker’s basslines as his throbbing bottom end introduces the song while Denilson paints minimalist guitar lines over the top of a beautifully looped back beat. Here Call finds himself in familiar territory, and anyone who has caught Tomahawk’s first two albums, and in particular Mit Gas will draw parallels between Mike Patton’s gabbled delivery and Calls scattershot spittings.

Tonally, much of this album is at odds with the main player’s history. It could be argued that USSA are taking on a post-punk attitude and running with it. In addition there is most certainly a Goth influence that pervades much of the album. At times the band seem to lack focus, or maybe it’s just the listener that gets lost as tracks such as Cab Ride start out as good idea and dwindle out into a half baked nothing.

Standout track Peculiar Thing stands by the old adage that less is more, and with barely sketched out guitar and bass lines (but what bass lines – that Barker knows how to create a sound to rattle brains) this noisescape is by far the most affecting song on the album. If Marilyn Manson were truly disturbing, then he’d sound like this.

At times it can all sound a little bit like a misfiring Killing Joke, but when USSA are on top form they are a joy to behold. This sinewy, seething album misses the mark occasionally, but for the most part this is a welcome return to the fray for some of the most interesting musicians from America’s underbelly.

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USSA – The Spoils